“I Am Who I Am”

John Piper: Why did God identify himself as “I Am Who I Am” — I absolutely am (Exodus 3:14)? Now, if we can take off our clouded spectacles of mere religious jargon, like G-O-D, this should come and will come as a bolt of lightning. God is. That’s staggering. What sentence could be more important in any language than God is? So, what did he mean when he said, “I absolutely am — I Am Who I Am”? What did he mean? No More Tinkering with Religion And I’m going to linger here longer than you think I should, perhaps, because until God becomes dominant in our thinking and in our feeling — until God becomes the blazing sun at the center of the solar system of our daily lives; until God becomes the Mount Everest in the foothills of all our concerns with this world; until God rests on the souls of the saints in Belfast, and on the churches of Northern Ireland;

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4 Reasons We Must Not Disregard God’s Word

R. Kent Hughes: The Piercing Word of God I was twelve years old when I came under the knife of God’s Word. The cuts went deep, deeper than blood, as they cut my soul in gracious surgery. I was cut with the clear understanding that though I was an outward son of the church, I was not a son of God. The other cut that the knife brought was the conviction that Jesus Christ was God and that he had died on the cross for my sins. My pastor directed me to read John 1:12 and Romans 10:9-10. And as I read, the lights came on. It was as if the marrow of those verses were sucked off the page and into my soul. I did believe! Thus began my experience with the penetrating power of God’s Word. It has cut me untold numbers of times since. But each pain, responded to, has brought a fresh, satisfying healing. All Scripture is, as Paul

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He Leadeth Me!

Sam Storms: In 1862 Joseph Gilmore wrote one of the more familiar of our traditional hymns: He Leadeth Me. He leadeth me, O blessèd thought! O words with heav’nly comfort fraught! Whate’er I do, where’er I be, Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me. He leadeth me, He leadeth me, By His own hand He leadeth me; His faithful follower I would be, For by His hand He leadeth me When Jesus turns to describe himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep, he not only speaks of how he loves us but also how leads us. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep

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What Does ‘This Rock’ Refer to in Matthew 16:18?

Gregg R. Allison: Few verses have caused more controversy than Matthew 16:18, where Jesus says, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” It has led to disagreement over the proper type of church government, the role of the pope (along with papal infallibility), apostolic succession, and more. In context, Jesus probes his disciples for what the general public thinks about the identity of “the Son of Man” (v. 13). Their response indicates the breadth of the popular understanding of Jesus: he is John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or another prophet (v. 14). So Jesus redirects his probe: “But who do you [plural = the disciples] say I am?” (v. 15). Peter responds for the Twelve: Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah, God the Son incarnate (v. 16). Jesus approves Peter for rightly identifying him, underscoring that his disciple didn’t humanly figure out this

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Why The Church?

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

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Fellowship with the Triune God

  Herman Bavink: “ Fellowship with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14), and secondarily with each other (1 John 1:7; 1 Cor. 12:12-31; Eph. 1:22-23; 4:16). The purpose of human life is fellowship with God; to live in Him is life’s goal. The spiritual life is to live in fellowship with the Triune God—that is, in the Holy Spirit, through Christ, with the Father. This fellowship is one—that is, divine—and yet different with respect to the three Persons. First there is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit convicting of sin, righteousness, and judgment; then, that of Christ adopting us and granting us His benefits; thereafter that of the Father adopting us as His children in and because of Christ. The spiritual life always moves among those three Persons and is therefore a genuinely rich life, rich in diversity, without monotony. The believer experiences the life of God Himself: from the Father through the Son in the Spirit and, conversely, in

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The Incarnation: Its Relevance

William Boekestein: To call the incarnation “relevant” almost sounds patronizing. But we need to recognize the intimate connection between this important doctrine and personal piety. It Opens Up Scripture Until we grasp that Christ is God-in-flesh, the Old Testament will remain a collection of stories about how men and women struggled with the call to faith. The incarnation helps us to see that the Old Testament sets the stage for God to once again live with man as He did in Eden. On every Old Testament page, God promises a human deliverer who is also stronger than Satan (Gen. 3:15); both a suffering servant and an anointed king. The reality of God-with-us is explained and applied throughout the rest of Scripture starting with Matthew. The New Testament is not simply a collection of ethical instruction, or even a commentary on the life of a certain Nazarene. It is the real-life story of what happened when God came to men that they might belong

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Unpacking the Incarnation with J. I. Packer

Matt Boga: One of my personal traditions over the past few Advents has been to read J. I. Packer’s chapter on the incarnation in Knowing God. This is far and away my favorite chapter in my favorite extrabiblical book, and it’s my joy to revisit it often. Packer’s classic book is known for the simplicity and clarity with which he communicates profound and complex truths, and his exploration of the incarnation in chapter five (“God Incarnate”) is no exception. Making Sense of Faith Packer begins by stating the obvious: many thoughtful people find the gospel challenging to believe, but many also “make faith harder than it need be, by finding difficulties in the wrong places” (52). The atonement, the resurrection, the virgin birth, and miracles are all challenging to believe on face value, but they all pale in comparison to the Christian claim of the incarnation. “Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the incarnation,” Packer declares

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Why Was Jesus Born of a Virgin?

