ATLANTA – Over 40,000 young adults filled Atlanta's Philips Arena and Infinite Energy Center as well as Houston's Toyota Center on Saturday for the first of the three-day Passion 2016 Conference featuring teaching and worship by Christian speakers and worship leaders.
Attendees at Passion 2016 represent 51 countries, all 50 states, and over 1,650 colleges and universities. The majority of conference participants are students and young professionals ages 18-25, along with pastors and church leaders attending with their groups.
Saturday evening's opening session featured a message from Louie Giglio, founder of the Passion movement and pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta. Speaking live from Houston's Toyota Center, Giglio's message focused on the resurrection of Jesus and its implications for all who follow Christ.
"Last year at Passion 2015 we began and ended with three words: 'It is finished,' and tonight we start with three words: 'He is risen,'" said Giglio. "These words are hanging like a cloud of reality over us tonight. The stone wasn't rolled away to let Jesus out, but to let you and me in so we can see what God has done."
Giglio emphasized that the resurrection of Jesus has withstood scrutiny throughout the ages and that everyone is invited to examine the evidence for themselves. "The resurrection is the single most investigated event in the history of mankind," he contended. "Instead of unraveling the resurrection, most of the unravelers end up putting their faith in Jesus."
Preaching from Matthew 28, Giglio exhorted conference participants to live with a constant awareness of the resurrection. "The Enemy wants to relegate this reality to one holiday a year, Easter, but this needs to be celebrated every day," he said. "He is risen on this day. All the realities of Jesus being alive are true, and He is living in my life right now."
Giglio also highlighted the difference between religion and relationship in the Christian worldview. "God in His grace always invites us not to 'come and do' but to 'come and see. Not to sign up for a system, but to have an intimate personal relationship with Jesus Christ," he said. "We need to be jostled out of our slumber and into the beauty of what is before you and me. We have the presence of God in the person of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit."
Giglio explained that even though Jesus was victorious over death, many Christians still live with a victim mentality and fail to grasp the grace and power of a resurrected Savior. "Jesus is not a victim to the cross. He is our victor over death," he said. "The saddest of all realities is to live as if the work of God is not fully completed and done… as if, in fact, the stone was still there. We often live life like victims and not in the extraordinary power we have been given."
"The deck may have been stacked against you, but the stone has been rolled away for you," Giglio concluded. "The message at Passion is Jesus has risen. The Son of God is alive. It is a reality, it is a fact. We all celebrate what God has done."
For the first time in the 19-year history of Passion Conferences, Passion 2016 is live and live-streamed simultaneously in all three arenas, more than 800 miles apart. "It is not the fiber optics that link us together, but the power of Your Holy Spirit that links us together from city to city; we stand in absolute and utter awe that You have put in our hands the living and breathing Word of God," prayed Giglio to open the session. "Let the technology fade into the background so that You, Jesus, can emerge into the foreground of our hearts and minds and souls; You can emerge in this moment and be the great and mighty Healer and the matchless Savior that You are."
For the past 19 years, Passion Conferences has been uniting college students around the world hosting 50 events in 16 countries. Passion 2016's three gatherings set the stage for Passion 2017, where more than 60,000 college students and leaders will come together under one roof — the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Passion 2017 will mark the conference's first return to the venue since 2013 and will be one of the last events in the Georgia Dome before its planned demolition in 2017.
For more information about Passion 2016, visit http://268generation.com/