A full day of further incredibly helpful and much needed pummeling about joy would be a good way to sum up today. Worship continued to be meaningful and full of the presence of the Spirit. The talks continue to be posted on the Desiring God site so you can read full notes, watch, and listen to them there.
Eric Mason is a very gifted preacher. He spoke about having written a Ph.D thesis on how suffering helps our sanctification. He shared how then God had required him to live in the good of it as his wife got very sick. Half way through the talk I realized with a jolt that I had been beginning to delude myself that life will always remain as sweet as it currently is. I have preached many times how Jesus promised us that in this world we WILL have troubles. To have such a strong reminder of the certainty of suffering and its role was good for my soul. I trust it will leave me stronger when I next face a significant trial. I trust it will also help me to keep the more minor hassles of daily life in better perspective.
Sam Storms served us so well, outlining in his first talk of today the theological principles that under-gird Christian hedonism. As I listened, once again a hunger rose within me to experience more of this joy that he was speaking about. I know I have been exposed to most of the ideas I heard today for at least a decade. But, like I suspect everyone in the room, I surely needed to be reminded of them, and there was much that seemed fresh and impacted me. I learned new nuances and an increased depth of understanding of these precious truths. True theology is so simple a child can grasp it, yet so profound we will be able to plumb its depths for eternity. As a result of this talk I felt a new confidence in the firmness of the foundation for Christian hedonism.
Piper’s very strong enthusiasm for the writings C. S. Lewis, a dead man who he disagrees with on many points, was striking and informative. He claims to have discovered an almost immeasurable treasure by plumbing the depths of Lewis’ writings. I found myself even more strongly convinced of the need for us to sometimes read people who we profoundly disagree with on even important matters in order to learn vital truths from them. One thing that stood out was the need to recapture the wonder of ordinary things. Again, I pray that will help me to have a very different perspective on the daily minor frustrations of life. In this session Piper was talking about one of his top favorite dead people outside of the Bible. This is a classic talk which quite simply has to be watched, not listened to, by anyone who wants to understand John Piper properly.
This, and his biographical talk on Jonathan Edwards will surely form a pair. I sometimes think that Piper is even more skilled at this kind of talk than he is at expositional preaching. Perhaps because so few people speak in this way that is an unfair comparison, but certainly I can think of no better way to be introduced to some of the great heroes of church history, and understand their significance, than to work carefully through these talks, in many cases watching the talks more than once because of their profundity.
We might have thought that such treasure was sufficient for one day. But Sam Storms switched gear in the evening session. Having taught us well the theological underpinnings of Christian hedonism in his previous talks, he became less of a scholar and more of a pastor for his final talk of the conference. He showed us how this teaching has its application in killing sin. This was one of the best explanations I have heard of why legalism or dwelling on the negative consequences of sin are totally insufficient to restrain it. The temporary pleasures of sin can only be expelled by the infinitely greater pleasure of treasuring Christ. Having demolished the “prosperity gospel,” he then argued that everyone in the room has been affected by it at least in part. Have we accepted some of the lie of prosperity gospel? Do we basically feel that God is obligated to minimize our suffering? Are we surprised and indignant when he doesn’t? The truth is that there is something that God values more than our comfort! The treasure of us becoming more like Christ is of infinitely more worth.
Not only did this second day feed my mind, mold my heart, and enrich my Spirit, but I also shared some fantastic fellowship with a number of different people. This included eating with some delightful pastors, and greeting many brothers around the conference center and specifically at the “greet the author” session. Thanks to everyone who reads my blog who came and said hello. It was wonderful to put faces to some names, and to meet new friends.