by Abraham Cremeens
This past week the elders, staff, and our wives participated in The Gospel Coalition (TGC) virtual conference. You may recall a decision as part of our strategic plan last year to network more through TGC, and this conference definitely affirmed that decision for us. It was a theologically sound and deeply encouraging experience.
The theme of this year’s conference was "Jesus is Greater" from the book of Hebrews. Excellent pastors and teachers guided us through the Word and pointed us back to the reality that Jesus is greater than anything or anyone in this world.
One statement from Hebrews chapter 10 draws this out:
Since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:21-22, ESV)
The old covenant between God and his people pointed to the greater one to come and accomplished in Christ. We live in that new covenant by faith and enjoy the greatness of our God.
I would like to briefly share a few personal takeaways from the conference. There was too much to take in, and I think I’ll spend many weeks and months processing and unpacking it. These thoughts are not exhaustive by any means but represent a few areas I want to keep in front of me.
1. Remember that Jesus is greater.
The heart is a constant warzone, and the affections of our heart turn in many directions. Idols, anxieties, griefs, and lesser dreams often cloud the recognition of the supremacy of Christ. I am as prone as anyone to pursue Christ as priority 2, 3, or 4 rather than the #1 place he deserves. Those who spoke throughout the conference helped jar me back to the right focus.
I don’t know that God exposed any particular idol that was in the way. It was rather the reality that I persevered through this last year simply by putting one foot in front of the other. I had my head to the ground so as not to trip or fall into a pit. However, I forgot to look up as often as I needed, and at times I neglected to see the very one I was persevering for. Hebrews 12 exposes this very danger:
And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:1b-2a, ESV)
You and I cannot run our race with endurance without looking to Jesus. Jesus is greater and insists upon our full gaze at all times for our own good.
2. Enjoy the beauty of multi-ethnic ministry.
Worshiping and learning amid a global ministry as large as TGC created a multi-ethnic Christian experience. It was a closer hint for me of what will be visible in heaven. I was led in worship and I learned from pastors and teachers that crossed multiple ethnicities... and I LOVED it. This is not to mention that people were live streaming from all around the globe. It made me love the church all the more as I got a taste of God’s work among men, women, and children from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
It made me hopeful for days to come and to long for greater healing regarding racism which can only be found in Jesus Christ. I was grateful for how this subject was rightly examined through the cross and empty tomb. I was encouraged to be a learner ready to grow and to have on my heart what is God’s heart as it relates to healing and unity in Christ amid the many ethnicities he has made. I am excited for that journey to continue.
3. Pursue a rule of life.
I need to be careful with this term since it probably means a lot of things to different people. Related to my first point above, I recognized my heart had become somewhat numb over the last year of ministry. That "one foot in front of the other" lifestyle robbed me of at least some amount of joy in Christ. "The rule of life" is the guiding principles and practices that lift one’s head from looking down to looking up at the beauty of our great God. It’s the daily rhythms that force the head up to see at all times that Jesus is greater and to find everlasting delight in him.
One quote from the conference that caught our attention came from George Muller, a 19th-century Christian leader: "The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day is to have my soul happy in the Lord."
I want to pursue a rhythm, a rule of life, that insists that the first and ongoing business of the day fixes my eyes on God to receive joy in him. It is about posture.
So, per typical, I’m leaving a well-done conference fired up and ready to go. I have three very clear pursuits above (plus others I don't have room to include here). The real challenge, though, is the changes that need to result. That is a journey ahead and one I am looking forward to.
Would you please take a moment and pray for us as elders and staff, as well as our wives, that we would leave this conference in such a way as to continue in the transformation that God is doing by his Spirit? Would you pray for us as a church family to continue to grow in the recognition and celebration that Jesus is greater? And don’t forget to attend every day to the business of having your own soul happy in the Lord.