5 Ways to Prepare to Hear  Preaching

Jimmy Davis: We rightly expect our pastors to spend hours preparing before they preach on Sundays. But what should the people in the pew be doing? How can God’s people prepare to receive the message the preacher has prepared? While reading through Acts, I noticed a pattern of preparation tucked away in chapter 10. When Peter arrived to preach the gospel to Cornelius, he was welcomed with these words: “I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord” (Acts 10:33). Cornelius displays the desire we ought to have as we wait on God’s Word to be delivered to us. We can prepare our hearts for preaching by cultivating five characteristics. 1. Eagerness to Hear from God As soon as Cornelius heard from the angel that God had a message for him, he “sent for

read more 5 Ways to Prepare to Hear  Preaching

Can We Worship God When We Feel Nothing?

Sam Storms: I’ve been asked that question countless times. Many have responded to it by saying that we are morally obligated to worship God even when we feel nothing for him. But if your reason for worshiping God is merely from a sense of moral duty, God would rather you not worship him at all. To say that God is pleased with worship that lacks passion is to say God endorses hypocrisy. How can one ever forget the stinging rebuke Jesus made of the Pharisees in this regard? “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Matt. 15:7-9) If ever there were a scary verse in the Bible, this is it. It frightens me to think that it is possible for me to have “singing lips” and a “distant heart”

read more Can We Worship God When We Feel Nothing?

Rejoice in the Benefits of the Resurrection

By Brian Key: One of my favorite psalms begins, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:1–2). The phrase “forget not all his benefits” is an invitation to meditate on and celebrate all of the benefits of knowing God’s mercy and forgiveness. It’s a summons to call to mind what is true for those who know the covenant faithfulness of God, a God who doesn’t deal with us according to our sins but based on his abundant mercy. The psalmist calls us to remember all of his benefits. The Blessing of Eastertide In a similar way, the season of Eastertide is a summons to “forget not all the benefits” of knowing the resurrected Christ. Eastertide is a festal season on the liturgical calendar that traditionally marks the days between the resurrection and the ascension. It is a season

read more Rejoice in the Benefits of the Resurrection

What Not to Do in Your Relationship with the Holy Spirit

Mike McKinley: Two-Way Relationship When it comes to our ongoing friendship with God the Holy Spirit, his role is to comfort us in all our troubles. But a relationship is a two-way street; that means that there is a role for us to play in the process. All that is left for us now is to think about what we need to do in order to enjoy and live out our communion. When the Bible gets specific on the topic, it actually tells us more about what not to do. So here are three things that we should avoid as we seek to enjoy communion with the Holy Spirit. Do Not Grieve the Spirit First, because he dwells in us, we should not grieve the Spirit. The reference here is to the apostle Paul’s words in the book of Ephesians: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30; cf. Isa. 63:10). As

read more What Not to Do in Your Relationship with the Holy Spirit

Why the Resurrection Matters: 1 Corinthians 15:16-17

Sam Storms: Today, the morning after Easter Sunday, 2023, it is just as important as it was yesterday to know why the resurrection of Jesus from the dead matters. Let me tell you what the Christian claim that Jesus literally rose from the dead means. It means that either I am a blubbering fool or I am telling you the single most important truth that you will ever hear. It means that either I am an absolute buffoon, most to be pitied, or I am a blessed man whose destiny is one filled with glory and honor and unending joy. And the same is true of you. Those are the options. There are no third alternatives. The reason I say this is because I’ve staked my life on the reality of an empty tomb. Everything I am, everything I own, everything I’ve done or hope to do hang suspended on whether or not Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead.

read more Why the Resurrection Matters: 1 Corinthians 15:16-17

Saving Faith as Treasuring Christ

John Piper: I’ll start with an assumption I hope we share: Saving faith is a receiving of Christ. John 1:11–12: “He [Christ] came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” So, saving faith is a receiving act, not a giving act or a performing act. When God justifies the one who has saving faith, he does not have respect to faith as giving him anything or performing anything to prove our merit. God justifies through faith because faith receives Christ as the sole ground of God being one hundred percent for us. That’s my assumption, my starting point. Question and Proposed Answer My question is this: More fully, what do we receive Christ as? And more specifically: What is the actual experience of receiving him? What is happening in our soul when we experience saving faith? My answer to the first question is that whether

read more Saving Faith as Treasuring Christ

Good Friday from 5 Angles

Don Carson: What does the cross achieve? Why does it occupy so central a place in the minds of the New Testament writers? The Bible gives many wonderfully rich answers to such questions. Here are a few, from five distinct angles—God’s perspective, Christ’s perspective, Satan’s perspective, sin’s perspective, and our perspective. 1. God’s Perspective In the Bible, God’s wrath is a function of his holiness. His wrath or anger isn’t the explosion of a bad temper or a chronic inability to restrain his irritability but rather a just and principled opposition to sin. God’s holiness is so spectacularly glorious that it demands he’s wrathful toward those of his creatures who defy him, slight his majesty, thumb their noses at his words and works, and insist on their own independence—even though every breath they breathe, not to mention their very existence, depends on his providential care. If God were to gaze at sin and rebellion, shrug his shoulders, and mutter, “Well, I’m

