9 things you should know about Islam



By Joe Carter:

Throughout the world, Muslims are observing their annual observance of Ramadan. Christians need to become more aware of Ramadan as well as the other practices and tenets of this fast-growing global religion. As an aid in that effort, here are nine things you should know about Islam.

1. Islam in Arabic is a verbal noun, meaning self-surrender to Allah (literally: “the god) as revealed through the “message and life of his prophet Mohammed.” In the religious sense, Muslim means “anyone or anything that surrenders itself to the true will of God.”

2. The Quran (literally meaning “the recitation”) is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims believe to be the unedited revelation from Allah verbally revealed through the angel Gabriel to Muhammad while he was in a trance-like state. This “revelation” occurred gradually over a period of approximately 23 years concluding in the year of Mohammed’s death. A number of his companions who knew the Quran by heart decided to collect the book in one volume so that it could be preserved. Quranic chapters are called suras and verses are called ayahs.

3. For a believing Muslim, the Quran occupies the position Christ has for Christians. A Muslim should not handle the text unless they are in a state of ritual purity. Readings are preceded by the phrase “I take refuge with God from Satan, the accursed one,” and followed by “God almighty has spoken truly.” Certain verses are even credited with curative powers (the first sura is claimed to be good for scorpion bites).

4. The first sura of the Quran — considered to be the perfect embodiment of Islam — is repeated in daily prayers and in other occasions. This sura, which consists of seven verses, is the most often recited sura of the Quran:

“All praise belongs to God, Lord of the Universe, the Beneficent, the Merciful and Master of the Day of Judgment, You alone We do worship and from You alone we do seek assistance, guide us to the right path, the path of those to whom You have granted blessings, those who are neither subject to Your anger nor have gone astray.”
This sura is repeated during the five prayers Muslim are required to pray every 24 hours.

5. The basic religious duties of Muslims are known as the Five Pillars:

  • Shahadah: declaring there is no god except Allah, and Muhammad is Allah’s Messenger
  • Salat: ritual prayer five times a day. In performing salat, the precise body movements are as important as the mental state. Salat may be performed almost anywhere provided that the Muslim faces the “Qibla,” that is, in the direction of Islam’s most sacred mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
  • Zakat: compulsory charity for the poor, assessed at 2.5 percent of capital assets (items such as bank deposits but not possessions such as cars or houses).
  • Sawm: fasting from dawn to sunset during the month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the lunar calendar).
  • Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime if he or she is able; the hajj takes place during the last ten days of the twelfth lunar month.

6. Sharia is the moral code and religious law of Islam. There are two primary sources of sharia law: the precepts set forth in the Quranic verses (ayahs), and the example set by Muhammad in the Sunnah. Sharia classifies behavior into the following types or grades: fard (obligatory), mustahabb (recommended), mubah (neutral), makruh (discouraged), and haraam (forbidden). Every human action belongs in one of these five categories. Today, most Muslim countries adopt only a few aspects of sharia, while a few countries apply the entire code.

7. The Islamic view of the Bible is based on the belief that the Torah, Psalms, and Gospels were revelation from Allah that became distorted or corrupted. Muslims believe that Jesus was a Muslim prophet (a messenger of Allah), and that he was not the son of God. They believe he was never crucified or resurrected, nor indeed died at all. Instead, the Quran claims, “God raised him unto Himself.”

8. Islam is often classified, along with Judaism and Christianity, as one of the three “Abrahamic faiths.” But the Muslim conception of Abraham is radically different from the Judeo-Christian tradition. In Islam, Abraham is the prototypical Muslim prophet and that it is in the Quran in which the “religion of Abraham” is to be found. For example, a distinctive of Abraham in the Quran is the report that he and his son Ishmael built the Kaaba in Mecca and established it as a place of worship for Allah. The Abraham of the Quran differs so much from the Abraham of the Bible that it is misleading to claim they refer to the same person.

