Passion 2012: FREEDOM!
This week I attended the Passion conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Even getting there was a work of God; my ticket was provided due to a scholarship from Living Proof Ministries through Beth Moore.
I wish I could be both brave and skilled enough to paint you a completely accurate before and after Passion word picture of myself. The post prior to this one will probably pretty well cover the before. I suggest you read that entry first so I can get along to the during and after Passion 2012 portion of the story. For this post, I am going to focus less on the details of community groups/concerts and more on the main sessions of Passion.
I journeyed to Atlanta, Georgia with 3 friends from Liberty on January 2nd. I was still in the state described in my previous post: clinging to bitterness and secretly harboring distrust for God. As a car, we decided to make it a trip set apart from the secular, including the music we listened to on the 5 hour drive. I could feel God stirring my heart even in the car on the way down. I was petrified that God was going to rip me open and apart during the 4 days of the conference. I now know this was a legitimate fear, because He did do just that, but we will get to that in good time.
We arrived at our hotel in Atlanta later in the afternoon, checked in, and then walked over to the Georgia World Conference Center to check into the actual conference. After that we waited for about an hour and entered the Georgia Dome for the 1st time for the 1st session along with 42,000 other 18-25 year olds that had come to the conference.
The session on January 2nd began with audible reading of various passages of Scripture. I could feel that God was present and moving in the Dome; there is power in the Word of the Lord- faith comes by hearing the Word of the Lord. Musical worship began shortly after that. We began learning a few of the new songs the crew (Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Kristian Stanfill, Christy Nockels, etc.) had written specifically for Passion 2012, but I inexplicably felt like I had sung them before due to how easy it was to catch on to the words and melody. After this, Louie Giglio came out to speak. In the short time that Giglio spoke, the Lord reached down from Heaven and made me painfully aware of not only my incorrect view of Him, but also of the bitterness and lack of forgiveness I had been entertaining/exhibiting in my life. Giglio spoke directly out of Luke 7:11-17, where Jesus meets a widow mourning the loss of her only son on the road and touches the man, raising him from the dead. Giglio explained that this is exactly what salvation is: the miraculous touch of God that raises us from death to life on the way to our own burial. He continued on to explain that the Lord has a grasp on all time; He intentionally intersects the lives and circumstances of those He raises from the dead. I began to understand that this message was just that for me, an intersection of my impending funeral due to a faulty view of who Jesus is, resulting sin in my life, and longstanding wounds left unhealed due to a lack of faith in Him and His character. In that moment, I yielded all I had been holding back to the One who should have been holding it from the very start. I understood that Jesus wanted to be all to me, and felt He was saying “I am for you. I will fight for you. BE FREE.”
On January 3rd, the day opened up with community groups and a main session with Beth Moore as the speaker. She took her message straight from Luke 8:40-55, focusing in on the healing of the woman with the issue of blood, an interruption in the story of Jesus’ healing of Jairus’s daughter. Beth Moore spoke a phrase that has resonated with me since. “The greatest need a person has is intensely private.” I have found this to be very true in my own life. I am extremely hesitant to talk about my deepest struggles, unless I feel called to share them at certain points with specific people. For this post, I believe it will suffice to say that I struggle with shame and condemnation over habitual sin in my past. Beth Moore spoke so plainly on that stage. She was bold; she was fearless. She exhibited the power of the Holy Spirit. She said, “You cannot be unclean enough to make Jesus unclean. He is clean enough for each of us and Himself. We cannot consume Him; but He can consume you. Will you grab onto Him in faith for cleansing and healing?” She pointed out that we are not able to rejoice in the healing Christ brings if we are too ashamed to tell others about our lives before we were healed. Even in the passage Beth used, the woman with the issue of blood had to first publicly admit to having been unclean before she could proclaim that she had been restored, glorifying her Healer. It was at that moment that I knew that I would at some point feel the burden to tell those I had come with to Passion exactly what struggles I have dealt with.
The afternoon session on January 3rd was given by Christine Cain. She spoke on slavery and sex trafficking. I was moved by her passion and by the information given. It was during this session that I felt called to give money to ‘Do Something Now.’ With the combined support of those who gave during Passion, over 3 million dollars were raised to support multiple projects relating to slavery and human trafficking both in the US and also abroad in the name of Jesus.
