“Tell me about the Gospel.”
This statement was made by Al Mohler in the final address of the day and it summarizes very well Wednesday’s focus.
The day began with John MacArthur preaching on the topic of Total Depravity, focusing on the truth that every person (before the sovereign working of God’s grace) is unwilling and unable to come to Him for salvation. The message was a glorious, richly biblical defense of this often attacked doctrine. The brother sitting next to me, who before the session made it clear he wasn’t a Calvinist, was furiously taking notes. After the message was over, he told me how amazing the sermon was and he sat in his seat for the next half hour looking again over all the scripture passages. I praise God for the clarity of His word and the power found in preaching it truthfully and clearly.
The second session was an address by Mark Dever entitled “Improving the Gospel: Exercises in Unbiblical Theology.” Dr. Dever’s heart was made so clear- the man is passionate about the Gospel and desires everyone to know it and to know it clearly. To strike at this target, his message focused on exposing 5 threats to clarity in understanding the Gospel or, as he put it, “5 Cries” that call us to change or alter the message of the Gospel. All 5 were very helpful, but it was his second point, Don’t “Make the Gospel Larger,” that really got me thinking. He warned us against confusing the implications of the Gospel with the Gospel itself. Having a godly marriage or loving our enemies is not the Gospel; it is an outworking of the Gospel. No one is saved by having a good marriage or by loving their enemies. There can even be those who have a good marriage or in some sense show love to those who are against them but those same people don’t submit to the Gospel. If we mix the Gospel with its implications we either end up with a works Gospel or allowing people to think they are saved without having embraced Christ’s death on the cross for their behalf.
This may seem pretty elementary to most, but the reason it hit me so squarely was that I love to dwell on the implications of the Gospel. I regularly remind myself that “the ethical imperatives of the NT are always ground in redemptive indicatives.” My attitude towards my wife is an outworking of my understanding of the Gospel. My love for my enemies is an outworking of the Gospel. But as I hold the Gospel and its implications so closely together, there is a danger in taking that true connection too far, equating the outworking with the Gospel itself. Dr. Dever’s point here served as a good warning to make sure I always know where the line is between the actual Gospel and the fruit of it.
The third session was were I lost it… in a good way.
A month ago, as I was reading through Thomas Watson’s A Godly Man’s Picture, I came across his section on holy tears and godly weeping. I thought to myself, “when was the last time I wept over the things of Christ; over my sin, over the cross, over the Gospel?” I couldn’t remember it happening any time during the last few years. I prayed that God would soften my heart and give me real sensitivity towards these wonderful and eternal truths. I wanted what Watson was pointing to.
Well, today I got it. At the conclusion of the third session, a moving message by Dr. R. C. Sproul on Christ becoming the Curse for us (from Galatians 3:10-14), my broken heart started spilling out through my eyes. I tried to hold it back as message was ending, but the singing of Arise, My Soul, Arise broke my control. I couldn’t sing; I could only stand there with tears running down my face as I thought “Why me? I can’t believe You took that on for me!” I praise God for His softening of this hard heart. Such a moment was only of His grace.
After a rich panel discussion with Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, C. J. Mahaney and Dr. Sproul, we took a break, got dinner, and gave our souls some time to rest and reflect.
We then returned for Mohler’s address regard the modern attack on the doctrine of subsitutionary atonement. Dr. Mohler took us on a climb through the mountains of his intellect (wow, what a climb!) and dissected this controversy, exposing its severe and grotesque departure from Biblical revelation in attempting to remove the offense of the Cross. The quotes shared and the theology explained were both shocking and saddening, grieving many as we sat appalled at what our “brothers” are doing in an attempt to “better” explain the “gospel” to our postmodern world.
Mohler’s address stood in sharp contrast with Dr. Sproule’s, the latter like a glorious sunrise and the former like a tour through a sewage treatment plant! Dr. Sproul declared the greatness of our God and Dr. Mohler exposed the danger and ugliness of departing from His truth. I praise God for both men’s work and for the power of seeing both together- it increased my love for the Gospel and my desire to defend it.
Today was a day my soul was bombarded with the Gospel’s glory and as I write this I find myself even more amazed at and full of worship for our God than when I awoke this morning. What an glorious message the Gospel is (truly “good news”!) and how merciful, holy, just, and loving is our Righteous Sovereign God!
I pray that He brings me safely to my earthly home tomorrow so that I can see my precious family- I love you and miss you and can’t wait to see you!