He Knows Me

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What matters supremely is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it–the fact that he knows me. I am graven on the palms of his hands. I am never out of his mind.

All my knowledge of him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. I know him because he first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is not a moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters.

This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort–the sort of comfort that energizes, be it said, not enervates–in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me.

— J. I. Packer Knowing God 41-42

(HT: Of First Importance)

United in Redeeming Love

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Mankind, spiritually bankrupt, has nothing to offer, but God, prompted by pure grace, and drawing on his eternal wisdom, prepares a counsel of salvation in which the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are united in redeeming love and pity for the human race. The triune God resolves to save the world, and to accept the good offices of a Mediator who shall act for mankind as their representative and suffer for them as their substitute: so accommodating is the divine will, and so predisposed to forgive our transgressions.

But the Three-in-One, acting to save the world, go further: they resolve that the salvation shall be free to the human race. It will cost them nothing. For them, it will be an act of pure love and mercy. From sinners as such no satisfaction will be required. Instead, everything will flow from the loving-kindness of God. He will bear the whole cost. He will provide the one who will take the sinner’s place.

But he will go even further: he will become the one who takes the sinner’s place. God the Son will suffer for the world’s sin. God the Father will suffer in the Son’s pain. God the Holy Spirit will share in the pain of both.

At Gethsemane and Golgotha the Three will be One, as God, not sparing himself, takes blood, his own blood, and sheds it to redeem the world.

–Donald Macleod, Christ Crucified: Understanding the Atonement (IVP, 2014), 177

(HT: Dane Ortlund)

Who are you married to?

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Ray Ortlund:

“A married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. . . . and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.  Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another.”  Romans 7:2-4

We were married to Mr. Law.  He was a good man, in his way, but he did not understand our weakness.  He came home every evening and asked, “So, how was your day?  Did you do what I told you to?  Did you make the kids behave?  Did you waste any time?  Did you complete everything I put on your To Do list?”  So many demands and expectations.  And hard as we tried, we couldn’t be perfect.  We could never satisfy him.  We forgot things that were important to him.  We let the children misbehave.  We failed in other ways.  It was a miserable marriage, because Mr. Law always pointed out our failings.  And the worst of it was, he was always right!  But his remedy was always the same: Do better tomorrow.  We didn’t, because we couldn’t.

Then Mr. Law died.  And we remarried, this time to Mr. Grace.  Our new husband, Jesus, comes home every evening and the house is a mess, the children are being naughty, dinner is burning on the stove, and we have even had other men in the house during the day.  Still, he sweeps us into his arms and says, “I love you, I chose you, I died for you, I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  And our hearts melt.  We don’t understand such love.  We expect him to despise us and reject us and humiliate us, but he treats us so well.  We are so glad to belong to him now and forever, and we long to be “fully pleasing to him” (Colossians 1:10)!

Being married to Mr. Law never changed us.  But being married to Mr. Grace is changing us deep within, and it shows.

Sin: Can’t Live With It, Won’t Live Without It

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Tim Challies:

Sin. I can’t live with it, but time and time again I have proven that I’m just not able to live without it. I know that I have been freed from sin—freed from the power of sin—and yet I still sin. The Bible tells me not to let sin reign, it tells me that if I am truly a child of God I will not go on sinning (Romans 6:12, 1 John 3:9). And still I sin. Even in those times that I focus my efforts on one particular sin I find that I am unable to stop, unable to put it entirely to death. My mind can’t do it, my heart can’t do it, my will can’t do it, my hands can’t do it. It may not reign as sovereign, but it continues to exist as a trial and a steady temptation.

In The Christian Life: A Doctrinal Introduction Sinclair Ferguson writes about this tricky relationship of sin to the Christian and offers these words of assurance: “We are no longer what we once were; we are no longer related to sin the way we once were.” This is important for me to understand and to keep in the forefront of my mind as I battle sin—any sin. I am not what I once was. I am not who I once was. I was once a slave to sin, owned by it, inexorably drawn to it. But now I am the slave to a different master. I am owned by God and subject to him. My relationship to sin has been radically transformed.

