10 Things You should Know about Justification

Sam Storms: (1) Most Protestant Christians immediately think of the reformer Martin Luther when the subject of justification is raised. Early on Luther believed that, if the sinner would take the initiative by humbly calling on God and “doing what lies within”, God would respond with the grace of justification. This doctrine, however, brought Luther little comfort, for he found himself despairing of the ability to fulfill the condition of the covenant. He conceived of the “righteousness of God” as an impartial divine attribute according to which God either forgave or condemned the individual based on the latter’s response to the terms of the covenant. God’s righteousness, therefore, was not gospel (i.e., good news) for Luther but an ever-present threat. The transformation in Luther’s theology came with the recognition that the “righteousness” of God was, in fact, that according to which God graciously provided the very righteousness he required. (2) Luther’s concept of justification is best seen in the phrase

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What Does It Really Mean to Be #Blessed?

Vaneetha Rendall Risner: Feeling blessed is in vogue. A quick look at Facebook and Twitter shows how many people today feel #blessed. In our social-media world, saying you’re blessed can be a way of boasting while trying to sound humble. College scholarship? #Blessed. Unexpected raise? #Blessed. Wonderful family? #Blessed. As Christians we use that term too, of course. We pray God will bless our family. We attribute our undeserved gifts to “God’s blessings.” We talk about ministries being blessed. But what does it really mean? How should we understand the blessing of God? The Good Life For believers, is the blessed life synonymous with the successful life? Is it the Christian version of the good life? A loving marriage, obedient children, a vibrant ministry, a healthy body, a successful career, trusted friends, financial abundance — if these are the characteristics of a blessed life, then having all of them should translate into an extraordinarily blessed life. But does it? If

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The Christian and Joy

Derek Thomas: “The Holy Spirit has exhorted the faithful to continue clapping their hands for joy until the advent of the promised Redeemer,” wrote John Calvin in a comment on Psalm 47:12. Paul would heartily concur! Writing from a prison cell from which he had no certain knowledge of escaping other than to his execution, joy is what came to mind. Joy is what the epistle to the Philippians is all about. So much is Philippians about joy that George B. Duncan once referred to it as “the life of continual rejoicing.” The opposite of joy is misery, and miserable is something we are not meant to be. The Reformers caught the centrality of joy in the affections of Christians when they insisted that our chief goal in life is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever” (WSC, Q. 1). Christians are tempted, of course, to be discouraged and depressed by the force of overwhelming circumstances. But in such circumstances, we

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The Gospel of Sovereign Grace

Joel Beeke: One New Testament book that especially emphasizes God’s astounding sovereign grace is Paul’s letter to the Romans. According to Paul, this grace makes both Jew and Gentile co-heirs of God’s kingdom with faithful Abraham (Rom. 4:16). It establishes peace between God and sinners who are His enemies (Rom. 5:2). Since only this grace is stronger than the forces of sin, it brings genuine and lasting freedom from sin’s dominion (Rom. 5:20-21; 6:14). Divine grace equips Christian men and women with varied gifts to serve in the church of God (Rom. 12:6). This grace ultimately will conquer death and is the sure harbinger of eternal life for all who receive it (Rom. 5:20-21), for it is a grace that reaches back into the aeons before the creation of time and, without respect to human merit, chooses men and women for salvation (Rom. 11:5-6). This idea that salvation owes everything to God’s grace is the overarching theme not just in Romans

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10 Things you should Know about Election

Sam Storms: 1. Election is a pre-temporal decision by God, a choice he made before any of us ever existed. God chose us in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). God “saved us,” said Paul, “and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Tim. 1:9). 2. Divine election is not merely corporate, but also of individuals. Whereas it is true that Christ is himself the Elect One, and whereas it is true that the Church is the chosen or elect people of God, individuals are themselves chosen by God to believe in Christ in order that they might become members of the church. In other words, God didn’t simply choose the church. He chose the specific individuals who would comprise the church. On a related note, this glorious act of God’s grace in

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Living Water

Martyn Lloyd-Jones on John 4:56: Possibly one of the most devastating things that can happen to us as Christians is that we cease to expect anything to happen. I am not sure but that this is not one of our greatest troubles today. We come to our services and they are orderly, they are nice ‒ we come, we go ‒ and sometimes they are timed almost to the minute, and there it is. But that is not Christianity, my friend. Where is the Lord of glory? Where is the one sitting by the well? Are we expecting him? Do we anticipate this? Are we open to it? Are we aware that we are ever facing this glorious possibility of having the greatest surprise of our life? Or let me put it like this. You may feel and say ‒ as many do ‒ ‘I was converted and became a Christian. I’ve grown ‒ yes, I’ve grown in knowledge, I’ve

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Hyper-Grace and Repentance

Sam Storms: Among the many things often heard by advocates of what I’m calling Hyper-Grace is that too many Christians are focused on repenting of their sins. We are excessively “sin-conscious,” so they say, and should instead turn our attention to the finality and sufficiency of God’s saving grace to us in Jesus Christ. There is a sense in which this is a good and important reminder. Some Christians are excessively sin-conscious and have failed to recognize the glory and peace that come from trusting wholly in what God did through Jesus to remove the guilt and condemnation or our sin. But what they fail to recognize is that it is precisely because of the wonder and majesty of God’s saving mercy in Jesus that we should be sensitive to our sin and quick to repent of it. We do not repent in order to curry God’s favor or to make it possible for us to be reconciled to him.

