Words Kill, Words Give Life

Jeff Robinson: God’s book of wisdom contrasts the life of the foolish man with the life of the wise man. It shows us how life works best in a fallen world. And talk is deeply important in recognizing which of those two paths we’re walking. Paul Tripp even argues that Proverbs is most fundamentally a treatise on talk. He summarizes Proverbs’ teaching on talk this way: “words give life; words bring death—you choose.” Every utterance that escapes our lips mat­ters, which means you’ve never spoken a neutral word in your life. Our words are moving either in a direction of life or death. If our words are moving in a life direction, they will be words of encourage­ment, hope, love, peace, unity, instruction, wisdom, and correction. But the death direction brings forth words of anger, malice, slander, jealousy, gossip, division, contempt, racism, violence, judgment, and condemnation. We don’t give much thought to our talk in mundane times, yet that’s where we tend

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Do you pray for lost souls? If so, how?

Sam Storms: I assume that you, like Paul, pray fervently for the salvation of close family members or colleagues at work. In Paul’s case, they were the many Jewish men and women of his day who had openly and persistently denied that Jesus was the Messiah. He expressed his profound and persistent sorrow and grief over their lost condition back in Romans 9:1-3. In Romans 10:1 he declares unashamedly that his “heart’s desire and prayer to God” is “that they may be saved.” Paul doesn’t say anything about the nature of this prayer. He doesn’t give any details about the wording that he might use. We don’t know beyond his general affirmation precisely in what way he would ask God to save them, but my suspicion is that he prayed that God might ravish their hearts with his beauty and that he might unshackle their enslaved wills and cause them to come alive! When you pray for lost souls, what specifically are you

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Show Us Your Glory – Prayer That Sparks Reformation

David Mathis: In 1539, about twenty-two years after the Reformation had begun, a Catholic cardinal named Sadoleto wrote a letter to Protestant Geneva, trying to convince the city to return to the Catholic Church. John Calvin had been a pastor in Geneva, but he was exiled the year before. Even so, Geneva turned to Calvin to write a response to the cardinal. In it, Calvin identifies the main issue of the Reformation as this: the glory of God. Calvin says to the cardinal, “[Your] zeal for heavenly life [is] a zeal which keeps a man entirely devoted to himself, and does not, even by one expression, arouse him to sanctify the name of God.” In other words, Catholic theology is man-centered, and does not honor God as it ought. “It is not very sound theology,” writes Calvin, “to confine a man’s thoughts so much to himself, and not to set before him, as the prime motive of his existence, zeal to illustrate the

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The Word became Flesh – A Christmas Meditation on the Most Breathtaking Verse in the Bible

Sam Storms: “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14) Let’s think for a moment of the beauty of Jesus as revealed in the act of incarnation. For some of you that’s a new and unfamiliar word. It may sound esoteric, but without it we are a hopeless people. Without it Jesus is nothing to us and we are nothing to him. So what exactly do I mean by the word “Incarnation”? The idea is found in several texts which speak of Jesus as “coming in the flesh” (1 Jn. 4:2; 2 Jn. 7), being “sent in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3), “appearing in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16); he also “suffered in the flesh” (1 Pt. 4:1), “died in the flesh” (1 Pt. 3:18), made peace by abolishing “in the flesh the enmity” (Eph. 2:15), and “made reconciliation in the body of his flesh” (Col. 1:21-22). In sum, “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). Thus, by the Incarnation we mean that the eternal

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Merry Christmas from Charles H. Spurgeon

Phillip Ort: Charles Spurgeon loved Christmas. In fact, he once said, “I like Christmas; I wish it came six times a year.” He liked the generosity of “those who give to the poor,” and as for the cheer of the season exclaimed “I would not stop a smile. God forbid me!” Indeed, Spurgeon really loved Christmas, so much so that he wished “there were ten or a dozen Christmas-days in the year.” After all, “there is work enough in the world” and he thought “a little more rest would not hurt labouring people.” Indeed, again, Spurgeon really, really loved Christmas so much that he wished “there were twenty Christmas days in the year.” For, it was seldom that “young men can meet with their friends” and distant relatives could be “united as happy families.” Indeed, Christmas was “one of England’s brightest days,” the “great Sabbath of the year,” and a sacred “family institution.” However, Spurgeon also said “I have no respect to the religious observance of

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From Splendour to Squalor

Advent meditation by Matt Smethurst: Read Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:5–11) Reflect Many religions throughout history have acknowledged the value of humility. None has dared speak of a humble God. The reason is simple: the notion of humility applied to deity is seen as

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Struggling with Doubt? Here are 5 Important Truths to Remember

