Why Was the Reformation Necessary?

W. Robert Godfrey: The church is always in need of reform. Even in the New Testament, we see Jesus rebuking Peter, and we see Paul correcting the Corinthians. Since Christians are always sinners, the church will always need reform. The question for us, however, is when does the need become an absolute necessity? The great Reformers of the sixteenth century concluded that reform was urgent and necessary in their day. In pursuing reform for the church, they rejected two extremes. On the one hand, they rejected those who insisted that the church was essentially sound and needed no fundamental changes. On the other hand, they rejected those who believed that they could create a perfect church in every detail. The church needed fundamental reform, but it would also always need to be reforming itself. The Reformers reached these conclusions from their study of the Bible. In 1543, the Reformer of Strasbourg, Martin Bucer, asked John Calvin to write a defense of the

read more Why Was the Reformation Necessary?

“You are not your own” (living as slaves of Christ)

Sam Storms: The apostle Paul had never been to Rome. He knew only a handful of believers there. So one might reasonably think that he would introduce himself to the church in that city by pulling out his resume and reeling off a list of accomplishments: inspired letters that he had written, signs and wonders he had performed, famous people that he knew, or perhaps that he alone had been translated into the third heaven and given the privilege of seeing things that are too glorious to be described (see 2 Cor. 12:1-10). No. The first thing Paul mentions about himself is that he is “a servant of Christ Jesus” (v. 1a). We often speak of the importance of Christians knowing who they are. Their sense of personal identity is crucial to how they live and minister to the glory of God. It is important that we understand that we are the children of God and therefore heirs, adopted and forgiven.

read more “You are not your own” (living as slaves of Christ)

Paralysis Was His Good Plan

HOW PREDESTINATION CHANGED MY SUFFERING By Joni Eareckson Tada “Your broken neck is no accident, Joni. God has an amazing plan for your life.” Christian friends said something like this often when they came to visit me in the hospital after my diving accident. They longed to encourage their paralyzed friend, and they succeeded. To a point. Having been raised in the Reformed Episcopal church, God’s sovereignty was not a strange concept. But now, it raised sticky questions. I kept pushing the replay button on my dive off the raft, trying to imagine what was happening in the heavenlies. Did God take a hands-off approach and allow me to do something stupid of my own free will? Or did Satan go before God with the playbook he used with Job, asking for permission to shove me off the raft? Was God reluctant? Did the devil then twist his arm until God cried uncle? Or maybe God himself pushed me off the

read more Paralysis Was His Good Plan

Reformed and Always Reforming

W. Robert Godfrey: The year 2017 was the Martin Luther year. We remembered the Reformation and we celebrated it. But we must also continue the Reformation. The Reformation is not a museum to be visited occasionally on a tour bus. It was and is a vital movement for truth and life in the church of Jesus. How should we maintain and advance the cause of reform? Some believe that the answer to that question can be found in the slogan reformed and always reforming. We continue the Reformation by always reforming. That slogan is indeed useful if we understand it correctly. The problem is that sometimes the slogan is used to justify the opposite of what it originally intended. Those who misuse the slogan end up saying something like this: The Reformation had to change things that were wrong in the church, and we have to continue changing things that are wrong with the church. We have to make Christianity more understandable and

read more Reformed and Always Reforming

The Gospel is Big Enough for Your Church

Adam McClendon: Herman Bavinck said the big question in religion comes down to this: what must we do to be saved? How we answer that question, of course, determines the kind of religion we have. We can answer it any number of ways. We have no lack of religions. Some say we’re saved by our good works. Some say by our lack of bad works. Others strive for an enlightened state. Yet more sacrifice to appease the wrath of the gods, crossing their fingers it’s enough by the last breath. Still others (the right ones, I believe) put their full hope in a Savior. Just as we answer the all-important question individually, we also do so corporately. In fact, that’s what the church is. Every church is answering the question. And the question we must ask of every church is what is their answer? In other words, every church has something at the center. Something driving the gatherings, the activities,

