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April 17, 2008

Here is an excerpt from a Together for the Gospel panel discussion with R.C. Sproul. He and the other men discuss the reality that preachers are often dissatisfied with their sermons. It is an illuminating discussion mixed with hilarious quips.

April 17, 2008

This morning we received the last of the free books. On our seats were copies of Christ & Culture Revisited by D.A. Carson (just printed!), Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin, The Future of Justification by John Piper and one of the smaller editions of the ESV.

The first session of the morning featured John Piper who really needs no introduction. He sought to answer this question: How does the supremacy of Christ create radical Christian sacrifice?

If Piper’s ministry to young people revolves around the message “Don’t Waste Your Life,” this, his message to pastors, seemed to me to be “Don’t Waste Your Ministry.” It was a call to a radical life; a call to put away the complacency and the safeness that plagues so many Christian lives and ministries. Though directed at pastors it was applicable far beyond. And it was powerful. I’m afraid that my notes really do not at all capture the power of the message but I will put a few thoughts out here regardless. But do wait for the MP3 or video and drink it in.

Piper looked to six passages from the book of Hebrews. He said that we would need to ask and answer correctly, what is the great reward? What is the joy set before us? What is the city to come? He looked to Hebrews 10:32-35, 11:6, 11:24-26, 11:35, 12:2, 13:12-14.

The dream for this message is that every person’s life and ministry would have a radical flavor; a gutsy, radical, wartime flavor that makes average people in the church uncomfortable; a mixture of tenderness and toughness; a pervasive summons to something more, something hazardous, something wonderful. The world is not going to glorify Christ because they see that Christians are wealthy and healthy and prosperous because this is what they already live for. We may use Jesus to get it…they use other means to get it. They are not impressed when Jesus is just a ticket because when the show starts you just throw the ticket away.

The message had much to say about suffering. Suffering for the followers of Christ is a sign that God is their Father. Do not think it strange when you come into various trials as though something unusual were happening to you. The followers of Jesus will necessarily suffer. We need to embrace the suffering as this is the only kind of life that the world will regard as anything radical.

All of this begs the question: What creates such a ministry? What creates radical Christian sacrifice? Here Piper turned to just three of the passages outlined earlier.

He shared one of his deepest, sweetest discoveries of the past two or three years. He discovered from Scripture that Christ and His work are a means to something: justification, forgiveness, propitiation, sanctification, eternal life. But here’s the catch. In Paul and in Hebrews and elsewhere, in the very moment of His supreme “means” work, He at that very moment became and displayed the supreme beauty of the glory of the grace of God which the universe was designed to display for our everlasting enjoyment. Christ in His means work becomes, at that moment, the clearest focus of the end for which we are made. We are made to praise the glory of the grace of God. The glory of God reaches its apex in the display of free grace and free grace reaches its apex in the display of the blood of Christ so sinners could be freed from their love affair with the world. This is why we will spend eternity singing about horrible things—slaughter of the Son of God will be our song forever. We won’t put behind us gross horrible events. The worst event of history will be the center of our song forever and the supreme expression of His glory and the supreme experience of satisfaction forever. In Christ’s means work He becomes our end. All of the pictures of the supremacy of Christ in Hebrews are not only to fit Him for His means work but they are also presented so that in the means work we would see our treasure, our reward. The ticket becomes the treasure.

Every glory of the Savior, every facet of His majesty, is poured into the little word “him” in 13:13. “Let us go to him outside the camp.” Jesus is not standing back and saying, “Go back!” He is saying, “I am out here! You are in there where it is so safe. But I am out here. Come to me…” The sweetest fellowship with your Savior and your treasure that you will ever know is the fellowship of His sufferings. It doesn’t get sweeter. The supremacy of Christ is not just His perfect fitness to bear our sins and not just the supremely valuable reward He will be at the end, but it is also present, personal, precious treasure. “Come to me, I’m out here,” he says. He won’t ask us to go where He won’t be with us. We will know Him in depths and ways in radical Christian sacrifice where we would never have known Him any other place.

Piper’s final exhortation was just this: My desire and prayer for you is that there would be a radical flavor about your life.

If you are a pastor, you should hear this message. If you know a pastor, you should hear this message (and so should he!). If you’re not a pastor, you should still give it a listen. This is a powerful call to radical service for God.

April 17, 2008

One of the most exciting parts of any conference like this one is getting all kinds of free books. I always get in trouble if I do not make note of the books we receive, so to do so I’ll use Amazon’s handy like “carousel” feature. Here is the first batch. I’ll add more later…

Here are the rest of the T4G giveaways along with most of the Band of Blogger book giveaways (though a couple were not available at Amazon):

April 17, 2008

Here is a brief clip of Ligon Duncan explaining where and how sound doctrine matters…

April 17, 2008

I received an email earlier today reminding me of a dinner engagement I had forgotten about completely. I agreed to it some time ago and didn’t bring my Outlook calendar with me. It turned out to be a great meal with excellent food and pretty good company too. We returned to the convention center to find a couple of new books: Culture Shift by Al Mohler and the newly published In My Place Condemned He Stood by Mark Dever and J.I. Packer. Mark Dever introduced his good friend Al Mohler and after an awkward man-hug between them, Al Mohler took to the pulpit to discuss penal substitution.

