The Attraction of Idolatry

Kevin DeYoung: We know as Christians, on an intellectual level, that we have idols—be it family, food, football or whatever. But to see the allure of idolatry can be hard for those of us in the Western world. That’s why I appreciate the points laid out by Doug Stuart in his Exodus commentary (450-54). Stuart suggests nine reasons idolatry was attractive to the Israelites and in the cultures of the Ancient Near East. 1. It was guaranteed. If you do the right incantation, you get the right results. Just say the right words and the gods show up. Who wouldn’t want that? 2. It was selfish. In the ancient world, the gods, though they were powerful, needed humans to feed them. Sacrifices were brought to the gods because they were hungry. Consequently, you can get what you want from the gods simply be bringing them the sacrifices they need 3. It was easy. Sure, you need to show up and

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Why Complementarianism Remains Important

  Richard Phillips: Recent months have seen considerable controversy among conservative Christians around the topic of complementarianism, arising mainly from a false analogy between the subordination of wives to husbands and that of God the Son to God the Father. Depending on your perspective, the complementarian view has been either maligned, discredited, or reformed. My hope is that events will prove that the latter has taken place. I am in complete solidarity with those who reject the eternal subordination of the Son in any form, since no amount of nuance or affirmation of Christ’s deity can preserve it from functionally reproducing the Arian position. There are no ends for which a degrading of the Trinity is an excusable means. I am therefore grateful for the way this controversy, though regrettably contentious, has highlighted massively important issues of theology that tend to receive little attention. At the same time, my hope is that this attempt to reform the complementarian position will

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The Depth of My Depravity

Tim Challies: Testimony—that’s a good Christian word, isn’t it? Each of us has a testimony, an account of how God extended his grace to us. And these testimonies are beautiful things, each one recounting the sovereign work of our great God. Now, much has been said about how we tend to prefer the testimonies that feature the most dramatic lows. We have all heard those tales that almost seem to revel in past sins more than feel regret for them. But we like those stories because we find a certain kind of thrill in hearing how someone turned away from a life of such egregious sin. I used to feel a little bit odd about telling others how I was saved. I was a good kid. I had opportunities to drink and do drugs, but just wasn’t interested. I didn’t ever steal anything beyond a few coins after running errands for my mother. There just isn’t a whole lot to tell. But the

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Your Testimony Isn’t About You

Jordan Monson: We live in an age of narcissism. It is the era of self-actualization, the relentless race to perfect the self. Time magazine reported in 2013 that “Narcissistic personality disorder is nearly three times as high for people in their twenties as for the generation that’s now 65 or older. . . . 58% more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982.” As the West has become more narcissistic, so have the people in our churches. We see it on social media. We hear it over coffee. We see it when young people break away from living and breathing social groups to snap a selfie. We also see it in our evangelism. A decade or two ago our evangelism still pointed outward. We spoke of the existence of God, objective truth, and the historical reliability of the resurrection. Now, swaths of churches have moved on to leading with personal testimonies. This contextualization isn’t

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Wisdom from Spurgeon on the Mystery of Divine Election

Sam Storms: …there is still in the human soul an uneasiness concerning God’s sovereign choice. To many, it seems arbitrary and unfair. If this is problematic to you, read carefully Charles Spurgeon’s response. It’s lengthy but well worth the effort: “But there are some who say, ‘It is hard for God to choose some and leave others.’ Now, I will ask you one question. Is there any of you here this morning who wishes to be holy, who wishes to be regenerate, to leave off sin and walk in holiness? ‘Yes, there is,’ says some one, ‘I do.’ Then God has elected you. But another says, ‘No; I don’t want to be holy; I don’t want to give up my lusts and my vices.’ Why should you grumble, then, that God has not elected you to it? For if you were elected you would not like it, according to your own confession. If God this morning had chosen you to

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The Gospel Past and The Gospel Future Make Your Gospel Present

Jared Wilson: The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi: “I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the LORD is angry forever.’” Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the LORD beyond the border of Israel!” (Malachi 1:1-5) There is past tense and then future tense. There is “I have loved you” and there is “Your own eyes shall see . . .” God through Malachi is addressing a half-hearted, spiritually

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10 Things You Should Know about Persecution

By Tim Keesee, author of Dispatches from the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World’s Difficult Places. 1. Persecution is bound up with Christ’s persecution. Jesus made that clear on His way to Jerusalem when he told his disciples that there he would “suffer many things . . . and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Matt. 16:21). And then he told his followers that they were, in fact, to follow him by taking up their cross—that is, by fully identifying with him, whatever that would cost them and wherever that would take them. Suffering for the sake of the gospel is a way in which we identify with Christ’s sufferings—and he, in turn, identifies with the sufferings of His people. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you

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Renouncing ‘self’ for the greater blessings of eternal and unending pleasure

Sam Storms: Did Jesus Deny Christian Hedonism when He called on us to Deny Ourselves? When people want to deny Christian Hedonism they often direct our attention to the words of Jesus in Mark 8:34-37. But as you will shortly see, this passage is actually a defense of it. Here is what Jesus said: And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? Our Lord’s appeal that we deny ourselves and take up our cross is actually grounded upon the concern that each person inescapably has for his

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How should we be in the world but not of it?

