I am continuing my post conference reflections from the last post. Of course, I’m only doing reflections on the sessions I attended, and I missed the 2 PM White Horse Inn live recording, which I would really have liked to go to. Also, at the breakouts, you can’t go to all of them.
6. Tony Merida, Grace in the Pulpit. I went to this because I liked Tony’s first session so much. There was a lot of talk, as I recall, about how to turn around your messages if you hadn’t been preaching grace and a strong gospel message, to doing that. You can’t preach a light law advice kind of sermon and then just tack on the gospel at the end; the whole message has to be infused with the gospel from start to finish. I think on reflection you have to have the gospel in your bones and in the warp and woof of your thoughts and life, before you start to preach this way; it is difficult otherwise to just adopt this as a technique. Otherwise in subtle ways it is going to be about the idolization of transformed lives instead of coming home to a great savior. Again, Tony is fantastic and I really really enjoyed this.
7. Tullian Tchividijian This was a stunning and powerful message on God’s two words – Law and Gospel. He said his text was the whole Bible – all of it. Ha Ha! His illustrations were funny and right on and genuinely helpful. He said a lot of stuff about how a high view of the law, meaning a stringent and unflinching application of the law, leads to grace, because it crushes us and leaves us with no hope besides our need for a savior. A low view of the law, meaning a less stringent “doable” application of the law, leads to moralism and actually leads us away from our need for grace. This is extremely right on. He read an extensive quote from my new friend John Dink which is really worth reading, about cheap law. It is kind of a riff on the idea of cheap grace from D. Bonhoeffer. Read it here: http://johndink.wordpress.com/2012/05/25/hallelujah-what-a-savior/
Tullian is like a machine gun of tweetable grace zingers. Here are some of my favorites from the talk:
The demand maker became a demand keeper, and died for me (a demand breaker).
I wish I could say that Jesus fully satisfies me, but I can’t. What I can say is that Jesus fully satisfied God for me.
God’s perfect law is the standard. He only accepts perfection, not improvement. Thank God for Jesus.
Once the law has done its job, we need to be told that God cannot remember the sins we can’t forget.
God’s acceptance of us is contingent on Christ’s performance, not our improvement.
8. Steve Brown. I’ve heard Steve Brown’s podcast/radio show, but I’ve never heard him give a message. It was hilarious and kind of crazy. He and Paul Zahl both in different ways have been pursuing the grace message for decades, and have been attacked and resisted and really actually persecuted for it. So there was a weariness and might I say a bitterness that came through with Mr. Brown, although there was an incredibly strong and unflinching grace message coming through. He was really down home and very funny. My favorite quotes:
“Live your life so that uptight Christians and pharisees doubt your salvation.”
“I believe in church discipline. We dont discipline for sin–we discipline for lack of repentance and lack of a broken heart”
“People are drawn to Christ when they see how screwed up you are, how real you are, & how much Jesus loves you”
9. Paul Zahl The word was that going from Steve Brown to Paul Zahl was like going from Las Vegas to Cambridge. PZ was really just giving reflections on his book, Grace in Practice, which was the foundation of the conference, since he had written it 7 years ago. One of the most shocking things he said was that he felt there is really no hope for the church (meaning the institutional churches) to become gospel-centered places. On reflection I think that is true. It will always be like that. At the time of Martin Luther, there was no gospel church anywhere; the Catholic church was so far gone that they were selling forgiveness. We need a new and fresh reformation, and it may be happening, but many churches will not go along, just as the Catholic church did not go along with Martin Luther at the time.
Also, he kind of resisted two-word law/gospel preaching. I wanted to defend this a bit. He wasn’t saying anything against law/gospel theology, but that people come and are already beaten down and defeated. They don’t need more law, they need a direct infusion of grace. I think there is truth in this, we don’t need to be formulaic in our application of law and gospel to people’s lives. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus jumped right in with gospel: blessed are the hopeless losers! Then he addressed the doubters and detractors with the harshest and highest application of the law the world has ever beheld. Some people need the law applied very strictly because their problem is prideful self-righteousness. Some people are keenly aware that they are poor in spirit and mourning and unrighteous, in fact for many their guilt is already their defining characteristic.
Finally the whole thing about the ego being the law in us, and the more it diminishes the more grace comes into us and through us – this was great. I want to get the recording of this and listen to it a number of times.
10. Paul Tripp I love Paul Tripp. I love the mustache, I love the clothes, I love the way he talks. He said, we don’t need topics for this conference, because the topic is always GRACE, and you can never get to the bottom of it. He was taling about grace in failure, and he gave some personal stories about how he resisted the idea that he was failing and how he walked through acknowledging such things with his wife and how it became a tremendous release for him. Some of my favorite quotes:
“Everyone in this room, including me, is a massive failure. Don’t deny or reject it.”
“We must let go of the delusion that we’re something we’re not. Devastated by grace, we’re everything in Christ.”
“There’s not a grace graduate in this room. Why do we work so hard to deny our need of it?”
“How active are you in denying the regular, empirical evidence of your need for grace? Own your answer.”
“Confronted w/ our failure, we either work very hard in the face of that failure or we confess our need for help.”
More to come in part 3