Sunday, February 08, 2009

Desiring God Conference For Pastors 2009

Last week I had the sweet privilege of attending the Desiring God Conference for Pastors in Minneapolis. I loved every minute of it except for the single degree (and at times sub zero) temperatures. And that's in Fahrenheit! I lived in Massachusetts for two years when I was in high school and it snowed alot there but I don't remember it ever being that cold! Bless your soul, John Piper, and all you Minnesota natives.

In any case, I had hoped to blog each of the sessions but I was only able to do a recap of the first one because, well, I decided not to bring my computer to the sessions and I was too tired on the second day to recap all the messages in any detail. This conference was encouraging and challenging at the same time. I highly recommend Mark Dever's (the keynote speaker, pictured below) first and second messages. Though this was a pastors conference and all the other messages were specifically directed at pastors, I think these messages are highly helpful and relevant for every believer who wants to grow in faithful gospel witness.

I think perhaps the best moment of the conference for me was the Q&A to conclude the conference, which included questions directed at all the speakers. The last question, answered by John Piper, was perhaps the best five minutes of John Piper I've ever heard. But I promise you that it's not for any of the reasons you would think. If I find the footage, I'll post it. Until then, you're going to have to wait. Otherwise go watch the whole Q&A for yourself. =)

Thank you for your prayers!

Session 1: Mark Dever

This conference is about evangelism, which means it’s about sharing the gospel. But before we can talk about sharing the gospel, Dever wants to make sure that we all mean the same thing when we say gospel. So instead of making any assumptions, he began by defining what the gospel is from the Scriptures. We’ve probably all heard it before but if we have been saved by this gospel then we should ever be delighted to be reminded of what God has done for us in Christ. In fact, part of the way that we become more effective in sharing the gospel is by meditating on it again and again, telling ourselves this great story again and again, so that we are increasingly able to draw out how it applies to all the situations of our lives, so that we are increasingly able to relate any conversation we have with non-believers to this glorious gospel of our salvation.

The gospel begins with God as Creator with rights to all of His creation. And we have rebelled against our Creator. When God created us, He had pleasure in us and it was right for Him to have pleasure in us. When we rebelled against Him, God condemned us and it was right for Him to condemn us. God is righteous and holy and everything He does is right.

The gospel is a storyline that’s unfolding in four phases: creation, fall, redemption, consummation. It is global and all-encompassing in its scope. When Adam fell, the whole creation was cursed and subjected to futility. But God is making all things new and when He completes this renewal, there will be a new heaven and earth that has been completely redeemed from the Fall.

But this big picture storyline by itself doesn’t do anyone any good. To tell someone the gospel in that way is to leave them as a small child with his face pressed up against the glass of a candy store. This big picture doesn’t do anyone any good if we don’t tell individuals how it applies to them. We must tell individuals why this gospel is good news for them as individual, and this good news for individuals is that Jesus has come to save individual sinners from the wrath of God that is rightly against them.

We must remember that there is no way to tell the gospel without offending the person we are evangelizing. If there is nothing offensive in what we say, we are doing something wrong. There is no pain-free way to share the gospel, though we aren’t to go around needlessly offending (and there are many ways we can do this). We must emphasize that the gospel isn’t mainly about how there is something wrong with the way they see the world but rather the gospel is mainly about how there is something wrong with the way God sees them and they need to be made right with Him, in His eyes! We are sent as heralds to proclaim a message!

Dever shared three reasons why we should evangelize:

1) We are commanded to. This is clear in the New Testament. This is what the Great Commission is about. It doesn’t matter whether we feel like doing it or not. If we don’t feel like doing it, we should work on our affections. But we shouldn’t wait until we feel like doing evangelism to start doing it. We should obey God, and work on our feelings as we do so.

2) We should do it out of love for the lost. Dever dwelt on this point for a while. Do we really understand what it means that people are lost? I think this was the part of his message that I appreciated most. He spoke at length about hell and how horrible it is, how he can’t even find the words to describe the torment that non-believers will be subjected to apart from embracing Christ in the gospel. We don’t make the gospel more attractive to non-believers by diminishing the painful reality of hell. All we are doing is giving them every reason to persist in their unbelief because we are taking away the very thing that the gospel rescues them from, the very thing that is meant to cause them to flee to the gospel! If we really believe in the God who has saved us through the gospel, then we must believe what His Word teaches about hell and that everyone who doesn’t embrace Christ is going to perish there forever! And if we love people, we will labor tirelessly to rescue them from this end.

3) We should do it out of love for God. Above all, we do evangelism for the glory of God. We do it because we love God and we love to tell the truth about who He truly is so that others can see Him and love Him for who He truly is. This is the one way that we are able to glorify God in this life that we will not be able to glorify God in heaven.

1 comment:

Mel said...

Wow, Chris, I'm so glad you were able to go to the conference. Thank you for coming back and sharing this with us. It's so important to be reminded of these things, in new and fresh ways that blow the dust off of ideas we may have become too accustomed to or too comfortable with.

That other blog I told you about had a post about this exact same message, although I don't think it was from a first-hand perspective.

God bless you! I'm so glad you got back safely!