The best of the Shepherds’ Conference

The fellowship, exhortation, and instruction of the Shepherds’ Conference is always a highpoint of my year. And this year was no exception.

A couple of weeks after the conference, I always like to read back through my notes on the messages and remind myself of some of the significant and challenging things that were said. I did that again today and found myself profoundly moved in gratitude and worship several times.

What follows are some of those statements. [Note: while I have these in quotation marks, I am quite certain that they are not all word-perfect transcriptions; for a completely accurate rendition of the statements and the context in which they are given I encourage you to listen to the messages here; the TMAI pre-conference messages have also been posted.]

John MacArthur:

  • “Don’t overestimate your importance in ministry. It is a mercy. Everything that comes to us is a mercy.…All of ministry is a gift of mercy to the undeserving. You didn’t earn it and you don’t deserve it and your imperfections won’t destroy what you didn’t earn.”
  • “If you tamper with the truth you may make a friend but you will not change a heart.”
  • “The doctrine of depravity is an encouraging word. It is encouraging to me that I can’t awaken a dead sinner, so I just preach the Word that the Spirit uses to awaken the dead sinner. It is God who said ‘Light shall shine out of darkness’ is the One who has shone in our hearts…The only way a blinded dead sinner will ever see the light when He does a miracle in the soul like he did in creating light in Genesis.”
  • “We are plain, fragile. But such weakness does not prove fatal to the power of the gospel!”
  • “I only think of one thing when I speak: ‘Is this true?’ If you believe it, say it. So it brings suffering? I will not change the message. I can’t believe something and not say it, no matter what persecution comes.…We’re bound to speak what we believe.”
  • “God has come to us in Christ and God wants us to love Him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength — with all our faculties.…if you are damned for not loving the Lord, then you are given eternity by loving the Lord.”

Phil Johnson

  • “We desperately need a generation of men of the spirit of Luther and Calvin who are not afraid to wage a war against false gospels.”
  • “There is no way to see the cross as anything but offensive; we cannot preach the gospel without offending some hearers.”
  • “If your aim is to be stylish with the world, you have already compromised the gospel — you’re preaching yourself rather than Christ Jesus as Lord. The gospel is dramatically unsophisticated. Try to spice it up or tone it down and you will corrupt it.”

Michael Reeves

  • “In Jesus Christ you exchange darkness for light because He shows us an unsurpassably full God — a righteous and a kind God. A God who makes us tremble in awe and rejoice in wonder.”
  • “Christ was the One through whom all things were made. But secular thinking has eaten away the thinking about this leaving many Christians with the sneaking suspicion that while He might be the Savior, but He is not really the Creator of all. So they will sing of His redemption on Sunday, but walking on the streets they don’t feel that this is all Christ’s world — as if this world is a secular world. The result is Jesus gets reduced to a comforting nibble of chocolate…an imaginary friend. The Bible knows nothing of such a piffling Christ.”
  • “Where every other belief system has nothingness or chaos at its foundation, here at the bottom of Christianity we do not see fundamental nothingness or chaos or a god exercising arbitrary Father, but we see a God who is love. This God would not be who He is if He did not love. If He did not love, He could not be the Father. To be who He is, He must love. To be the Father means to love and to beget the Son.”
  • “If Christ is not the eternal Son then God is not the eternal Father then He cannot make us His sons. Christ has no closeness to share with us. If the Son had never been close He could not bring us to that relationship. So, with no eternal Son, then God would be loveless and salvation would look entirely different. Hirelings we would be, but not sons. But the gospel of the eternal Son gives us an intimacy and confidence with the most High, beloved children of the most High. There is not other God who can do that to give us such an exalted status. With this God only we can say with all sincerity, ‘Our Father…’”
  • “We sometimes speak as if our only problem is that God is perfectly holy and we are not. And if that is our only problem, then we’ll just try again. But if the problem is the necessity to be brought into the family, then no amount of effort will suffice. Effort will produce slaves, but not sons. Sonship is free.”
  • “Brothers, preach Christ. Christ alone. The eternal Word. the eternal Son, for there is no other gospel without Him. There is no Christ if you do not preach Christ alone. This is the center we must hold ourselves to. We preach Christ. Christ alone. We preach Him to ourselves, to His people, to the world. And that is what honors the Reformation. And that is the beginning of all reformation. And that is what will reform lives and the church today. When Christ is faithfully preached, the world will see His glory and that is the only light that will drive out and overcome all darkness.”

Ligon Duncan

  • “…we cannot commend one whom we do not supremely cherish. And if we have not been satisfied by the Bread of Life, we will poorly commend Him to those who need Him for salvation and life.”
  • “Jesus is concerned about why people are seeking Him. And we should be concerned, too. In Jesus’ kindness, He has a profound concern for their misdirected desires.”

Mark Jones

  • “Hugh Martin, in The Shadow of Calvary says that if He had not made the petitions in the Garden, we might question His sinlessness. He knows that He is going to go into the fury of the holiness of God and if He did not shrink back from that, we might question whether He really was the Christ for only a sadistic fool would go into that. The prospect of the Father turning His face away from Him — how could He not ask, ‘remove this cup from Me?’…But those requests were wrapped in the words, ‘Your will be done.’ He was obedient — and it led Him to the cross.”
  • “We can say this much about Heaven: it is the eternal vindication of our Savior. Those who accuse Him will have nothing to say.”
  • “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle — He gives a lot more than you can handle! He did so to His own Son. The cries from the cross are those that are from One who has been given more than He can handle — otherwise we wouldn’t need God. It leads to heartache and tears — and also Heaven. So Christ had to live by faith. Is that not our struggle daily? Once Christ had been forsaken by the Father, then we had a merciful Savior who could minister to us in every situation (cf. Heb. 5:9; 7:19…). Our God does understand; our Savior too was in a time of need. So we can be glad when the Lord gives us more than we can handle, for in those times, we can ask, “Have mercy on me,” and we can be sure that He will have mercy on us.”

