10 Things You Should Know About the Necessity of Prayer

Sam Storms: There is a reason why I speak of the “necessity” of prayer and not simply ten things to know about prayer. I want us to consider the necessity of prayer in terms of what we stand to lose if we don’t pray. Sadly, prayer for many who profess faith in Christ has become a meaningless ritual. They have lost sight of the fact that God suspends great and glorious blessings on our asking for them. So let’s take a look at ten reasons why prayer is necessary. Or perhaps we could say, let’s consider what we otherwise stand to lose if we choose not to pray. (1) We must pray because otherwise God will not be glorified. Here is how Jesus put it: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). Answered prayer isn’t the only way in which God may be glorified, but it

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Why There Is No Righteousness Like Christian Righteousness

This post is adapted from Galatians by Martin Luther: Many Kinds of Righteousness St. Paul sets about establishing the doctrine of faith, grace, forgiveness of sins, or Christian righteousness. His purpose is that we may understand exactly the nature of Christian righteousness and its difference from all other kinds of righteousness, for there are various sorts of righteousness. There is a political or civil righteousness, which emperors, princes of the world, philosophers, and lawyers deal with. There is also a ceremonial righteousness, which human traditions teach. This righteousness may be taught without danger by parents and schoolteachers because they do not attribute to it any power to satisfy for sin, to please God, or to deserve grace; but they teach such ceremonies as are necessary simply for the correction of manners and certain observations concerning this life. Besides these, there is another righteousness, called the righteousness of the law or of the Ten Commandments, which Moses teaches. We too teach

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Lay Aside the Weight of Selfish Preferences

John Bloom: Love does not insist on its own way (1 Corinthians 13:5). What a beautiful concept to contemplate. Like many expressions of biblical love, this one is heartwarming and inspiring to read about or observe, at least from a distance. Unfortunately, in the moment we’re called upon to exercise this kind of love, it often doesn’t appear or feel very lovely; it appears confusing and feels frustrating. It feels like self-denial. Me and Mine Wanting our own way is woven into the fabric of our fallen nature. Since the fall, it has been our default orientation. We can see this, even from our earliest days, whenever our way is crossed. We insist in the cradle and then as toddlers; we insist on the playground and then as over-confident teens; we insist in the church and the workplace; we insist as parents of toddlers and then as stubborn parents of over-confident teens; we insist as parents of adult children, and

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What Advent Is All About

From The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent by John Piper: The Coming of Christ Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45) Christmas is about the coming of Christ into the world. It’s about the Son of God, who existed eternally with the Father as “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,” taking on human nature and becoming man (Heb. 1:3). It’s about the virgin birth of a child conceived miraculously by the Holy Spirit so that he is the Son of God, not the way you and I are sons of God, but in an utterly unique way (Luke 1:35). It’s about the coming of a man named Jesus in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). It’s about the coming of the “fullness of time” that had been prophesied

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Is Faith Without Works Dead, Or Just Sleepy?

Andrew Wilson: Steve Holmes and Alan Jacobs are two of the most thoughtful, insightful evangelical theologians around today. When they line up together on an issue, and you don’t, it’s usually safe to assume they are right and you are wrong. (Fortunately, since one is very Anglican and the other very Baptist, this doesn’t happen as often as you might think.) Recently they’ve both written articles arguing that, although they hold to the traditional view of sexual ethics, holding to the revisionist view doesn’t make a person a false teacher. That perspective will cause some people to agree strongly, some to disagree strongly, and some to wonder what to think. But I want to focus on a particularly fascinating—and, I think, ultimately wrong—reason given for this view, especially in Steve’s article. The argument, essentially, is that ethical behavior does not put a person’s final salvation at risk. Their Arguments For Steve Holmes, the central evangelical claim of sola fide (“by faith alone”) should settle the discussion.

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3 motivations to hate sin

Erik Raymond: In counseling, parenting, and my own personal pursuit of godliness I have found that hating sin is an easily overlooked but never overstated priority. Sin brings consequences. Often these consequences are painful. It is a real temptation for us to hate the consequences and never get around to hating the sin. Don’t get me wrong, we should hate how sin hurts ourselves and others. But we can’t leave it there. Until sin is actually hated for its odious and repulsive character we will not make true progress in godliness. We may make progress in morality but not holiness; for this requires a godly hatred of sin. So here are three reasons why you should hate sin. In thinking upon these, may they provoke a holy hatred of all that opposes the reign of God in our lives. 1. BECAUSE IT OPPOSES GOD’S WORD The Word of God is good. It reflects God’s character, teaching us what holiness is

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10 Things You should Know about the Virgin Birth of Jesus

Sam Storms: Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent, so it only seems fitting that we should turn our attention to the glorious message of Christmas. We will do that by devoting today’s article to 10 things all of us should know about the virgin conception and birth of Jesus. (1) Some object to this doctrine by pointing to the many parallels to it in ancient literature. Their argument is that countless myths concerning the virgin births of various Greek gods and superheroes were prevalent in paganism. Those Greek Christians who were familiar with them account for the narratives in Matthew and Luke that describe this “miracle.” In other words, Christians in the early church simply created, i.e., concocted or fabricated their own story of their “hero” and “Lord” being born of a virgin. One problem with this is that all these alleged parallels prove to be quite different from the NT account of the conception and birth of Jesus.

