My dear friends,
It hardly seems that seventeen years have passed since I was called to serve Cambridge Presbyterian Church as your minister. Joan and I have loved being here and serving here. We have never regretted leaving Scotland to come to Cambridge, though the leaving was the hardest thing we have done in our married life.
It is usual for men in my position to look back and reflect and I do have much to reflect on. However, rather than look back, I would like to look forward. The Christian life has a ‘remorseless eschatological trajectory’ (I may be leaving but some things never change!). To quote the apostle Paul, we are always forgetting the things that lie behind and straining forward towards the things that lie ahead. Ultimately Paul had in mind heaven, the final destination and destiny of God’s people. But between now and then, however long that interim period may be, there are other ‘things that lie ahead’. Let me highlight some of them.
What lies before us is the unfailing assurance that our God will never fail us nor forsake us. However difficult the way ahead may be, however strewn with unforeseen difficulties, our covenant keeping, loving Lord can be depended on to be our Shield and Defender.
What lies before us is the promise of Christ that he will build his church (Matt.16:18). We live in tumultuous times. On all sides the church is mocked, reviled and increasingly opposed and oppressed. But the Lord Jesus will build his church. He will lose not one of those given to him by his Father - not one. Coming days may be difficult and depressing, but we should never, ever despair. The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble and God’s people be glad (Ps.98:1; 99:1).
What lies before us is the challenge to grow together in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2Pt.3:18). In the Christian life we are either going forward or going back, we are never standing still. Growth in grace doesn’t just happen. It happens when we commit ourselves to the means of grace, that is worshipping together on the Lord’s Day, meeting together to pray on Thursday evenings, reading God’s word and praying as families and individuals, and seeking to serve the Lord in our various callings.
What lies before us is ‘an open door of opportunity’. Cambridge is a magnet for the nations in our world. People from nations closed to the gospel come to Cambridge. I have not seized this open door of opportunity remotely as I should have. But you now have the opportunity to do what I failed to do. Will you seize the opportunity?
Finally, what lies before us is the privilege of becoming increasingly conformed to the likeness of our great Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is God’s proximate purpose. His ultimate purpose is to make his Son the firstborn of many brothers (Rom.8:29). This is what God is doing in your life. This is what God is principally (and principially) about in the life of CPC.
So, it has been a huge privilege for me to have served as your minister. You have supported me and borne with me, and for that I am truly grateful.
One last word: Joan has been my unfailing helper and encourager. I am persuaded that you hear me better because of her. Without her, the Lord’s kind and gracious gift to me, I and you would be the immeasurably poorer.
May the Lord make CPC’s future days its best days and may he receive all the praise and the glory.
With my fondest love and thanks