2003 Shepherds' Conference, A Ministry of Grace Community Church 818.909.5530. © 2003 All Rights Reserved. Grace Community Church. A CD, MP3, or tape cassette copy of this session can be obtained by going to www.shepherdsconference.org
General Session #5 -- SC1007
We have just a few things that I want to mention to you in the question and answer session this morning—and I don’t want to take a lot of time for this—but there are some things that we need to do other than answer questions that I think will be helpful.
When I was on the Larry King program after 9-11 and the question Larry King asked me was a very—one of the questions he asked me was just kind of an off-the-wall question—and he said this: “What about a 2-year-old baby crushed at the bottom of the world trade center?” That was a great concern to him. The conversation went from there. I gave him an answer; the answer I gave, in a sound bite environment, was “instant heaven.” Instant heaven. And he never really pursued the question any further than that. Now, off the air, we had quite a discussion about it, and he told me that his Mormon wife had told him not to worry about babies that die like that because they’re all with God. And he said, “That makes me feel better to know that.” Well, I was kind of amazed that the simple word of his wife and the two-word comment by me was enough to satisfy him on that issue.
I went away from that thinking there has to be, I suppose, at some point in time in the life of every person, that question, “What happens to babies that die?” either as you look at the world around you or as you experience it in your own life. Millions of little ones die every year, either before they’re born or at their birth or soon after, and the question is a compelling question.
I sat on a panel one time with some pastors at a large conference. And the question was asked, “What happens to babies that die?” And there were five of us, and the first four said, “We’re not sure.” And I was hard pressed to say what I said, because I didn’t want to seem like a know-it-all. But I said, “I just think, as a pastor, I can’t get away with that. Too many people come to me with expectation that I’m going to bring the Word of God to bear upon that most trying of human experiences.” So, out of that, I decided to write a book called Safe in the Arms of God: Truth from Heaven about the Death of a Child. And I really wanted to have that book ready for you to give to you because you’re the shepherds who have to deal with the people who have this situation to face, whether it’s a miscarriage or whether it’s a still birth or whether it’s a child that dies or whether it’s some kind of a mentally disabled person who never ever comes any level of maturity or adulthood. What do we say to these people? This is not a small problem.
And so, I hurried to get the book written, but it’s not going to be published until I think July or something like that. And so I said to Thomas Nelson, “Could you just give us a sort of–a sort of a hurry-up copy without the final editing necessarily?” I’m willing to stick my neck on that; there’ll be some things that we’ll alter, not major things. “And put it in some kind of a cover and get it to us for the Shepherd’s Conference. And further, would you be willing to give it for nothing?” And, of course, if you do that, I might sign a contract for something else, you know. No, they are so gracious! So, here it is. It came, and it’s a little book just this size, Safe in the Arms of God. And there’s going to be one for all of you when you exit, but if you exit now, you won’t get it. You have to wait until I tell you to go.
And you know what I want—I want to provide a tool for you. I know what we’re going to do here; we want to stockpile this. I mean we want to have a supply of these on hand to distribute to those people in our congregation who go through this. And there are many—there are many personal testimonies. I asked people in our church congregation who have gone through the death of a child very, very recently—within literally weeks of when I put this all together—to share their heart, and their testimonies are here in this—this little book. So, this is the kind of thing you would want to have on hand. And I thought if we get them to you now, you can read through it in these days or maybe on the way home. And when the book then becomes available, you’ll know what it is and how it can be some use to you.
And I would just say this too: in the future, those of you who become a part of the fellowship, the shepherd’s fellowship–and it’s not a denomination, just a fellowship—we would like to be able to do this for you in the future, when things come out, sort of preempt their publication and make some things like this available to you so you get ahead of the game a little bit. And we’ll do anything like that we can to be of help to you.
Well, the time is really set aside, at least for another 35 or so minutes, for you to ask some questions, and then I want to make some very important announcements and introduce somebody to you as we wind up the session this morning. The mikes are there, and I would just encourage you to find your way to a microphone and feel free to pose your question. I think we’re probably going to not be able to get through all the questions again this morning, but again tomorrow morning, we’ll have a little more prolonged time for this. All right? We’ll start, whoever’s ready. Are we ready on the left over here, your right? Give me your name, please, first and then the question.
