Sinclair Ferguson: I spoke with a close friend who had gone through a period marked by personal disappointments, discouragements, unfair treatment, and even false rumors about his character and Christian service. I was moved and impressed by his response: “My great consolation is simply this,” he said, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6). This is truly a Christian reaction to adversity (which is the context in which spiritual contentment is most deeply tested, as well as best manifested). Such contentment is never the result of the momentary decision of the will. It cannot be produced merely by having a well-ordered and thought-through time-and life-management plan calculated to guard us against unexpected twists of divine providence. No, true contentment means embracing the Lord’s will in every aspect of His providence simply because it is His providence. It involves what we are in our very being, not just what we do and can accomplish. Doing and Being Contentment is
Sam Storms: And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:8-14) Let’s revisit the night when the birth of Jesus was announced. As
John Piper: Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Hebrews 2:14–15) Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood… That’s us. Flesh and blood. Human. Finite. Limited. Mortal. Frail. That’s our nature. And “children” is a good word to describe us. O, how helpless we are! I mean when the real issue is at stake: death. Presidents and paupers are all flesh and blood. They get old and die. …he himself likewise partook of the same nature… That’s Christ. Eternal Son of God. Infinite. Almighty. Creator. Heir of all things. Upholding the world by the word of his power. He looked down on us with love and, without ceasing to be God, took on our human nature. God-Man.
What I Learned After Years of Leading – By Bob Kauflin: The year was 1997. After serving as a pastor for twelve years, I was taking on a new role at a large church in the Washington, D.C., area. My focus was going to be less on pastoral care and more on music and worship. After getting a degree in piano, touring with a Christian band, leading congregational worship for over twenty years, and being featured on a couple of worship albums, I thought I couldn’t be more prepared. A few months after I arrived, my senior pastor, C.J. Mahaney, walked into my office with three books he wanted me to read. One of them was Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship by David Peterson, an author I had never heard of. It looked more academic than most books on worship, and Peterson didn’t appear to be a musician. But I knew C.J. would only recommend books he thought would serve
By T. D. Alexander DEFINITION At the heart of the Old Testament is the expectation that God will send a unique king, associated with the Davidic dynasty, who will bring God’s blessing to the nations of the world. Significantly, he will sacrifice his life to atone for the sins of others. SUMMARY Beginning in the book of Genesis, God intimates that his plan to redeem the world from the consequences of Adam and Eve’s disobedience will centre on one of Eve’s descendants, who will overthrow God’s enemy, the serpent, identified elsewhere in the Bible as the devil or Satan. This hope is subsequently linked to Abraham, with the expectation that one of his descendants will be a king, through whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed. The path towards the fulfillment of these promises eventually leads to the Davidic dynasty. Through David and his son Solomon, God establishes Jerusalem as his holy city where he dwells among
Jonathan Gibson: Establishing Terminology The first thing we should say at the outset is that limited atonement is an unfortunate phrase because here is the atonement of Christ, and now it sounds like someone wants to limit it. Why would we want to limit atonement for sinners? I think the phrase definite atonement is a more positive way to speak about this doctrine. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to use the phrase definite atonement in each of these 10 points. 1. Definite atonement is a way of speaking about the intent and nature of Christ’s death. The doctrine of definite atonement states that, in the death of Jesus Christ, the triune God intended to achieve the redemption of every person given to the Son by the Father in eternity past, and to apply the accomplishments of his sacrifice to each of them by the Spirit. In a nutshell: the death of Christ was intended to win the salvation of God’s people alone; and
H.B. Charles Jr. “Unchurched Christian” is not a biblical category. Ask Paul, John, or Peter what they think about unchurched Christians and they would have responded, “Why are you calling them Christians, if they are not a part of the church?” The New Testament does not have a vision of the Christian life outside of the church, the local church. But there are many professing Christians today who seek to be committed to Christ with no commitment to the church. They do not believe in organized religion. They claim the church is full of hypocrites. They have experienced church hurt. They cannot find a faithful, biblical church. They do not find the church necessary, supportive, or beneficial. So they follow Christ but forsake the church. It is wrong. It is unbiblical. It is non-Christian. You cannot have a high view of Christ and a low view of the church at the same time. Jesus declared, “On this rock I will
Jonathan Leeman: 1) It’s biblical. Jesus established the local church and all the apostles did their ministry through it. The Christian life in the New Testament is church life. Christians today should expect and desire the same. 2) The church is its members. To be “a church” in the New Testament is to be one of its members (read through Acts). And you want to be part of the church because that’s who Jesus came to rescue and reconcile to himself. 3) It’s a pre-requisite for the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is a meal for the gathered church, that is, for members (see 1 Cor. 11:20, 33). And you want to take the Lord’s Supper. It’s the team “jersey” which makes the church team visible to the nations. 4) It’s how to officially represent Jesus. Membership is the church’s affirmation that you are a citizen of Christ’s kingdom and therefore a card-carrying Jesus Representative before the nations. And you want to be an official Jesus Representative.
