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Thank God for Mr. Anonymous!

Ryan MacPherson


His Example Brought Me Closer to Jesus

I don’t recall his name. I can’t even remember what he looked like. But I will never forget what he did. His example changed my life forever. Through me, that young man influenced hundreds, even thousands of others. I wish I could thank him. We all should thank God for him.

I was fifteen years old at the time. My older brother and I had traveled to Colorado Springs, a town at the base of Pike’s Peak. There, in an oldish-looking boarding house, we spent a couple of weeks at the Summit Ministries youth camp. Knowledgeable presenters instructed us in how to preserve our Christian worldview against the assaults of ungodly philosophies. Some of their lessons I still remember, but the person who left the most far-reaching legacy was my roommate—the roommate who disappeared each morning.

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An Invisible Testimony

As the saying goes, this roommate was “conspicuous by his absence.” We bunked four to a room, and three of us got ready for breakfast together, but one of us disappeared for about ten minutes each morning before breakfast.

After several days I was convinced this was no coincidence. The pattern of ten-minute absences went like clockwork. My roommate had a secret life, and I was getting more curious by the day. So finally I asked him.

“Where do you go each morning? You disappear for about ten minutes. Why?”

“I go out the porch,” he explained, pointing to the front entrance. “That’s where I read my Bible each morning.”

He reads his Bible every day? Suddenly I was embarrassed to admit, even silently to myself, that I did not read my Bible daily, nor much at all, actually. I attended church. My parents had enrolled me at a Christian high school. There we had chapel daily, and religion courses, too, plus every subject was taught from a biblical perspective. Now I was attending a Christian apologetics boot camp for youth. I had brought my Bible along, and I took it to every session. I knew how to follow the speaker’s presentation and look up passages. But to read my Bible on my own? Daily? This idea never had occurred to me.

A Life-Changing Experience

From that day forward, I read my Bible daily. Most weeks, this literally meant seven out of seven days. Occasionally I missed a day. As the years passed, there were some brief lapses here or there where perhaps a week would transpire before I “got back in the saddle.” But all in all, my roommate’s example changed my life. Reading the Bible on a daily basis became a habit.

Aristotle wrote that habits form character. Starting a habit takes work on our part, but once a habit becomes, well, habitual, the activity works on us more than we work on it. This truth of human nature intensifies when the habit consists of reading the Bible, the very Word of God, which is powerful to change hearts. As a pastor later explained to me, “We do not so much read God’s Word. Rather, God’s Word reads us, revealing the secrets of our hearts and transforming us by convicting us of sin and establishing and strengthening our faith in Christ as Savior.”

Before graduating from high school, I had probably read the Bible twice through, cover-to-cover. In college my daily routine continued. Before long, I was totally addicted. Desiring to know God better and better, I would read three or four chapters per day, enough to finish the whole Bible in about a year. Far from being an unattainable Herculean task, reading the Bible once per year takes only about ten, maybe fifteen, minutes each day.

I remember discovering, by reading the Bible on my own, how well my pastor knew the Scriptures. Every sermon focuses on a particular text, but what I did not realize at first is how many other Bible passages my pastor would bring into his discussion of the designated sermon text. Sometimes he’d quote and cite a particular passage, but more often he was paraphrasing without interrupting the flow to “footnote” every allusion he made to the rest of Scripture.

I also discovered that the hymns and liturgy of my church did not come from men. Sure, people composed those lyrics, working out a rhythm and rhyme and setting them to music, but the message and often the key phrases came directly from the Bible. Far from being some human tradition, the Lutheran liturgy consists nearly 100% of Scripture, with just a few added phrases to smooth out the transitions into a coherent worship service.

In my youth it sometimes seemed that studying the Book of Revelation was taboo, as if one must first go to the seminary before that book would be “safe” to read. However, after I had read it through several times, I realized that the Book of Revelation is probably second only to the Psalms when it comes to ranking the sources of our liturgy. I had friends from other churches who insisted upon a millennium, a rapture, and so forth, and chided my church for interpreting these topics symbolically—but now, having read the Bible on my own, I recognized two things. First, the Book of Revelation itself tells us to interpret such things symbolically. Second, my church does not ignore Revelation, but rather sings from it every single Sunday! (Do their churches do that?)

As I continued reading the Bible daily, I became increasingly convinced that the Lutheran Confessions from the 1500s correctly identify and explain the chief doctrines of the Bible. Whereas the reference to “one thousand years” in Revelation ought to be interpreted figuratively, the statement that “baptism now saves you” in Peter’s epistle ought to be interpreted literally—Baptism is a means by which God brings us to faith and delivers to us the forgiveness of sins. This is the only interpretation that holds up when all the passages dealing with Baptism are compared side by side. In college I studied Greek, learning that we literally are baptized “into” the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). Think of Baptism being like the doorway through which we are moved from unbelief to faith. And, as Luther emphasized, the power behind this view of baptism has nothing to do with us choosing to be baptized, or our parents bringing us to be baptized, or a particular pastor performing the baptism, or even the water involved, but only “God’s Word, which is in and with the water, does these great things.”

A Gift We Are Forbidden from Keeping to Ourselves

I also discovered by reading the Bible that we are forbidden from keeping God’s gifts to ourselves. God intends for us to share. When I began reading the Bible daily, my mother was the next to benefit. She, too, has read the Bible from cover to cover, in multiple translations, some twenty or more times this past quarter of a century.

From my pastors I had learned of the Great Commission. I understood that God sent pastors and missionaries forth to proclaim His Word, and that God also spread the Gospel through Sunday school teachers and parents. Only after repeatedly reading the Bible on my own did I recognize the huge emphasis that God Himself places upon the vocation of parents. Dads and moms are the foremost evangelists. It is to parents that God has entrusted the primary responsibility of proclaiming the Gospel to the next generation.

Martin Luther recognized the same truth from Scripture. He published his Large and Small Catechisms in 1529 as tools for parents as well as pastors to use—for both home and church. Luther introduced each section of the catechism with the phrase, “as the head of household [Hausvater] shall teach it to the entire family.” And so it was, that my roommate from years ago set an example that influenced me, and then my example influenced my mother, and later others joined with me to establish the Hausvater Project in order that we may encourage thousands of others to cultivate that precious art of reading the Bible daily—for oneself, for one’s family, for the future of the church.

Thank You, Jesus, for Mr. Anonymous

Thank you, Jesus, for leaders like Martin Luther. Thank you, Jesus, for my roommate, whose name I have long since forgotten but You have recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life—yes, the book mentioned in Revelation, which thanks to that roommate I’ve read about twenty-five times.

And thank you, Jesus, for raising up other men and women who will read the Bible in their homes to their children and teach their children to read it to their children, in order that all may know that Your love extends from age to age and shall never end. Amen.

 

Dr. Ryan C. MacPherson is the founding president of The Hausvater Project. He lives with his wife Marie and their homeschool children in Mankato, Minnesota, where he teaches American history, history of science, and bioethics at Bethany Lutheran College. For more information, visit www.ryancmacpherson.com.



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