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For Whom Did Christ Die?

Jarvis Williams: When you hear the question, “For whom did Jesus die?” what do you think? The answer may seem obvious: for the world. After all, John 1:29 says that Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. And John 3:16 declares that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” As a result, many interpreters assert that Jesus died for the entire world, and not for a predestined number of people. But what does the term “world” mean when used in association with Jesus’s death? Does it refer to everyone without distinction or to everyone without exception? There is a difference. Everyone without distinction would mean that Jesus died for all kinds of people from every tongue, tribe, people, and nation. Everyone without exception would mean that he died for every single individual person without any exception. This

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The Bible Is Not an Instruction Manual

Jared Wilson: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth Ever heard the Bible explained that way? It’s a handy mnemonic device that certainly has some truth to it. But does it get at the heart of what the Bible really is? The way so many of us treat the Scriptures—as God’s “how to” book—doesn’t seem quite right when we carefully look at what its own pages say. And I fear that the way we use the Bible in this way actually accomplishes the opposite of what we intended. If the Bible is not essentially an instruction manual for practical application, then, what is it? If it’s not mainly about what we need to do, what is it about? If it’s not about us, who is it about? The Bible Is about Jesus About Jesus? Well, duh,” you’re thinking right now. That goes without saying. And I agree. It has been going without saying. But we need to keep saying it. We don’t

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The chief end of preaching

Steven Lawson: The spiritual power transmitted by Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ preaching grew out of his own transcendent view of God. No man’s preaching can rise any higher than his view of God. The sheer genius of Lloyd-Jones’ preaching was based in the towering knowledge of God he possessed and proclaimed. The more he exalted God in the pulpit, the higher the people rose in their worship of God. He was constantly magnifying the glory of God and leading his listeners to behold His greatness and grace. In 1969, Lloyd-Jones delivered a series of lectures on preaching at Westminster Theological Seminary. There, he asserted: Preaching is first of all a proclamation of the being of God . . .  preaching worthy of the name starts with God and with a declaration concerning His being and power and glory. You find that everywhere in the New Testament. That was precisely what Paul did in Athens—“Him declare I unto you.” “Him”! Preaching about God, and contrasting Him with

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The Rescuing Love of God

This post by Mike Bullmore is adapted from the ESV Men’s Devotional Bible. A Dire Situation Apart from God, man gets himself into all sorts of spiritually dangerous and eternity-threatening situations. Four such situations are described in Psalm 107. We might not immediately find ourselves relating to what we see here, but if we read carefully and with spiritually attuned eyes, we will find much that maps onto our lives. In each of four successive vignettes the psalmist describes some dire situation (Ps. 107:4, 10, 17, 23). Then, in each one of those scenes, two refrains are repeated exactly word for word: first, “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress” (vv. 6, 13, 19, 28); second, after an account of God’s deliverance, “Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man” (vv. 8, 15, 21, 31). This repeated pattern of distress and

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Living as the New Covenant Temple

New Timothy Rucker: Temple language and activity saturate the New Testament, following in the footsteps of the Old Testament. Somewhat surprisingly, much of this temple imagery is not primarily concerned with Herod’s stunning Second Temple makeover, but rather, with the New Covenant Temple (NCT hereafter) that Jesus was building. NCT imagery was important for the New Testament authors and their community, and therefore, such imagery should also be enriching for the Church today. NEW COVENANT TEMPLE IMAGERY According to the New Testament’s NCT imagery, Jesus is the NCT (John 2:21), the cornerstone (Matt. 21:42, Eph. 2:20), and the high priest (Heb. 4:14, 10:21). The curtain is Jesus’ flesh (Heb. 10:20). Jesus is the atonement (1 Jn. 2:2, Rom. 3:25). The foundation for this new temple is made up of the apostles and the prophets (Eph. 2:20, Rev. 21:14). The pillars are James, Cephas, John, and the one who conquers (Gal. 2:9,Rev. 3:12). The saints are the living stones being indwelt

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What Does it Mean to “Find Your Identity in Christ?”

Gavin Ortlund: We are often told (or tell ourselves) to “find our identity in Christ.” And rightly so, because living out of our new identity in Christ is the defining root of true sanctification. But it can also seem like a rather abstract concept. What does it actually feel like to find our identity in Christ in real time and amidst genuine struggle? How do we unite this great comprehensive category of sanctification to the concrete particulars of Scripture and everyday life? I was thinking about this the other idea day and jotted down 5 initial thoughts, though I am sure we could add more. 1) To find your identity in Christ is to think much of heaven (Col. 3:1-4) Colossians 3:1-3 is bracketed with union language: “you have been raised (v. 1) … you have died” (v. 3). As in Romans 6, our union with Christ is specifically a union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection. But

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10 Things you should Know about Grace

