Enjoying God Is a Command

Sinclair Ferguson: While shaking hands at the church door, ministers are sometimes greeted with a spontaneous, “I really enjoyed that!”—which is immediately followed by, “Oh! I shouldn’t really say that, should I?” I usually grip tighter, hold the handshake a little longer, and say with a smile, “Doesn’t the catechism’s first question encourage us to do that? If we are to enjoy Him forever, why not begin now?” Of course, we cannot enjoy God apart from glorifying Him. And the Westminster Shorter Catechism wisely goes on to ask, “What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?” But notice that Scripture contains the “rule” for enjoying God as well as glorifying Him. We know it abounds in instructions for glorifying Him, but how does it instruct us to “enjoy him”? Enjoying God is a command, not an optional extra: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Phil. 4:4). But how? We cannot “rejoice

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Affections and emotions: Are they the same?

Sam Storms: The word “affection” may be unfamiliar to many, except when used of romantic feelings that pass between a man and a woman. This is not the sense in which I use it here. Jonathan Edwards defined the affections as “the more vigorous and sensible exercises of the inclination and will of the soul.” So, are our “affections” the same as our “emotions” or “passions”? I don’t think so. Certainly, there is what may rightly be called an emotional dimension to affections. Affections, after all, are sensible and intense longings or aversions of the will. Perhaps it would be best to say that whereas affections are not less than emotions, they are surely more. Emotions can often be no more than physiologically heightened states of either euphoria or fear that are unrelated to what the mind perceives as true. Affections, on the other hand, are always the fruit or effect of what the mind understands and knows. The will

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The Message of the Bible

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: We are all aware of problems in this world. Everyone knows what it is to be weary, to be disappointed, and to struggle. And we have a feeling that we were not meant for this. We are all searching for some solution to the problems of life. The question is, why are you unhappy? Why do things go wrong? Why is there illness and sickness? Why should there be death? Those are the questions with which the Bible deals. The Bible talks to you about your unhappiness. Some insist that the Bible, far from being practical, is really very remote from life. But nothing in the world is as practical as the teaching of the Bible. In order to answer questions about you, the Bible starts in the most extraordinary way: “In the beginning God…” It starts with God. Before I begin to ask any questions about myself and my problems, I ought to ask questions like

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10 Things You Should Know about the New Heaven and New Earth

Sam Storms: Where will believers in Jesus spend eternity? It won’t be on a cloud or a star in some distant galaxy. It will be on the sanctified and redeemed soil of the new earth. Here are ten things you should about what eternal life will be like in the new heaven and new earth. (1) According to Revelation 21:1 this present earth and the heavens above will “pass away” when Jesus Christ returns to destroy his enemies and consummate his kingdom. But this present earth does not give way to a purely spiritual existence somewhere in the clouds above. The “first heaven and the first earth” give way to a new heaven and a new earth. The relationship between the former and the latter is ambiguous. Will the new heaven and earth replace the old or simply be a renewal of what we now experience? Certainly there are elements of continuity, even as there are between our present, corruptible bodies and

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The Purest Act of Pleasure

Tony Reinke: The Purest Act of Pleasure – Why God delights in election: Unconditional election is God’s decision to choose a people for himself, a bride, from out of all the God-ignoring sinners on earth. God will begin with a whore and make himself a splendid spouse. This bride is the object of his eternal love. She will be pulled from the brothel of sin. It’s all “unconditional” because it is not based on any positive condition in the bride. He cannot love this new bride for her beauty; only his unrelenting love will forge beauty in her. From among every ethnicity, God chooses men, women, children, ranchers, sailors, bankers, graphic designers, the disabled, poets, schoolteachers, merchants, athletes, and housewives. He even chooses murderers, prostitutes, blindly religious people, and tax collectors. He chooses the soft-spoken and the brash. He chooses some who are famous, some who are geniuses, and some who are wealthy. But mostly he chooses nobodies (1 Corinthians 1:18–31).

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The Joy of Not Sinning

Tim Challies: I think it is a question every Christian would all like to ask God, given the opportunity. It is an honest question. A humble one, I hope. If you have the ability to immediately destroy and remove all of a Christian’s sin the very moment he puts his faith in Jesus Christ, why don’t you? Why didn’t you? There is always a good bit of debate in the Christian world about exactly how God sanctifies us and how human effort relates to divine work. Whatever we believe about sanctification, we know it is a lifelong battle and we know it is a difficult one. The difficulty is related to the extent of our depravity, the fact that the effects of sin extend to our every part, to our minds, our hearts, our wills, even our bodies. We could give every moment of every day to the battle against sin and still die as deeply sinful people. Every Christian

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10 Things You Should Know about Forgiving Others

