Don’t leave grace! What is there outside of grace?!
With this powerful exhortation, John Piper concluded the opening message of TGC17, drawn from the first chapter of Galatians. 8,500 people gathered in Indianapolis this week to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation at “No Other Gospel,” the plenary hall resounding with voices raised in singing. It was a small picture of what eternity will be like when the nations are gathered before Christ, exalting his name forever.
Here are three things I’m taking away from this excellent, biblical conference:
1. Success is faithfulness to God’s Word.
Our social media-driven, self-obsessed culture has infiltrated the church and influenced us (let the reader understand…me). Every day I’m tempted to think that the measure of my impact depends on the growth of my online platform. I wrongly assume that success is about numbers, influence, and admiration.
Oh, what a worldly way to think, which can only shrink the soul! What a wandering from the way of Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.
So I felt punched in the gut when Kevin DeYoung spoke on John Calvin’s legacy, rooting the talk in Isaiah 40:6-8:
A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.
True, lasting success is faithfulness to God’s enduring Word. The legacy to leave is not mine, but God’s. I am grass. I am a fleeting breath. But the Word of God stands forever. Though the words I say and write will fade, his Word never will.
This has helped me process why I write and teach. I love God’s Word and believe faith comes from hearing it, so I want its truthful proclamation to be my pursuit until God calls me home. No one may remember me in 500 years, but the Word-work that God accomplishes by his Word will remain in all of his beloved. As I’ve heard it said many times, “The Word of God does the work of God,” and I want to faithfully proclaim that enduring Word.
2. Gospel-centered ministry is a need we should pray for.
The world of TGC and other gospel-centered ministries can feel all-encompassing, especially when attending such a powerful, packed conference as this one. But truly, many “Christians” are so by-name-only, and many more don’t know what they believe or what the Bible says.
Based on current trends in the Christian world, like who people are listening to and what they’re reading, we have much to pray for. It should trouble us that thousands upon thousands of people are being led astray by false teaching, especially the prosperity gospel, and soft teaching that avoids hard truths.
Evangelical conferences like TGC should fill us, yes, but they should also heighten our awareness of what so many conferences and, most importantly, pulpits are lacking: faithful proclamation of God’s Word and his gospel. And any gospel-deviation devastates people’s souls.
Knowing Jesus Christ, as revealed to us by the Holy Spirit and through God’s Word, and convicted by his truth, may our eyes be opened to the multitudes of people being led down a road to spiritual slaughter, and may our mouths faithfully proclaim this gospel that’s rescued us by grace through faith alone.
3. Conferences are not a peak, but preparation.
My husband predicted this might happen, and indeed it did: We left TGC17 fueled to return to our church to proclaim God’s Word to the flock. While these conferences certainly leave our tanks filled and encouraged, they’re not meant to be an end in themselves but a springboard for faithful gospel-ministry wherever God chooses to plant us.
Am I more concerned with making connections at a conference, or about walking with the women at our church? What’s my first priority, platform or people? Am I ready and willing to be faithful to the smallest tasks at home, or do I consider them menial in comparison to “more important” spiritual endeavors?
I want to pursue successful ministry—faithfulness to God’s Word—in every season of life, with whatever joys and challenges God ordains. And at the end of it all, no matter what happened along the way, I’ll know the legacy lives on because his Word endures forever.