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“We are a purchased people. The Bible shows that this makes all the difference in how life is lived. We exist to proclaim and to praise the glory of the One who purchased us.”
Pastor Dan Cummings

Four years today, Pastor Dan Cummings was called home to swim forever in the ocean of God’s love after a 10-month battle with cancer. He was a beloved husband, father, pastor and friend. But what I am grateful for this morning is that he was a true mentor. In the short time we labored together in the ministry of the glorious gospel at Five Points, He taught me much about being a man, husband, father, pastor and friend. In Our Time, it is rare to find a man who is not afraid to think rigorously about God, his gospel and its vast implications for every area of life. Even rarer is finding a man who “if you cut him would bleed Bibline”. Dan was both of these and I am thankful to God for his influence in my life. 

In a sermon given on November 14, 2004 entitled, By His Grace and for His Glory: A God-Entranced Witness, Pastor Dan said, “If you did nothing else in your vapor-like existence except be a faithful witness to the glory of God in Christ, you would have lived. But if you did everything else and the whole world was your acclaim and everything you wanted to accomplish got accomplished… but were not a witness to the glory of God in Christ? God’s evaluation is: You Never Lived. It was absolutely worthless.” He shepherded his flock under this banner. In the power of the Spirit, he preached of the great worth of God in Christ to a world that wants to relegate God to the periphery. He faithfully called us to give our lives by following the Great Shepherd of the sheep as he fixed our eyes on the glory of Christ. For in giving our life for the glory of God in Christ, we would come to find it!

The way Pastor Dan would want us to remember him today is for our remembrance to be more about our Great God than about him. So let us plod on together in the power of the Spirit remembering that every breath we are given is by God grace so that we would live for his glory.

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The following is the closing of Pastor Dan’s first sermon in his first preaching series at Five Points entitled, The Ten Words on Religious Affection. This sermon, The First Word on Religious Affection: No God But God, was preached on December 14, 1997. You can find the sermons here:

“The Christian, when he comes to die, even the bad [frowning providences in life] is good. Does that mean that when you go to the doctor and the biopsy comes back and it’s not a favorable thing that you go running around cheering, “Yay! Yay! I have cancer!”? No. When that biopsy doesn’t come back well and you’re laying in that hospital room, in the depths of it, what God do you believe in? This will be good in the end… What do we really believe? Where is our trust? Where do we run for our security, our help, our satisfaction, and our pleasure and our joy? Dan runs too often to the gods of this age and my guess is that you might not be a whole lot different than I am. No, we find our satisfaction and joy and pleasure in Christ and in Christ alone, the only True and Sovereign One… What God do we really believe in? We’re commanded to have no other god but God. So the questions stands: Where’s my trust and what do I believe? The gods of this age or the God of the ages?”

Today is the one year anniversary of Pastor Dan Cummings’ death.  Death is a reality of life because of sin (Romans 6:23) and it is appointed for man to die once (Hebrews 9:27). But the good news of the gospel is that though sin entered the world and death through sin, there is an abundance of grace and a free gift of righteousness through Jesus Christ.  It is through Jesus Christ’s perfect life and death on the cross that sinners find justification by His blood and reconciliation with God.  And it is this truth that leads Paul to say in Romans 5:21, “so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  For the person who puts their faith alone by grace alone in Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins, death is not eternal.  As John Owen wrote, “the Father and his Son intended by the death of Christ to redeem, purge, sanctify, purify, deliver from death”… in Jesus, the death of death has come.  [The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (Book II, Chapter III)]

This reminds me of a song from the album Come Weary Saints (which is on sale this month at Sovereign Grace).  The lyrics are below:

It Is Not Death To Die

Come Weary SaintsIt is not death to die
To leave this weary road
And join the saints who dwell on high
Who’ve found their home with God
It is not death to close
The eyes long dimmed by tears
And wake in joy before Your throne
Delivered from our fears

CHORUS:
O Jesus, conquering the grave
Your precious blood has power to save
Those who trust in You
Will in Your mercy find
That it is not death to die

It is not death to fling
Aside this earthly dust
And rise with strong and noble wing
To live among the just
It is not death to hear
The key unlock the door
That sets us free from mortal years
To praise You evermore

During the summer of 2001, I was working as a summer programmer at Camp Barakel.  We always started the summer off with two weeks of counselor workshop and I will never forget one particular workshop session.  We all gathered in the East Side chapel and Dan Cummings spoke on the glory of God’s sovereign grace.  I had heard of these “Reformed” guys before… but I had never heard one who was so passionate and amazed by God’s grace as he.  We talked over lunch before he headed back home about all things God-centered.  It was a great and gracious conversation, and one that changed my life.  He, of course, did not let me leave empty handed and gave me two books that day, Still Sovereign and The Pleasures of God, and promised to send me more for my summer reading, which he did.  I gave him a gift for Reformation Day last November with the note, “Happy Reformation Day to the man who introduced me to it!”  I bless God for sending me to Barakel (which is a story in itself) and his providence in sending Dan to preach and giving me ears to hear.

