We traveled down to South Carolina this weekend, driving through torrential rain storms, the kind where drivers turn on their emergency blinkers and slow down to a snail’s pace.
Whenever we travel on a weekend, we always plan ahead of time where we will be worshipping on Sunday. This trip, we decided to visit First Presbyterian in Columbia, located in close proximity to the state capital building. First Presbyterian organized itself as a church in 1795 and stands as the oldest congregation in the Columbia area. The congregation has been blessed over the years with pastors such as James H. Thornwell, Benjamin M. Palmer, and more recently with Sinclair Ferguson and their present pastor, Dr. Derek Thomas.
One of the outstanding characteristics of the historic church’s English Gothic structure is its 188 foot spire. The spire suffered damage in the hurricane of 1875 and again in a 1910 fire but was rebuilt into its present form and can been seen from a distance as you travel through the city.
As we seated ourselves in one of the front pews and opened our bulletin, we noticed that Dr. Thomas would not be preaching but Dr. Robert Godfrey would be giving the morning sermon. Although we love Derek Thomas and were looking forward to hearing him again, we were quite thrilled to have the opportunity to sit under the preaching of Dr. Godfrey. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Robert Godfrey, he is President and Professor of Church History at Westminster Seminary California. Maybe some of you have read his books. One of our favorites is Learning to Love the Psalms.
Today, Dr. Godfrey preached from Mark 10 and contrasted the difference between the rich young ruler and blind Bartimaeus. The rich young ruler came with a desire to accomplish something himself for himself—eternal life. Blind Bartimaeus cried out to Jesus for mercy. The rich young ruler turned away from Jesus in dismay at what he had heard and left crushed in spirit. Bartimaeus flung off his most valuable possession—his cloak—and ran to Jesus eagerly desiring to follow Him.
Six months ago, I promised a friend I would read The Insanity of God, so I downloaded it onto my Kindle and spent the drive time reading. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this book, it lands somewhere between Killing Fields and Tortured for Christ. Books like this make me think deeply and pray more fervently. They are soul searching tools that reach deep into my heart and sweep away the clutter, the superficial, the trivial.
David Platt writes the forward to the book and begins with these words: “The Great Commission will include great suffering, but eternity will prove it is worth the price.” The author of the book, a missionary, documents how true these words are and will continue to be for those who “love not their lives even unto death.”
For me, the sermon and the book teach the same message—Jesus is infinitely more valuable than all our possessions, pursuits, and pleasures in this life, and this infinitely valuable Jesus has called us to come, take up our cross, and follow Him.
We sang Psalm 138 at the close of the worship service, perfectly expressing the things God was teaching us this weekend.
O Lord, enthroned in glory bright,
thou reignest in the heavenly height;
the proud in vain thy favor seek,
thou hast mercy for the meek;
through trouble though my pathway be,
thou wilt revive and strengthen me.
Thou wilt stretch forth thy mighty arm
to save me when my foes alarm;
the work thou hast for me begun
shall by they grace be fully done;
forever mercy dwells with thee;
O Lord, my Maker, think on me.
(“With Grateful Heart My Thanks I Bring,” from Psalm 138, Trinity Hymnal 88)