Iron Sharpens Iron is the annual conference of Emmaus Bible College held each spring. The purpose of ISI is for Christian men and women to sharpen one another’s vision and skills for building up the local church and impacting the world for Christ.
This year the conference theme is “Courageous Faithfulness: Guarding the Gospel in Difficult Times,” and will feature a study of 2 Timothy in the plenary sessions. This conference has been of great value and personal blessing to me over the years, and I want to share three reasons why I believe you should consider attending ISI 2018.
1. Christ-Centered, Culturally-Relevant Teaching
In 2 Timothy 1:14, the apostle Paul encourages Timothy to endure the difficult circumstances of life and stay true to the gospel: “Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.” The treasure in this verse is the gospel of Jesus Christ, which Timothy is told to protect through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
As Paul wrote these words, circumstances in society around him and his own situation must have seemed daunting if not hopeless, much like today. Yet Paul did not sink into fear and despair in the face of turmoil in the world. Instead, the gospel strengthened his courage and commitment to faithfully demonstrate his love for the Savior in the way he lived in his contemporary culture.
Iron Sharpens Iron seeks to provide believers in Christ with biblical teaching that focuses on Jesus Christ, His gospel, and His glory. When we center our attention on Christ, other areas in life gain greater clarity as the word of God brings them into perspective.
One strength of the ISI conference is the focus on seeing Christ through His word. The expository style of preaching draws insight from the Scriptures and allows them to speak on their own terms. Cultural issues are addressed as they are raised by the text of God’s word itself. The conference messages not only show that God’s word continues to be relevant, they provide a model for others to use in their own preaching and teaching. In a nutshell, the sermons are biblically and theologically thick and culturally engaging.
2. Strengthening and Sharpening in Christian Community
Perhaps one of the most invaluable aspects of the ISI conference is the fellowship had with believers from different locations, ethnicities, ages, and walks of life. Perhaps too often today we find ourselves so comfortable within our own inner circle of believers that we rarely venture out to communicate with believers in different settings. The body of Christ is meant to be united but not uniform when it comes to her composition. Celebrating diverse backgrounds within the body of Christ adds beauty and depth to the bride of Christ.
There is great value to discussing biblical issues with individuals who are not in our usual circles because it both challenges and hones our own understanding of God’s word. Furthermore, the struggles that we face in our Christian lives and churches are often the same struggles faced by other believers in different locales. The experiences of others in responding to those situations might be just what I need to hear to help with my own struggle. The strengthening and sharpening that occurs at the ISI conference is of immense value for personal spiritual growth and leadership development.
3. Spiritual Refreshment and Rejuvenation
The Christian life can be exhausting, especially for those who serve actively in their local church. Burnout for church and youth leaders in particular is a continued threat. In 2 Timothy 3:1 Paul warns Timothy that “in the last days difficult times will come.” He describes individuals who reject the faith and oppose the truth (v. 9), an apt characterization of our society. Living in a word so staunchly opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ can be disheartening and disillusioning for the Christian.
Paul’s remedy for Timothy is to “continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of…the sacred writings which are able to you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus,” (2 Tim. 3:14-15).
Immersing ourselves in the word of God has a rejuvenating effect on our inner being. Participating in a conference centered on the Scriptures, therefore, is like having a weekend spa retreat for your soul. At the ISI conference, you can experience the spiritual refreshment that comes from drinking deeply of God’s word. Our desire is that ISI be a time of energization and invigoration so that believers can continue to serve the Lord with passion and joy.
It is our prayer that this conference would be an encouragement and support to many as they seek to live for and serve our Savior. We hope you can join us this year at the Iron Sharpens Iron conference!
Iron Sharpens Iron will be held during May 24-27, 2018 at Emmaus Bible College in Dubuque, Iowa. Registration is now open. Plenary speakers include Dr. Mark Bailey (president at Dallas Theological Seminary), Dr. Mark Stevenson and Raju Kunjummen (Bible faculty members at Emmaus) and Alex Strauch (popular speaker and author). Please visit www.isi.emmaus.edu for more information or to register for the conference.