Wyatt Graham: Everyone knows the story. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary. He tells her that she will have a child who will save his people and establish his kingdom. But there is a problem. As Mary asks, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). The angel Gabriel explains, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). Instead of doubt, Mary believes. She confesses: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). She believed and did not waver.  Why did God decide that Jesus would be born in this particular way? Why did God use a virgin birth to bring Jesus into the world? There are at least three answers.  To fulfill prophecy First, the prophet Isaiah prophesied that the coming one

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Greatest Good of the Gospel

John Piper: What was the most loving thing Jesus could do for us? What was the endpoint, the highest good, of the gospel? Redemption? Forgiveness? Justification? Reconciliation? Sanctification? Adoption? Are not all of these great wonders simply means to something greater? Something final? Something that Jesus asked his Father to give us? “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me” (John 17:24). The Christian gospel is “the gospel of the glory of Christ” because its final aim is that we would see and savor and show the glory of Christ. For this is none other than the glory of God. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3). “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). When the light of the gospel shines in our hearts, it is “the light of

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10 Things You Should Know About the Incarnation

Stephen Wellum: At the heart of Christianity and the gospel is the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Apart from the “Word becoming flesh” (John 1:14) and the incarnate Son of God living and dying in our place as our Savior, there is no salvation. Apart from the coming of the eternal Son, his taking on human nature and acting as our covenant representative, there is no hope for the world. It is appropriate at Christmas to think more deeply about the incarnation. Here are 10 things we should grasp. 1. The person or active subject of the incarnation is the eternal Son. John 1:14 is clear: “The Word became flesh.” In other words, it was the Son from eternity who became incarnate, not the divine nature. The Son, who is in eternal relation to the Father and Spirit, willingly humbled himself and chose to assume a human nature in obedience to his Father and for our salvation (Phil. 2:6–8). 2. As the eternal Son, the second

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He Made Them Male and Female

Sex, Gender, and the Image of God Christopher Yuan: Is “gender” a social construct? Should male or female be a matter of personal choice? Are there more than two “genders”? Ten years ago, these questions were unheard of apart from English and Women’s Studies departments at secular universities. But as peculiar and even sacrilegious as it may sound, many people today would say yes to all three. Maybe your kindergartener has a playmate being raised “gender neutral.” Or your coffee shop is starting to use name tags with “preferred pronouns.” Or a bit closer to home, you might have a family member who is “transitioning.” Although the modern West has lost its boundaries and celebrates a plethora of so-called gender options, how should Christians understand and critique today’s concepts of gender in light of Scripture? We begin with understanding, and not conflating, four categories: sex, gender, norms, and callings. Sex: Male and Female The term sex has a couple of definitions. It can

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Why Do Christians Need to Hear the Gospel Every Day?

Cameron Smart: Some people believe that the gospel is only useful for evangelism—a message only unbelievers need to hear. Yet the Bible teaches that followers of Jesus need to continue hearing the gospel even after they are born again. Christians should meditate on the gospel every day in their personal Bible reading, and pastors should preach the gospel in every sermon. We regularly need to hear about the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, as well as the call to repent of our sins and turn to Jesus in faith. Here are eight reasons we need to hear gospel truths each and every day: To evoke praise and thanks to God. God our Father is the one who should be in the news headlines each day. Rather than taking his incredible saving works on our behalf for granted, we should daily meditate on what he has done in Christ and offer up to him the worship and thanksgiving of

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God’s Will for Your Life Is More Obvious Than You Think

Courtney Doctor: Have you ever wondered what God’s will is for your life? I’d venture to guess we’ve all asked that question at some point. For most of us, the question rises to the surface at critical junctures: choosing a spouse or a job, choosing what school to attend or which house to buy. These are the times we tend to cry out, Lord, show me your will! As we seek to know God’s will, we often feel tension. In a sincere desire to please him, we can sometimes walk in fear that we will make the wrong choice about the details of our lives. We spin in circles, wondering where God wants us to get coffee, how much he wants us to spend on groceries, or whether he’d be happy if we went to Disney for vacation. Every choice becomes a paralyzing decision: either discover what God wants, or make a choice that could ruin everything. For some, obsessing over

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Who Delivered Up Jesus to Die?

