During the last war, in my ministry in London I often used to say that what determines whether or not you and I are Christians is not what we say on vacation and not what we say when we are in our studies or reading a book somewhere and reading about theology and reading the Scriptures. That is not the ultimate test. The acid test of our profession is this: What do you feel like when you are sitting in an air-raid shelter and you can hear the bombs dropping round and about you, and you know that the next bomb may land on you and may be the end of you? That is the test. How do you feel when you are face-to-face with the ultimate, with the end? Or I might put it in terms of young men engaged in action on the field of battle. What is your response as you are facing life and death and all the great ultimate questions? What is your reaction? Or, coming nearer home, let me put it like this: the ultimate test of our profession of the Christian faith is what we fell, what we say, and what our reaction is when a hurricane comes or a tornado or some calamity produced by nature or some violent epidemic, a disease that brings us face-to-face with time and eternity, with life and death. The ultimate question is, what is our response then?"
Just last week, I read these words from the Doctor for the first time. They were recently published by Crossway in a short collection of sermons that Lloyd-Jones preached at the Pensacola Theological Institute in 1969. The sermon this particular quote is found in comes from a passage in 2 Corinthians:
"For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:17-18). This has become something of a "life passage" for me, so reading a sermon on it from one of my all-time favorite preachers was quite the treat. It was a spiritual delight.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones has been a constant encouragement for me. I first read his work in a short collection of lectures titled Authority. These lectures forced me to ask where I was drawing my worldview from and on what authority I speak, learn, and live. His book Spiritual Depression helped me work through depression and the Christian life (though, admittedly, I still haven't finished the entire book).
I began to listen to his sermons as I drove around, especially during long drives across states or on long trips. Iain Murray's biography on Lloyd-Jones helped me push through a bed-ridden two weeks of the flu following a wreck.
Those two weeks were the onset of a season of life in which Lloyd-Jones has accompanied me. Lloyd-Jones became a companion of mine. Sure, he died several years ago, and I never had the chance to meet him, and sometimes I still find myself getting caught up in his heavy Welsh accent. But he has, in a sense, walked with me as I have attempted to walk humbly with God in the midst of my suffering.
This sermon was delivered at 2:00 in the afternoon because Hurricane Camille was slated to hit Pensacola that evening. In a very real sense, the audience was face-to-face with time and eternity—maybe even life and death. But he did not shy from reminding them of the truth: "The Christian is someone who has been given a glimpse of eternity . . . That is the secret. Once you had had a glimpse of this glory, nothing else can depress you, nothing else can alarm you, nothing else can get you down." For Lloyd-Jones, the gospel would never fail the acid test. It would never return void. It can't return void.
Lloyd-Jones preached his final sermon 36 years ago from today. The following March, he died in his sleep. The Doctor is now with the Great Physician. Praise God for the life of His faithful servant, Martyn Lloyd-Jones. He has helped many of us get a glimpse of the glory.
Cody Glen Barnhart
Cody Glen Barnhart (@codygbarnhart) lives in Kansas City, Missouri, and is a student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Canon & Culture, Gospel Centered Discipleship, and is a contributor at servantsofgrace.org.