I feel a pressure, time pressure, the crushing heaviness of a deadline fast approaching. I idolized myself and wasted so many weeks, months, years -- I cannot make up for the lost time, but I have no more to fritter away.
I know I am forgiven for the prodigal years, I know, I know. God is faithful. Faithful and just. I have not yet forgiven myself; how can I? If I had spent every day, hour, moment in service to my Lord it would only have been mere duty. Nothing to exult over, to pat myself on the back about.
I open my eyes in the morning, determined to make this day count. And before I leave the house I have inevitably wasted time. How can I redeem the moments better? How? "For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate."
This year drawing to a close, 2017, I did something I've never done before -- I read 104 books, an average of two a week. Exactly half of them were Christian books: biographies, works of theology, novels. In addition to those 52 books I read the Bible (M'Cheyne's plan, so that's the whole Bible plus the New Testament twice and Psalms twice). I also read snippets of other books, big chunks of others -- almost all Christian books.
I want to write about this challenge, but the point now is this: I was immersed in Christian words this year in a way I never have been before. And that was an exercise of great value.
Here is one thing I know about this thing we call the Christian religion: the more you know the more you see there is to know. And the more you know the more beautiful and exciting and amazing and awesome it is. You see how God has arranged things so that they all fit together in ways that no human being could have imagined much less accomplished. And just when you think you've wrapped your mind around a big part of it you turn another corner and there is more beauty, more glory, you find more things to astonish and astound. On a lower level -- but still an important and beautiful and thrilling level -- you see how men (mostly) have grappled over the centuries to understand theology in order to worship God in a way fitting to honor the King of the Universe.
We are, almost all of us, too careless with our worship and our consideration of God. We dash off moments, we graciously condescend to grant him ten minutes of our time for prayer or meditation on his Word. We treat God, in short, like most of us treat our earthly parents. We love them, sure, but we do have lives of our own, after all. How foolish we are.
And never mind the "we." I should make claims for no one but myself. I love God; how I long to love him more. I believe him; how I yearn to trust him more. I know God; how desperately I want to know him even as I am known.
The four men whose writings have most influenced me, who have increased my longing for a closer relationship with Christ are John Piper, C. S. Lewis, Tim Keller, and R. C. Sproul. I go to Piper, Keller, and Sproul for theology. I go to Lewis and Piper for a sense of the wonder and the beauty of God. I go to Keller to glory in the mystery and to plumb the depths of a relationship with Jesus. I go to Sproul for a sense of the enormity and holiness of God and a reminder of my own unworthiness. They are all human beings and so I don't expect infallibility or perfection; I know their words are not inspired. But they challenge me, encourage me, prod me, comfort me, edify me, convict me.
R.C. Sproul passed away yesterday. I have been profoundly saddened by this -- to an extent that really doesn't make sense to me. I am not sad for Dr. Sproul. I am overjoyed for him, jealous of him. But a world without his presence is a little bit colder, a little darker; I am sad for us. But this is the way things must be until Christ returns and defeats the last enemy.
I love the following poem and video. Please do not let the title keep you from watching (there is a story behind the title; there are always stories behind titles). Because one of my eccentricities is that I want to know details behind everything, I have carefully listened and watched and matched the narrators to the times they speak on the video. Listen especially to R. C. Sproul's closing line and marvel at how appropriate it is right now. Here they are:
0:18 John Piper
0:48 D. A. Carson
1:12 R. C. Sproul
1:39 Alistair Begg
2:04 Thabiti Anyabwile
2:32 John Piper
3:00 Matt Chandler
3:24 Sinclair Ferguson
3:50 R. C. Sproul