The danger of preaching biblical truth, yet missing Christ

WHEN ETHICAL AND MORAL IMPERATIVES ARE PROCLAIMED AS SUFFICIENT, EVEN ABSTRACTED FROM JESUS, THE RESULT IS A CROSSLESS CHRISTIANITY IN WHICH THE CENTRAL MESSAGE BECOMES AN EXHORTATION TO LIVE ACCORDING TO GOD’S RULES. By David E. Prince Satan does not mind expository preaching — as long as it misses the main point of God’s Word. In fact, Satan himself engages in a form of expository preaching and encourages that form of biblical exposition to be practiced as a means of his deception. Russell Moore writes: Throughout the Old Testament, he preaches peace — just like the angels of Bethlehem do — except he does so when there is no peace. He points people to the particulars of worship commanded by God — sacrifices and offerings and feast days — just without the preeminent mandates of love, justice, and mercy. Satan even preaches to God — about the proper motives needed for godly discipleship on the part of God’s servants. In the New

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10 Reasons the Old Testament Is Important for Christians

Jason DeRouchie: If Christians are part of the new covenant, why should we seek to understand and apply the Old Testament (OT)? I’ll give 10 reasons why the first word in the phrase Old Testament must not mean unimportant or insignificant to Christians. 1. The OT was Jesus’s only Scripture and makes up three-fourths (75.55 percent) of our Bible. If space says anything, the OT matters to God, who gave us his Word in a book. In fact, it was his first special revelation, which set a foundation for the fulfillment we find in Jesus in the New Testament (NT). The OT was the only Bible of Jesus and the earliest church (e.g., Matt. 5:17; Luke 24:44; Acts 24:14; 2 Tim. 3:15), and it’s a major part of our Scriptures. 2. The OT substantially influences our understanding of key biblical teachings. By the end of the Law (Genesis–Deuteronomy), the Bible has already described or alluded to all five of the major covenants that guide Scripture’s plot

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Justification: The Heart of the Reformation

Michael Reeves: Internal vs. External Transformation The issue at the heart of the Reformation was without a doubt the question of justification. When Luther was growing up, the understanding of justification that he was taught (and which really drove him to despair) was an understanding of justification inherited from Augustine who had thought that Romans 5:5 was the clearest single text to articulate justification. It says that “God has poured his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit he’s given us.” So with that understanding, God pours his love, by the Holy Spirit, into my heart so that in my heart, I am transformed to become more and more loving, more and more holy, more and more justified. It is an internal transformative process and that’s simply not what Romans 5:5 is actually about. But that understanding of justification as the transformative process meant that you could not be sure that you’d been internally transformed enough to be worthy

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An Essential Mark of a Sound Conversion

BY JOSEPH ALLEINE We turn from our own RIGHTEOUSNESS. Before conversion, man seeks to cover himself with his own fig-leaves, and to make himself acceptable with God, by his own duties. He is apt to trust in himself, and set up his own righteousness, and to reckon his pennies for gold, and not to submit to the righteousness of God. But conversion changes his mind; now he counts his own righteousness as filthy rags. He casts it off, as a man would the verminous tatters of a nasty beggar. Now he is brought to poverty of spirit, complains of and condemns himself; and all his inventory is, ‘I am poor, and miserable, and wretched, and blind, and naked!’ [Rev 3:17]. He sees a world of iniquity in his holy things, and calls his once-idolized righteousness but filth and loss; and would not for a thousand worlds be found in it! Now he begins to set a high price upon Christ’s

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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

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Genuine revival, spiritual affections, and bodily manifestations

Sam Storms: The division among Christian folk during the revival we know as the First Great Awakening (1734-35; 1740-42) often was due to their different understandings of the nature and significance of physical or bodily manifestations. Many of the so-called Old Lights in Jonathan Edwards’s day insisted on the spurious nature of the so-called “revival” by pointing to the physical and emotional phenomena that were occurring. These manifestations, so they insisted, are proof that the Spirit is not in the “revival”. The Spirit does not operate in such ways and thus these phenomena demonstrate that the religious excitement is merely a work of the flesh or of disturbed souls or, worse still, the Devil. The ironic thing is that today there are many who insist on precisely the opposite conclusion. They regard such physical and emotional manifestations to be almost certain proof that the Spirit is present and at work. In the absence of such phenomena they would likely conclude that the Spirit was

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The History of the Reformation

R.C. Sproul: “A cesspool of heresies.” This was the judgment rendered by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V on May 26, 1521, shortly after Martin Luther took a stand at the Diet of Worms. Earlier, in the bull Exsurge Domine, Pope Leo X described Luther as a wild boar loose in the vineyard of Christ and as a stiff-necked, notorious, damned heretic. On May 4, 1521, Luther was “kidnapped” by friends and whisked off to Wartburg castle, where he was kept secretly hidden, disguised as a knight. There Luther immediately undertook the task of translating the Bible into the vernacular. Frequently the Reformation is described as a movement that revolved around two pivotal issues. The so-called “material” cause was the debate over sola fide(“justification by faith alone”). The “formal” cause was the issue of sola Scriptura, that the Bible and the Bible alone has the authority to bind the conscience of the believer. Church tradition was regarded with respect by the Reformers but not as a

