The Gospel-Shaped Pastor

Jared Wilson: Pastors are a motley bunch of souls. We represent different personalities and tribes, different methodologies and styles, not to mention denominations, traditions, and theologies. But I’ve learned over the years that there is something many of us all have in common—a profound sense of insecurity for which the only antidote is the gospel. It’s easy to succumb to the temptation to compare one’s ministry to that of another pastor, or give in to the need to impress others and be liked. The only remedy for these ministry idolatries and all others is the gospel because it announces, among many things, we are justified, accepted, loved, and satisfied by God in Christ. Until pastors discover and embrace their identity in Christ—which is accomplished by Christ and received by faith, not works—they will keep trying to find their identity in their position, their preaching, their persona, and their programs. While every pastor would affirm the gospel’s centrality to their ministry,

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10 Things You Should Know about the Gospel

Sam Storms: As much as we hear about the gospel of Jesus Christ one would think that everyone is on the same page when it comes to defining this word. Sadly, that is not the case. So just what is the gospel? How might we define it? Here are ten things to keep in mind. (1) The “gospel” is the gloriously great good news of what our triune God has graciously done in the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to satisfy his own wrath against us and to secure the forgiveness of sins and perfect righteousness for all who trust in him by faith alone. Christ fulfilled, on our behalf, the perfectly obedient life under God’s law that we should have lived, but never could. He died, in our place, the death that we deserved to suffer but now never will. And by his rising from the dead he secures for those who believe the promise of

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7 Sure Marks of a False Teacher

Tim Challies: You search through the long history of the Christian church and you’ll see that false teachers have been present at every time and present at every era. They were in the early church, they were in the medieval church, they were in the Reformation church, they were in the Puritan church and of course, they’re in today’s church. False teachers have been a plague since the very beginning. They are a plague in our day. But what’s interesting to me is that while the times change and while the circumstances change, the methods of these false teachers really don’t change very much. Whether you’re looking at the first century or you’re looking at the 21st century, you’ll pretty quickly spot seven sure marks of a false teacher. Today we’re looking at seven sure marks of a false teacher. And here is the first one. False teachers are man pleasers. At heart, these false teachers, they’re not interested in

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Why the Gospel Requires Undivided Attention

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Heed the Gospel The gospel of Jesus Christ, the message of the book of Hebrews, calls upon the world to give earnest heed to what it has to say. The world is not merely to give it a quick glance or read a casual article about it or have an occasional discussion about it or on special days or occasions listen to what the church has to say. Earnest heed means undivided attention. There is a very good illustration of this in the sixteenth chapter of the book of Acts where we read about the apostle Paul preaching the gospel for the first time in Europe. A woman named Lydia heard Paul’s witness, “whose heart the Lord opened, [so] that she attended unto [heeded] the things which were spoken of [by] Paul” (Acts 16:14). She paid attention or considered or studied; she did not just sit and listen and then go away and forget it all. She paid

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Why Every Healthy Church Emphasises Preaching and Teaching

Greg Gilbert: As the pastor of a local church, I have to make decisions every day about where to invest my time and what to prioritize in the life of the church I lead. There are so many worthwhile activities vying for attention. If I didn’t have clear direction from God’s Word about what is most critical for building a healthy church, I might be swept away by the dozens of new church programs that arrive in my mailbox every month. Fortunately, God has promised to use one thing to give life and grow his people. And that one thing is the proclamation of his Word. The Word of Life Throughout the Bible from start to finish, it’s clear that God’s Word is the life-giving Word. When God brought the universe into existence out of nothing, he did so simply by speaking. When he gave life to Adam, he breathed into his body the breath of life. When the dry bones

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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 portrayed

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The One Genuine Cure for Legalism and Antinomianism

Sinclair Ferguson: Antinomianism takes various forms. People do not always fit neatly into our categorizations, nor do they necessarily hold all the logical implications of their presuppositions. Here we are using “antinomianism” in the theological sense: rejecting the obligatory (“binding on the conscience”) nature of the Decalogue for those who are in Christ. Antinomianism, it was widely assumed in the eighteenth century, is essentially a failure to understand and appreciate the place of the law of God in the Christian life. But just as there is more to legalism than first meets the eye, the same is true of antinomianism. Opposites Attract? Perhaps the greatest misstep in thinking about antinomianism is to think of it simpliciter as the opposite of legalism. It would be an interesting experiment for a budding doctoral student in psychology to create a word-association test for Christians. It might include: Old Testament: Anticipated answer → New Testament Sin: Anticipated answer → Grace David: Anticipated answer → Goliath Jerusalem: Anticipated answer → Babylon Antinomianism: Anticipated answer → ?

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How Does Jesus’ Temptation Link Him to Israel?

Nicholas Batzig: As a young man, I would sometimes spend time talking with a family friend who was a watch expert. I was fascinated by the way in which he could quickly distinguish a true Rolex from a fake. On one occasion, my friend pointed out the seemingly microscopic initials that a watchmaker had engraved into the underside of a timepiece. It was this small detail that enabled my friend to authenticate this particular watch. I would never have thought to look for such a small and seemingly insignificant detail if he had not pointed it out to me. Similarly, the Scriptures identify the Lord Jesus as the true Israel of God by means of the smallest and seemingly most insignificant details in the records of His temptation in the wilderness. No sooner had God brought His son (Ex. 4:22), Israel, out of Egypt and through the waters that He brought him into the wilderness for forty years—to be tested

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How to Give Thanks in Every Circumstance

Nancy Guthrie: A couple of years ago, social media revolted against the hashtag #blessed. It often seemed to be employed to brag about expensive vacations or impressive accomplishments under the guise of humility. But home décor stores do not seem to have gotten the message. They have shelves stocked with all kinds of signs and accessories so we can declare to the world — or at least anyone who comes into our houses — that we are indeed “blessed.” But what do we mean when we say that we are blessed? Is it an expression of gratitude for the things we have, the health we enjoy, or the people we love? Are these things really at the center of what it means to be blessed? The Source of Blessing From the first chapter to the last, the Bible’s story is one of blessing — blessing pronounced, blessing promised, blessing anticipated, and blessing experienced. We begin to get a sense of

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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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