So much has been written the last 48 hours about the passing of R.C. Sproul and the effect he has made on so many that are a part of the global church. I want to share with you how I was introduced to Dr. Sproul and his teachings.
The year was 2001, and I was a newly converted Christian at the age of twenty receiving some wonderful spiritual nurturing from a brother in Christ. This brother, being new to the gospel ministry, just started feeding me from a plethora of books and sermons he had been reading. When he would finish a book, it would get passed along to me. He even let me borrow his big study Bible, a John MacArthur NKJV of course, and we spent hours just reading and commenting over what I was starting to see and understand. I fell in love with the study notes and absolutely craved for more and more. I was so blissfully ignorant to biblical theology and the gospel ministry that my world seemed to get ripped apart and then graciously repaired almost simultaneously with every turn of the page. I was single and starving! Providentially our devotions and Bible studies became so precious that my heart and mind desired more. This desire and search for the things of God led me to a bible conference about an hour away from my home. I heard they gave discounts to students who attended so I got my $99, sign-up online, and waited for the days to arrive.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into, I just knew I was going to hear from the guy who wrote the notes in my study bible in person and a Baptist seminary president I heard of since I was raised in a Southern Baptist church. So during my spring break I spent the better part of three days traveling back and forth to attend the Ligonier National Conference. The main theme that year was the Holiness of God. I can remember showing up with my notebook, a small dictionary, and of course my huge study bible.
I was ready to learn some stuff…
I sat in the balcony by myself, but surrounded by a few younger fellas and a few groups scattered about. The main speakers for the conference were Allister Begg, Sinclair Ferguson, Jerry Bridges, R,C, Sproul Jr., R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, and Albert Mohler. As I said the last two were the only men I was familiar with and only assumed that if they were speaking then the other speakers had to be worth hearing as well. The first general session I spent the whole time writing as fast as I could, so much that my hand literally cramped up. When the second general session began I gave up trying to take notes and just allowed the preaching to teach my soul. I heard my first panel discussion between these men as a moderator took questions from the audience and I was just intrigued how these champions of Christ answered with such eloquence and wisdom. At some point on the last day, I arrived early for the evening session and on the platform just slightly behind the pulpit was a chalkboard. Little did I know that this trademark symbol was a clear sign that R.C. would be the final speaker for the conference. His sermon was titled, “Worshipping a Holy God” and his text came from Hebrews 12:14-24.
Once he was done reading from the scriptures, he never looked down again and his words just came pouring out like a tidal wave. To this young Christian, I was struck by the way he spoke so clearly and with such passionate authority, not in himself, but confidence in word of God. To an aspiring worship leader, he gave me words that I would never forget. Never in a million years would I have thought that my love could grow faster and stronger from knowing Christ more through His word.
I left that conference with a fire in my belly and a song in my heart. I felt crushed by my finiteness in the presence of holy God at the same time encouraged to boldly stand for the truth, knowing all good and well that His sovereign hand would guide me, teach me, and love me.
In the closing minutes of his sermon from that night in Orlando, R.C. recollected about standing and singing during corporate worship with his late friends, family and mentors back in Pennsylvania. I find it comforting as I think about that night so long ago and the many things I have learned through his teachings, writings, and sermons in the years to follow:
“…all the saints that have gone before us are there [during worship], and guess who else is there? God is there, and the Lamb is there, He’s really there!…we cannot focus on the holiness of God without being led to a hunger and thirst in our souls to-worship–Him.”
-R.C. Sproul, (’39-’17) Theologian, Pastor, & Professor