It’s been a few days since I got back from the Desiring God Conference for Pastors (and a few days since I posted anything at all; sorry about that). The conference was very, very good. The teaching was dense and fulfilling, the worship was edifying, and the chance to meet and spend time with some other guys in ministry was wonderful. Plus, there was the above stack of free books and other resources; as free books may be one of the very best things in life, I’m quite grateful to Desiring God and all of their sponsors for their generosity.
Others have “live-blogged” events like this, producing a pretty detailed outline of each speaker’s sermon/lecture/whatever you want to call it. I thought of doing that, but quickly realized that I was incapable of doing justice to the depth of the content of the teaching. But John Piper once said that it’s not necessarily an entire work (such as a book) that captures and changes a person, but only a paragraph or sometimes a sentence. So, to summarize the conference, I thought I’d give the one idea from each speaker that captured me:
Paul Tripp gave two talks on how the gospel interacts with our lives, especially in trial or suffering. Using the example of the apostles struggling with rough waters on the Sea of Galilee, he said that God will take us where we don’t intend or want to go in order to produce in use what we could not achieve on our own and that this was an act of God’s grace. Not the grace of relief from suffering or of release from struggle, but the grace of refinement, because refinement is what we need. I pray that this thought will often come to mind when I struggle or suffer.
Sinclair Ferguson’s two talks focused on how union with Christ (we being in Christ and Christ being in us) leads to renewal of our minds and transformation of our lives. He set the tone for the conference theme of union in Christ by saying that if you don not think of yourself as being “in Christ” you have missed the point of being a Christian. It is being made one with Christ when He saves us that allows us to have access to the “fullness of Christ” (not any additional striving, obedience, or ritual) and that makes any desire to continue a life of sin instead of a life of obedience unthinkable.
Michael Horton spoke on two different topics: John Calvin on Union with Christ and Union with Christ and the Communion of Saints. There were actually a lot of great takeaways from these sessions, but I said only one, so I’ll go with this one: “There is no union with Christ without communion with His body.” We cannot live lives willingly separated from other brothers and sisters in Christ and still actually be in Christ.
Finally, John Piper’s two sessions were also on different topics, one on bearing fruit in union with Christ and one on the ministry of missionary Hudson Taylor as an example of life in Christ. Even though the topics took different approaches, Piper reliably expounded the lifeblood of His ministry: the pursuit of joy in Christ. He defined abiding in Christ (as set out in John 15:11) as finding joy in Christ, which is what brings Christ joy. He later said that any view of the Christian life that does not include the desire for and pursuit of the experience of more joy in Christ is defective.
Obviously, these brief summaries are just a taste of all that was said at the conference; there was so much more food for the soul from these and other breakout speakers. If you’d like to know more or watch/listen to some of the messages, you can check it all out here.