The Tulip Driven Life Podcast

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My Thoughts on the 2012 Ligonier National Conference

Below are videos broken up into four parts of all that I wrote for this blog post, plus I intermixed additional commentary and exhortation apart from what is written in the post below. I think you will benefit more from watching than reading, and get where I am coming from better, as inflection and voice is always better than the written word lying flatly. But by all means, if you can't watch it, read it, or do both. Hopefully you will find it both encouraging and convicting.

Part 1: Thoughts on 2012 Ligonier National Conference

Part 2: Thoughts on 2012 Ligonier National Conference

Part 3: Thoughts on the 2012 Ligonier National Conference

Part 4: Thoughts on the Ligonier National Conference

Burning hearts are not nourished by empty heads. I believe Sproul said this originally, I am not sure. Regardless, that needs to be the message proclaimed to every person that takes on the name of Christ, because Sinclair Ferguson was right when he said the following (my translation):

We need to take a serious and hard look at ourselves as conservative Christians to do our job as believers and as part of the Church. Our church today is a mile wide and possibly less than an inch deep. We are good at blaming others for this and not doing a good job ourselves taking the gospel and truth to the people. You see so many people with multiple Bibles and they sit in their laps but they do not even know what it teaches.  We think if we read a few books and listen to a reformed pastor that we are reformed. But you are not reformed till you are praying regularly and living holy lives and passionate about the gospel. We must be doing the real work of the church and having our lives shaped by the message we believe. Holiness and a reformed life comes from devotion to prayer and reading the Word of the God.

We need to recommit to being Bible people. Hebrews 5:  We have become dull of hearing. We need milk and not solid food. This isn't a contemporary problem of Gods people, it's a perennial problem. We need to be so focused on the law and His glory that evil would be seen in its own irrelevant light. In our thinking we must be mature, and the characteristic of mature thinking as a Christian is characterized in Scripture as a passion for the knowledge of God. Gods great concern is that we know Him and are known by Him, not so much what we do. This is why the epicenter of the New covenant is the knowledge of the Lord. 

I am convinced that these words by Sinclair Ferguson are absolutely 100 percent true. I am also 100 percent convinced that many at the conference, many who watched it online, and many Christians in general, will misappropriate the clear message of Ferguson here, which is the clear message of Scripture, by accepting it as true, but altogether too lightly. Meaning, they will accept it with an air of weightlessness; but this is weighty stuff. And I cannot think of anything more dangerous than accepting the essential purpose of our salvation as something light, but I think that's what a lot of people are doing. I think that's something that a lot of reformed people even are doing.

I've talked passionately about the importance of this very thing constantly to friends and co-workers at home, and even to many at college here in Florida. At home, my friends grew up in a non-Calvinistic church, an atheological church essentially. Doctrine was shallow, and what doctrine they had of course was horribly wrong. Appeals to the will and to the emotions were made, but rarely to the mind. This, of course, doesn't work, no more so than if we cut off a persons head and then tried to persuade them of anything. A person with no head cannot think, cannot communicate, cannot do anything. They are dead. So, from those at home, I had a better understanding of why they had a hard time accepting my message. They thought my gospel was crazy itself, then my passion for theology? Unthinkable. How could theology matter? They were in the midst of that anti-intellectual Christian mindset that Godfrey was talking about, and it was either he or another speaker, perhaps Tackett, that said in forty years from now the Bible belt will probably  be the hardest place to evangelize. I can tell you, I think it already is. It's easier to evangelize to an unbeliever who hasn't been ruined by bad theology, emotionalism, and hypocritical pastors than those that have been ruined by such things.

Yet here is the most mystifying thing to me. Why is it that those who are reformed, even some who have been reformed for a long period of time, need a conference like "The Christian Mind" here at Ligonier? Except other than way of reminder, this should be a given. But I knew that it wasn't a given because I know how people act and behave and think. So that was why I was so eager for this conference- it could center believers on everything that they have been called and saved unto- which is the knowledge of God.

Now I want to show you what Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, said not long before He was to be betrayed and crucified. This is Jesus, praying for us as our high priest, interceding on our behalf! This is the prayer Jesus made just before he went over to Gethsemane and prayed in the garden that if the cup could pass from Him, that God would let it pass. This is the prayer just before the prayer where Jesus was so vexed in His soul that He sweated great globs of blood intermixed with His sweat. This is the High Priestly prayer of Jesus Christ for us. And as Hebrews tells us, Christ is forever our High Priest, always interceding on our behalf and, in some ways, always praying for us the prayer He prays in John 17. In other words, This is Jesus Christ's constant prayer and plead for us! We would do well, quite well then, to listen, to obey, to desire what Christ Himself, our heavenly groom, who died so that this could be true, desires for us. Here is but a few verses of it:

John 17:1-3,17

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.  And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 
 Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth.