My name is Bob St. John from Aniston Bible Church, Aniston, Alabama—and we want to thank you, Dr. MacArthur. We thank the Lord for this conference, what it has meant in our ministry and the life of our church. Thank you.
My question is that, would you explain—in your message, you had referenced several times—this “transdispensationalized” idea, and who are its proponents? And does this kind of inclusivism mean that someone has abandoned the gospel?
Yes, the question about—I did make reference to the phrase, “transdispensationalism,” almost sort of throwing it away; at the same time, I know it provoked some discussion and thought. It is a term that, to my knowledge, has only been used by one person, and that person is Tony Evans in a book entitled Totally Saved. That book came out, I think, in the year 2002; it was published by Moody Press. It is a book that endeavors to give a very, very simple and basic understanding of salvation.
At the end of the book, there is a chapter in which the question comes up about people who have never heard the gospel. And, in that section, Tony writes that people who never hear the gospel, if they will accept whatever light they have, God will acknowledge that as sufficient for their salvation. That, in itself, is a—that is a departure from historic Christian gospel. We would say that if someone lives up to the light they have, then the Lord, who is not limited in His capacity to deliver the truth, will bring the full light—and that no one could ever be saved apart from Christ.
This is more of the thing that Tony Campollo says, that people are being saved by Jesus who don’t even know there is a Jesus. This is that “wider mercy” view as it’s called. This is also under what has been termed “natural theology”: that natural theology will lead someone to God, and if the person doesn’t have access to the gospel, then God’s not going to hold them responsible for what they don’t know.
And that’s essentially the argument of this book, that in the world, there are going to be people who never hear the gospel, and they are not going to reject the light they have. They’re going to accept the light they have, and God will count that as sufficient to save them.
And then comes the interesting comment that He does this by transdispensationalizing them. That is, treating them as if they were living in another dispensation. Obviously, there is no biblical defense for that, and none is attempted in the book—none. There isn’t even a verse to defend that. Furthermore, living up to natural human light, apart from the revelation of the true and living God, wouldn’t save anybody in any dispensation. But, it is a very—it is a very strange thing and, to this degree, to the degree that He gives salvation to those who have never heard the gospel, it’s a departure from what we believe the scripture teaches.
And this is part of a pretty big movement. Carleton Pierson came up with a form of this view; you know, he’s the charismatic preacher in Tulsa. He came up with this idea, which really reaches almost to universalism where very few people are going to go to hell: all over the planet, people are doing the best they can to live up to whatever information they have, and God counts that as enough. And there was a curiosity to me that Oral Roberts University could see the error of that, put him off their board, and made his church off limits to students. So, this is a serious issue.
There was a radio interview that followed that book that’s available. You can get the transcript of that radio interview, in which the host was interviewing Tony Evans and said to him, “You’re saying, if a Hindu looks up and says, ‘I know you’re up there somewhere. I don’t know who you are, but I’d really like to know you,’ God will count that as sufficient as salvation?” And the answer to that was “Yes.”
So, this is a strange and serious departure from the gospel. And it is part—well, I haven’t heard the term transdispensationalism anywhere—this is a part of a bigger trend. I did two messages on this called “No Gospel, No Salvation”, so if you want treatment of that, you can get those two tapes, “No Gospel, No Salvation”.
Natural theology is enough to damn you; it’s not enough to save you. So that’s—and you know, you sort of shake in your boots when you realize that this doesn’t cause a horrific outcry everywhere. It just sort of slides in under the radar and nobody wants to make much of it. So that’s why I say—there’s a reason, men, why I come to a meeting like this passionate about protecting the gospel. There’s a reason Al comes with that same ringing theme in his heart. We’re out there. We’re hearing. We’re reading. We’re being exposed to this. And this is the frightening reality of our time, that the gospel is definitely under siege. It’s under assault. And it doesn’t seem that people even care, people who should care. Anyway, next question…
My name is (?) and I come from Mexico City. I’m a shepherd in Mexico and a student at the Biblical Institute in Mexico. I thank the Lord and you all that we are in this seminar. My question is about Romans 8. Apostle Paul teaches that there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ, and then he explains the life of the spirit and he assures that we have the victory in Christ. And, in verse 29, he shows that His purpose is to make us according to the image of His Son. And my question is, what could you share with us about how this verse has changed your life to have a personal holiness in this world that is completely contaminated by sin?
