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The Keswick Convention

38 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 24 August 2014

Stuart Townend, respected around the world as one of the leading worship songwriters of his generation, leads the music for this year's service from the Keswick Convention, an annual Bible gathering which has been held in the Cumbrian town since 1875.

International preacher, broadcaster and author Dr Ravi Zacharias explores this year's theme: 'The Uniqueness of Christ'. The service also includes a sketch from actor and writer Richard Everett.

Service leader: Jonathan Lamb.

Producer: Simon Vivian.

  • The Keswick Convention 24/08/2014

    Please note:

    This script cannot exactly reflect the transmission, as it was prepared before the service was broadcast. It may include editorial notes prepared by the producer, and minor spelling and other errors that were corrected before the radio broadcast.

    It may contain gaps to be filled in at the time so that prayers may reflect the needs of the world, and changes may also be made at the last minute for timing reasons, or to reflect current events.

    Sunday Worship from The Keswick Convention
    Recorded Tuesday 29th July 2014

    Dr Ravi Zacharias - preacher
    Jonathan Lamb - leader
    Stuart Townend - music leader
    Yvonne Lyon - vocalist
    Richard Everett – actor and writer with a sketch from his book 'Sound Bites’

    Radio 4 Opening Announcement:
    BBC Radio 4. And time now for Sunday Worship which was recorded at this year’s Keswick Convention in Cumbria.  The music is led by Stuart Townend and the preacher is international speaker and author, Dr Ravi Zacharias.  The service, which focuses on the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, is introduced by Jonathan Lamb and begins with the hymn ‘All hail the power of Jesus’ name’.

    Hymn: All Hail the power of Jesus’ name (Miles Lane)

    Jonathan Lamb:
    Welcome to the English Lake District and to the Keswick Convention, a Bible teaching event which attracts thousands of Christians of all ages and backgrounds from across Britain and from many parts of the world.

    This year our theme is the search for reality in an increasingly confused and uncertain culture: how can we make sense of the world around us, and is there a secure foundation on which to build our lives? Ever since this event began nearly 140 years ago, the heart of its message has been the centrality of Jesus Christ.  We’re convinced that he is the ultimate reality, and that our lives make sense when they are connected to his.
    We pray together: ‘Our Father, as we gather for this service, we ask that by your Holy Spirit you will unite us in worship of Jesus Christ and encourage us in committed devotion to Him, in whose name we pray. Amen’

    Hymn: When I survey the wondrous cross (O waly waly)

    Jonathan Lamb:
    As part of the Keswick Unconventional programme this week, we’re delighted to have Richard Everett with us.  Richard is a well-known writer, having written and produced material for the stage, film, animation, and also three plays for BBC Radio 4.  We’re going to listen to a sketch performed by Richard Everett and Cameron Potts based on Matthew 28.  Richard re-imagines the scene following Jesus’ crucifixion, and the sketch is called ‘The Priest, the guard, and the empty tomb’.

    Richard Everett & Cameron Potts: The Priest, the Guard, and the Empty Tomb

    Jonathan Lamb:
    Out thanks to Richard Everett and Cameron Potts for that extract from Richard’s book ‘Sound Bites’.  And now we’re going to sing about that resurrection story: the hymn ‘See what a morning’.

    Hymn: See what a morning (Stuart Townend & Keith Getty)

    Jonathan Lamb:
    This week we’re pleased to have many guests from around the world, including Bernard Koranteng, who is originally from Ghana but has been serving churches in many different African countries, and he’ll now lead our prayers.

    Bernard Koranteng:
    God our Father, thank you for the gifts of your Son.  At his birth, the angels declared him the Saviour, Christ the Lord.  At his baptism, you expressed your pleasure in him.  And on the mount of transfiguration you affirmed your love for him and encouraged the disciples to listen to him.  On the cross you demonstrated your amazing love for us, by giving the one in whom you had such delight to be a sacrifice to save us from our sin.  We thank you that at the resurrection, Jesus promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age.  Help us to open our hearts, minds and lives to you, the Lord of creation, history and the future. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen

    Jonathan Lamb:
    The Bible has a rich vocabulary with which to describe the majesty of Jesus, and our next song uses many titles which remind us of his loving rule – ‘Beautiful Saviour, Wonderful Counsellor, the Way, the Truth, the Life.’

    Hymn: All my days (Beautiful Saviour) (Stuart Townend)

    Jonathan Lamb:
    The young church in Colosse lived in a world where there were many claims to truth, and the apostle Paul wrote a letter to assure them of the supremacy of Christ.  Here is a section from the first chapter of that letter read by Phoebe Sleeman, a member of our youth programme.

    Reading: Colossians 1:15-23
    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

    Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation - if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

    One of our speakers this week is Ravi Zacharias, who was born in India and who travels widely explaining and defending the Christian faith.  This week he is speaking on the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, which is the subject of his short address to us now.

    Address: Ravi Zacharias
    It is often assumed that all religions are fundamentally the same and only superficially different.  The truth is that they are, at their core, fundamentally different and only superficially similar.  This truth may sometimes sit uneasily within us, but it is a fact borne out by honest study.

    I would like to support that claim in the following assertions:

    First, Jesus’s description of the human condition.  Malcolm Muggeridge once remarked that the depravity of man is the most empirically verifiable fact at the same time that it is the most intellectually resisted.  That is well put.  And ironically, the more we argue against that, the more we end up proving it.