9. The two main denominations of Islam are Sunni and Shi’ite. Muslims have a similar creed (shahadah) roughly translated as, “There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” The Shi’ite, however, tack on an additional sentence: “Ali is the Friend of Allah. The Successor of the Messenger of Allah And his first Caliph.” Ali was Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law and the reason these groups are often in opposition to one another (the terms Shia and Shi’ite come from condensing Shiat Ali, “partisans of Ali”). After Muhammad died, the leadership of the Muslim believers (the Ummah) was the responsibility of the Caliph, a type of tribal leader. The Sunnis respect Ali and consider him the fourth Caliph while the Shi’a contends he was cheated out of being first. Sunnis, following the tradition of the period, thought the Caliph should be chosen by the community while Shi’ites believe the office should be passed down only to direct descendants of Muhammad. Around 85 percent of the world’s Muslims are Sunni while only about 15 percent are Shi’a. Iran is predominantly Shi’a while Saudi Arabia, and almost all other Arab countries, are Sunni.

Go to Christ immediately



I feel when I have sinned an immediate reluctance to go to Christ. I am ashamed to go. I feel as if it would not do to go, as if it were making Christ the minister of sin, to go straight from the swine-trough to the best robe, and a thousand other excuses. But I am persuaded they are all lies direct from hell.

John argues the opposite way—‘If any man sins, we have an advocate with the Father.’ The holy sensitiveness of the soul that shrinks from the touch of sin, the acute susceptibility of the conscience at the slightest shade of guilt, will of necessity draw the spiritual mind frequently to the blood of Jesus. And herein lies the secret of a heavenly walk. Acquaint yourself with it, my reader, as the most precious secret of your life. He who lives in the habit of a prompt and minute acknowledgement of sin, with his eye reposing calmly, believingly, upon the crucified Redeemer, soars in spirit where the eagle’s pinion [wings] range not.

— Robert Murray M’Cheyne, quoted by Andrew Bonar in
Robert Murray M’Cheyne
(Edinburgh, UK: Banner of Truth, 1960), 176

(HT: Of First Importance)

One With Christ



Selected quotes from One With Christ, by Marcus Johnson, compiled by Stephen Weaver:

“To be saved by Christ…means to be included in the person of Christ. That is what salvation is” (12)

The mysterious reality of our union with Jesus Christ, by which he dwells in us and we in him, is so utterly essential to the gospel that to obscure it inevitably leads to an obscuring of the gospel itself.” (16)

“For Paul, our intimate union with Christ has both legal and transformative benefits. We are both justified and sanctified ‘in Christ Jesus’ in a way that answers both our guilt and pollution in Adam.” (73)

“The theo-logic of the Reformation confession sola fide is not that faith itself is saving, but that faith joins us to Jesus Christ, who is our salvation. Thus, strictly speaking, we are not saved because we believe, but because we are united to Christ through faith.” (99)

“…by virtue of our union with Jesus Christ, we are incorporated into the (sin-bearing, guilt-negating, wrath-absorbing, death-defeating, curse-annulling) crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus Christ, through which our sins are forgiven and we are freed from the sentence of guilt, condemnation, and death which stood against us.” (103)

“Christ is uniquely our sanctification because in him alone the sanctification of our human nature has taken place by union with his divine life.” (119-120)

“Adoption is that benefit of being united with to the Son of God through which we share in his sonship with the Father, become the beloved children of God, and enjoy all the privileges and rights of being included in God’s family.” (147)

“To say that we are preserved in Christ means that once we have been joined to him, he continues to hold us close to him and promises to never let us go.” (170-171)

“As Christ dwells in us and as we are joined to him, we are at the same time the recipients of salvation and the ones who constitute his body, the church. We are the church precisely as we are joined to him for salvation.” (194)

Am I Getting Worse?



Eric Costa:

Christian, if you are truly growing in God’s grace, it is normal to feel worse about yourself as time progresses. This does not mean you are actually getting worse. This is biblical sanctification, and you can even be encouraged that you’re noticing this about yourself! The image above is a diagram created by Jack Miller called “the Cross Chart,” and it is one helpful way of understanding growth in the Christian life. As you grow, your estimation of God’s holiness increases, your estimation of yourself decreases, and your appreciation for the Gospel of grace expands to fill the gap. These three things are not objectively changing, but your awareness of them is. (If you leave off or distort one of those three elements of the chart, you’re in trouble.)

