Something happens when God’s people come together in worship! Despite coming from different backgrounds, believers in Jesus have one thing in common, and that is our need for God’s grace, day by day, and because of that we have the opportunity to speak the same language: the language of the heart.
The 8th ConneXion Conference was held on 17th-18th July at First Baptist Church Subang Jaya, bringing together youth and college students from over 17 different countries representing the continents of North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.
“ConneXion is all about connecting people around the world together around Jesus Christ,” Chris Abner said. “We want people to know Jesus. We think that it is the most important relationship that you can have in your life. And so when you get connected with Jesus and with other people who know Jesus, it is a beautiful, beautiful thing!”
There to deliver God’s truth to the attendees throughout the conference was Dr. Don Wilton, the senior pastor of First Baptist Church Spartanburg, South Carolina. Born and raised in South Africa, he is a recipient of six academic degrees, the founder and president of The Encouraging Word Ministries, and counts it a privilege to be Dr. Billy Graham’s pastor and close friend.
His credentials and experience in ministry make quite a remarkable list that would make most people feel small, but his open and inviting personality is one of genuine love and humility, reflecting a joy that could only come from Jesus. Dr. Wilton started the conference off on Friday night by telling us, “Be thankful for your fish!”
Yes, he really did say fish. He then went on to say that when you know God and you have Jesus Christ living in your heart, you will very quickly come to understand a number of things:
1. God loves you very much.
Because God loves you, He will put a love for other people in your heart. “God takes the pain of your heart and He produces a love for others.”
2. He has a purpose and a plan for you.
He knows exactly what you are to do with your life. God has made a decision about you from before the foundations of the world.
3. God cares for you.
Because God cares for you, He will send many fish your way throughout your lifetime.
Here’s the deal with the fish. Jonah was a man that knew God. God loved him, God had a plan for him, and God cared for him. Because of that, God used a fish in Jonah’s life.
God asked Jonah to go to Nineveh to represent God and share His love with this wicked city, but Jonah ran away. “But you can never run away from God, because He loves you, He has a plan for you, and He cares for you,” Dr. Wilton said.
And so God sent a great storm to come upon the ship that was carrying Jonah away from where God wanted him to go. And Jonah went below deck. Dr. Wilton noted that often in our Christian lives when God sends storms our way because we try to run away from Him, we go below deck. We stop going to church. We stop associating ourselves with God’s people.
The sailors cast lots to find out who was responsible for this storm, and the lots fell to Jonah. Jonah said to pick him up and throw him into the sea and it will become calm. “That’s a great picture of repentance before a holy and righteous God,” Dr. Wilton pointed out.
“Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”
“The fish did four things for Jonah,” Dr. Wilton said:
1. The fish rescued him.
It prevented Jonah from drowning. He could have died in his disobedience, but the fish saved him. In the belly of that fish, Jonah had the “stinkiest prayer meeting” that was ever held.
2. The fish educated him.
Jonah did not understand that the mark of Christian discipleship is absolute obedience to the Lord. But he learned the biggest lesson of his life in the fish. Right there, in that short little time, Jonah earned 6 PhD’s worth of education just in his understanding of what it means to serve the Lord.
3. The fish transported him.
It took him from the depths of the sea to the safety of the sand. It carried him to where he needed to be. Paul writes in Philippians 4:19, “And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
4. The fish refocused him.
Jonah had made up his mind not to go to Nineveh. But the fish took him and refocused him in the direction where God wanted and intended for him to be. “The only place you need to be is where God wants you to be,” Dr. Wilton said. “The single most important thing you can ever do as a man (or woman) of God is to be in the center of God’s will.”
In conclusion, Dr. Wilton said to ask ourselves these questions:
1. What do I need to be rescued from?
2. What do I need to learn?
3. Where do I need to go?
4. Where/What should my focus be?
“There’s nothing more wonderful than being a believer who’s got real focus,” Dr. Wilton said. “The world out there today is looking for men and women who will stand up and be counted because you have such focus that you become a powerhouse.
“I look out here today and I see such a wonderful group of people with such incredible potential. You have so much to give for the Lord. You can make such a difference and some of you are going to look back 20, 30, 40, or 50 years from now and say, ‘I cannot believe it! I stand amazed that God could use me and give me such joy in serving Him like this—thank God for my fish!’”
The next morning, Dr. Wilton once again delivered a powerful message. This time, it was on prayer. Dr. Wilton first emphasized the privilege we have as believers in Jesus to be able to have full and complete access to the very presence and throne room of God our Heavenly Father.
