God’s Delight in Being God: The Foundation of Christian Hedonism

Sam Storms: You are all aware, I’m quite sure, that there is an eternity of difference between saying, “Delight yourself,” and “Delight yourself in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4). The former is pagan or secular hedonism. The latter is Christian Hedonism. So let’s unpack this notion that our delight or joy is to be in God. And the question is: Why, and what does that mean? In order to answer that, I want to direct your attention to a footnote. Strange as it may sound, often times the most powerful and transforming of truths can be found in footnotes rather than in the main text of a book. In the 2000 edition of The Pleasures of God, on page 26, footnote 3, John Piper writes this: “The truth that God is infinitely happy in the fellowship of the Trinity is . . . the ground of our ever-increasing happiness, as God grants us the unspeakable privilege of enjoying God with the

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The Greatest Gift God Can Give

John Piper: If you have something that you know will give others full, lasting pleasure and instead of showing it to them you elevate and exalt yourself, are you a loving person? No. You’re most definitely not a loving person. And so it is with God. If God has something and he doesn’t show it to us, even though it would bring us full and everlasting pleasure, God’s not loving toward us. And so, he must show us himself. There is no gift that God can give you that would make him a loving person if he withholds himself. All the gifts that you think about — forgiveness, justification, redemption, reconciliation — all the glorious gospel gifts, if God says, “You can have all that, but you can’t have me on the other side,” he’s not loving toward me. Therefore, God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation and self-presentation is synonymous with love. You may not

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8 Ways to Help Depressed Christians

David Murray: Many of us struggle with what to do when someone we know is depressed. We want to help but fear, confusion, or misunderstanding holds us back. So, let me suggest eight guidelines for helping depressed people. 1. Prepare for it. Eventually, someone in your church or in your family is going to get depression. It is the third most common reason for people consulting the family doctor. In any one year, six percent of men and ten percent of women will suffer with depression. Prepare by reading up on it. A couple of good books are Dealing with Depression by Sarah Collins and Jayne Haynes, a short book you will read it in an hour, and Grace for the Afflictedby Matthew S. Stanford, which is more demanding and more detailed. Be prepared to be surprised by who gets it. Contrary to the caricatures, it is not just sad, lazy, pessimistic people that get depression. It’s also type-A personalities,

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Trinity – God Is One and Three

J.I. Packer: “This is what the LORD says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6). The Old Testament constantly insists that there is only one God, the self-revealed Creator, who must be worshipped and loved exclusively (Deut. 6:4-5; Isa. 44:6– 45:25). The New Testament agrees (Mark 12:29-30; 1 Cor. 8:4; Eph. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:5) but speaks of three personal agents, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, working together in the manner of a team to bring about salvation (Rom. 8; Eph. 1:3-14; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; 1 Pet. 1:2). The historic formulation of the Trinity (derived from the Latin word trinitas, meaning “threeness”) seeks to circumscribe and safeguard this mystery (not explain it; that is beyond us), and it confronts us with perhaps the most difficult thought that the human mind has ever been asked to handle. It is not easy; but it is

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5 Tips for Reading the Book of Revelation

Leah Baugh: The book of Revelation is a tough book to read. It is full of strange and often scary imagery, confusing numbers, time references, and much more. However, with just a few tips for understanding certain confusing elements, the book opens up as an important and helpful book for Christians. 1. The book is visual prophecy. One of the first things that help us understand the book is understanding what kind of book it is. John tells us in the opening chapter that what he has written is a prophecy from Jesus. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. (Rev. 1:3) 2. This prophecy was given to John in a series of visions.  I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see.” (Rev. 1:10-11)

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The Mystery of the Gospel

Al Mohler: The essential content of Christian preaching, Paul says, is the mystery of the gospel. He writes that the preaching of the Word of God is seen in “the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints” (Col. 1:26). A mystery? All around Asia Minor and the ancient world at this time, there were mystery religions and mystery cults, and there were some who thought, especially from the Roman perspective, that Christianity was just another one of them. After all, it had its mystery. And Paul said, “Guilty as charged.” Yet this is not a mystery of esoteric knowledge. This is not a gnosticism of elitist intellectuals. No, this is a mystery that was hidden by God until it could be publicly revealed in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, in His death, burial, and resurrection. This is a mystery! There is something deeply mysterious about Christian preaching, both in

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How Satan Serves God

John Piper: Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:11) Behind all disease and disability is the ultimate will of God. Not that Satan is not involved — he is probably always involved in one way or another with destructive purposes (Acts 10:38). But his power is not decisive. He cannot act without God’s permission. That is one of the points of Job’s sickness. The text makes it plain that when disease came upon Job, “Satan . . . struck Job with loathsome sores” (Job 2:7). His wife urged him to curse God. But Job said, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). And again the inspired author of the book (just as he did in 1:22) commends Job by saying, “In all this Job did not

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How Should We Interpret the Book of Revelation?