Well…buenos dias hermano. Mi espanol es muy porquito. I will speak in English. The question our brother is asking is related to, I think, one of the issues that always is thrown against the doctrine of eternal security, and that is: if we are all secure, no condemnation is ever against us in Christ, there is no one who can bring any charge against God’s elect, there is no one who can condemn us. Does this not contribute to sin?
And that is the–that is the oldest sort of logical argument against the doctrine of security—that if we are saved and if nothing can ever alter that, nothing can ever change that, doesn’t that give us license? And, of course, Paul answers that in the 6th chapter of Romans, when, having identified this reality of grace, he, coming down to the end of chapter 5, he says, “As sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”—with the immediate response in chapter 6 of his sort of hypothetical adversary is, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?” ‘Me ginomai’—“may it never, never be.”
The answer to that is this: you will not continue in sin because you have been transformed. You will not. And the reason you will not is not because you have some threat on the outside, but because you have a new life principle on the inside.
It’s really a—it’s really a mute argument to say, “Well, if a person’s a Christian and they know they’re secure forever and that nothing can ever change that, then they’re free to sin.” And Paul’s answer is, “You can’t do that because you’re a new creation. You used to yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness in sin, but now you yield your members as instruments of righteousness.” This is I John 3:4-10: “No one who abides in Him sins. He cannot sin. His seed remains in him.” So it’s a silly argument.
And Paul says, “Look, you’ve been buried with Him through baptism into death. You now walk in newness of life. You’re a new creation. You are different. Your old self,” verse 6, “was crucified with Him; the body of sin done away with—eliminated—that we should no longer be slaves to sin. We have died; we are freed from sin.” The language of death is the language of finality, isn’t it? And that’s why Paul likes to use that. Whatever was true in the past is dead! There’s a finality to that.
And John, in his wonderful black and white approach, says that whoever is born of God doesn’t continue in sin. In fact, all the tests of I John that have to do with behavior evidence the same reality. “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are gone; new things have come.” And the core of that newness is the righteous disposition, the nature of the believer on the other side of regeneration, dramatically changed so that there is no longer that unbroken pattern of sin; there is however, a pattern of righteousness interrupted by sin. And I like to say it this way: but to that sin, there is a righteous reaction!
In other words, what do you mean when you say someone who is a Christian does not continue in sin? Of course we sin. John is talking about unbroken patterns of sin; he’s talking about habitual sin without a break. When you become a believer, that is not the case. The pattern of your life is not habitual sin, present tense—“practicing” is the verb in I John. But rather, the pattern of your life is righteous. And when sin does occur, I believe that a true Christian has a righteous reaction to that sin so that there’s a sense in which righteousness even prevails in those times of sin.
That’s what you find in Paul in Romans 7, right? He’s not denying sin, but he demonstrates a righteous reaction to sin by saying, “When I look at myself and I see my sin, the sin that is in me, that is, in my flesh, it operates according to a principle or a law that is different than the law that’s in my heart. I love the law of God. I do the things I don’t want to do; I don’t do the things I do want to do.” That’s evidence of that righteous pattern.
So, the pattern of righteousness is that you do righteous deeds, you are obedient to the truth of God; there’s a flow of righteousness in your life, a desire to be obedient; and even when sin, of course, in your flesh is present there, there is, to that sin, a righteous response. That’s what produces conviction. So the question, in a sense, is a silly question, that “If grace is grace and if salvation is forever, then we’re all going to run out and commit sin everywhere?” And Paul’s answer to that is “You can’t.” Not “don’t” but “you can’t” because you are a new creation. OK?
Greetings, Dr. MacArthur. James Byron, a missionary church planter to Manheim, Germany with Global Outreach Mission. My question is, could you give us your thoughts on the use of paraphrased versions of the Bible in many writings today and in church services almost to the exclusion of, you know, the literal translation?