Same Storms: (1) Let’s begin with a definition. Herman Bavinck defined the saving grace of God as “his voluntary, unrestrained, unmerited favor toward guilty sinners, granting them justification and life instead of the penalty of death, which they deserved” (The Doctrine of God, 208). Louis Berkhof defined it as “the free bestowal of kindness on one who has no claim to it” (Systematic Theology, 71). J. I. Packer put it this way: “The grace of God is love freely shown towards guilty sinners, contrary to their merit and indeed in defiance of their demerit. It is God showing goodness to persons who deserve only severity, and had no reason to expect anything but severity” (Knowing God, 120). (2) Grace is not the same as mercy. Whereas grace is God’s goodness toward sinners, mercy is God’s goodness toward sufferers. As a result, mercy does not appear to be as free as grace. “When we show mercy,” says John Piper, “it looks

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Complete Assurance for Incomplete People

John Piper: By one offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14) Two things here are mightily encouraging for us in our imperfect condition as saved sinners. First, notice that Christ has perfected his people, and it is already complete. “For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” He has done it. And he has done it for all time. The perfecting of his people is complete and it is complete forever. Does this mean that Christians don’t sin? Don’t get sick? Don’t make mathematical errors in school? That we are already perfect in our behavior and attitudes? There is one clear reason in this very verse for knowing that is not the case. What is it? It’s the last phrase. Who are the people that have been perfected for all time? It is those who “are being sanctified.” The ongoing continuous action of the Greek present

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Making Jesus in our own image

Sinclair Ferguson: Many years ago now there was a scholarly movement that became known as “The Quest for the Historical Jesus.” Scholars said “Let’s try to get behind the Gospels to find out who Jesus really was, and what he was really like.” So they took bits and pieces of the Gospel testimony and made a picture of Christ. One of the shrewdest things that was said about this movement was that these scholars were like people looking down a well to find Jesus, but didn’t realize that the “Jesus” they saw was really just a reflection of themselves from the water at the bottom of the well! Sometimes I feel this is actually what has happened in popular evangelicalism. Our “Jesus” is actually a reflection of ourselves. This is the constant danger when we don’t simply open the Scriptures and listen to their testimony about Jesus: we make a Jesus in our own image, usually domesticated. Sadly, much that dominates

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You’re ‘More than a Conquerer’—But What Does that Mean?

Justin Holcomb: Because of Jesus’s resurrection, all threats against you are tamed. Jesus conquered death, so death and evil aren’t the end of the story. You can have hope. In Revelation, one of the key themes is conquering through suffering. The number of occurrences of the verb “to conquer” illustrates this (it appears 17 times). John describes amazing promises, addressing them specifically to those who “conquer”: “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (2:7) “The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death” (2:11) “To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it” (2:17) “The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations” (2:26) “The one

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A Peculiar Glory

John Frame’s commendation of John Piper’s latest book, ‘A Peculiar Glory – How the Christian Scriptures reveal their complete truthfulness’: A Peculiar Glory is a solid theological and exegetical treatment of biblical authority, but much more. Besides the standard arguments, Piper has developed (with the help of Jonathan Edwards) a profoundly original yet biblical approach to the question. It raises the traditional arguments to an exponential level of cogency. Piper says that our most definitive persuasion comes from actually seeing the glory of God in his Word. Theologians have traditionally called this the ‘internal testimony of the Holy Spirit,’ but that theological label does little justice to the experience, the awareness of the glory of God as we meet Jesus in Scripture. That really happens. It is astonishing and powerful. And it explains the difference between an observer’s merely theoretical faith and a true disciple’s delighted embrace of Christ. This doctrine of Scripture is worthy of the overall emphasis of

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Raised for us and our salvation

  Matthew Barrett: Too often in our churches the resurrection of Christ is a doctrine of secondary importance. It is neglected and forgotten until Easter comes around each year. The same disregard for the resurrection is seen in how we share the gospel. Christians can tend to share the gospel as if Jesus died on the cross and that is the end of the story. We make a zip line from the crucifixion to “repent and believe,” contrary to the example Peter sets for us in Acts 2:22-24 and 4:26. As central as the cross is to our salvation (and it is absolutely central!), what was accomplished at the cross is truly incomplete if the tomb is not found empty on Sunday morning. Therefore, the resurrection of Christ is, to utilize the language of the Nicene Creed, absolutely vital “for us and our salvation.”  But how exactly? Our Regeneration is Grounded in the Resurrection of Christ Have you ever read

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Mark Noll on Three Things about Awakenings in Church History

Mark Noll: As a historian, three things increasingly impress me about awakenings in church history: First, that they really do occur, and—from medieval, monastic revivals through classic evangelical awakenings to modern Pentecostal renewal—they really have brought great benefit to the church. Second, revivals tend to exaggerate, so that along with the real benefit often come increased problems like exalted opinions of one’s self in God’s general design. Third, most of the circumstances that have made a permanent difference in spreading the Gospel and deepening the church’s understanding of the Gospel have taken place in ordinary church settings rather than revivals. —quoted in “What Christian Leaders Are Saying about Spiritual Renewal,” Vocatio 11, no. 1 (Winter 1999): 6. (HT: Justin Taylor)