Stephen Nichols (SN): On this episode, we are talking about church history being made in our very own day, and the book of church history is still being written. One of those key figures in the end of the twentieth century and now on through the twenty-first century is my guest. It’s Dr. John MacArthur. Dr. MacArthur, it’s nice to see you.
John MacArthur (JM): Thank you, Steve. Good to be with you.
SN: So, you are on the eve of celebrating fifty years of pastoral ministry here at Grace Community Church. And it was a few years after that, that Grace to You, the radio broadcast started up. What memory do you have from starting here back in 1969?
JM: The first sermon I preached here on the first Sunday I was officially to be the pastor, I preached on Matthew 7:21 and following, “Many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ And I’ll say to them, ‘Depart from me, I never knew you, you workers of iniquity.'” And I think, “What in the world was I doing? What a ridiculous way to begin a relationship.”
SN: You’re having them wonder if they’re actually genuine Christians?
JM: Yes, of course. I mean, I laid it on them. This is Sunday number one. I knew there were people who were not converted. I knew they were on the board. I knew they were in the choir. I knew they were serving in the church. I wasn’t mean-spirited, I was just passionate that these people needed to be genuinely converted.
SN: And the congregation knew what they were getting in their new pastor from that sermon?
JM: They knew it the first Sunday. The second thing that happened was that the board came to me in the first couple of weeks and said, “There’s a guy in our church, he’s an elder, he’s a Sunday School teacher, and he’s the pianist of the church. His daughter wants to marry this guy who’s a divorced, unconverted man, and they want you to do the wedding. Of course, he’s very active in our church so you need to do that wedding.”
And I said, “I can’t do that wedding. I can’t do a wedding marrying a non-believing divorced man to a Christian girl. I can’t do that.” And they said, “Well, why not?” And so, I met with the elders and I laid out the Scripture on being unequally yoked. I said, “Who’s church is this? Is this your church, or is this the church of the Lord Jesus Christ?” And one elder said, “We can’t do it at all here. We can’t do this wedding here.” That was absolutely a watershed.
From the first Sunday, they knew they were going to know what a true believer was, and that we were going to do what Christ wanted done in this church, even if it cost us somebody in leadership. We lost the guy, we lost his wife, we lost his family, and we lost his kid. They all left the church.
But that was so defining, and that’s what I think back, “What? Who would do that?” I wouldn’t do that now. I mean, I’d ease in a little bit.
SN: You know, a lot of kids actually listen to this podcast with their families and parents. So, what advice would you give to young girls and young boys? They have their whole life in front of them as disciples of Christ. What advice would you give them?
JM: I would say two things. First of all, biblically obey your parents because you’re commanded do that. It’s right to do that. And I tell parents all the time: trust your judgment. You’re right. You have the experience on your side.
And the second thing I would say to young people is: the faster you grow to love Christ, the sooner you move toward victory in your Christian experience over temptation and sin. It’s all about loving Christ. So, even as a young person, come to know everything you can know about the Lord Jesus Christ. But when the Lord confronted Peter, at the end of the gospel of John, and he’s going to restore this disastrous guy, he says the same thing to him three times. “Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?” And that’s all he wanted to know. And when Peter, in his sort of truncated way, said, “Yes.” He said, “Go feed my lambs. Feed my sheep.”
All the Lord wants to know is that you love Him, and loving Him is not going to happen in your life unless you really know Him. So, study to know Christ when you’re young and you’ll have joy, and you’ll see victory over temptation.
SN: Thank you, Dr. MacArthur.