Identity encapsulates the theme of GO Conference 2019

The fifth annual GO Conference focused its attention on God’s character as a lens in which the 834 high school and college students should view their identity at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) Feb. 15-17.

J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, kicked off the night by preaching about God as a Trinitarian Father found in Isaiah 9:6-7. 

“You will never have the identity that gives you the confidence to go until you understand Jesus as everlasting Father,” said Greear. 

Greear noted four broken representatives found in earthly fathers and juxtaposed them to how Jesus represents for all people a perfect, everlasting Father. These four categories included the never-satisfied dad, the dad who is quick to anger, the emotionally-distant dad and the absent dad. 

“Stop viewing your heavenly Father through the lens of your earthly one,” said Greear. “Instead, evaluate your earthly father through the lens of your heavenly one.” 

Danny Akin, president of SEBTS, followed Greear’s message by teaching on God as creator, found in Colossians 1:13-23. 

“Nothing is more important, I believe, than that you understand rightly who Jesus is and what Jesus has done,” said Akin, explaining that this determines how the believer thinks about everything else. 

Akin noted five positional statements of Jesus’ lordship, found in the passage: that Jesus is savior, revealer, creator, leader and master. He explained how each of these positions denies various false beliefs in culture today. 

Speaking specifically of Jesus as revealer, Akin explained that because of Jesus, we have a glimpse into the character of God. 

“If you truly want to know what God is like, all you have to do is look to Jesus,” said Akin. 

William “Duce” Branch, assistant professor of preaching and Bible at The College at Southeastern, led the Saturday morning session, preaching through 2 Kings 5 on God as savior. Branch highlighted four key aspects of how the story of Naaman being healed of leprosy speaks to different aspects of salvation: the need, the source, the how and the response. Branch explained that while Naaman was known for his greatness, he was plagued by sickness, which stands as a reminder of human limitation. 

Speaking specifically of the source of salvation, Branch noted how God providentially guided Naaman to the cure for his disease while ultimately leading him to his spiritual healing. 

“He’s navigating these things so that you run smack-dab into the God that saves you,” said Branch. 

Branch exhorted students to respond to the salvation God alone provides in gratitude and worship. 

“We respond not for salvation but from salvation,” said Branch. 

Following Branch’s sermon, a Pathways to GO Panel was hosted on the main stage where ministry leaders discussed mission trip opportunities for students ranging from one week to one semester. Panelists included Zac Lyons, director of the office for Great Commission partnerships at the North Carolina Baptist State Convention; Brad Russell, mobilization team leader for the SBC of Virginia; Tim Rice, director of missions mobilization for the South Carolina Baptist State Convention; Chad Stillwell, student mobilizer for the International Mission Board; and Derrick Rudolph, GenSend mobilizer for Send Relief at the North American Mission Board. 

Nineteen breakout sessions were held throughout the afternoon, including “A Frank Conversation about Pornography and Discipling People to Freedom,” led by Scott Hildreth, George Liele director of the Center for Great Commission Studies and assistant professor of global studies; “Loneliness and Community,” led by Julia Bickley, associate dean of graduate program administration and associate professor of ministry to women; “How to Share the Gospel with Your Neighbors,” led by Ronjour Locke, instructor of preaching and urban ministry; and “How Do We Engage Justice and Our City as Students,” led by Luke Hinson, a student at SEBTS who is studying a Master of Arts in Ethics, Theology and Culture.  

Tony Merida, pastor of Imago Dei in Raleigh, finished out the conference by preaching on God as Lord, found in 1 Kings 18:17-46. In the passage, which features the faceoff between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal to prove the true God, Merida provided three elements of this “showdown” that reveal God as Lord: the proposal, the purpose and the prayer-answering champion of the showdown. 

Merida spoke to the emptiness of false religion as he contrasted the frenzied worshippers of Baal to the power of the God of Elijah. 

“If you aren’t praying to the living God, it’s an exercise in futility,” said Merida, explaining that what set Elijah’s worship apart from the prophets of Baal was that of deep fellowship with God.

Elijah was the forerunner to Christ, the ultimate mediator, prophet and king who would sacrifice himself on behalf of sinners in order that they might know God, Merida noted.

“If you truly have a high view of the Lord God, you will follow him in bold faith,” said Merida.

Next year’s GO Conference is scheduled for Feb. 7-8. Photos from the GO Conference can be viewed here. The Identity Flows concert following the Friday night sessions featured hip hop artists Legin (Nigel Anderson) and The Ambassador (Duce Branch). Photos from the concert can be viewed here.

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