Stephen Nichols

  • “God rests far too casually on the shoulders of the American church.”
  • “The worst kind of selfishness is selfishness with the gospel. And there is no greater urgency than now to preach this Christ who became accursed for us.”

Mark Dever

  • “Jesus is not just another religious figure. When we preach Christ and the truth about who He is and what He’s done, we inevitably turn to how that affects us — because He bids us to take up His cross and follow Him.”
  • “It is in the very nature of God to communicate and establish relationship.”
  • “Everything is utterly dependent on Him every second. Sometimes we speak as if we do God a favor by believing in Him. God is not dependent on us, but we are dependent on Him every second of every day of our lives.”
  • “…it’s not pride for the sun to be the center of our universe, because it was made to have that place. And only Christ is to have the central place in our lives. He is the final audience to which we and all creation play. We should study to find what pleases Him.”
  • “He is a sovereign God, but He is also a loving and reconciling God.”
  • “God is not morally indifferent. He is not overlooking the actions of His mischievous creatures. God has a keener sense of justice than our clearest thoughts can imagine. It is the death of Christ that is the clearest picture of His hatred of sin.”
  • “Don’t assume that the people who come to your church understand the gospel. It’s not just the unbelievers who need to hear the gospel; we also need to hear the good news of the gospel because it is what sustains us day by day.”

Miguel Nuñez

  • “Salvation demands that we must believe that Jesus is equal to no one; He is something other than all men! All pathways do lead to God — but some to appear at the judgment seat of Christ! The Buddhist and Hindu and moralist will all get to the presence of God, but all for his judgment.”
  • “If we do not stand by faith, we will not stand at all. We must stand by faith or we will face damnation.”
  • “Christ told us to follow Him because He is the way. He is not only taking us, but He will never leave nor forsake us. He is the way — the linkage between two different points: man to God, darkness to light, slavery to freedom, an orphan to son, death to life. He is the way.”
  • “Adam fell when he embraced a lie and ceased to believe the truth. It was that simple. The mess we find ourselves in today is the result of Adam’s exchange of the truth for a lie.”
  • “Man has become a slave to his own value system. We do not see things the way they are; we see them the way we are. But Christ is the One who allows us to focus and see the truth and lies for what they both are.”
  • “We either go to Heaven with Him or to Hell without Him and that is the brutal truth. Therefore, we must persuade men that He is the truth that will set men free from the bondage of sin and that He is life in whom we live and move and have our being.”

H. B. Charles

  • “You cannot experience the power of God by focusing on yourself or your circumstances; you finish the race of faith by looking to Jesus (Heb. 12:1-3).”
  • “The power of God that raised Him up, sat Him down! The greatness of the power of God is seen in where God seated Christ — at His right hand in the heavenly places. He is not standing at the right hand of the Father as a servant or kneeling as a slave, but seated next to Him as a Son co-equal in power and authority.…[Christ] is seated next the Father ruling infinitely higher over anything that is named — if you can name it, the seated sovereign Christ is in charge of everything.”
  • “People seem to be attracted to Jesus Christ but reject His church — either they don’t know about Christ or the church, or both. You can’t have a high view of Christ and a low view of the church.”

Al Mohler

  • “Evangelicals in this culture think that the culture is too important and if we are clever enough, we can make peace with this culture. And that is profoundly at odds with the Scripture.”
  • “…the culture will not think better of us if we are preaching the cross of Christ.”
  • “The world is not reminiscing about the time when Christians had greater authority in the culture! They rejected Christ to His face — the saw His works and hated Him all the more (John 15:24). And they killed Him.”
  • “There is no way we can expect that the gospel can be preached without scandal. There is no way to preach this gospel without scandal. And we desperately need to know this.”

Tom Pennington:

  • “The good news we embrace is not a blind leap of faith. It relies on the eye-witness testimony of 500 individuals who saw the Savior.”
  • “If Christ has not been raised, then the gospel he has just explained, the gospel is empty. Either the tomb is empty or the gospel is empty. The resurrection is what supports the gospel. If there is no resurrection, the gospel is just an ancient fiction.”
  • “If Christ is not raised, then not only is the gospel vain, but so is your faith. It is worthless and without any value. Contrary to postmodernism, what you believe matters. No amount of faith helps if the object of your faith is flawed. Our faith is in a risen Lord and if He is still dead, then our faith is hopeless!”
  • “If Christ hasn’t been raised then all of those who have preached Christ are no better than any other false prophet and they are under the condemnation of God.”
  • “If there is no resurrection, then nothing Christ said can be trusted.”
  • “The resurrection was God’s official seal of approval on the sacrificial death of Christ. On Friday, Christ called out, ‘It is finished.’ And all Heaven waited to see what God would say. On Sunday morning, with the resurrection, God the Father declared, ‘It is finished.’”
  • “Remind yourself and your people that the gospel always includes the resurrection. You must believe in the resurrection of Christ from the dead; it is to believe that He is the Son of God, Redeemer, and all that He claimed to be.”

Steve Lawson:

  • “We will never preach any better than when we will preach of this Good Shepherd. There needs to be less of us and more of Him in our preaching. He is the chief, great, and good Shepherd. The best service we can do to our people is to do all that we can to hold forth His goodness and greatness. This is the exclusive claim.”
  • “The reason that we have come to faith in Christ is because Jesus said, ‘I must…you will [Jn. 10:16].’”
  • “The Father loves the Son because of His obedience; the Son was not off doing His own thing, but was submitting Himself to the eternal decree of the Father.”

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