And yet I still get angry. I still lash out in anger. I still simmer in anger. I still have desires that stem from anger and suffer the consequences of my anger. And that is just one sin. I still lust and am still jealous and am still thankless and still sin in so many ways. I have died to sin but sin has not yet died within. But here is the difference; here is the change: Sin no longer has dominion. And practically I cannot relate to it as if it has dominion. I have to ensure that my experience of sin is consistent with my theology of sin.

Anger does not own me. Christ owns me. Lust does not motivate me. Christ motivates me. Jealousy does not get the final victory. Christ gets the final victory. The cross stands there as assurance that I have been saved from its power and will some day be fully and finally delivered from its presence. Sin is in me but I am in Christ. And what is in me was put upon him on the cross. He triumphed over it then. He broke its power. And now I just wait, battling all the while, for him to speak the word and bring it to an end once and for all.

Pastor, are you having fun?

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Tony Reinke:

“I have a little and earnest peeve,” John Piper said last night in his second message at DG’s 2015 Conference for Pastors, “Make War: The Pastor and His People in the Battle Against Sin” (2/3/15).

“‘Fun’ has become an adjective, and is the most common word used today, I think, among pastors to describe their happiness in ministry. That’s very telling. All of you do it. I hear it everywhere. ‘Having a blast in the work.’ ‘Oh, we’re having fun!’ Lots of people who say that are not superficial people, they have just absorbed the language from superficial people. If any word is superficial, the word ‘fun’ is superficial.”

He went on to explain:

I think one of the reasons so many worship services in America are so playful and amusing and entertaining and casual and flippant and jokey and trifling and downright silly is that there is so little sense that anything ominous is really at stake in this service. This service is for secure believers to have fun and for unbelievers to see them have fun; so they will know Christianity is fun. And “fun” has become the most common word among pastors to describe their happiness in ministry. It’s very telling. . . .

In Romans 8:13 Paul says, “If you live according to the flesh you will die.” How could he talk that way to the “saints” at Rome?

Thousands of pastors today would never talk that way to their people. Which is one reason why people don’t feel anything huge, eternal, life-shaking, awesome is at stake in this service or this message. Paul could talk that way because his understanding was that the way people receive and respond to the word of God confirms what kind of person they are: truly born of God, or not. . . .

Then he closed:

In the end, the warfare [against sin] doesn’t sound so bleak. It is serious. Every Sunday. Everyday. But it is a profoundly happy business, because our main work is, by the Spirit of God, with the word of God, to portray the glories of God as more beautiful and more satisfying than anything in the world. We pastors, we people, are a seriously happy band because we aim to kill sin that kills joy in God.

You have authority in Christ

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Ray Ortlund:

“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.”  Luke 10:19

In Dynamics of Spiritual Life, Richard Lovelace proposes that one of the “primary elements of continuous renewal” in a church is “authority in spiritual conflict,” pages 133-144.  We are not on the defensive.  We have authority from Christ himself.  The blows we do receive from Satan “come from a retreating enemy,” as Lovelace says, because of the decisive victory of Jesus on our behalf.

Lovelace draws from Scripture five fall-back strategies of Satan:

1.  Temptation

“The enemy strategy here is either to disfigure a Christian’s witness through public scandal, to gain some evidence through which his or her conscience can be accused and discouraged, or to weaken faith in the possibility of sanctification in some contested area.”

2.  Deception

“Negatively, demonic agents induce a strong conscious aversion to biblical truth, an inability to comprehend it and a distaste for what little can be understood. . . . Positively, the forces of darkness inspire and empower antichristian religious counterfeits . . . . The deceiving work of Satan can even be done in and through Christian believers, as Christ’s famous rebuke of Peter shows.”

3.  Accusation

“Demonic agents italicize the defects of Christians and the churches in the minds of unbelievers and cause true Christianity to be branded with the image of its own worst exemplars . . . . They are also particularly active in dividing Christians from one another into parties . . . . Finally, satanic forces attack Christians directly in their own minds with disturbingly accurate accounts of their faults, seeking to discourage those who are most eager and able to work for the kingdom.”

