3 Truths to Speak To Your Temptation

  Tim Challies: As a true son of Adam, a person born with a natural affection for sin, I have no shortage of opportunities to consider sin and to consider the desire to commit it in its infinite varieties. As a husband and father, a pastor, and a church member I have no shortage of opportunities to speak to other people about their sin and their temptations. And time and time again I find myself returning to the simplest truths, to words that can and must be spoken to temptation. The first thing to say to the sin that is tempting you is this: That is not who I am! That temptation, that sin, does not fit your deepest identity. Those who have put their faith in Christ Jesus are in Christ Jesus—“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). There is now a union in Christ that provides an entirely new

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What Does the Word “Gospel” Mean in the New Testament?

R.C. Sproul: The gospel is the possession of Jesus, but, even more, Jesus is the heart of the content of the gospel. We use it so glibly in the church today. Preachers say they preach the gospel, but if we listen to them preach Sunday after Sunday, we hear very little gospel in what they are preaching. The term gospel has become a nickname for preaching anything rather than something with definitive content. The word for “gospel” is the word euangelion. It has that prefix eu-, which comes into English in a variety of words. We talk about euphonics or euphonious music, which refers to something that sounds good. We talk about a eulogy, which is a good word pronounced about someone at his funeral service. The prefix eu- refers to something good or pleasant. The word angelos or angelion is the word for “message.” Angels are messengers, and an angelos is one who delivers a message. This word euangelion, which means

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The Book of Revelation Is Not Just about the Future

This post is adapted from the chapter entitled “Revelation” by Charles E. Hill in A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the New Testament: The Gospel Realized, edited by Michael J. Kruger. The Denouement of Scripture The “Revelation of Jesus Christ” portrays in dramatic fashion the paradoxical present rule of Jesus Christ as King of all the kings of the world, his ultimate triumph, and the salvation of his people through tribulation. As monumental as this is, it is not all. In the course of re-experiencing the visions John saw on Patmos, John’s audience witnesses not only the salvation of man, God’s image, but also the reclamation of the heavens, the earth, and the subterranean regions (i.e., the sea, the abyss, hades, fountains of water), the domains of man’s dominion as originally given in Genesis 1–3. Revelation presents to us a great Serpent, a woman who brings forth a male child who is to rule the earth, and a final restoration of the

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The Danger of Drifting Away

John Piper: Seventeen Aspects of Holy Dissatisfaction One mark of Christian authenticity is discontentment with anything less than “all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). Coasting is not discipleship. Drifting in self-contentment is not like basking in the pool of security, but like floating, fast asleep, toward the falls. “We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away” (Hebrews 2:1). There is a holy discontentment. It is not a nail-biting uncertainty about our standing with God. It is the increased appetite of those who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good (1 Peter 2:2–3). It is the pursuit of those who have been pursued and captured by the strong arms of love. “Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12).

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The Goal of Missions May Not Be What You Think

Chase Bowers & Scott Zeller: What happened on January 2, 1998, altered the course of my (Chase’s) life. Along with thousands of other college students, I attended the second Passion conference, which was then a new series of gatherings seeking to raise a banner for God’s glory. I heard John Piper preach for the first time, and what he communicated about God’s heart for the nations—specifically the idea that he was gathering for his fame a people from among all peoples—was paradigm-shifting for me. Afterward I began digging into Piper’s now-classic book on missions, Let the Nations Be Glad (Baker). It opens with groundshaking words: Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. This paragraph profoundly changed what

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Call yourself a Christian? Start talking about Jesus Christ

Ed Stetzer: “Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words,” Saint Francis of Assisi is supposed to have said. The aphorism, often quoted, expresses a well-meaning viewpoint of many Christians today. They are concerned that we’ve been too loud, demanding and angry. Now, they say, we need to show the gospel by our lives. It’s a good sentiment, and I certainly agree that we need to demonstrate the gospel change in our lives by caring for others. But there are two problems with the Assisi quote. First, he never said it. Second, it’s really bad theology. You see, using that statement is a bit like saying, “Feed the hungry at all times; if necessary, use food.” For Christians, the gospel is good news — it’s what the word literally means. For evangelicals, our name speaks of the commitment to evangelism that defines us. The good news needs to be told. Yet, Christians, evangelicals included, seem to love evangelism, as

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Who Gave Paul His Thorn?