Nicholas T. Batzig: Octavius Winslow once famously said, “Who delivered up Jesus to die? Not Judas, for money; not Pilate, for fear; not the Jews, for envy—but the Father for love.” 1 We could just as easily edit this statement in the following way: “Who put Jesus on the cross? Judas, for money; Pilate, for fear; the Jews, for envy; and you and me, for enmity.” This is a truth we should never tire of hearing and to which we must often return. Our understanding of the nature of our depravity is essential if we are to rightly understand the nature of the death of Jesus. In short, the doctrine of human depravity helps us better understand who delivered Jesus up to the death on the cross. When considering the nature of sin, many professing Christians have a tendency to focus on the horizontal relationships they sustain with those around them. In a very real sense, all of us have been culturally

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Want a Miserable Life? Confuse Law and Gospel

Jeff Robinson: What if your church’s elders passed down a fiat that members couldn’t take more than 1,999 steps on the Lord’s Day without facing church discipline? Just one more step would represent a long trip—a no-no on the day God set aside for worship. What if they said you could not carry your Bible to church, since such heavy lifting would too closely resemble work? Anything heavier than a dried fig is strictly taboo, they say. Or what if they added a clause in the constitution and bylaws that members must not leave a radish in salt, since that vegetable might become a pickle, and pickle-making is work? And what if they added subparagraphs to the constitution prescribing disciplinary action for those found guilty of other activities on the Lord’s Day, such as carrying a pen (lest you be tempted to write), carrying a needle (lest you be tempted to sew), helping those sick with non-life-threatening maladies (it can

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What Does the Church Most Need Today?

W. Robert Godfrey: What does the church most need today? In answering this important but rather general question, Psalm 81 is uniquely important and helpful. This psalm obviously contains beautiful promises and clear directions to help the people of God. But careful study of this psalm will deepen our appreciation of it, increase its value for us, and show us how distinctive it is for helping the church. As we study psalms, we soon learn that the central verse of a psalm is often significant as a key to its interpretation. The central line of Psalm 81 is the heart of that psalm, as the plaintive cry of God is heard: “O Israel, if you would but listen to me!” (v. 8b). The center of Psalm 81—indeed the whole psalm—is a reflection on the Shema. The centrality of this line and its importance are underscored when we recognize that Psalm 81 is the central psalm of Book 3 of the Psalter. Book

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Caterpillars, Butterflies, and Replacement Theology

Sam Storms: Many times I’ve been asked by church members if I believe in “replacement” theology. Although this is a massively complex subject, I’ve tried to provide a brief answer. All biblical interpreters recognize development between the Old Testament and the New. Some say the Old Testament is the seed which becomes the flower in the New. Others speak of the relationship as one of symbol to substance, or type to anti-type. The point is we must strive to understand the obvious 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 as God always intended it to be. What we see in the New Testament, then, isn’t the replacement of

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Should every Christian study theology?

J.I. Packer: Theology simply means the study of God. This is something that every Christian needs to realise. I think the way that the word has been used in the past has frightened many Christians away from it, even though they never stopped to consider what the word actually meant. People got the idea somewhere that theology is the business of the seminary professors and the clergy, but has very little to do with the day to day living of the Christian life. It’s something people seem to think you can get along without, provided that you read your Bible daily and think one or two guiding thoughts from your passage to keep you on the rails. I don’t believe it’s at all like that. But theology means the study of God, and if we are to love God, as we are commanded, with all our “minds” then we need to be in the business of theology. So when I speak

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10 [more] things you should know about church membership

Paul Alexander: 1. Membership is not “in the Bible.” At least, it’s not there in a proof-text sort of way. Local church membership is not the eleventh commandment, or an additional beatitude, or an extra verse in some obscure manuscript tradition. But kind of like the doctrine of the Trinity, we’ll see that local church membership is a good and necessary consequence of what’s in the Bible. 2. Membership clarifies the distinction that redemption creates. Redemption creates a distinction between God’s people and not-God’s people. In fact, that’s God’s stated reason for bringing the plagues on Egypt, but not on Israel, right before the Exodus: “That you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel” (Ex. 11:7; cf. Ex. 8:22–23; 9:4). The plagues preview the great distinction that redemption is about to publicize—the distinction between the redeemed and the unredeemed. Local church membership is not the only way we clarify the distinction between the world and the

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