4.  Possession

“The Gospels plainly describe a condition in which human victims come almost helplessly under control of alien personalities.”

5.  Physical attack

“From data in the Gospels it appears that demonic agents can occasionally cause illness, at least psychological and neurological ailments like dumbness and epilepsy.”

More should be said about all this, and Lovelace does say more.  But he wisely affirms, “The battles we fight against [demonic powers] should not be occasions of anxiety.  They force us back to reliance on Christ’s redemptive work and enhance our dignity and authority as redeemed saints who have the power to judge angels.”

Christianity – Something Else Entirely

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Tim Keller:

To most people in our society, Christianity is religion and moralism. The only alternative to it (besides some other world religion) is pluralistic secularism. But from the beginning it was not so. Christianity was recognized as atertium quid, something else entirely.

The crucial point here is that, in general, religiously observant people were offended by Jesus, but those estranged from religious and moral observance were intrigued and attracted to him. We see this throughout the New Testament accounts of Jesus’s life. In every case where Jesus meets a religious person and a sexual outcast (as in Luke 7) or a religious person and a racial outcast (as in John 3-4) or a religious person and a political outcast (as in Luke 19), the outcast is the one who connects with Jesus and the elder-brother type does not. Jesus says to the respectable religious leaders ‘the tax collectors and the prostitutes enter the kingdom before you’ (Matthew 21:31).

Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did. If our churches aren’t appealing to younger brothers, they must be more full of elder brothers than we’d like to think.

The Danger of “Assuming” Evangelism

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Trevin Wax:

“Don’t assume the gospel!” has become a rallying cry for gospel-centered pastors and leaders. D. A. Carson has warned against this slow but sad progression:

  1. From a generation that believes the gospel and all its implications…
  2. To a generation that assumes the gospel but identifies more with its implications…
  3. To a generation that loses the gospel altogether.

“Make the gospel explicit!” we say, in an effort to ensure that the good news of Jesus – the only news that has the power to transform lives – stays front and center in our message, our methods, and our ministries.

But what happens when it’s not the evangel that gets assumed, but evangelism? 

Is it possible that a generation deeply committed to making the gospel present and explicit in the church’s preaching and teaching, might assume that Christians know how to share the gospel? Or that Christians understand just how vital evangelism is?

I wonder about “assuming evangelism” because of some of the books I’ve read recently, books that lay out various aspects of Christian responsibility and the church’s mission in the world. Many authors assume the need for personal repentance and faith is understood by their readers (perhaps because such is indeed the case within the tradition the authors come from); so their focus then shifts to the cosmic dimension of redemption.

Let me say at the outset that individualistic Christianity which is only about “me and Jesus” and my personal ticket to heaven is inadequate as a presentation of Christianity. It minimizes the importance of the local church, the Old Testament narrative, and misses the world-transforming power of the gospel here and now. I sympathize with authors and pastors who want to help Christians to understand salvation holistically.

That said, there is a danger is saying something like, “Of course, evangelism and missions are important, but let’s not forget…” and then continuing with all sorts of other good Christian responsibilities. As a corrective to myopic visions of salvation, this kind of statement can be helpful. But if we want to put forth a Christian worldview that is truly comprehensive, we can’t simply assume the existence of personal evangelism with an “of course!” before giving most of our attention to all the other good deeds a Christian may do in the world.

Most authors would agree that it’s a “both-and;” both evangelism and good works. But too many times I see the focus more on the “and” rather than the “both.”

If the church is to embrace the fullness of her mission, we need to be clear on the urgent need for evangelism. Christians are “good news people.” And good news people announce news. 

So let’s not assume that everyone in our churches knows why and how to look for opportunities to talk about Jesus and call for repentance and faith. Just as we’re explicit about the gospel, let’s also be explicit about what the gospel makes us – God’s gospel-speaking people for a lost world. 