. Andrew Wilson: Who gave Paul his thorn in 2 Corinthians 12? It might sound like a slightly obscure, angels-on-a-pinhead question, but it is actually very significant, because it cuts to the heart of questions about divine sovereignty, suffering, goodness and the agency of the devil. Does God send adversity, to teach us or bring us to maturity? Do God and Satan work together, in some weird way? Is Satan able to act on his own initiative? Does God sometimes actively will for people to experience things they find painful, that good may result? You get the idea. The text doesn’t tell us what exactly the thorn was, and it doesn’t tell us who exactly gave it to Paul. So let’s start with what we know. 1. The thorn was “a messenger of Satan.” 2. It was given “to keep me from being too conceited” (hina mē huperairōmai). 3. It was painful, to the point that Paul pleaded with the

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Your Sin Is Not What You Think

This is an adapted excerpt from John Piper’s book Living in the Light: Money, Sex and Power (The Good Book Company, 2016), posted at The Gospel Coalition. The human heart hates a vacuum. We never merely leave God because we value him little; we always exchange God for what we value more. We see this in Romans 1:22–23: “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images.” They became fools. This is the ultimate foolishness. This is the most foundational meaning of sin: exchanging the glory of the immortal God for substitutes—anything we value more than God. We look at the Creator and then exchange him for something he created. My Definition of Sin Underneath all the misuses of money, sex, and power is this sinful heart-condition—this depravity. My definition of sin is this: any feeling or thought or action that comes from a heart that does not treasure God over all

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John Calvin on the True Church

Sinclair Ferguson: When is a “church” not a church? How do we recognize the true church of Jesus Christ? And how do we discern the false? Calvin’s answer, in the Institutes 4.2.1 – 4.2.12, to what was in his day–and remains–an important question, is, essentially: the ministry of the Word and of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the hallmarks of the true church. Where these are lacking, “surely the death of the church follows.” Why should this be so? Because the church is built on the prophets and apostles (Eph. 2:20). They have a primacy of role in person in the course of redemptive history; but their teaching is the foundation for every generation of Christian faith. Substitute another foundation for the church and the whole building will crumble. But in Calvin’s eyes Roman Catholic theology failed to grasp this, and effectively transferred the authority of the once-for-all written apostolic word to the questionable strength of a

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Why Legalistic Preaching Doesn’t Work

David Prince: Legalism is the pursuit of good works abstracted from faith in an effort to garner God’s favor and blessing. Moralism is the attempt to obey or impose the ethical commands of the Bible abstracted from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Much preaching in Christian churches is simply a collection of legalistic moralisms. Graeme Goldsworthy suggests that the reason this approach to preaching is prevalent and popular is because “we are all legalists at heart” (Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, 118). Both liberal and conservative preachers often embrace the same moralistic methodology, albeit from opposing directions and opposing moral visions. The goal of much preaching in both liberal and conservative churches is to make good people a bit better, but it never works. Legalistic, moralistic preaching exacerbates sin rather than killing it. Consider some of the reasons why. 1. Legalistic preaching feeds the flesh No truth of Scripture is meant to be understood in isolation. It is

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10 Things You should Know about Being Born Again

Sam Storms: Here we take up the issue of the new birth, or what we often refer to as regeneration or being born again. (1) Being born again is not to be thought of in terms of moral reformation, a mere exchange of one set of habits for another set. Some mistakenly think that mankind does not need re-creation, only redirection. But as we shall shortly see, being born again entails a radical renewal of the entire inner being of a man or woman. (2) One Arminian author argues that God alone regenerates the human heart but does so only when and because the individual believes by a free act of will, or does not resist the overtures of grace. We are told that “God cannot and to say the same thing – will not regenerate a heart that will not admit him. God respects the sovereignty-within-limitations with which he endowed man at creation” (William G. MacDonald, Grace Unlimited, 86).

