Monday, April 14, 2008

Digesting the Word (Alive)

It was a real blessing to go to Wales with 4000 others - including 2000 students - to attend the first New Word Alive conference: a conference founded on the truth of penal substitution at the Cross and distancing itself from previous colleagues at Spring Harvest.

It was apparent while we were there that the effect of the "schism" has been a lot greater than simply tightening the theological drawbridge of evangelicalism. You've probably seen the Political Compass, which plots people according to their economic and authoritarian views. It would be possible to do a similar exercise in the church, with Christians plotted according to their theological views and "stylistic" modernity. Spring Harvest's target audience was drawn from across the theological spectrum but from only one end of the style axis; New Word Alive has re-oriented the audience completely by founding itself on doctrine: it accepts people from all over the Church in terms of style, but only those who accept the truth of penal substitution.

The broad church of style was demonstrated by having Soul Survivor along to lead worship in the student celebrations. They did a rocking job, as did Stuart Townend, Phatfish and the Gettys in the other meetings. So it was very accessible, and helpful in demonstrating different ways of doing church which still focus on Jesus.

The highlight for me was definitely hearing John Piper speak on "Treasuring Christ and the Call to Suffer" over 2 nights. We are to value Christ infinitely and not simply to see him as 'useful' to get us into heaven. Using Romans 8, Piper demonstrated that everyone God called, he justified, and everyone he justified, he will glorify; and that everyone who will be glorified will suffer first. So the question is not "will I suffer?" but "how will I respond to suffering"?

I was given an early opportunity to respond to suffering when I had to spend 17 hours in bed with a stomach virus at the end of the conference. Somehow I doubt that's all God has in store for my future, but tomorrow has enough worries of its own.

John Piper's talks are available to download from the Desiring God website: Part 1 Part 2
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