Billy Graham’s ministry in four words

J.D. Greear: My wife, kids, and I recently had the chance to visit the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC. We’ve long been impressed with Graham’s life and ministry, and this trip only increased our appreciation for Graham. As I reflect on Billy Graham’s six decades of ministry, four words stand out: 1. Conviction As we looked over various exhibits and heard stories about Graham’s life, Veronica commented to me, “He wasn’t complex, and not usually ‘profound.’ But you can tell that he really believed what he was saying.” And it’s true: Billy Graham had struggled with the hard questions, so when he spoke with assurance, it wasn’t the naïve assurance of a neophyte. It was the absolute assurance of someone who has wrestled with questions of faith. During the beginning of Graham’s ministry, theological liberalism was on the rise in mainline denominations, and Graham’s faith was shaken. He often told the story of a moment when, in the height

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Content in His Providence

R.C. Sproul: Blaise Pascal, the famous French philosopher and mathematician, noted that human beings are creatures of profound paradox. We’re capable of both deep misery and tremendous grandeur, often at the same time. All we have to do is scan the headlines to see that this is the case. How often do celebrities who have done great good through philanthropy get caught up in scandals? Human grandeur is found in part in our ability to contemplate ourselves, to reflect upon our origins, our destiny, and our place in the universe. Yet, such contemplation has a negative side, and that is its potential to bring us pain. We may find ourselves miserable when we think of a life that is better than that which we enjoy now and recognize that we are incapable of achieving it. Perhaps we think of a life free of illness and pain, yet we know that physical agony and death are certain. Rich and poor alike know

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Glorification Never Ends!

Sam Storms: When we refer to the believer’s ultimate “glorification” we are speaking of the transformation of our whole being: body, soul, spirit, will, mind, and affections, in which sin is eradicated and we are made like Jesus (see Phil. 3:20-21; 1 John 3:1-3). What I want to suggest is that there is a very real and important sense in which this glorification of all believers never ends. I don’t mean that our glorification will never be reversed, although that’s true. There will never be the slightest diminishing or regression or reversal or loss of the purity and holiness and likeness unto Jesus that we gain at the resurrection of our bodies. What I mean is that although glorification will happen in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, it will also eternally grow and expand. The condition of our body, soul, and spirit, although entirely free from sin as a result of the event of glorification, is not the

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3 Things We Must Believe about God’s Word

Kevin DeYoung: Essentials In Psalm 119 we see at least three essential, irreducible characteristics we should believe about God’s word. 1. God’s Word says what is true. Like the psalmist, we can trust in the word (v. 42), knowing that it is altogether true (v. 142). We can’t trust everything we read on the Internet. We can’t trust everything we hear from our professors. We certainly can’t trust all the facts given by our politicians. We can’t even trust the fact-checkers who check those facts! Statistics can be manipulated. Photographs can be faked. Magazine covers can be airbrushed. Our teachers, our friends, our science, our studies, even our eyes can deceive us. But the word of God is entirely true and always true: God’s word is firmly fixed in the heavens (v. 89); it doesn’t change. There is no limit to its perfection (v. 96); it contains nothing corrupt. All God’s righteous rules endure forever (v. 160); they never get

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10 Things You Should Know about Biblical Theology

Chris Bruno: 1. Biblical theology is different than systematic and historical theology. When some hear “biblical theology,” they might assume that I’m talking about theology that is faithful to the Bible. While its goal is certainly to reflect biblical truth, the discipline of biblical theology is different from other theological methods. For example, the goal of systematic theology is to gather everything the Bible teaches about a particular topic or issue. For example, studying everything the Bible teaches about God or salvation would be doing systematic theology. When we are doing historical theology, our goal will be to understand how Christians throughout the centuries understood the Bible and theology. So we might study John Calvin’s doctrine of Christ. While both systematic and historical theology are important ways to study theology, biblical theology is a different and complementary theological discipline. 2. Biblical theology emphasizes God’s progressive revelation. Rather than gathering everything the Bible says about a particular topic, the goal of

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Defending the gospel in the right spirit

Ray Ortlund: When you must step forward and defend the gospel against poisonous teachers, defend it with all the grace that inheres within the gospel itself.  We must do the Lord’s work the Lord’s way. It is not enough for us to identify a misleading voice, and then just do or say whatever feels right. As Jonathan Edwards warned us, “There is nothing that belongs to Christian experience more liable to a corrupt mixture than zeal.” Peter illustrates the folly of misplaced zeal. When the enemies of Jesus attacked, the apostle rose up in defense. His heart was doubtless in the right place. But what did he actually do? He drew his sword, proving not how brave he was but only how foolish (John 18:10–11). Francis Schaeffer used to say that, after debating with a liberal theologian, he hoped the liberal would walk away with two equally clear impressions: one, Francis Schaeffer really disagreed with him; two, Francis Schaeffer really cared about

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Why We Should Not Fear Satan and Demons

From Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue: Are Demons in the World Today? Why do demons sometimes receive so much attention from the media? Are the reports biblically correct, or are they just the musings of uninformed people who see a demon behind every bush and under every rock? Has demon activity accelerated in the world? How can one know which concepts are biblically accurate and which are not? This subject deserves a full-length book, but it will only be summarized here. Consider several preliminary, general observations: We affirm the historical reality of Satan and demons, both in the past and in the present, as verified by the Bible. We affirm that the Bible admonishes Christians to expect Satan and demons to operate now much as they did in both Old Testament and New Testament times (1 Pet. 5:6–11). We affirm that the Bible teaches that, in living out the Christian life,

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Lord, Fill Me with Your Spirit

John Bloom: “The kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:20). If we are not disillusioned with how much we have allowed our talk to pass for our walk, discontented with the sparse amount of spiritual fruit we are truly bearing, and disappointed by the impotence of our own efforts, we will never be distressed enough to really plead with God to fill us with the Holy Spirit. If we’re not disturbed by how little we can do in our own power, we’ll never be desperate enough to ask God for his. What Is the Filling of the Holy Spirit? But when we pray for this, what are we asking God for? In the words of Wayne Grudem, we are asking God for “an event subsequent to conversion in which a believer experiences a fresh infilling with the Holy Spirit that may result in a variety of consequences, including greater love for God, greater

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The Essential Marks of a Preacher

Jason K. Allen: “How shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14). With airtight logic, the Apostle Paul sets forth the indispensable human link in fulfilling the Great Commission—the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In so doing, he instructs us in the way of the kingdom, that in every generation God is calling out preachers to serve His church. Paul’s timeless question is especially relevant for the twenty-first-century church. Evangelical churches are in the midst of a massive generational transition, with vacant pastorates and empty pulpits dotting the landscape. Vacant pulpits ought not induce the wringing of hands. Christ is building His church. He does not hope for ministerial volunteers; He sovereignly sets apart pastors to serve His church and preach His gospel. Nonetheless, the church is to call out the called, and every qualified man of God should consider if God is calling him to pastoral ministry. How might one know if God is calling him to the ministry? There are

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God Hates Pride

Tim Challies: Is there any trait more deceptive? Is there any vice easier to see in others, but harder to see in ourselves? We despise its presence in them, but defend its presence in us. It is the ugly trait of pride, one of a number of traits for which God has a special disgust. In this series, we are looking at things God says he hates, he despises, or he considers an abomination. We have already seen that God hates idolatry, sexual immorality, injustice, hypocrisy, and deceit. Today we will look at God’s hatred for pride. God Hates Pride “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him.” So says wise old Solomon. And heading up the list of these seven deadly sins is “haughty eyes” (Proverbs 6:16-17). Haughty eyes are an arrogant man’s windows to the world. From the lofty perch of his own superiority, he uses them to look down upon

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Eight Terrible Consequences of False Doctrine

Tim Challies: The Christian’s responsibility is clear: We are to learn God’s truth by searching God’s Word. We must carefully evaluate every teaching according to God’s unfailing standard. What passes the test is sound doctrine, and what fails the test is false doctrine. False doctrine confuses truth and error, while sound doctrine distinguishes truth and error. False doctrine fails to distinguish between what God has revealed in his Word and what has been fabricated by men or demons. In the book of Hebrews, we see a church that has backslidden, that has reverted to ungodly behavior. They have done so because of their failure to heed sound doctrine. Their pastor writes this: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food … solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by

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3 Ways Pastors Fail to Be Jesus-Full

Jared Wilson: I’ve been and always will be doggedly suspicious of pastors who rarely (or never) mention Jesus. John Piper says, “What we desperately need is help to enlarge our capacities to be moved by the immeasurable glories of Christ.” We ministers of the gospel—and Christians at large—can fumble this commission in three main ways. 1. We speak in vague spiritual generalities.  Love. Hope. Peace. Joy. Harmony. Blessings. All disembodied from the specific atoning work of the incarnate Jesus and exalted Lord. It all sounds nice. It’s all very inspirational. And it’s rubbish. He himself is our peace. He himself is love. He himself is life. He does not make life better. He is life. Any pastor who talks about the virtues of faith, hope, and love, with Jesus as some implied tangential source, is not feeding his flock well. 2. We present Christ mainly as moral exemplar.  We tell people to be nice because Jesus was nice. We tell them

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The Christian Life is not the Bargain Bin

Erik Raymond: The Christian life is difficult. It’s not quite spitting into the wind hard, but it’s still tough. But there is a difference between it being hard and being lousy. Christians are often portrayed in print and film as joyless prigs who have settled for a flavorless life. Sadly, many believers can fall into this same line of thinking. Being shaped by the world around us and some degree of truncated biblical application, we can buy the lie that the abundant life is out of reach. We think that we’ve settled for less. I was reminded of this on a recent visit to the store to pick up a couple of things for my wife. Walking through the supermarket I noticed a discount bin. In this section of the cooler there was discounted meat that was nearing its expiration. Nearby there was a shelf with damaged boxes. Things were discounted because they were not as good as the other

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3 Principles to Communicate the Bible

Michael Kelley: Christians are communicators. While some Christians may be more or less gifted in communication, all Christians are “witnesses.” Since we have been born again into Christ and witness personally the power of the gospel, we are to bear witness of what we have seen and heard: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). It is expected. Jesus did not say “you might be” or “from time to time you could be,” but instead “you will.” We have been issued a divine summon, and we must appear and testify. This is not optional. All of us, whether we are a plumber or a preacher, a poet or a pastor, are communicators of the gospel. We communicate truths about God and His Word. We communicate the gospel in our homes, our jobs, with our

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Do You Make Life Decisions with Your Church in Mind?