RC Sproul: The New Testament tells us that we are not to be conformed to this world but that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Rom. 12:2). Let’s look at those two words that are crucial to that discussion in Scripture, the difference between conformity and transformation. The prefix con-means “with.” And so to conform to this world means literally to be with it. That’s one of the strongest drives and temptations that we have as Christians. Nobody wants to be out of it; we want to be “with it.” We want to be up-to-date. We want to fit in. And we’re often engulfed by peer pressure that wants us to imitate and participate in all of the structures and the styles of this world. The Bible says we are not to be conformed to the patterns of this world. Now, when we hear that as Christians, so often we think that all we have to do

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Radical, Ordinary, and United

Tony Reinke: One of the very best books of 2016 is a much needed new book on union with Christ, written by pastor Rankin Wilbourne. It’s titled, Union with Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God (David C. Cook). Tim Keller calls it “simply the best book” for lay readers on the topic. I agree. Here’s one excerpt. The call to be radical can make you exhausted, but the call to be ordinary can make you apathetic. No one wants to pit these songs against each other, but how do we hold them together? Balance may not be the best word because it might suggest a 50/50 split; what we need is 100 percent of both. How can we hear both of these songs without compromising either? How can we sing both of these melodies full volume, in harmony, so that the resulting song is not a cacophony of competing strains, but a rich symphony? This became my overriding

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8 Hallmarks of Attractional and Gospel-Centered Churches

Jared Wilson: Went on a bit of a Twitter run yesterday with some thoughts on the essential defining characteristics of the church model I call attractional, followed by some constructive alternative hallmarks of gospel-centered churches. Hopefully they will bring more clarity to thinking through the relevant issues in evangelical ecclesiology. These are important times to get this sorted. Unfortunate hallmarks of the attractional church: 1) Sermons driven by what Christian Smith calls “moralistic therapeutic deism” 2) Functional ideology of pragmatism. (Not “what’s biblical?” but “what works?”) 3) Truncating of the gospel or relegation of the gospel to background/afterthought 4) Equation of bigness with success, contrary to numerous biblical examples otherwise 5) Treating membership solely or mainly as a means of assimilating volunteers 6) Wide open back door for those needing to be discipled beyond conversion 7) Reduction of the Bible to a source for good quotes 8) Claiming relevance/innovation while insulating from critical challenges to assumptions. Hallmarks of gospel-centered churches:

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Don’t Worry about Sanctification

Le Ann Trees: “The good seed cannot flourish when it is repeatedly dug up for the purpose of examining its growth” (J. C. Kromsigt). One of my favorite things about trees, especially mature ones, is the way they provide shade and shelter from the natural elements. Yet, everyone knows a seedling doesn’t give much of either. Trees need a consistent supply of sun, water, and nutrients over a long period of time to survive and thrive. In the Bible, Jesus uses the image of plants to describe spiritual growth (Matt. 13:1–32; 17:17–20; John 15:1–7). Christians often wonder whether they are growing in holiness. Sanctification is a slow process of dying to the flesh (mortification) and living unto God (vivification). Just as it is impossible to know exactly what a tree seedling is going to look like in ten years, it is futile and frustrating to evaluate a person’s growth in Christ over the short term. Throughout the New Testament believers are

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What We Mean by the Phrase “Word of God”

Wayne Grudem: What is the Word of God? The Word of God actually refers to several different things in the Bible. Sometimes the phrase “the Word of God” refers to the person of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of John, we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” We find out later in the chapter that John is referring to Jesus Christ as the Word of God. There’s also a portion of Revelation 19 that refers to Jesus as the Word of God. You may have found that when you talk about the Word of God as the Bible, people object: Wait a minute—we don’t want to spend as much time talking about the Bible as the Word of God. We’d rather talk about Jesus as the Word of God. A couple things can be said in answer to that. First, we don’t know about Jesus except by reading what’s in the Bible. It’s

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10 Things You Should Know about Definite Atonement

By Jonathan Gibson, coeditor of From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective. 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 not only was it intended to do that but it effectively achieved it as well. Jesus will be true to his name: he will save his people from their sins. In this regard, the adjective ‘definite’ does double duty: Christ’s death was definite in its intent—he died to save a particular people; and it was definite

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10 Things You should Know about Female Submission

