The month of January has been a great start for me as I begin 2019 with a humbling prayer & fasting week that followed a three-day conference at the CCF Center called the Intentional Discipleship Conference. It is my second time to attend such a conference like this. The conference usually caters to adults ranging from young singles to married couples. This didn’t stop me from going, though, since I appreciate how deep, mature, and sensitive the topics were as the conference not only dealt with the Gospel and the faith as usual for a church event, but it also provided profound philosophies and intellectually-teasing bits of information that will make you amazed by how true Christianity really is.
Without further ado, here are some of my thoughts, learnings, and reflections—condensed—in one list type of a blog article:
1. Relationships and connections are everything.
A leader whose goal is to pass on the faith is someone who is intentional and relational with that person. As Dr. Josh McDowell explains, “Rules without relationships lead to rebellion.” This just means that without a proper relationship, a child, no matter how good leaders educate them, will not obey if they don’t have a connection with the person. So first, always seek to become closer to people because as you do, you can become much more of an impact to them.
2. It’s effective to train up with the conviction system.
A lot have been passing on the faith with a belief system in mind. A child may probably grow up in a Christian family attending all the Sunday School classes and church programs—believing the Gospel without knowing why. Honestly, sometimes I’d think, the Gospel is too good (to be true?). A majority of believers today may call themselves “Christians” without having a logical explanation for its background and history. (And yes, maybe I’m one of them… but this is why I’m interested in theology and apologetics in the first place!) There will be times that a lot of infidels and atheists will question your faith, giving you convincing arguments to make you doubt what you believe in. How will you put a defense to that? This is why it’s not enough that you believe, but also equally important to stand confidently tall and give the reason why you believe—in the most humbling and gentlest way of all.
3. Depending on the external factors that keep you going in your walk with the Lord is wrong.
Francis Chan gave us a precise illustration of what I’m talking about here. Imagine yourself—floating—on a 6-foot deep swimming pool. Since you are just afloat, you are basically dependent on your lifejacket. The question is, what if I asked you to remove your lifejacket? Do you know how to swim?
As simple as this illustration may sound, I was quite alarmed by how he explains this vision of his. The lifejacket you’re wearing represents the external or artificial factors that keep you going for the Lord. It may be a youth camp, a small group, accountability partners/Christian friends, a good worship band, or the emotions that you feel during those spiritually-filling events—it may be anything that keeps you spiritually high, but how about your private worship? How is it when it’s you and the Lord, alone? What happens if everything that keeps you afloat is stripped away from you? How will you respond? Maybe it’s time for you to take off your lifejacket and see it for yourself.
4. The Holy Spirit is supposed to change you slowly.
One thing to determine if you are saved is when you observe the Seed of the Lord (or the Holy Spirit) in your actions and desires. Francis goes on preaching that you just can’t simply go back sinning again if you truly have Jesus in you. Also, it’s not right to blame the “externals” when things go wrong with you. It’s not that you haven’t been coming to small group and being accountable with them, the root of the problem is your relationship with the Lord—and you are the only one that could fix that up. The secret to a joyful and fulfilled life is to become spirit-filled. So maybe it’s time to empty yourself of the world and its fleshly desires and fill yourself with God’s treasures. As God’s Spirit fills you, His desires will become the desires of your heart. As our senior pastor once said, “Obey first, then the feelings will come after.“
5. Jesus is the truth.
This is actually a verse from John 14:6, but Josh McDowell gave me another perspective on this famous verse of the Bible. First of all, what is truth? Can you define truth? As Josh would define it, truth is the fidelity to the original. Fidelity in a definition that means a conformity to the standard, an exactness, sameness, and equal to. What Jesus meant in John 14:6 then, is that Jesus is the same and exact as the original. And who do you think is Jesus referring to as the original? God the Father, unquestionably.
6. You will never be ready for a lifelong commitment if you are not complete in the Lord.
Truth be told, the first thing that any single person must be doing is to enjoy the Lord’s presence before anyone (or anything) else. There are too many people who walk around with an empty cup expecting to find someone who can fill theirs. That is definitely not the case. Love, relationships, and marriages is not supposed to work like this. Be someone who abounds in love for Him and commit to someone who has their own overflowing cup that loves Him, too. A good marriage starts with the joy in the Lord and being spirit-filled, as well. “Marriage is just a byproduct of following Jesus,” as Francis Chan says.
7. Morality is not a subjective claim.
Sean McDowell dedicated his whole plenary session talking about the truth and its absolutes and the perception of a claim as subjective or objective. I appreciated his plenary session because he was explaining things in a much more philosophical way—something that would probably cater to a non-Christian’s mind. One thing for sure, though. The issue on morality is not a personal preference. As soon as we were born into this world, we always knew what was morally wrong and morally right. We just know because we base it by how we would want to be treated. We cry out for justice because it is rooted deep within our hearts. If everyone, then, has finally agreed that there is a moral law and ethic that is the same and absolute, then there must also be some moral lawgiver who incorporated these things in us; that must be leading us to God.
8. It’s better to understand than to be understood.
This was perhaps one of the greatest takeaways I’ve had during this three-day conference. This was actually a quotation from Josh McDowell. It is, indeed, a very simple statement, but what makes this statement straightforward is the point that we all know this but still don’t end up doing it. This statement just speaks at how naturally selfish we are as a person. No matter how unconscious of ourselves we try to be, in the end, it is us that we think of all the time—our well-being, our feelings, our preferences, our possessions, and ourselves. This was perhaps the hardest-to-swallow pill in the conference.
These were just some of my best takeaways from the 2019 Intentional Discipleship Conference. Maybe it’s time for you to have that personal check-up with the Lord. I don’t know in what spiritual level you are at right now, but I hope that this post becomes an eye-opener for you that you don’t need someone to help you come back in your relationship with Him. How are you spiritually? Are you filled by the Holy Spirit that you are hungry and thirsty for His magnificence and glory? Or are you allowing yourself to become lukewarm again?
It’s time to take off that lifejacket. See for yourself. Have a swim, and dive in with the vastness of the Lord’s love for you.