One of the great features of the Next conference
each year is the stories about how the gospel and local churches are affecting individual lives. Four such testimonies were featured at the 2010 conference and each testimony was distinct and deeply moving. If you invest 24 minutes of your day watching them you will be personally edified and freshly reminded of God’s grace at work in your own life.
Here are the videos:
Update: Ian was drafted in the 40th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Atlanta Braves.
Cedric Moss was the senior pastor of Kingdom Life Church in Nassau, Bahamas long before he ever heard of Sovereign Grace Ministries. One day, wanting to better understand the gospel personally and to more passionately preach it to his church, Cedric searched online and stumbled upon Sovereign Grace Ministries. In 2004 Cedric attended our pastors conference as a visitor, hoping to observe from a distance.
In reflecting upon the trip Cedric says,
I was a pastor who was weary in the ministry and skeptical about church associations and networks, having been closely associated with a few and having given up on them. However, to my surprise, in Sovereign Grace I found men who were genuinely interested in me as a pastor, not the size of my church, or getting my church’s name on a list.
During our 2009 Pastors Conference
, Cedric shared the rest of the story, which you can hear in this 16-minute recording:
Recently, I was reading A God Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards
. The book reminded me of hearing Sam Storms preach an excellent message on heaven at the 2003 Desiring God conference hosted by John Piper. I told Sam after his message that this was the finest message I have heard on the topic of heaven. His book on election--Chosen for Life: The Case for Divine Election
--is my favorite on the topic. Sam is a good friend and a man I respect.
Obviously Sam is much smarter than I am. He has obtained a PhD (University of Texas at Dallas). I graduated from high school (I think).
But I am street-smart and I know it’s normally unwise to disagree with intellectual heavyweights.
My friend Sam Storms knows more than I on every topic, except one. And it just so happens that yesterday he wrote on that solitary topic in a blog post titled “The Greatest College Basketball Player of All Time, and the Meaning of Life
.” In that post, Sam assigns “greatest college basketball player ever” status to Pete Maravich. I simply cannot remain silent.
Sam—I love you, my friend—but Pete Maravich was not the greatest college basketball player of all time.
I acknowledge Pete Maravich had offensive genius without peer. He was the greatest offensive college basketball player of all time. But to be included in the conversation about the greatest basketball player of all time, one must play both ends of the court. One must play defense as well as offense. And Pete Maravich did not play defense (I’d put up 40 if Pete were covering me).
The greatest college basketball player of all time, without argument, was Oscar Robertson. No one in college or professional ball had more triple-doubles than Robertson and only he has averaged a triple-double for an entire season of professional ball (30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists in 1961–62)! Robertson’s dominance in pro ball reflects his unprecedented dominance at the collegiate level.
He was the first big point guard who dominated the game at both ends of the court, handling and distributing the ball and scoring at one end. He played suffocating defense on the other end. The man simply was the entire package and that is why Oscar Robertson—not Pete Maravich—was the greatest college basketball player who ever played.
But I get Sam’s ultimate and (most important) point. Sam points out in his blog post that the work of God in the life of Pete Maravich is incredible and wonderful.
Maravich openly and proudly rejected the God of Scripture. He pursued every possible option in his relentless effort to find meaning and purpose and joy in life. He tried Hinduism, but that didn't work. He dabbled in Buddhism, but that left him as empty as before. He immersed himself in astrology, hoping to find in the configuration of the stars and planets some indication of the meaning of his existence, but again to no avail.
He embraced reincarnation and spent time trying to discover who he was in past lives and who he might become in future lives. He experimented with astral projection, investigated UFO's, became a vegetarian, and eventually gave himself over to drugs and alcohol.
Nothing satisfied him. Nothing filled the hole in his soul. Until one night in 1982, as he lay quietly in bed, for the first time he cried out to God for help. He fell out of bed and got on his knees and committed his life to Jesus Christ. From that point on Pistol Pete Maravich became an outspoken, devoted, passionate disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, proclaiming the gospel to everyone he met, declaring for all to hear that in the person of Jesus he had finally and fully found purpose, satisfaction, hope, and the forgiveness of sins.
Six years later, in January of 1988, at the age of 40, Maravich was playing a pick-up game of basketball in a church gymnasium in California, together with noted Christian psychologist and author James Dobson. He made a shot, turned to Dobson and said: "Boy, I feel great!" Whereupon he collapsed, dead before he hit the floor....
I would like to think that in the new earth I’ll get to shoot some hoops with Pistol Pete. But I strongly suspect that neither of us will be drawn to anything other than the joyful celebration of the greatness and grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Well said, my friend. I fully agree.
P.S. Anyone interested in more on these college basketball phenoms can read two books I’ve especially enjoyed: Oscar Robertson’s autobiography, The Big O: My Life, My Times, My Game
; and Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich
by Mark Kriegel.
APEX, NC—Last weekend C.J. traveled to North Carolina to join Sovereign Grace Church in celebrating the grand opening of their newly-renovated facilities and to draw attention to God’s kindness.
Saturday night, senior pastor Phil Sasser invited C.J. to Cameron Indoor Stadium, to watch the Duke men’s basketball team host Miami. C.J. was thrilled to experience the deafening environment where his beloved Maryland Terrapins have repeatedly upset the Blue Devils.
On Sunday morning C.J. preached from 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, a text highlighting the active work of God in graciously revealing the gospel to blinded sinners.