Sam Storms: In an earlier post we looked at 10 things all should know about male headship as it is found in Scripture. Today we look at female submission. (1) Submission (Gk., hupotasso) carries the implication of voluntary yieldedness to a recognized authority. Biblical submission is appropriate in several relational spheres: the wife to her husband (Eph. 5:22-24); children to their parents (Eph. 6:1); believers to the elders of the church (Heb. 13:17; 1 Thess. 5:12); citizens to the state (Rom. 13); servants (employees) to their masters (employers) (1 Pt. 2:18); and each believer to every other believer in humble service (Eph. 5:21). (2) Submission is not grounded in any supposed superiority of the husband or inferiority of the wife (see Gal. 3:28; 1 Pet. 3:7). The concept of the wife being the “helper” (Gen. 2:18-22) of the husband in no way implies her inferiority. In fact, the Hebrew word translated “helper” is often used in the OT to refer

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Treasure God’s Ordinary Grace

Ryan Griffith: In a Christian subculture that often privileges the extraordinary, a real temptation exists to discount the mundane — and perhaps rarely more so than at the end of summer. Summer can throw us off-kilter. “Mountaintop experiences” — whether through mission trips, summer camps, or periods of spiritually-intense isolation in natural beauty — can give us an extraordinary sense of God’s presence — and an unusual sense of power, clarity, and courage. These moments, of course, are important. But privileging them may contribute to our discouragement when the power seems to fade. When we return to the mundane world of everyday challenge, we can become disheartened. This is because we fundamentally tend to undervalue the power of ordinary spiritual life. We fail to grasp the reality that the ordinary Christian life is the result of the uncommon working of God’s Spirit. We need to eclipse the relatively rare mountaintop experience with a clearer vision of the vital, gracious, and personal

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Calvinism, Hyper-Calvinism, and World Missions

This post is adapted from Andrew Fuller: Holy Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Mission by John Piper. Natural Inability and Moral Inability In his most famous work, The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, Andrew Fuller piles text upon text in which unbelievers are addressed with the duty to believe.[1] These are his final court of appeal against the High Calvinists, who use their professed logic to move from biblical premises to unbiblical conclusions. But he finds Jonathan Edwards very helpful in answering the High Calvinist objection on another level. Remember, the objection is that “it is absurd and cruel to require of any man what is beyond his power to perform.” In other words, a man’s inability to believe removes his responsibility to believe (and our duty to command people to believe). In response to this objection, Fuller brings forward the distinction between moral inability and natural inability. This was the key insight which he learned from Jonathan Edwards, and he

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The Cross Stands at the Centre of Ministry

Darryl Dash: 1 Peter 5 is a goldmine for pastors. I’m intrigued by how Peter introduces himself: “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ…” (1 Peter 5:1) Not only is Peter a fellow elder, but he’s also a witness of the sufferings of Christ. Why does Peter write about the sufferings of Christ as he begins to address elders? Two reasons. The Cross Is All We Have In the ministry of pastors, the cross is all we have. Without the cross, we have no message, no power, no confidence, and no hope. Peter heads to the cross because it’s impossible for him to imagine ministry without it. Peter heard Jesus predict his sufferings. He heard Jesus’ family call him crazy. He saw Jesus become popular, and he saw the crowds turn against him. He sat at Jesus’ last Passover meal, and he watched Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, and trial.

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7 Truths About Hell

J.D. Greear: Concerning hell, C. S. Lewis once wrote, “There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay in my power.” In many ways, I agree with him. No one, Christians included, should like the idea of hell. Those of us who believe in hell aren’t sadists who enjoy the idea of eternal suffering. In fact, the thought of people I know who are outside of Christ spending eternity in hell is heartbreaking. As a young Christian, when I began to learn about hell and its implications, I almost lost my faith. It was that disturbing. Hell is a difficult reality, but it is something that the Bible teaches, and we can’t fully understand God and his world unless we grapple with it. These seven truths should frame our discussion of hell. 1. Hell is what hell is because God is who God is. People speak glibly about “seeing God,” as if seeing God face-to-face would be a warm and fuzzy

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10 Things You Should Know About Male Headship

Sam Storms: In the on-going dialogue (debate!) between complementarians and egalitarians, there is considerable confusion about the meaning of male headship. So today we look at 10 things we should know about headship. (1) “Headship” (Gk: kephale) has three meanings in Scripture: first, a physical head (1 Cor. 11:7); second, source or origin (Col. 1:18); and third, a person with authority (Eph. 1:22). (2) Among the many misconceptions about male headship in Scripture I mention these. First, husbands are never commanded to rule their wives, but to love them. The Bible never says, “Husbands, take steps to insure that your wives submit to you.” Nor does it say, “Husbands, exercise headship and authority over your wives.” Rather, the principle of male headship is either asserted or assumed and men are commanded to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Headship is never portrayed in Scripture as a means for self-satisfaction or self-exaltation. Headship is always other-oriented. I can’t think

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