Last month my wife and I attended the Liberate conference for the second year in a row. As expected, we had an enjoyable time. We were able to reconnect with some friends as well as be refreshed by sitting under the Word of God, hearing the gospel declared and then declared again. It never gets old! Just as I did last year, I’d like to share some thoughts about the messages we heard.
Paul Tripp. Paul Tripp’s pre-conference message for pastors was “Is It Finished for the Pastor?” One of his poignant comments was, “God brings you into leadership to expose your weaknesses. This is a kindness from him.” Whenever our weaknesses, frailties, or imperfections are brought to the surface, everything within us screams! Our world tells us we have to be strong, competent, and in control. But God’s ways of doing things are so different: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
Following this, Tripp noted that in our day, “Ministry has become about achievement, not about grace.” Tragically, rather than serving our churches, many pastors use their churches to validate themselves, to justify their existence. Finally, Tripp concluded with these convicting words: “Your weaknesses are not a hindrance in ministry; your delusions of strength are.”
Elyse Fitzpatrick. Her message was entitled, “It Is Finished: The End of Your Identity Crisis.” We all spend our lives trying to build our identity on things that are smaller than Jesus. When will we learn that God’s not impressed with our resume? Elyse counseled us: “Throw your resume away!!! It is finished.” My favorite comment from her talk? Right here: “What God says about me is the most important thing. You are not someone else’s evaluation of you.”
No guilt in life. No fear in death.
Ray Cortese. I had never heard of Ray, but I’m sure glad I had the opportunity to hear him preach. He’s been a pastor for over thirty years, so you know he’s been through the trenches. His talk was, “It Is Finished: The Present Power of These Words.” Two statements of his really hit home:
First: “Your inability to grasp the gospel will make you destructive to other people.” Wow, how true is that? Not grasping the gospel makes me think the world should revolve around me. Not grasping the gospel makes me want to be bitter, angry, and unforgiving. Not grasping the gospel makes me think ministry is all about how other people are responding to my preaching, rather than preaching for the glory and honor of God. Not grasping the gospel causes me to be inward focused, rather than outward focused. Are you getting the picture? I could go on and on.
Second: The gospel empowers you to be able to say, “I can give everything away and not need anything in return.” When we’re truly satisfied in Christ, we’ll be willing to run to the back of the line and stop kicking, fighting, and screaming to get to the front of the line. When we’re truly satisfied in Christ, we’ll realize that our ability to love others does not come from them loving us, but from Christ loving us. When we’re truly satisfied in Christ, we’ll realize that our power to serve others, doesn’t come from them serving us, but from Christ serving us.
You know what I call that? F-R-E-E-D-O-M. Can you imagine how freeing that would be? To not need others to do for me before I do for them. Wow, talk about the freedom of self-forgetfulness. Click the link and get the book. Seriously. You need to read it.
David Zahl. His message was, “It Is Finished: The End of Scorekeeping.” This was probably my favorite message. I’ve already written a blog about this a week or so ago. What is scorekeeping? It’s data that’s collected for measurement. We constantly do this in our lives, checking to see how well we’re doing in comparison to other people.
We also keep score with our husbands, wives, children, and co-workers. For example, if my wife goes out and I have to watch the kids for a few hours, when she gets back I’ll conveniently mention to her that I deserve to have some “me” time now since I just watched the kids. Score keeping. This mentality leads us to say, “I’ve done for you, now you do for me.” We live by the Law of Exchange. The gospel frees us from this. One of the implications of the gospel is the end of scorekeeping, the end of one-upmanship.
Luther said, “What it means to be a sinner is to not be able to resist harnessing your good deeds for credit.” Let that thought sink in. He went on to say that as soon as we mention our good deed to someone else, it ceases to be a good deed. That is, as soon as we harness our good deeds and begin to trumpet them–at that very moment–they cease to be good. Wow. #Conviction.
Do we need the gospel or what? John Stott wrote, “Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be. God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be.”