In lieu of much ado, I give you Sermon 2. This was the fourth and final sermon of my church’s intermittent summer evening intern preaching series on the mighty little epistle of Titus (yeah, adjectives!), given on August 18, 2013. As before, I would ask you not to listen simply as a curious onlooker of my professional progress, but rather as a humble creature before the holy Word of our great and sovereign God. “To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
As many of you already know, last week (July 14) I had the privilege of preaching in Sovereign Grace’s evening worship service—my first sermon ever given outside a classroom setting. A number of folks have asked me for a recording of the sermon, and I thought that publishing it here would be the easiest means of distribution for any interested listeners. [As a side note, you can listen to all of Sovereign Grace’s regular sermons (i.e. not by interns) here; I offer them with my highest commendation.]
Having now thoroughly reviewed the sermon on my own and with pastor Dean (my internship adviser, and in no small part a spiritual father to me here in Charlotte), I am intimately familiar with the sermon’s many shortcomings. Needless to say, I have already learned so much from this first preaching experience—lessons which I am anxious to employ as I prepare to preach again next month. I am immensely thankful that I live and serve in a congregation of believers who truly love and support me, and who have so eagerly invested themselves in my growth and maturation as a hopeful pastor. Any additional feedback you might offer would be valuable to me and much appreciated, to be sure. That said, I would encourage you not to listen simply as a curious onlooker of my professional progress, but rather as a humble creature before the holy Word of our great and sovereign Lord. “To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
I have heard it said that the Lord often works in the lives of men to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. (Look no further than the earthly ministry of Jesus for abundant examples of this principle in action.) A few years ago, I assembled a list of ten truths to declare to myself every morning–facts about the Lord, myself, and our relationship, drawn from the Scriptures, that might complement my Bible reading in properly orienting my mind and heart for the day ahead. One of those ten reminders says, “God has not called you to a life of ease or external comfort, but He does offer genuine peace, joy, and contentment through life in Him.” It seems that no matter how long you have followed Christ, His words are still easy to forget or to rationalize away: that “whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it” (Matt 16:25).
In the sixteenth century, famous English sea captain and politician Sir Francis Drake composed a beautiful and poignant prayer that has been passed down to us for good reason. Drake understood both the importance of trading the perishable for the imperishable and the utter impossibility of such a task without the strength and guidance of God, and he prayed thus:
Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.
Such a prayer is certainly a “dangerous” one in that the Lord seems positively delighted to answer it. The Christian who dares pray that the Lord “do whatever it takes” to effect growth in his life will probably soon find himself completely overwhelmed–or, to use Drake’s word, “disturbed.” Growth is change. Change is motion. And motion not only involves drawing toward something (or in this case, some One), it also involves coming away from something (in this case, our fleshly desires and, more specifically, our tendency to settle into the shallow complacency of a world that is not our home). And since the Lord is not one to abandon his works-in-progress [see Philippians 1], we had better ready ourselves for a heapin’ helpin’ of sanctification, whether invited or not.
Of course, there are those days–far too many, I must admit–when I could hardly care less what God wants for me, because I’m comfortable. Not joyful, no; merely self-indulgent in a childishly amusing way. And I get to the ends of those days, and the Spirit within me, firm but gentle, says, “You do not deserve Me. But you are still Mine.”
Even with those days, when God practically drags me kicking and screaming toward His kingdom, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified” (Romans 8:28-30).
Resistance is futile. The storms are coming wherein His mastery will be shown and our godliness built. May we welcome them with the spirit of obedient sons sprinting headlong toward our Heavenly Father, and may we never settle for anything less than Him.