On Friday, April 15, an annual conference for college students called SOLA Conference was kicked off with a message from Chris Brown, the senior pastor of North Coast Church, who spoke about the freedom from guilt and shame that every person can experience because of what Jesus has done.
The SOLA Conference, which took place at New Life Community Church in Artesia, has been held yearly with the vision to “transform collegians with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to have a high view of God’s Word, to love the Local Church, and to live out His Commission and Compassion,” according to the SOLA Executive Team and Council.
The central theme for the conference this year was “Light after Darkness" based on John 1:4-5, hoping to point college students to the light that the good news of Christ brings into what they may see as the darkest parts of their hearts.
Brown started off the conference on Friday evening with a message on the darkness in our hearts and in our lives, reading from John 4.
He read the passage with great animation and excitement as he explained the transformation Christ brought upon the Samaritan woman at the well. All of her past guilt and shame was exposed in front of Christ, and as she was speaking with Him, she had a change of heart. God transformed her to not be ashamed, but to be freed from her sin to go out and share with all about how God worked in her life despite her past.
"Church does a good job teaching about forgiveness, but a lousy job teaching about freedom," Brown said, addressing some 450 college students. "For God to have this moment with you at the well, you have to face and accept the truth."
"Satan's favorite weapon against you is you," he continued.
But, Brown added, the guilt and shame is part of our past, and taken care of by the blood of Christ.
"Failure is an event, and never a person," Brown emphasized, and reminded attendees of their true identity in Christ. "I am loved, cherished, and a prince in the kingdom of God."
Brown, who has had extensive experience ministering to college students while serving as a college pastor at Azusa Pacific University, said he came to the conference with hopes that each student could "walk out of the conference knowing that they don't have to do anything to be loved any more by God," and that the "love of the Creator of the universe cannot be earned, just accepted."
"I love seeing young people getting set on fire for Christ," Brown said.
Compared to when he first started ministering to college students, Brown said that the current generation has "to deal with a lot more," both in terms of wrestling with baggage from their past, as well as surrendering their dreams to God.
“We want God to bless our life, but not for God to change it,” said Brown, adding that God did not promise to give us great lives, but that he would allow us to come to him for healing and aid us in dealing with our guilt and shame.
Meanwhile, the SOLA Conference also featured Harold Kim, the senior pastor of Christ Central of Southern California, and Alex Choi, the senior pastor of Sovereign Grace LA, as speakers of the following two sessions.