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What is false teaching and how do we spot it?

Kevin DeYoung: We’ve been working through 2 Timothy on Sunday evenings. Last week I preached from 2 Timothy 3:6-9. It’s a passage–like many in the pastoral epistles–that deals with false teaching. Paul warns against the folly of false teaching (and against the folly of falling for it). Which leads to the question: what is false teaching and how do we spot it? Obviously, there is no foolproof scheme for identifying false teaching. Biblical discernment takes years of prayer, preaching, and practice. But there are certain questions that may be help us sift the good from the bad. Here are 15 discernment diagnostic questions I suggested to my congregation. 1. Does the teaching sound strange? This is not fool proof, of course—predestination may sound strange at first. But sound teaching should make biblical sense for those who have read through the Bible every year, go to church every Sunday, and have gone to Sunday school for decades. As an initial question,

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The Continental Divide of Theology

Steven Lawson: Through the western regions of North America, there runs an imaginary geographic line that determines the flow of streams into oceans. It is known as the Continental Divide. Ultimately, precipitation falling on the east side of this great divide will flow into the Atlantic Ocean. Likewise, water falling on the western slopes of this line will surge in the opposite direction until it finally empties into the Pacific Ocean. Needless to say, a vast continent separates these immense bodies of water. It is seemingly far-fetched to ponder that a raindrop falling atop a mountain in Colorado will flow to the Pacific, while another drop, falling but a short distance away, will flow into the Atlantic. Nevertheless, once the water pours down on a particular side of this great divide, its path is determined and its direction is unchangeable. Geography is not the only place we find a great divide. There is a high ground that runs through church history

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No Pow’r of Hell, No Scheme of Man

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.—Galatians 3:13 David Mathis: Great hymns have the ability to unite the family of God, throughout history and around the world, in the truths about God that matter most. But when voices from within the church begin to question or deny what the church holds most dear, great hymns become flashpoints of controversy. Such is the case with “In Christ Alone.” Some say they find it offensive enough to change one uncomfortable line, or abandon the song altogether. But I want you to see that the original line is deeply biblical and profoundly good news. The second verse says, Till on that cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied Some find this line so troubling they have changed it to “the love of God was magnified.” Love Magnified It’s certainly true that the love of God was magnified at the cross. Romans 5:8 says,

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Seven Principles for the Understanding and Exercise of Spiritual Gifts

Sam Storms: While much can and should be said about spiritual gifts, here are a few relevant observations or principles that I believe should guide our understanding and exercise of the charismata. (1) Every single spiritual gift, whether it be mercy, serving, giving, speaking in tongues, or prophecy, is a “manifestation of the Spirit” given “for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). Therefore, every gift is by definition supernatural, since every gift is the enabling presence of the Spirit operating through us. As Paul says, although there are varieties of gifts, services, and activities, it is the “same Spirit” who “empowers them all in everyone” (1 Cor. 12:4-6). So, teaching is as supernatural as tongues; service is as supernatural as word of knowledge, and so on. (2) In light of the first point, we must acknowledge that a “gift” or “charism” of the Spirit is an impartation to enable and equip us to serve others. Nowhere in Scripture are gifts

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Three lies about forgiveness