read more The Gospel is Big Enough for Your Church

Regeneration Is Monergistic

Steven Lawson: There may be no truth in the Bible more deeply loved and greatly cherished than the subject of the new birth. Here is the grace-centered message of a new beginning for those whose lives have been ruined by sin. Here is the life-changing truth that sinful men can be made new. When the new birth is caused by God, old things pass away—old practices, old cravings, old habits, old addictions, and old associations. Behold, new things come—new desires, new pursuits, and new passions. An entirely new life begins. Nothing could be more positive than this. It is no wonder that the truth of the new birth is so beloved. Yet despite its great appeal, the new birth may be the most misunderstood doctrine in Scripture. Most people naively imagine that there is something they can do to cause themselves to be born again. They hear a well-meaning person say, “Believe and be born again,” and suppose that they can. So

read more Regeneration Is Monergistic

The Obedience of Faith

Ian Hamilton: Paul’s Letter to the Romans is a pastoral tour de force. It is of course richly theological. Nowhere does Paul more deeply and beautifully open up to us the gospel of God’s saving grace in Christ. But Paul’s theology of grace is not an abstract exposition of doctrine. He is concerned to explain to the church in Rome the gospel he preached and to establish them in that gospel. The apostle’s doctrine always has a pastoral edge to it. True theology is for living (Martin Bucer), it is never a brute chunk of fact. That said, it is striking that Paul bookends this Letter to the Romans with an identical phrase, ‘the obedience of faith'(1:5 and 16:26). He begins his Letter telling the church in Rome that he had ‘received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his (Jesus’) name among all the nations’; and he ends his letter telling them that

read more The Obedience of Faith

Denying Yourself Is Loving Yourself

Scott Hubbard: When many hear Jesus’s blunt command to deny yourself and take up your cross (Mark 8:34), they hear another voice alongside our Lord’s. “In other words, be miserable,” the voice says. “Lose everything you love. Take your little portion of happiness and trample on it. Become a martyr.” We might call this ever-available voice the New Serpent Translation (NST) of the Bible. The devil was, after all, the world’s first Bible translator and interpreter. “No eating from the tree, did he say? Yes, let me tell you what that means . . .” (Genesis 3:1–5). The experience is rarely so conscious for us as it was for Eve, of course. We don’t realize we’ve fallen under the serpent’s spell; we just walk away from hearing Jesus with the subtle sense that his commands are burdensome. But what Satan leaves out is that Jesus came “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8), including the blasphemous lie that “deny

read more Denying Yourself Is Loving Yourself

Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus

Burk Parsons: The twentieth-century British pastor D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “If we only spent more of our time in looking at Christ we should soon forget ourselves.” Fixing our eyes on Christ is the first step and the entire path of the Christian life. We don’t look to Christ in faith to be saved and then look to ourselves to persevere. We trust Christ alone as our Savior and look to Christ alone and follow Him as our Lord. In order to look to Christ as our Savior and Lord, we need new eyes and a new heart. We are born spiritually dead and blind in sin, with our eyes fixed on ourselves and our own glory, but God the Holy Spirit strips the inherited blindfolds from our eyes and graciously rips out our hard hearts and gives us new hearts that love Him and new eyes that see Him. Yet even as Christians who have been declared righteous by

read more Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus

4 Ways to Enjoy God

Sinclair Ferguson: While shaking hands at the church door, ministers are sometimes greeted with a spontaneous, “I really enjoyed that!”—which is immediately followed by, “Oh! I shouldn’t really say that, should I?” I usually grip tighter, hold the handshake a little longer, and say with a smile, “Doesn’t the catechism’s first question encourage us to do that? If we are to enjoy Him forever, why not begin now?” Of course, we cannot enjoy God apart from glorifying Him. And the Westminster Shorter Catechism wisely goes on to ask, “What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?” But notice that Scripture contains the “rule” for enjoying God as well as glorifying Him. We know it abounds in instructions for glorifying Him, but how does it instruct us to “enjoy him”? Enjoying God is a command, not an optional extra: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Phil. 4:4). But how? We cannot “rejoice

