FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 21, number 43, October 27, 2022
“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” -2 Cor.4:17,18
On the weekend of August 14-17, 1969, 400,000 people gathered at Max Yasgur’s farm near Bethel, New York for the rock festival known as Woodstock, a weekend of drugs, sex, and rock and roll music. At the same time, category five Hurricane Camille was making its way toward Pensacola, Florida at the Gulf of Mexico. And on Sunday evening, August 17, 1969 the great Welsh preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones was to preach on the first night of the Pensacola Theological Institute sponsored by McIlwain Memorial Presbyterian Church in Pensacola. And one week before, on the night of August 8,9, the actress Sharon Tate and four others were brutally murdered by Manson family members at her home in Hollywood. The next night two others were murdered.
Because Pensacola lay directly in the path of the hurricane and because it was expected to make landfall around midnight, the leaders of the Pensacola Theological Institute moved up the time of Lloyd-Jones’ sermon to 2 p.m. Interestingly they chose not to cancel the conference nor to urge evacuation. The nine sermons Lloyd-Jones preached at the Institute were recorded by John Schultz and later transcribed into a book entitled Setting Our Affections Upon Glory. In the foreword to the book Schultz suggests that due to the coming hurricane Lloyd-Jones chose to preach a sermon from 2 Corinthians 4:17,18, very similar to one he had preached years before in 1940 when Nazi Germany was bombing London. Lloyd-Jones said, “During the last war, in my ministry in London I often used to say what determines whether or not you and I are Christians is not what we say on vacation and not what we say when we are in our studies or reading a book somewhere and reading about theology and reading the Scriptures. That is not the ultimate test. The acid test of our profession is this—what do you feel like when you are sitting in an air-raid shelter and you can hear the bombs dropping round and about you, and you know that the next bomb may land on you and may be the end of you?
In the providence of God Hurricane Camille, one of only four category five hurricanes to ever make landfall in the U.S., changed directions and came ashore at Waveland, Mississippi with winds reaching 175 miles per hour with a storm surge of 24.5 feet. Nearly 150 people in the area died. I know a man who flew helicopters in the Vietnam War and he was commissioned to bring “scent dogs” to the area to look for bodies. When he flew over Pass Christian, Pascagoula, etc. he said the scene looked worse than any B 52 carpet bombing he had seen in Vietnam.
At 9 a.m. on Monday, August 18, Jimi Hendrix was the last act at Woodstock. He was to have closed out the rock concert the night before but everything was way behind schedule. So most of the people had already left when those still there were awakened by Hendrix playing his famous rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. Thirteen months later twenty-seven year old Jimi Hendrix died of a drug overdose, followed a few weeks later by Janis Joplin’s drug induced death. She was also twenty-seven.
I bring up a bit of our 1960’s history to illustrate the two world views at play in that tumultuous decade. There are only two world views—no more and no less. There is the world view based on holy Scripture where the Bible guides everything we think, believe, say, or do about eternity and living in this world; and there is everything else. We believe either the Bible or reason. It makes no difference if the world view of reason is based on Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Marxism, materialism, atheism, or anything else. Such a world view is naturalistic. All are merely man’s way of making sense of the world. God, however, has given us the truth, His word which is the supreme judge on all matters of life is to be “examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest in none other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.”
In his sermon on Sunday afternoon, August 17, as Hurricane Camille was bearing down on the Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi coast, Lloyd-Jones preached powerfully, pastorally, and evangelistically on the acid test of faith. In his characteristic fashion, he first told them what the acid test is not. It is not theological orthodoxy, although we all know that true, Biblical doctrine is essential. We must always reject any and every heretical teaching. Nor is correct conduct the acid test. Are we to live lives obedient to Jesus? Of course we are but this is not the test. And the acid test of sincere saving and sanctifying faith is not correct experience. Experiencing the grace of God in forgiveness, and knowing that He will never leave nor forsake us, is wonderful to behold, but it is not the acid test of sincere faith.
Then what is it? Lloyd-Jones says that the acid test of our profession is our total response to life, to everything that takes place within us and around us. A Christian is someone who knows God as his Father. He knows his sins are forgiven. He knows that nothing will be able to separate him from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. He has believed the message concerning Christ and Him crucified. This is why Paul has an entirely new outlook on the whole of life.
Most of the people at Woodstock, no doubt, had the world view of reason. Paul declares the Christian lives by the authority of God’s word made manifest in him by the regenerating and renewing work of the Holy Spirit. We live not for the things which are temporal. Rather we live for those things which are eternal. And any trial or tribulation is a momentary and light affliction because it ultimately produces in us an eternal weight of glory, far beyond all comparison of anything in this temporal world. This eternal weight of glory is the glory of heaven, of living in the presence of Jesus our Lord forever and ever, of knowing that eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, nor has it entered the thought of man all that God has prepared for them who love Him. It is to see our crucified and risen Savior face to face, to have our righteous souls made perfect, to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” It is to know that we will live with Him on the new earth forever where there is no more sickness, no more death, no more crying or pain. It is to be absent from the body and to be forever with the Lord. Therefore, whatever affliction you now face indeed is only momentary. Glory in the One who gives you the grace to live eternally in His presence.
1 Setting Our Affections Upon Glory, page 16, Crossway Books.
2 The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter one paragraph X, “Of the Holy Scriptures.”
3 Setting Our Affections Upon Glory, page 15.
4 Ibid. page 22.