But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
— Galatians 6:14 —
For three days this week, ten of us from Occoquan Bible Church traveled to Indianapolis to join 8,500 other followers of Christ at The Gospel Coalition’s bi-annual gathering. This year we celebrated the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and its recovery of the gospel. The theme of this week’s conference was “No Other Gospel” and in less than 72 hours we heard six messages from Galatians and three messages on the historical figures of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other reformation heroes, including the women who contributed to the Reformation. We also sat in on countless breakout sessions related to church history and practical ministry. In all it was a much needed time of refreshment and recalibration.
In all, our trip to Indy was an encouraging time of worship, fellowship, and learning. I benefitted most from John Piper’s opening message on Galatians 1 and Tim Keller’s closing message on Galatians 6. In particular, Keller’s connection between boasting in the cross (Galatians 6:14) and spiritual transformation was powerful.
His point was this: It is not enough to know about Christ and his cross. If one wants to be changed—i.e., freed from sin and full on grace—he or she must boast in the cross. This means verbal praise but even more, it is a confidence in life that taunts all other competitors and presses deeper into Christ. There is nothing more glorious than Christ and his cross, the message of the gospel. As we cling to that truth and boast about that reality above all others, God will change us.
With that in mind, let me share a few more observations from the men who went to Indy. Hear them boast in Christ, his cross, and the chance to devote three days to worshiping. Let it spur you on and encourage you to listen to the sessions online or to join us next year.
As a relatively new Christian, the thought of going to a conference and learning about the finer points of doctrine and theology was a bit daunting. But now that it’s over, I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was amazing learning from some of the greatest Christian minds of our time. It was a faith-affirming, fellowship-filled, worship-heavy week. It was incredible to be with a group of people so dedicated to the Lord and his Word.
Hearing about the struggles of the “giants of the faith” in the 16th century was encouraging, as it reminded us that our trials and troubles are not unusual or all that difficult. Then, hearing 8,500 souls singing God’s praise with gusto is always exciting.
Hearing the deep, eternal truths of the faith in the context of the struggles of the past was a treat. But doing so alongside brothers with whom I get to serve week in and week out made it all the more real.
It was encouraging to spend a few days immersed in the Word, to hear the Reformation stories of our brothers’ and sisters’ commitment to the gospel, and to consider the contemporary application of their discipleship practices. Last, it was both powerful and a joy to fellowship together with so many believers.
I was challenged by considering the work of the reformers and the difficulties that they faced, from without and within, in carrying out a defense of the Gospel. The work of shepherding rests upon the authority of Scripture and justification by faith alone in Christ alone. It reminded me the most loving thing I can do in as an elder is to continually point people to Christ and the freedom that we have because he bore the wrath of God in our place.
Our identity is in Christ. Our eyes need to be on him and not on others. This is not always a popular message or course of action. The reformers, and those who would live upon the authority of the Word of God alone looking to Christ alone, often faced physical dangers and deprivations. We have not had to suffer (yet) in this country the way they have, but as a shepherd, am I will be most faithful to Christ when I help others make a clear stand the unchanging gospel of Jesus Christ.
Indeed, this is why we remember and celebrate the Protestant Reformation. It’s not because of the greatness of these Reformers, but because these men and women were a part of a generation that God used to recover the gospel. The world has not been the same since. Today, as we hold Bibles in our hands, we can give thanks to God for what he did through them. More than that we should give time to learning from them (Hebrews 13:7).
Should you want to learn more about these Reformers and their gospel, you can find many of the sessions online. Or, save the date on your calendar and join us next year for another gospel excursion consider signing up for Together the Gospel in Louisville (April 11–13). The Gospel Coalition will also have a women’s conference in June in Indianapolis.
May we who benefit from the sufferings of the Reformers consider their lives and imitate their faith.
Sola Deo Gloria, ds