Let everyone recognize that the reason Christ died on the cross wasn't because He couldn't bear the thought, or that God the Father couldn't bear the thought, of His creation going to hell. No, His justice demanded this very thing! The reason Christ died for us was to set us free from slavery to sin, so that we could become slaves of God, slaves of righteousness, slaves to truth. To hunger and thirst for righteousness, to know God, is to know His Word, and to know His Word is to know Him rightly, and to know Him rightly is eternal life! In other words, if this doesn't excite you now, check yourself, you may not be saved. Also, if this isn't your most passionate desire, your all consuming purpose, check yourself, because you haven't set your mind on the things above like Romans commands yet, and at this point heaven will not be very enjoyable for you. In heaven we will know God more intimately, and that is our purpose here and now too.

This was Christ's prayer for us! Christ is saying, for this, for this, I die. He dies so that He and His Father may be glorified, and He and the Father are glorified through His elect, His sheep, knowing Him, and because they know Him, they love and desire Him, and because they love and desire Him, it is their greatest delight and pleasure to live for Him and praise Him. 

Christ, right now, is pleading with the Father, is interceding on our behalf, for this very thing. This is why Christ died. This is what His shed blood stands for! This is why 1 John 2:3-5 says, 

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His Word, truly the love of God is perfected in Him. By this we know that we are in Him.

We know God if we are obedient to Him, and we are obedient to Him by keeping His Word, and in order to keep His Word, we must know His word. And Jesus said that we are sanctified by the Word, which is the Truth. And Christ is the Truth. To know the Word, to know the Truth, is to know Christ, and to know all of Scripture. So then, to know theology is to know the Word, to know the Truth, to know Christ. And Christ died so that we may know Him, and knowing Him means knowing God, all of His revealed Word. That is why Christ died, to set us free from slavery to sin and become slaves of righteousness, slaves of God, slaves of the Truth. 

And if we are regenerate, then we have been set free from sin. Christ says in John 8:31-32, 

If you abide in My word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

Then the Jews ask how Christ can set them free, since they are not in bondage. Christ responds in 8:34-36 that whoever commits sin is a slave to sin, but if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.  

Paul says in Romans 6:17, 

But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

Freedom from sin is equated to obeying doctrine from the heart. Period. That's the freedom, that's the eternal life Christ won for us. Becoming slaves of righteousness is equated to obedience from the heart to doctrine, to theology. And as I opened, it is clear that burning hearts are not nourished by empty heads. How can you obey doctrine from the heart if you do not know doctrine? And if you do not know doctrine, you do not know what eternal life is. 

So Eternal life is obeying from the heart the form of doctrine to which we were delivered. Notice we were delivered to this. We couldn't choose this. This is what Christ, with His love, gave to us. He delivered us from slavery to sin to a love from the heart for right doctrine, a passion for Truth, a passion for knowledge of God. How can you conclude anything else when we read just a few verses down in 6:22-23,

But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Remember, Jesus defines eternal life as knowledge of Himself. And I have no doubt many are nodding their heads in agreement, and perhaps some are rolling their eyes saying, "Thomas we get this already, we believe this, why do you think that we don't?" Well, for a couple reasons:

1.) Somebody can know they are sick, but not how sick they are. If you think you have a cold when in reality you have an infection that will take your life if you do not actively apply powerful medicine hourly, do you really know that you are sick. Yes, you do know you are sick, but you do not know how sick you are. And if you do not learn just how sick you are, you will die. A person who treats a life-endangering sickness as a common cold doesn't live very long. What I am saying is that the pursuit of the knowledge of God, done rightly, is the key to the metamorphisized life that Del Tackett was talking about. If we want to live for God and love Him more, we better be consistently in the Word of God, in prayer, hearing the Word preached, discussing it in our conversations, and meditating on it day and night. Until you believe that, you don't really understand the nature of salvation, of what eternal life is. Until you believe that and until you make that your all consuming passion that you strive to keep at the forefront of your mind, until that is your worldview, you think you have a cold when really you have a malignant tumor. The Kingdom of God is taken by force. Those who persevere until the end shall be saved. If, in your comfortable Christian lives as a rich American, without any dangers or threats, you don't have a white hot passion for knowing God, what assures you that you have faith that lasts to the saving of your souls? If you often prefer entertainment and amusement and relegate your Bible study and learning of God to Sunday morning, Sunday School, and a Bible study here or there, what makes you think that is a heart that is obeying the form of doctrine to which you were delivered? Indeed, how can you even be assured that you have been delivered to such doctrine? Which is to say, plainly, how can you be assured that you have been saved from your sins?

2.) You don't understand the New Covenant. Which means you need to read the book of Hebrews. And if you have already, you need to read it again until you get it. And you need to read Jeremiah 31. Hebrews 8:8-12 in fact quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34 in the context of Christ being our high priest, the mediator of a better covenant, better because it is established on the basis of the shed blood of Christ. Here is what it says:

“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says theLord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11 None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know theLord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds[b] I will remember no more. 