Because what we assume today may be lost tomorrow.

More Wicked But More Loved

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Tim Keller:

The gospel of justifying faith means that while Christians are, in themselves still sinful and sinning, yet in Christ, in God’s sight, they are accepted and righteous. So we can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope – at the very same time. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. It means that the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions and character of your sin.

This also creates a radical new dynamic for discipline and obedience. First, the knowledge of our acceptance in Christ makes it easier to admit we are flawed because we know we won’t be cast off if we confess the true depths of our sinfulness. Second, it makes the law of God a thing of beauty instead of a burden. We can use it to delight and imitate the one who has saved us rather than to get his attention or procure his favor. We now run the race ‘for the joy that is set before us’ rather than ‘for the fear that comes behind us.’

Restoring beauty to his bride

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Let us suppose, in the manner of some romances, that a king was betrothed to a beautiful wife, whose picture was sent to him before he himself saw her. But when she set out on her journey to him, she fell sick of some loathsome disease, such as the smallpox or leprosy.

But suppose that he knew before she came to him that she should be restored to her first primitive beauty, and that even though he knew he would be troubled by her disaster, distemper, or disease, he easily quieted himself for that little space of time in which her infirmity, though greatly disfiguring her, was to continue. For he himself would be her physician, the only one who could cure her and restore her to her first perfect beauty, which he know he could and should do. Thus he would show all love and peace toward her, even though her disease was loathsome, in full hope of her recovery.

This is the case between Christ and the church.

— Thomas Goodwin, A Habitual Sight of Him: The Christ-centered Piety of Thomas Goodwin (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2009), 113

(HT: Of First Importance)

True Worship

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To worship God ‘in spirit and in truth’ is first and foremost a way of saying that we must worship God by means of Christ. In him the reality has dawned and the shadows are being swept away (Hebrews 8:13). Christian worship is new covenant worship; it is gospel-inspired worship; it is Christ-centered worship; it is cross-focused worship.

— D. A. Carson Worship by the Book (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Zondervan, 2002), 37

(HT: Of First Importance)

The eternality of the Son of God

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Kevin DeYoung:

There never was when he was not.

That was the bone of contention with Arianism, the fourth century heresy which rejected the full deity of the Son of God. The issue was not whether the Son was divine in some sense, but whether he shared the same essence (homoousia) as the Father. In particular, Arius held that sonship necessarily implied having a beginning. While Arius affirmed that Christ was preexistent and that all things were created through him, he also believed that the Father created the Son. According to Arius, “If the Father begat the Son, he that was begotten has a beginning of existence; hence it is clear that there was when he was not.” Arius was careful not to use the word “time,” because he believed the Son existed before the ages began, but for Arius eternality and sonship could not go together. The Son was a divine being, but a created being with a derivative deity

How should we respond to this claim? It’s not enough to point to passages where Christ is worshiped or where the deity of the Son is broadly affirmed. Arius did not reject these conclusions and neither do modern day Arians. Where do we turn to defend the belief that there never was when the Son of God was not?

Four passages come to mind:

1) In John 8:58 Jesus says to his opponents, “before Abraham was, I am.” Not only does Jesus link himself to Yahweh’s great “I AM” statement of Exodus 3:14, he also makes allusion to the “I am” declarations  in Isaiah 40-55 (e.g., “I, the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am he” [Isa. 41:4]). Jesus considered himself as eternal as the God of the Old Testament was eternal. Little wonder some unbelieving Jews thought him a blasphemer and tried to kill him (John 8:59).

2) Likewise, Philippians 2:5-11 places Christ Jesus right in the middle of the most exalted language of Isaiah 45-46. The prediction that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (v. 10-11), comes from Isaiah 45:23. Jesus is identified with the God who says “I am” and “there is no other” (Isa. 45:22), with the God who declares the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:9-10).

3) Hebrews 7:3 describes Melchizedek–the mysterious king of Salem from Genesis 14–as “having neither beginning of days nor end of life.” Whatever this means about Melchizedek himself (a pre-incarnate Christ or simply a type of Christ), for the analogy to hold (“resembling the Son of God”) Christ must also have neither beginning of days nor end of life.

