The Briefing on Hillsong 2012

A brilliant article from The Briefing reflecting on Hillsong Conference 2012.

There’s a reason the Scriptures place such a high burden on teachers of God’s word—from Ezekiel’s call to be a watchman (a burden taken up by the apostle Paul) to the instructions in the Pastoral Epistles to find men of sound character, godly convictions, and ability to teach the word of God faithfully and well. One reason such a burden is placed on the teachers of God’s word is to ensure that the people of God are actually taught God’s word. That seems like a self-evident statement until you see how they aren’t fed. No-one who came to that conference heard of the need for forgiveness (by God, that is, for our sins). No-one heard about what Jesus accomplished. There was no mention of salvation from God’s wrath through the atoning work of the cross, or of how God’s Spirit works in us to make us more and more like our Lord Jesus, or of how we look forward to and long for the day of his return.


There may have been 20,000 people in the room, gathered as one church under Christ, but the church was too small. It was too small because the gospel being proclaimed was too small: it was just about you and me, and how God makes our lives better. We weren’t really being gathered together under Christ, we were gathered together as a large collection of individuals. Not only was the form of preaching individual—the preacher sharing what God had revealed to him or her personally—but the content was individual too: God’s revelation to the preacher is about a promise to make your life better. How unlike the way that Paul talks about what God has done in and for us! God chose us before the foundation of the world:

In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Eph 1:7-10)

God’s work in gathering us together to be his church is a story that is so much grander than my personal circumstances. But my personal circumstances, my life and what God has done and is doing in it: that is the size of Hillsong church. I simply don’t think that my life is big enough to be good news.

Read the whole article

I was at the last night of that conference and completely agree with Sam’s reflections of Steven Furtick’s talk. I remember feeling stunned that he could preach on John the Baptist from Matthew 11 and neglect the whole point, when it’s stated so clearly. 

 “I assure you: Among those born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared, but the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been suffering violence, and the violent have been seizing it by force. For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John; if you’re willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who is to come. Anyone who has ears should listen!”

Matthew 11:11-15


“tomorrow will worry about itself”

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. [Matthew 6:25-34]


Calvin on repentance

My love/hate relationship with Calvin continues. Here’s some more of the stuff I love –

Accordingly, we must strive toward repentance itself, devote ourselves to it throughout life, and pursue it to the very end if we would abide in Christ. For he came to call sinners, but it was to repentance [cf. Matt 9.13]. He was sent to bless the unworthy, but in order that every one may turn from his wickedness [Acts 3:26; cf. ch 5:31]. Scripture is full of such testimonies. For this reason, when God offers forgiveness of sins, he usually requires repentance of us in turn, implying that his mercy ought to be a cause for men to repent.

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Therefore, I think he has profited greatly who has learned to be very much displeased with himself, not so as to stick fast in this mire and progress no farther, but rather to hasten to God and yearn for him in order that, having been grafted into the life and death of Christ, he may give attention to continual repentance. Truly, they who are held by a real loathing of sin cannot do otherwise. For no one ever hates sin unless he has previously been seized with a love of righteousness.


“And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us

Many of us pray these words on a regular basis in our churches. But I wonder how seriously we take this. Yes I’m sure we are all serious about wanting our sins to be forgiven, but how ready are we to forgive the sins of others?

This has struck me in a big way this week, as I watch a friend in a situation where he is showing forgiveness in circumstances some would say are unforgivable. And yet he responds, in obedience, to the call we are all given to forgive others. And it’s a pleasure to watch and to see Christ so clearly in his actions.

But not everyone is supportive of his decision – even among his Christians friends and family, and so I’m forced to ask why we are happy to pray these words with the same breath that we use to discourage those who are obedient to it.

Matthew 6 records that after Jesus taught this prayer to his disciples he said

14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

I have to be honest with you – I don’t know what this means. And I’m happy for you to shed some light on it for me. I don’t doubt that I am saved by faith alone, but this is a strong statement about the need to forgive others and I’m fairly sure that can’t be explained away.

What I do know is that we live in a world where the most important thing to us is our own personal autonomy. I think this encapsulates an attitude that if I’m wronged in some way it’s my right to hang onto that for as long as I choose. If I choose to forgive someone, I will do it on my terms, when its suits me.

Matthew 18 reminds us that the sin against us, that we are so slow to forgive, is nothing compared to what has been forgiven of us in the love of Christ. It’s his example we follow and this is why we should be quick to forgive others.

I am thankful that Jesus has forgiven me so much more than I would ever deserve. He didn’t wait for me apologise and try to make amends. Rather HE took the first step and forgave me, before I even knew I needed it.

So it’s my prayer that we would take seriously the words we so often pray

“And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us