Friday, January 18, 2008

Truth & life conference, sessions 1-3

Our family is currently attending the Truth & Life Conference at our alma mater, The Master's College. The theme of the conference this year is "Follow Me: Christ-centered Discipleship in a Man-Centered World." The featured speakers have each delivered one message so far, and all of them have been very refreshing and convicting. Here's a quick summary of sessions 1-3:

Session 1
Speaker: John MacArthur
Topic: The Costly Nature of Discipleship
Text: John 15:14f
When we speak of having a "personal relationship" with Jesus Christ, we're not using biblical language. Everyone has a personal relationship with Jesus; He is either their Savior or Judge and Executioner. There are two realities to our relationship with Christ:

1. Jesus is Lord (1 Cor. 12:3; Rom. 10:9-10). This means He has absolute power, authority, ownership, and the right to command.
2. Christians are slaves (1 Cor. 7:22-23). Though often translated "servant" or "bond-servant," the Greek word doulos is used almost 150 times in its various forms, and it always means "slave." Slavery is the perfect model for illustrating our relationship with Jesus: We were bought on the slave trade of sin, the high price of Christ's blood was paid for our lives, we are owned, and we forsake all rights, property, relationships when we follow Jesus.
Personal Reflection:
MacArthur's word study on doulos was very helpful, and I will definitely look at this word differently when I read the New Testament from now on. Thinking of myself as a slave is crushing to my pride, but also puts this life in perspective by getting the focus away from me, and onto my Lord and Savior. Suddenly, the petty little "sacrifices" in life and ministry that I make for Jesus Christ don't seem so special when I realize what He has done for me, and that I am only an unworthy slave (Luke 17:7-10).

Session 2
Speaker: David Wells
Topic: The Cross-cultural Impact of Discipleship
Text: John 20:19-23
In the modern evangelical church, it's "easy to make converts, but hard to make disciples." But, if a person is not a disciple and genuinely following after the Lord, then they're not a convert either. This is a world of breathtaking change (just look at technology), but we find our unchanging mission in John 20:19-23. Two points:
1. The abiding foundation truth: Christ has given us His Holy Spirit, which is the means of conviction and regeneration. There is no life apart from the Spirit. There is a boundary between God and man which we cannot overcome. Yet the Son of God was sent into the world, dying for us, and doing what we couldn't do ourselves.
2. The challenge: Jesus Christ has now sent each of us into the world. He was the "great insider" to human experience, taking on flesh, passing through our experiences, and struggling deeply with temptation. Having acquired our salvation, He now sends us into a world which is increasingly (a) spiritual, yet anti-Christian and (b) multi-cultural. The mission field is now at our doorstep like never before.
Personal Reflection:
As always, David Wells was full of biblical and cultural insight. John 20 is another great passage that parallels our Great Commission in Matthew 28. Our call to follow Jesus in this world is humbling and overwhelming, yet we have the Lord on our side every moment of the way.

Session 3
Speaker: James MacDonald
Topic: The Cross-cultural Values of Discipleship
Text: Acts 18:24-19:41
As we look at the evangelistic ministry of the early church, we are reminded that "the messenger is nothing; the message is everything." We are not called to endlessly study the culture and become like the culture. Christ crushes the culture! He does this in four ways:
1. Jesus conquers sincere religiousity (Acts 18:24-19:6)
2. Jesus conquers stubborn unbelief (19:7-10)
3. Jesus conquers Satanic strongholds (19:11-20)
4. Jesus conquers shallow secularism (19:21-41)
Personal Reflection:
James MacDonald delivered my favorite line of the conference so far: "Here at The Master's College, you probably don't hear this very often: John MacArthur is NOTHING!! ... But let me quickly add that James MacDonald is also NOTHING. In fact [turning to MacArthur], I am more nothing than you will ever be!" MacDonald is quite funny and relates very well to the college students. His comments were shallow at times and didn't always grapple with the text, but his main point was very clear and well-illustrated through this extended narrative in Acts 18-19. Christians are not called to become like our culture in order to reach it. We need to stop being so afraid of this postmodern culture, and just get the gospel out, relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to implant the message deep in the hearts of hearers. God is glorified when His gospel is proclaimed, regardless of the response.


Mark said...

So are you going to stop by and say hi?

Stephen Jones said...

Uh oh. You caught me. Maybe we will see you at the alumni brunch tomorrow?

Mark said...

Unfortunately, no. I'm not signed up.

Stephen Jones said...

That's too bad. Will you be at tonight's session? I will keep an eye out for you. I really would love to get together with you, but our schedule is much more limited since we have Dylan with us.