I first of all want to say thank you to all of you who are here, because in one way or another, you contributed to my father’s joy. He found his greatest joy in response to his ministry. For all of you who were in any way touched by his teaching, by his kindness, by his life in any measure, you had brought to him, probably not knowingly, an immense amount of joy and all of us benefitted, because we lived in the spill-over. He was a very content man.
He had found the perfect woman, and well-nigh perfect children - at least in his unrealistic mind - I fear the man never, ever saw his children in any sense close to reality. And his response to the kindness, and the affection, and the love, and the gratitude of all of the people that he ministered to, filled his life with joy, and we benefitted, down to the very last conversations that I had with him - and all the conversations up till then.
Even though he was not without his struggles in life and ministry, but never did we experience any diminishing in his own joy. Never did I, and whenever I called him - even though he would tell me that his hip hurt, or his leg hurt, or as always, “I miss Irene, and it’s not like it will ever change in this life.”
And even though he may have been struggling with some physical things and wondering how it made any sense to read anymore - since he didn’t know why he needed to know anything more, since there wasn’t going to be any opportunity to tell anybody anything anymore, and it seemed as though accumulation had reached the point of no point at all - even in the midst of that, he was sweet, and gracious, and in a measure, content.
In fact, in the last days when I said to him, “Dad” - we were singing some songs, and praying and reciting Scripture by his bed, and I said, “What can I pray for you?” And he said, “Just pray that everything will continue just the way it is.” There are many stories - sad stories, really - of men in ministry who end bitter, and somewhat disillusioned, and unhappy and dissatisfied, and unfulfilled – not - not Dad, and for that, we owe you a great deal of thanks.
And I want to say a personal word of thanks to pastor Jim Hodge. You were always on my dad’s mind - very, very often - the majority of time when we spoke on the telephone, your name came up. He was worried about you, because he understood what you did so well - we understand each other, don’t we? We know what it’s about. He knew you were going through changes in your church - relocating, physical things - and he was consistently reminding me of how he was burdened for you.
And I just thank you for ministering to him, and to Bret Gilcrest for his kindness as well, repeatedly, to my dad, and for your visits when he was ill and in the hospital, and praying with him. It meant so much that you embraced him here in this church, and this city, which became so much a part of our life. And it’s not true for all our family, you know - Julie and Jane were here, and Jeanette and I were in Southern California, and were strangers to this part of the world, but grew to love it because of what the folks here meant to my dad and mom.
So, thanks to all of you. Now, in the wonderful way in which the Lord works, I didn’t know what John Politan was going to say, and I didn’t know what Pastor Kim was going to say and didn’t know what Bob Zachary was going to say, but I had written down three passages of Scripture that I thought I would read and comment on. The first one was 2 Timothy 4:1-8, which pastor Kim read - this is true. The second one was 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, which Bob Zachary read and then gave a message from.
I have one text left. You know what it tells me? They knew my dad like I know my dad. I sat down last night, and I wrote down three passages that I thought would be sort of dead bull’s eye hits for how he viewed life and ministry. And the first one I wrote down is 1 Corinthians 4, and I just want to take you back there for a moment, even though you heard it read - 1 Corinthians 4 - because I am going to tell you what my father told me, basically.
These words have echoed in my life for many, many years, and I don’t even know whether he first began to drum them into my head when I was sitting in the pew listening to him preach - he was, after all, the only preacher I ever heard until I went away to college, and even after that, my favorite preacher. In fact, he tells me that I used to go to his tent-meeting evangelistic services and whenever the invitation was given, I came forward every time just to get the ball rolling.
He also reminded me of the time that he gave me some money for my birthday, and - not a lot, but something I could use to go to the toy store and buy something. And he asked me - I think I was six or seven years old - on the way home from church if I still had the money, and I said, “No,” and he said, “What did you do with it?” I said, “I heard what you said at the offering, how much the church needed it, so I put it in the offering.” He really was stuck for what to do about that, but I had a great childhood being reared under his - his ministry.
I met my dear wife Patricia in his church - her father was the chairman of the deacons there - and got to know her dear family, and the Lord brought us together, and of course, the rest, for us, is history. I served with him there, but somewhere along the line, perspective on ministry became very important to me.
And I remember very vividly that he would say to me, and not only once but on numerous occasions, “Remember, Johnny, 1 Corinthians 4:1: ‘Let a man account of us’ - or regard us – ‘in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.’” For him, ministry was always a stewardship; it was something given to you for which you then became responsible. You didn’t design it, you didn’t develop it, you didn’t own it; you received it as a trust.
And verse two follows up: “It is required of stewards that one be found faithful”; faithful. But the issue in the ministry was never creativity or entrepreneurial skill. The interest in the ministry, the point of the ministry, was stewardship. We had been granted a stewardship, a deposit, a treasure as Paul says to Timothy, to be guarded and protected, and he always understood that.