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10 things you should know about the most famous verse in the Bible

Sam Storms: The most famous verse in the Bible, at least among Christians, is John 3:16. But do we really understand what it means? Here are ten things to keep in mind as you reflect on it. (1) Are the words of John 3:16 the words of Jesus or John the Apostle? Probably the latter. John 3:10-15 are clearly the words of Jesus in his conversation with Nicodemus, but it appears that John himself is reflecting on the significance of Jesus’ death in the verses that follow. (2) What is the focus of the word translated “so”? Is John here merely describing the manner in which God loved the world? Is he telling us that it was in this particular way that God’s love was made manifest? Or could he also be emphasizing the intensity of the divine love, as if to say, God loved the world “this much”? The answer is probably a bit of both. God’s love was so great and so magnanimous

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The Burden for Missions Begins at Home

Mark Dever: A mark of a healthy church is a biblical understanding of, and practice of, missions. Missions isn’t a biblical word, but it’s a biblical idea. Missions is taking the gospel across boundaries, especially across the boundary of language. And, according to the Bible, this mission is to transform the nature of humanity, and nothing less—to bring us into a reconciled relationship with God, our good Creator and Judge. Missions Begins at Home Self-sacrifice and love of God and others is the seed of missions in the church. You could say that missions begins at home with a concern for the conversion of your family. So teach, befriend, evangelize and disciple your children. Brothers and sisters, have a concern for your friends. Friends share the gospel with friends. “Don’t underestimate how you handicap missions in a church by making evangelism seem optional in the Christian life.” But what does it mean for you to be prepared to share the gospel

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Should every Christian study theology?

  J.I. Packer: Theology simply means the study of God. This is something that every Christian needs to realise. I think the way that the word has been used in the past has frightened many Christians away from it, even though they never stopped to consider what the word actually meant. People got the idea somewhere that theology is the business of the seminary professors and the clergy, but has very little to do with the day to day living of the Christian life. It’s something people seem to think you can get along without, provided that you read your Bible daily and think one or two guiding thoughts from your passage to keep you on the rails. I don’t believe it’s at all like that. But theology means the study of God, and if we are to love God, as we are commanded, with all our “minds” then we need to be in the business of theology. So when I

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The Intolerance of Tolerance

. . Tim Challies: Several times in the past decade D.A. Carson has been asked to give a public lecture at one university or another. Three times he has taken the opportunity to speak on the subject of tolerance, or intolerance, as the case may be. Those lectures proved the foundation of what would become his cleverly-titled new book, The Intolerance of Tolerance. Here’s the thing: In a society obsessed with tolerance, we are actually not tolerant at all. It’s all a big lie, a big fiction, and we’re all playing along. In order to claim tolerance we’ve had to rewrite the definition of the term and in so doing we’ve put ourselves on dangerous ground. Tolerance has become part of the Western “plausability structure”–a stance that is assumed and is not to be questioned. We are to be tolerant at all times. Well, almost all times, that is. Carson begins by showing that tolerance presupposes disagreement. That’s the beauty of being tolerant–one person expresses

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Improving your relationship with God

Tim Chester: Can you improve your relationship with God? People are often unsure how to respond. The promises of grace suggest one answer; the experience of life often suggest another. In the confusion, we often do nothing. We stagnate. But there is a way forward. Can you improve your relationship with God? Yes. Let’s turn for help to the seventeenth-century Puritan John Owen. In his classic book Communion with God, Owen says, Our communion with God consists in his communication of himself to us, with our return to him of that which he requires and accepts, flowing from that union which in Jesus Christ we have with him. (Works, Vol. 2, 8–9, modernized) Note how Owen makes a distinction between “union” and “communion.” In the gospel, through faith, we have union with God in Christ. From start to finish this union is God’s gracious work toward us. But this union leads to communion with God — a genuine, two-way relationship of give-and-take in which our

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Certainty, openness, and theological wisdom

Ray Ortlund: Some Christians seem “all certainty.” Maybe it makes them feel heroic. But they see too few gray areas. Everything is a federal case. They have a fundamentalist mindset. Other Christians seem “all openness.” Maybe it makes them feel humble. But they see too few black-and-white areas. They have a liberal mindset—though they may demonstrate a surprising certainty against certainty. The Bible is our authority as we sort out what deserves certainty and what deserves openness. For example,  1 Corinthians 15:1-4 defines the gospel of Christ crucified for our sins, Christ buried and Christ risen again on the third day, according to the Scriptures, as “of first importance.” Here is the center of our certainty. From that “of first importance” theological address, we move out toward the whole range of theological and practical and worldview questions deserving our attention. The more clearly our logic connects back with that center, the more certain and the less open we should be. The further

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Ten things you should know about Christian Hedonism

