I want to read two things. One is Psalm 16, which I think sort of summarizes all the most important things I’ve learned and the most important ways I’ve been changed by God during my time at The Exchange. Before becoming a part of this church, these emotions and hopes and joys that David describes were foreign to me. Now I know them very well, although imperfectly.
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I know that I can ask this in confidence, since God has promised that he will preserve me until he presents me blameless before his throne because I have taken refuge in Christ and the gospel and have been purchased by his blood.
I say to the Yahweh, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
If I did not have Christ, I do not know how I could live. Not only that, but I can see now that God is the giver of everything good, and that all gifts from him are meant to produce in us thanksgiving to him, and that, as Saint Augustine puts it, “He loves thee too little, God, who loves anything together with thee, which he loves not for thy sake.” Every good gift in this life, like The Exchange, will end, but God will not.
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.
Living in community with other Christians was not something I was ever used to, or even wanted to do. But community groups and classes and spending time with my brothers and sisters at Sunday gatherings have slowly become the parts of my week that I look forward to more than anything else – and that is because I have grown to love the saints. I don’t know any of you as well as I want to, but I know you well enough to know that you are God’s people redeemed for him. And I just love being with you all. I am excited to have the opportunity now to grow to love a new group of brothers and sisters.
The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of
blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.
I have now recognized my indwelling sinful tendencies as the only consistent source of misery in my life. However, I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good – and that the pleasures of sin and the company of those who love sin are not worth comparing to the pleasures that are found in knowing the Lord and being known by him, or to being in the company of my brothers and sisters.
The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup: you hold my lot. The lines have fallen on
me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
I see more clearly now exactly how great is the hope that I have in the gospel. I can look forward to eternity with Christ in sinless peace as I reflect his glory and worship the wonders of his grace. And therefore, I choose him because he is better than anything else; yet he has chosen me well before I chose him. Using the analogy that I won the lottery is not even close. Not only is the creator and ruler of everything a merciful God like ours, Jesus, but he has picked me out and given me everything through the sacrifice of himself and through the preaching of the gospel to me.
I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
I have experienced God leading me and guiding me, whether through the spirit causing me to remember a certain scripture at just the right moment, or through brothers comforting me and strengthening me with promises from scripture, or through Joe’s preaching. I now trust wholly in God’s word, and I take it with me, knowing that in it the Spirit works and that through it, Christ is always by me.
Therefore my heart is glad and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, nor let your holy one see corruption.
I know what it means to rejoice in the gospel with my whole being, knowing that Christ has for all time perfected me by his blood and will sanctify me until my flesh is made new at the resurrection. And I have that joy because I know that I have been inseparably joined to Christ by faith, and that since he has been raised from the dead I too will be raised from the dead.
You make known to me the paths of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
I know that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that seeing him face to face will be a greater pleasure and a deeper peace than I can ever imagine.
I pray that God would continue to make these hopes and joys stronger in me throughout my life by the gospel.
The second thing I want to read is a short passage from The Pilgrim’s Progress that reminds me of my favorite memories made at this church. It would have been very easy for Satan to tempt me during my time at the Exchange to fall into a spiritual sleep, forgetting to keep repenting of my sins and forgetting to keep seeking God’s face in my personal life. Thankfully, through certain brothers, that did not happen. Meeting with Chris Wandor and Brett Kennedy and others and talking with them has repeatedly been the means that God has used to keep me awake and waiting for his return. Some of my favorite memories are sitting or walking with Brett in the park, discussing the gospel. And when I first read this part of the Pilgrim’s Progress, I immediately thought of him and praised God for using him in my life.
In it, two pilgrims, Christian and Hopeful, are getting close to end of their long walk to the Celestial City.
I saw then in my dream, that they went till they came into a certain country, whose air naturally tended to make one drowsy, if he came a stranger into it. And here Hopeful began to be very dull and heavy of sleep; wherefore he said unto Christian, I have begun to grow so drowsy that I can scarcely hold up my eyelids; let us lie down here, and take a nap.
CHRISTIAN. By no means; lest, sleeping, we never awake more.
HOPEFUL. Why, my brother? Sleep is sweet to the laboring man; we may be refreshed if we take a nap.
CHRISTIAN. Do you not remember that one of the Shepherds bid us beware of the Enchanted Ground? He meant by that, that we should beware of sleeping; “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others, but let us watch and be sober”
HOPEFUL. I acknowledge myself in a fault; and had I been here alone, I would have by sleeping run the danger of death. I see it is true that the wise man saith, “Two are better than one.” Your company has been my mercy, and you shall have a good reward for your labor.
CHRISTIAN. Now then, to prevent drowsiness in this place, let us fall into good discourse.
The two then begin their discussion about “where God began with them” in the gospel after Christian sings these words:
When saints do sleepy grow, let them come hither,
And hear how these two pilgrims talk together:
Yea, let them learn of them, in any wise,
Thus to keep ope their drowsy slumb’ring eyes.
Saints’ fellowship, if it be manag’d well,
Keeps them awake, and that in spite of hell.