Over the next few years, Dan mentored me as I finished college and started my pastoral ministry.  We went to pastor’s conferences and ETS meetings.  Starbucks and Wendy’s.  And boy did we go to bookstores!! I cannot remember one bad conversation.  They were always God-centered and Christ-exalting.  He helped me through some tough early years of ministry.  He loved to help me think through issues and papers when I was in seminary.  He would always make those conversations come back to the text of Scripture… always.

I was called to the pastoral staff at Five Points Community Church in May 2006 and I could now walk into his office any time I wanted.  He was always ready to help, assist, think, talk, and laugh.   He taught me much about how life and ministry are not two separate things, but one.  He was a living example of how to live under the banner of “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”.  I will miss many things that became so normal around here… afternoon cups of coffee at our second office (Starbucks), theology talks, movie nights, oral book reviews, ministry visions and plans, and whether Michigan State is better at any sport than Michigan.

As I sit in the office that I spent so much of the past 3 years in, I remember the thing I will miss the most.  Whenever I told him about some ministry idea, he would look at me and without hesitation say, “Rock on!”  Never “Have you thought about…” or “Maybe you should try…” or “Let’s wait and see if…”  I am sure there were times when he might have wanted to say some of those things, but he never showed anything but confidence in me.  And when I would screw up, he always continued to show confidence.  Always.  And then we would usually have a cup of coffee! Things will be different around here, but if there is one thing I know he would tell us, it would be “Rock On!”

And we will… for the glory of God!

I am usually helped greatly by Sovereign Grace Ministries.  CJ Mahaney wrote a book called Humility that has helped me progress in my being a more Christ-like husband, father and pastor.  They also have a few guys that write amazingly God-centered, Christ-exalting, Gospel-saturated songs in a time dominated by songs and chorus that are not.  Recently, our church body has been experiencing a time of trial.  We have many in our body who are sick with cancer and other painful ailments, including our beloved Pastor Dan Cummings.  One song in particular sometimes brings me to tears, feeling both overwhelmed and convicted.  The title is As Long As You Are Glorified by Mark Altrogge on a great album, Come Weary Saints (which is on-sale this month at the Sovereign Grace Music Store).  You can download the song for free here.  Here are the lyrics:

SHALL I TAKE FROM YOUR HAND YOUR BLESSINGS
YET NOT WELCOME ANY PAIN?
SHALL I THANK YOU FOR DAYS OF SUNSHINE
YET GRUMBLE IN DAYS OF RAIN?
SHALL I LOVE YOU IN TIMES OF PLENTY
THEN LEAVE YOU IN DAYS OF DROUGHT?
SHALL I TRUST WHEN I REAP A HARVEST
BUT WHEN WINTER WINDS BLOW, THEN DOUBT?

O, LET YOUR WILL BE DONE IN ME
IN YOUR LOVE I WILL ABIDE
O, I LONG FOR NOTHING ELSE AS LONG
AS YOU ARE GLORIFIED

ARE YOU GOOD ONLY WHEN I PROSPER?
AND TRUE ONLY WHEN I’M FILLED?
ARE YOU KING ONLY WHEN I’M CAREFREE?
AND GOD ONLY WHEN I’M WELL?
YOU ARE GOOD WHEN I’M POOR AND NEEDY
YOU’RE TRUE WHEN I’M PARCHED AND DRY
YOU STILL REIGN IN THE DEEPEST VALLEY
YOU’RE STILL GOD IN THE DARKEST NIGHT

O, LET YOUR WILL BE DONE IN ME
IN YOUR LOVE I WILL ABIDE
O, I LONG FOR NOTHING ELSE AS LONG
AS YOU ARE GLORIFIED

SO QUIET MY RESTLESS HEART, QUIET MY RESTLESS HEART
QUIET MY RESTLESS HEART, IN YOU.