4) Most convincingly, in Revelation 22:13 Jesus announces, “I am the Alpha ad the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Earlier in the book, God says the same thing, making specific reference to his eternality as the one who is and who was and who is to come (Rev. 1:8;21:6). In whatever sense the Father is the beginning and the end, so is the Son. One cannot be more or less eternal than the other.

No matter our experience of sonship (i.e., having a beginning), the divine must be the lens through which we understand the human, not the other way around. Without the eternality of the Son, we do not have a Christ who can fully save because we do not have a Christ who shares in all the attributes of deity. Without eternal Sonship, we cannot affirm that the Father has always been the Father. And if the Father has not always been in communion with the Son, then love cannot be eternal, for the Father would have had to create another being in order to give and receive love. Likewise, it is only with eternal Sonship that the economic Trinity (that which we see about God in the unfolding of redemptive history) corresponds to any real ultimate truth about God. The God who is must be the God who always was.

How can we tell when God is really at work?

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Ray Ortlund:

In The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God (1741), Jonathan Edwards pulled out of 1 John 4 the biblical indicators that God is at work, even if the people involved are complicating it with their own imperfections and eccentricities.  And we do complicate it.  In this life, the work of the gospel is never pure, always mixed.  The light of God does not stream in unfiltered by us.  To some extent, we even block it out.  We are sorry for that.  But we do not need to be stuck in analysis-paralysis.  The real work of God is discernible, within all the mess, in four ways:

One, when our esteem of Jesus is being raised, so that we prize him more highly than all this world, God is at work.

Two, when we are moving away from Satan’s interests, away from sin and worldly desires, God is at work.

Three, when we are believing, revering and devouring the Bible more and more, God is at work.

Four, and most importantly, when we love Jesus and one another more, delighting in him and in one another, God is at work.

Satan not only wouldn’t produce such outcomes, he couldn’t produce them, so opposite are these from his nature and purposes.  These simple and obvious evidences of grace are sure signs that God is at work, even with the distractions we inevitably introduce.

Biblical, fairminded discernment keeps our eyes peeled for fraudulence but also frees us, and even requires us, to rejoice wherever we see the Lord at work.  Indeed, that is the real purpose of discernment — not to fasten on whatever is wrong, but to rejoice in and promote whatever is right.  After all, God is at work.

Tom Schreiner on Authorial Intent and Canonical Reading

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Justin Taylor:

Here is an interesting answer to the question of whether the “Let us” of Genesis 1:26 is referring to the Trinity. In The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Baker, 2013), New Testament scholar Tom Schreiner (Southern Seminary) argues that (1) it is doubtful that the author of Genesis was specifically thinking about the Trinity when he used this expression, (2) it is doubtful that the earliest Israelites read it this way, but (3) it should still be understood as a reference to the Trinity when it is read as part of the whole canon of Scripture.

Here is his explanation:

Recent developments in hermeneutics, however, have rightly corrected an overemphasis on authorial intent. Interpreters of sacred Scripture must also consider the canonical shape of the Scriptures as whole, which is to say that we must also take into account the divine author of Scripture. Nor does appeal to a divine author open the door to arbitrariness or subjectivity, for the meaning of the divine author is communicated through the words and canon of Scripture. It is not the product of human creativity but is textually located and circumscribed.

A canonical approach supports a trinitarian reading, which is suggested by the actual words of the text and confirmed by the entire canon. The Spirit’s role in creation is signified by his “hovering over the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:2). Psalm 33:6 . . . probably alludes to the work of the Spirit, for the word “breath” is the word used for “Spirit” (rûaḥ), and hence here the writer attributes the creation of the world to the Spirit.