It can be extremely discouraging to fixate on that bottom line, the decreasing estimation of oneself. Over time, God works against our self-deception, lifts our self-imposed blindness to what’s inside of us. Bit by bit, he allows us to see ourselves as we truly are. If he did this all at once, we’d probably go insane with depression. But, in his grace, he takes time to show us how bad things really are in our hearts, in our flesh (and he offsets that painful discovery by granting us deeper trust in his gracious love). We’re not actually getting worse, but we’re seeing our sin more clearly, so it might feel that way.

There’s another way to understand this dynamic of feeling worse about ourselves as we grow in Christ. The Christian life is a battle of spirit versus flesh. I’m not sure how to explain this on a metaphysical level, but we’re somehow torn between warring factions in our persons. There’s the self-in-itself, “the old man,” the dead and dying flesh indwelt by sin… and there’s the self-in-Christ, “the new man,” the reborn and living spirit indwelt by God’s Spirit. These two are locked in mortal combat. (The good news is, because of Jesus, there’s already a clear winner.)

As we grow in Christ, the battle becomes sharper, more defined, more intense. We learn no longer to “fight” the sinful flesh by means of sinful flesh. For example, we no longer suppress our sinful anger by means of our sinful pride. (That’s the only way to “fight” available before becoming a Christian—but it’s not really a fight, is it?) As Christians, we know the only way to kill our sin is by the Spirit, by growth in grace, by Gospel-changed motives. Our spirits grow stronger as we fix our eyes on Christ, but when we “let our guard drop,” our sinful flesh flails about unchecked, like a desperate, wild animal that sees an opening and goes for it. It is now less restrained by other sinful motives, so it lashes out more visibly and aggressively when not restrained by the power of the Spirit. So, in a sense, displays of the flesh may indeed grow worse; your angry outbursts might be louder or more heated. But, ultimately, your faith is on a general trajectory of growth, and those displays will probably be fewer and farther between as the fruit of the Spirit grow in you.

The key to encouragement through this war is fixing your eyes on the Gospel. Like the cross chart above, you need to have a greater vision of God’s grace to you in Jesus Christ, to keep you from despairing as your estimation of yourself tanks. “Look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). He has already gained the victory over all your sin, and he shares his righteousness with you freely as a gift of his grace.

Beat it into their heads continually



“Here I must take counsel of the gospel. I must hearken to the gospel, which teacheth me, not what I ought to do, (for that is the proper office of the law), but what Jesus Christ the Son of God hath done for me: to wit, that He suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death. The gospel willeth me to receive this, and to believe it. And this is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consisteth. Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.”

Martin Luther, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (Smith, English & Co. 1860), p. 206.

Things Jesus will never say to you



Love this from Jared Wilson:

To those who trust in him for salvation, Jesus will never say:

“Go play somewhere; I’m busy.”

“Fake it til you make it.”

“I just don’t think it’s gonna work out between us.”

“I knew you were a screw-up, but this one really surprised me.”

“It’s too late.”

“I don’t care.”

“My assistant will get back to you on that.”

“We’re through.”

“I need some ‘me time’ right now.”

“I just ‘can’t’ right now.”

“I feel like I’m doing all the giving; what have you done for me lately?”

“Yeah, good job on ___________, but what about ____________?”

“I’ll be glad to help if you’ll ‘let’ me.”

“I can’t bless you until you release my power with positive words.”

“Who are you, again?”

“Beat it.”

The Heart of the Gospel



From What is the Gospel, by Greg Gilbert:

The Heart of the Gospel

Sadly, this doctrine of substitution is probably the one part of the Christian gospel that the world hates most. People are simply disgusted at an idea of Jesus being punished for someone else’s sin. More than one author has called it “divine child abuse”. And yet to toss substitutionary atonement aside is to cut out the heart of the gospel. To be sure, there are many pictures in Scripture of what Christ accomplished with his death: example, reconciliation, and victory, to name three. But underneath them all is the reality to which all the other images point—penal substitution. You simply cannot leave it out, or even downplay it in favor of other images, or else you litter the landscape of Scripture with unanswered questions.

