LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — Racism and sexual sin were among the facets of holiness addressed during the 2018 Together for the Gospel conference during nine plenary sessions attended by more than 12,500 evangelicals.
“Distinct from the world” was the theme of the April 11-13 sessions in the KFC YUM! Center in Louisville, Ky. The conference also featured various panel discussions, breakout sessions and other gatherings.
Speakers David Platt and R. Albert Mohler Jr. addressed the key issues of racism and sexual sin, respectively, during their messages.
Platt, outgoing president of the International Mission Board and pastor of McLean Bible Church in northern Virginia, preached from Amos 5 in a sermon titled “Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters: Racism and Our Need for Repentance.”
He acknowledged “landmines” associated with such a sensitive topic, particularly in a room of 12,000 people who likely represented thousands of opinions and perspectives.
From the text of Amos 5, in which the prophet Amos indicted the people of Israel for participating in religious ceremonies while ignoring injustice around them, Platt pointed to three “indictments” from Amos to the Israelites: 1) “They were eagerly anticipating future salvation while they were conveniently denying present sin”; 2) “They were indulging in worship while they were ignoring injustice”; and 3) “They were carrying on their religion while they were refusing to repent.”
The point of the passage, as it relates to justice and injustice, Platt said, is this: “God is not honored by mouths that are quick to sing and hands quick to raise in worship when those same mouths are slow to speak and those same hands are slow to act against injustice.”
Beyond “caveats” of other forms of injustice in the United States and around the world, Platt pointed to multiple forms of racism that exist in regard to white-black tensions in the United States, particularly among Christians.
Platt rhetorically asked T4G attendees: “Have we been, or are we now, slow to speak and slow to work against racial injustice around us?”
The answer, he said, is a “resounding yes” — evangelical churches and church leaders in the United States have been “slow to speak and slow to work against racial injustice” and, thus, have “historically widened, and are currently widening, the racial divide in [the] country.”
Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, addressing the topic of sexual sin, exhorted T4G attendees to guard against its corrosive effects — both for the health of their souls and the reputation of the church.
Mohler preached on 1 Corinthians 5:1-6:11, a key text in the New Testament on how the church should discipline members who persist in unrepentant sin. The apostle Paul, Mohler said, called the church in Corinth to practice church discipline on its members while lovingly calling unbelievers outside the church to repentance.
“The purpose of church discipline is not just to make certain that the church does not have a bad reputation because of an unrepentant sinful member,” Mohler said. “It is so that person who has betrayed the Gospel by his or her behavior and unrepentant sin and obstinate arrogance — that such a one being handed over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh may nonetheless or even thereby be so desperate to once again cling to Christ.”
The contemporary church faces the same distinct danger of sexual immorality that first-century Corinth did, Mohler said. As a result, the church has no credibility to speak about the cultural implications of human sexuality without wrestling with God’s demands of holiness upon it, he said.
“Sin tolerated in the church,” Mohler said, “is a disaster to the church and the Gospel.”
Matt Chandler, in his T4G message, preached from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, stating that preachers cannot use the doctrine of grace as an excuse for not addressing the necessity of moral living.
Chandler, senior pastor of The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, and president of the Acts 29 network, said he often meets younger pastors who grew up in legalistic churches where the teaching began and ended at “life principles” and rule-based Christianity. As these believers grew and came to a healthy understanding the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they felt scandalized by the deficiencies of their own Christian experiences. The result, Chandler fears, is that a generation of Christians now is so afraid to be labeled “legalists” that they avoid all discussion of Jesus’ moral teaching or how Christians should live.
This propensity, Chandler said, doesn’t fit with Matthew 5. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount will not allow Christians to be legalists because the teaching of Jesus can only be lived by the “inner transformation” brought about in salvation. “We see in the Sermon on Mount a proclamation of Christian living,” Chandler said.
Also featured during T4G’s plenary sessions were Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., who described holiness as the distinctive mark of the church — and of the godly pastor; H.B. Charles, pastor-teacher at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., and president of the 2018 SBC Pastors’ Conference, who said people must “pick a side” between the wisdom of the world and the “folly” of the cross; Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, N.C., who noted that an unchanging God inspires unshakeable confidence; Ligon Duncan, chancellor/CEO of the Reformed Theological Seminary system and John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, who described holiness as requiring compassion for others; Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of Anacostia River Church in Washington, D.C., who stated that holiness defends the church against its enemy’s accusations; John MacArthur, Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif., and speaker on the Grace To You radio ministry, who said the pastor should have one main concern: the sanctification of his people; and author, Bible teacher John Piper, who said holiness and a “delight in God” can only come from genuine new birth.
A written report encompassing all of T4G’s plenary speakers can be accessed at here. Videos of the main sessions are available at t4g.org/resources.