This is the third in a series of posts to honor the most memorable teachings of my once-pastor.
Before I entered the halls of my church in the fall of 1996, I am not sure that I had ever heard of Charles Haddon (C.H.) Spurgeon [bio here]. In fact, upon hearing the surname, I was sure my once-pastor was referring to a fish of the North Atlantic! How wrong I was!
If I had to guess, after Jesus and Paul the Apostle, no one–living or dead–has had greater influence on the preaching of my once-pastor as Spurgeon. Kim would quote from him often; anyone who entered his
library office could see the vast tomes, and most with the common name: C. H. Spurgeon. Kim told a story once of how he came across the books by Spurgeon; he was giddy as a schoolboy with his new-found treasure.
What is the big deal? Why is Spurgeon such a hero to my once-pastor?
Spurgeon was a preacher who preached the Word, whether in season or out; he proclaimed the beauty of Christ to hundreds of thousands of people throughout his [very short, mind you] lifetime.
There are many interesting similarities between Kim and Spurgeon:
- Both were saved and called to preach in their mid-teens.
- Neither attended seminary.
- Both started their pastoral ministry in small, rural churches.
- Both continued their ministry by accepting calls of large [sub]urban, mega-churches.
- Spurgeon’s sermons were published weekly and widely circulated; Kim’s sermons were published to the radio.
- Both struggled with disease, chronic pain and clinical depression.
- Expository preaching was the method of both men.
- Presenting the beauty of Jesus Christ to people was the passion of both men.
- Specific, practical application of the expositorily preached Word of God was served up to their churches.
- Both are reformed, Calvinist baptists in the tradition of the puritans.
Two passages of Spurgeon’s sermons stand out in my mind above all; these are ones that, I am sure, Kim had memorized as well; the first coming from his first sermon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle:
March 25, 1861
“I would propose that the subject of the ministry in this house, as long as this platform shall stand, and as long as this house shall be frequented by worshippers, shall be the person of Jesus Christ. I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist; I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist; but if I am asked what is my creed, I reply — ‘it is Jesus Christ.’“
My venerated predecessor, Dr. Gill, has left a body of divinity, admirable and excellent in its way; but the body of divinity to which I would pin and bind myself forever, God helping me, is not his system, or any other human treatise; but Jesus Christ, who is the sum and substance of the Gospel, who is in himself all theology, the incarnation of every precious truth, the all-glorious personal embodiment of the way, the truth, and the life.“
And from his last sermon ever:
June 7, 1891
“What I have to say lastly is this: How greatly I desire that you who are not yet enlisted in my Lord’s band would come to Him because you see what a kind and gracious Lord He is. Young men, if you could see our Captain, you would down on your knees and beg Him to let you enter the ranks of those who follow Him. It is heaven to serve Jesus. I am a recruiting sergeant, and I would fain find a few recruits at this moment.
Every man must serve somebody: we have no choice as to that fact. Those who have no master are slaves to themselves. Depend upon it, you will either serve Satan or Christ, either self, or the Saviour. You will find sin, self, Satan, and the world to be hard masters; but if you wear the livery of Christ, you will find Him so meek and lowly of heart that you will find rest unto your souls.
He is the most magnanimous of captains. There never was His like among the choicest of princes. He is always to be found in the thickest part of the battle. When the wind blows cold He always takes the bleak side of the hill. The heaviest end of the cross lies ever on His shoulders. These forty years and more have I served Him, blessed be His name, and I have had nothing but love from Him. I would be glad to continue yet another forty years in the same dear service here below, if so it pleased Him. His service is life, peace, joy. Oh, that you would enter on it at once. God help you to enlist under the banner of Jesus even this day. Amen.”
These two sermons bookend and mark out the breadth of ministry of C.H. Spurgeon: Jesus Christ. He never tired of “preaching Jesus,” he never got past the amazing Savior. He never grew bored of the beauty of Christ. It did not matter if he preached Old Testament or New, narrative or didactic, Moses, Job or Paul.
My once-pastor taught me, through the teachings of Spurgeon, a man dead for over a century, the importance of Jesus Christ. Of course, you say, “Jesus is important for the unbeliever unto salvation,” and that is true, but he is so much more. If the Gospel is for the unsaved, unregenerate soul, how much more is it for the saved, regenerate child of God. Jesus is not just “fire insurance” (a one-time transaction) but a “friend of sinners” who “walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He lives! He lives, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart.”
Check out this math:
Jesus = Gospel
The Gospel is for sinners.
I = sinner; therefore
Jesus is for me.
I love Jesus more the more I see my own wretchedness; I love Jesus less the less I see my own wickedness. (Luke 7:36-50)
“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
If you ever get past that, you need to start over, because you never “got” it.
That is what my once-pastor wanted to get across to us; that is what I learned from Charles Haddon Spurgeon.