Joshua Hedger: In Philippians 1:22-26, we have the Apostle Paul’s dialogue, if you will, with himself. In this back and forth of thought, he wrestles with a major life decision. His decision is this, “If I had the choice to live or to die, which would I choose?” Now perhaps that questions strikes concern into you for Paul’s mental stability, but it gives us an incredible glance at the treasure of his heart because Paul will continue on to say, “I would choose death because it’s much better for me. When I die, I get Jesus!” Paul so treasured Jesus that he’d rather die, lose all that this world has for him, and therefore gain Jesus! He truly thinks that death would be a better choice for him. But what follows this is what I want to focus on for the next few paragraphs. Paul follows up his realization of what would be best for him by saying what would

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Do Christians “go to heaven” when they Die?

Sam Storms: There is a loud chorus of voices these days denouncing, in a somewhat condescending way, the long-standing belief among evangelicals that when Christians die they go to heaven. In one sense, this outcry is good and constructive. It is an understandable and much-needed response to the unbiblical gnosticism of some “fundamentalist” Christians who denigrate material creation, diminish the reality of a future bodily resurrection, and fail to reckon with the centrality in God’s redemptive purpose of the New Heavens and especially the New Earth. So, is my answer to the question posed in the title, No? Not quite. My answer is: Immediately, Yes. Eternally, No. Or again, to simplify, when a Christian dies he/she immediately passes into the conscious presence of Christ in heaven. But when the day of resurrection arrives, he/she will be given a new and glorified body in which all of God’s people will live and flourish on the New Earth (of Revelation 21-22). What

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The Reformation Rescued the Gospel

R.C. Sproul: In the old city of Geneva, Switzerland, there’s a lovely park adjacent to the University of Geneva, close to the church where John Calvin preached and taught daily. The park contains a lasting memorial to the 16th-century Protestant Reformation. The central feature is a magnificent wall adorned with statues of Calvin, John Knox, Huldrych Zwingli, Theodore Beza, and others. Chiseled into the stone are the Latin words Post tenebras lux (“After darkness, light”). These words capture the driving force of the Reformation. The darkness referred to is the gospel’s eclipse in the late Middle Ages. A gradual darkening reached its nadir, and the light of the doctrine of justification by faith alone was all but extinguished. Fuel for Fire The Reformation firestorm was fueled by the most volatile issue ever debated in church history. The church had faced severe crises in the past, especially in the fourth and fifth centuries when the nature of Christ was at stake. The

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Worship is an End in Itself

Sam Storms: Worship is utterly and eternally unique in one critically important respect: unlike every other Christian responsibility or experience, worship is an end in itself. In other words, worship that glorifies God must be expressed in conscious awareness that this is the ultimate goal for which we were created and redeemed. We do not worship God in order to attain some higher end, or to accomplish some greater goal, or to experience a more satisfying joy. Every other ministry or activity of the Christian serves some higher end. There is a “so that” appended to everything we do, except for worship. We preach, so that . . . We evangelize, so that . . . We cultivate fellowship in the body of Christ, so that . . . We study the Bible, so that . . . But when it comes to glorifying God by enjoying him and all that he is for us in Jesus, we can never

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How Scripture Empowers Personal Holiness

Adapted from Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth by John MacArthur. Becoming More like God Godliness, Christlikeness, and Christian spirituality all describe a Christian becoming more like God. The most powerful way to effect this change is by letting the Word of God dwell in one richly (Col. 3:16). When one embraces Scripture without reservation, it will energetically work God’s will in the believer’s life (1 Thess. 2:13). The process could be basically defined as follows: Christian spirituality involves growing to be like God in character and conduct by personally submitting to the transforming work of God’s Word and God’s Spirit. Holiness Embodies the Very Essence of Christianity Christians have been saved to be holy and to live holy lives (1 Pet. 1:14–16). What does it mean to be holy? Both the Hebrew and Greek words for “to be holy” (which appear about two thousand times in Scripture) basically mean “to be set aside for something special.” Thus,

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Wayne Grudem on What We Mean by the Phrase “Word of God”

Wayne Grudem: What is the Word of God? The Word of God actually refers to several different things in the Bible. Sometimes the phrase “the Word of God” refers to the person of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of John, we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” We find out later in the chapter that John is referring to Jesus Christ as the Word of God. There’s also a portion of Revelation 19 that refers to Jesus as the Word of God. You may have found that when you talk about the Word of God as the Bible, people object: Wait a minute—we don’t want to spend as much time talking about the Bible as the Word of God. We’d rather talk about Jesus as the Word of God. A couple things can be said in answer to that. First, we don’t know about Jesus except by reading

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