This happens only occasionally, but it seems to happen with some regularity when I try to blog a talk by Al Mohler. If he preaches I can typically keep up, but if he does a speech or other kind of session, I often get lost. Such was the case today. Dr. Mohler spoke about penal substitution and did so in a way that was more lecture than sermon. He dealt with the history of this doctrine, the constant attacks upon it and offered a defense of it. I will save you from trying to make sense of my incomprehensible notes and leave it to you to wait for the audio or to purchase the book that I assume will follow this conference. Though it is tough going, it will prove well worth the effort.

April 17, 2008

Here are some more photographs from the conference—these ones from day two.

Together for the Gospel - Worship

Worshiping through song.
Together for the Gospel - Worship

Worshiping the Lord together.
Together for the Gospel - John MacArthur

John MacArthur receiving a medallion commemorating 25 years since the release of the first volume of the MacArthur New Testament Commentary series.

There are more photos after the jump (i.e. after you click on the link to continue reading). I wanted to be sensitive to those who have slower internet connections…

Together for the Gospel - John MacArthur

John MacArthur preaching the word.
Together for the Gospel - John MacArthur

John MacArthur and a fan.
Together for the Gospel - Bookstore

Blowing the book budget.
Together for the Gospel - Bookstore

Ditto for this guy.
Together for the Gospel - Josh Harris

The cult of Starbucks continues to grow as Joshua Harris attempts to bless a cup of coffee.
Together for the Gospel - Together

Together for the Gospel…together.
Together for the Gospel - Interpretation

The conference offers interpretation for the deaf.
Together for the Gospel - Interpretation

And the interpretation even extends to the music.
Together for the Gospel - Exhibitions

Some attendees browsing the exhibits.
Together for the Gospel - Bo Lotinsky

Do you know Bo…?
Together for the Gospel - Bo Lotinsky

…because he’s watching you.

Photos are courtesy of Together for the Gospel

April 17, 2008

I had a rather long and interesting (but good!) lunch today. A little while ago I read on Thabiti Anyabwile’s blog that he never actually orders at restaurants anymore, but instead asks the server to just get something he or she thinks Thabiti would like. I ate today at an Italian place and really didn’t know what to order. So I just told the server to surprise me (but not with anything containing fish). It was only later that I learned this was only her third day on the job. But no matter, she ordered me something quite tasty and spaghetti-like, though I didn’t learn what it was. There were twenty or thirty of us eating together in that restaurant so it took some time for the food to be ready. When it showed up I slurped down my food (which is one of the advantages of eating Italian—it’s highly slurpable), I raced back to the convention center and then settled back in here for the session led by R.C. Sproul (though first we sang “I Will Glory in My Redeemer”). And I’m glad I made it back as it was easily one of the most powerful sermons I’ve ever heard.

Sproul discussed what it means that Jesus was cursed by God. Though Sproul has studied the subject for over fifty years, he still feels like he is barely scratching the surface of the meaning and significance of the cross of Christ. The cross is explained through many images and many metaphors to show that it is multi-faceted. It is woven by several distinct, brightly-hued threads that together form the beautiful work of art. The New Testament uses the language of substitution, of vicarious, of satisfaction of justice, of the metaphor of the kinsmen redeemer who pays the bridal price to purchase the bride. We see the motif that speaks of ransom, the motif of victory over Satan and the powers of darkness. But there is one image, one aspect, that has receded in our day into total obscurity and it is the curse inflicted by God on His own Son.

When we think today of curse, we think of voodoo or the occult—spells, hexes, pins jabbed into dolls. Curse implies some kind of superstition. But in biblical categories there is nothing superstitious about it. The idea is deeply rooted in biblical history and we need only go to the opening chapters of Genesis to see God’s anathema, His curse, on the serpent and on the earth itself. When God gives the law He attaches to it both negative and positive sanctions. The positive is articulated in terms of the concept of blessedness. The negative is articulated in terms of a curse.

The purpose of this talk was to explore the meaning and significance of the idea of God’s divine curse. When the prophets of the Old Testament spoke the words that God had placed in their mouths, the favorite method the prophets used to express the word of God was the method called the oracle. The prophets knew of two kinds of oracle—the oracle of weal and the oracle of woe. The oracle of weal would be known by the word blessed while the oracle of doom would be known by the word woe. In contrast, in North America today we believe in a God who is capable of infinitely blessing people but utterly incapable of bringing judgment upon them.