Why the sacrifices? What did the shedding of blood accomplish? How can God have mercy on sinner without destroying justice? What can it mean that God forgives iniquity and transgression and sin, and yet by no means clears the guilty (Ex. 34.7)? How can a righteous and holy God justify the ungodly (Rom 4:5)?

The answer to all these questions is found at the cross of Calvary, Jesus’ subsititionary death for his people. A righteous and holy God can justify the ungodly because in Jesus’ death, mercy and justice were perfectly reconciled. The curse was righteously executed, and we were mercifully saved.

(HT: Marco Gonzalez)

Wisdom from Luther on doing theology



J. I. Packer on Martin Luther’s approach to doing theology:

When Martin Luther wrote the Preface to the first collected edition of his many and various writings, he went to town explaining in detail that theology, which should always be based on the Scriptures, should be done according to the pattern modelled in Psalm 119.

There, Luther declared, we see three forms of activity and experience make the theologian.

The first is prayer for light and understanding.

The second is reflective thought (meditatio), meaning sustained study of the substance, thrust, and flow of the biblical text.

The third is standing firm under pressure of various kinds (external opposition, inward conflict, and whatever else Satan can muster: pressures, that is, to abandon, suppress, recant, or otherwise decide not to live by, the truth God has shown from his Word.

Luther expounded this point as one who knew what he was talking about, and his affirmation that sustained prayer, thought, and fidelity to truth whatever the cost, became the path along which theological wisdom is found is surely one of the profoundest utterances that the Christian world has yet heard.

(HT: Martin Downes)

The Danger of Coasting



Tim Challies:

I don’t know how much I’ve driven in the twenty years since I got my license, but I do know it’s a lot, what with all those drives down to the South to visit my family. Here is one thing that has never varied across the hundreds of thousands of miles: When I take my foot off the pedal, the car does not speed up. It doesn’t even maintain the same speed. Instead, from the very moment I take my foot off the accelerator, the car begins to slow. Allowing the car to coast is inviting the car to stop. It may take some time, but left on its own, it will stop eventually. It is inevitable.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because I see in my own life a tendency to coast—to coast in my relationships, to coast in my pursuit of godliness, to coast in my pursuit of God himself. And here are some things I’ve observed:

I do not coast toward godliness, but selfishness.

I do not coast toward self-control, but rashness.

I do not coast toward a love for others, but agitation.

I do not coast toward patience, but irritability.

I do not coast toward purity, but lust.

I do not coast toward self-denial, but self-obsession.

I do not coast toward the gospel, but self-sufficiency.

In short, I do not coast toward Christ, but toward self. When I stop caring, when I stop expending effort, when I allow myself to coast, I inevitably coast away from God and godliness. And this is exactly why I am so deeply dependent upon those ordinary means of grace, those oh-so-ordinary ways of growing in godliness—Scripture and prayer, preaching and fellowship, worship and sacrament. The moment those sweet means no longer appeal is the moment I begin to slow.

Deeper grace from before the dawn of time



Before all time; prior to all worlds; when there was nothing ‘outside of’ God Himself; when the Father, Son, and Spirit found eternal, absolute, and unimaginable blessing, pleasure, and joy in Their holy triunity — it was Their agreed purpose to create a world. That world would fall. But in unison — and at infinitely great cost — this glorious triune God planned to bring you (if you are a believer) grace and salvation.

This is deeper grace from before the dawn of time. It was pictured in the rituals, the leaders, and the experiences of the Old Testament saints, all of whom longed to see what we see. All this is now ours. Our salvation depends on God’s covenant, rooted in eternity, foreshadowed in the Mosaic liturgy, fulfilled in Christ, enduring forever. No wonder Hebrews calls it ‘so great a salvation’ (Heb. 2:3).

— Sinclair B. Ferguson
In Christ Alone
(Orlando, Fl.: Reformation Trust, 2007), 136

(HT: Of First Importance)

The effective love of Christ




“A man may love another as his own soul, yet his love may not be able to help him. He may pity him in prison, but not relieve him, bemoan him in misery, but not help him, suffer with him in trouble, but not ease him. We cannot love grace into a child, nor mercy into a friend; we cannot love them into heaven, though it may be the greatest desire of our soul. . . . But the love of Christ, being the love of God, is effective and fruitful in producing all the good things which he wills for his beloved. He loves life, grace and holiness into us; he loves us into covenant, loves us into heaven.”

