Ray Ortlund Jr. is an honorable man of God. I’ve been hanging out with him for the final decade, and in all that point, I’ve seen no breach in his integrity. I have heard him confess many sins and watched him wrestle by many difficulties. However I’ve by no means seen him shrink back from following God into the fray. The rationale, I feel, is easy. Ray fears and loves God.
My recollections are stuffed with the proof.
Moderately than attempt to catalog the issues I like about Ray or the numerous methods God has used him in my life, I’ll merely share three recollections which are treasured to me, on the event of his current retirement as pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville.
1. “The Bible Is Right. I Was Wrong.”
Within the early days of Immanuel Nashville, there was a bunch of 30 to 50 males who met on Tuesday nights in an previous “fellowship hall” for theology, group, and honesty. We used to circle up the chairs in these days—no “head of the table.” So that you by no means knew the place Ray would sit. As a younger man, I hoped it could not be subsequent to me. We revered Ray. (We nonetheless do.) His stare was unsettling. (It nonetheless is.)
One night time we had been working our means by a passage of Scripture when Ray made a passing remark a couple of verse main as much as our predominant verse for the night time. The remark was fallacious, but it surely was clearly not the purpose Ray was driving at and never the verse we had been targeted on. However that didn’t cease one man (that man) from circling again to focus on Ray’s mistake.
Many people, I’m positive, had been indignant on Ray’s behalf. Ray was not. He replied on a dime, “Oh. That’s right. The Bible is right. I was wrong.” We moved on. However a few of us by no means received over it.
As I mirror on the vibrancy of Ray’s ministry at Immanuel, this occasion stands out as an example of his continuous posture earlier than the Phrase of God. The Bible is all the time proper.
2. “I Am a Sexual Sinner.”
One of many first sermons I heard Ray preach made a deep impression. It was within the early days of Immanuel, and there have been about 200 individuals current. Ray started as he all the time does, with the textual content of Scripture—1 John 1:7: “If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” He learn verses 1 to 10. He paused. He didn’t look down at his notes. He seemed us within the eye. “I am a sexual sinner.”
One other pause. I don’t know for a way lengthy. However in that interval of time, I puzzled if maybe I used to be witnessing the final day of Immanuel Nashville. Trying again now, I imagine it was the primary day of the brand new Immanuel. He continued. “I’m not cheating on my wife. I’m not looking at porn. But I am a sexual sinner. If all of the thoughts that went through my head this week were put up on the screens this morning, none of you would want to be my friend.”
I’d by no means heard a preacher say one thing like that. None of us had. We had been disarmed—as if the Spirit had opened a portal into a brand new actuality and Ray, stepping by, was inviting us to affix him on the opposite aspect, in that place the place the blood of Jesus flows freely for sins and the fellowship of the saints is greater than skin-deep. God marked us with the actuality of 1 John 1:7—and it’s a flagship verse of Immanuel to this present day. Many blessings have adopted in its wake.
3. “The Sheer There-ness of It All!”
There have been solely two hunters within the congregation after I started attending Immanuel. Once I found that Ray was the opposite, I invited him to turkey-hunt with me on the property of a household good friend. The property is picturesque—huge, inexperienced, rolling Tennessee hills skirted roundabout by mature hardwoods. It was early morning. The view was gorgeous. When Ray stopped me mid-stride and seemed me sq. within the eyes, I had no thought what was about to occur.
What he mentioned subsequent startled me: “T. J., I’m amazed by the sheer there-ness of it all!” I used to be turkey-hunting. However Ray was worshiping the Creator—in awe of the “there-ness” of creation because it actually is however doesn’t should be. In on a regular basis I’ve recognized Ray, I’ve by no means seen him miss a possibility to mirror joyfully on the glory of God or the glory to come back when within the presence of pure magnificence.
Ray is a determinedly joyful and grateful man, but it surely isn’t a shallow enjoyment of God. Ray has suffered within the service of Jesus, and by God’s grace it has accomplished work. I feel that’s what makes him so “Jesusy.” The ache has produced a depth in his life and worship. Jesus feels nearer when Ray’s round, as a result of Ray himself feels Jesus nearer.