Knowing God is our one holy passion. It is the Christian life. Now what Hebrews is confirming for us here is that it is Impossible not to have a passion from the heart for a deep knowledge of God. It is impossible because if you are saved, this is the very gift that you have been given. The gift of salvation is the gift of a heart that desires the meat of the Word, the deep things of God, doctrine and theology. The gift of salvation frees us from sin to pursue Christ, and the pursuit of Christ must start with a mental knowledge of Him, so that our knowledge can affect our hearts when the Spirit causes it to do so, and thus, with changed affections, our lives will be lived out for Him, and we will worship and praise Him with adoration and joy. What else do you think verse 10 above means when it says that God will put His laws in our minds and write them on our hearts?

And yet consider Hebrews 10:24-25 which says that we believers assemble together for fellowship and worship and we should stir one another up by means of exhortation to love and good works. So this eternal life is one in which we grow into, one in which we realize and experience more and more as our death approaches! And we grow in it by study of the Word, by fellowship, and by rebuke and exhortation and encouragement from one another. Which leads me to my third point

3.) You have an intolerance for rebuke. So many Christians automatically assume that when another believer rebukes them, the one coming to rebuke is doing so to puff up his or her own pride, or is doing it to spite the person. This is the sign of a hard heart, a babe in Christ at best. Further, I believe this is why so many preachers, rather than preaching on Sundays, teach. Thank God some still teach! But for those who are so easily offended at the tone of a John Macarthur or a Paul Washer, who assume that they are simply being arrogant, haughty, smug, and mean-spirited, I see that as simply a stubborn sheep who doesn't like being shepherded, who doesn't like being rebuked and exhorted to grow in the faith. If there was one thing more I would have like to have seen and heard from Sinclair Ferguson's message, or any of them at the 2012 Ligonier National Conference, it would have been the same message but presented like a true sermon. I don't necessarily mean expositionally, I just mean with authority. I wish the plea of this conference, to pursue God with the mind, would have been presented to us as a scathing rebuke. With passion, with fire. Because the urgency of the matter is of such a nature. When all the Christians are empty headed, and the very purpose of Christians is to be filled with the knowledge of God, to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and Christians, like dumb sheep, refuse to passionately pursue the renewal of our minds for our joy and God's highest glory, rebuke is in order. Shouting and fist pounding is in order. Calling us hard-hearted is in order. Calling us to repentance, to examine our own salvation even, is in order. If faith without works is dead, then surely faith without any real knowledge of God, and without a love for knowing God, is a dead faith, is no faith at all.

To close, I want to point to a few verses from the OT, that was given before the New Covenant was given. I want you to recognize that these commands that God was giving to Israel were impossible  for them to fulfill because the Old Covenant, which is passing away, was inadequate to do so. Which means, what was impossible has been made possible, has been made a reality, for those believers who are part of the New Covenant, who as Romans says has the love of God shed abroad in their hearts. It is the following verses I believe that illustrate what the true Christian life is supposed to be like, what the nature of our thought patterns and discourse is meant to be centered on, and to some extent will be centered on if we are true believers. That is because the law is written in our minds and on our hearts. As such, how can we not love theology and growing in knowledge and wisdom of God?

Deuteronomy 7:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one![b] You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Remember, Christ adds to this to love God with "all your mind." But notice how urgent this is, notice how it is that we are to go about obeying God. It is by teaching them diligently to your children, by talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Always! Write them on your hand, write them on your homes, let it always be at the forefront of your mind! This is the love we must have for knowing God, for knowing His commandments. 

To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,
To receive the instruction of wisdom,
Justice, judgment, and equity;
To give prudence to the simple,
To the young man knowledge and discretion—
A wise man will hear and increase learning,
And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,
To understand a proverb and an enigma,
The words of the wise and their riddles.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction.

My son, hear the instruction of your father,
And do not forsake the law of your mother;
For they will be a graceful ornament on your head,
And chains about your neck.

20 Wisdom calls aloud outside;
She raises her voice in the open squares.
21 She cries out in the chief concourses,[b]
At the openings of the gates in the city
She speaks her words:
22 “How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?
For scorners delight in their scorning,
And fools hate knowledge.
23 Turn at my rebuke;
Surely I will pour out my spirit on you;
I will make my words known to you.
24 Because I have called and you refused,
I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded,
25 Because you disdained all my counsel,
And would have none of my rebuke,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when your terror comes,
27 When your terror comes like a storm,
And your destruction comes like a whirlwind,
When distress and anguish come upon you.
28 “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;
They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me.
29 Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the Lord,
30 They would have none of my counsel
And despised my every rebuke.
31 Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way,
And be filled to the full with their own fancies.
32 For the turning away of the simple will slay them,
And the complacency of fools will destroy them;
33 But whoever listens to me will dwell safely,
And will be secure, without fear of evil.”


