Clemson & the Love of God

Clemson & the Love of God

On Monday, after dropping off our oldest at Camp Ridgehaven in the highlands of North Carolina, we decided to visit my alma mater, Clemson University (’93). It had been almost 15 years since our last visit. So much has changed. The campus has undergone massive improvements. Beautiful new buildings, squares, plazas, and memorials are at every turn. New academic programs and research facilities are among the best in the country. The athletic facilities have been vastly renovated and are world class.

It was delightful to meander through the hilly, tree-lined campus with Marla and Hans. We walked past Historic Riggs Field to Tillman Hall and then proceeded down by the amphitheater to the front of the Cooper Library. I pointed out buildings and spaces where I have numerous living memories. It was also a treat to visit the Jervey Athletic Center where I spent loads of time during my four years as a member of the soccer team. Sam Blackman, the same sports information director during my days as a student-athlete, warmly received us and graciously provided Hans with several press guides. Hans even received a surprise tour of the newly refurbished football locker room at Death Valley by two of the players. It was great fun.

What made the deepest impact during our brief time in Clemson, however, were not the improvements to the campus or the good memories on the soccer pitch. No, what impacted me most was reflecting upon the fact that while at Clemson, just after my sophomore year, God’s irresistible love in Christ overwhelmed my soul and changed my life. God saved me, a poor and miserable sinner.

My first two years at Clemson were spent in licentious and worldly living. I abandoned the precious promises of God impressed upon me in my youth for the fleeting pleasures of sin (cf. Heb. 11:25). I stopped attending church. Walking through downtown Clemson, where some of the same rowdy establishments still exist from the early 90’s, I remembered those days of rebellion and sin against God. But God did not leave me in my sinful rebellion. He did not give me what my sins deserve. No, He had mercy on me, giving me precisely what I do not deserve––His saving love in Christ.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved [me], even when [I was] dead in [my] trespasses, made [me] alive together with Christ–– by grace [I] have been saved (Eph. 2:4-5).

Spending time in Clemson this week served as a powerful reminder of the chains that once held me and the nail-scarred hands that set me free. Twenty-two years later my prayer is that my life will by God’s grace continue to be renovated and refurbished as has the Clemson campus, that the dilapidated and untidy areas of my life would be renovated and beautified by the Word and Spirit as I am conformed more and more to the image of Christ. I am thankful for God’s promise that when we abide in Christ through His appointed means of grace (Word, sacraments, and prayer), He will bring spiritual renovation and growth to our lives (cf. Isaiah 55:10-11; I Pet. 1:22-2:2; I Cor. 10:16).

Beloved Christ Church, reflect upon the amazing love that God has for you. Meditate this day upon the grace, mercy, forgiveness, and new life that you receive through faith in Jesus. Remember that God not only saves and justifies, He also sanctifies (Rom. 12:1-3). Let us rejoice that

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he has loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (I Jn. 4:9-10).

Where the Blue Ridge yawns its greatness is where God’s love met me in my sin, and O how grateful I am. May we all rejoice in God’s sovereign, saving love in Christ this morning. May we all remember the terrible chains that once held us, and the amazing love of God in Christ that set us free.

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

- Charles Wesley, 1738

- Pastor Jon