The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Monday, January 10, 2011

Passion Conference 2011

I attended the Passion conference with some friends in Atlanta Jan. 1-4. If you have not heard of the Passion conference, you can check out their website here:

I got sick on the fourth and have not been able to write anything on the conference until now. My mind is still a little fuzzy but I would like to attempt to share my thoughts on the conference as best I can.

The Music

As many of you know, I am not a huge fan of most Christian music that is being put out today. This is largely due to the shallowness of the lyrics at best and the unbiblical views of God and Jesus and man at worst. There also seems to be a real emotionalism and even romanticism that pervades the Christian music of young people today, and it has begun to infiltrate the church on Sunday mornings.

Having said that, many of the songs at Passion I had never heard of before. Apparently Passion's music is pretty well known worldwide, but not to me. I can at least say that some of it was decent. For instance, Matt Redman's song "You Alone Can Rescue" says:

Who, oh Lord, could save themselves,
Their own soul could heal?
Our shame was deeper than the sea
Your grace is deeper still

You alone can rescue, You alone can save
You alone can lift us from the grave
You came down to find us, led us out of death
To You alone belongs the highest praise

You, oh Lord, have made a way
The great divide You heal
For when our hearts were far away
Your love went further still
Yes, your love goes further still

Other songs gave me mixed feelings, such as Chris Tomlin and Christy Nockel's Where The Spirit of the Lord Is. I do agree with the lyrics when it says, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty," however, when they start saying things like,

You're all that we want
You're all that we need
You're all that we want
You're all that we need

I have to ask, is this really true? Yes, it IS true that Christ is all we need, that I am not disputing. But is it true that all we want is Jesus Christ and His righteousness? No, even as Christians, we still want sin. I know I have been guilty of thinking that, since we are dead to sin we somehow in some way at some level only want Jesus. But I don't think that is what Scripture teaches any more. As Christians, we have both a sin nature and the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit lusts against the flesh, and the flesh against the Spirit, so that we do not do what we want to do (Gal. 5:17). Therefore, even when we want to do good and serve Christ as Christians, sin is right there with us every step of the way, even when we want to do good (Romans 7:21).

Another concern I have, both with the music and with the main speaker and leader of Passion, Louie Giglio, is this mentality that we are somehow a "chosen generation" and that we are going to change the whole world. There seems to be this strong belief that we are this chosen generation that is going to change the world for Christ, or at the very least such a generation is about to come and there is going to be a large number of people being converted to Christianity and Christians will be living passionately for Jesus. While I hope this is true, I do not think there is any Scriptural warrant to make such a guarantee. In other words, I do not think we can predict when, or even if, we will ever have another great revival or awakening in the world. One of the songs that we frequently sang that reflected this mentality was Chris Tomlin's Chosen Generation.

However, the music we sang at Passion was far better and far more God glorifying than what I was accustomed to hearing from a rock type of praise music. There did seem to be lyrics that praised God for saving us and dying for us and that we are to live to display His glory. Nothing really came off as romantic, which was very relieving for me. Initially, I feared this was going to be just a bunch of emotionalism again, and no doubt for some it was, but I do feel that the majority of the students praising and worshiping God at Passion were genuine.

The Speakers

Once I am able to find the messages delivered by the speakers online I will write a more detailed review of what they said, but for now I just want to hit briefly on my three favorite messages given at Passion by David Platt, Francis Chan, and John Piper.

David Platt:

Platt spoke very passionately on the gospel. But this wasn't merely a gospel message, this was also a call for Christians to live as they have been called! He shared how so many in this world are lost without the gospel having been brought to them. He also spoke on how so many churches spend huge money on their own church buildings but so little on helping the poor and needy. He also emphasized the devotion we must have to Christ if we are to be Christians. Our love for Him must be so strong that it appears we hate everyone and everything else in comparison. We must take up our crosses daily and preach the true gospel, not reduce the gospel to saying a simple prayer to get saved.

Platt showed me that we have it so easy here in America. Our comfortable Christianity has softened our love and devotion and passion for serving Jesus, denying ourselves and living for Him. We must be reminded of the high cost of following Christ and that He demands we give Him our lives if we are to be saved.

Francis Chan:

Francis Chan's messages escape me the most right now. That's probably because he does a decent bit of rambling and on several occasions he pretty much forgot what he was talking about too. I do know at one point he started showing off his rap skills which was pretty funny. The biggest thing I recall is when he pulled out this balance thingy, where on one side you sit a weight and on the other side another weight. If the weight is equal, the balance is equal, but if one side is heavier, the heavier side will drop down and the lighter side will go up. Chan's point was that we should live our lives in a balanced relationship to the gospel. I often say that we should be living in light of the gospel, and Chan used this very terminology himself. Living in light of the gospel means that our profession of faith in the gospel should be in line with our actions. In other words, our life is out of balance if we are not proclaiming the gospel and ministering to others, both believers and unbelievers, since we claim to be followers of Jesus. Our lives should match up with the gospel call. If we truly believe that there is a hell, we should have a great concern for this world to hear the gospel of grace that can save from sin and hell. This is the essence of Chan's messages.