James, that’s a very, very important question. I’m cranking up on this one. Now, I’m going to say something, and I’m just going to say it because I want you to know how serious [it is]. I believe anything other than a literal translation of the Bible is a serious breach—serious breach—of God’s intention for how we handle His word. I think it’s a violation. Now, there are some that are worse than others. But, I believe that we need to remember that a translation is a translation.
Anytime you open a Bible and it says, “A translation for our times,” “a translation for modern times,” “a translation for people to understand,” you have a problem. “Modern times” has no right to determine what God said. Translation is translation. Interpretation is interpretation. Paraphrase is paraphrase. But when you blend those, you have very serious issues. We would say, perhaps, that the NIV is maybe the least troublesome of dynamic equivalency translations, but it’s the old slippery slope issue again.
And it just goes from there—and watch where the NIV has gone! From the NIV now to the TNIV and who knows where else it’s going to go, because once you have taken the step to say, “We have the right to change the original text so that people can understand it better,” you have just stepped away from what is the Word of God. That is why I always land on the NAS, the New King James or the new ESV, which is also formal equivalency and an excellent translation as such.
This thing is running amuck—it’s running amuck. There are people in churches, as you were saying, all over the place, who have never heard the Word of God read—never heard it read. People are reading the message to them or the Living Bible or whatever else variations of that.
I would commend for you, if you really want to dig into this, there’s one book that is absolutely the best thing ever written on this. I mean it is a slam dunk book. I don’t know what else could be said. It is a book called The Word of God in English and it is written by Leland Ryken and it is published by Crossway. I will tell you, you will read that book and you will never again wonder about translation. And you will also never again use a dynamic equivalency because you will be in fear of divine judgment. I mean, that book—that book is absolutely the best thing—it’s not just the best available. I don’t how you could write a better one! Leland Ryken has done his work and he has given all of us a tremendous tool to deal with the issues of translation.
I believe we are bound by God to let God say what He said. And so, that’s why we land on what’s called “formal equivalency,” word by word translation, the only variables being the family of manuscripts that are used. OK? But read that book. Get that book. I don’t even know—do we have them here? Do we have a lot of them? Yeah, well, don’t just get the book; read the book! In fact, if you have a choice, stand in the bookstore and read it and don’t get it.
Hi John, my name is Frank Splendorio, and I had a question regarding—I heard your answer yesterday about the question posed about the plurality of elders and I understand that the plurality of elders did not necessarily equal the egalitarian model; there are strengths and weaknesses with this that are different to the body. But my question is, in the contemporary congregation, as you know, they have the notion or the title of senior pastor—how is that? How can a church that believes in the model of biblical—the plurality of elders—how do they harmonize or justify even the title of senior pastor in light of that teaching?
Well, I would answer that by saying, you know, the title is really immaterial. It’s a way to designate someone’s role. I mean, it could be a title that means you’re the oldest guy around. It also could be a title to signify that you have the longest term ministry there. It’s another way to identify someone as the leading teacher in the church. I mean you can pick any title you want. Senior pastor is better for me than bishop or cardinal or pope or king or emperor or anything else. I mean I think it’s a sort of a modest and mild way to designate a man who is recognized as the chief spokesman in some ways.
But again, you don’t want to get caught up in titles. I—personally I’ve always been known as pastor/teacher. That doesn’t identify me as anything other than what I do. I would rather be identified by what I do than by some official title. So, the people here call me John, and I’m the pastor/teacher. That’s the way I’m designated here. There are many other pastor/teachers as well. I’m just the pastor/teacher named John, and I do most of it in the public services.
You can save yourself some grief by toning down the titles, but I think at the end of the day, it’s helpful to be able to designate and identify roles that people play. And I think it isn’t so important that we judge a ministry on those titles as we judge the ministry on how it functions.