And that’s exactly what the apostle Paul has in mind when he says, “Therefore, really, to me it is a small thing that I should be examined by you or by any human court. In fact, I don’t even examine myself.” He goes on to say, “When I know nothing against myself; herein am I not justified.” He goes on to say, “Do not go on passing judgment before the time, wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”
Early on, I was very clear on the fact that he understood ministry to be motivated by a divine confrontation to happen in the future when we come before the Lord; that the assessment of men is of little importance, that our own self-analysis is of little value. God knows the secrets of the heart, and He is the only one who can give the appropriate praise. I want to thank my father and thank the Lord for His work in my father’s life for helping me to understand that ministry is a stewardship.
And the trust is the mysteries of God, which is just another way to say revelation, divine revelation, divine Scripture, and for dad, as - as for me, you leave the results to Him. You discharge the stewardship. You guard, you proclaim the mysteries of God faithfully as a steward, with small regard for what men think, and even smaller regard for your own sort of biased assessment, and you await the day when the Lord will offer the appropriate reward.
This very same emphasis is found in 2 Corinthians 4, the one section that hasn’t already been mentioned, and I would just ask you to think with me on this, because it is essentially the same thing. In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul says, “We have this ministry, as we received mercy.” My dad always understood his own weakness and his own frailty - I think that’s why his favorite hymn was Grace Greater Than Our Sin.
He was not under any illusion about perfection, and he understood, then, that not only was this a stewardship, but to have received this stewardship was a mercy. That is, it is not something that we have earned, it is not something that we have deserved, it’s not something we’ve achieved. It is a mercy; we have been given this ministry as a mercy. And in receiving it, the apostle says, “We renounce the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness.”
You receive this mercy with a life of integrity, as you also heard read earlier; no secret shame, no scandal boiling underneath the obvious surface. One thing about dad - and I’ve said this through the years - he was exactly who you perceived him to be; exactly. He was the very same at home all the time as he was in the church, in the pulpit, or anywhere else. Never was he anything other than the man he believed God wanted him to be.
There was no hidden shame, there was nothing under the surface, no scandal boiling; and time and truth go hand in hand. Given enough time - and 91 years is enough time - the truth comes out. He didn’t walk in craftiness; there was no deceit in him. Paul goes on to say, “Nor adulterating the Word of God.” Twisting, perverting Scripture, absolutely unimaginable to him; unthinkable to him. In fact, if I have a commitment to that, you can lay it at his feet.
He would say to me early on – and, of course, he wrote in my first Bible when I told him I was going to preach – “preach the Word.” And then he would drum into my head, “Don’t ever go into a pulpit unprepared. If you are going to say, ‘This is what God said,’ make sure it is what He said.” And to - to help in that duty, He dragged me off - after my first while of college days, misspent most of the time in athletics - to Talbot seminary, into the office of Dr. Charles Feinberg.
A formidable mind who knew about 30 languages, Hebrew scholar, doctorate from Dallas Seminary in theology, and Johns Hopkins in archeology, Ph.D. He took me in the office and sat me down with Dr. Feinberg, whom he knew, and he said, “I’m – I’m going to bring my son to your seminary, and I want you to make him into a Bible expositor.” I remember that conversation; I was, frankly, pretty frightened. I really - seminary seemed pretty intense to me.
And Feinberg looked at me, and looked at my transcript, and said, “Well, we’ll try.” And much to Feinberg’s horror, the first sermon I ever preached in chapel, in a combination of deep disappointment and great anger, he told me I missed the entire point of the passage. This was no small deal to him, but it was one of the greatest lessons I ever learned. My father had a passion to get the Scripture right, to rightly divide the Word of truth, ‘cause this was his stewardship.
And he understood if the gospel is veiled, as Paul says in the same passage, “If it is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing; because the God of this world has blinded their minds.” He understood that the responsibility of the preacher is to proclaim the truth; it’s up to the Holy Spirit to take the blinders off, and he was content to leave those results to God. He defended the Word of God as well as taught it; he defended it with a passion.
He loved apologetics - you all know that - he loved to defend the faith. He loved to find every reason for believing what the Bible said, not because he didn’t trust the power of the Scripture, but because he wanted to reinforce its power. And he knew that if people rejected the message, it wasn’t because there was something wrong with the preacher or the message, but there was something terribly wrong in the heart of the hearer, and that something was beyond him; he had to leave it to God.
Paul closes this passage in 2 Corinthians 4 by saying, “We have this treasure” - truth, the gospel – “in earthen vessels” - clay pots – “that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves” - we’ve heard that said already; I don’t need to say it again. He understood that if there’s any power in our ministry it’s the power of the Word, it’s the power of the truth, not the power of the man. He was content for God to unleash His power as He saw fit, as He sovereignly designed, and just go on faithfully preaching the truth.