In light of the NT revelation on the divinity of the Spirit, it is warranted to see the Spirit as creator. The Son’s role as creator is even clearer from a canonical perspective. John’s Gospel commences, “In the beginning” (John 1:1), an unmistakable allusion to Gen. 1:1. Another allusion to Genesis immediately surfaces, for John 1:3 speaks of the role of the “Word” in the beginning, claiming that “all things were made” by the one who is the “Word.” Hence, the “Word” that spoke creation into existence (Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26) is identified as the Son of God—Jesus the Christ (John 1:14).

Hence, from a canonical perspective, the “let us” in Gen. 1:26 should be understood as a reference to the Trinity.

The One Simple Gospel?

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Tim Keller:

What, then, is the one simple gospel?

Simon Gathercole distills a three-point outline that both Paul and the Synoptic writers held in common. (See “The Gospel of Paul and the Gospel of the Kingdom” in God’s Power to Save, ed. Chris Green Apollos/Inter-Varsity Press, UK, 2006.) He writes that Paul’s good news was, first, that Jesus was the promised Messianic King and Son of God come to earth as a servant, in human form. (Rom. 1:3-4; Phil. 2:4ff.)

Second, by his death and resurrection, Jesus atoned for our sin and secured our justification by grace, not by our works (1 Cor. 15:3ff.) Third, on the cross Jesus broke the dominion of sin and evil over us (Col. 2:13-15) and at his return he will complete what he began by the renewal of the entire material creation and the resurrection of our bodies (Rom 8:18ff.)

Gathercole then traces these same three aspects in the Synoptics’ teaching that Jesus, the Messiah, is the divine Son of God (Mark 1:1) who died as a substitutionary ransom for the many (Mark 10:45), who has conquered the demonic present age with its sin and evil (Mark 1:14-2:10) and will return to regenerate the material world (Matt. 19:28.)

If I had to put this outline in a single statement, I might do it like this:

Through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God fully accomplishes salvation for us, rescuing us from judgment for sin into fellowship with him, and then restores the creation in which we can enjoy our new life together with him forever.

One of these elements was at the heart of the older gospel messages, namely, salvation is by grace not works. It was the last element that was usually missing, namely that grace restores nature, as the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck put it. When the third, ‘eschatological’ element is left out, Christians get the impression that nothing much about this world matters. Theoretically, grasping the full outline should make Christians interested in both evangelistic conversions as well as service to our neighbor and working for peace and justice in the world.

Combatting the Demonic

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J.D. Greear:

When it comes to the demonic, people fall into two errors—not wanting to talk about it at all, or not wanting to talk about anything else. As C. S. Lewis said, “Humanity falls into two equal and opposite errors concerning the Devil. Either they take him altogether too seriously or they do not take him seriously enough.” So we can’t just pretend that demons aren’t real. But we also shouldn’t attribute every inconvenient circumstance—a dead car battery, a traffic jam, a price increase at KFC—to spiritual warfare.

The questions is: how should we combat the demonic? If Satan is real—prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour—what can Christians do about it? Listen to what Jesus says in Luke 10:19-20: “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” In one breath, Jesus avoids both modern errors: he acknowledges the reality of spiritual enemies, but reminds us not to be obsessed with them. Jesus consistently directs people away from preoccupation with the demonic. He took on his fair share of demons, but he never tells us to go out demon hunting. Instead, he says to “rejoice that our names are written in heaven.”

Your Primary Weapon

The way to engage the demonic is by focusing on the gospel, the good news that our names are written in heaven. Paul says this in another way in Ephesians 6, talking about the “armor of God” that protects us from demonic forces. The gospel should shield our thinking (helmet of salvation), the gospel enables us to believe God’s promises (shield of faith and belt of truth), and the gospel should cause us to preach the good news to others (feet covered). Summed up? Have faith in the gospel; be covered by the gospel; saturate yourself in the gospel. Because when you are covered by the gospel, Satan can’t touch you.

We can’t engage the demonic by finding the “regional demon” in our area and going toe-to-toe with him. Jesus doesn’t want us playing those sorts of games. Instead, he wants us to focus on something that is stronger than any demon, stronger than Satan himself. Remember the parable Jesus tells in Matthew 12 about a demon being thrown out of a man’s house, but then coming back sevenfold? He said, “The last state of that man was worse than the first” (Matt. 12:45). If he wanted to keep the demonic out, he needed a stronger resident, someone the demon couldn’t take over.