I guess my question isn’t—I’m not so much hung up on the terminology as I just think the practical outworkings that the title implies. For example, my friend’s church, the pastoral staff all become interims once a new senior pastor steps in, whether or not he’s going to hire or keep them on staff. So like I mean would that be the…
Yeah. That’s an old deal that used to be just sort of, I don’t know—it wasn’t biblical, but that was the old thing. Years and years ago, I remember—my dad’s era—if a new pastor came to church, everybody on the staff put in their resignation on the basis that the guy wanted to pick his own team.
In the first place, you know, “musical churches” is pretty appalling to me as a general principal. There may be a place for it. But, just the idea that people are just migrating all over everywhere is foreign to my understanding of the church, which is a place where you go and nurture and build your leadership from within. For somebody—whoever—comes to this church after they carry me out, I really don’t think they’re all going to resign. Our people wouldn’t—that would be absolutely bizarre because they’ve all grown up out of this fellowship. This is their life, their church. That would be devastating to the congregation!
So, that’s an old model that I think is not a biblical model. What we need to be doing in our churches—and you all know this—is raising up men underneath us to carry on ministry, to carry on leadership, to step into the pulpit. Eric and I were talking about that yesterday. He had a man in his church who was there, I think, 20 years at least. Sinclair was a member of your church as you ministered to him in Glasgow, and when Eric stepped aside in ministry, Sinclair Ferguson—who’s not a bad guy to come in for you—became the pastor of St. George’s Tron Church in Glasgow, having been shepherded and pastored under Eric’s ministry as well as being a formidable theologian on his own.
And I think that is the ideal situation. It’s not always going to happen. I understand that. But whatever kind of professionalism or whatever kind of non-biblical formats we can get out of the church and work on a more biblical basis, the better off we are. OK?
Hi, Pastor John. My name is Dave Richard from Potter Valley. Two questions really. First of all, how can we, as the body of Christ, minister to grace and pray for you consistently? What would be the most primary prayer that you would request for us to pray and lift you up?
Secondly, in regards to the church, the women’s role in the current church, and how the men are becoming effeminate and turning that role over to the women...
Thank you, Dave, and I appreciate your desire to pray for us. You know, just think about what it is that you need in your life and what you would desire as a pastor, and just put that in your prayers for me. You know, I’m no different than any of you are. I suppose I am what I am in reference to ministry for no reason other than Holy Spirit-giftedness, God’s providential sovereign placement, and, at the end of the day, the power of the truth. So, I deal with the same issues that everybody deals with, as a man.
I am, in all honesty, sort of always in a state of perpetual surprise that all of this happens. You know, I sometimes will say to Patricia, “You know I’m waiting to go on a Sunday when nobody comes.” You know, I just—it’s amazing to me. I mean, I look out over this, from the first day we began on a Wednesday, and I’m just sort of shaking my head and saying, “Why are they here? Why is this happening?” So, I think that there’s a real sense in which whatever it is that you look at in your life and you know that you need the strength and the power and the wisdom of God for, mine would be exactly the same. There wouldn’t be any difference. So, I just appreciate your prayers along all those lines.
The personal aspects: time, preparation, clarity of mind, spiritual issues in my own life, wisdom in dealing with people, strength, endurance—all of those things—faithfulness. And I think praying for the men who are around me and the men and women who are a part of this church, of course—all of those things.
With regard to the women’s role, I think we can get sort of a reputation for being narrow—and I don’t think it’s true (I’m not saying just we, but all of us)—because we live in this wacky, egalitarian, feminist world. And, if we stand where we stand, there are people who would condemn us because somehow limited women. I don’t want to limit them at all. I mean, our church wants women to do everything that God has designed for them to do. There are women who are wonderful leaders who can lead the women and children. There are women who are wonderful teachers who teach women and children. We just stop where the Bible says to stop. And the scripture says, “I permit not a woman to teach or take authority over a man.” So that’s where we are; I haven’t had a lot of trouble exegeting that.
And yet, a great host are the women that publish the good news! And there was Aquila and Priscilla who instructed Apollos “more perfectly in the way,” and I’m sure both of them, including Priscilla, had some things to say that Apollos needed to know as an Old Testament expert about the New Testament gospel. We want the women to express all of the Spirit-giftedness that God has granted to them individually and collectively in the life of our church. But the limits are so crystal clear. I mean, it can’t be any more clear.
