The Gospel Coalition 2019: 5 Main Takeaways

Sunday night I pulled into my Air BnB in downtown Indianapolis a bit tired, but excited to see and hear all that would go on at The Gospel Coalition (TGC) national conference this year. I had a lot of sights, sounds, and food to take in over the course of my 4 days in Indy, which included Giordano’s pizza, trying to ride over brick sidewalks on my knee scooter, wishing I was at the Justin Timberlake concert at Banker’s Life Arena, a fire emergency that turned out to be nothing major but forced me to hop up 11 flights of stairs, and other things; but from the conference itself I have 5 main takeaways…..

  1. Kevin Deyoung preached one of the most helpful sermons of my life. Preaching from Luke 4:16-37, which quotes Isaiah 61, Deyoung made 3 points about what was paradigmatic of Jesus’ ministry: What Jesus came to do-fulfill prophecy and proclaim the Gospel, Who he came to reach, and How he would be received.

He clearly showed that Jesus showed and said explicitly in his ministry that all the prophecy of the OT is fulfilled in him. Deyoung showed his listeners how after Jesus read the prophecy in Luke 4:18-19 he then said to his hometown listeners in verse 21, “Today this Scripture has been filled in your hearing.” Deyoung commented, “He (Jesus) has the audacity to say this passage is not simply about one who is to come but about the one standing in front of you. Jesus never thought of himself as merely a pointer but as actually the point!”

This flowed directly into Deyoung walking his readers through the way in which Jesus came for the specific purpose of proclaiming the good news. At this point in his sermon, it was clear as day that Deyoung was pushing back against the tendency and the focus of some preachers on transforming social structures, and he even called out the interpretations of liberation theologians on Luke 4. Deyoung stated with conviction, “We must not settle for general themes to override specific exegesis.” And all I could say was “Amen!”

So Deyoung posed the question of the significance of Jesus beginning his own ministry in Luke 4 with the quoting of Isaiah 61… This begs the question of how Jesus would accomplish what he quoted, “Is it by transforming social structures and blending evangelism with the transformation of social structures?” Deyoung clearly stated “NO!” Of course, anyone who knows of Kevin Deyoung knows he is making his case on strict exegesis, and in context, he isn’t just inserting his own opinion or personality into the text. So, he helpfully provided the 4 verbal infinitives of Psalm 61 quoted in Luke 4:18-19. Those 4 infinitives are: announce good news, preach liberty to the captives, set at liberty the oppressed, and proclaim the year of god’s favor. Of these 4, 3 of the infinitives have to do with verbal proclamation. Clearly, Jesus was appointed PRIMARILY to be a preacher to proclaim a message of good news. But, what about the 4th infinitive? Deyoung highlighted that “setting at liberty those who are oppressed,” did not literally happen. Think about it, Jesus DID literally bring sight to the blind, and he DID literally set free the oppressed, but he did NOT literally set captives free (in a physical sense). To strengthen the point, Deyoung noted the example of John the Baptist in prison and Jesus proclaimed the truth to John the Baptist through a messenger, but Jesus did NOT literally set John free from prison.

What Christians can takeaway from Jesus’ quotes of Isaiah 61 in Luke 4 is that the activities quoted from Isaiah were primarily spiritual. Jesus’ ministry was mainly 3 pronged: preaching, healing, casting out demons. Deyoung said, “Do not miss this fact: there is not a single example of Jesus going into a town with the intent to heal or cast out demons.” Jesus never sought out on a healing or exorcism tour. Yes, Jesus clearly did heal people and cast out demons, but his intent was to preach the good news! There are plenty of miracles and acts to celebrate but they are not the point! So, Deyoung drew the clear conclusion, “The mission of Jesus is not liberation broadly conceived.” Instead, the focus of Jesus’ ministry is on teaching. The heart of his ministry centers on who He is (christology). Jesus was centered on the good news of who he is and where he’s going and that is the cross. Deyoung showed how Jesus was focused on the proclamation of the Gospel through teaching, the corroboration of the Gospel through signs and wonders, and the accomplishment of the gospel in his death and resurrection.