My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;
He guards the paths of justice,
And preserves the way of His saints.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice,
Equity and every good path.
10 When wisdom enters your heart,
And knowledge is pleasant to your soul,
11 Discretion will preserve you;
Understanding will keep you,
12 To deliver you from the way of evil,
From the man who speaks perverse things,
13 From those who leave the paths of uprightness
To walk in the ways of darkness;
14 Who rejoice in doing evil,
And delight in the perversity of the wicked;
15 Whose ways are crooked,
And who are devious in their paths;
16 To deliver you from the immoral woman,
From the seductress who flatters with her words,
17 Who forsakes the companion of her youth,
And forgets the covenant of her God.


My son, do not forget my law,
But let your heart keep my commands;
For length of days and long life
And peace they will add to you.
Let not mercy and truth forsake you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart,
And so find favor and high esteem
In the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct[a] your paths.

Happy is the man who finds wisdom,
And the man who gains understanding;
14 For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver,
And her gain than fine gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies,
And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.
16 Length of days is in her right hand,
In her left hand riches and honor.
17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
And all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her,
And happy are all who retain her.
19 The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
By understanding He established the heavens;
20 By His knowledge the depths were broken up,
And clouds drop down the dew.
21 My son, let them not depart from your eyes—
Keep sound wisdom and discretion;
22 So they will be life to your soul
And grace to your neck.
23 Then you will walk safely in your way,
And your foot will not stumble.
24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.

Hear, my children, the instruction of a father,
And give attention to know understanding;
For I give you good doctrine:
Do not forsake my law.
When I was my father’s son,
Tender and the only one in the sight of my mother,
He also taught me, and said to me:
“Let your heart retain my words;
Keep my commands, and live.
Get wisdom! Get understanding!
Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you;
Love her, and she will keep you.
Wisdom is the principal thing;
Therefore get wisdom.
And in all your getting, get understanding.
Exalt her, and she will promote you;
She will bring you honor, when you embrace her.
She will place on your head an ornament of grace;
A crown of glory she will deliver to you.”
10 Hear, my son, and receive my sayings,
And the years of your life will be many.
11 I have taught you in the way of wisdom;
I have led you in right paths.
12 When you walk, your steps will not be hindered,
And when you run, you will not stumble.
13 Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go;
Keep her, for she is your life.

My son, give attention to my words;
Incline your ear to my sayings.
21 Do not let them depart from your eyes;
Keep them in the midst of your heart;
22 For they are life to those who find them,
And health to all their flesh.
23 Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life. 


My son, keep my words,
And treasure my commands within you.
Keep my commands and live,
And my law as the apple of your eye.
Bind them on your fingers;
Write them on the tablet of your heart.
Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
And call understanding your nearest kin,
That they may keep you from the immoral woman,
From the seductress who flatters with her words. 

PROVERBS 8, which is likely Jesus personified as wisdom: 

All the words of my mouth are with righteousness;
Nothing crooked or perverse is in them.
They are all plain to him who understands,
And right to those who find knowledge.
10 Receive my instruction, and not silver,
And knowledge rather than choice gold;
11 For wisdom is better than rubies,
And all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her.
12 “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence,
And find out knowledge and discretion.

30 Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman;[b]
And I was daily His delight,
Rejoicing always before Him,
31 Rejoicing in His inhabited world,
And my delight was with the sons of men.
32 “Now therefore, listen to me, my children,
For blessed are those who keep my ways.
33 Hear instruction and be wise,
And do not disdain it.
34 Blessed is the man who listens to me,
Watching daily at my gates,
Waiting at the posts of my doors.
35 For whoever finds me finds life,
And obtains favor from the Lord;
36 But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul;
All those who hate me love death.”


  1. Thank you for your post. The statement that the Bible belt will be a difficult place to evangelize in the near future is intriguing and frightening. Can you explain more on why this danger? I assume its because Christianity has been so "dumbed down" that people cling to a hallow form of Christianity that isn't Christianity at all.

  2. Yeah you are exactly right. The shallow Christianity that does not offer any real answers, that doesn't equip believers with any real apologetic, will cause the people here to wilt. They go off to universities and get more exposed to the world and realize they cannot defend the very thing they are supposed to be living by. What will happen, and is happening, is that many fizzle out and live in rebellion, showing they were never born again to begin with, while others will start looking for answers of some kind or another, and will disperse into various denominations, likely whatever they come to first that they think gives them some ground to stand on. Most will likely see the Christian faith as a fraud and then be jaded against future evangelism. Children will see, and are seeing, their parents as ignorant hypocritical Christians, which will not be appealing to them. Thus, the Bible belt would become the burnt over district.