Jesus chose 12 apostles; none of them was a woman. Well, that’s to say something. There are 66 books in the Bible, none written by a woman—none. There is no woman in the Old Testament in ongoing ministry of any kind. There were some women who spoke for God in a prophetic moment—Deborah and Huldah. And, in the New Testament, there was at least an occasion or so when the daughters of Phillip said something on behalf of God.
It’s very, very clear… And elders following apostles have to be one-woman men—I don’t how much more clear that could be—leaders of their own household. So, I think that the scripture is clear on that, and that is not to bury women into some subordinate position without value. That’s the whole issue of I Timothy 2, where the apostle Paul says, “While I don’t permit the women to teach, a woman is saved, delivered in childbearing.”
You know that’s an interesting thought. How in the world is a woman saved in childbearing? I was in Romania some years ago. And we were preaching—there must have been about a thousand pastors in Bucharest—and I was having a great time teaching them all week long; and they were doing question and answer. And their wives had come to be with them for this conference. I had never been to Romania and there was question and answer time and this guy says, “What does I Timothy 2:14 mean that ‘a woman is saved in childbearing’?”
And so, I don’t know what’s going on in their background, so I just launched into it. I said, “Well, I’ll tell you what it doesn’t mean; it doesn’t mean that women are going to go to heaven because they have babies.” And it just got dead silent. They were sitting on wooden chairs, and they started creaking. And the moderator looked over at me like, “You know, you just stepped in something here.”
But I went ahead, you know, waxing eloquent on the fact you know that being saved in childbearing simply means that a woman is delivered from second class status by the singular privilege of bearing children and bringing them into the world. And then, that verse says—verse 15, “continuing in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.” A woman, who has children and lives a righteous and godly life, brings to bear upon her children immense spiritual influence.
That’s how it works in our house—that’s how it works in our house. I’m the teacher; I’m the preacher. Patricia has borne the influence; her godly living, her godly love and care for her children has drawn them to her heart in very, very unique ways. They don’t want to breach my theology—and that has some containing affect on your children as they grow up. But they also don’t want to wound the faithfulness of their mother. Her legacy is not gained by getting a briefcase and a suit and going to work; it’s by investing in the children.
So, I said all that in Romania and the place got really agitated because I found out later that they believe that you can lose your salvation. And one of the ways that a woman would lose her eternal salvation would be if she did anything to prevent a pregnancy. And that’s why they all had nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen children. And if you were a pastor with just a few children, there was serious doubt about whether you were qualified because you had a rebellious wife. So somebody would have to check on your wife to see if there was some condition that she had and she couldn’t have babies.
So well, anyway, you can imagine the deal. I go through this thing about 20 minutes—details in the exegesis, the Greek—and I come out with this whole deal. And here are these women sitting there with a dozen kids. And you could just see them look at their husband and say, “You had to be wrong about that verse?”
Hey Dave, can we pick you up tomorrow ‘cause we’re out of time? I hope they’ve moved on from that. Hey, as we close today I want to do a couple of things. This is supposed to end at 11:30, 10 more minutes? Just a couple of things.
I want to mention to you (because the guys have asked me to this and I’m happy to do it), there’s a little brochure available—and this is something we’re excited about. You know, I told you, I’ve gotten this sort of movement deal going in my head and the guys are really cranking up that into a reality. We want to start an Expositors Institute. And they call it a finishing school for preachers. Tell you what it is: five days—you come here and we put the finishing touches on your expositional skills. Intense; five days; four full days; 8 o’clock in the morning till 4 o’clock in the afternoon; then some personal time with me; some time to evaluate your preaching. And we just want to help you with that. We’ll provide everything. I mean, they’ve got a thing set up where we’ll provide a place for you to stay, rental cars, the whole deal. There is a brochure; if you’d like to come for that week, you can get it. It’s called The Expositors Institute. It would just take that one week out of your life, and you can read about it. Pick those up at the shepherd’s fellowship table—is that right Dan?—out on the patio, if you’re interested in coming out for a week. It would be—what are we thinking?—20 or 25 guys in a group; no more than that. So, it’s personal touch kind of thing with us, and Steve Lawson’s going to help us with this and some of our own men. So, if you’re interested in that.
