This was my 4th year attending the L’Abri conference. Let it be known that this is the most on the staff team besides grandpa Wampler. Anyway, I didn’t really have any huge expectations. I have heard a great many stories about how people’s worldviews have been completely broken down, built back up again, and changed the way they view the world (in a good way), and I was excited for them. That hadn’t really happened to me until this year when I heard Jerram Barrs speak.I don’t know why this was the case. I’ve heard him give great lectures before at this conference. As I reflect on that week, his lectures might have been so impactful this year because of where I was (and in some ways still am) at spiritually. I am a perfectionist. I love structure. If you tell me to do something, I’m going to figure out a way to work my tail off and get it done. This doesn’t get you very far spiritually. You see, I am someone who is highly aware of my shortcomings, flaws, and sins. It’s very easy for me to grasp the idea that I’m a sinner. My struggle is believing that God accepts me despite my sin. I am often paralyzed and driven to despair when I think about my sin. I ask God to help me figure out a way that I can be perfect and “get the job done” so to speak. Can you see now why this mentality doesn’t work out spiritually? There is nothing I can do to meet God’s standards – hence the need for Christ.
That’s where I was at spiritually coming into L’Abri. There were two specific moments when Jerram tore down my worldview. The first was his first talk entitled “Christ’s Comprehensive Work of Renewal: Jesus Overcomes the Seven-pointed Curse.” Long title. Great message. In summary, Jerram went through and explained this ‘seven pointed curse’. He defined this curse as the completeness of our alienation: God is alienated from us, we’re alienated form God, we’re alienated from ourselves, we’re alienated from each other, we’re alienated from our own bodies, we’re alienated from creation, and creation itself is alienated. All those I believed completely. I could identify with all those: the feelings of shame and remorse from my sinful thoughts toward others and God, the frustration of relationships with friends (and a spouse), the pain of bodies hurting and getting injured. The second half of the talk focused on how Christ’s death and resurrection overcame, and is overcoming all those: Christ is reconciling God to us, reconciling us to God, reconciling us to each other, restoring the union of body and spirit, restoring our dominion over creation, and removing the curse over creation from this earth. For the first time, these hit home. Especially the part about Christ reconciling us to God. I believe the quote Jerram used to drive this reality home was, “When we read the Gospels, we’re reading our own story.” So when God looks at us, He looks at Jesus because Jesus HAS GONE BEFORE ME and lived a life pleasing to God. How liberating! To know that I can’t screw anything up anymore in God’s eyes. I could say more, but I must move on before this turns into a novel.
The second moment was the Q & A with Jerram. Someone asked a question something along the lines of, “How do you balance God’s holiness with our depravity?” Jerram’s answer? You don’t balance them at all! You don’t need to go to God asking Him to give you a greater understanding of your sin and depravity. You need to go to God and ask Him to show you His character more and more every day. When, Jerram says, we see more of who God really is and we see how depraved we really are, this will naturally give us a desire to turn from the ugliness of our sin and turn to the splendor, holiness, and goodness of God. And the kicker for me was the fact that God will be faithful when I ask Him to show me more of Himself. Why? How? Simply…Jesus.
In closing, this L’Abri conference seems to have been a turning point in my faith because I have a desire to know God more than I ever have in my life. Now, rather than looking at my day and seeing all the things I have to do as obligations and duties to complete so God won’t get mad (go to Veritas, have date night with my wife, read the Bible in the morning, teach small group), I see all these things as blessings and opportunities from God. I see them as a chance to mirror God’s character and thus give him more glory. Thank you God for using Jerram to tear down my worldview and building me back up!
PS: if you want my notes from Jerram’s or any other lectures from L’Abri, email me and I’d be happy to give them to you.