If you want to fight the demonic, don’t focus on the demons at all; just let Jesus be large in your life. Charles Spurgeon said, “The preaching of Christ is the whip that flogs the Devil.” How do you get the Devil out of your home? Out of your church? Out of your life? Preach Christ. Focus on the only one with the power to actually do Satan harm.

Your Primary Ally

Is Satan filling your mind with discouraging thoughts? “You’re a failure; you’ll never be used by God.” “You think with your past God still cares about you?” Don’t listen. Instead, hear the gospel that says, “I have ransomed you, I have made you my own, I have given you a future and a hope.”

Is Satan afflicting you? Because of the gospel he cannot hurt you. Because of Christ, you’ll walk right over scorpions and serpents, and God will overturn all of his evil plans for good. Does the daily battle with Satan seem hopeless? The gospel says, “The Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful” (Rev. 17:14).

I often hear Christians say they are fighting for victory. But the reality is that Christians fight from victory, not for victory. Jesus has already won the victory on our behalf, disarming and defeating every power of darkness that threatens us. So when “this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God has willed his truth to triumph through us.”

 

J. D. Greear is the lead pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. He is the author of Gospel(B&H, 2011), Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart (B&H, 2013), and Jesus, Continued (Zondervan, 2014).

Your gospel is too small

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A gospel which is only about the moment of conversion but does not extend to every moment of life in Christ is too small.

A gospel that gets your sins forgiven but offers no power for transformation is too small.

A gospel that isolates one of the benefits of union with Christ and ignores all the others is too small.

A gospel that must be measured by your own moral conduct, social conscience, or religious experience is too small.

A gospel that rearranges the components of your life but does not put you personally in the presence of God is too small.

— Fred Sanders The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 106

(HT: Of First Importance)

23 Things That Love Is

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By Paul Tripp:

Love. What is it? A quick Google search will produce several billion answers. Billion – with a B. Yet if you were to read through just a few of those websites, you would end up massively confused about this thing called love.

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I thought it would be appropriate to invite you to consider love once again. Instead of Googling the answer, we will spending a few days in the source of Truth, learning from the source of Love.

Below are 23 things that love is. This list was excerpted from my newest devotional, “The Invitation To Love.” With your donation of any amount to my ministry, you can get this 10-part devotional resource today.

You have been welcomed into eternity by the God of Love, and he welcomes you – right here, right now – to love others in the same way. It’s an invitation unlike any other.

