How does Hope Serve to Sanctify our Souls?

Sam Storms: The words of the apostle John in 1 John 3:2-3 are both inspired and inspiring. He tells us that if we put our hope in the return of Christ, in the prospect of seeing Jesus “as he is,” this will serve to purify or sanctify our souls. Here is the passage: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3). How exactly does this work? What is it about our hope for the return of Jesus and seeing him face to face that serves to purify our souls? I can think of four things. (1) We know that we will stand in the presence of Jesus to be judged for the things done in his grace and power.

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What Is the Job of the Pastor?

Jonathan Leeman: A Crucial Role Leaders play a crucial role in any church, and we’ll refer to them as pastors and elders interchangeably because that’s what the Bible does (see Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5, 7; 1 Pet. 5:1–2). Your ability to do your job as a church member depends on pastors or elders doing their jobs. Your job is to be a priest-king. Jesus tasked you with watching over the what and the who of the gospel, as well as extending the gospel’s dominion throughout the earth by making disciples. But what is a pastor’s job? As churches emerge from COVID-19, it’s as important as ever before that we know the answer to that question because of the impact the COVID-19 quarantines had on trust inside of churches—trust among members and trust toward leaders. We’ll think about this more in a moment, but part of building trust back up is knowing exactly what a pastor’s job is. The short description of a pastor’s job is that

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Does the Bible Limit Gender to Just Male and Female?

Alan Shlemon: There’s a trendy new idea that denies God created only two genders (male and female). What’s the proof? Frogs. That’s right. Proponents of this view claim frogs are evidence that the gender binary of the Bible is a myth. If you’re puzzled by this, that’s understandable. Here’s how the argument works. Defenders of this position point out that in Genesis 1, Scripture says God made creatures that live on the land and creatures that swim in the water. Frogs, however, are amphibians and aren’t exclusively land or water creatures. They don’t fit neatly in either of those creature classifications. So, although Genesis describes the creation of land and water creatures, it does not account for every kind of animal that God made. In the same way, so the argument goes, even though Scripture says that God made humans “male and female” (Gen. 1:27), those two categories can’t account for every kind of human. God also created non-binary people—those

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To the Almost Christian

Alistair Begg: Not all who profess faith in Christ actually follow Him. Not all who give lip service to Christianity necessarily know its truth. Various warning passages (e.g., Heb. 2:1–4; 3:7–4:13; 1 John 2:19), along with Jesus’ own words in the Gospels (e.g., Matt. 7:23; 25:41; Luke 13:27), alert us to the possibility that we can appear to have a relationship with Jesus and even enjoy the fellowship of close Christian community without finding a home in heaven in the end. When Self-Effort Strikes Some of us have been awakened to the truth about who Jesus is. We’ve seen the seriousness of our own sinfulness. We know that sin isn’t merely a generic problem but something that dwells in our hearts. We may be under the teaching of the Bible and even find ourselves agreeing with much of what it says—especially about our need for redemption. But it is precisely at this point that we are so prone to take a dreadfully wrong turn. Self-effort kicks

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Finding Our Champion: A Biblical Theology of David and Goliath

Jason Hood: With apologies to Malcolm Gladwell, the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17 is not intended to offer a lesson in how underdogs can defeat heavily favored opponents. Nor can we find corporate-leadership strategies or advice for tackling life’s giants ranging from debt to weight problems to addiction. Nor is the lesson “use the armor that’s authentic to you.” So how then is the story of David and Goliath relevant? A more useful approach is to ask what God is up to in Scripture as a whole, beginning in 1 Samuel. When we read this story in its canonical context, we can begin to see how it connects to Jesus Christ, and through Jesus Christ to us. Seeing Jesus: David, Goliath, and the Bible’s Big Story In 1 Samuel, God is transitioning his people from rule by chieftains to rule by kings, and raising up a monarch with whom he will make an eternal covenant (2 Sam. 7). Because that covenant

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The Path to Apostasy

Erik Raymond: When someone walks away from the faith it sends seismic ripples throughout the church. Somewhere amid the shock and emotions, we realize that we saw alarming signs but didn’t think they would materialize. I personally have seen this happen far too many times. In each case, however, the steps, the path is eerily similar. First let me give you a bottom-line proposition: The path to apostasy is paved by bricks of apathy towards Christ. If you want to persevere, then give attention to your affections. Now, how does this happen? This walk down the road to apostasy is intended to illuminate a dark and often camouflaged way. 1. Neglect. When someone is routinely neglecting the common means of grace you can be sure that there will be spiritual consequences. Just as an unhealthy diet will affect the body so the negligence of spiritual food will adversely affect the spiritual life. Here I mean the neglecting of the Word of God (personal Bible

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Does Christ Rule the Nations Now?

