Saturday, September 30, 2006

DG: Session One (Thursday Night - Wells)

The first session began early with a mad dash as the doors opened to get the best seats… but this facility (Minneapolis Convention Center) hardly has a bad seat. Tim and I are set up near the back door by the sound booth. We have our own little row from which to type and do our conferencing. The attendees appear to be a mixed crowd in age and background, although I would guess 99% are white.

Aimee from Trinity Baptist in Burlington (a sister congregation to ours) came up and introduced herself. We also ran in to Timmy Brister who is photo-blogging the conference.

Scott Anderson opened the first session with a warm welcome, noting that they are using an army of 100 volunteers. 3130 people are registered for the conference.

The DG Worship Group led us in Bob Kauflin’s “Praise God from whom All Blessings Flow,” and “Jesus, Thank You.”

David Wells Session One (Friday Night)

“The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World”

98% of Protestants lived in the west in 1793. After a century of missions, 90% still lived in the west. This may lead many to think Christianity is a western thing. Transformation is taking place in the Christian faith, not in its nature, but where it is believed. It is moving south and east – Latin America and Asia. There are probably more believers in China than the United States. In the West, it is struggling to survive – at least outside of America. Even Canada is losing its Christian heritage. 80% go to church in many African countries. Christianity is becoming de-Westernized.

Unlike the Christian faith, Islam has a geographical centre – Mecca. A language – Arabic. No place, race, tongue or culture that holds Christianity together – but Christ does. Jesus Christ is not great – he is incomparable. God incarnate. Sin-bearer. Resurrected. Reigns supreme. You cannot say this about anybody else.

Hebrews argues this most consistently.

A Brief Introduction

A letter written to Jews tempted to fade back into the relative safety of the Judaism from which they had come. To go back, though, they would have to pass by Christ and what He had done.

Hebrews 1

God had spoken to the Fathers and He speaks to us Christians through His Son. God in the flesh. The One in whom are hidden and contained all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He is the Message. The radiance of His glory. He possesses all the attributes and perfections of God. “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Creation. Eschatology. Providence. Salvation. Resurrection. Ascension. Christ is all these things! Why would these Jewish believers in Christ drift away from the uniqueness of Christ? Chapter 3 – superior to Moses. Chapter 4-10 – supreme to all in the Old Testament

The 11th Chapter: The Pastoral Application of all of this….

There is a connection between the OT Israel wandering away in unbelief and these Christians being tempted to wander away as well. Israel could not enter the Promised Land because of unbelief. They shrank back from what scared them – they could not see that God would be sufficient for them to fight the giants and fortified cities of their imagination.

The NT believers are filled with uncertainty as they are faced with hostility from Jewish nation and the Roman nation. Could God sustain them? What would happen to them?

The author says, “If you walk with faith, you will be in continuity with all the great leaders of the past.” What they all had in common was “the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.” They did not see it, but it was not naïve to believe it. These people had an inward persuasion – that made their hearts strong in suffering (11:32ff). These words describe what is happening in places in the world. The reason Jewish Believers were withdrawing from Christ was a matter of faith. Their vision of Christ had been clouded.

We don’t worry about these kind of things in the West – our problem is that we are so distracted by so many things that it is hard for us to sustain this focus on the supremacy of Christ in our lives. In 1900, the average life expectancy was 49 years – today it is over 80. We know more. Communicate more. Travel more and further. We buy more. We have more freedom. Along with this comes hidden costs – shadows that come right along with these benefits.

Anxiety. Connections outside of ourselves are tenuous. Families are disconnected. No one is rooted. At least in Africa, what is most pressing is physical needs (food, security, care). (The African Chorus for Children goes: He butters my bread / He sugars my tea / He pays my school fees).

The intrusiveness of the world into our inner mind – so much that is urgent and demands our attention. This is why the world wants sermons on anxiety and how to get along with your mother-in-law. But sermons that only address those matters are futile if the centrality and supremacy of Christ has been lost. We seem to be shrinking back from Christ. This persuasion of the uniqueness of Christ – conquers Kingdoms, obtains promises, enables us to live with suffering, etc.

The Supremacy of Christ Itself

Hebrews 2:8-9 (Psalm 8 – looks back to Genesis 1)

This mandate to have dominion has never been rescinded. The problem is that (in Romans 8) the whole creation has been subject to futility. We are often the victims of creation rather than having dominion. You will have to keep replacing the lamb if it lies down with the lion now!

At present all things do not appear in subjection to Christ. We do not have ourselves under control – even after a century of psychology.

But there is Jesus, who tasted death for us, dying in our place, bearing the righteous anger of God. Martin Luther quote: “If Christ was made guilty of all the sins of all of us…”

Creation has been de-railed – now it is being re-railed. The reach of Christ’s conquest is cosmic.

Hebrews 10:11-13 (Psalm 110)

Priests were never allowed to sit since their work was un-ending. But Christ has sat down! His work is finished! This is the contrast.

Christ has his foot upon the defeated and disgraced enemy. This Psalm with this image is cited about 20 times in the New Testament. Instead of speaking simply about Christ’s sovereignty, He speaks about it as it emerges from the ashes of defeat of the power of darkness. It is Christ’s priestly work by which His sovereignty over all is secured. This is the glorious note of the New Testament (Ephesians 1:22ff; 1 Peter 3:22). It was the holiness of God that called for his death. At the cross, the very back of evil is broken. What we are seeing now are the last futile moves of the enemy, none of which will change the outcome of what happened at Calvary. (applause)

Three Conclusions

1. Christianity is only about this kind of ChristChrist reigning supreme – unchallenged and unchallengeable! Post-moderns do not want to hear this – but the bottom line is that we don’t have anything else to give them. Christ is supreme. How do we help people come from where we are in this post-modern culture? We need to think about this. But it is the same Christ!

Some churches thought that this was very off-putting so these things were hidden – thinking that this kind of message would be an impediment to success. Now we live with the consequences. 45 % of Americans say they are born again – only 9% have a clue what that might mean! In America, the chickens have come home to roost and being “born again” counts for nothing.

Are we shrinking back form this full-orbed Biblical understanding the uniqueness of Christ. They feared their safety. We fear we won’t be successful. I believe this is a serious miscalculation!

Rainer’s research proves that most of the people used to define seeker-sensitivity still don’t go to church. 88% came to church to hear doctrine. They want to know whether we believe anything.

2. We live in this period between the already and the not-yet. We have been fully redeemed, but we know ourselves not yet to be fully redeemed. Between the time when the outcome of the chess game has been decided and the moment when the last futile move has been made. Richard Baxter observed: “We are vexed with unsatisfied desires…losses and crosses… death at last…” But perhaps this is especially true in the pressurized world in which we live. But there is another side to this. None of these are the final word – the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us. O death, where is your sting? Thanks be to God who gives us the victory in Jesus Christ.

We must put all things in reference to Christ. God is leading us.

3. It is God’s pleasure that His son should be acknowledged now for who He is. God takes pleasure in our worship now. We have been returned to the purpose for which we were first created.