Reflections on T4G 2012, Part 1

This post is part of a series.  Check out the rest of my reflections on Together for the Gospel 2012 here.

I had a fantastic week at Together for the Gospel in Louisville, KY. Most importantly, the Lord gave me a deeper love for Jesus and His bride. In addition to this, there are three highlights of my time in Louisville that are worth pointing out. I’ll lay out my thoughts about these three highlights over the next few posts.

The first highlight I’ll mention is Kevin DeYoung’s sermon, Spirit-Powered, Gospel-Driven, Faith-Fueled Effort. This was my favorite sermon of the week. It was a challenging reminder that while sanctification is indeed a result of God’s grace working in us, God’s grace in sanctification enables us to put forth effort and hard work in our pursuit of Him.

Kevin’s text was 1 Corinthians 15:10. Here it is with a little context:

8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he [Jesus] appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. [emphasis added]

Kevin helpfully pointed out that it was God’s grace working in Paul to grow him in godliness, but Paul’s growth in godliness was not devoid of hard work. Quite the contrary: Paul says that he worked harder than any of the other apostles.

I think Kevin’s timely and biblical reminder is worth mentioning for two reasons:

  1. First, it’s challenging to me personally. It’s a reminder to take time to study and meditate on God’s word and put forth effort in prayer. It’s a reminder to not be afraid of hard work in growing in godliness.
  2. Second, it’s an important reminder to the young, restless, and Reformed church culture. Like Kevin points out in his sermon, many of those in the “New Calvinist Movement” fail at personal holiness. Unfortunately, pockets of our culture tend to scream “legalism” at the mention of putting forth effort in sanctification. Yes, it’s fine to guard against legalism. But failing to put forth any effort and remaining stagnant is just as unhealthy as staunch legalism. As Kevin said, “Don’t let sanctification become a four-letter word in your Christian vocabulary.” Laziness and inactivity are not signs of grace-centered sanctification. Rather, “sanctification is not by surrender but by divinely-enabled toil and labor.” We need this reminder. We need to toil and labor in response to God’s grace working in us.

So, yes, we should celebrate God’s grace together. And one way we can celebrate God’s grace is by celebrating ways that brothers and sisters are pursuing Him in a disciplined way. Putting forth godly effort in loving Jesus may be a sign of grace-centered sanctification.

Check out Kevin’s talk. I hope you find it as challenging as I do.