Renown Conference encourages students to love their neighbors
Christians grow in love for their neighbors as they grow in grace and obedience toward God, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said to nearly 600 junior and high school students at Boyce College’s Renown Youth Conference, March 13-14.
Christianity is this: “We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind,” Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said. A Christian’s identity is established as one who loves God, but Christians cannot do this by themselves.
Preaching from Matthew 22:34-40 in which Jesus gives the greatest commandment, Mohler observed several aspects of the passage.
The soul, he said, is the seat of character in the Bible, and it is no accident that humans are emotional creatures. Next, a person’s strength is God-ordained to subdue the earth, he said. And loving the Lord with the mind gives Christians an intellectual responsibility. Christianity is based on a truth claim, so Christians should never let anyone tell them to throw away their mind.
Finally, Mohler discussed the last and, in Jesus’ words, the greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
“One of the most basic human sins is to define and divide the world between those who are like us and those who aren’t like us,” he said, noting that loving neighbor does not come naturally to Christians.
“Increasingly, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, in obedience to Christ who has saved us, we then love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind,” he said. “And we then — everyday of our lives — as those who follow Christ, those who believe in him and have been saved from our sins, as those who are being conformed to the image of Christ, we love our neighbor as ourselves.”
Rick Holland, pastor of Mission Road Bible Church in Village, Kansas, preached two general sessions at Renown. He preached from 1 Peter 2:11-12, encouraging students not to underestimate the power of the threat within them: their lustful flesh. “You are your greatest threat,” he said, referring to Christian growth and sanctification.
He then gave three motivations for fighting against fleshly lust.
First, Christian citizenship demands the fight against sin, he said, encouraging students to strive for holiness, as God is holy. To help Christians battle against the flesh, Holland noted three parts of the gospel: facts, theology, and response. He asked whether students will believe Jesus was and is a historical figure, whether they will believe those facts are significant, and whether they will respond in repentance to Jesus’ call to fight sin and strive for holiness.
Second, Holland said, fleshly lusts provoke a passive attitude toward the fight against sin. If a person claims to know Christ yet knows nothing about the battle, there is a problem, he said. Holland warned students to live carefully in the fight, remembering that the most dangerous word is “enough.” Christians can never read enough, evangelize enough, or pray enough to save themselves. Only God through Christ can do that, he said.
Fruitful evangelism also motivates the fight. The battle within Christians affects those around them. And when “you’re living your faith in a godly, winsome way, it will impress even the most skeptical critic. But that will only happen out there when we understand the battle in here.”
Dan DeWitt, Dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Seminary, also led a general session, “Finding and Following Jesus in and through the Mess.”
He preached from Hebrews 12 and also reviewed Old Testament pillars of faith that Hebrews 11 records. Every biblical hero is flawed, he said, except one: Jesus. DeWitt observed several parts in the passage: God’s purposes will stand even when good men fall; Christians do not need to put leaders on a pedestal; God, even when he uses sinful people, does not cancel the consequences of sin but Christians should also celebrate God’s work in other believers despite their sins; and faith is based on God’s character and not Christians’ abilities.
Christians need to drop the weight of sin, cast-off sin, run the race set before them, and fix their eyes on Jesus keep them from growing weary, he said.
The conference also featured seminary professors and breakout sessions about various topics in worldview and Christianity, aimed to help students think critically about the world around them and the issues they encounter.
Audio and video from Renown are available online at sbts.edu/resources.