This is a great conference — with in depth teaching, sweet songs of praise and hymns of worship (before and after each session) and good times of spiritual fellowship throughout the day. Unfortunately, my friend and roommate Ron is sick with a bad cough/cold, and has missed a session or two. Please pray for his health to improve.
There were four speaker sessions today, and three panel discussions. I can’t post more than a few thoughts from each session, but have been deeply affected and instructed by these godly men who have been preaching to us.
Session #3 — John MacARTHUR
The first of the speakers today was John MacArthur, who received a standing ovation as he walked to the pulpit. His assignment was: The Sinner Neither Able nor Willing: The Doctrine of Absolute Inability (or total depravity). Moving through two dozen NT passages, he built a strong biblical case for this often neglected doctrine. He said a denial of this doctrine is at the heart of liberalism, and, that an “incipient Arminianism” had overrun evangelicals. Somehow too many preachers today believe that better methods on Sunday (everything from lighting, power-points, to informality of talk) makes sinners more likely to respond to the gospel. This is not the case, for man’s problem is (in my own words) not spiritual disinterest, but spiritual death. Man is unable and unwilling to turn to God, until the grace of God comes upon him. Depravity is a hard doctrine, but (as MacArthur said) ‘hard preaching makes soft people.’
Session #4 — Mark DEVER
The second speaker of the morning was Mark Dever, with a powerful expose of varous wrongs done to the gospel in our own day, by professing Christians. His address was titled: Improving the Gospel? Exercise in Unbiblical Theology. Dever summarized five ‘cries’ presently raised about how we ought to “improve” the gospel.
(1) Some wrongly cry, “Make the gospel public”
(2) Some wrongly cry, “Make the gospel larger”
(3) Some wrongly cry, “Make the gospel relevant”
(4) Some wrongly cry, “Make the gospel personal”
(5) Some wrongly cry, “Make the gospel kinder”
Each of these refers to a grouping of efforts to add to, amend or even change the very content of the gospel message in a given direction. The first cry refers to efforts to replace the message of the cross and the call to conversion with social action and efforts to influence the culture. Granted that individual believers ought to be active in mercy ministries and in molding our public policies — but these things are not of the essence of the gospel message. The second cry refers to those who blur the implications of the gospel with the content of the gospel (or, the ‘fruit’ with the ‘root’). Charles Colson was named in this group, for confusing “doing the gospel” with the message we must believe to be saved. The last few points were also powerful in their analysis of our modern culture and their wrong-headed attempts to change our precious gospel.