Sam Storms: Perhaps the single greatest controversy surrounding Revelation and the most important issue when it comes to interpreting the book, is the question of its structure. Many, perhaps most, evangelicals read Revelation as if it is describing a short period of time that is still in the future. Those who embrace what may be called the futurist view of the book most often will argue that what we have in Revelation 6-19 is a description of events that will take place in the future in a period of seven years they call The Great Tribulation. And as you know, there are many who insist that Jesus will return and rapture his people out of this world prior to the outpouring of divine judgment in the “Great Tribulation.” The result is that what we read in Revelation 6-19 has little, if any, immediate practical relevance for a lot of Christians. For them it is fascinating to talk about, but it

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True Repentance

Michael Lawrence: False Repentance Leads to False Conversions Repenting means exchanging our idols for God. Before it’s a change in behavior, it must be a change in worship. How different that is from how we often think of repentance. Too often we treat repentance as a call to clean up our lives. We do good to make up for the bad. We try to even the scale, or even push it back to the positive side. Sometimes we talk about repentance as if it were a really serious, religious New Year’s resolution: “I’m not going to blow up at my kids anymore.” “I’m not going to look at pornography ever again.” “I’m never going to cheat on my hours at work.” “I’m going to stop talking about my boss behind his back.” False repentance But even if we clean up our behavior in one area or another, our hearts can still be devoted to our idols. The Pharisees illustrate this problem. They

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Replacement theology or inclusion theology?

Sam Storms: I was recently asked by a member at Bridgeway if I believe in what is called “replacement” theology. Although this is a massively complex subject, I tried to provide a brief answer. Here it is. All biblical interpreters recognize that there is development between the Old Testament and the New. Some say the Old Testament is the seed to which the New Testament provides the flower. Others speak of the relationship as one of symbol to substance, or type to anti-type. The point being that we must strive to understand the progress in redemptive history. And when I look at the relationship between Israel and the Church I see something similar to the relationship between the caterpillar and the butterfly. The butterfly doesn’t replace the caterpillar. The butterfly IS the caterpillar in a more developed and consummate form. The butterfly is what God intended the caterpillar to become. Likewise, the church doesn’t replace Israel. The church IS Israel

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Gleaning Daily Wisdom from Proverbs

Matt Smethurst: Once upon a time—I think it was the summer of 2004—I was a camp counselor, and one of the boys in my cabin handed me a CD with a single sermon on it. He said his mom loved the preacher, and I should check it out. So on my day off, I listened to the message that would later be expanded into the Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness booklet. The name of the preacher was Tim Keller. The series was Proverbs. A couple years later I sat in a living room in East Asia where, over several months, my ministry team listened to the whole series. Numerous proverbs sprang to life in ways I’d never experienced. I also glimpsed something I didn’t expect to see: the shadow of Jesus Christ. In their new devotional, God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs, Keller and his wife, Kathy, guide us thematically through the Book of Proverbs over 365

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The Very Heart of the Reformation

R.C.Sproul: At the very heart of the controversy in the sixteenth century was the question of the ground by which God declares anyone righteous in His sight. The psalmist asked, “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (Ps. 130:3). In other words, if we have to stand before God and face His perfect justice and perfect judgment of our performance, none of us would be able to pass review. We all would fall, because as Paul reiterates, all of us have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). So, the pressing question of justification is how can an unjust person ever be justified in the presence of a righteous and holy God? The Roman Catholic view is known as analytical justification. This means that God will declare a person just only when, under His perfect analysis, He finds that he is just, that righteousness is inherent in him. The person cannot have that righteousness

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Soli Deo Gloria

John Piper: We use the phrase glory of God so often that it tends to lose its biblical force. But this glory, like the sun, is no less blazing— and no less beneficial—because people ignore it. Yet, God hates to be ignored. “Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!” (Ps. 50:22). So let’s focus again on the glory of God. What is God’s glory, and how important is it? What Is the Glory of God? The glory of God is the holiness of God put on display. That is, it is the infinite worth of God made manifest. Notice how Isaiah shifts from “holy” to “glory”: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isa. 6:3). When the holiness of God fills the earth for people to see, it is called glory. The basic meaning of holy is “separated from the common.” Thus, the

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What Is the Greatest of All Protestant “Heresies”?