Sam Storms: Christian Hedonism often goes misunderstood and thus maligned. Let’s look closely at ten things that bring clarity to what is meant by the label. (1) When it comes to Christian Hedonism, the adjective is everything. Hedonism is itself a godless approach to life that says we should pursue whatever brings us optimum pleasure. Hedonism judges right and wrong on the basis of whether or not an action brings pleasure or pain. But Christian Hedonism is an entirely different thing. The pleasure we seek as Christians is pleasure and satisfaction and delight in God. God is not the means to some other pleasure but the object of it. It is in him, his beauty, power, and presence that we find our deepest delight. (2) Christian Hedonism insists that the most effective way to glorify God is to enjoy God. It was Jonathan Edwards who helped me see that God’s glory and my gladness were not antithetical. He helped me

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The Perils of Preaching an Implications-Free Gospel

Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. — Galatians 2:10 Jared Wilson: One of the strangest developments of late in the ongoing scrums over the orthodoxy or heterodoxy of “social justice” is the shifts in understanding by various evangelical tribes and movements of the distinctions and connections between law and gospel. “Just preach the gospel” has become a frequent rebuke heard from camps who are concerned about the muddling of gospel and works. To be clear and fair, not everyone concerned about emphases on social justice agrees with the alleged antidote of “just preaching the gospel,” but this imperative has been leveled enough — and from some places of influence — that it has gained a fair amount of traction. Also to be fair, the muddling of gospel and works is always a threat to real Christianity, and nobody is immune. We must take care not to confuse any works, be they works we call “social justice”

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The Promise-Driven Life

John Piper: So the challenge of the Christian life — and at 66, I am deeply desirous to learn how to do this. Paul did say, “I’ve learned the secret” as though it took some time (see Philippians 4:12 NASB). How many times do I come to the end of a day and I shake my head and say, “It’s been eight hours since I thought about trusting a promise.” I haven’t even thought about it. But do you know what else I’ve had in those eight hours? Anxiety. Murmuring. Where do they come from? Not trusting promises. This takes some of us a lifetime to learn. O you young people, get this now. That’s why I prayed at the beginning, “O God, build habits into our lives.” Habits of trusting promises, habits of hourly going to the Lord and saying, “I need you. I need you. I need you.” And then don’t just go away saying, “Yeah, I need him,” and feeling

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Seven Ways God Reigns over Evil

Satan Always Asks Permission John Piper: What does the Bible present to us, through the whole range of redemptive history — from beginning to end — as the way God relates to Satan’s will? I don’t want to speculate. I want Bible verses. I want Bible statements about how God relates to Satan, and then maybe seeing enough ways that God relates to Satan, I could project back and say, Well, if he relates to him that way here, he related to him that way there. That’s my approach, and you can assess whether you think that’s wise. What I want to do is just give you seven glimpses of how God relates to Satan in the Bible. 1. Satan is just God’s lackey. Satan is called “the ruler of this world” in John 12:31. However, other texts say things like this: “The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” (Daniel 4:17) The Lord

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How Do We Work for Justice and Not Undermine Evangelism?

D.A. Carson: (1) By doing evangelism. I know numerous groups that claim to be engaging in “holistic” ministry because they are helping the poor in Chicago or because they are digging wells in the Sahel, even though few if any of the workers have taken the time to explain to anyone who Jesus is and what he has done to reconcile us to God. Their ministry isn’t holistic; it’s halfistic, or quarteristic. (2) By being careful not to malign believers of an earlier generation. The popular buzz is that evangelicals before this generation focused all their energies on proclamation and little or nothing on deeds of mercy. Doubtless one can find sad examples of such reductionism, but the sweeping condescension toward our evangelical forbears is neither true nor kind. To take but one example: The mission SIM has emphasized evangelism, church planting, and building indigenous churches for a century—yet without talking volubly of holistic ministry it built, and still operates,

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Freedom from the Self-Focused Life

John Piper: 1. Do you love the thought that you exist to make God look what he really is — glorious? Do you love the thought that you exist to reflect and display the glory of God? Does that bring joy to your heart and make you tingle with awesome historical destiny? I am on planet earth to make God look glorious, because he is. 2. Do you love the thought that all creation exists to display the glory of God? “The heavens are telling the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). Are you glad about it? When you see spring just trying to come in Minnesota — soon the branches will get little bulges and you’ll say, “Come on; come on.” When they come in, the heads that you chop back so far, you wonder if it’ll ever come back, it gets the little green things on it and you say, “God is real and living.” Are you glad that it’s about

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10 Things You Should Know about Jesus Christ

Sam Storms: It actually sounds a bit silly, even irreverent, to speak of only ten things we should know about Jesus. There are thousands of things to know about him, perhaps millions. Indeed, when we arrive in the new heaven and new earth we will discover that there is an infinity of truths about our Savior that it will be our joy to see, know, and savor. But for now, today, let’s consider the ten things said about him in Colossians 1:15-20. There Paul writes: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,

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