The evening session on January 3rd was one of the most powerful of the sessions I experienced while at Passion. During worship, Chris Tomlin invited a few international friends to the stage. They began to play the song ‘How Great is Our God.’ Tomlin would sing the first line in a stanza, then the following three lines would each be sung in a different language by one of his guests. I could not help but worship the Lord; He came so near that He felt almost tangible in the Dome. As I thought about the global church united to lift up the name of Jesus and also got a brief glimpse of how glorious it will be to worship the Lord with many different nationalities in Heaven, tears flooded my eyes in the same way that my heart was overflowing with praise. Shortly after this, Francis Chan came to the stage to speak. He spoke about taking the Bible seriously, about believing that the Lord intended His word to be taken literally. He challenged us, asking “Do you know God’s Word well enough to stand on it and discern truth from lies?” He reminded me that I need to be using God’s Word as a filter, not just for the things I am told, but also for the words I myself say.
The next morning is when the Lord became my Teacher in a very practical way. I woke up the morning of January 4th with a migraine that caused me to experience a wave of nausea whenever I tried to move. I was so exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually from everything that had occurred inside me in the past day and a half. But mainly, I was extremely frustrated that God would allow me to be laid out in the hotel room with a migraine that would cause me to miss community groups and the first two sessions of the day when He could see that my intention was to go deeper in communion with Him in the Dome. In the afternoon, when the pain in my head was dulling, I began walking the 1 mile to the Dome from our hotel by myself through downtown Atlanta. I began talking with the Lord; praying as I was walking. I asked Him why He would want to keep me from meeting Him that morning, keep me from learning more about Him in the sessions I had to miss. His reply was a slap in the face, in a good way. He replied to me, “Kristen, I want you to be able to see that you don’t have to be in a convention center filled with big name speakers and 42,000 people in order to be in My presence. I am with you through everything. I am not constrained to be in 1 place or with a single person. I am with you when you are praising Me with the multitudes as much as I am with you while you are laid out with a migraine in a hotel room.” I had to stop walking for a moment just to process this realization and thank the Lord for allowing me to learn this valuable lesson in the way He knew I would remember it best.
I was able to attend the final session on January 4th. John Piper spoke more plainly than I have ever heard him speak before. Although I took 3.5 pages of notes as he spoke, I feel like I did not get even half of what I could have out of the message. But what I did get was life-shattering in the implications they had. There were so many points that stuck out to me that I am going to go ahead and just list them right under here.
- The root of your salvation is internal satisfaction and trust in Jesus, which is by nature invisible to others. The fruit of your salvation is the external expression of the internal work Jesus has done and glorifies God publicly.
- We need to stay needy before God, because the Giver in the relationship gets the glory.
- Being able to see Jesus Christ for who He is, savor the goodness of Him, and trust that He rewards those who diligently seek Him are all gifts given when Jesus chooses to reveal Himself to us. The sick cannot make themselves well; a blind person cannot decide to see. Conversion is a gift of seeing. It is not until after it that we can see Christ as beautiful.
- We will either be enslaved to sin or slaves to Jesus. There is no in-between.
- Freedom is being so in love with Jesus that you do exactly what you want to do while also having your desires be perfectly in accord with His will.
- Jesus is supreme over every thing in every way. There is not a single square inch of earth where Jesus can’t say “Mine.”
- When we maximize Jesus in our hearts, sin will be minimized in our lives.
- Truly knowing Christ will cause us to be willing to embrace others and take risks even though it could cost us our very lives.
-Sacrifice is satisfying in Jesus because we are certain that we have better things waiting in the future than the things that we are giving up now.
The final session was on the morning of January 5th. Louie Giglio came out for the final time to speak. He spoke from Luke 7 and Ephesians 6:19. He pointed out that Paul did not ask the Ephesians to pray for his immediate release from prison, but rather that he would receive the words from God to tell the story of the Gospel. He wanted to speak fearlessly as an ambassador for Christ. We do not need to wait for the right time to participate in the plans and purposes of God. They are for right now. The one way to minimize your fears is to maximize a single fear: I am already chained to the unchainable Jesus Christ, so the only thing I am afraid of is living an insignificant life. Don’t let your insecurities stop you from following God’s plan. As one who struggles constantly with the fear of man, this message broke me. I realized the minimal position I was allowing Christ to take in my life, that I had given the throne of my life to the idol of the affections of man. No more. He is King, and with His power through the Holy Spirit I intend to live like it.
Passion 2012 was an experience that has forever changed me as a person. But just because the conference has ended does not mean the passion will. I pray that the Lord will work in me and allow me to worship him with the same spirit and fervor that I found in the Dome throughout my daily life from here on out. May I be so chained to my Lord, Jesus, that the chains of this earth seem entirely insignificant in comparison.