read more 4 Ways to Enjoy God

Do the Work of an Evangelist

Steven Lawson: In his final letter, Paul charges Timothy, his son in the faith, to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). By these words, the aged Apostle establishes the timeless standard for pastoral ministry, not only for young Timothy but for all pastors in every generation and in every place. With Apostolic authority, this imperative command comes with binding force. All pastors must do the work of an evangelist. They must earnestly proclaim the gospel message, urging people to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. So, where should this pastoral evangelism begin? First, every pastor must preach the gospel to himself. Before any pastor can call others to repent, he must believe in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy, saying, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (1 Tim. 4:16). That is, every

read more Do the Work of an Evangelist

The Sovereignty of God

An essay by John M. Frame: DEFINITION The sovereignty of God is the same as the lordship of God, for God is the sovereign over all of creation. The major components of God’s lordship are his control, authority, and covenantal presence. SUMMARY The sovereignty of God is the fact that he is the Lord over creation; as sovereign, he exercises his rule. This rule is exercised through God’s authority as king, his control over all things, and his presence with his covenantal people and throughout his creation. The divine name, Yahweh, expresses this sovereign rule over against the claims of human kings, such as Pharaoh (Exod. 3:14). Because God is tri-personal, however, his sovereign control is not impersonal or mechanical, but is the loving and gracious oversight of the king of creation and redemption. The term sovereignty is rarely found in recent translations of Scripture, but it represents an important biblical concept. A sovereign is a ruler, a king, a lord, and Scripture often refers to God as the

read more The Sovereignty of God

Are You Shaped By the World or By the Word?

Nancy Guthrie: There’s a section in department stores these days called “shapewear.” It’s in both women’s and men’s clothing. These stores are banking on our concern with the shape of our bodies and our willingness to invest in garments that promise to give us the shape we’re looking for. But when we read Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, we discover it’s not what is shaping our bodies that he is most concerned about. He’s concerned about what is shaping our perspective, our priorities, our pursuits, and our opinions. He writes: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:2) His words force us to ask ourselves: What external forces are shaping my internal dialogue about what matters? What pressures me to make the choices I am making about how I spend my

read more Are You Shaped By the World or By the Word?

The Mortification of Sin

An essay by Kelly Kapic: DEFINITION Mortification is the theological term used to describe the call for those who are united to Christ and living in the power of the Spirit (i.e., Christians) to put to death (mortify) lingering sinful impulses that arise from within and resist temptations that surface from outside of the believer. SUMMARY Mortification is the theological term used to describe the call for those who are united to Christ and living in the power of the Spirit (i.e., Christians) to put to death (mortify) lingering sinful impulses that arise from within and resist temptations that surface from outside of the believer. As new creatures in Christ, believers are free not simply to resist sin but also to partake in actively loving God and neighbor. Properly understood, therefore, mortification will also be linked with vivification, which highlights the call to live responsively to the Spirit’s ongoing work where he grows his fruit in us even as indwelling sin is

read more The Mortification of Sin

Blessed are the Persecuted. Really?

Sam Storms: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12). Seriously? Did Jesus really mean what he said? Yes. Let’s look closely at this stunning statement. This beatitude explodes several myths that people believe about what it means to be a Christian. • It shatters the myth that Christianity is a means of deliverance from suffering. As we become more like Jesus, we should expect to be treated like Jesus! • It shatters the myth that God loves his children too much to allow them to suffer at the hands of unbelievers. God does indeed love us, but that does not mean we will be insulated from

read more Blessed are the Persecuted. Really?