J.D. Greear: A few years ago I read a fascinating book called The Bishop of Rwanda, by John Rucyahana. He talked about the horrible genocides in Rwanda, and the aftermath of the civil wars there. He said that the genocides were, obviously, horrendous, but it was the lingering bitterness and hatred afterwards that was the most difficult. Most people couldn’t even consider the idea of forgiveness. Rucyahana pointed out that the obstacles to forgiveness really came from lies people believed about forgiveness. These three lies are as applicable in big cases (like his) as they are in our more everyday cases of forgiveness. Lie #1: You must wait until the person shows they’ve repented. Well, to put it bluntly, Jesus didn’t. He forgave his enemies on the cross, at the very moment they were killing him. Forgiveness isn’t the same as reconciliation. With reconciliation, you need both sides to come to the table. But forgiveness is first about releasing you from

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Faithful Evangelism Begins with Clear Sight

Erik Raymond: It is one of the most staggering and gripping narratives in the Bible. The prophet Isaiah is allowed to see a vision of God’s holiness that leads him to pronounce judgement upon himself and then concludes with him going to tell other people about this unfathomably holy God and their substantial lack of holiness. What is particularly instructive is the connection between his cleansing and his commissioning. When he realized what he had been cleansed from then he was more apt to embrace who he was cleansed for. Let’s be honest, one of the reasons why we sputter in evangelism is a truncated view of God’s holiness. Isaiah saw this and he was focused on his mission. Cleansing The need for cleansing comes from the awareness of sin. In other words, seeing a lack of holiness next to God’s ineffable holiness leads one to a gratitude for being cleansed. Isaiah tells us that this vision came in the year

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How Important is the Church?

Sam Storms: The disturbing and unbiblical trend continues: professing Christians who insist they love Jesus but have no formal association with or participation in the life of a local church. What are we to make of this? Is the church secondary to God’s purposes in history? Or might it be primary? And if so, what is the reason for the existence of the church? Paul speaks to this point in Ephesians 3:10 where he says that “through the church the manifold wisdom of God” is now “made known to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places.” What does this mean? The word translated “manifold” was used to describe everything from the intricate and colorful design of flowers, to embroidered cloth, to woven carpets, and even crowns with their exquisite jewels. It could be rendered “richly diversified,” “multifaceted,” “highly variegated,” “infinite diversity,” etc. God’s saving wisdom is gloriously intricate in its design and its effect. It is the very antithesis of

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How to Become a Heretic

Mike Leake: Heretics usually fall into the role. Seldom does a man wake up in the morning, grab a cup of coffee, read the morning newspaper, put on his clothes, and then stare himself in the mirror and say “Today, I shall become a heretic”. Heretics usually start by staring in the mirror and saying, “Today, I shall be a difference maker”. Consider Sabellius. Sabellius became what is now known as a modalist. He was deeply concerned with maintaining the biblical truth that God is one. He also wanted to maintain the biblical truth that Christ was fully God. These two truths seemed to Sabellius to be neglected. And so he re-emphasized those truths but whilst doing so neglected another important truth; namely, that God is three distinct Persons. Tertullian responded to the modalists by clearly showing how Scripture presents “one substance consisting in three persons”. But Sabellius was unmoved in his position. He would eventually be condemned as a

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5 Ways the Ascension Benefits You

Steve Mathewson: Forty days after Jesus’s resurrection, the biblical storyline takes a remarkable turn: Jesus disappears. “He was taken up before their very eyes,” Luke tells us, “and a cloud hid him from their sight” (Acts 1:9). Two angels then tell the disciples that Jesus was “taken into heaven” (Acts 1:11) So what do we make of this plot twist in the Bible’s story? How should we understand our crucified and risen Lord’s ascension? Michael Horton observes that we typically “treat the ascension as little more than a dazzling exclamation point for the resurrection rather than as a new event in its own right.” Yet the ascension is a vital part of the redemption story. If we simply collapse the ascension into the resurrection, we miss stunning benefits tied directly to Jesus being taken into heaven. Here are five ways the ascension of Jesus benefits us. 1. It establishes Jesus as the reigning king over all powers in all ages. Ephesians 1:20–21 speaks

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