read more Good Friday from 5 Angles

2 Reasons Jesus Died on the Cross

Brian Rosner: Why did Jesus die? Historically, from a human perspective, the answer is straightforward enough. The Jewish leaders plotted against him, Judas betrayed him, Herod and Pilate tried him, and the Roman soldiers executed him. A number of individuals and groups were responsible for his death. As Luke puts it, “Wicked men put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23). But there’s another angle to consider. As Acts 2:23 also says, Jesus was “handed over by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge.” To get to the heart of the question of why Jesus died, we have to think from God’s point of view. Theologically, from God’s perspective, we may mention two main reasons. 1. Jesus Died to Bring Us Near to God Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. (1 Pet. 3:18) The purpose of bringing us to God implies that, prior to Jesus dying, we were far

read more 2 Reasons Jesus Died on the Cross

Wrath Is Not an Attribute of God

Jeremy Treat: The love of God and the wrath of God are commonly pitted against one another, particularly in the doctrine of atonement. If the cross is the demonstration of the love of God (Rom. 5:8), then how could it also be an expression of his wrath?  This dichotomy arises from a sentimentalized view of love and a caricature of wrath. In our society, love is often reduced to affection or affirmation. To love someone is either to have warm feelings toward her or to affirm her without conditions. And when people in our society think of the wrath of God, they imagine a red-faced deity with a bad temper and short fuse. This irritable God lashes out with uncontrollable rage and finds pleasure in punishing the wicked. Such understandings of God’s love and wrath are grossly unwarranted.  Love and Anger Can Coexist We know from our own experience that anger and love can coexist. I love my children deeply.

read more Wrath Is Not an Attribute of God

Christian Hedonism in Two Minutes

John Piper: Christian Hedonism is the conviction that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. I won’t take the time to put all the textual foundation under that. I’ve done that in many places. But let me explain the implication. If God is made to look glorious by my being satisfied in him, then pursuing my satisfaction in him becomes essential to obedience and worship. And therefore, Christian Hedonism says, you must pursue your maximum joy. And that’s maximum in two senses: maximum in quality, maximum in quantity. In other words, I want fullness of joy, and I want joy forevermore (Psalm 16:11). And that’s only found in God. So I have no hesitation saying that the Christian life is the pursuit of maximum joy in God, because my soul is satisfied and God is glorified. And those two things — God’s glory and my joy — are not at odds. And that’s the beauty of Christian Hedonism. God

read more Christian Hedonism in Two Minutes

Drenched and Dressed in the Holy Spirit

Sam Storms: I often find that Christians live largely in ignorance of who the Holy Spirit is and the relationship that he sustains to all who have come to faith in Jesus. There are two metaphors in the NT that portray how the Spirit relates to each of us, and I want to briefly explain them in this article. The first metaphor or image is found in the words of John the Baptist. In John 1:33 he declares that whereas he baptizes people in water, there is one coming after him who will baptize you in/with the Holy Spirit. I assume most if not all of you have been baptized since you came to faith in Jesus. The one thing you should remember is what it felt like to be immersed in water. You got wet! Your clothes were drenched. Your hair was soaked. And when you stepped out of the baptistry you dripped wherever you walked. In a similar

read more Drenched and Dressed in the Holy Spirit

God Rules by Speech: His Words from Beginning to End

Nicholas Wood: John turned and saw the Son of Man (Revelation 1:13). From top to bottom his clothes were regal. His hair was bright like snow; his eyes set aflame (Revelation 1:14). He hears his voice, and it sounds like rapids (Revelation 1:15). He sees his face as it shines like the sun (Revelation 1:15). Seven lampstands surround his bronze burnished feet, the seven churches (Revelation 1:16, 12, 20). This opening scene reveals to us Christ Jesus as he rules over his church in all his splendour. But how exactly does Jesus’ rule? Look again: John sees a sword in his mouth and the Spirit going out to his people (Revelation 1:12, 20; 2:7). He rules over his church by his Spirit-empowered words. God’s Ruling Words in History This is true of God’s rule right from the start. For in the beginning God spoke and his words whipped up a universe from scratch (Genesis 1:3–2:3).  God’s speech is how he communicates his kingship

read more God Rules by Speech: His Words from Beginning to End

Losing Christ in Christianity

Greg Morse: The question sounds strange at first, but I’ve come to ask it of myself: Am I in danger of losing Christ in my Christianity? Among those of us who truly know Jesus, love him, believe upon him for eternal life — have we lost our first love? Does the greater light now shine as the lesser in our hearts? Has he traveled unnoticed from his place as the great Object of our souls to an adjective modifying other pursuits? Books on Christian living sell today — books on Christ himself usually remain in stock. Can we still say in truth, “My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning” (Psalm 130:6)? Is the one thing we ask of our Lord to gaze upon his beauty and converse with him (Psalm 27:4)? If he returned today, would it feel like an interruption, or would he only interrupt us asking each other, “Have you

