Deriving its name and purpose from Jesus’ own mission statement in Luke 4 – “I came to proclaim liberty to the captives” – the first annual LIBERATE conference was hosted by Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in late February 2012. LIBERATE is a resource ministry that “exists to declare the liberating power of the Gospel,” and to that end there will be a yearly conference as well as a website loaded with videos, sermons, blogs, essays, art, book reviews, and more.
What unites these various forms of media is a message: God’s law shows us our sin; God’s gospel announces that Jesus saves sinners. Attempting to say this “one thing,” the theme of the 2012 LIBERATE conference was “Grace Unmeasured.” Speakers like Mike Horton, David Zahl, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Paul Tripp, Tullian Tchividjian, Rod Rosenbladt, and Scotty Smith gathered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to join their voices in saying – in their unique ways, with their own stories, and from different portions of scripture – that “while our sin reaches far, God’s grace reaches farther.”
The decision to be dedicated to and defined by this “one thing” is informed by Paul’s determination to “know nothing except Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). As Martin Luther famously said, “I preach the gospel to my people and to myself every day because we forget it every day.” He didn’t mean that we are inclined to forget the facts of the gospel; he meant that we are disinclined to believe the truth of the gospel. In his words, “The promises of God are easier to talk about than they are to believe.” The speakers at LIBERATE recognized that “the word of the cross” is scandalous and foolish, but they believe and so proclaimed this weak and foolish word as the power and wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).
Commonsense will always stumble over the cross. Everything in us tells us that who we are is based on what we do; that our identity is determined by our actions. But that is the “wisdom of this world” and the “foolishness of God” is wiser (1 Corinthians 1:25). In contrast to commonsense, the gospel declares the counterintuitive: our deepest and truest identity – who we are before God – is not based on what we do. Our identity is anchored in what Jesus has done for us. LIBERATE exists to continually announce this gospel so that it can do its missionary work of moving into the unevangelized territories of our hearts – invading the dark regions of unbelief with the light of the truth that “God shows his love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).