  • LOVE IS… being willing to have your life complicated by the needs and struggles of others without impatience or anger.
  • LOVE IS… actively fighting the temptation to be critical and judgmental toward another while looking for ways to encourage and praise.
  • LOVE IS… making a daily commitment to resist the needless moments of conflict that come from pointing out and responding to minor offenses.
  • LOVE IS… being lovingly honest and humbly approachable in times of misunderstanding.
  • LOVE IS… being more committed to unity and understanding than you are to winning, accusing, or being right.
  • LOVE IS… a making a daily commitment to admit your sin, weakness, and failure and to resist the temptation to offer an excuse or shift the blame.
  • LOVE IS… being willing, when confronted by another, to examine your heart rather than rising to your defense or shifting the focus.
  • LOVE IS… making a daily commitment to grow in love so that the love you offer to another is increasingly selfless, mature, and patient.
  • LOVE IS… being unwilling to do what is wrong when you have been wronged, but looking for concrete and specific ways to overcome evil with good.
  • LOVE IS… being a good student of another, looking for their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs so that in some way you can remove the burden, support them as they carry it, or encourage them along the way.
  • LOVE IS… being willing to invest the time necessary to discuss, examine, and understand the relational problems you face, staying on task until the problem is removed or you have agreed upon a strategy of response.
  • LOVE IS… being willing to always ask for forgiveness and always being committed to grant forgiveness when it is requested.
  • LOVE IS… recognizing the high value of trust in a relationship and being faithful to your promises and true to your word.
  • LOVE IS… speaking kindly and gently, even in moments of disagreement, refusing to attack the other person’s character or assault their intelligence.
  • LOVE IS… being unwilling to flatter, lie, manipulate, or deceive in any way in order to co-opt the other person into giving you what you want or doing something your way.
  • LOVE IS… being unwilling to ask another person to be the source of your identity, meaning, and purpose, or inner sense of well-being, while refusing to be the source of theirs.
  • LOVE IS… the willingness to have less free time, less sleep, and a busier schedule in order to be faithful to what God has called you to be and to do as a spouse, parent, neighbor, etc.
  • LOVE IS… a commitment to say no to selfish instincts and to do everything that is within your ability to promote real unity, functional understanding, and active love in your relationships.
  • LOVE IS… staying faithful to your commitment to treat another with appreciation, respect, and grace, even in moments when the other person doesn’t seem deserving or is unwilling to reciprocate.
  • LOVE IS… the willingness to make regular and costly sacrifices for the sake of a relationship without asking for anything in return or using your sacrifices to place the other person in your debt.
  • LOVE IS… being unwilling to make any personal decision or choice that would harm a relationship, hurt the other person, or weaken the bond of trust between you.
  • LOVE IS… refusing to be self-focused or demanding, but instead looking for specific ways to serve, support, and encourage, even when you are busy or tired.
  • LOVE IS… daily admitting to yourself, the other person, and God that you are unable to be driven by a cruciform love without God’s protecting, providing, forgiving, rescuing, and delivering grace.

Don’t forget to check out “The Invitation To Love.” It’s a great resource to study individually, with your family, or in a small group or Bible study, and best of all, you name the price!

Here are the 23 things that love is, in visual form. You can save these photos and upload them to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, or wherever else you want them to be seen!

Authority

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Tim Keller:

Many years ago as a young Christian my attention was arrested by an article on ‘Authority’ by John Stott. Stott asked, “Why should people believe that the Bible is God’s Word written, inspired by his Spirit and authoritative over their lives?” (The Authority of the Bible, IVP, 1974,p.6) This was a big question for me. I had decided that I believed in Jesus Christ, but I struggled with the idea that I had to believe everything in the Bible.  Stott answered that we do not believe it simply because we want to be dogmatic and certain about our own beliefs, nor because the church has consistently taught this (though it has), nor because we just ‘feel’ the Bible is true as we read it. “No. The overriding reason for accepting the divine inspiration and authority of Scripture is plain loyalty to Jesus…Our understanding of everything is conditioned by what Jesus taught. And that includes his teaching about the Bible. We have no liberty to exclude anything from Jesus’ teaching and say, ‘I believe what he taught about this but not what he taught about that.’ What possible right do we have to be selective?” (p.7)

What did Jesus believe about the Bible? He said that not a ‘jot or tittle’ (i.e. not the smallest letter or even a part of a letter) would pass away from God’s Word until all was fulfilled (Matthew 5:17-18 cf. John 10:35.)

In Matthew 19:5, Jesus tells us that in Genesis “God said” that “A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife.” But when you go back to Genesis 2:24 you discover that it is only the human but inspired author of Genesis who wrote that. So, to Jesus, what Scripture says, God says. And Jesus did not simply believe the Bible, but he guided and regulated every step and detail of his life by it (cf. John 19:28.)

Stott’s question—‘what possible right do we have to be selective?’—is like a hammer blow to our contemporary way of life. We feel strongly that we have the right, even the obligation to select what parts of Jesus teaching we can accept and what parts we cannot. But that makes no sense. Why should you trust in him as Savior if you are wiser and smarter then he is? Either he is who he said he is, and his views judge our views, or he was lying or deluded about being the Son of God. So Jesus’ authority and the absolute authority of the Bible stand or fall together. If we believe he was who he said he was, then we must accept the entire Bible as God’s word.