Day two of the Resolved Conference was prefaced by a very good sleep. I feel much more alive today, for which I’m very grateful. The conference began a little bit late as filling the auditorium seems to be taking quite a long time. Because the conference is at capacity, the organizers have to be certain that every seat has been filled. So they fill the place very deliberately and this translates, at least so far, to very slowly. Thankfully, there is no real hurry, at least from my perspective.
Still, things got underway at about 9:30 with a time of worship. The Resolved band is really very good. It is a full band and is led by a pianist whose name escapes me. There are two guitars, bass, piano, keyboards, drums and two female vocalists. The overall production is excellent, with lots of lights and effects and such. While we are too close to the front to hear the best sound mix, the sound quality also seems to be very good. The overall feel during the worship is big, or in the words of John MacArthur, exuberant. Yet it is also controlled and dignified. There is less physical expression during worship than I had expected.
After we sang several hymns and songs, Steve Lawson stepped forward to deliver the first of the two addresses he will bring at this conference. It was entitled “The Power of the Gospel.” He used Hebrews 1:1-4 as he text and sough to show that the greatness of the gospel is the greatness of God’s son. He showed the unrivaled supremacy of Jesus Christ and taught that the gospel is what it is because the Savior is who He is.
He had us consider why Jonathan Edwards was used by God so mightily. He is considered to be the greatest American preacher, the greatest theologian America has ever seen and he preached the greatest sermon in American history. He also wrote the most profound book ever written in America (The Freedom of the Will). He also helped launch the modern missionary movement with his editing of the diary of David Brainerd. God used him so mightily because Edwards had a supremely high view of God and of His Son. Edwards was radically committed to following Jesus Christ no matter what. He had the highest view in his generation of God’s absolute holiness and the unrivaled supremacy of Jesus Christ. And because of this, God chose to use him in amazing ways.
From the Bible and from the life of Edwards we see that no one will ever live higher than their view of God and their view of Jesus Christ. Those people who live with a high view of Christ live on a higher plain. Jonathan Edwards is an example of this–a man who was caught up with God’s supremacy.
Lawson said “If I could do anything for you to do it would be to unveil the supremacy of Jesus Christ and for us to see the high and depth and breadth and length of this Savior, Jesus Christ.” And this is why he chose to teach from Hebrews. The superiority of Jesus Christ is really the theme of this book. It was written for people who had been raised with empty rituals and dead religion. They had heard the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ and they took steps towards hearing more about Him, but as they were caught midstream between their background and not having come to Christ, many were in danger of coming short of a full commitment. The author of Hebrews takes pen in hand and writes this book to show the unrivaled supremacy and superiority of Jesus Christ so they would see that they must dedicate their lives entirely to this Savior. It would be foolish to return to their empty religion when the greatness and grandeur of Christ is set before them.
Saying that the greatness of the gospel is found in the greatness of Jesus Christ, Lawson set for to offer seven compelling aspects of the superiority of Jesus Christ:
1) Jesus Christ is superior in His proclamation (verse 1-2a). God speaks to us and this happens in two major categories: general revelation (God speaking to man through creation – He speaks of His existence and His creation) and special revelation (God speaking to man through Jesus Christ the living Word and through the written Word). Special revelation is necessary in order for there to be salvation. God spoke and has been speaking for a long time in this special revelation for he spoke to the fathers, meaning the forefathers of the faith. God spoke progressively, beginning in very basic and elementary ways that would prepare for the fullness of what He would say later. He spoke through the law, through ceremony, though judges, kings and institutions. Sometimes He spoke through the voice of God, sometimes with the hand of God on the wall, and other times through dreams or visions. All of this was to lay a foundation of entry-level revelation and it all pointed to something – to the fulfillment of what He has to say. There is nothing more important in life than to hear what God is saying now, in these last days. The whole Old Testament can be summarized in the word “promise.” But now, in the New Testament, there is fulfillment. Everything that God wants to say He has said in the person of Jesus Christ. He has nothing more to say to us than He has already said through Christ; there is nothing more important than to hear what He says to us in His Son. “All of the lines of the Bible, they intersect at the person and work of Jesus Christ.” Every text of the Bible is God speaking to our hearts and at the very epicenter of that message is the glory of Jesus Christ.
