The morning after I became a Christian, I walked into a bookstore and purchased A Divine Revelation Of Hell by Mary K. Baxter, a new Bible, and The MacArthur Bible Commentary. That night, A Divine Revelation of Hell became my favourite book. I read it well into the wee hours of the night. I was actually halfway through the book before I fell asleep by the next morning. I read the book at every opportunity. I read it in the morning before breakfast. I read it in the lunch room at work. I read it last thing at night. I finished the book within three days. It is to this day the fastest I have ever finished a book.
If you’re unfamiliar with A Divine Revelation Of Hell, think of it as an equally fraudulent but less blissful version of Heaven Is For Real. It is essentially an account of Baxter’s visit to Hell and back, and I loved it. It didn’t occur to me at the time that Hell isn’t a tourist attraction, not until I read The MacArthur Bible Commentary.
I didn’t know how little I understood the Bible until I read The MacArthur Bible Commentary. I didn’t know that my favourite preachers at the time—John Hagee, Joel Osteen, and T.D. Jakes—were false preachers until I read The MacArthur Bible Commentary. I didn’t know my prosperity gospel church was a threat to my soul until I read The MacArthur Bible Commentary.
John MacArthur became my pastor from afar. I purchased another 17 of his books. His sermons were a daily delight. He unleashed God’s truth one verse at a time to me. He helped me unlearn every bad doctrine I had recieved. He helped me learn good doctrine. He helped me understand the doctrines of grace. He helped me understand why the prosperity gospel is so evil. He taught me how to pray—he helped me stop speaking into the air, but to God. He taught me how to understand the Bible. He taught me how to teach the Bible. He taught me virtually everything I know and everything I hold dear.
I met John MacArthur at a conference in Montreal a few years ago. I had tears in my eyes when I shook his hand to thank him for everything his ministry had done for me. I told him that God used his ministry to keep the prosperity gospel from destroying me. I told him that I left my prosperity gospel church days after reading his blog on when people should leave their churches.
And yet, MacArthur isn’t that great. My pastors are greater.
One of my pastors recently sent me an email saying that he looked forward to meeting my girlfriend and added that just as her father wants to make sure that I am worthy of her, he wants to make sure that she is worthy of me. That meant a lot to me. He was willing to take the role my father is unwilling to take. He isn’t just my pastor and friend, he’s also a father figure.
When I became a member at Grace Fellowship Church, I didn’t think I could treasure my pastors more than I treasure MacArthur. I didn’t think they would have a greater influence on me than MacArthur does. I was wrong.
My pastors invite me into their homes. They even welcome me into their cottages. They are happy to talk to me for several hours on the drives there and back. They pour their lives into mine. John MacArthur doesn’t know my name, my pastors do. MacArthur doesn’t pray for me, my pastors do. MacArthur doesn’t preach to me, my pastors do—every week. They preach the word even though its unpopular to do so. They make difficult phone calls. They baptized me. They correct me. They encourage me. They love me. They know me in ways John MacArthur cannot. I know about John MacArthur, but I know them. They are everything MacArthur instructed me to look for in local pastors.
They are my great shepherds until I meet the greater shepherd. MacArthur isn’t accountable to my soul, they are. When MacArthur is before the throne of God, he will not be asked to give an account on how well he shepherded me, my pastors will. MacArthur was once my pastor from afar, but they are my local pastors. John MacArthur isn’t that great. Tim, Steve, Murray, and Paul are greater.