read more Losing Christ in Christianity

7 Reasons Why the Gospel of John is So Special

Michael J. Kruger: “One of these things is not like the others.”  That was a classic segment on Sesame Street, as well as the title of a popular children’s book. It proves again that everything you need to know in life you probably learned in Kindergarten. After all, when it comes to the four gospels, it has been long recognized that “one of these things is not like the others.”  There are three Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—with very similar content, tone, and pacing. And then there’s the gospel of John. From the very beginning, the church fathers even recognized that John was notably different than the others. In fact, Clement of Alexandria famously referred to John as the “spiritual gospel,” as opposed to the more “earthy” Synoptics. Ok, but what exactly makes John so different? Given that John loves the number seven—as one example among many, his gospel is structured around seven “signs”—let me offer seven things that makes

read more 7 Reasons Why the Gospel of John is So Special

5 Things You Should Know about the Doctrine of the Trinity

By Keith Mathison: 1. The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most fundamental doctrines in Christianity. The Christian doctrine of God is the doctrine of the Trinity, and the Christian doctrine of God is foundational to every other Christian doctrine. There is no doctrine of Scripture (bibliology) apart from the doctrine of God because Scripture is the Word of God. Human beings are created in the image of God. Sin is rebellion against the law of God. Soteriology is the doctrine having to do with the redemptive work of God. The church is the people of God. Eschatology has to do with the final goals and plans of God. 2. The doctrine of the Trinity was not invented at the Council of Nicaea. There is a popular myth today that the doctrine of the Trinity was invented in the fourth century at the Council of Nicaea. This is not true. In the first centuries of the church, Christians were already teaching the fundamental doctrines

read more 5 Things You Should Know about the Doctrine of the Trinity

Learning Contentment

Sinclair Ferguson: I spoke with a close friend who had gone through a period marked by personal disappointments, discouragements, unfair treatment, and even false rumors about his character and Christian service. I was moved and impressed by his response: “My great consolation is simply this,” he said, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6). This is truly a Christian reaction to adversity (which is the context in which spiritual contentment is most deeply tested, as well as best manifested). Such contentment is never the result of the momentary decision of the will. It cannot be produced merely by having a well-ordered and thought-through time-and life-management plan calculated to guard us against unexpected twists of divine providence. No, true contentment means embracing the Lord’s will in every aspect of His providence simply because it is His providence. It involves what we are in our very being, not just what we do and can accomplish. Doing and Being Contentment is

read more Learning Contentment

Good News of Great Joy!

Sam Storms: And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:8-14) Let’s revisit the night when the birth of Jesus was announced. As

read more Good News of Great Joy!

Freed By Christmas And Calvary

John Piper: Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Hebrews 2:14–15) Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood… That’s us. Flesh and blood. Human. Finite. Limited. Mortal. Frail. That’s our nature. And “children” is a good word to describe us. O, how helpless we are! I mean when the real issue is at stake: death. Presidents and paupers are all flesh and blood. They get old and die. …he himself likewise partook of the same nature… That’s Christ. Eternal Son of God. Infinite. Almighty. Creator. Heir of all things. Upholding the world by the word of his power. He looked down on us with love and, without ceasing to be God, took on our human nature. God-Man.

read more Freed By Christmas And Calvary

Worship Isn’t About You

What I Learned After Years of Leading – By Bob Kauflin: The year was 1997. After serving as a pastor for twelve years, I was taking on a new role at a large church in the Washington, D.C., area. My focus was going to be less on pastoral care and more on music and worship. After getting a degree in piano, touring with a Christian band, leading congregational worship for over twenty years, and being featured on a couple of worship albums, I thought I couldn’t be more prepared. A few months after I arrived, my senior pastor, C.J. Mahaney, walked into my office with three books he wanted me to read. One of them was Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship by David Peterson, an author I had never heard of. It looked more academic than most books on worship, and Peterson didn’t appear to be a musician. But I knew C.J. would only recommend books he thought would serve

read more Worship Isn’t About You

The Messianic Hope

By T. D. Alexander DEFINITION At the heart of the Old Testament is the expectation that God will send a unique king, associated with the Davidic dynasty, who will bring God’s blessing to the nations of the world. Significantly, he will sacrifice his life to atone for the sins of others. SUMMARY Beginning in the book of Genesis, God intimates that his plan to redeem the world from the consequences of Adam and Eve’s disobedience will centre on one of Eve’s descendants, who will overthrow God’s enemy, the serpent, identified elsewhere in the Bible as the devil or Satan. This hope is subsequently linked to Abraham, with the expectation that one of his descendants will be a king, through whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed. The path towards the fulfillment of these promises eventually leads to the Davidic dynasty. Through David and his son Solomon, God establishes Jerusalem as his holy city where he dwells among

read more The Messianic Hope