Monday, 10 November 2014

Canberra Men: Free from Guilt and Stuptidity

Last month I attended the Canberra Men's Christian Convention for maybe my seventh time. That alone should give you an indication that I think these conventions are worth attending. This year they had Simon Manchester speaking on the book of Galatians as well as three electives.

I think it was a hard task for Simon to cover all six chapters of Galatians over three talks, but I think he pulled it off quite well, even if the sessions sometimes felt like a series of dot points. The background to this book is that people were leaving the "basic" faith for something else, for they have been told that they need to add or supplement something else to their faith to really fulfil their obligation to God. Paul is writing to these guys pretty much saying "Why would you leave this? Why leave something so good?"

The first two talks were on freedom from guilt and the last talk was on freedom from stupidity (or sin). Really the goal was for us to move from looking in the mirror at ourselves assessing if we are good or bad to looking through the window out to Calvary.

Paul may have being dismissed by heretics of the day, so he goes on the defence in chapters 1 and 2 of Galatians. He points out the change in his life and their own lives when they first heard about the grace and peace they received from being delivered from their sins (1:3-5). This message is based on a historical event, not their own abilities. Paul points out the message he uniquely received aligned with the message of the other Apostles. They were on the same mission. They were on about justification of faith. (This book isn't like Romans, it doesn't expand on this idea, it assumed they already know it and it is calling people to come back to this point.) Simon ended with a long quote by Carson about how pagan the idea is that when we have a bad day we feel far from God and when we have a good day we feel all holy and right with Him. We shouldn't approach God on the basis of our day, but on the basis of the finished work of the cross.

The second talk on Galatians 3-4 continued on the freedom from guilt idea and touched on many ideas that kinda felt like a series of dot points. Simon pointed out that now that we are saved, it is not from the fight of sin but for a fight of sin. We need to be entrenched in the message of grace. Simon encouraged and challenged the married guys to pray with their wives. Chapter 3 is how God's word bring life and hope. First there is an argument from their own experience involving their receiving the Spirit and then an argument from a series of Scripture quotes. We need to learn the do/done distinction between religion and Christianity. Religion said we have to do something, Christianity says it has already been done in Christ. The grace we receive brings about sonship and adoption. This is greater than just being declared right (justified) before God, because it also means God takes you home after being acquitted.

In the last session Simon went through the last two chapters of Galatians. Christians are saved from legalism and license. We need to constantly remind ourselves of the Gospel and that God's mercy is bigger than sin. We can do this by the Holy Spirit, if we are humble enough to ask for His help. Paul contrasts 15 examples of evil desires we are to fight with nine attributes or fruits that are produced from the Spirit (5:19-23). The Christian life is also not lived in isolation, but we are to care for others and carry their burdens. To some extent we reap what we sow, if we sow sin, we reap it, if we sow things from the Sprint we reap that. Simon left us with the idea that we are to run to godliness, not stupidity. God is slow to judge and quick to love, why would you run anywhere else?

This time round the conference also ran three electives. The were on "lessons from military ministry", "the gospel and same-sex attraction" and "facing death in the face". I attended the one on same-sex attraction and found it quite interesting. The speaker talked about his experience being involved with Liberty Christian Ministries and you can read that talk here. After the talk there were questions via SMS and from the floor, which I thought went well. Unfortunately the audio recording for this event didn't work.

If this conference encouraged 350 men to go home to read and re-read Galatians, then I think it was a big success. The talks will go up on their site for free, so when they go live you should download them. Next year they are moving the conference to the middle of the year and the speaker is Vaughan Roberts.

Past CMCC conferences I have reviewed:

Kinda disclaimer: I should probably disclose that since the start of this year I have been helping out with Requip, which is one (the smallest) arm of Canberra Christian Conventions, of which Canberra Men's Convention is also under.


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