Anand Samuel: To publicly herald God’s Word is an act of worship (2 Tim. 2:15), and a stewardship for which we’ll give an account. Here are five ways expository preaching beautifies Christ’s bride. 1. Expository preaching teaches church members how to interpret Scripture. By regularly sitting under expository preaching, our members learn important interpretive skills. They hear the pastor say things like this: “Beloved, look at the text. What does this word mean?” “Does the context help us?” “What is the ‘therefore’ there for?” “What does the author intend for us to understand?” “How do you think the Israelites would have received this Word?” “Why did the Holy Spirit inspire the author to repeat this word four times in this text?” “Can you see how this theme of God saving his people through judgment appears once again as it did in chapter eight last week?” When you work through a text, you train your congregation to ask the right questions.
Mark Dever: Author and theologian David Wells reported in his 1994 book God in the Wasteland that “[Seminary] students are dissatisfied with the current status of the church. They believe it has lost its vision, and they want more from it than it is giving them.” But dissatisfaction is not enough, as Wells himself agreed. We need something more. We need positively to recover what the church is to be. What is the church in her nature and essence? What is to distinguish and mark the church? A HISTORY OF CHURCH HEALTH Christians have long talked of the “marks of the church.” The topic of the church did not become a center of widespread formal theological debate until the Reformation. Before the sixteenth century, the church was more assumed than discussed. It was thought of as the means of grace, a reality that existed as the presupposition of the rest of theology. With the advent of the radical criticisms of Martin Luther
Alastair Begg: In the years of His earthly ministry, Jesus’ primary task was to proclaim God’s word. He also came to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and work wonders, but He Himself was clear about the highest priority: “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God … for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43). At the heart of Christ’s ministry was His role as a teacher. In this, He is the model to all of us who are called to do the same. It is good—and humbling!—for us to learn from the example of Jesus so that we might assess ourselves against it. If today’s preachers and teachers of God’s Word would strive to preach like Jesus, what kind of lessons might we learn from the Master? 1. Present a crossroads When Jesus spoke, nobody responded with a shrug. They were either drawn to Him or repulsed by Him. When we take up the Scriptures and declare the
Sam Storms: In Romans 16:26 Paul explicitly declares that it is the “command of the eternal God” (v. 26) that we take the glorious, good news of the gospel to every tribe and tongue and people and nation. In other words, evangelism and mission are not optional! If you wonder why here at Bridgeway we have devoted at least 12% of our income to missions, both local and global, both to church plants and ministries that make the gospel known around the world, here is the answer. Why do we care about what our missionaries and church planters are doing in Japan and in the Czech Republic and in Turkey and in India and in England and in Slovenia and in Germany and even here in the ever-increasingly pagan United States of America? It is because this is the “command” of our eternal God! And how do we do this? It isn’t only by contributing financial support. It is primarily through “the preaching
Sinclair Ferguson: The exhortation to “abide” has been frequently misunderstood, as though it were a special, mystical, and indefinable experience. But Jesus makes clear that it actually involves a number of concrete realities. First, union with our Lord depends on His grace. Of course we are actively and personally united to Christ by faith (John 14:12). But faith itself is rooted in the activity of God. It is the Father who, as the divine Gardener, has grafted us into Christ. It is Christ, by His Word, who has cleansed us to fit us for union with Himself (John 15:3). All is sovereign, all is of grace. Second, union with Christ means being obedient to Him. Abiding involves our response to the teaching of Jesus, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you” (John 15:7). Paul echoes this idea in Colossians 3:16, where he writes, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” a statement closely related to
Sam Storms: I fear we often have an unrealistic image of the Apostle Paul. We tend to think of him as if he were some combination of a Navy Seal and a Super-Hero. And yet, Paul knew what it was like to experience human weakness. When he described his ministry in the city of Corinth he said that he was with them “in weakness and in fear and in much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3). I don’t need to tell any of you what it is like to feel weak and inadequate and overwhelmed. But here is the good news: The gospel can strengthen you! The gospel can empower you! The gospel can supply you with whatever you need to remain faithful to the Lord and to accomplish whatever he’s called you to do. How, you ask? I’ve got a lot of answers! Consider your suffering. The only way you can suffer unjustly without growing bitter and resentful is tied directly to
