TOGETHER FOR THE GOSPEL 2010

John Piper preached on Wednesday evening.  His influence in my life is impossible to measure.  I’ll never forget the first time I read Desiring God almost twenty years ago.  His Christ-saturated approach to God’s Word began to slowly reshape my pursuit of and passion for God.

The primary question that Dr. Piper’s message addresses is: “Did Jesus and Paul preach the same gospel?” Piper urges, “Read all Gospels  in the shadow of the Cross.”

Piper begins by noting three things about people who claim to trust in Christ (Luke 18:9-14).  There is the person whose righteousness is “moral.”  Next, there is the person whose righteousness is religious/ceremonial.  Finally, there is the person whose righteousness is a gift from God.

Piper explains the Luke narrative with the intention of unpacking seven crucial principles (the manuscript is available at http://www.desiringgod.org).

1. Jesus taught justification by faith on the basis of imputed righteousness, not inherited righteousness.

2. No matter how religious you are, don’t trust in it.  Only trust in Christ alone.

3. Take heart in your struggle with indwelling sin.  When you feel like a failure — look to Christ alone.

4. All moral transformation is the fruit, not the root of justification.

5. Never forget – All good works, words, and deeds will serve to strengthen, not ground your justification.

6. The gospel is universally and globally needed.

7. Give Christ all his glory in the work of salvation!

The grand purpose in the universe is for Christ to be glorified.  Piper’s conclusion: Indeed Jesus and Paul preached the same gospel.

C.J. Mahaney concluded Together for the Gospel with an excellent message from 2 Timothy 4:1-5.  Mahaney unpacks the biblical description of the pastors’ charge.  He notes, “We all have different gifts — but the same charge.”

Mahaney admonishes pastors, be faithful to the message (v. 2).  Pastors must preach the Word, which is to say, they must preach the gospel. “Never assume that people have an exhaustive knowledge of the gospel.”  “Never altar or add to the story.”  “Be committed to unoriginality.  Don’t lose sight of what matters most.”

Remaining faithful to the message requires pastoral wisdom (vv. 2-3).  Mahaney urges, “We must be familiar with those we are addressing.”  In other words, we must know the people.  We must understand the hurts of the people.

Remaining faithful to the message requires godly character in general and patience in particular (v. 2).  Impatience reveals pride and self-righteousness.  And remember that sanctification is a process.  “Be patient with people who process truth slowly.”  “Don’t assume that you are sufficiently patient.”

Pastors must be faithful to their ministry.  They must do the work of an evangelist.  They must endure suffering.

Finally, pastors must be faithful to their Savior.   Mahaney’s message was a deeply encouraging message for each pastor and an appropriate way to conclude the conference.  What a blessing to sit under the ministry of the Word!

I am thankful for the chance to serve side by side with two men of God, Brock Ewing and Wayne Pickens.  Brock has proven to be an exceptional intern and has faithfully served in a multitude of ways.  And my Senior Pastor is not only my boss.  He is one of my best friends in the world!

I am also thankful for a home church who is not only expects their shepherds to faithfully feed the sheep; but a church who joyfully send the sheep from time to time to be fed themselves.  These shepherds are ready to come home!

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TOGETHER FOR THE GOSPEL 2010

Thabiti Anyabwile stepped up to the plate on Wednesday at Together for the Gospel.  Thabiti’s life and message prove that God is in the business of drawing Muslims to himself!  This converted Muslim delivered a powerful message that addressed the ever-popular evangelical manta that calls Christ-followers to engage the culture.

Thabiti was clear from the beginning: “If we set out to engage the culture, the gospel may be adjusted if we’re not careful.”  This really was a truly vital message, especially in a day when evangelicals are pursuing cultural transformation at a feverish pace.  Indeed, a cultural mandate emerges for God’s people in the Genesis account.  Thabiti acknowledges this at the outset.  Yet he is rightly concerned that many of those who seek to “transform the culture” often times do it in a compromising way and miss the point of Paul’s purpose, philosophy, practices, and perspective.

Paul’s purpose is set forth in Colossians 1:24-2:5, namely, that he might make God’s Word known so people would be mature.  The goal is conformity to Christ.  We too, must be ruthless as we pursue this purpose of Christ-likeness.  Therefore, Thabiti urges, we must “engage culture by engaging the church.”

Second, note Paul’s cultural philosophy (Col. 2:6-7).  Here the apostle urges people to live according to the gospel.  They must embrace a high Christology.  The danger according to Col. 2:8 is to underestimate the power of the world’s philosophy and become captured by her man-centered principles.  Thabiti urges in classic Van Tillian tone, “Don’t soft-peddle antithesis.”

Third, pay close attention to Paul’s practices (Col. 2:16-23).  He warns against self-made religion and restrictions concerning food, etc.  Rather, our focus my center exclusively on Christ.

Finally, note Paul’s perspective.  “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:1-4, ESV).

Thabiti concludes with a strong admonition.  Cultural engagement must focus on Christ and the gospel exclusively.  Our purpose is rooted in Christ.  Our philosophy is centered in Christ.  Our practices and perspective must revolve around Christ.  Therefore, when one wrongly engages culture, the gospel is inevitably adjusted.  May this never be!