Also, we are launching next year, at The Master’s Seminary, a D.Min. in expository preaching. Those of you who have wanted to get a Doctor of Ministries, we are going to have that in expository preaching. And there is some information on that at The Master’s Seminary booth. Many have asked us about this through the years. It’s a modular program; I think you come a couple a weeks a year, and you do some work on your own. And the emphasis is expository preaching.
So, there is the institute for those of you who would like to come for a week and go through that program. There is also the D.Min. program, which is a little more demanding, but can be done. Rick Holland, who has his doctorate from Louisville Seminary—the tremendous program they have there on expository preaching—is sort of recasting that in our environment, and it’s going to be available to you.
As we close, I want a dear and precious friend of mind to come and lead us in a closing prayer and maybe give a word of testimony before he comes. His name is Kevin Malone. You may recognize that name if you are a baseball fan at all. Kevin was the general manager of the Montreal Expos for a number of years. Then he was a part of the general management staff at Baltimore. And then, came out here to be the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. I had known Kevin before all of this because he was a part of our church years ago, he and Marilyn and their family.
But the Lord brought him back here, gave him a few years with the Dodgers, and then, just in the last—less than a year—God brought him into my office one day. He came in and it was pretty obvious his heart was really kind of broken. And he was there just saying to me, “I want to come and help you. I want to do whatever I can do to help you. I’ve had enough of the world and enough of all of that stuff,” where he had given such a great and clear testimony for Christ, but he felt like the Lord was directing him toward the kingdom. And so, we put our claws in him and said, “We’re not letting go.” Kevin has become the Vice President for development at The Master’s College and, in just the 6 or 7 months he’s been there, it’s just been absolutely incredible what’s happened.
But I’d like him to come and just give just a brief word of testimony and then lead us in a word of prayer. Would you do that, Kevin? And don’t forget, when you go, to pick up the little book as well.
Well, it is an honor and a privilege to come up on this platform where I spend every Sunday morning and Sunday night listening to my pastor and special friend John preach the Word and break down the truth. In April of 2001, I did resign under media pressure and ownership pressure with the Dodgers as the general manager. I had reached the pinnacle of the professional sports world. If you ask many people in baseball, they would say the ultimate goal would be to be a general manager of the Dodgers or the Yankees. And the Lord, through His grace and mercy, provided me that opportunity.
So, I had experienced the very best that the world has to offer. And, by the world’s standards, I was a huge success. But I felt there was a lack of significance in my life. And, as you know, the world’s gauge for success is a deceptive lie. It’s an illusion that eventually leads to disillusionment. The world’s barometer used to determine success is tainted, it’s wrong, it’s inaccurate, and it’s unreliable. And the world’s success causes us to evaluate things from a temporal and selfish perspective. It’s unreliable. The world says, “How does it benefit me and what do I get out of it?” That becomes your mindset.
Even as a believer, we can be deceived into thinking that as long I include Jesus into the equation and keep Him somehow connected to my desires, my motives, my goals and objectives, it’s fine. I experienced that. The questions are, “What are the motives of your heart, my heart?” And I used my relationship with Jesus Christ to justify my selfish objectives. I wanted God’s blessings on my decisions. I wanted my will to be His will. But the correct way, as you men know—and ladies—to evaluate success is by God’s standards and principles, not the world’s.
And I praise God that He is faithful and truly does answer prayer. My sincere and diligent prayer while being the general manager/vice president of the Dodgers was to be a better husband, a better father, to be a front-line warrior for Him, to be a man after His own heart, to be deeper in love with Him, to go to the next level in my relationship with Him. And you know what? God did answer that prayer. He is faithful; He does answer prayer. But not in the way I had expected, but in the perfect way, His way. He provided me the opportunity to receive my prayer request, not through success, but through failure. He turned my world upside down so that I could truly appreciate what I was praying for.