Sam Storms: Forgiving others is counter-intuitive to human nature. It rarely seems to make sense. Most often it grates on our souls like fingernails on a chalkboard. King Louis XII of France spoke for us all when he said, “Nothing smells so sweet as the dead body of your enemy!” If we were honest with each other we’d readily admit that we enjoy withholding forgiveness because it permits us to keep our enemies (and even some of our friends) under control. It gives us the opportunity to manipulate them into providing things we want from them. We use their offense against us as a rope to dangle them over the fires of vengeance. If we were to completely forgive them, we would lose our excuse for self-pity. And forgiveness would set them free from their obligation to us to “make good.” One thing I’ve learned over the years is that people typically refuse to forgive others or even to consider

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The Vertical Dimensions of the Cross

Nicolas T. Batzig: The Scriptures give us a robust revelation about all that Jesus accomplished on the cross. As we go about seeking to categorize all of the various dimensions of the cross, we discover that there are both vertical and horizontal dimensions to Jesus’ work. The vertical dimensions are foundational; the horizontal are consequential. The vertical dimensions include Jesus’ defeat of Satan (Gen. 3:15; John 12:31; Col. 2:15), His propitiating the wrath of God (Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:7; 1 John 2:2; 4:10), His atoning for our sin (Heb. 1:3; Rom. 4:7–8), His breaking the power of sin (Rom. 6:9–14), His securing the new heavens and new earth (Heb. 2:5–11), and His overcoming the world (John 12:31; 16:33). The horizontal dimensions include His becoming the example of self-sacrificial living (Rom. 15:2–3; 1 Peter 2:21) and His reconciling men to one another, thereby making peace for those who formerly lived in hostility with one another (Eph. 2:14). When men pervert or deny the biblical teaching concerning the vertical nature of the

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Justification and Assurance According to John Calvin

Tom Schreiner: Justification by Faith Alone Calvin, like Luther, stresses that justification is by faith alone. A right relationship to God can’t be gained by works since all people sin, thus the only pathway to salvation is faith. Calvin is careful to say, however, that faith shouldn’t be construed as a work, as if faith itself justifies us, for if such were the case, then faith would be a good work that makes us right with God. Instead, faith is the instrument or vessel that joins us to Christ, and ultimately believers are justified by Christ as the crucified and risen one. Faith itself, strictly speaking, doesn’t justify. Rather, faith justifies as an instrument, receiving Christ for righteousness and life. Indeed, faith is not something that originates with human beings. Yes, human beings believe the gospel and are saved, and so in that sense faith is exercised by human beings. At the same time, however, faith ultimately comes from the Holy Spirit

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Five Marks of Effective Prayer

H.B. Charles: And a leper came to Jesus, imploring him, and kneeling to him said, “If you will, you can make me clean.”– Mark 1:40 The last passage of chapter 1 (verses 40-45), records the miracle of Jesus cleansing a leper. It is also recorded in Matthew 8:1-4 and Luke 5:12-15. Leprosy was the most dreaded disease in the Bible. The term “leprosy” was used to describe anything from a skin rash to Hansen’s Disease (the modern name for leprosy). Luke 5:12 says this man who came to Jesus was “full of leprosy.” This was no skin rash. It was full-blown leprosy in its advanced stages. In his desperation, he came to Jesus for help. And Jesus made him clean (Mark 1:41-42). This story is about the miracle-working and divine authority of Jesus. This leper is only a trophy of amazing grace. The priority of this passage it what it teaches us about Jesus. But there is a lesson about

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Spiritual Gifts and the Lordship of Christ

Tom Schreiner: Spiritual gifts provide a fascinating topic of discussion.[1] Christians from different theological traditions have different opinions about the gifts. It is important to study what the Scriptures say, and it is important to understand the spiritual gifts, but we can have unity with brothers and sisters even if we are not on the same page regarding all the details of the gifts. However, there is one fundamental truth that we must affirm about the gifts, regardless of whether we hold a cessationist or continuationist view of the gifts as a whole: the lordship of Jesus Christ over spiritual gifts. Paul introduces the topic of spiritual gifts with the foundational truth of Jesus’ lordship. “Now concerning spiritual gifts: brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be unaware. You know that when you were pagans, you used to be enticed and led astray by mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one speaking by the

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What Is Discernment?

Sinclair Ferguson: Someone I know recently expressed an opinion that surprised and in some ways disappointed me. I said to myself, “I thought he would have more discernment than that.” The experience caused me to reflect on the importance of discernment and the lack of it in our world. We know that people often do not see issues clearly and are easily misled because they do not think biblically. But, sadly, one cannot help reflecting on how true this is of the church community, too. Most of us doubtless want to distance ourselves from what might be regarded as “the lunatic fringe” of contemporary Christianity. We are on our guard against being led astray by false teachers. But there is more to discernment than this. True discernment means not only distinguishing the right from the wrong; it means distinguishing the primary from the secondary, the essential from the indifferent, and the permanent from the transient. And, yes, it means distinguishing between the

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Why does anyone become a Christian?