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A Gospeled Church

Jared Wilson: May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus. — Romans 15:5 The gospel cannot puff us up. It cannot make us prideful. It cannot make us selfish. It cannot make us arrogant. It cannot make us rude. It cannot make us gossipy. It cannot make us accusers. So the more we press into the gospel, the more the gospel takes over our hearts and the spaces we bring our hearts to, and it stands to reason, the less we would see those things antithetical to it. You cannot grow in holiness and holier-than-thou-ness at the same time. So a church that makes its main thing the gospel, and when faced with sin in its ranks doesn’t simply crack the whip of the law but says “remember the gospel,” should gradually be seeing grace coming to bear. It works out this way individually. The most

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Calling Is Not A Job Offer

Dan Allender, in To Be Told: Know Your Story, Shape Your Future: Most people understand understand calling as God’s calling us to a specific job.  Indeed, God called adolescent Jeremiah to preach of his coming judgment.  And God called Paul (then named Saul) to serve the very people that he, blinded by zeal, had been trying to destroy.  God calls us to certain tasks and jobs, but he doesn’t do so because we are uniquely suited to do them.  He calls us to the task of job because we are weak, broken, and ill-equipped for the task. I don’t believe anyone is called to a job or a profession.  My calling in life is not to be a writer, therapist, speaker, teacher, trainer, or administrator. My calling is to walk through any door God gives me in order to reveal his glory. If I am a graduate-school president, it’s for a season, but my life lasts for eternity.  If I am

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The Key to Contentment

From New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul David Tripp: Stop Living for the Moment There is no doubt about it—the Bible is a big-picture book that calls us to big-picture living. It stretches the elasticity of your mind as it calls you to think about things before the world began and thousands of years into eternity. The Bible simply does not permit you to live for the moment. It doesn’t give you room to shrink your thoughts, desires, words, and actions down to whatever spontaneous thought, emotion, or need grips you at any given time. In a moment, your thoughts can seem more important than they actually are. In a moment, your emotions can seem more reliable than they really are. In a moment, your needs can seem more essential than they truly are. We are meant to live lives that are connected to beginnings and to endings. And we are meant to live this way because

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How Christianity Flourishes

Jared Wilson: Christian mission has always thrived by surging in the margins and under the radar. When we somehow get into positions of power, the wheels always come off. This is pretty much the way it’s always been. I once heard Steve Brown relate this story on the radio: “A Muslim scholar once said to a Christian, ‘I cannot find anywhere in the Qur’an that it teaches Muslims how to be a minority presence in the world. And I cannot find anywhere in the New Testament where it teaches Christians how to be a majority presence in the world.’” Indeed, as Christianity spread throughout the first few centuries as a persecuted minority people, the conversion of Constantine paved the way for its becoming the official state religion of the Roman Empire by the end of the fourth century. That’s quite a turnaround for some backwater sect splintering off an oppressed Palestinian Judaism. But as my old religion professor in college,

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Why Doesn’t Our Faith Move Mountains?

Tom Schreiner: Peter tells us Paul wrote some things that are hard to understand (2 Pet. 3:16). Jesus said some difficult things, too. Twice the Lord told his disciples that if they had faith like a mustard seed they could do jaw-dropping things. In Matthew, mustard seed faith is tied to expelling a demon, and Jesus says those who have such faith can move mountains (Matt. 17:20). In Luke, those with mustard seed faith will be able to forgive those who sin against them since such faith can pluck up mulberry trees and cast them into the sea (Luke 17:6). All kinds of questions enter our minds. What is faith like a mustard seed? Why doesn’t our faith move mountains? Are we failing to see great things from God because of our lack of faith? Faith that Encourages In the stories recounted in both Matthew and Luke, the disciples long for more faith. Then they could do great things for God. Then they could cast out demons and

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What Does It Mean to Be One with Christ?

Tony Reinke: The Christian’s “union with Christ” is the mysterious dark matter of the spiritual cosmos, so to speak. It is a kind of glue that holds us together with the constellation of salvation and sanctification and glorification in Christ. And it is very hard to describe and explain. How, then, can we talk about it? Is such a mystery too deep for words? Where do we begin — and where should we stop? And in our search to explain this new bond to Christ, can we use the language of mysticism? How much of our union with Christ is legal and positional, and how much of it is felt? With these important questions brewing, I called Sinclair Ferguson, author of the new book Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification. He has been talking about union with Christ for a long time and is as good a teacher as any on this vital subject. 1: Is union with Christ objective

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Martin Luther’s 7 Characteristics of the Church

