2 Timothy 4:3 "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry".

Friday, February 20, 2009

Live Blogging the True Church Conference: The Wonderful Grace of Repentance

With all the conferences in Christendom that go on, and my role as a dad, church planter, evangelist, substitute teacher, referee, and sports coordinator, I have to be very careful about the ones that I choose to go to. I cant waste my time going to one that headlines guys like Shane Claibourne, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, and Bill Hybels (even though I desperately wanted to open air preach there while visiting my mother). No, I need a conference that will challenge me, engage me, and give me practical tools that I can use back home in my personal life, and in the life of our local church. 
One of my elders planned, organized and financed the way for me to have the privilege to come down here with him (thanks John, I love you brother!) The name of the conference is "The Wonderful Grace of Repentance". I know. Strange. Last year, it was called Church Discipline; The missing Key to Church Growth. I know. Strange.  But true! I didn't know what to expect, but I was (and am) Praying for great things to happen. 

The opening service was magnificent. A large Choir filled the loft, and an orchestra filled the pit. Two white robed figures appeared in the midst of magnificent columns behind the choir. One was a boy, 17, and the other a Pastor. The boy gave a testimony of his false conversion, his previous 2 baptisms, and his recent repentance crying out to God to save him. This was, he testified, his third and final baptism. Praise God. Magnificent! The Choir, led with an orchestra, began to sing a hymn with a modern twist of lyrics. It was high, holy, and glorious. It was enrapturing; not because of a power jam, repeated lyrics, and an effort to elicit emotions from the congregation. No; it was singing that magnified God, thanked him for saving us though we do not deserve it, and magnifying his name. Yes, there were upraised hands in praise, but it was not manufactured or planned (except by God) or created by the repetition and instruction of a worship leader. It was as far as I could see and feel a genuine outpouring of love for the Savior, and it was beautiful. 

Pastor Jeff Noblit then welcomes us. He prays an invocation, one that asks God to be present, to bless, guide, lead the conference, and something strange. I can't quite remember how he said it, but it was a call to God to reveal and purify our motives if there were any who were personality or attention seekers that they would repent and seek only after God, and that the personalities (the preachers) would only preach the glory of God, and point only to Him. Wow. Refreshing. He also pointed out that this is their annual missions conference, and he brought up a national pastor from Romania who gave a wonderful testimony of evangelism, church planting, and the move of God in his country. The whole of this conference, as Pastor Jeff explained, is to move the church, the True Church (the invisible body of Christ) into a passion for completing the great commission in building Christ's true Church. 

After some more glorious singing, it is time for the main message. No, we are not talking a 20 minute bang bang entertain me message pulled out of a box. This was a full hour of rich, expositional preaching from the book of Romans 3:9-15 entitled: The Radical Depravity of Man

9 What then? Are we Jews  any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

 “None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
q “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15  “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

The Preacher, Conrad Mbewe from Zambia, is an incredible and gifted preacher with a very unpopular subject in the visible church today. He contradicts guys like Tony Jones who say there is no original sin, that man is basically good. He preaches that this conclusion of the Apostle Paul after 2 chapters of the inditement of mankind is that all men- Jews and Greeks- are under sin- totally depraved- and this started in the garden. He wondered aloud why people are not and have not come to God in droves to receive the great offer of salvation from sin and death? Because they are under sin, blinded by it, and cannot see, cannot seek, and have no desire for God.  From the beginning, when Adam and Eve sinned, their fundamental nature was changed, they were alive in Christ, and now they became dead in sin. Instead of desiring fellowship with God, now they ran and they hid. This spiritual death has been passed to us, robbing us of the ability to see and to sense the one True God. We are hostile to God (Romans 8:7-8) we cannot please God, submit to God, or even seek God. Our heart is desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9-10) Depravity has robbed us of the ability and desire to see the one true God; This is why so many churches today spend a lot of time making an idol that the people want and desire that is a false God; one that is all forgiving, all loving, and will give them anything they want and need like the spoiled children that they (we) are.

This is where Pastor Conrad gives us a call to the preaching of the Gospel. He says that the preaching of the Gospel infuses life into dead people. God acts upon souls by the preaching of the Gospel; they will not turn from sin and repent except for the grace of God. We are called to the blind, the weak, the lame, those who cannot see and have no desire for God. Amazing that this man from one of the poorest African nations comes to the pulpit not begging for clean water or food so that his people can come to know Christ. He shared that all over the world, all people are wicked, all people are under sin, and all people need the power of God through the Gospel. He called for the preaching of the Gospel, not some misguided social agenda. He desires that His people be saved from sin and death. Why are our priorities so different here?


ratkeyw said...

I wondered if anyone would be blogging this conference. Glad to see that you are covering it. I'm also in attendance. I came down from Wisconsin with two other brothers in Christ. - Rick

Berean Wife said...

Very good! You have described the conference very well, much better than I could have. It was nice to meet you.

Berean Wife