The Passion of the Passion Conference

Jesus is not going back to the cross. It is finished.

Nearly twenty thousand young adults crowded into Houston’s Toyota Center tonight. But not for the reason you might think. The Rockets were shaming the Celtics at their house in Boston. Here in Houston, Jesus was the main attraction. These young people came to lift their voices toward heaven, not Harden.

This was my first time attending a Passion Conference. Founded by Louie Giglio in 1997, the national conference targets college students with the purpose of uniting them “in worship and prayer for spiritual awakening in this generation.” From the comfortable suites up top (compliments of the gracious staff), I witnessed—no, experienced—this first hand.

The night was something to behold.

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The stadium darkened and lights burst from the stage like a cosmic eruption of stars. The band was enthusiastically worshipful. It had stars of its own—the gifted Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, Christy Nockels, Kristian Stanfill, and a handful of others. As they led us in song, we willfully followed. The result was a beautifully united voice of praise, resounding in adoration to the Morning Star—Jesus Christ—who was undoubtedly the center of it all (2 Pet. 1:19).

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It was loud. I appreciated that. High volumes drown out the terrible noise I make when singing. With that kind of freedom, I turn loose and belt out from deepest parts of my soul! From what I heard, I sounded like Stanfill.

We intercepted song with prayer, corporately among each other. We prayed for the night, for the presence of God, for the lost, and for the softening of our hearts. We wanted Jesus to come.

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Giglio was the key speaker. He is no amateur to oration. His storytelling drew me into the narrative, but not without purpose. He described a rather humorous encounter with a man who played a rather insignificant role as an extra in the movie they both sat down to watch. The man was unapologetically excited about it. He didn’t care how small. He played a part. That was all that mattered to him.

I knew exactly where Giglio was going with this. He didn’t need to say it. We all felt it coming. “God has a place for you in His movie.”

It reminded me of John Calvin’s description of creation as the theater of God. The many nuances of life are God’s sovereign display of His glory, with Jesus as the crowning character. We are the extras in His story. We play a part. That is all that should matter to us.

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The true passion of the Passion Conference is Jesus. He is the key figure, the main attraction, the leading star in God’s movie. The climatic event in His story is the horrific death and triumphant resurrection.

Giglio drew from Christ’s dying words, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30). He reminded us that Jesus’ death on the cross was a finishing work that put to end the sacrificial system, the deathly wages of sin, the imprisoning effects of shame, and the propensity of self. In Christ’s death, we become alive. “His death-right is our birthright,” said Giglio.

“It is finished” was a once-for-all declaration that there is no longer need to slaughter a lamb. Sin was conquered. Shame was slayed. Self was put to death. When His life ended, our life began.

Christ rose victoriously, and we now have a part to play (as extras) in His glorious theater. He is the passion behind the conference.

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