“Fundamental to our Christian faith is that we believe that God is alive,” He said. “The way in which we get to God is through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ, and because Jesus Christ is the Messiah and Son of the living God, I, by repenting of my sin and by confessing my sin to Jesus Christ thus receiving Jesus into my heart and into my life, have complete access to God the Father who is in Heaven, which means that I can talk to God and He listens to me and He talks back to me!
“Most of us think about what we can do for God. Change your thinking. It’s not so much about what you can do for God; it’s about what God is doing for you. God does for us what we can never do for Him. He’s a wonderful God and what He does for us is too amazing and too wonderful for words, and it begins with the great spiritual blessing of being able to talk to God and to hear from God.”
“For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
Based on Paul’s words from this passage, Dr. Wilton identified five top prayer requests that we should ask God for.
1. Boldness in faith.
Paul was a man who was very bold in his faith. If there is anything we should ask of God, it is to be bold in our faith. How do we behave in our world today? We ask God to allow us to be people who say what we mean and mean what we say. Whatever we do, we do in the love of Christ. All across the world today, people are sitting down in their faith and silence is sweeping across the church. We need to ask God to make us bold in our faith.
2. Genuine love for one another within the church.
We need to love everybody, but it begins right here in the church. The best way to destroy the local church is to cause people like you and me to fall out of fellowship with one another. But the best way to grow a church is to just let your people love on one another.
3.Spirit of wisdom and revelation.
Wisdom is asking God to allow us to understand Him from His point of view and not from ours. James says that if you lack wisdom, ask God for it and He will give it to you (James 1:5). Revelation is two fold: i) What God is doing, and ii) What God is about to do for me as a believer forever. It is the unfolding of God’s plan for me as I live out this life, and forever as I live. Therefore, the spirit of wisdom and revelation is understanding God and knowing God’s plan from God’s perspective.
4. An enlightened heart.
We need to pray and ask God to open the eyes of our hearts—because whatever is in your heart is what comes out of you. How’s your heart doing? What’s in your heart? When Paul talks about an enlightened heart, he is talking about the residual effect of knowing Christ, because when our hearts are opened, a light shines from within and reflects outwardly that all the world knows: “Let your light so shine before man that others may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:16).
5. Knowledge of hope and power.
We have hope that we will some day be with God in heaven, but in that journey, we have also been given the power of God—The incomparably great power that God has. “Greater is He who is in you than He who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). We have been given God’s power to do His work. You can do it, because it’s not you who does it, but Christ in you.
The rest of the day comprised of a BGR panel session in which six panel members of different marital and relationship experiences were asked questions concerning dating, relationship, and marriage. The session was fruitful and interactive with many questions coming in from the floor.
Although there was not enough time to answer all the questions everyone had, a common theme amongst the panelists was that God is the most important factor that cannot be compromised in a Christian relationship and marriage.
The conferees then took a lunch break before going into their breakout sessions that encompassed all sorts of different topics from prayer, to evangelism, to sexual morality, to health and fitness.
In the final session of the conference that night, Dr. Wilton brought us through the book of 1 John and zeroed in on five verses from which he identified five “acid tests” of knowing without a doubt that we have been washed by the blood of Christ and are saved.
1. 1 John 1:8 – “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
Am I sensitive to sin? In other words, does sin bother you? Because if you have the Hoy Spirit living within you, sin will bother you.
2. 1 John 2:3 – “And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.”
Am I willingly submissive to God’s commandments? Do I genuinely desire to do what God wants me to do?
3. 1 John 3:14 – “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.”
Am I saturated with God’s love? Do I love my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?
4. 1 John 4:13 – “By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit”
Am I filled with God’s Holy Spirit? There are three ways we can know if we are filled with God’s Holy Spirit:
- Am I sensitive to sin?
- Am I willingly submissive to God’s commandments?
- Am I saturated with God’s love?
The Spirit of God compels us to want to obey Him.
5. 1 John 5:12 – “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
Am I Scripturally convinced? Do I believe it when Scripture says that it is only through the Son that I am saved? The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The Bible says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
“There are many reasons why we may not always feel safe in this world, but through these verses and by asking these questions of ourselves, we can know that we know that we know that we know that we are saved in Christ Jesus,” Dr. Wilton said.
Having given the believers a way of being sure about their salvation, Dr. Wilton then gave the invitation to anyone who had not yet accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior to know Him personally. All who were present then had the joy and opportunity of welcoming several new individuals into the family of God, and the KNOW ConneXion conference ended with a new found confidence of security in knowing Jesus.
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