  • So, who did Jesus come to reach?

Jesus came to reach “the poor (Luke 4:18).” The “poor” Luke uses in the Greek is the word “tokos.” According to Deyoung, this word does have a material significance attached to it, but it is NOT mainly the poor. If this were the case then the captives and oppressed in these verses would also be literal, but they’re not, so “tokos” is referring to the humble person. Just think about it, how could Jesus say “today this Scripture is fulfilled” if he meant literally captives would be set free? He must have been referring to those spiritually held captive by their sin. What you will absolutely notice is that upon Christ’s proclamation of the fulfillment of Isaiah 61 NO social structures had been transformed! So, “tokos” is referring to the spiritually broken hearted-the poor.

Furthermore, look at the two examples of the “poor” Jesus gives. The first is a widow who actually was a very materially poor person (verse 4:26). But, the second example was the complete opposite! Naaman the Syrian (4:27) was a general who was very wealthy and on the top of society. Both the widow and Naaman knew their need and they humbled themselves, so they both had poverty of spirit.

  • Finally, Deyoung asked, “How would Jesus be received?”

Well, his hometown noticed his works and his teaching, and they acknowledged him but then thought he was being too audacious! They were too familiar with Jesus to be impressed with him. Deyoung warned us all “familiarity breeds unbelief.” The New Testament is interested in a faith that is worshipping Jesus, but everyone who heard Jesus say what he said in the synagogue on the day Luke 4 records-they all hated him and wanted to kill him!

So, Deyoung gave 3 final takeaways:

  • Jesus’ ministry tells us about preaching. Jesus chose to announce, speak, and preach! Deyoung said, “Great movements of God have always been sparked by great preaching about God.”
  • Preaching will be received by unlikely people. He asked a question we all need to ask if we are going to serve the Lord in evangelism… “Are you prepared for those who receive the Gospel to not be people like you?”
  • Perception: We must be prepared to be misunderstood like Jesus.

2. Beyond Deyoung’s sermon, I was also struck by the appearance of a next generation of TGC leadership. Specifically, I was struck by the inclusion of Trip Lee, H.B. Charles, Julius Kim, and David Platt. If you know who these men are then you know they are all pastors, but they are a diverse group of men. I attended the 2017 TGC national conference and two things stood out about the leadership then: first, that they were all eligible for AARP, and secondly they were all white. I was encouraged to see younger men invited to speak, and especially younger men representing multiple contexts (black, white, Asian, baptist, Presbyterian, hip-hop artist, dean of a seminary, etc).

3. TGC Women: In a world desperately in need of good women’s materials, and strong biblical women leaders, I believe TGC is doing an excellent job. I attended a breakout session led by Jen Wilkin, and was encouraged by her biblical focus and her overall fingerprint for the current state of the church, and especially in regards to the need for good women ministries and supplemental materials. I certainly noticed the high percentage of women in attendance at the conference, and I see this to be a very good sign for the influence TGC is having in women’s ministries.

4. TGC Intl: Beyond the representation of women in ministry, I was equally as encouraged by the action taking place around the globe by the instituting of TGC Intl. chapters. These entities adhere to TGC statement of faith, but are their own governing entities who are equipping evangelicals in their respective nations to be ministering in their specific contexts! To learn more, click this link: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/io/

5. Matt Boswell’s worship music leading influence. I’ve grown to be very thankful for the ministry contribution of Matt Boswell. Matt leads worship in a way that is theologically sound, free from sensationalism, free in the Spirit, and not distracting. I wish I could say this was common in modern evangelicalism, but it is not. I’m very thankful that the Church has Matt not only to lead us, but also to help train up a next generation of pastors who lead musical worship.

Overall, I was very encouraged by TGC19. A big thank you to all the plenary speakers, everyone who put on the event, the worship band for leading us, and the dozens of break-out session speakers.

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