Toward the end of the sermon, C.J. shared his testimony in light of God’s sovereign initiative and left the church with words of hopeful anticipation. God will bless the church not because of capable human leadership (which it has) or because of dedicated, faithful, and humble members (which it has). The future fruitfulness of the church is supported by the goodness of God who initiated and now sustains his church.
His comments are worth quoting at length:
“Therefore, if you are a Christian this morning you must realize you did not discover God. He graciously revealed himself to you. And that realization should leave you freshly amazed by the grace of God this morning. If you have received and responded to the message of the cross, this wasn’t the fruit of human wisdom or human intelligence. The ability to perceive the wisdom of God wasn’t resident within you from birth and eventually exercised and developed by you. This was, instead, revealed to you by the Holy Spirit. No one discovers God through human wisdom. Divine wisdom is revealed. If it is perceived, it is because it has been revealed, revealed through the preaching of the gospel and by the work of the Holy Spirit revealing Christ and him crucified to sinners like you and me.
I can’t read this passage without reviewing and reliving my conversion.
You see, apart from this distinct, gracious work of the Spirit, this wisdom of God—as defined and displayed in the cross—is foolishness to us.
Prior to my conversion everything taking place in this church this morning would have appeared to me as complete foolishness. If you had known me and had been so kind as to invite me, and I was seated in your midst, this is what I would have been thinking had I come—This is incredibly strange.
And it was hard to impress me with strange, because I was immersed in the drug culture at the time. For a lengthy period of time I—sadly, and to my shame—took hallucinogenics daily, as if they were vitamin C. Therefore I was very familiar with strange!
And yet, prior to my conversion, had I come upon this church or any church like this church I would have thought, OK, this is very strange. They are singing and they seem to be singing to someone. And they seem to be singing very specifically and passionately to someone. I would have thought the words to the song were very, very strange. I would have thought anybody in here raising their hands very, very strange. And then there is an offering and people are happy to give? I would have thought, It is getting stranger by the minute in this place. But then if I was sitting out there listening to someone like me preach the gospel—apart from the Spirit of God working in my soul—I would have thought it was very, very strange.
And apart from the Spirit impressing this truth on my soul I would be thinking, OK, when does it end? I am thankful my neighbor asked me here, and I am grateful there is food afterwards and so hopefully, hey, pal, how about wrapping this sermon up?
I was selfish and arrogant, rebellious, hardened, and I would argue (to some degree) a happy sinner. I was enjoying the pleasures of sin. And I was passionate about sin. I wasn’t just observing others sin. I was passionately pursuing sin and recruiting and training others to participate with me in my passionate pursuit of sin. Had you met me, you would not have liked me, and you would have justifiably disliked me.
A good friend of mine I had grown up with moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. While in Florida, he somehow wandered into a church one day—and he heard the gospel, experienced the miracle of new birth, turned from his sins, and trusted in the Savior!
Within just a few weeks my friend had a single mission he would not be deterred from completing—to return to Maryland to share with his friends about the gospel that dramatically changed his life. And so after having not heard from him for a lengthy period of time, suddenly I heard from him and we arranged to get together. I anticipated that the partying that took place previously would just continue. I had no idea he was a Christian.
That first night as we sat together in my room, I took out various forms of hash I had to offer him. He declined. And for just a moment I was surprised, but I wasn’t deterred and so I began to smoke.
As I began to smoke, he began to talk.
Now, he hadn’t been a Christian but for a few weeks. He knew, actually, very little theology. But he knew the gospel. And because human wisdom hadn’t been integrated, the cross he preached to me was not emptied of its power. Oh, no. It was full of power! And for the first time in my life I heard the gospel. My friend told me that Christ died for my sins. And in that moment, as he preached, I can only tell you God acted on my soul. Something took place in my heart.
I now look back and know it was the miracle of regeneration. And what I had previously thought was folly and idiocy suddenly became the gracious wisdom of God in the form of a cross and a Savior who died for the worst sinner I knew (me) in order to forgive my sins. And that night, in that place, I turned from my sins and I trusted in the savior. Everything immediately and dramatically changed in that moment.
What happened in that moment? What happened was the fruit of what had been decreed in eternity past. In eternity past God decreed to send and sacrifice his Son. In eternity past God decreed to, by his Spirit, reveal his Son and the sacrifice of his Son to me through the preaching of the gospel by my friend. And in that evening I was acted upon by God.
Even in the midst of all my theological ignorance, had you pulled me aside and had you in any way implied that I initiated this, that I was seeking God, that somehow I discovered him I would have said to you as tactfully as I knew, ‘You don’t have a clue. You don’t know me. I wasn’t seeking this!’ …
My friend didn’t reason with me (not that there isn’t a place for reasoning with somebody). But he shared the gospel with me. And God, by his Spirit, revealed the gospel to me. And that night I was aware of a few things distinctly. One was this—the initiative for all of this came from above…
Oh, brothers and sisters, join with me now in ascribing the change in your life wholly to God.
Wholly to you, Lord! We ascribe it wholly to you! We ascribe the existence of this church and the continued sustaining of this church wholly to you. We didn’t initiate this. This is not the fruit of human leadership and human intelligence. Oh, thank God for that! This church’s future does not rest on human leadership and human intelligence. Oh, how grateful I am for the leadership!
Here is why I have confidence in the future of this church. He—the one who began a good work in this church and in and through your hearts—he will sustain you and he will bring it to fruition and completion until the day of Jesus Christ (Php 1:6). That is my confidence in the future of this church.”
-C.J. Mahaney, preaching at the grand opening of Sovereign Grace Church in Apex, NC (February 3, 2008)