John Piper: What I see in Scripture are at least three ways God rules over the nations — or we could say three stages in history in which God brings the nations into complete submission. God’s Everlasting Dominion First, there’s the absolute, all-embracing, all-pervasive rule of God’s providence over all nations at all times and in all places. Psalm 103:19: “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.” That’s true now, and that’s true always. Psalms 47:2: “The Lord . . . is . . . a great king over all the earth.” Proverbs 8:15: “By me kings reign.” There’s no reign of any king anywhere at any time except by God’s decree. Daniel 4:17: “The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” And when God puts the kings in place, he governs what they do. Proverbs 21:1: “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand

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“The Word Did It All”: The Necessity of Preaching According to the Protestant Reformers

Shawn Wright: One danger of being familiar with history is just that. It becomes familiar to us. Or so we think. Our familiarity with the facts, the cause-effect relationships, and the narrative may keep us from actually seeing what happened, or why what took place matters for us. The narrative of the Protestant Reformation serves as a case in point. Martin Luther (1483–1546) simply read the Bible, rediscovered the doctrine of justification by faith alone (sola fide), and preached the gospel. And in the process, he and later Reformers like John Calvin (1509–64) turned the world upside down. [1] Right? Not so fast, argues Brad Gregory. Gregory, a highly trained Reformation historian, argues that the Reformation unbound the tightly-knit-together world of the Thomistic synthesis between faith and reason and the Catholic conception of Christendom in which secular and religious cohered closely together. Unknowingly, Luther unleashed a torrent that swelled into the modern world with all its post-Enlightenment problems. In other words, the

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The Gifts of This Age Point Us to the Age Still to Come

Jared C. Wilson: And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. — Luke 20:34-36 Jesus knows that the Sadducees he’s speaking to do not believe in a resurrection, and in a way, their very misunderstanding of what Jesus believes about marriage betrays their disbelief. The Sadducees, like so many others then and today who don’t believe in Jesus, think this is all there is. Nothing comes after death. You die and that’s it. They do not think on the scale of eternity. That God is endless and therefore life is endless. That when God created the world, not even the fall of mankind and the sin unleashed into the world

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Why It Matters What We Do with Our Bodies

Sam Allberry: Body and Soul “It didn’t mean anything—it was just physical.” We’ve all heard the line, in movies and perhaps in real life. Someone has been caught cheating on their spouse and in the moment of confrontation this is the defense they offer. The assumption behind it is that if something is merely physical then it doesn’t matter. And the assumption behind that is that the body itself is just flesh and blood, and as such, is not of crucial significance. Ultimately, so the thinking goes, what we do with our bodies doesn’t really matter. It is not unusual to find this sort of thinking in the church today. Indeed, it seems to have been rife in the church in Corinth. One of their slogans was “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food” (1 Cor. 6:13). This was evidently being used as a justification for various kinds of sexual immorality. Just as we should eat when we’re hungry, so

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What Kingdom Story Are We Telling?

Kevin DeYoung: We can’t tell the story of the Bible in all its fullness without talking about the kingdom. Not only does Jesus make the kingdom a central theme in his teaching, we also see the importance of the kingdom in Acts and in Paul. And the whole concept, of course, has its roots in the Old Testament, in God’s kingship over his people and in Israel’s own kingly office. In other words, the kingdom–predicted, coming, and already here–is essential to the storyline of Scripture. But the kingdom of God is not just one thing in the Bible. We will obscure the storyline of Scripture more than illuminate it if we fail to make distinctions in our kingdom language. Likewise, we can miss the big story of what God means to do in our world if we misunderstand how the different aspects of the kingdom fit together. In classic Reformed theology, Christ’s kingdom is distinguished in three ways. First, there

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Yes, Preaching Really Does Change People

Mike Bullmore: If you’ve been in pastoral ministry for any length of time at all you’ve asked the question: Is my preaching actually doing anything? Is it having any effect? The question could be addressed on several different grounds. It could be addressed on historical grounds, pointing to the powerful effects of preaching in various times and places in the history of the church, notably, from the beginning in the book of Acts. It could be addressed on personal grounds by means of collected anecdotes—“Let me tell you about Joe and Mary Black and what God did in their lives through the faithful preaching of God’s Word.” But without question, the most compelling response is going to be a theological one, grounded in the realities presented in Scripture regarding who God is, what he is doing, what his Word does, and what he fully intends preaching to accomplish. AN UNDER-CELEBRATED CHARACTERISTIC We rightly celebrate the authority, the trustworthiness, and the sufficiency of

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How Could Jonathan Edwards Own Slaves?

Wrestling with the History of a Hero John Piper: When I gave the inaugural biographical message of the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors in 1988 on the life of Jonathan Edwards, I had never heard that Edwards owned slaves,1 nor that he pushed back against those who opposed slaveownership while themselves benefiting from slavery.2 I had read Edwards diligently for twenty years — all of his major works and many sermons and smaller treatises and letters, plus at least three biographies — but had never noticed anything suggesting he owned a slave. I was surprised. Some have argued that his slaveholding is not surprising, but rather fits with his view of hierarchy in society — that is, that some people properly have more authoritative roles, while others have more servant roles. George Marsden says, in fact, that “we can consider Edwards’ attitudes toward slavery in the context of his hierarchical assumptions. Nothing separates the early eighteenth-century world from the twenty-first century more than this issue.”3 So in

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Male and Female He Created Them