2) Jesus Christ is superior in His possessions (2b). The author of Hebrews looks ahead to the consummation of the ages and notes the superiority of Jesus. Jesus Christ is the sole, rightful heir of all things. He alone is the one who will inherit all things. It is only right for a father to want to give an inheritance to his son. He wants to send something of value, something of prominence, for a father gives something of himself when he gives an inheritance to his son. This is in the heart of the father. He wants to give to Jesus Christ all things. Christ will inherit his people and bestow upon them their reward and eternal glorification. He will also inherit all unbelievers and will distribute to them divine wrath. The entire world will be reconciled to him in that final day and all the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of Jesus Christ and He will reign forever and ever. All people, places and things will be brought into subjection to Jesus Christ and He will inherit them for salvation or damnation. He is supreme and superior in this inheritance.
3) Jesus Christ is superior in His power (2c). The author of this epistle moves now from the end of time to the beginning of time. Christ was the agent used by God to bring about creation. Jesus Christ spoke everything into existence and everything out of nothing. And thus He is supreme in His power.
4) Jesus Christ is superior in His person (3a,b). There is no one else even in Jesus’ class; there is no one else playing in His league. Only one who is entirely God could save us from our sin. Jesus Christ the god-man, in order to be our mediator, had to stand between holy God and sinful man. To do this he had to be equal to both sides. To represent us before God He must be fully man. But in order to represent God He must also be fully God. If he were not fully God he would be like a broken branch on the other side of a stream, not providing what we need to approach God. A Savior who is not God is a Savior who cannot save. So Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory. He is not a mere reflection like the moon reflects the sun; He is not a secondary, lesser reflection. Rather, He is the full and perfect radiance of the Father’s glory. Glory refers to the intrinsic glory of God – all of the attributes and essence of God; the sum total of what He is. Jesus, in His incarnation, is and was an exact representation of the essence of deity – the totality of deity. When you take away the deity of Jesus Christ you take away the gospel of Jesus Christ.
5) Jesus Christ is superior in His preservation (3c). Jesus Christ upholds all things by the word of His power. The author has already looked to the future and shown Jesus to be the heir of all things with all things coming to His hands. He has looked back to the beginning of time to show Christ as Creator, with all things coming from the hand of Christ. He now says that everything in between remains in His hands. Jesus Christ does continually, every moment of every day, uphold the universe; he sustains it. There is nothing random in the universe; there is nothing that is autonomous or outside of Jesus’ hands. He is the one who directs all of the affairs of providence and the entire course of world history not only in the macro but in the micro. Jesus does this all effortlessly by the word of His power. Jesus is the one who upholds all of us. He is the one who causes faith to continue to be active and to move forward. He upholds us by His sheer superiority.
6) Jesus Christ is superior in His pardon (3d,e). Jesus can do what no high priest, what no animal sacrifice, what no other person can do for us. Only someone this superior could make purification for sins. He is able to remove impurities, to cleanse, to purify. This presupposes, of course, that all of our lives have been deeply stained by sin and that the soul of man is totally depraved. We are defiled and dirty. In order to enter the presence of a holy God there has to be purification of the inward corruption of the soul, for God demands that we be as holy as He is if we are to enter into His presence. The only way to do this is through the death of Jesus Christ for sinners.
7) Jesus Christ is superior in His position (3e-4). Jesus Christ, because of the perfection of His sacrifice, was able to sit down at the side of the Father. Jesus Christ is absolutely perfect in what He has accomplished for us.
Lawson closed with an exhortation. The superiority of Jesus is our confidence, our hope. He is able to save us, to save us forever. The most important thing in your life–everything else is secondary; this alone is primary–is that you hear Jesus speaking to you through His Word, through His Son, this very day. He has nothing more important to say to you than what He says through His Son, that you hear and heed the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I love Lawson’s passion and have been moved by his messages in the past. This was no exception. He spoke with passion and conviction and really challenged those in attendance to commit themselves to listening to and heeding the words of God. It was a call for the young people to hear the gospel, to see Christ at the very center of the gospel, and to respond to this gospel.
He closed with Hebrews 12:25 and told the attendees to see to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. The greatest sin in all of the world is the sin of unbelief–it is the sin of refusing Him who is speaking.God has given us His full and final revelation. To respond to what He says to you is the greatest and most important thing you will ever do, and if you fail, you will be utterly cast out forever and ever. “May this be an hour, a moment, in which you hear the Father speaking through the Word to your heart. May you believe in His Son Jesus Christ.”
And before I wrap this one up, I’d like to make special mention of the fact that Lawson presented a seven-point message that used the same first letter for each of the points (in this case, the letter “p”). Could this be a record? I wonder what the record is for points in a sermon, each using the same latter…