A few weeks ago, we had the joy of celebrating the 2019 graduating class of the Pastors College. What a memorable day it was as we gathered with the 11 students and their families and friends, rejoicing in all God has done this past year!
Drew Williams, along with his wife Maria, came to the Pastors College from Cornerstone Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. He gave a testimony during the graduation ceremony, representing the entire class.
It’s an honor to represent the class to you today, and share about how this year has affected me. The verse I’ve chosen to sum up what I’ve received this year is 1 Corinthians 15:3-4: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised again on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
If we’re being honest, this verse may seem a bit simplistic to sum up the year. A lot has been delivered to us: Preaching training, counseling, theology, languages . . . But most importantly, the gospel has been delivered to us. Like a traveler looking for a guide as he sets out on a journey, I have been pointed to the true north of pastoral ministry this year: the good news of Christ crucified and risen for sinners. Pastors do a lot of things, but receiving this news and delivering and applying this news is the main thing. I want to share a bit about how I’ve received the gospel as the true north of my ministry compass this year, and how this year has equipped me to deliver the good news to others.
I’ve received the gospel in the classroom: The very first week of class, Jeff taught us that God’s revelation in Scripture is always centered on redemption. Some weeks later in biblical theology, he showed us how the whole story of Scripture fits together with the central thread of God’s saving work in Christ. From Genesis to Revelation, there is ONE main message to convey. This has profoundly shaped how I read and teach the Bible. I want to show people the centrality of redemption throughout Scripture and the classes have equipped me to do that. Jeff, thank you for teaching us this year. Whether it was you, or another professor you picked out, the gospel has been delivered to us in the classroom. It has sharpened our minds and changed our lives.
I’ve received the gospel in our care groups: I came to PC expecting to be sharpened theologically, but I didn’t expect I would grow so much personally and in my marriage. Gary and Betsy taught us to be more aware of God’s activity and grace in each other’s life than where we need to grow. This simple advice, applied over and over again, has made me a more gracious husband, a more gracious person, and a more gracious pastor…Thank you Gary. By God’s grace and your effort, I am a more gracious husband than when I came to PC. You have delivered the gospel to us and shown us how it affects our marriages.
I’ve received the gospel from all of you guys right here. It’s hard to believe that 10 months ago, I didn’t know any of you…You have challenged me in specific ways, exhorting me by both your words but more poignantly by your example…Thank you for delivering the gospel to me. I want to be more like you men. I can’t wait to see what the future has for us, and I pray we’re serving together in Sovereign Grace for years to come.
I’ve received the gospel from you, Sovereign Grace Church Louisville: From the very first day, you have served us, fed us, partied with us, prayed for us, and showed us what it means to be a community formed by the gospel. Your joy is compelling… Finally, maybe the most important mark you’ve left on me, is how you love and support your pastors. As I’m leaving Louisville, I’m more excited to be a pastor than when I first came, and a big part of it is seeing how you receive the leadership of your pastors with joy.
Finally, I’ve received the gospel from your pastor: CJ. There are so many things you have taught me this year, but the most important one is to “keep the main thing the main thing.” The gospel is the true north of your preaching and your life, and I leave this year wanting to follow your example. Charles Spurgeon once said something like “just as there is a road to London from every town and village in England, so there is a road to Christ from every text of Scripture.” Your preaching has taken us down the road to Christ. I know each time I hear you preach, I’m going to take a trip to a hill called Calvary and see my Savior there. This has served my soul, and it has also left an example for me. I want to preach sermons full of Christ. Full of grace. Full of gospel-rooted motivation for holiness. But it’s not just your preaching that has delivered the gospel to me, it is your life as well: You taught me that there should be a special shelf in my emotional life reserved only for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and you’ve shown me what that looks like. You’ve exhibited what John Newton called “gospel simplicity”: you are aware of the depth of your sin and it humbles you, but you are more aware of your Savior. His work on the cross has changed your life, and you live to proclaim it to others. Thank you, CJ. I pray you see the gospel-centered legacy you are leaving, a legacy that will far out-live you.
So, what have we learned this year? There are many things, but above all we’ve learned to apply Christ’s finished work to our lives, our families, our studies, and our ministry. My prayer is that as we leave to serve in various roles and various places, we would deliver what we have received this year. May the gospel of God’s grace ring out from us. May our lives and marriages and sermons be “full of Christ” for the good of his church and the glory of his name. Amen.