To understand what it meant to a Jew to be cursed is to look at the famous Hebrew benediction in the Old Testament. “May the Lord bless you and keep you…” There is no better example of “synonymous parallelism” than here where the same thing is said in three different ways: bless/keep, face to shine/be gracious, life up the light of His countenance/give you His peace. So how did the Jew understand blessing? To be blessed by God is to be bathed in the glory that emanates from His face. This is what Moses begged for on the mountain and when Moses saw even just the glimpse of the back parts of God, his face shone. The Jew’s ultimate hope was just to see God’s face. The Jew begged for such blessing that he might see God’s face.

The antithesis of this blessing can be seen in vivid contrast to the benediction. It would be the supreme malediction and would go something like this: “May the Lord curse you and abandon you. May the Lord keep you in darkness and give you only judgment without grace. May the Lord turn His back upon you and remove His peace from you forever.”

On the Day of Atonement there are several animals involved in the ritual. The High Priest, before he enters the Holy of Holies, involves two animals, one of which is killed and the other which survives. The one is killed and its blood is sprinkled on the mercy seat. But there is no power in this blood except that it points forward to the blood of the Lamb. What is symbolized is an act of propitiation—a vertical transaction. The other animal is not killed but becomes the object of imputation where the priest now lays his hands on its back, symbolically indicating the transfer or imputation of the guilt of the people to the goat. At the end of the ceremony, he lays his hands on the goat and drives that goat into the wilderness. He is driven outside the camp. To be driven outside the camp, outside the community, was to be driven to the place where God’s blessings did not reach. He was sent into the outer darkness; into the curse. This is expiation. In the cross not only is the Father’s justice satisfied by the atoning work of the Son, but in carrying our sins the Son removes them as far as the east is from the west. He does this by being cursed. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law not just by being cursed for us, but by becoming a curse for us. He who is the incarnation of the glory of God now becomes the very incarnation of the divine curse.

God is too holy to even look at sin. His eyes are averted from His Son. The light of His countenance is turned off; all blessedness is removed from His Son whom He loves. And in its place is the full measure of the divine curse. All the imagery that portrays the historical event of the cross is the imagery of the curse. Jesus needed to be delivered into the hands of the gentiles so He could be crucified outside the camp so the full measure of the curse and the darkness could be visited upon Him. God adds to these details others—God turns out the light of the sun so as God turns His face, even the sun won’t shine on Calvary. Bearing the full measure of the curse Christ screams “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus did not merely feel forsaken; He was forsaken. He was utterly, totally and completely forsaken by the Father.

There is none of this to be found in the pseudo-gospels of our day. When we hear that Jesus loves us all unconditionally, it is a travesty. What pagan when he hears this does not hear that he has no need of repentance? He can continue in sin without fear knowing that all has been taken care of. There is a profound sense that God does love people even in their corruption, but they are still under his anathema. Even in this hall today there are many who are under the curse of God; who have not yet fled to the cross; who are still counting on this idea of the unconditional love of God.

When Jesus was forsaken by God, when He bore the curse, it was as if Jesus heard the words “God damn you.” This is what it means to be under the anathema of the curse. It is far worse, far more powerful, far more profound than we can know. We cannot understand this, but we know it is true. Everyone who has not been covered by the righteousness of Christ draws every breath under the curse of God. If you believe that, you will stop adding to the gospel and start preaching it with clarity and with boldness because it is the only hope we have. And it is hope enough.

April 17, 2008

Here is a brief video of Mark Dever welcoming the attendees to Together for the Gospel. He discusses both differences and similarities between the groups attending…

April 16, 2008

Here is a brief video from Thabiti Anyabwile’s session where he discussed bearing the image. He spoke of identity, the work of Christ, and the church. Click below to watch and listen…

April 16, 2008

I linked up this morning with the official photographer for the conference. Unfortunately his computer blew up last night and he has been unable to upload photographs. I guess he shouldn’t have relied on a Mac; some people never learn. I did manage, though, to nab one of the memory cards from his camera and I pulled a few photos from it. They are, as you can see, from yesterday evening when C.J. Mahaney introduced Thabiti Anyabwile, from when Thabiti taught his session on race and from the panel afterwards.

Together for the Gospel - C.J. Mahaney

C.J. introducing Thabiti Anyabwile Together for the Gospel - C.J. Mahaney

…and again. Together for the Gospel - C.J. Mahaney

C.J. showing off Thabiti’s book which was given to each person here. Together for the Gospel - Thabiti Anyabwile

Thabiti Anyabwile preaching. Together for the Gospel - Thabiti Anyabwile

Thabiti going a little bit deeper answering a question from Al Mohler. Together for the Gospel - Thabiti Anyabwile

The panel discussing Thabiti’s session. Together for the Gospel - Mark Dever and C.J. Mahaney

C.J. Mahaney correcting Mark Dever on matters of geography. Together for the Gospel - Bob Kauflin

Bob Kauflin leading worship. Together for the Gospel - Julian Freeman

My buddy Julian belting it out.
Photos are courtesy of Together for the Gospel