What are some essays you all have read that have made a long-term impact on your faith? Essays that set you back on your haunches? Essays that led to repentance and weeping?
And what are sermons that have never left you, whether written or preached? Sermons that changed the trajectory of your life? Sermons that cannot be forgotten? And are they available for us to hear or read?
And I still remember, from March of 2006, turns of phrases and intonations of much of Paris Reidhead’s sermon, “10 Shekels and a Shirt.”
I’d like to gather some of these sort for my own edification and others that I might give them to on occasion.
Some authors or pastors have an accumulated effect that isn’t from a single sermon, essay, or book. John Piper is like this for me. I’m not sure I could tell you where most of what I know from Pastor Piper is found - but I have drunk deeply of lots of things with him.
That’s not what I’m looking for here. I want the particulars. I’ll share mine in a reply post about the above mentioned.
Reidhead’s 10 Shekels sermon came from a friend en route to a spring break hiking trip in the Appalachians. We had it on a burned CD and the 5 of us listened intently as Pastor Reidhead began his sermon on “Judges, chapter 17 with a little background from chapter 18…”
Much like the effect of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” this sermon gripped me in nearly impossible to describe ways. I was deeply mired in sin and did not want out. I was destroying my education, my relationships, and my hope to be a pastor. I liked my sins and then he thundered “they were SINNERS who loved. their. sin.”
I was a hyper-calvinist (yes, they do exist.) And had recently told my Bible study leader at his kitchen table that God would gather His elect whether we said anything or not. That I would graduate college whether I attended class or not. That all was according to His sovereign will. And the fruit of being anti-evangelistic was evident. Against this, I heard him say “I didn’t send you to Africa for them. I sent you there for me. DO I NOT DESERVE THE REWARD OF MY SUFFERING!!!??” And I was undone. God’s sovereignty did not undo evangelism, it grounded it in the blood of Christ.
It is that sermon that introduced me to the likes of George Whitfield who cried out “MONSTERS OF INIQUITY!!” I learned of the Moravians. And my desire to know about the men of the past was piqued.
It has been many years since I heard Paris’s voice but I can hear it clearly right now.
It is not a perfect sermon. But it is a helpful sermon because it reduced me to a worm and gave me Christ as the only antidote.
I have had a 3-volume copy of the works of Dabney for about 6 or 7 years. Like many of my books, it was given to me by a former pastor. Like most of my books, it has sat unopened during that time.
A few weeks ago, I decided to pick up and start reading through some of my collections. I had read Calvin’s Institutes and Dabney was the next in alphabetical order.
I opened and skimmed the biography (which are, I have found, usually somewhere between terrible and not great in a collected work. (See 2 volume Jonathan Edwards biography for terrible.))
Then I opened to the first essay on Principles of Christian Economy. I thought it would be about how to govern well as a Christian nation. I thought it might be something about the misuses of funds for non-Christian things by churches or cities. I was wrong.
It was for the Christian. And from the word go it was a non-stop attack on my sensuality. He came at me for my money, my time, and my labor. And he did it without taking a breath for me to catch mine.
Just a few days before God led me to that book my wife had said to me, “I’m not sure we’re giving enough.” And I, being the great giver of all good things, said, “of course we are. Don’t you remember these ways that we give?” And she nodded her head and we went to bed.
I suppose some day I will learn to heed my wife. But until then, I’ll have to depend on God to take a hammer to me to see that she more often than not, quite right. Dabney did not miss a single stroke upon my head.
I read A.W. Tozer’s essay collection The Radical Cross in my mid twenties. Although I’m sure I have some theological differences with Tozer, his writing on how the cross of Christ should affect a Christian’s life shook me to my core, and made me realize how lightly I was taking the death of the Son of God. His illustration of the effect of hanging an electric chair on the wall behind a church pulpit (instead of a cross) shocked me, in all the right ways.
Being a collection of essays originally written over a number of years instead of a regular book, many of the themes (and even whole passages) are a little repetitive. However, the repeated emphasis didn’t allow me to move on as I read, but instead return and dwell on the nature and meaning of the cross.