The Place To Begin When Learning About Social Justice

Tim Challies: In recent days the topic of social justice has received much attention within the church and without. As Christians we are committed to living according to God’s Word, and so we have rightly been turning to the Bible to learn how it would guide us. We have been scouring its pages to see what it says about matters of justice. That is well and good, but I have become convinced that even as we’ve done this, we may have overlooked one important resource. In fact, we may have overlooked the one book that is explicitly and specifically intended to give us wisdom for this very topic. We may have skipped over the best place to begin when learning about social justice. The book of Proverbs is about training the mind in order to live a God-honoring life, for right living follows right thinking. It exists so the reader can “know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight”

read more The Place To Begin When Learning About Social Justice

Ten Reasons to Read the Bible Every Day

John Piper: I have never met a mature, fruitful, strong, spiritually discerning Christian who is not full of Scripture, devoted to regular meditation on Scripture, and given to storing it in the heart through Bible memorization — and that’s not a coincidence. So, what I want to do is persuade our new believing friend that it is absolutely essential, after coming to faith in Christ, to be radically, deeply, experientially devoted — unshakably, unwaveringly persuaded — that reading and meditating on and understanding and memorizing and enjoying the Scriptures is absolutely essential for the Christian life, which would include being in the word every day with the aim that we will meet God there and, little by little, the glory of his truth will fill and transform our lives. And that may seem obvious to them or to others, but it isn’t obvious, because I know fairly well-along Christians who don’t do this. They don’t do this, and they’ve been Christians

read more Ten Reasons to Read the Bible Every Day

Did Paul Teach the Prosperity Gospel?

Sam Storms: On more than one occasion I’ve heard contemporary proponents of the so-called prosperity gospel appeal to Paul’s use of the principle of sowing and reaping to support their view. But was Paul really an intentional or inadvertent advocate of this view? Twice in his writings Paul appeals to the principle of sowing and reaping when making an appeal for Christians to be generous and sacrificial in giving money to ministry causes. First, in Galatians 6 he writes: Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do

read more Did Paul Teach the Prosperity Gospel?

The Holiness of God

Sam Storms: What does it mean to say that God is holy? Most people think of moral rectitude or righteousness or goodness, and that is certainly true. To be holy is to be characterized by purity and blamelessness and integrity, both in terms of one’s essence and one’s activity. In this sense, God’s holiness and his righteousness are somewhat synonymous. He is described in the OT as “too pure to behold evil” and intolerant of evil (Hab. 1:12-13). But this is only a secondary way in which God is said to be holy. We need to understand the primary thrust of the word. The Biblical evidence God is regularly identified in Scripture as “the Holy One“. See Job 6:10; Isa. 40:25; 43:15; Ezek. 39:7; Hosea 11:9; Hab. 1:12; 3:3. He is also called “the Holy One of Israel” in 2 Kings 19:22; Isa. 1:4; 43:3 (a total of 25x in Isaiah alone); Jer. 50:29; 51:5; and elsewhere. In Isa. 57:15 God is described as “the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, whose name is

read more The Holiness of God

The Surprising Truth about Legalism

Sinclair Ferguson: As Old As Eden The root of legalism is almost as old as Eden, which explains why it is a primary, if not the ultimate, pastoral problem. In seeking to bring freedom from legalism, we are engaged in undoing the ancient work of Satan. In Eden the Serpent persuaded Eve and Adam that God was possessed of a narrow and restrictive spirit bordering on the malign. After all, the Serpent whispered, “Isn’t it true that he placed you in this garden full of delights and has now denied them all to you?” The implication was twofold. It was intended to dislodge Eve from the clarity of God’s word (“Did God actually say . . . ?”). Later the attack focused on the authority of God’s word (“You will not surely die”). But it was more. It was an attack on God’s character. For the Serpent’s question carried a deeply sinister innuendo: “What kind of God would deny you

read more The Surprising Truth about Legalism