Friday, April 13, 2012

T4G 2012 - Day 3

Today I am driving back home to Ohio. The conference was better than I expected it to be. In my opening remarks, I mentioned that I was somewhat disappointed in the T4G that I attended in 2008. Not this one. It well exceeded my expectation and I cannot wait until April 8-10, 2014. I might even try to bring my wife to this conference at that time. The last day of the conference was just as good as the other days. Each speaker faithfully and boldly proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ and its implications upon my life. 

General Session 07 - The Underestimate God: God's Ruthless, Compassionate Grace in the Pursuit of His Own Glory and His Ministers' Joy by Ligon Duncan
Ligon Duncan painted the picture of Elijah from 1 Kings 19 as he struggled with discouragement. This was really a helpful follow up from C. J. Mahaney's message the other night on not losing heart. In 1 Kings 18, Elijah had that glorious moment of God defeating the prophets of Baal at Mt. Carmel. But then, just one chapter later, we see Elijah running for his life from Ahab and Jezebel. And he was depressed. He wanted to die. 

I was moved by Duncan when he said that many men begin ministry thinking if they are faithful to God, the crushing darkness of life will not be part of their experience. And then it comes and they are depressed. They are broken. They are hurt. They are confused. And in their disappointments, faithful  ministers can forget that God is God and that God is good.

There were three main thoughts in his sermon. First, he pointed out that even people who believe that God is sovereign can fail to believe in God. Elijah personally saw the sovereignty of God firsthand in chapter 18, but then ran from the threats of an evil woman in chapter 19. He forgot God. Second, he made the point that even those that fight against idolatry can fall into it. Elijah's desire was for the restoration of the Northern Israel. He wanted God to do something in their midst. He wanted God to be exalted, but he also wanted the way God would do it. Third, he shared that even when it looks like God is being hard on his servants, you can be assured that his provisions are good and kind. Elijah wanted to see God's glory established, but God had other plans. Fast forward to Luke 9 and we are told that at the transfiguration, the glory of Jesus is visibly seen by the few disciples, but also by Moses and . . .  Elijah. He saw it, just not in his timing.

One of the major things I learned from this is how easy it can be to go from highs to lows in my walk with Christ and my ministry. I also learned that I need to trust God for His timing in all things. He has a plan that I need to trust.

General Session 08 - The Fulfillment of the Gospel by Matt Chandler
This is probably the session that I was looking forward to the most. I have listened and grown from the preaching ministry of Matt Chandler in the past couple years. God has and is using him in amazing ways for His Kingdom. His message was one of hope. Hope that is found in the culmination of gospel ministry, the new heavens and the new earth. He began his message by talking about the events that happened several years ago. In fact, two years ago, he stood on that stage and had men pray for him as he was beginning 18 months of high dose chemo after having brain surgery. The doctors at that time had said he might live two more years. He said that he found it very fitting to stand here two years later preaching about hope from Revelation 21.

He spent some time walking through how glorious it is going to be when it is all said and done for the Christian. But I think what impacted me the most is when he said that the view of tomorrow (heaven) should be what drives us today. He warned that it should not be in the sense of "I want to die and get there." But it should be in the sense of "I want to be as faithful as I can be and then get there in God's timing." Whether that would be next week, month, year, or 30 years from now.

I do not doubt heaven. I do not doubt my calling of being there. I do not doubt how great it is going to be. But I often wonder if I live my life in view that it is so much greater than anything here. So much greater than popularity. So much greater than the Cubs winning the World Series (he didn't say that, I am just hoping). So much greater than anything this world has to offer. I was convicted that maybe the gospel in my life is too shallow. Maybe I am thinking about the temporal results of the gospel instead of the eternal ramifications. I wondered as he said, "You have to get over you" whether I am over myself. Something to think about and probably repent about.

General Session 09 - Glory, Majesty, Dominion, and Authority Keep Us Safe for Everlasting Joy: Reflections on God's Keeping Power through 32 Years of Ministry by John Piper
These titles are starting to sound like some old time puritans. But I guess the speakers have the right to title their sermons anything they want. And certainly, John Piper has the right to any title he wants. His sermon last night was from the end of the book of Jude:
"Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen." (vs. 24-25)
His sermon was broken down into two parts. The first part was how he is amazed that he is still a Christian. That was something to hear him say. He began by reading an entry from his journal about 30 years ago where he was contemplating quitting. It was scary, yet very raw and real. He said that if everything was decisively up to him, he would have quit long ago. He would have failed long ago.

The second half of the sermon was the analysis of how that happens. How are we kept? How does God keep us? Piper went back to verse 1 of Jude where it says, "to those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ." Those that are called are kept. Towards the end of the sermon, he asked one very pointed question:

What makes you think you will wake up a Christian tomorrow?

Think about that one. Is the hope in you? Is the hope that you are smart enough? Is the hope that you are strong enough? The only answer has to be found, from the lips of Jude, that God keeps those He calls. I love the ministry of John Piper. This message was deep and profound. It is one of those that I will have to listen to again and again.

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