And just a comment on that final passage, 2 Timothy chapter 4 - and these are just my comments. I determined not to preach a sermon at his funeral, and the reason is, I just didn’t want this to be about a sermon from me. I wanted it to be about all the sermons you heard from him, and I just wanted to reinforce a few things. But in second Timothy 4, a wonderful way that text ends – again, it’s a very similar text. He - my dad felt his accountability to God as Paul here does lay that on Timothy, charging him in the presence of God.
My dad understood that he needed to preach the Word in season, out of season, all the time, with all the emphases, ‘cause there would be times when people wouldn’t endure sound doctrine. He lived through those times, we all do. But he also, again, understood that the future was where you had to point your life. “Fight the good fight, finish the course, keep the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness” - the crown which is perfect righteousness, and that gets me kind of where I want to be to end.
When you think about heaven, as Kory sung, you think about someday I’ll see the face of Jesus. I’ll be in a land of perfection, and beauty, and glory, and all of that, and now, that - that’s all wondrous, that’s all glorious. But to me, the - from a personal viewpoint, what appeals most about heaven is the presence of perfect righteousness. The battle with sin is over, the warfare between the flesh and the spirit is ended.
Whatever my dad was in this life, whatever level of sanctification the Spirit of God had brought him to through the work of the Word, wouldn’t even be recognizable - or comparable, I should say - to that glory which he now has in perfect righteousness. There has been and is now being enjoyed that laid-up crown of righteousness, which the Lord has given to him, and will give to all who love His appearing.
I guess to sum these remarks up I would just say three things: he understood his accountability to the Lord as a steward, he understood his responsibility for the truth - and that is to be faithful to it, and to preach it as God intended it to be preached - and thirdly, he understood that there would be an accounting in the end, and that he had to minister with an eternal perspective, because that’s where - obviously - he’s going to be forever.
I am confident he’s entered into the joy of the Lord. I am confident that he is relishing now the crown which is eternal righteousness. I am confident that he is seeing the face of Jesus for the first time; that he has been made like Him whom he has seen as He is. While we miss him, we don’t want him back. But I know this: if he were here today and could speak to us, I know exactly what he would say. He would say, “Please don’t miss this place.”
When his father died, Harry MacArthur, he had died of cancer - a young man when he died, relatively, younger than I - and I was a little guy, visiting my grandfather in his house, where he was lying on his deathbed. He had been to the Mayo clinic and nothing could be done for the fast-growing cancer, and my dad told me in later years - and reinforced it by repeating the little story often to me - that he went to the bedside of his dad, and in his last days, he said, “Dad, is there anything you want?”
And he said, “Yes, Jack, there’s one thing I want.” He said, “I want to preach one more sermon.” And the problem was, he was in – he was in a Jeremiah situation; he got one in that he hadn’t gotten out. That’s what you were talking about, fire in his bones. He had a sermon in him, and he needed to preach it. Those of us who do this understand that; “I have a sermon, give me an audience.”
Well, he never lived to preach another sermon, but my dad took the notes that he had prepared to preach that sermon and printed them up and distributed that sermon at my grandfather’s funeral. And the title of that sermon - which is in print; you can find old copies even today - was “Heavenly Records”. So, my grandfather preached on heaven from heaven, his final sermon. I don’t know if my dad had a final one prepared that he never preached – probably.
But I do know this: if he could preach from heaven, he would preach on heaven, because it would be so overwhelming there wouldn’t be any other subject. And his plea to you - because he did the work of an evangelist, he had the heart of an evangelist - would be to be sure you’re in Christ, headed for heaven. Father, I thank You for this life; what can I say? Thank You for giving him to me all these years. As the oldest of the children I had the most of him.
As the only son, I had his heart in a way that only sons do. As a fellow preacher, I understood his passion as only a preacher can. As a pastor, I understood his shepherding heart. As one who loves the word of God like he loved it, I had a part of him that no one apart from those with an intimate attachment to your eternal truth can really know. We shared these things deeply; sometimes in profound conversation, sometimes in simply conversation, and sometimes in silence, our hearts were knit, and always will be.
And I thank You for this great mercy to me and to all of our family of giving us this remarkable and faithful man, and I thank You that he finished strong, loyal to You, and therefore, loyal to all around him, and we rejoice now that he is in Your presence. We thank You for our hope in Christ - the hope that through faith in Him we pass from death to life, from hell to heaven, from punishment to reward, from pain to joy, from torment to peace.
And I pray Lord, that even though he is gone, his life will continue to speak to Your honor and glory, as it did when he had breath himself. We commend our own souls again to You; may we be faithful, following his example, we pray.
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