Some Reflections on Together for the Gospel by Bob Kauflin
Bob Kauflin, who led the Together for the Gospel conference in worship has written some brief but poigniant reflections concerning the event. From his blog at www.worshipmatters.com he writes:
...I thought the Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, Kentucky was a whirlwind. Much to remember, much to celebrate, much to respond to. Who knows what kind of fruit will emerge from these three days?
One thing is certain. C.J. Mahaney, Lig Duncan, Al Mohler, and Mark Dever have not only instructed us on the unity the Gospel brings. They have demonstrated it. This conference brought men from very diverse backgrounds together to talk, worship God, learn, and grow. And itâ€™s all because of the Gospel.
Music was one area in which the effect of the Gospel was obvious. Thereâ€™s no question that music in the church is an explosive and divisive issue. In fact, early on in the conference planning, there was talk of having no music, to minimize distractions. Wisdom prevailed, however, and we obeyed Godâ€™s command to sing his praises (Ps. 47:6). Mark Dever sent me the original list of songs to choose from. I added a few, and then decided when we would sing them during the conference, with Mark's approval. We combined well known and not-so-well-known hymns with a few Sovereign Grace songs.
At the conference, God enabled us to transcend our stylistic preferences, lay down our understanding of what kind of music God really likes, and simply lift our hearts and voices to Him with jubilant, loud, passionate, Christ-exalting praise. It probably wasnâ€™t exactly like anyoneâ€™s experience in their local setting. The music was a little toned down from what I â€œnormallyâ€ do, as I usually play with a full band. For some, Iâ€™m sure extended clapping after a song was a new occurence, perhaps something theyâ€™ve been warned against. But the clapping wasnâ€™t something I encouraged â€“ it happened spontaneously. No one seemed to notice because our hearts and minds were focused on the One to Whom we were giving glory. The only Savior whose sacrificial death has atoned for all our transgressions and saved us from Godâ€™s just wrath. The perfect Son of God Who bore our sins so that we might be clothed in His righteousness.
The take away is this: when we concentrate on what really matters in our relationship with God â€“ the unity He has given us with Himself and each other through the Gospel - peripheral issues fade into the background. Maybe thatâ€™s how itâ€™s always supposed to beâ€¦
HOW SWEET AND AWFUL
When planning the songs for the Together for the Gospel conference with Mark Dever, he suggested a hymn that I knew about but had never sung. It's called How Sweet and Awful is the Place, and was written by my historical hero, Isaac Watts. Numerous guys came up to me at the conference and told me how much the words had affected them. Terry Stauffer from Alberta, Canada blogged on it. As I was considering what to post this morning, the words of the hymn kept coming to mind.
1. How sweet and awful is the place
With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays
The choicest of her stores.
2. While all our hearts and all our songs
Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues,
"Lord, why was I a guest?"
3. "Why was I made to hear Thy voice,
And enter while there's room,
When thousands make a wretched choice,
And rather starve than come?"
4. 'Twas the same love that spread the feast
That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.
5. Pity the nations, O our God,
Constrain the earth to come;
Send Thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.
6. We long to see Thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May, with one voice and heart and soul,
Sing Thy redeeming grace.
By Isaac Watts (1674-1748). Public Domain.
Two thoughts stood out to me as we sang this hymn at the conference last week. First, it models a proper response to the glorious and mysterious doctrine of election. In light of our persistent, pervasive, and complete defiance of God's commands, the question we should be asking is not, "Why aren't some people saved?" but "How can anyone be saved?" More to the point, "Lord, why was I a guest? Why was I made to hear Your voice?" A true understanding of God' sovereignty should produce a growing gratefulness, humility, and dependence in our lives.
Second, I was deeply affected by the expressed desire in the last verse. "We long to see your churches full" - not simply for the sake of numbers or our own reputation. We long to see God's churches full with those whose hearts, voices, and souls sing of God's redeeming grace, provided through the glorious Gospel. To see the church that our Savior redeemed with His own blood, passionately proclaiming with their lips and lives the good news that our sins have been paid for, and through faith in Jesus Christ, we can be fully reconciled to God and included in His gracious plans.
How sweet, how awe-ful, is this place - with Christ.