W. Robert Godfrey: The Word “First, the holy Christian people are recognized by their possession of the holy word of God.” Martin Luther always returned to the foundational importance of the Scriptures and the gospel in his approach to any doctrinal question. The church must have and cherish the revelation of God. “And even if there were no other sign than this alone, it would still suffice to prove that a Christian, holy people must exist there, for God’s word cannot be without God’s people, and conversely, God’s people cannot be without God’s word.” Baptism “Second, God’s people or the Christian holy people are recognized by the holy sacrament of baptism, wherever it is taught, believed, and administered correctly according to Christ’s ordinance.” The church possessed and administered the sacrament of baptism as taught in the Bible, a visible expression of the gospel. The Lord’s Supper “Third, God’s people, or Christian holy people, are recognized by the holy sacrament of the altar, wherever it

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Power of the Gospel

Darin Smith: Where is the power for the church today? Clearly, if this month proves anything, it proves that it does not find its power in politics. We must discard the budding belief that power politics are what it is all about.  I’ve been reminded lately that politics and political parties aren’t where Christ-followers look for hope. Instead, I am thankful that we have an all-sovereign, all-powerful King to find hope in times such as these. Romans 1:16 says that “it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Practically, in today’s modern church landscape, what does this means for us if politics aren’t the answer? Here are nine brief reminders for us: 1. We need to stop trying to make the Gospel relevant—it’s always relevant. To center on and proclaim the Gospel is to be as relevant and powerful as the apostolic early church (Rom. 1:4). The Gospel doesn’t need you. The Gospel doesn’t need bright

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Two ways to know you are saved

J.D. Greear: I get the question from Christians a lot: “How can I know for sure that I’m saved?” So often, in fact, that I wrote a book addressing it: Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart. I struggled with the question a lot myself until someone pointed me to passage from 1 John that helped open my eyes. In 1 John 5:13–18, John identifies 2 ways that we can be sure of our salvation. 1. We have placed our hopes for heaven entirely on Jesus. (1 John 5:13) “I write these things to you,” John says, “who believe in the name of the Son of God.” It’s so simple that we’re liable to miss it, but assurance comes from believing in Jesus. This is the gospel: when we trust in his name, we cease striving to earn heaven by drawing upon our own moral bank account; instead, we withdraw on his righteous account in our place. The gospel, by its very nature, produces assurance. Because

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10 Things You Should Know about Being Filled with the Holy Spirit

Sam Storms: In an earlier installment of the “10 Things You Should Know” series, we looked at Ephesians 5:18 and what it says about being filled with the Spirit. But here I want to look more closely at the issue as it is found in other portions of God’s Word. I’ve found that the best way to help people understand what it means to be “filled” with the Spirit is to compare and contrast that experience with being “baptized” in the Spirit. (1) Spirit-baptism is a metaphor that describes our reception of the Holy Spirit at the moment of our conversion to Jesus in faith and repentance. When we believe and are justified, we are, as it were, deluged and engulfed by the Spirit; we are, as it were, immersed in and saturated by the Spirit. (2) The result of being baptized in the Spirit is that (a) we are made members of the body of Christ, or incorporated into

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The 5 C’s of Preaching

Jared Wilson: What are the basic elements of biblical preaching? How do you know you’re preaching a Christian sermon and not simply giving a religious or spiritual lecture? While I think gospel-centered expository proclamation is the best approach to fulfilling the biblical call to preach, this exercise could probably use some more filling out. And since preachers like alliteration and lists, I thought I might suggest a checklist reflecting what I propose to be the irreduceable complexity of true Christian preaching. Next time you’re preparing a sermon, maybe keep these questions in mind. Or, after the next time you preach, share this list with your fellow elders or another team of trusted advisors and ask them to apply the questions to your delivered message. 1. Is your sermon CONTEXTUAL? The word contextual is important. It’s more specific than simply asking if the message is textual, because a lot of preachers use Bible verses in their sermons, and by this they

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True Leadership Is Sacrifice, Not Privilege

David Mathis: It is one of the filthiest lies Satan whispers in the ear of our comfortable and entitled generation. From before we can even remember, we have been indoctrinated, at nearly every turn, with the idea that being “a leader” means getting the gold star. Leadership is a form of recognition, a kind of accomplishment, the path to privilege. Being declared a leader is like winning an award or being identified among the gifted. Leadership is a form of success. And since you can do whatever you dream, and can achieve whatever you set your mind to, you too can be a leader — at home, at work, in the community, in the church. Why would you settle for anything less? Leadership means privilege, and no generation has considered itself more entitled to privilege than ours. The Lie About Leadership The world’s spin on leadership is in the air of our society, felt in the subtext of our adolescence,

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He Nourishes and Cherishes Her

Ray Ortlund (adapted from Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel): The Nature of True Love The heart of a Christian husband comes to a focal point in one word, the key word for the husband, in Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” The word love is wonderful. We can see its sacrificial boldness in this very verse. But this word love is overused in our world today. So can we drill down more deeply into this word? Paul helps us to do so, in verse 29. In the coherence of the passage, the words “nourishes” and “cherishes” in verse 29 restate and clarify the meaning of the word “love”: “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.” So Christ nourishing and cherishing the church as his own body is equivalent to Christ not hating but loving his

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