I had a great time in Chicago. It was fun to be away, hang with my friend Ryan, reconnect with friends and family, and be blessed from some great teaching and worship. I thought Tim Keller’s sermon was fantastic, as usual. I also learned a lot from Bryan Chapell’s thoughtful questions during the Tuesday night panel discussion, and from D.A. Carson’s sermon on Melchizedek (though we had to leave this one a bit early to catch our flight). Several things I missed, and will have to listen to online. The panel discussion between Keller, Dever, and Loritts on what a local church should look like was interesting, but I thought it would have been more helpful if they had stated and discussed their disagreements more openly – I left feeling like they hadn’t yet really gotten into things. One of the most helpful moments of the week was simply sitting around with my family and a few friends and talking about what it means to preach Christ from the Old Testament (the theme of the conference). That was fun. I’d like to do more of that.
But the part of the conference I learned the most from was my Dad’s breakout session on “justification versus self-justification.” Dad walked us through various passages in Galatians and contrasted justification and self-justification, especially in their social dynamics. He argued that faithfulness to the gospel requires gospel culture as well as gospel doctrine. You can access the paper he read here. Its definitely worth the time. If I had to put into words what I personally walked away with, I would say this: the gospel of free justification liberates us to live in a new and beautiful way, genuinely loving other people, rather than using and needing them. Those are my own words, and they don’t sound that magnificent – but the reality that Dad pointed us to is magnificent. His closing words addressed the “how?” question:
“Is [this] even possible? Yes, but only if we walk by the Spirit moment by moment. ‘But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh’ (Galatians 5:16). That is not mechanical or formulaic. It is costly at a deeply personal level. But there is no other way. It means more than theological alertness. It means real-time dependence on God. It means putting ourselves – not others – under the judgment of his Word. It means being forgiven constantly, making endless mid-course corrections, and following Christ with daily crucifixions of our pride.”