    Football is often described as that ‘Beautiful Game’.  It certainly gives great pleasure to many millions around the world and is the focus of so much good in community work.  But, like everything else in the world, it has a dark undercurrent in which the truth of the human condition is revealed.

    I was at the World Cup of football in Brazil.  There were fans from all over the world, ranging from those closest to the field of play to those proverbially described as the “nosebleed section.”  But none were as close to the ring as about one hundred able-bodied men surrounding the perimeter of the playing field.  Ironically, they would not witness the game.  They had their backs to the game and their sole purpose was to watch the fans and keep them from disruptive or violent behavior.  They were there to protect the players.  Others were in the stands to protect the spectators from each other!  On the field itself were the uniformed referees to keep an eye on the players and to keep them from violating the rules—and even to keep them from taking a bite off the opposing player’s shoulder!

    The human heart may vary in what angers one, but the systemic bent to autonomy and pride spares no one.  Of course, this is not just true of soccer; it’s true of every arena where winning and losing are at stake: sports, politics, business, yes, even in religion and ultimately in life itself.  As Chesterton remarked in response the question: "What’s wrong with the world?”: “I am, yours truly, G.K Chesterton.”  That enslavement to lust, greed, and pride are so much at the core of the human disposition.  When we lost the concept of sin, we lost the definition of life itself.  Jesus made it clear that our hearts are in rebellion against God.

    The second assertion is the uniqueness is Jesus’s provision for my malady.  I put the Christian message this way.  The greatest ethic is love.  Where love is a possibility, freedom has to be given.  Where there is freedom, there will always be the possibility of sin.  Where there is sin, there is the need of a Saviour.  Where there is a Saviour, there is the possibility of redemption.  That, in a nutshell, is the entire gospel story and that is uniquely true of the message of Jesus Christ.

    You see, in every worldview, there needs to be a necessary explanatory power to the undeniable realities with which we live.  As I see it, there are four questions to life that a worldview must coherently answer: the questions of origin, meaning, morality, and destiny.  In the sequence of the gospel message we see these four questions answered.  Jesus Christ truly offers grace and redemption.

    The next assertion is the purity of Jesus’s own life.  Even Pontius Pilate said, “I find no fault in this man.”  The thief on the cross said, “We receive the due reward of our deeds, but this man has done nothing amiss.”  Jesus himself asked his accusers, “Which of you convinces me of any sin?”  The spotless “lamb of God” is the description given to Him.  He was unique. 

    Lastly Jesus’s resurrection from the dead.  This unique message is deemed the most critical aspect in demonstrating Jesus’ divinity.  Without the resurrection, two realities become inescapable.  One would be the finality of all earthly relationships.  The second would be the impossibility of ultimate justice.  In the Christian faith, the resurrection of Jesus promises both hope and justice.  This alone ought to make us aware of how important is the message of his grace when we come to Him for forgiveness.  The resurrection is so definitively important that if the early skeptic had wanted to debunk Jesus’s divinity, all they had to do was to produce the body.

    In that grand piece of work called ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’, Pilgrim is finally met by three shining ones.  One says, “Thy sins be forgiven thee.”  The second drapes the new robes and shoes for the transformed life.  The third gives the scroll and directions to the celestial city.

    Forgiveness, redemption, and guidance on life’s path.  That is what Jesus provides for the one who comes to Calvary.  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

    One of the most mind-stirring scenes in the Scriptures is the interchange between Jesus and Pilate.  The question Pilate asked was the most important question of life: “What is truth?”  He asked the question but never waited for the answer.  He asked it of the One who embodied the answer but left without letting him answer.  So often it is the same with us.  I remember many times in my youth how I dreaded the truth because of its implications in my life.  We can all say with Francis Thompson, “I fled him down the nights and days.... I fled him down the arches of the years.”  Often times, we ask Jesus why he is the truth yet never take the time to examine why he made such claims.

    May God bless you as you ponder these truths to the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.

    Song: Love Alive (Blameless and pure, the Son of the Father) (David Lyon)

    Jonathan Lamb:
    Our thanks to singer/songwriters Yvonne and David Lyon for reminding us of Jesus who has died in our place and brought us new life.  And this leads us now to pray together.

    Father, we know your heart is broken by the fracture of nations, of communities, and of human lives.  We bring before you all those parts of the world where violence is part of life, and where Christian communities are persecuted for their faith in Christ.  Strengthen your Church, that they will be an influence for good in society as they respond to evil and suffering as Jesus himself would do.

    We pray for your compassionate care for those who today are suffering from sickness, or bereavement or the sorrows of this world.  By your Holy Spirit, draw alongside them to comfort them, to strengthen their trust in you, and to assure them of the salvation which has been won now and through eternity, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, in whose name we pray.  Amen.

    We now join together in the words of the Lord’s Prayer:

    Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name,
    your kingdom come,
    your will be done,
    on earth as in heaven.
    Give us today our daily bread.
    Forgive us our sins
    as we forgive those who sin against us.
    Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
    For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
    now and for ever.

    Jonathan Lamb:
    Our final hymn declares Jesus as the Word of God, the author of creation and the Lord of all.  As we close, we pray for the blessings of the Trinity: may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all.  Amen.

    Hymn: You’re the Word of God the Father (Stuart Townend & Keith Getty)


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