I want to share with you today a quote that I first put on this blog back in 2006. It is a quote which came towards the end of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ life. It helps explain why his monumental series of sermons on Romans, which is available in mp3 and book form, stops at Romans 14:7. The Doctor was taken into hospital for emergency surgery due to bowel cancer after preaching the second of what was to be three sermons on this verse. The Doctor recovered sufficiently to live another twelve years, but never attempted to complete his series. Here is his explanation for this:
“I was at Romans 14:17. I had dealt with ‘righteousness’, with ‘peace’ on March 1st, and there I was stopped. I was not allowed to deal with ‘joy in the Holy Ghost’. I have the feeling that this was not accidental. God intervened and I could suggest a reason why. I was able to deal with righteousness and peace (I had fleeting experiences of it), but the third thing is the profoundest of all. Why was I not allowed to deal with it? Because I knew something, but not enough about it. ‘I want you to speak with greater authority on this,’ God said . . .
Here is what I would put before you. For six months, until September, I did not preach at all. For four months I have had the most valuable experience of being a listener. My general impression is that most of our services are terribly depressing! I am amazed people still go to church; most who go are female and over the age of forty. The note missing is ‘joy in the Holy Ghost’. There is nothing in these services to make a stranger feel that he is missing something by not being there.”
These words from the greatest preacher of the 20th century should make us sit up and take notice. This missing factor of phenomenal, unexplainable, uncontainable joy is the biggest need of our churches today. There are many things about my mentor, Henry Tyler, that I will never forget. But one of the most prominent was his infectious joy. He was the very antithesis of the miserable legalist sadly so common among churchmen in his day. I don’t think I have ever met a happier person who enjoyed life more than he did. He attended the Doctor’s Westminster ministers fraternal, and would have concurred with this assessment of church life at that time. My question is—“Are our churches sufficiently full of joy today?” Church should be the happiest place on earth. I am convinced that if we let the Holy Spirit have free reign in our meetings, then such joy, such a sense of the presence of God, will be the result.
This photo of “the Doctor” is quite rare, according to Philip Eveson, principal of the London Theological Seminary, where this portrait hangs inside the Lloyd-Jones library. Although pastor of the Westminster Chapel in London for many years, the Doctor was originally born and raised in Wales, and he also pastored his first church in South Wales. (Photograph and historical information courtesy Areopagus.)