To read the rest of my experience at Together for the Gospel click here.
Conferences Do Not Replace Local Churches
I have digested my week in Louisville. I have chewed on the word of God like cud over the last three days. One thing has struck me I loved my time fellowshipping with like-minded brothers in Christ. By the end of the week I longed for home. I wanted to see my wife and my two girls. I longed for the familiarity of my bed and couch and muggy, humidity of Greenvills, SC. After much joyful and thankful reflection for the ministry of the word, music, and fellowship at Together for the Gospel, I longed for my home church and for my community group and for the people I do life with here in Greenville.
Also before I get into the meat of what I leared, one thing that I found extremely practical was the T4G notebook handed out. It had a lot of practical information for the conference like scheduling, speakers’s topics, and a note taking section but the hidden gem was in the back. They had all the songs we sang like a hymnal. I do not know about you but I’m not musically inclined and I always wanted to incorporate music into our family worship. Well at the end of the conference there was still tables full of these notebooks so I snagged a couple extra and I’ve been using these books plus spotify to sing with my family during our family worship.
Day 1: Pride and “Don’t Lose Heart”
I entered T4G with an open heart. I wanted the Lord to speak to me. I arrived in Louisville Monday after around 4PM. I settled into my hotel at the Drury just north of Louisville. I relaxed and then prepared for Dinner & Dialogue at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Southern is my favorite college campus. Beautiful campus. The weather Monday night was perfect. There was an understated breeze. The event was good. There was such an interesting dynamic between Carl Trueman and Matt Pinson. They agreed on many critiques of the Young, Restless, & Reformed and modern evangelicalism. An unintended consequence for me was the Lord prodding me about pride and jealousy that I had let seed its way into my heart. This was discouraging.
This precipitated a certain flow to the sermons. There was a tearing down to build up. C.J. went first and built up what was torn down by preaching,
We encounter Paul's resolve to not lose heart. It frames this chapter (v. 1 & 16). These are remarkable statements considering all that Paul suffered and endured. Though tempted to lose heart, Paul resolved by the grace of God not to lose heart. What informed Paul's resolve? How can we resolve to not lose heart alongside of Paul. It's a predictable temptation
Day 2: Complacency and Holiness
Thabiti’s message challenged my often complacent heart with the realization the gospel of God changes the heart of terrorists. I realized I often talk about the power of the gospel. I rejoice in the gospel’s saving power in my own life but then I often shy back when presenting the gospel to others as powerful enough to save them. I often underestimate the power of the gospel. DeYoung stepped in and again challenged my own personal complacent about personal holiness. I issued what I believe an important and necessary re-centering in the reformed resurgence. Sanctification requires spirit-powered, faith-fueled, gospel-centered effort. He says,
We are often scared to tell our people that they should be doing something or not doing something. The great commission tells us to teach people to obey. What plagues our churches is nomophobia. We are afraid of the law and it's third use. The law came after the gospel. The gospel leads to the law. We should not be afraid to tell people that the bible insists we obey.
In the story of Bathsheba, if you never say anything about David's greater Son who obeyed the law then you're not being faithful to the gospel. But you never say anything about sexual sin then you're not being faithful to the text. David and Bathsheba’s story says the Lord was displeased.
Your preach not only the content but the mood of the text. You gravitate to miss the mood by either making it overly positive and negative. You cannot have a God without grace or a Christ without commands. The law is also of grace. Grace saves wretches like us but leads us home. The gospel has three tenses from the wrath of God, to holiness, and to future glory.
Without the gospel we are trying to teach pigs to fly but without effort we will stall our sanctification. First, in sanctification holiness does not happen apart from grace and, second, grace does not stop trying.
All of this was preparation for the “gospel bomb” (coined by Timmy Brister) David Platt unleashed on the KFC Yum! Center later that night. I cried out for gospel loving people everywhere to live radically and in particularly to not hedge our bets with the way we live in relation to spreading the gospel to the unreached around the globe. He ended by saying, “Let us be done with puny theology which results in paltry global missions.” While leaving the service I felt euphoric, but on the ride home I experienced intense temptation and oppression. I have often been prone to depression. I have often failed. But over the last couple years the Lord has blessed me and strengthened me. I have not experienced this kind of intense warring in my heart for more than a year. My flesh was calling out for me turn aside from Christ. I was driving to my hotel rooming shaking. In that intense moment of fear and doubt, Jesus words to Peter came to mind,
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” (Luke 22:31-32)
That phrase but I have prayed for you kept ringing in my ears. It was as if Jesus was reminding me that apart from him fighting the sin in my own heart would be a losing battle but he would not let me fail in the faith.
Day 3: God-centered Restoration and Hope
I arrived Thursday morning refreshed. The Spirit encouraged my heart and lifted my spirit. I was not prepared for Lig’s message. To be honest, I almost decided to sleep in and figured I would catch Chandler’s message in the afternoon. I’m glad I did not do that. I will be chewing, digesting, chewing again, digesting again, ad nauseum. He exegeted 1 Kings 19 with surgical precision and applied the word with Spirit-filled unction. I felt the Spirit working in that room and in my heart tangibly. I do not want to say more about it. Stop whatever you are doing and watch his sermon:
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/40249087 w=600&h=450]
Chandler lifted our eyes to heaven and the consummation of our gospel hope. He quoted C.S. Lewis in The Last Battle who says,
And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
John Piper ended the conference thanking God he was still a Christian after thirty plus years of ministry. After Lig’s crushing sermon on loving stuff above God and Chandler’s hope filled homily about the consummation of our salvation, John brought everything into focus. God is the one who keeps us. My mind went immediately back to those few moments of temptation and warfare in my soul Wednesday night and then John said
How does God keep me from making a shipwreck of my Christian life? How does he keep me when I don't fear that there is false converts in my church, but I fear I may be one? How does he keep us alive, believing, serving, fathering, or married? Jude begins and ends with the truth that God decisively keeps us. "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ" (v. 1). We are called, loved, and kept. Those he calls are those he keeps (1 Thes 1:8-9; Romans 8). If he called you it's done. There's no dropouts. That's what it means to serve a faithful God.
Praise God! He tore down the sinfulness in my heart and than lifted me up in Jesus. I would highly recommend watching the sermons in succession. Don’t skip one. Move through them and let the Spirit work in your heart