Josh and I went to the Linger Conference in Dallas over the weekend. It consisted of wise men such as John Piper, Matt Chandler, and Tullian Tchividjian to name a few. And there was also…well, lingering.
What does “lingering” even mean? The whole premise behind the conference was to create an atmosphere for believers to be still in the presence of God. This fleshed itself out in various forms from worship to meditation to hearing the the gospel preached.
My heart has been filled by the love of God through all that has occurred during the Linger Conference and I am just now able to find time to sit and get my thoughts out. Rather than individualizing each transformative message heard, I’d like to unfold the crescendo affect they have all had on my heart accompanied by personal reflection culminating with the glory of Christ ever more desired by my soul.
Tchividjian quoted John Calvin on the reality of the human heart:
“The human heart is an idol factory…Every one of us from our mothers womb is an expert in inventing idols.”
My husband preached over small groups this morning. His introduction honed in on the depravity of man. I can’t seem to escape this truth. Everywhere I look, everyone I hear, everyday I see it to be true in myself. Though I have been cleansed from my former state of rebellion by the blood of Christ, my affections continue to reveal the residue that lurks in corners of my heart. John Calvin said it best – the human heart is indeed an idol factory. While reading through Exodus 32 on Saturday, my similarity to the Israelites was apparent. Though I would rather liken myself to Moses, so adamant about having the presence of God, in reality I am often like the Israelites. Their impatience with Moses revealed the fickleness of their hope in Yahweh. They were quick to turn to idolatry. Aaron’s response to Moses as he is being questioned about the great sin in verse 24 makes me shudder: “So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.” Oh how like the people of Israel I can be!
Ben Stuart explained the snowball affect of sin that begins with war waged in our minds as this: “What I think about is what I care about, and what I care about I will chase.”
In our foolishness, we don’t know the outcome of our misplaced affections. All we know is that we need satisfaction and the Fountain isn’t getting us where we want to go so we take it upon ourselves to find other means. In doing so we don’t see the darkness behind these actions, all we seek is to be full. It may look like attaining the perfect body, getting the recognition and approval from the people we want to be seen by, or so many other platforms of deception. But oh how much deeper the problem really is! It’s in our heart. There’s an idol.
So here I sit with the reality that my heart can deceive me. It has and it will. Yet I have a greater desire to linger with the Lord. How can this be reconciled?
We preach the gospel to ourselves daily. We rub up against others in such a transparent and real way that sin can be made apparent. We get uncomfortable.
Dwell upon Christ’s justifying work. It is because of HIS finished work that I no longer have to work for my salvation. I fight against the temptation to work for love and satisfaction by going back to the Cross. Justification. Chandler reminded us that God begins his relationship with us by justification. We are made right before God and set apart in Christ. God is the justifier. And any other channel we attempt to take to get God will lead to furthered rebellion.
Such a fight takes time. But how in the world can we linger with the Lord in all our busy days? Some work multiple jobs, some have multiple children, and some just struggle with junk that keeps them down. How do we fight for time to dwell on such truth? It’s going to look different for each of us. I am a morning person and that is when my affections are stirred most for God, though I am looking for other ways for such affections to be aroused throughout my “mundane” when Norah wakes up and the labor begins. But there must be time set apart daily. Consistency through the power of God, pleading with him for strength when we don’t even desire him. And then this glimpse of grace rings true:
We are free to fail.
Romans 8:1 states,”There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Now if that isn’t freeing then I don’t know what is. We aren’t going to do this all right. We are still dealing with the idols. We will still let people down. We won’t be the perfect parents. We won’t be the perfect spouses. But in Christ, we have hope to and grace to pursue him and grow in all of those roles. This doesn’t mean that we should be satisfied with failing like this text is a license for that. On the contrary, we see the One who never failed and took the failure of the elect upon Himself on the Tree and we make that our daily anthem. We strive to run hard in this race and train our minds and hearts to pursue Him through the word and through communion with Him.
In the panel discussion on Saturday afternoon, the men were asked “How do you linger when there is no desperation?” and Piper responded that we are to “cultivate a taste for God Himself so that in the good times or bad you can behold him.”
You see, we aren’t gearing up for the hard times when they come knocking at our doors. Rather, we prepare now. We make God the apex. Write down what stirs our affections for him. Write down what affections lead us away from him. This goes hand-in-hand with suffering. Piper went on to say that we don’t start to get an understanding of suffering while we are knee deep in it. We start 10 years earlier. NOW. Put on the words that the Apostle Paul was so acquainted with: suffering yet always rejoicing.
This providence is a good providence because our Sovereign Lord smiles to his children behind it.
And lastly I consider Piper’s message from last night- the transforming work of such correctly placed affections. When my heart and mind are set on things above (Col. 3:3), Hebrews 13:14-16 takes root in my heart and brings forth a paradigm of sojourning and settling: “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
Christ fits in every culture, yet in every culture the opposition to the gospel becomes apparent. This is not the American gospel we take to Papua New Guinea. This is the gospel that will fit in to every culture. Yet due to depravity, every culture will deny the gospel in some way. We as believers are sojourners. We await a city that is not bound by any culture outside of that where the sun and moon will be the face of Jesus Christ and the anthem of every people represented will be: “Behold The Lamb!”
Oh how sweet it has been to linger with my husband and two dear friends this weekend. Now, I look gladly at brighter days, further enlightened by the word of God and the Spirit at work, preparing for darker days, and hoping in this:
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22).