Maleness and Femaleness Are Essential for Image Bearing Sam Allberry: There is an important way in which we humans are like every other creature God has made—he is the Creator and we are his creation. We depend on him and are subject to him. We tend to think too highly of ourselves and quickly feel that we might know a thing or two more than God does about how to run the universe, but at the end of the day, we and the universe fully belong to him and not he to us. But there is also an important way in which we are quite unlike all other creatures. The text in Genesis 1 has already shown us. We are made in his image: Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all

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The Forgotten Insight

The Difference between a Theologian of the Cross and a Theologian of Glory Carl Trueman: One of the things that is so striking about the current revival of interest in Reformation theology, broadly conceived, is the absence of perhaps the most glorious contribution of Martin Luther to theological discourse: the notion of the theologian of the cross. At a meeting of the Saxon Chapter of the Augustinian Order in the city of Heidelberg in 1518, a monk called Leonhard Beier presented a series of theses which Luther had prepared, whilst Dr Martin himself presided over the proceedings.  The Heidelberg Disputation was to go down in history as the moment when Luther showcased his radical new theology for the first time. At the heart of this new theology was the notion that God reveals himself under his opposite; or, to express this another way, God achieves his intended purposes by doing the exact opposite of that which humans might expect.  The

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What Does It Really Mean to Be the Salt of the Earth?

Andrew Wilson: “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” (Matt. 5:13) Few things in creation are more ordinary than salt. Most of us have interacted with it in the last couple of hours, whether we realize it or not. We use it to make leather, pottery, soap, detergents, rubber, clothes, paper, cleaning products, glass, plastics, and pharmaceuticals. It sits largely unnoticed on hundreds of millions of café and restaurant tables around the world. Unlike pepper, which is often sitting next to it, salt is essential for our health and has always been eaten by human beings wherever we have settled. We add it to so much of our food that many languages simply distinguish between sweet and salty flavors. We spread it across roads when it snows. More than half

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If We Read Our Bibles, Why Do We Need Sermons?

John Piper: Let me try to answer this question in two stages. First, I’ll try to show from the New Testament that it is God’s plan and design that, besides the infallible word of God in the Bible, the church is to be led, underneath that infallible word, by fallible elders — sometimes called pastors or overseers or teachers — who are gifted to lead and to teach the flock. And then second, we ask the question why: Why did God set it up that way, so that the ordinary members of the church, who have in their hand an infallible Bible, should listen to and respect and esteem and follow and rejoice in the ministry of the word through fallible preaching? Shepherds for the Flock So, step one: God’s plan. Just this week, I was preparing a Look at the Book session on 1 Thessalonians 5:12–14, and I was compelled to address this very question before I knew that this question would be

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Preaching is Indispensable

By David Prince: Preaching is not optional to the life and health of the church. A church that does not emphasize and value preaching is not simply a different style church, it is an unfaithful church. J.I. Packer warns, History tells of no significant church growth and expansion that has taken place without preaching (significant, implying virility and staying power, is the key word there). What history points to, rather, is that all movements of revival, reformation, and missionary outreach seem to have had preaching (vigorous, though on occasion very informal) at their center, instructing, energizing, sometimes purging and redirecting, and often spearheading the whole movement. It would seem, then, that preaching is always necessary for a proper sense of mission to be evoked and sustained anywhere in the church. 1 Preaching is uniquely the God-ordained means for the proclamation of His gospel message and the nourishment of His people. Edmund Clowney critiqued the contemporary fascination with drama over preaching. He wrote,

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Navigating Worlds

James Eglinton: In the West today, many of the great questions faced by Christians deal with our place in a culture that was molded by Christianity, but that has now rejected it—not merely in a passive sort of indifference, but in an active effort to undo the faith’s historic formative influence on our world. This is the context in which a constellation of homegrown “cultural Christians” has gained such influence. In The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, Carl Trueman helps us understand their rise to prominence. He does so by bringing the work of Philip Rieff, the outstanding Jewish sociologist, to the table. Rieff argued that the history of the West is the history of three worlds. The first was a supernaturally charged, pre-Christian pagan world in which life and death were governed by fate. This gave way to a second world reshaped by Jewish and Christian thought, able to advance scientific knowledge and social order, looking to expand on the basis of

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The Real Difference Between Sheep and Goats

Hayden Hefner: I love the music of Keith Green. I love the intense, heavy-handed piano. I love the wordy lyrics. I love that it’s so early-1980s. I love that it’s Jesus People-ish. I love its passion.  My dad originally introduced me to Green—often during our drives home from school. In my opinion, there is no better example of a Green song than “The Sheep and the Goats.” In this song, Green sings through Jesus’s parable in Matthew 25:31–46. In the passage, Jesus describes the final judgment of the world as a shepherd separating the righteous sheep from the unrighteous goats. The way the shepherd distinguishes between the two groups is by examining the sacrificial love they have shown toward the “least of these, my brothers” (Matt. 25:40, 45). Green stays remarkably close to the text. However, in the song’s last line, Green gives this final commentary on the passage: “And my friends, the only difference between the sheep and the goats, according to

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