John Owen, Works (Edinburgh, 1980), II:63. Style updated, italics added.

(HT: Ray Ortlund)

Deeper into the gospel



Our great need is to be led further in to what we already have. The gospel is so deep that it not only meets our deepest needs but comes from God’s deepest self.

The salvation proclaimed in the gospel is not some mechanical operation that God took on as a side project. It is a ‘mystery that was kept secret for long ages’ (Rom. 16:25), a mystery of salvation that goes back into the heart of God, decreed ‘before the foundation of the world’ (Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:20).

When God undertook our salvation, he did it in a way that put divine resources into play, resources which involve him personally in the task.… The deeper we dig into the gospel, the deeper we go into the mystery of the Trinity.

— Fred Sanders
The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything

(HT: Of First Importance)

Challies: Lessons I’ve Learned From False Teachers



Tim Challies:

A few months ago I began a short series called “The False Teachers.” I wanted to look back through church history to meet some of the people who have undermined the church at various points. We looked at historical figures like Joseph Smith who founded Mormonism and Ellen G. White who led the Seventh Day Adventists into prominence, and we looked at contemporary figures like Benny Hinn, the prominent faith healer, and T.D. Jakes, who has tampered with the doctrine of the Trinity.

I will soon be starting a new series looking at The Defenders, Christians known for defending the church against a certain theological challenge or a specific false teaching. I will be focusing on modern times and modern issues such as inerrancy and Open Theism. But before I do that, I wanted to reflect on some of what I’ve learned as I’ve spent time considering false teachers and false teaching. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from false teachers.


The first and most fundamental thing I learned about false teachers is that we ought to expect them and be on the lookout for them. They are common in every era of church history. This should not surprise us, since the Bible warns that we are on war footing in this world, and that Satan is on full-out offensive against God and his people. And sure enough, history shows that whenever the gospel advances, error follows in its wake. When and where there are teachers of truth, there will necessarily be teachers of error. Perhaps the most surprising thing about false teachers is that we continue to be surprised by them.


False teachers are deceptive. They do not announce themselves as false teachers, but proclaim themselves angels of light, people who have access to wisdom others have missed or misplaced. As Denny Burk says, “False teachers typically won’t show up to your church wearing a sandwich board saying, ‘I am a false teacher’.” Instead they begin within the bounds of orthodoxy and announce themselves only slowly and through their subtly-twisted doctrine. They turn away from orthodoxy one step at a time rather than all at once.


False teachers are dangerous, and part of what makes them so dangerous is that they will affirm so much that is good and true. They will not deny all of the doctrines upon which the Christian faith stands or falls, but only select parts of it. They draw in the unsuspecting with all they affirm and only later destroy them with all they deny. There is an important lesson: We only know a person when he understand both what he affirms and what he denies.


False teachers cause division within the church and often cause division even among true Christians. Because false teachers tend to remain within the church, and because they claim to be honoring the Bible, they confuse true believers and drive wedges between them. Amazingly, it is often those who stand fast against falsehood who get labeled as divisive. The church often trusts a smiling false teacher ahead of a frowning defender.


As Paul wrote his final letter to Timothy he warned that the time was coming when people would not endure sound teaching (and hence, sound teachers) but instead they would have itching ears and demand teachers who would satisfy this itch. False teachers do this very thing. Their concern is not for what people truly need, but for what people want. The concern of the Christian is the exact opposite—the gospel does not address what we want, but what we need!


False teachers know they are false teachers. This may not be true all the time, and perhaps some false teachers deceive themselves before they deceive others. But I believe most know who and what they are; in fact, I believe most know and delight in who and what they are. They are not naive people who have taken a wrong turn in their theology, but evil people who are out to destroy others. Their attack on truth is far more brazen than we may like to think.


False teachers simply cannot tolerate the gospel. At some level and in some way, they will always add to or subtract from the pure and sweet gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. They may affirm the Trinity or inerrancy or the deity of Jesus Christ, but they will never fully affirm the gospel of the Bible.