John Piper:

No doubt, John Piper is one of my favorite pastors and theologians. He was given the main message at Passion, which is no surprise to me. His message was by far the deepest, although I do feel that he bit off a little more than he could chew in the hour or so he spoke. His message was "Getting to the Bottom of Your Joy" and can be listened to here:

What he wanted us to think about was the reason we love God. Do we love God because He makes much of us, or do we love God because He enables us to make much of Him? The answer to this question, says Piper, determines whether or not you have been born again. And if you are not born again, you are not saved. The foundation of our joy is supposed to be delighting in living and serving God. In other words, at the very bottom of our joy, at our very core, our devotion to God should be all about glorifying Him. If we love God because He makes much of us, if that is the fountain of our joy, we are only lovers of ourselves and have created a false god. The new birth is about the bottom of our joy going from self to Christ. Christ should be the bottom of our joy, not self. This exchange happens in the new birth/regeneration.

Apparently, Piper's message from last year or at some other point had caused some confusion and controversy, so he constantly tried to affirm that he DOES believe that God makes much of us, but He makes much of us because we are in Christ. He then listed seven examples of how God makes much of us, such as giving us rewards in heaven, telling us well done good and faithful servant, the fact that we will in some way be judging angels, that we have become co-heirs with Christ, etc.

The Causes

There were ten different causes that Passion partnered with that attendees could give money to. These causes ranged from ending sex trafficking, feeding the poor, donating Bibles to unreached people, clean drinking water, and building homes for those affected by the earthquake in Haiti. Before I left for this conference, I checked out the website for each of these causes. I had made up in my mind that if they did not talk about the gospel itself, I would not attend. Much to my delight, most of them made it clear that they were concerned about the spiritual needs of the people as well as their physical needs. The gospel would be preached to the lost, and this is what excited me. I am also very pleased to report that over 1.1 million dollars were raised for these ten causes, all by donations from the 23,000 or so that attended Passion 2011 in Atlanta!This isn't including the 40,000 socks and towels that were brought to Passion for the needy people in Atlanta.

The Passion

I do feel like the young people and the leaders of this event were very passionate and serious about glorifying God and living for Him. Each event started with a lot of praise and worship music, where many were very demonstrative with their expressions of worship to God, raising their hands, jumping up and down, crying out to God, etc. For some, this may seem like empty emotionalism, and I can understand that because that is what I often think as well. However, these very same people sat attentively (by and large) to the 50-60 minute messages given by the speakers, and many even kept notes. So, given that and the amount of money that was raised, I think these people at Passion are serious about their faith.

Atlanta has a lot of poor people. This was very evident as we walked the streets and the underground. I am glad to report that I saw several from Passion giving to the poor people on the streets of Atlanta and even talking with them, I presume about the gospel and their need of salvation.

On a more personal note, I came across a man and woman that were homeless in underground Atlanta. There names were Jeff and Lily. I was with two friends and we were in a food court of sorts. We had just finished eating some chinese food, and Jeff asked if we had any food left. I had eaten all my food, but the two I was with had plenty left, and they gave it to him. We had to get back to get in line to hear Piper speak, so we gave them their food and left. But as we rounded the corner, it dawned on me that I was failing to do the very thing I am so adamant that everyone else do, namely that we don't simply feed poor unbelievers, but that we preach the gospel to them. No doubt the Holy Spirit was convicting me of this. I told my friends that I felt I should go back and talk to them about the gospel, but I didn't think we had time. They encouraged me to go back and talk, and after a moments hesitation, I did so.

Thankfully, Jeff and Lily were still sitting there. I asked Jeff if I could talk to him about God and he said yes and had me pull up a chair next to him. I quickly realized that Jeff was a believer! He told me he knew that it was God who provided the food for him that he and his wife were now eating, and that he had repented of his sins and knew the gospel. I was quite pleased to see this man's faith, given his dire circumstances. They stayed in a place which name escapes me, but the way Jeff described it it sounded like a run down building. I was going to ask him if I could get his number, or at least some number that I could contact him with, but before I could ask he was giving me a number! He didn't want this to be a one time thing either, he wanted to stay in touch with me. Seeing this man and his wife's needs and love for God, I felt compelled to give him all the money I had on me. I kicked myself for using some of my cash to buy food with earlier, but I still had about 30 bucks on me and I gave it all to them. To see Jeff's gratitude is something I will never forget, and I do plan on getting in touch with him soon.

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