07.06.14

Reflections on a Small Conference with a Big Message

The Gospel of Genesis

The Gospel of Genesis.” So was the theme of the 12th annual New Life Bible Conference last week. Over 100 attendants heard 6 messages traversing the entire book of Genesis, from start to finish. Like a well-skipped stone expertly flung across a wide river, the sermons touched down in 6 places as they unpacked gospel themes across Genesis: Creation, the Fall, the Flood, Abraham, Judah, and Joseph.

And if the preaching wasn’t enough (and it was), there were ample opportunities for fellowship and discussion with the ministers, not to mention the Q&A session on Sunday that all conference attendants had access to. I want to offer a few words of reflection as to how the conference was helpful and made me hopeful. I’ll begin at the end, with something said during the Q&A session.

It’s Not about You

The question: “How can we encourage Christians to read the Bible in such a way that they see Christ on every page?” How can we see Christ in the Old Testament in the same way we heard the preachers reveal Christ in Genesis?

The answer: . To find Christ revealed in the Old Testament, start with the way Christ read the Old Testament.

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (, emphasis mine).

So clearly does Christ testify that the entire Bible testifies to him. He mentions that the three traditional divisions of the Jewish Canon (Tanakh) contained “everything written about [him],” the Law of Moses (Torah), Prophets (Nevi’im), and the Psalms (Ketuvim). So, when we open the pages of the Bible, we must presuppose what Christ presupposed: the entire Bible is about him. Not to say that if we hold this Christocentric presupposition in our minds that we will automatically see Christ on every page: For even though Christ himself taught this way of reading the Bible to his disciples over a length of time (“while I was still with you”), he still needed to open their minds “to understand the scriptures”; so this highlights our need for divine help, even though we have a Christocentric Bible-reading methodology.

It’s About Christ

So my reflections begin with what Anthony Carter said at Q&A: We must presuppose that every passage in the Bible points to Christ in some way. This Bible reading practice stands against many common ways of Bible reading and preaching, presupposing that every passage in the Bible is in some way about me, my finances, my struggles against the man, or my rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It’s not about us! It’s about Christ!

And here’s the delicious irony: If Old Testament Bible passages are about Christ, and not about me, then if I’m joined by faith to Christ, I find that the Bible passages do apply to me in the sweetest, strongest, and richest ways (as I’ll show below). Far richer than seeing “Goliath” as a cantankerous boss or as a metonym for Mondays. Far richer than seeing Joseph as a moral paragon which I, the sinner, must match up to. Far richer than claiming that prophecies about a restored Promised Land and the Temple can only apply to ethnic Israel and the building of a building. So Allegory, Moralism, and Dispensationalism go out the door to make room for the Bible speaking for itself. There is a more excellent way, which the One called the Way already showed us ().

And this is exactly what over 100 attendants heard for 4 days during last week’s New Life Bible conference. I could easily choose a few things from my notes on the sermons that were the most helpful to me.

On Christ’s Person and Work

Hearing of my savior’s different characteristics and offices typologically embodied by the people and events in Genesis made the conference worth its weight in gold. Every single sermon bursted at the seams with Christ, but particularly surprising was Christ pictured in Judah’s actions and Jacob’s prophetic blessing of Judah (Gen, 37, 38, 42, 44; )–Judah speaking up on behalf of his brothers: “I will be surety for Benjamin… let me bear the blame for ever” (43:9); and Jacob saying that Judah would be a conquering king, a great protector, and a great provider. May God help me to see and seek these functions from Christ on a daily basis. How awesome it is to have such a great savior!

On Preaching

“Preachers like to make much of themselves,” Pastor Carter said, “because they like to make much of preaching.” This was his lead-in to the doctrine of vocation, based on God’s giving Adam work (). God is honored by every calling he gives his people, for Christ restores his people to meaningful, worshipful work, which will continue perfectly in glory. This encouraged me to take my job and even my role as husband and father more seriously, for these callings are worship. Under the heading of “the life of faith is a great life,” Pastor Anyabwile also warned of using the pulpit or ministry to make one’s name great, that subtle insidious pride that I ask God to make me watchful against (). I also received several practical words of advice on preparing for the ministry in face-to-face and Q&A exchanges.

On our Living Hope

The biggest impact the preaching had on me were the ways the preachers had us look forward to the day when Christ will complete the salvation he’s already started. Here are some echoes: One day there will be nothing in me but that which wants Christ. One day it will be impossible not to be righteous. One day we will hear the “well done, but we’ll know it was Christ who was doing it well.” The final judgment typified by the flood will not touch us. Just as Noah stayed safe in the ark while the waters poured down, so also we will be safe in Christ at the final judgment because God’s wrath was poured down on Jesus. In the meantime, until redemption is complete, we were reminded that there is ample grace in Christ to carry us from here to that day: for redemption starts in mercy, is sealed in sovereignty, and is sustained by grace.

I am so glad that the book of Genesis, and the entire Old Testament, is about Christ. For joined by faith to Christ, I have a share in all he is and all he does. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” ().

24:1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God. (ESV)

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (ESV)

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (ESV)

“Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons shall bow down before you.
Judah is a lion’s cub;
from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
11 Binding his foal to the vine
and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
he has washed his garments in wine
and his vesture in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes are darker than wine,
and his teeth whiter than milk. (ESV)

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (ESV)

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (ESV)

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (ESV)

Ian Turner
Born in Evanston, IL and raised in Oak Park, IL, Ian Turner is happily married to Mercy and is the father of Christian Sojourn. While working toward his M.Div, Ian is privileged to participate in preaching ministry at New Life Fellowship Church (Vernon Hills, IL).

C’mon Up!

  • Donald Wilcock

    Thanks for recording your reflections and the great reminders from these men on the preeminence of Christ. Its has surely been an encouragement on an otherwise commonplace Tuesday morning!

    • Thabiti

      Praise God! I’m glad Ian’s reflections encouraged you! The Lord bless and keep you,
      T-

    • Tony Carter

      Maybe next year you can make it!

      • Donald Wilcock

        I just may have to do that

  • James

    Are recordings available?

    • Thabiti

      Hi James,
      Lord willing we’ll have the audio up in a couple of days. It was a great time with God’s people under His word!
      T-

    • http://writetheology.com Ian Turner

      Hey James… until the sermon mp3s are officially, I added links to the sermon recordings at the top of this page: http://writetheology.com/new-life-bible-conference-a-summary/

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