Louisville—Part of living a life "Distinct from the World," the theme for the 2018 Together for the Gospel conference on April 11-13 in Louisville, is learning to live distinct in an age of false teaching, picking a side, and learning to be 'in the world, but not of the world,' Baptist speakers Thabiti Anyabwile, H.B. Charles and Matt Chandler shared.
Other topics addressed by a lineup of speakers across denominational lines during T4G's nine plenary sessions included racism, sexual sin, sanctification, and gladness in God, among others. More than 12,500 evangelicals attended the conference.
"We all agree that worldliness is a problem. If there were any doubt about that, the Bible makes it plain," said Anyabwile, pastor of Anacostia River Church in Washington, D.C.
Quoting James 4:4, he continued, "'Friendship with the world is enmity with God.' There couldn't be a starker way of drawing the problem out."
However, the question remains "How do you effectively pastor a church that's already been affected by worldliness? If the danger has already manifested itself, among your people, what do you do?"
Drawing his instruction from Jude 17-25, Anyabwile proposed three things:
1) Look out for the unsaved scoffers.
2) Look inside the local church for edifying love.
3) Look up for confident assurance.
As the elder does these things, he should also be mindful to "cultivate mercy in your own heart and in your eldership and cultivate faith and hope."
"God is able to make you happy. To do that, He first makes you holy, then He brings you home to heaven where in holiness you can enjoy Him in the happiness of eternity," he concluded. "He is able, beloved, to get us where He wants us, which is in His presence."
The message of the cross should define all Christian life and ministry, said H.B. Charles during his session at T4G. Charles, president of the 2018 SBC Pastors' Conference and pastor-teacher at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., argued that the church's central picture of "Christ crucified" is distinct from the wisdom of the world. A murdered savior might seem like folly to the world, but to Christians it is their whole identity, Charles said.
"The message of the cross is what distinguishes the church from the world," he said. "True wisdom is only found in the saving power of God at the cross."
Preaching from 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, Charles noted that the Corinthian church was impressed with the world's concept of wisdom, which conveyed honor, power and status. This temptation, he noted, is common to churches in all cultures. But the Apostle Paul drew a line between divine wisdom and worldly wisdom, saying to the first-century Corinthians and the 21st century Americans: "Pick a side."
Christian preaching must confidently proclaim the wisdom of God found only in the Word of God, Charles said. While there is no shortage of preaching and preachers in a saturated American religious context, few of them boldly affirm the message of Christ crucified. There is no other saving message, he said.
"If the world could know God through wisdom, man could take the credit," he said. "So God chose a way that would ensure He would receive all the glory. God saves those who believe the folly of what we preach."
In his sermon, Matt Chandler preached from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. He suggested that preachers cannot use the doctrine of grace as an excuse not to address the necessity of moral living.
Chandler, senior pastor of The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, and president of Acts 29, said he often meets younger pastors who grew up in legalistic churches where the teaching began and ended at "life principles" and rule-based Christianity. As these believers grew and came to a healthy understanding the gospel of Jesus Christ and doctrines of grace, they felt scandalized by the deficiencies of their own Christian experiences. The result, Chandler fears, is that now a generation of Christians are so afraid to be labeled "legalists" that they avoid all discussion of Jesus' moral teaching or how Christians should live.
He said this propensity doesn't fit with Matthew 5: "We see in the Sermon on Mount a proclamation of Christian living."
But, Chandler said, the Sermon will not allow Christians to be legalists because the teaching of Jesus can only be lived by the "inner transformation" brought about in salvation. He said: "Because it's been done, we do."
Additionally, David Platt, outgoing president of the International Mission Board and pastor of McLean Bible Church in northern Virginia, emphasized the importance of repentance from racism.
Platt rhetorically asked T4G attendees: "Have we been, or are we now, slow to speak and slow to work against racial injustice around us?"
The answer, he said, is a "resounding yes" -- evangelical churches and church leaders in the United States have been "slow to speak and slow to work against racial injustice" and, thus, have "historically widened, and are currently widening, the racial divide in [the] country."
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Seminary and member of Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, addressing the topic of sexual sin, exhorted T4G attendees to guard against its corrosive effects—both for the health of their souls and the reputation of the church.
Mohler preached on 1 Corinthians 5:1-6:11, a key text in the New Testament on how the church should discipline members who persist in unrepentant sin. The apostle Paul, Mohler said, called the church in Corinth to practice church discipline on its members while lovingly calling unbelievers outside the church to repentance.
"Sin tolerated in the church," Mohler said, "is a disaster to the church and the Gospel."
Videos of the main sessions and more information is available at t4g.org/resources. (WR/SBTS)