Tim Keller: Many say that Christians who maintain the historic, traditional doctrines are behind the times, are too exclusive, and are “on the wrong side of history.” Two recent books that cast doubt on this view are from historian and biblical scholar Larry Hurtado, Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World (Baylor University Press, 2016) and Why on Earth Did Anyone Become a Christian in the First Three Centuries? (Marquette University Press, 2016). The earliest Christians were widely ridiculed, especially by the cultural elites, excluded from circles of influence and business, and often persecuted and put to death. Hurtado says that Roman authorities were uniquely hostile to them, compared to other religious groups. Why? It was expected that people would have their own gods, but that they would also be willing to show honor to all other gods as well. Nearly every home, every city, every professional guild, and the Empire itself each had its own gods. You could not

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10 Things You Should Know about Original Sin

Sam Storms: Original sin sounds so archaic, so pessimistic, so grimly medieval. For heaven’s sake, this is the era of the computer and the space shuttle. And haven’t the most learned psychologists and sociologists assured us that people are by nature good, having been turned to their evil ways not by some inner instinct but through the influence of a deviant culture and sub-standard education? These questions indicate how important it is for us to understand the biblical notion of original sin. So here are ten things to keep in mind. (1) The terminology of “original sin” has been used in any one of three ways. Often people think immediately of the “original” original sin, i.e., the first sin of Adam. Others use this language to refer to “inherited” sin, the idea that all humans are born morally corrupt and spiritually alienated from God. Finally, by “original sin” some are referring to the causal relationship between Adam’s sin and our

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Justified by “Thirst” Alone!

Sam Storms: In his description of the new heaven and new earth, John refers to several glorious blessings that God’s people will experience. In Revelation 21:6 he mentions one in particular. It is God himself who declares: “To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.” Why doesn’t he simply say, “to the one who believes”? Why “thirst”? In fact, this isn’t the only time this imagery is used. In Revelation 22:17 we read this: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” So here we have two words used: “thirsts” and “desires.” His point is that saving faith or belief is more than a merely intellectual agreement with the truth of the gospel. Saving faith, the belief that leads to eternal life, is the thirsting of the soul and the desiring of the soul for the satisfaction that only Christ can bring. If you prefer the “beverages” of the

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Pathways into personal revival

AW Tozer: 1.  Get thoroughly dissatisfied with yourself.  Complacency is the deadly enemy of spiritual progress. . . . When speaking of earthly goods Paul could say, “I have learned to be content,” but when referring to his spiritual life he testified, “I press toward the mark.”  So stir up the gift of God that is in you. 2.  Set your face like a flint toward a sweeping transformation of your life.  Timid experimenters are tagged for failure before they start.  We must throw our whole soul into our desire for God. . . . 3.  Put yourself in the way of the blessing.  It is a mistake to look for grace to visit us as a kind of benign magic, or to expect God’s help to come as a windfall apart from conditions known and met.  There are plainly marked paths which lead straight to the green pastures; let us walk in them.  To desire revival, for instance, and at

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A Catechism on the Heart

Sinclair Ferguson: Sometimes people ask authors, “Which of your books is your favorite?” The first time the question is asked, the response is likely to be “I am not sure; I have never really thought about it.” But forced to think about it, my own standard response has become, “I am not sure what my favorite book is; but my favorite title is A Heart for God.” I am rarely asked, “Why?” but (in case you ask) the title simply expresses what I want to be: a Christian with a heart for God. Perhaps that is in part a reflection of the fact that we sit on the shoulders of the giants of the past. Think of John Calvin’s seal and motto: a heart held out in the palm of a hand and the words “I offer my heart to you, Lord, readily and sincerely.” Or consider Charles Wesley’s hymn: O for a heart to praise my God! A heart from sin set free.

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What Is the Church?

Derek Thomas: In the language of the Westminster Confession of Faith, the church comprises the “whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be, gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof” (25.1). This is otherwise known as the invisible church. In another sense, the church is the body of the faithful (1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 2:21–22; Rev. 21:2, 9), consisting of those throughout the world who outwardly profess faith, together with their children (WCF 25.2). This is otherwise known as the visible church. The Greek word that is translated as “church” in the Bible is ekklēsia. Conscious as we should be of the etymological fallacy (the idea that a word means what its composite root means), in this case it would seem to have merit. Thus, ekklēsia translates the Hebrew word qahal, the noun form meaning “assembly” or “congregation” and the verb essentially signifying “to call.” Often in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word qahal is translated synagōgē. Common to both Hebrew and Greek words is

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4 Great “Therefore’s” in the Bible

Michael Kelley: Indicatives and imperatives. You find them both in the Bible. Indicatives are facts; they are realities. And in the Bible, they are firm and secure because the Bible is the unchanging Word of God. The imperatives are commands or implications. They are statements of direction, made with authority, that have a direct and expected act of obedience expected to follow. Often, the indicative is linked with the imperative. It’s a statement of fact with an implication of response. And most often, the indicative is about what God has done and the imperative is about what we must do, think, or believe in response as a matter of response and obedience. The order is important here – we respond because God has done. Not, “We behave so that God will do.” It’s the simple difference between something like “God loves you,” therefore you respond, and “I am obedient,” so God will love me. The link between the indicative statement of fact and the

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