GCNC: Day 3, or “Pass the Beaujolais!”

April 23, 2009

If I may interject a personal note here … I have to admit: I dragged this morning.  Though I am neither pastor nor elder, the target audience of GCNC, I too have received so much from being at the Conference.  God spoke loudly and wonderfully to me, encouraging and teaching and exhorting … as well as humbling, rebuking and calling me to repent.  And it doesn’t matter what the Lord says; when He speaks to you in power and wisdom, you get a little tired because He doesn’t mince or waste words, and everything He says must be honestly reckoned with.  Sometimes, a little honest reckoning is a delicious blessing and grace, but it’s still tiring.

Well, this didn’t stop me from launching myself, two jackets, a scarf, three bags, two Bibles and a computer across three rows of chairs in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th rows for our final day at GCNC.  (Pity the fool who stays behind while others go to get breakfast.)  It was a good morning to be up front and center, receiving final exhortations from II Timothy and parting encouragements from two more wise, humble and anointed men of God.

To quote D. A. Carson, we went “from the sublime to the ridiculous” and trekked to a neighboring suburb for Portillo’s hotdogs before departing for the airport to come home … but those delicious little dogs were just a tiny sugar particle in a mere lone sprinkle on a single peak of icing on the most moist, delicious, warm, home-made cake that God baked for us this week in Chicago.  See what we received from the Lord, after the jump …

Session #9: Ligon Duncan, “Finishing Well”  (II Timothy 4.6-22)

  • Is it true that Paul’s message won’t work in the modern world?  Should methodology be divorced from theology?
  • How we do ministry is related to the message.  Methodology is derived from theology.  “What you win them by, is what you win them to.”  (James M. Boice, late pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia)
  • Paul exhorts Timothy (4.6-8): this world makes it hard to get to God’s finish line, but think of and remember that Last Day.  Paul sees the finish line and is about to cross it, and how much does he want Timothy to get there and cross it too!
  • Paul makes requests of Timothy (4.9-13): he asks for books, because “even an apostle must read” (C. Spurgeon).  Paul is inspired and yet he wants books; he’s been preaching for at least 30 years and yet he want books; he has seen the Lord and yet he wants books; he had written the majority of the New Testament and yet he wants books; he had been caught up in the third heaven and yet he wants books; he knows he’s going to die in a matter of weeks, and yet he wants books and he wants to read, write and leave something behind for those who will continue the church of Jesus Christ after him.
  • He who never reads will never be read; he who has no use for other men’s brains has no brains of his own.  Join Paul’s cry: “Bring the books!”
  • Even Jesus, on the road to Emmaus, led the disciples to the Scriptures.  He, of all people, could have ad-libbed it, but He didn’t.  It’s not about information-transfer; it’s about bringing people into the presence of God.
  • Paul warns Timothy (4.14-18): being faithful in ministry doesn’t mean you’re not going to be abandoned.
  • But in being abandoned, Paul was able to proclaim the Gospel as his defense, so that the Gentiles could hear.
  • Paul sends greetings (4.19-21):  Paul isn’t just being nice and polite.  “[He] loves people in such a way that he wants to express that love that he has for people in such a way to create real Gospel community, and he wants to convey the love of Christians to Christians in such a way that it creates real Gospel community.”  (Duncan)
  • Unity doesn’t just happen; it takes deliberate intentionality.  “Ministers are tempermentally paranoid” (Duncan), so that when they’re not together, they are suspicious of each other.  How much does it mean to have brothers commend, greet and love each other from afar!
  • Paul gives a benediction (4.22): “benedictions are, to many Christians, what the flight attendants tell you before takeoff and landing” (Duncan) — people zone out, and they miss something huge.  The people on USAirways Flight 1549 probably zoned out during the flight attendants’ instructions, but 45 seconds later, they were desperately trying to remember them!
  • “The Lord be with you” is HUGE, and it’s connected to everything Paul has said throughout his letter.  Moses, in his mediator’s prayer, said,  “Lord, if You won’t go with us, forget it. All that I am about is being with You. The essence of me is that You would be my God and I would be Yours. So, if You’re not coming with us, just kill us all now.”
  • God sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden, and said, “GO!”  He spent the rest of Scripture, saying, “COME.”
  • “Grace be with you” is how Timothy is going to get to and cross that finish line.  Grace is God’s favor, unearned and undeserved.

Session #10: D. A. Carson, “That By All Means, I Might Win Some”  (I Corinthians 9.19-23)

  • How do you demand faithfulness and flexibility?  What does this look like?
  • Paul views his own rights as an apostle: he does not live or stand on his rights, but cheerfully gives them up for the Gospel.  He is free, instead, to offer up the Gospel without charge.
  • Paul has to be flexible because he doesn’t fit into these categories (in the passage) anymore.  He identifies with the Third Position (tertium quid): he is a Christian.  He will bend from and in all things, but he will not bend from being a Christian.
  • Paul has to be flexible because he wants to win for Christ all those who are in these categories.  He wants to bring others into the Third Position, the Christian position, with him.
  • Paul has to be flexible because he wants to participate in the Gospel: to identify with Christ, the One who identified with others for their salvation.
  • The One who was loved by God from all eternity, the One who was in spectacular glory before anything was, the One who was utterly content — He became a human being in this fallen world to identify with us, and stood in line with sinners to be baptized.
  • He identifies with sinners to such an extreme, He took our place and died our death.  Then He rose again, and we have His life.  Our sins were reckoned to Christ; His righteousness was reckoned to us.
  • Paul doesn’t want to just preach the Gospel; he wants to live it.
  • What is envisaged by “flexibility and accommodation is this: the flexibility and accommodation of the messenger and the convert, NOT the flexibility and accommodation of the Message.
  • Throw up little indicators to show we have the Saviour’s heart, that we love people for Jesus’ sake.
  • Remember that the Cross alone is the exclusive sufficiency of Christ.
  • We are called to participate in the Gospel, too: receive His blessings and suffer for His sake.

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