It's been two weeks since I returned from The Gospel Coalition for Women conference. It's taken me two weeks to process and feel like I can even put my experience into words. I had an amazing time. But let me tell you it hasn't been without a little bit of struggle. Good struggle. But struggle nonetheless.
When I was hired by the church, they asked if I wanted to attend TGCW Conference and after thinking about it for all of about 12 seconds, I agreed. I mean, I am a conference person. You probably could have guessed this about me. By that I mean, there were nearly 4000 women at the conference. They all love Jesus. I knew only two of them--what an opportunity for the extrovert in me to make friends. No, that's not the real reason I came. But it is a reason.
More importantly, the speakers here are what I would call the "greatest hits" of theology today. Tim Keller. John Piper. D.A. Carson. Elyse Fitzpatrick. Paige Benton Brown. If there were ever a group of speakers that were serious about knowing God and getting others to seek his face, this is the lot. The conference itself had a sort of tagline: "a conference that is for women but not about women." What does that mean? It means the conference focused solely on the good news of Jesus, not on the specifics of being a Christian woman.
This really played out by serious, intentional theological discussion from Friday afternoon til Sunday afternoon. Picture hearing your favorite pastors with intense sermons hour after hour, all weekend long. It sounds good, right? But it also sounds, um, intense. And that's the best way I can describe this. By Saturday night, all I could say was, "the brain is full." I kept repeating it over and over again, "the brain is full." I had tears in my eyes. I didn't even know what to say. It was good. But it was a lot.
Lucky for me, I got to build great relationships and really talk about what all these speakers were sharing with my heart. By Sunday, I was unpacking a little better. My heart and my head were still full but I was able to appreciate it a little more. Psalm 34:8 says, "Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him." We kept saying the conference was like a Thanksgiving dinner. By the time you're in the middle, the fullness almost hurts. But you still want more because you want to taste each good thing on the table. We tasted til we were stuffed.
So what did I learn after all this? On the broad spectrum, there were parts of scripture that I saw in a completely new way. Paige Benton Brown spoke on 1 Kings and the temple. I'll be honest--I never thought I could be that excited about the Old Testament temple. But I was more than excited, I was blown away. As I'm typing this, I am actually listening to it again to try and grasp a little more. The conference intentionally went from Exodus to Revelation, tracing Jesus through the whole thing. Jesus? In the Old Testament? You betcha. God places his redemptive story through the entire Bible. We need only look. Or in some cases, (like mine) we need to be shown.
The biggest takeaway I had was also what you might consider the simplest message: all I need is the stripped down gospel--the good news of Jesus Christ. That's the amazing thing about Christianity. The deeper my faith gets, the more I learn, the longer I live this faith out, there aren't any new steps. I don't have to learn a higher level of intellectual depth. In fact--the main message becomes fresh and new and more important than ever. What I learned at The Gospel Coalition is this: Our God is absolutely more powerful and more holy than we can imagine. From the beginning of humanity, he's wanted a relationship with us. But we are so, so sinful. Our condition is worse than we can ever imagine. That's why he sent his son. He loved us so deeply that he gave up his perfect son in exchange for us, so that we might have relationship with him. It's nothing we did--everything was done by Jesus and his death on the cross. We can't be loved any more or any less because of good deeds we do. If we are in Christ, when God looks at us, he doesn't see anything we've done at all. He sees his spotless son. And one day, full redemption will happen with a new heaven and a new earth.
Sound familiar? Elementary, even? Sure is. It's the same concepts we teach in Crossing Kids each week. The same stuff I learned on a felt board in my Sunday school class growing up. That's the amazing thing about the gospel. The Good News. It is all we need. It's old. We've heard it. And yet. YET. The Holy Spirit makes it new in us over and over again. I will be honest and say I know I can't even grasp how much my God loves me. Can you? No way.
The gospel is amazing because it is both so simple and so complex. It's enough. It's enough when we are three and it's enough when we have heard it 300 times. Jesus loves you. And me. And he died for us. Because he loves us. To have relationship with us. Forever.
Yes, I made great friendships that weekend. I took so many notes. I learned about the danger of comparison from Carolyn Mahaney and the splendor of Revelation from D.A. Carson. I have so many books that I want to read as a result of the conference. But more than anything, I got time to bask in the glory of our God and his perfect son Jesus. And that is all I can ask for. Ever.
To read, watch, or listen to the Gospel Coalition speakers, go to http://thegospelcoalition.org/conferences/2012-womens/#media.
Don't think about whether you want to. Just do it. You'll be so glad you did. And then email me. And we'll grab coffee and share the gospel all over again. Yes, we'll both have heard it. But I have a feeling the Father will make it fresh to us all over again.