What Is the Greatest of All Protestant “Heresies,” according to Roman Catholic doctrine? Sinclair Ferguson: Let us begin with a church history exam question. Cardinal Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621) was a figure not to be taken lightly. He was Pope Clement VIII’s personal theologian and one of the most able figures in the Counter-Reformation movement within sixteenth-century Roman Catholicism. On one occasion, he wrote: “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is _______ .” Complete, explain, and discuss Bellarmine’s statement. How would you answer? What is the greatest of all Protestant heresies? Perhaps justification by faith? Perhaps Scripture alone, or one of the other Reformation watchwords? Those answers make logical sense. But none of them completes Bellarmine’s sentence. What he wrote was: “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is assurance.” A moment’s reflection explains why. If justification is not by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone — if faith needs to be completed by works; if Christ’s work is somehow repeated; if grace

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The Aesthetic Beauty of the Gospel

Mark Mattes: To be human is to be captivated by someone or something, and this is no less true for Christians. We sing “Fairest Lord Jesus” because Jesus has captivated our hearts. We experience the gospel as beautiful—that God would reach out to rebels to forgive them, embrace them, and return them to his care. But seldom do we explore how this gospel is beautiful. Luther wouldn’t seem to be a go-to thinker for a theology of beauty. He’s known for his ferocious and desperate wrestling with God and conscience. Beauty, by contrast, conveys a sense of tranquility, delight, and pleasure. These words hardly seem compatible with the storms Luther faced. But there’s another side to Luther. He had a deep appreciation for music and the visual arts. He played the lute, sang tenor, composed hymns, and was good friends with the Wittenberg painter Lucas Cranach. (He also inspired Bach.) This appreciation was undergirded by his conviction that the gospel is intrinsically beautiful. Beautiful Cross Luther’s theology

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8 Questions to Help You Understand and Apply the Bible

Matt Harmon: Sometimes the most important things in the Christian life can be the most difficult. That can certainly be true of understanding and applying the Bible. As believers we know that reading Scripture is essential to following Jesus. But if we’re honest, we often find it difficult to understand and apply. The Bible talks about so many different things; how do we know what to focus on? It’s set in a world very different from ours; how do we apply it to our lives today? One simple and effective tool is asking good questions. The questions we ask when we read the Bible largely determine how we understand and apply the Bible. So we need to make sure we are asking the right questions, the kind of questions the Bible was designed to answer. But how do we know what those questions are? The Bible is first and foremost a story about God displaying his glory through creating and

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10 Things You Should Know about Systematic Theology

Scott R. Swain: 1. Systematic theology exists because the God who knows and loves himself in the bliss of the Trinity is pleased to make himself an object of creaturely knowledge and love through holy Scripture. Theology in its essence is “wisdom”—a knowledge that is ordered to love (practical wisdom), and a love that rests in knowledge (contemplative wisdom). More specifically, theology is wisdom about God and all things in relation to God. This wisdom exists first and foremost in God: God knows and loves himself in the bliss of his triune life as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 11:27; 1 Cor. 2:10–11). This wisdom exists secondarily and derivatively in creatures because God is pleased to make us happy by making us friends in the knowledge and love of himself (John 10:14–15; 15:15; 17:3; 1 Cor. 2:12). Though not the only source for the knowledge and love of God (see Psalm 19; Rom 1-2), holy Scripture is the supreme

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How to Resolve Most Relational Conflict

Jon Bloom: Few things sap more of our joy, are as emotionally demanding and mentally distracting, as relational conflict. And few things wreak as much havoc and destruction on lives as relational conflict. And so much of it is avoidable. Of course, not all conflict is avoidable. Some disagreements are based on issues so fundamental to truth, righteousness, and justice that conscientious conviction demands we stand our ground, even if it shatters a relationship. After all, even Jesus made it clear that for some of us, his coming would result in the painful severing of the important and meaningful and intimate relationships in our lives (Matthew 10:34–36). But most of our conflicts in life are not over such fundamental issues. They erupt over secondary, or peripheral, or trivial, or even utterly selfish things. And there’s only one path to peace in these cases. Warring Passions James nails us when he says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?

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10 Things You Should Know About the Church

Sam Storms: It’s both amazing and deeply distressing that I continue to hear of people who are supposedly “in love with Jesus” but not with the church. “We like you, Jesus, but we don’t care for your wife!” Really? The so-called “organized” church is for some reason offensive to them. Does the NT support such a notion? Is it possible for someone to be a Christian and remain opposed to his Bride, the church? I hope these ten truths about the church will forever put that misguided idea to rest. (1) The church is the primary means by which or through which God makes known the glory of his saving wisdom. We read this in Ephesians 3:10 – “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10). God’s ultimate aim is that his own “manifold wisdom” might be made known “through the church”. The

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What’s the Purpose of Pastors?

Tim Challies: The Bible knows nothing of lone Christians, of believers who are willfully independent from a local church. Rather, Christians gather in communities to worship together and serve one another. And as God commands his people to gather in community, he also commands them to be led—led by men called and qualified as pastors or elders (terms the Bible uses interchangeably). As we progress through a series of questions  about things we as Christians often take for granted, we now come to the question of church leadership and ask, “What’s the purpose of pastors?” Common Views of Pastors In the church today we find a number of common views of the role and purpose of pastors. Unfortunately, some of these, though perhaps well-intentioned, are unbiblical. Here are two prominent views that both fall short of what the Bible teaches. The first is the pastor as CEO. According to this view, the pastor’s primary purpose is to keep his organization (i.e.,

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