Resolved Conference 2008, Palm Springs
Two weeks ago this moment, Nanci and I were flying home after the Resolved Conference in Palm Springs. Coming back to a green Oregon summer was nice after it hit 115 degrees in Palm Springs.
It was fun talking with many of the 3300 people there, mostly students. They ranged from teenagers to early, mid and late twenties. Numbers of older folk (like me; I turned 54 last week) enjoyed the conference too. When I was invited and saw who the other speakers were, I blocked off the entire conference. Even though I spoke Saturday and Sunday mornings, Nanci and I stayed through the end on Monday night and came home Tuesday.
I had some great meetings with students, including several groups from the Master's college and seminary. (Our daughters attended the Master's College and loved it, and we loved it too.) The speakers had meals together, and it was fun discussing theology with John Piper, John MacArthur, C.J. Mahaney, Steve Lawson and Rick Holland.
But to us, the best thing about the Resolved Conference was its conclusion on Monday night, when C.J. Mahaney spoke on Christ's crucifixion (Mark 15:34 - "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"), and then after the break, John Piper tied things together in the final session, drawing from Romans 8.
It was an unforgettable evening, one of the most powerful I've ever been part of.
All the audio messages from the conference are available for free on the Resolved website; videos of the messages can be downloaded for $4 each. I'd especially recommend downloading CJ's final message and John Piper's final message. (These links are to the audio, but if you prefer the video, for the cost of a latte, buy it. Seeing CJ and John will enhance the message, I think.)
CJ spoke of our Savior's cry, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?" And though I have contemplated that amazing cry often, never did it hit me as hard as in CJ's message, when he referred to it as "the scream of the Damned." The place was full of tears and worship.
Then there was break and music and announcements, and John Piper stood up to bring his message. Several of us had prayed in a back room that God would anoint John, and pick right up where He left off in the previous message, and wow, did He. John referred repeatedly to the "scream of the Damned," and then moved into Romans 8. Though much that was glorious happened throughout the weekend, and I had wonderful interaction with groups of students and individuals, that night was particularly unforgettable.
A couple of days after the conference I wrote a letter to CJ and John. I hadn't planned on doing this when I wrote it, but I think God is leading me to place it here, as an expression of how God touched me that night. My letter to these good brothers will be the rest of this blog. Pictures from the conference are interspersed, but don't necessarily tie to what I'm saying in the letter (though the photos of CJ and John speaking do).
CJ and John,
I wanted to send this to the two of you in gratitude (mostly to God, secondarily to you) in particular for the final night of Resolved. I have been moved to tears and deep worship many times, but not in recent memory to the extent that I was Monday night.
Mark 15 and CJ’s “scream of the damned…for us” touched me at a profound level. The Holy Spirit spoke. And though I prayed and knew that John’s message would beautifully end the conference, I was not prepared for the way it happened.
I have never seen, orchestrated or unorchestrated (in this case orchestrated by the Holy Spirit), one single seamless message spoken by two men with nearly an hour between the end of one and the beginning of the other. I stood that night on sacred ground, as did you.
Yesterday early afternoon, in the Palm Springs airport, I opened to Mark 15 and wept again. I then did something I have done only twice before, once on the day my 85-year-old father, in a hospital bed, repented of his sin and surrendered to Christ. The other time when my best friend from childhood died next to me as I was reading to him Revelation 21-22, leaving this world precisely when I was reading 22:17: “The Spirit and the bride say ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes let him take the free gift of the water of life.”
What I did on those occasions was write a date in my Bible: Feb. 9, 1992 at my Father’s conversion, and October 8, 1992 at my friend Jerry’s home-going between “Come!” and “take the free gift of the water of life.” The date is still there beside the verse I was reading when he died.
Without thinking about this, yesterday at the airport I wrote next to Mark 15:34, “June 16, 2008.” Then something else happened. I wrote after the date, “The Scream of the…” And I suddenly stopped, overwhelmed, breathless, pen frozen in hand. Why? Because I suddenly realized I needed to capitalize the word “Damned.” It was physically hard for me to do it. It seemed almost blasphemous…and so it should.
The unrighteous damned have no right to ask God why He has forsaken them (the reasons are self-evident to all who understand His holiness and our sin), but God’s Son the Beloved One had the right to ask, even knowing the answer and having participated in eternity past in the damning decision. He is the Lamb damned before the foundation of the world. So while the (lower case) damned will scream forever, ultimately there is only one Scream of the (upper case) Damned. Unthinkable. Inconceivable. And yet it happened…for us.
A flood of tears came as God preached the message to me yet again. That Deity would be Damned. That the God who is called upon righteously by the saints and angels in heaven to damn people, and called upon habitually by unbelievers flippantly and unrighteously to damn people, would in fact damn his Son, would (from the Son’s willingness to drink the cup) damn himself…for us. That it could be said of the Beloved One, “God damned Him,” and that He screamed the scream of the Damned….it was too much for me. It is too much for me this moment. And in the ages to come it will continue to be too much for me.
The cup of His suffering has long seemed deep to me, but never deeper than Monday night and the two days since.
Thank you, brothers, for being cleansed vessels, usable for eternal purposes. It was not only 3300 students whose hearts were marked for eternity Monday night. It was mine. You are not celebrities to me, but you are my mentors, in more ways that I can express. Thank you.
And thank you, Lord, for these two men, who you used as one on Monday night—guard their hearts and empower them to finish well, bowing their knees to you moment by moment, day by day.
And thanks forever to the One who screamed the scream of the Damned…and whose praises we will sing for all eternity.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Grateful to be eternally undamned by the Damned,