The Greatest Challenge in the World



John Piper:

Never, never, never forget that Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all the peoples on this planet — the whole planet (Matthew 28:19–20). This is the greatest challenge in the world.

Let the emphasis fall on “all the peoples” — Greek, panta ta ethne (all ethnic groups in the world). Jesus bought men “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). Not some, but every.

The point is not that we can draw sharp boundaries between all the peoples (tribes, languages, nations). The point is that the scope of Jesus’s command is wider and amazingly more diverse than we think.

Remember the Mission

What a wonderful day we live in when we consider the sacrificial, rigorous, extensive research that is being done to help us know the progress of Jesus’s mission! Perhaps the most accessible, clear, and thorough accumulation of these facts is at Joshuaproject.net. I think Jesus would be very pleased if you were familiar with this site for the sake of his name.

They estimate that the total number of people groups in the world is 9,736 if you don’t count any group twice for being in different countries (16,067 if you do).

Then they estimate that 4,067 of those 9,736 are unreached (see the definition). This is the challenge of the church globally — the greatest challenge in the world.

In Luke 24:46–47 Jesus said his commission was written in the Old Testament: “It is written that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

In John 17:18 and 20:21 Jesus said his command is a continuation of his own mission to earth — he was the perfect cross-cultural missionary. He bought the redemption. We take it to the world. Without us they don’t have it. “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

And in Acts 1:8 Jesus said to the disciples that he sent the Holy Spirit specifically for the empowering of this mission. “The Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Your life is too small if it is not connected to this great challenge. Not all Christians are missionaries. But all care about the mission. All are connected. And want to be connected. No Christian should go for months and never think about this greatest of all enterprises.

The Challenge and the Greatness

World missions is greater than any other challenge in the world.

It is vastly greater than the challenge of stamping out all disease, for the consequences of our failure are infinitely worse than that failure would be.

It is vastly greater than the challenge of bringing literacy to all the peoples because it includes that (since one goal of discipleship is reading the Bible) and goes beyond it to the infinite results of believing what is read.

It is vastly greater than the challenge of ending all war, because there are greater and worse hostilities against mankind than come from armed combat.

It is vastly greater than the challenge of feeding all the hungry of the world because it addresses that and goes beyond it to the hunger that leads to starvation beyond death.

Why is it the greatest?

It is the greatest challenge in the world because it carries the greatest news in the world: There is salvation from God’s judgment only through faith in Christ’s death and resurrection.

It is the greatest challenge in the world because it involves the most complex task of embedding the Christian faith authentically in thousands of diverse cultures without diluting the saving message.

It is the greatest challenge in the world because it will require the greatest sacrifice of any other challenge not only because of the greatest complexity, but also because of the greatest opposition. Jesus promised it. “You will be hated by all nations” (Matthew 24:9).

It is the greatest challenge in the world because it was given by the greatest person in the world, Jesus Christ.

It is the greatest challenge in the world because it has the greatest authority behind it, namely “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).

It is the greatest challenge in the world because it is backed by the greatest promise in the world: “I — the creator and sustainer and redeemer of all — will be with you to the end of the age.”

It is the greatest challenge in the world because Jesus has given us supernatural power that comes to its fullest enjoyment when actualized in world missions (Acts 1:8).

Oh, take hold of this! Never let it go. Stay connected to this. Let this be in your prayers without ceasing. Don’t drift away from this. Yes, by all means give yourself to many causes. But remember this cause sums them all up, because this cause carries the possibility of all good causes to all the nations.

Love the mission of Jesus. Because you love Jesus. And because you love the lost. Yes you do. You are Christian.

Spiritual life flows out of union with Christ



“Spiritual life flows out of union with Christ, not merely imitation of Christ. When the full dimensions of God’s gracious provision in Christ are not clearly articulated in the church, faith cannot apprehend them, and the life of the church will suffer distortion and attenuation. The individual Christian and the church as a whole are alive in Christ, and when any essential dimensions of what it means to be in Christ are obscured in the church’s understanding there is no guarantee that the people of God will strive toward and experience fullness of life.”

Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, p. 74

(HT: Brian Hedges)

Top 20 Christ-Centred Expository Preaching Checklist



David Prince:

  1. Preach the text/Preach Christ and His Kingdom (redemptive history, epoch, person & work of Christ, eschatological fulfillment in the Kingdom of Christ)
  2. Honor the Authors of the text
  3. Apply the text in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
  4. Preach with authority as an ambassador of Christ
  5. Understand preaching as an eschatological act of spiritual war that demands prayer and Spirit-given unction
  6. Preach the sermon and not the outline
  7. Remember the outline is primarily for you and not the congregation
  8. Prepare sermon notes in thought blocks with orality mind
  9. Keep your audience in mind as you prepare
  10. Concretize illustrations and application bringing theological truth down the ladder of abstraction
  11. Use an illustration like a window not like a painting
  12. Start strong. Do not slowly ramp up. Finish strong. Do not introduce new ideas in the conclusion
  13. Do not narrate your sermon moves and make sure sermon moves are connected and not abstracted from one another (why I prefer to say moves and not points)
  14. Avoid statistics and lists (if used—personalize)
  15. Do not lose the text or allow the congregation to lose the text as you preach
  16. Do not lose the genre as you preach
  17. Make sure the sermon honors the form and the feel of the text
  18. Always bring the gospel to bear on religious Pharisees, Sadducees and idols
  19. Remember that the Gospel is the key to justification and sanctification
  20. Ask – Did Jesus have to be resurrected for this sermon to work? If not, start over

Primer on Reading the Bible



By John J. Hughes:

The Bible is not an ordinary book, and we will never taste its choicest fruits if we approach it in an ordinary manner. Here are seven short pieces of counsel, from a lifelong Bible-reader, to help you make the most of your own study of the Scriptures.

1. Exalt God’s Word

God exalts his word and name above all things (Psalm 138:2). His words are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace, purified seven times (Psalm 12:6). They are perfect (Psalm 19:7). Because the words of the Bible are “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16), they are living, active, able to penetrate our hearts (Hebrews 4:12) and to give life (John 6:63, 68). Therefore, Jesus prayed: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). The Bible is not just true; it is truth itself — God’s divinely revealed standard of truth.

2. Live by God’s Words

Jesus said we are to live by “every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Obeying God’s word is the hallmark of a disciple and the test of true love. Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). But “he who does not love me will not obey my teaching” (John 14:24). Love shows itself in obedience, which God rewards with increased fellowship with him.

3. Honor the Bible’s Two Natures

Jesus has two natures — divine and human, without sin. So also the Bible has two authors — God and man, without error. The Bible is the words of God in the words of men (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16). What the Bible says, God says.

4. Recognize the Bible’s Purposes

God gave the Bible to make us “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15), to equip us “for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17). Paul prayed that our love for Jesus “may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,” so we can discern God’s will and lead lives that please him and result in his worship (Philippians 1:9–11). Loving Jesus increases our understanding of God’s word and will, deepens our worship of him, and fosters richer fellowship with him.

5. Beware of Pharisaical Leaven

Bible study can fan the flames of our love for Jesus or drown it in a sea of knowledge. Studying the Bible with Jesus is life-changing. Studying the Bible without him is an exercise in intellectual pride.

Jesus’s harshest words were reserved for Bible scholars and religious leaders. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their proud, deceitful hearts: “You have never heard the Father’s voice . . . nor does his word dwell in you. . . . You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:37–40).

Similarly, Jesus chastised the Sadducees for their poor understanding of the Bible and God: “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).

According to Jesus (in John 5:37–47), he is the subject of the Bible (see also Luke 24:25–27 and 2 Corinthians 1:20), and the proper goal of Bible study is not the acquisition of knowledge, but hearing God speak to us in his word, having his word dwell in us, and coming to him for eternal life — in other words, life-giving fellowship with God.

6. Seek Fellowship with God

First, approach God’s word with a humble heart. “Knowledge puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1), and God opposes proud people (1 Peter 5:5). God calls pride a “detestable thing” (Proverbs 16:5) — the same Hebrew word used to refer to pagan sacrifices and practices. Pride begets spiritual death, but humility brings life (Proverbs 22:4) because God “gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5), who “tremble at his word” (Isaiah 66:2), and he revives them (Isaiah 57:15).

