I realized recently that it was coming up on 20 years since I became a Christian. The contemplation of this truth is enough to drive me to tears. I was lost, so very lost. I knew nothing about the Bible, and the gospel was utter foolishness. But when I brought my questions to a coworker he faithfully opened his Bible and answered my questions. He led me to Christ. I was so excited that when I came home that night I told my wife that I had big news. “Did you know Jesus Christ died for all of my sin!?” God had arrested me by his grace and caused me to be born-again. As I look back on 20 years I wrote down 20 reflections. There’s more to say, but this is what came out first.
1. The ink never dries on the gospel.
That first hour I believed I just kept repeating back the truth that Jesus loved me and died for my sin. Galatians 2:20 still shreds my heart: He loved me and gave himself for me. Every time I go back to the gospel it is like the ink is still wet. I need to hear that word again and again; it is unceasingly precious! Jesus loves me this I know, the Bible tells me so.
2. He holds me close; God is more faithful to me than I am to him.
When I consider the innumerable number of times I have sinned and how cold my heart gets then I become truly impressed with how faithful God is. Indeed he holds me fast (close).
3. God has been faithfully making me love the church more like he does.
The Savior died for his church because he loves her. Over the years the Holy Spirit has been making me to love the church more and more, appreciating her preciousness.
4. Prayer is more precious and powerful than I realize.
I am learning more to cherish the intimacy of prayer while being reminded to be amazed by how powerfully (and evidently) God answers prayer.
5. Singing, particularly doctrine-dripping hymns, is a privilege too often overlooked.
I hated singing before I was a Christian. Over the years I have grown to love singing hymns that magnify the greatness of God. So often I am at a loss for words, but these hymns, man, they say it better than I could.
6. Trials are never pointless—they are purposeful.
I’ve been convinced from Scripture that God uses trials for his glory and our good (i.e. James 1:2-5). However, these last 20 years have provided the experience to testify to this biblical truth. While unpleasant at the time, affliction is used by my Father to power-wash my sin and wordiness and conform me to Christlikeness.
7. Conflict in the church is far more painful than conflict in the world.
There are cold days in winter, and then there are those really cold days that get down to the bone. There is conflict that you feel, and then there is conflict that gets down to the bone. I long for the day when the church is gathered together with sin finally removed, and we will be eternally insulated from the painful conflicts of this sin-cursed world. God is gracious to restrain us from more bitterly cold days in the church.
8. The Lord’s Day is the crown jewel of the week.
There is nothing like Sunday. It has grown on me in unexpected ways. I love the fellowship of the saints, praying together, singing rich hymns, the Lord’s Supper, and the preaching of the Word. What’s more, I love the extended conversation with the saints. O, for the eternal Sunday!
9. It’s good when my prayers aren’t answered.
There have been so many dumb plans and prayers in these 20 years. I am so thankful that God, in his gracious wisdom, intercepts my errant prayer requests and serves me up his kind, loving providence instead.
10. My heart scares me.
The longer I walk in grace the more I see the frightening cobwebs of my heart, “lead me not into temptation, deliver me from evil.” The idol factory works 24/7.
11. Contemplation of the truth that Jesus faithfully intercedes for me brings to tears.
M’Cheyne says, “If I could hear Jesus praying in the other room I wouldn’t fear a million enemies.” It is heart-shredding to consider that the one whose parched voice cried out “It is finished!” is also ceaselessly, successfully, and faithfully interceding for me. Even now, the King of glory speaks my name in prayer. What countless number of sins has he spoken for? How many times has he pleaded for me? O, what a Savior indeed!
12. Embracing the doctrine of providence is vital.
I was a late comer to this doctrine, but I’m glad I’m here. I can be content because I know that everything that comes my way comes with the sanction of my loving, good, powerful Father. I need that on the mountain top and in the swamp.
13. Take Jesus seriously, myself not so much.
He must increase, and I must decrease (Jn. 3:30). I like the first part, but it’s the second part that I have trouble with. They go together, though.
14. I need to hear the heart cries of the lost instead of muting them.
Instead of being comfortable in a world full of people that are lost and dying without Christ, I need to be more intently tuned to their plight. The hearts that are hungry and hurting cry out. Instead of muting them like an unwanted commercial I need to hear them and be broken by them—broken enough to speak the words of Christ.
15. The gospel works.
I forget this, and I shouldn’t. The gospel is powerful, and it is God’s means to save.
16. A church that desires the Word of God is a treasure.
I have been a part of two churches like this. I am so thankful that God allows me to see the Word create and shape the community. It is such a joy to watch people grow and mature because of the Word.
17. Sin mustn’t be coddled but put to death.
I’ve never seen anyone suffer from being too harsh with sin, but I’ve seen many people wreck their lives by trying to domesticate it. You can’t pet and coddle sin; it must be put to death; and, the sooner the better.
18. Encouragement from a brother or sister is priceless and powerful.
There is nothing like when someone lets me know that they are praying for me, have seen God’s grace in my life, or they exhort me to be faithful. These words, straight from the heart of a brother or sister, put a great gust of wind in my sails.
19. Never resist the urge to pray.
I think I read Lloyd-Jones say this before. Satan doesn’t tempt you to pray. If you feel an urge to pray then do it. I’ve never wasted a second of time in prayer. When it is all said and done I’m sure I won’t look back with regret upon the time spent in prayer. In fact, looking back over 20 years has me more convinced then ever that prayer is a precious priority.
20. I can’t wait to walk in Immanuel’s land.
It seems like each year that passes I feel less and less at home. I can’t wait for work here to be done and to take a fresh breath in Immanuel’s land. O, to have my faith give way to sight and dwell in his blessed commonwealth!
O Christ, He is the fountain,
The deep, sweet well of love!
The streams on earth I’ve tasted
More deep I’ll drink above:
There to an ocean fullness
His mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth
In Emmanuel’s land.