Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I Am Grateful for Dr. John MacArthur

Equating gratitude and thankfulness in some ways seems to cheapen the more rarely used term "gratitude." We say "thank you," or just "thanks" in such a common, nonchalant way that to equate the two almost seems an injustice. Our "thank yous" seem almost devoid of genuine gratitude. Honest appreciation... that is, a sincere weighing, evaluating and esteeming of the person and/or the gesture/gift... appear to be almost entirely missing.

Perhaps this is why gratitude sometimes strikes us as an old, quaint word. The kind of specific, intentional, and meaningful expressions that compose genuine gratitude seem to belong to another era, a foreign people, a more idealic place.

I pray that the Lord would work deeper gratitude in my heart for all that He is to me and for all that He has done for me. He loved me and gave himself for me.

And in His continuing kindness, He has placed in my life people who have taught me to love Him better, to trust His word, and to serve him more faithfully. One such man is Dr. John MacArthur.

I became aware of John MacArthur while one day driving home from work. His radio program, Grace to You, came on during drive time in the city I lived in at the time. I remember how excited I felt just hearing the messages, how rich they were in biblical truth, and the way my thinking changed as I listened to him. For me and many of my friends, John MacArthur became something of the standard for pulpit ministry and teaching.

1. Changes the Lord wrought in me.

I am grateful to the Lord for the personal changes He worked in me through the preaching ministry of John MacArthur. I went from thinking that preaching had to be entertaining to seeing that preaching the word is beyond entertaining and exciting! I went from thinking it was the pastor's job to always "console," to seeing that it's most often the pastor's job to teach, sometimes rebuke and often challenge through the preaching of the word. Perhaps most importantly, I began to see ways in which I needed to grow as a Christian, ways I needed to be more set apart from the world and zealous for the Lord. It was probably John MacArthur's radio teaching ministry that brought this into clearer and sharper view for me. I am deeply grateful for how the Lord has used him in my personal life.

2. Faithful expositor.

I am grateful for MacArthur's faithfulness in biblical exposition. One thing you can always say about John is you know you're going to get the word, a whole lot of word, as if drinking from a fire hydrant. For 40 years now, he has expounded the word one verse at a time. I appreciate his example of longevity, faithfulness, and dedication--all based upon a rock-ribbed trust that the Bible is God's word and the preacher's job is to make it's meaning clear for the people. I suppose that in 40 years' time, there have been many men who have started out well and then been "bewitched" by strange doctrine, cultural fads, and other things that have shipwrecked their ministry if not their faith. In a time of shifting currents and trends, I am thankful for Dr. MacArthur's steadfastness in expounding the word, for his continued belief in the sufficiency of Scripture as evidenced by his continued study and teaching of it.

3. Institution builder.

Another thing that makes me grateful to and for John MacArthur is his work as a builder of institutions. Grace Community Church, Grace to You radio and TV, and The Master's Seminary are all institutions the Lord has used John to build. I am thankful for the legacy John means to leave to the church. Not that he has set out with wild ambitions and great plans. Far from it, I think. He has set out to preach the word, and from there, the Lord has given him opportunity to impact now a generation of churches and pastors. I am thankful that John has had the faith and courage to walk through the doors the Lord has opened and leave institutions that prayerfully will shape generations to come. I am thankful that he has not lived for himself but has lived for those who follow, and the institutions that stand in his wake are one evidence of that.

3. Courageous defender of the faith.

How often have you seen Dr. MacArthur on Larry King Live? And have you ever witnessed him fail to speak the truth of the gospel in any appearance? I imagine that walking into the lion's den is not something you do whistling, "here kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty." It's an experience that puts you on your toes, ready to spring, lest you be devoured. It takes courage to defend the faith on the airwaves before millions. But the same integrity John shows in his pulpit where it's "home field advantage," he shows on the opposing team's turf. And he does it with grace, clarity, humility and a constant certainty that grows out of the gospel.

And I especially appreciate that this is not limited to public appearances. Perhaps Dr. MacArthur will one day share some of his experiences as a Californian in 1950-60s Mississippi and the courageous way the Lord used him to stand for the gospel in that day. He's a man of great faith and compassion, and I am indeed humbled and happy that the Lord has made him available to the world.

4. A nice jump shot.

Perhaps you've seen the photos. I was there! John MacArthur is an athlete--pure and simple! Here's a man approaching seventy that played 3-on-3 pick-up ball with 20-somethings and held his own from beyond the arc! No matter your eschatology... you gotta appreciate and be grateful for a pastor consistently draining the three over men 1/3 his age! I am grateful to have been on his team!

I am grateful to and for John MacArthur for what he has modeled and taught so faithfully over these many years of ministry. I am deeply humbled at the privilege of getting to know him and can only praise God for the lavish kindness He has shown me through Pastor John MacArthur.

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