Cry out for supernatural help. Ask God to give you a “spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Ephesians 1:17) and to open your eyes so you “may see wonderful things in his law” (Psalm 119:18). Ask to hear Jesus’s voice (John 10:4, 16, 27) and for him to open the Scriptures so your heart might burn with increased passion for the Son of God (Luke 24:32). Invite the Author of the Book to help you understand his Book. God delights in giving the Holy Spirit to those who ask him (Luke 11:13)!

Second, approach God’s word with a pure heart. Only in Jesus are we able to enter God’s presence as a passionate worshiper who has “clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:3–4), not just by justification, but increasingly in terms of our own sanctification. Sin grieves the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) and separates us from God (Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 59:2). Without the active presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13), we cannot understand God’s word (1 Corinthians 2:12–14).

Before studying the Bible, ask God to reveal any sin in your life (Psalm 139:23–24). Confess your sin. Ask God to cleanse your heart (Psalm 51:10). Then thank God for forgiving and cleansing you through Jesus’s blood (Hebrews 9:14; 10:19–22; 1 John 1:9).

Third, approach God’s word with a seeking heart. Only if you earnestly seek God, believing he will speak to you in his word, will you hear what he has to say and experience his presence, for without faith it is impossible to please him (Hebrews 11:6). Seek God above all. Learn to pray David’s prayer: “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).

7. Seek to Love What God Loves — And Hate What God Hates

The main purpose of Bible study is knowing God personally and deeply in a life-transforming way (Philippians 3:10) so that the character of Christ is formed in us (Galatians 4:19) as God conforms us to the image of (Romans 8:29) and transforms us into the likeness of (2 Corinthians 3:18) his Son, Jesus.

Godly Bible study will lead to an increased love for what pleases God (John 8:29; 2 Corinthians 5:9) and a corresponding hatred for the things God hates (Hebrews 1:9). It will lead us to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33) and to do all that we do for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). It will lead us to have passion for Jesus and compassion for people (Matthew 22:37–40; 1 Timothy 1:5; Revelation 2:4). Jesus prayed that the Father’s love for him would be in us and that he would be in us (John 17:26). He prayed that we would experience the Father’s love for us, have deep fellowship with him, and then love him as his Father does (Romans 5:5; 1 John 4:19). Such love is upward-facing toward God and outward-facing toward others. To say that we love God while failing to show love to others signifies a failure to love God truly (1 John 4:20).

God-pleasing Bible study will deepen our experience of God’s love, resulting in greater love for him, deeper fellowship with him, and greater compassion for people.

A thinly spread gospel



“In the twentieth century the church has tried to see how little it could say and still get converts. The assumption has been that a minimal message will conserve our forces, spread the Gospel farther, and, of course, preserve a unity among evangelicals. It has succeeded in spreading the truth so thinly that the world cannot see it. Four facts droned over and over have bored sinners around us and weakened the church as well.”

Walter J. Chantry, Today’s Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic? (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1970), p. 45-46.

(HT:Thabiti Anyabwile)

The Fuel For Missions



Without the Bible, world evangelization would not only impossible but actually inconceivable. It is the Bible that lays upon us the responsibility to evangelize the world, gives us a gospel to proclaim, tells us how to proclaim it and promises us that it is God’s power for salvation to every believer.

It is, moreover, an observable fact of history, both past and contemporary, that the degree of the Church’s commitment to world evangelization is commensurate with the degree of its conviction about the authority of the Bible. Whenever Christians lose their confidence in the Bible, they also lose their zeal for evangelism. Conversely, whenever they are convinced about the Bible, then they are determined about evangelism.

- John Stott in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, p.21

(HT: Zach Nielsen)


God’s last and effective word


The secret of the promise is the bearing of the curse so that the blessing may prevail. The gospel is that in Jesus Christ the curse has been set aside and God’s creative purpose for the blessing of his creation is established beyond any possibility of reversal.

God’s last and effective word is his blessing. It is a particular word spoken in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, broadcast by those who like Paul cannot but pass it on, so powerful is its effect, over flowing with blessing from those who, blessed by it, become a blessing to others.

— Richard Bauckham
Bible and Mission
(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 35-36

(HT: Of First Importance)