The Lord allowed my pride and my career to be crushed, but what a blessing. See, the world helps to create a wrong and improper level of expectations. Even as Christians, the world is effective in prying into our lives and helping us create these incorrect expectations. And with the world’s expectations come what we perceive as failures, what in turn lead us to being discouraged, frustrated and disappointed. I want to be an encouragement to each of you because I know you’re an encouragement to me. What a blessing it is to be with so many men and women of God.
So, how do you measure and evaluate success? By using God’s evaluation measures, we realize that we are exactly where we are because of God’s design and sovereignty. And that was a real struggle with me while I was with the Dodgers. I really couldn’t understand how God could use me unless we won the world championship. Boy, I had a lot to learn, didn’t I? But I wasn’t focusing on God’s plan and what He was doing in my life. But I was sure it wasn’t about finishing in second. See I get discouraged—and I think we all do—when we take our eyes off Jesus, when we lean on our own understanding, when we focus on self.
After a year of getting reconnected with my family and trying to figure out what God wanted for me, He graciously provided me the opportunity to serve Him at The Master’s College where I’ve been for about, getting close to nine months. He opened the door of opportunity after closing a potential career, broadcasting career at ESPN, Fox. I did some of that—or another job, gm job in baseball. But what a blessing it is to be using my talents, my skills, and my abilities to help The Master’s College. I have the privilege of telling people about the blessed school that we have: the special students and the very talented faculty, [and] also about IBEX, the college’s Bible extension program in Israel, where we have 25 students studying the Bible in the land of the Bible. I had the privilege of visiting IBEX last October—and what a blessing. I now read and study the scriptures in a totally different perspective. And I pray that I could take my family over there in the next couple months. We’ll see what happens in Iraq.
In dying to self and seeking to be a servant for His glory, I have been blessed abundantly. Sharing the story and the message of what God is doing at The Master’s College is special. It consistently provides me the opportunity to share the gospel as well as telling others about what the school is doing. It really is a special privilege to be a part of The Master’s College. I have experienced the emptiness and the shallowness of worldly success. I’ve been to the top of one of the world’s best mountains, and I didn’t really enjoy the view. It was all a lie and had no true value or eternal significance. And now I can focus daily on the cause of Christ and furthering the kingdom.
I am committed to The Master’s College. I believe in what the college stands for. I feel very blessed to work for a school that is dedicated to the truth, to stand confidently for the Word of God. I am so encouraged by seeing the lives of students impacted and then in turn their lives impacting others for the kingdom’s sake. Our students are making a real difference in our community and in the world.
As I close, before I pray, I just want to finish quickly, I ask you to please pray for The Master’s College. As John has mentioned, this church—we’re becoming a lone ranger, so to speak, as far as a Christian college, in standing up for the truth, for the Word of God. So we covet and need your prayers. We ask that you consider allowing us at The Master’s College to serve you and help you in some way. Let us serve you, please. We also pray that the Lord will encourage you to send your kids, the kids in your churches, the kids in your Christian schools to The Master’s College. Please allow us the privilege, the challenge, and the responsibility of teaching your young people. Your kids would be a real blessing to us.
As I close, I am now experiencing true success, God’s success, by serving our Lord and Savior at The Master’s College. I am enjoying the blessings of a life committed to the cause of Christ. I now am privileged to be dedicated to a life with a focus on eternity.
True success is being in the Lord’s work. It’s being a minister of the good news, as most of you are. Please don’t allow the world’s expectations to influence your focus as it did mine. Each of you that is committed and dedicated to the cause of Christ is a true success. God bless each of you.
Do you mind if we bow and I ask the Lord’s blessing on our lunch?
Most gracious and merciful and loving Father, we thank you for who You are. We praise You, Father. Lord, we ask Your blessing on our food today. We please ask and pray that You bless our fellowship and our time with our brothers and sisters here in Jesus Christ. Lord, thank You for this week of encouragement at the Shepherd’s Conference. We thank You for the Word. Lord, I just love the Word so much, as everyone here does, and we just thank You for the truth that we can stand up and hold on to, Lord, in the midst of a dark world that we live in. Lord, we seek to know You with all our hearts and we just want to praise You and thank You and love You. Please bless us this day. Again, we praise You and thank You. In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
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