Carl Trueman: The death of Queen Elizabeth II marks a watershed for Britain and for those of us who have never known any other head of our state—as is true for any lifelong British citizen under the age of seventy. Remarkably, she began her reign while Winston Churchill was prime minister and then lived to see a further fourteen individuals hold that high office. Without question she saw more change in British society than any of her predecessors, and throughout it all she remained a calm and steadfast figurehead for the nation. Growing up, I never had much time for the monarchy. With the exception of the Silver Jubilee in 1977, marked as it was by street parties and celebration, the monarchy rarely touched my life in any real way. Furthermore, as a lower-middle-class schoolboy, I possessed all the usual insecurities: a fear of the working class and a resentment of the nobility. But over the years my respect for
Fred Sanders: Enjoying Divine Blessedness When Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us,” he uses the same word twice: blessed (Ephesians 1:3). A moment’s thought, however, shows that God blesses us altogether differently than how we bless God. When God blesses us, he takes the initiative, doing the kind of mighty acts that Paul recites in the next dozen verses: electing, redeeming, forgiving, adopting, sealing, and lavishing grace on us. When we bless God, we praise him in response. It’s a beautifully appropriate response, but just because it’s the same verb doesn’t make it the same act. The deep reason that we can never bless God the way he blesses us is that God is already blessed. God is blessed with perfect, plenary, personal blessedness. The blessedness of God is a classic Christian doctrine, and one that we could stand to hear more about in our time. It gives us big thoughts
Benjamin Merkle: The Theology of Ephesians In one sense, there is nothing distinct about the theology of Ephesians. It is a New Testament letter written by the apostle Paul that conforms to the message of the rest of the Bible—a message about how the God of the universe rescues sinners through the work of his Son, Jesus Christ. And yet, the book of Ephesians adds unique tones to the symphony of music that sounds forth from Scripture. For its size (six chapters and 155 verses), Ephesians has had a profound impact on the life and theology of the church. Harold Hoehner declares, “The Letter to the Ephesians is one of the most influential documents in the Christian church.”1 But why has this small letter had such a big impact on the church? The answer, at least in part, is due to the depth and diversity of topics emphasized in the letter. Paul addresses topics such as the plan of God in
Thom S. Rainer: I am a Christian. Four life-defining words. Christ died for me, rose for me, redeemed me. If you can say, “I am a Christian,” these truths apply to you as well. Sometimes, though, when we memorize Scripture, we end at Ephesians 2:8–9 (“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.“). But there is much, much more: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Eph. 2:10, NLT). Don’t miss it. We were saved not by our good works, but to do the good works God has planned. And there’s more—a further point that’s often overlooked. Yes, we’re saved by grace through faith. Yes, we’re saved to do good works. But we’re saved to do those good works in the context and under the accountability of a church. In the book of Ephesians, Paul
Kevin DeYoung: An Essential Truth I remember hearing a pastor say years ago that you could give the secret to a good marriage in just one word. The word he gave was not money or sex or communication or even love. The word was forgive. Forgiveness is the key ingredient not only in marriage but in any relationship involving sinners. If your friends are going to stick around, if you are going to see your relatives more than once a year, if you plan to work in the same place with the same people for any length of time, if you want to be happy in the church (or simply not give up on the church), you need to learn forgiveness. You need to grant it, and you need to receive it. What’s true in our horizontal relationships is also true in our vertical relationship. Of course, God is not a sinner. He never needs to be forgiven. But if
Jeremy Linneman: Jesus’s disciples asked a lot of bad questions during their tenure with him: “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (Luke 9:54). But they occasionally got it right: “Teach us to pray,” they asked (Luke 11:1). Our Lord must have beamed with joy at the opportunity to teach his beloved friends how to enjoy fellowship with the Father. So, with his disciples and an eager crowd gathered on the mountainside one afternoon, Jesus taught them to pray. The words that followed in Luke 11:2–4 are among the most famous ever spoken: “Our Father who art in heaven . . .” The words are brief and recited easily by a child, but let’s not be misled by the prayer’s brevity or familiarity. The Lord’s Prayer is rightly understood to be the most important prayer for Christians, but it’s more than that. J. I. Packer cites Tertullian, who called it a “summary of the gospel,”