Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An Open Appreciation to Byron Yawn

Outside of the pastors at my church, whom I love very much for their impact in my life, there have been a handful of men who have had an impact on my life through their writings or teaching.  I have read many books by men of this generation and many books by men of generations past.  One person is the object of their love: Christ.  I love reading these men because they encourage me to press on in the race set before me.  I am grateful to God for these men and their God-centered, Christ-exalting wisdom.  One of those men is Byron Yawn the pastor of Community Bible Church in Nashville, TN.
Byron was first introduced to me on a youth retreat many years ago.  I was a leader at the time and I can remember him as a man who seemed to love the youth and really enjoyed spending time with them during the weekend.  He was very involved and his teaching left an impression on the hearts of many youth that weekend.  As time moved on and the memories of the weekend were gone, Byron was nothing more than a speaker at the youth retreat for me.  But by God’s sweet providence, Mark Smith (my former youth pastor) shot me an email telling me to go listen to his pastor, Byron Yawn, preach on 1 Corinthians.  The name came back to me as I remembered him speaking on the retreat years ago.  So because of my love and respect for Mark I went ahead and downloaded the first few sermons from Byron in 1 Corinthians.  He had just started the book and the first sermons I saw on iTunes were titled The Centrality of the Cross.  Byron’s teaching was crystal clear.  He communicated so beautifully the truth of the gospel.  Following those sermons he took a detour for Easter to preach a sermon titled The View from the Tomb.  I quote this sermon often to myself because the truths he reminded me of are what I need to hear on a daily basis.  I’ve listened to the sermon several times because I love hearing the truth about our resurrected Savior and what his resurrection means for me as his follower.  The resurrection brings victory, hope and life.  One of my favorite reminders from that sermon: “If you can just walk inside the empty tomb and think that there is something else you need to do, you just don’t get it.”  The gospel is so powerful.  Powerful enough to change a heart of stone to a heart of flesh.  Powerful enough to make a sinner into a saint.  Powerful enough to make an enemy into a son.  Powerful enough to break the chains of sin and give us the power over sins dominion in Christ.  The gospel is so glorious and I’m grateful to have men all around me to tell me this over and over.  Byron is one of those men.
Next Byron put out a book titled Well Driven Nails: The Power of Finding Your Own Voice.  I asked Mark if he could get me a copy to which he did and mailed it to me.  The book was about preaching.  I love to read theology books but a book on preaching wasn’t really my top interest.  In the back of my mind was a desire to preach because I love to study God’s Word.  But even more so, I love Jesus.  When the book arrived we were heading on vacation so I took the book along.  It was hard to put the book down.  God was using the book to grow my excitement to teach his Word. 
By its very nature, preaching is ignoring man's opinion. We have been called to speak on behalf of God. Let God speak. Let man listen. Why not allow the Word of God to crush and rebuild me and then carry that transforming message to those people I love who are yearning for the same thing? That's real.” 
But something that blew me away from the book was God teaching me about humility.  Without specifically addressing the topic, Byron had communicated the importance of humility in the preacher’s life.  Humility does not magically appear on Sunday when the preacher ascends to the pulpit.  Humility begins and ends with Jesus.  A love and life captivated with Jesus produces humility.  “True passion risks its own dignity to exalt Christ. True passion is a freedom from insecurity and the fear of man.  It’s a type of freedom people observe in a sermon on Sunday and want in their lives on Monday.”  It’s all about being a fool for Christ.  I’m grateful to God that he used Byron’s book to have this impact on my life as well.
The last thing I’ll say is how blessed I was to join our youth for another retreat just last month where Byron was coming back to speak.  He wouldn’t be a forgotten memory when he left this time because of his impact on my life.  He came to tell us about Lies, Myths, Urban Legends and the True Gospel.  I was excited, not because of Byron but because of the gospel he was going to remind me about.  I needed to hear it.  I always need to hear it and knew he would communicate it to my soul once again.  Sure it was great to meet him, talk with him and let him know the impact he has had on my life.  I really love and appreciate Byron because he turns my eyes to Jesus.  This is why I love my pastors and these other men who preach and write: They tell me to look to Jesus.  My prayer is that Byron and the rest will continue to press on toward the goal, stay humble and keep pointing fellow brothers and sisters to Christ. 
Grace upon grace,
JRL

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