John MacArthur  delivered the next pitch.  His careful exposition of Mark 4:26-29 was unpacked like a gift from a shepherd who has been carefully unwrapping God’s Word for over forty years.

He began by noting the Neo-Finney and Pelagian tendencies in American evangelistic strategy.  MacArthur points to another strategy for evangelism, the strategy that emerges in Mark 4.  In this passage, readers are called to sow the seed and wait for God to work a sovereign miracle.  “We are secondary agents but not the primary cause.  We are the means, not the power [behind salvation].”  Regeneration is the sovereign work of God.

MacArthur points to four key principles of evangelism.  First, we must be humble.  Our message is the cross and resurrection of Jesus.  Salvation is his doing (1 Cor. 1:30).  Our responsibility is not to change the heart.  Our responsibility is to faithfully and persistently sow the seed and wait for God’s sovereign hand.  Jonathan Edwards remarks, “True conversion is marked by broken-hearted love for God.”

Second, we must be obedient because we know that we are the light that God uses in evangelistic ways.

Third, we must be diligent in our evangelistic endeavors.  Our usefulness in evangelism is linked to eternal reward.

Finally, we must be confident for God has determined and exponential outcome.

Once again, MacArthur delivers a Christ-centered message with strong admonition to the people of God, especially shepherds of Christ’s bride.

TOGETHER FOR THE GOSPEL 2010

Dr. Al Mohler concluded the first night of Together for the Gospel by unpacking eight trajectories that have contributed to an adjusted gospel.

1. The Modern Trajectory is the liberal worldview that embraces naturalism and includes the Bultmann’s project and the so-called Quest for the Historical Jesus.

2. The Post-Modern Trajectory includes the denial of propositional truth and the ascendency of relativism.  Mohler rightly maintains that the post-moderns are running out of doctrines to deny!  He also warned pastors to beware of the danger of doctrinal fatigue, i.e. giving up the fight for orthodoxy which would result in disaster.

3. The Moral Trajectory compromises the gospel by denying key doctrinal realities such as the substitutionary atonement, propitiation, the wrath of God.  This trajectory makes an appeal to “fairness.”  Mohler compared the writings of Brian McLaren to Fosdick and contends that “McLaren is light years from Fosdick!”

4. The Aesthetic Trajectory simply recoils at difficult doctrines.

5. The Therapeutic Trajectory sees mankind as sick instead of evil as the Bible portrays.  This trajectory is a serious threat to the gospel and is rooted in the ideology of James, Freud, Jung, and Oprah.

6. The Pragmatic Trajectory compromises the gospel by placing emphasis on results.

7. The Emotional Trajectory focused on the doctrinal compromises of Schleirmacher.

8. The Materialist Trajectory focused on misplaced affection on the things of this world.

Dr. Mohler’s message was a powerful polemic that reaffirmed the importance of maintaining clear orthodox sideboards and refusing to adjust the gospel.  His message was a vivid reminder that any addition or subtraction to the gospel is in reality a false gospel.

TOGETHER FOR THE GOSPEL 2010

This week, I am in Louisville, Kentucky for T4G – Together for the Gospel.  7,000 men are gathered to reaffirm the biblical gospel, celebrate the truth of the gospel, and to worship the God of the gospel.

Mark Dever kicked the conference off by warning, “You can lose the gospel by no proclaiming it clearly or living it.”  A faithful proclamation includes four key components, namely, God, man, Christ, and response.

God is holy and calls his church to be marked by holiness.  He is also the God of authority.  Therefore the church must clearly reflect God’s nature by rightly using authority in a way that honors him.

Man is sinful and has broken God’s holy law.  Consequently, man’s depraved condition must be presented, i.e.  a proper diagnosis must be given.

Christ is the solution to man’s sin problem.  “We the church must make him visible.” The person and work of Christ must be clearly portrayed to sinners who need a mediator, forgiver, and Savior.

Sinners must respond to the gospel call.  Churches must teach and model faith and repentance.

Dever reminded us that preaching God’s Word is central to the life of the church.  Indeed, the church is the gospel made visible.

R.C. Sproul preached a powerful message entitled, The Defense and Confirmation of the Gospel. Dr. Sproul reflected on fifty years of ministry and reflected on two concerns that have threatened the message of the gospel.

R.C.’s first concern: “the danger of messing with Mr. Inbetween.”  He focused on the Old Testament problem with syncretism and chronicled the history of intellectual thought including the twisted worldviews of Kant, Hegel, Marx, Barth, Bruner, and Bultmann.  Sproul gave special consideration to the rise of neo-orthodoxy that does not leave room for inspired, inherent Scripture.

He presented a bird’s-eye view of other movements that have infected our culture, namely, liberation theology, logical positivism, death of God theology, and open theism.

Sproul’s second concern: “the danger of messing with the gospel.”  His chief concern is the Reformation reality, sola fide.  Three concerns emerged here including the so-called lordship controversy, the ECT document, and Evangelicals who seek to improve the gospel.

R.C. concluded by strongly encouraging pastors to remain faithful to the gospel.  His admonition was timely, especially in light of the situation we find ourselves in where crucial doctrines such as justification by faith are either being compromised or discarded all-together.

Thank God for men like Mark Dever and RC Sproul who faithfully wield the Word of God and encourage pastors to guard the good deposit.