Sunday, February 04, 2024

A Life Lesson I have Never Forgotten


(Justus DuPlessis - third from the right: His brother David DuPlessis, on the Pope's right hand.)

Somewhere in my first year at Redeemer (32 years ago!) a good-hearted man came up to me after church. He was crying. He wrapped his arms around me, and said, "I don't care what others are saying about you. I think you are a great pastor." 

While embracing him, with eyes wide open and not feeling comforted, I said, "Thank you." I was the object of some discussion, fairly and unfairly. 

I had faults that needed addressing. Charles Spurgeon once wrote, 'Get a friend to tell you your faults, or better still, welcome an enemy who will watch you keenly and sting you savagely. What a blessing such an irritating critic will be to a wise man, what an intolerable nuisance to a fool!'

There is a time and a place to be told of one's faults. This may come either directly from God, mediated through the Scriptures by the Spirit, or from a friend who knows you and loves you, or even from an enemy.

You have faults. The question is: Are you correctable? When this is a God-thing it is received with words like, "Thank you, God, for revealing this to me." God uses people who have come to grips with their own faults. They are less judgmental, and more redemptive. God will not continue to use people who do not have periodic "Search me O God" moments.

Thirty years ago the great South African leader Justus DuPlessis spoke at our church. I found him to be a powerful person of God. Justus 
was a member of staff and Pentecostal "observer" at the World Council of Churches in 1954 and 1961, respectively, and was invited to serve as a Pentecostal observer at the Second Vatican Council. I attribute what God was able to do through Justus to things like his humility and teachability. 

"In 1936 Smith Wigglesworth, during a preaching tour in South Africa, prophesied over him that God would out pour his Spirit upon the historic churches and that he, Du Plessis, would be greatly involved in this." (See here.)

He must have been 70 years old when he was here. He stayed at our house. I knew that Justus knew the Pope, and had met with him. I asked him, "What was it like to meet with the Pope?" He pulled a picture out of his wallet, and there he was, standing with the Pope. Perhaps I should show him pictures of me on vacation? I don't think so! 

Justus said, "I want to meet personally with you and show you something." 

The next day we met in my office. He had a 300-page doctoral dissertation, written by a South African Christian leader. It was on the gift of tongues and other charismatic phenomena. Justus had just spoken at Kenneth Copeland's church, and Copeland had extra copies made so Justus could give me one. "I want you to review this and tell me what you think. I believe God could greatly use this work to help pastors. Please let me know what you think about this tomorrow."

I took the dissertation home and began to read. It was good work, but I knew that pastors would never read it. It was highly technical and academic, filled with dessertationisms. I had to tell Justus what I really thought. How would he receive it?

The next day we met again in my office. I said, "Pastors will not be helped by this book in its present form."

I will never forget what happened next. 

Justus said, "Let's go into the sanctuary and pray." Once in the sanctuary, now standing by the communion table, he said, "Let's kneel." Then Justus prayed. I did not know what to expect. He prayed, "O God, thank you for sending me to a man like John who would tell me the truth and point out my error." Justus asked God for forgiveness, thanked God for his great mercy and grace, and thanked God for me.

As for me and my stunned soul, I knew I was in the presence of God. I was not thinking about how great I was in doing this, but that next to me was a man a lot wiser and far more experienced than I. I was getting another one of those life lessons that will never be forgotten.

Be teachable.
Realize your own faults.
Confess them before God.
Thank God for the rescue.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; 
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, 
and lead me in the way everlasting."

- Psalm 139:23-24