Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God
In all this world of lies and fraudulence, the Word of God is our most precious treasure. If we close our Bibles, what do we know of God, ourselves, eternity? But if we open our Bibles, we start seeing who God really is, who we really are, what really matters now and forever.
We are Bible people, and gladly so. If we bear reproach for that commitment, we only bear the reproach of Christ himself, for he was a Bible man, and gladly so. (See John W. Wenham, Christ and the Bible, chapter one, “Jesus’ View of the Old Testament.”)
But we do not have Christ here with us, to teach us personally. So he sends us leaders, who speak to us today the Word of God. We are immeasurably enriched by the leaders who have spoken to us this biblical gospel. I think of Billy Graham, John Stott, J. I. Packer, Henrietta Mears, Carl Henry, Francis Schaeffer, Bill Bright, so many others. And naturally, I think of my own dear dad and mom, Ray and Anne Ortlund.
The best influence anyone can have on another person is to speak to them the Word of God here in this world of illusion. Personally, I can’t even read certain verses of Scripture without being reminded of influential people in my life. I can’t read Romans 15:13 without thinking of my dad. I can’t read Proverbs 4:18 without thinking of my mom. I can’t read Ezekiel 33:10 without thinking of Francis Schaeffer, and so forth. To me, the Bible is not an abstraction. It is a living book filled with people, their faces and voices, with specific moments and enduring memories, when they spoke the words of God to me with unforgettable power. I will never forget them and what they said. They changed me, and very definitely for the better.
So, we are not only to remember the Word of God but we are also to remember those who spoke it to us. Why? Because in our leaders we can see the impact of this Word, the outcome of it in real life:
Consider the outcome of their way of life
No one can tell me that my dad and mom and all the other “Greatest Generation” stalwarts for the gospel wasted their lives. There is no way I will ever be convinced of that. I knew them. I saw them. I watched them in good times and bad. I followed them as they built up the cause of Christ in this country and around the word in their generation by great acts of faith and sacrifice and courage – the founding of Fuller Seminary, Christianity Today, Campus Crusade for Christ, L’Abri, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, the Lausanne congresses, the Jesus Movement, the writing of books like Evangelism and The Sovereignty of God, even The Four Spiritual Laws. They planted churches. They founded mission agencies. They eventually built websites. And on and on and on. And no one can persuade me that the outcome of their lives came, after all, to nothing. Oh, how I long to be used and blessed by God with their impact for the gospel! Here then is the next step for every one of us:
Imitate their faith
How simple. It is childlike, perhaps even humbling. How do children learn? They don’t philosophize; they imitate. What is it we today are to imitate about these leaders of the previous generation who have left so much to us? Not their style, but their faith. Styles change, but “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), and he himself is the focus of all true faith. We must never be so foolish as to think we have outgrown him. But to trust him, know him, admire him, obey him, follow him, serve him, advance his cause, and suffer for him, as our leaders did in their time – he will give us the same life-outcomes he gave them.
We have the same Jesus today that they had in their time, and we have just as much of the same Jesus. He will be as faithful to us as we was to them, if we too will put Christ first by faith and speak his Word to as many people as we possibly can, while we live. But we don’t have forever.