Michael J. Kruger: The great nineteenth century Baptist preacher, C.H. Spurgeon, once confessed: “On a sudden, the thought crossed my mind—which I abhorred but could not conquer—that there was no God, no Christ, no heaven, no hell, and that all my prayers were but a farce, and that I might as well have whistled to the winds or spoken to the howling waves.” The above quote reminds us that nearly all Christians, even those who seem strong and confident, face periods of doubt about what they believe. Indeed, sometimes those doubts can swell up into a crisis of sorts. Even Spurgeon admitted his doubts were difficult to conquer. So, how do we handle these doubts when they come? Or, how do we help others who admit they are struggling with what they believe?  Here’s a five truths that can perhaps help us be more careful and more compassionate in such situations. 1. Doubting is normal. First things first: doubting is a

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The Kingdom and The Church: Closer Than You Think

Kevin DeYoung: It has become commonplace in parts of the missional discussion to make a strong emphasis on the distinction between the kingdom and the church. I agree the two are not identical. Try replacing “kingdom” in the gospels with “church” or “church” with “kingdom” in the epistles and you quickly realize synonyms they are not. But like the proverbial rear view mirror, might these objects–the kingdom and the church–be closer than they appear? What are We Talking About? The kingdom is often described as God’s reign and rule. I like to particularize this definition by pointing to the first and last chapters of the Bible. Genesis 1-2 and Revelation 21-22 give us a picture of the kingdom. Where the kingdom is present there is peace, provision, and security. Mourning and pain give way to joy and comfort. Human relationships work right, and our relationship with God is free and confident. Most importantly, in the kingdom God is all in all. Consequently, the wicked will  not

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Did Jesus Exist Before Christmas?

Sam Storms: That may sound like a strange question to ask, but such was the title of an article I recently read. 63% of church-going Christians said Yes, which means that 37% said No. When the survey included all American adults, only 41% believe Jesus existed before his birth in Bethlehem. So, let’s get this straight. What I’m about to say may at first sound heretical, but be patient with me. No, Jesus, the human being who walked the earth, died on a cross, and was raised from the dead, did not exist prior to his being conceived in the womb of a young virgin girl named Mary. Before you cast me aside as an apostate, listen closely. The Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, has always existed. There are countless texts that affirm the eternal pre-existence of God the Son. One thinks immediately of two texts in John’s gospel, where Jesus himself said this: “Jesus said

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Advent Meditation: Sigh No More

Brett McCracken: Read And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isa. 35:10) Reflect The essence of hope is not the downplaying, justifying, or avoidance of present pain and sorrow. Rather, hope is the ex­pectation that as real as the pain is now, it will one day feel as foreign as our faintest memories. In our day, we can relate to the experience of “ransom captive Israel,” who mourned “in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.” As Israel waited—in bondage to suffer­ing, sin, pain, and injustice—so we wait now. Sorrow is ev­erywhere: in the bleak headlines that cross our feeds, in the sickness and death that plague our own friends and family, and in the temptation and sin that leave us feeling frustrat­ed, defeated, even hopeless. Sighing is everywhere too. We

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Why We Desperately Need the Message of Revelation

Thomas R. Schreiner: A Mixture of Intrigue and Intimidation The book of Revelation both attracts and repels readers. It attracts readers because it introduces a strange new world, an apocalyptic vision that captures our imagination. We all sense that some dimensions of life are beyond us, that there are mysteries surpassing our comprehension, and Revelation introduces us to this world, inviting us to hear what God says to us. We wonder, what will happen in the future, and how will the world come to an end? Revelation reveals to us where the world is going, and it tells us what we should do to be part of the new world that is coming. At the same time, Revelation can repel us because we wonder what it all means and perhaps because we despair of making any sense of it at all. Martin Luther felt this way when he complained that Christ is not clearly taught or revealed in the book!1Our

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4 Roles Scripture Plays in the Life of a Believer

Paul David Tripp The Word is a Gift of Grace The doctrines of the word of God were not intended just to lay claim on your brain, but also to capture your heart and transform the way you live. Those doctrines are meant to turn you inside out and your world upside down. Biblical doctrine is much more than an outline you give confessional assent to. Doctrine is something you live in even the smallest and most mundane moments of your life. Biblical doctrine is meant to transform your identity, alter your relationships, and reshape your finances. It’s meant to change the way you think and talk, how you approach your job, how you conduct yourself in time of leisure, how you act in your marriage, and the things you do as a parent. It’s meant to change the way you think about your past, interpret the present, and view the future. The doctrines of the word of God are

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What Is the Fear of God?

Mike Reeves: Psalm 130:4 is one of those verses that makes your eyes screech to a halt on the page: “But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” It sounds all wrong. “But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be loved” would make sense. So would “But with you there is judgment, that you may be feared.” But that is not what it says. Stranger still is the fact that the psalmist just doesn’t look afraid of God. Quite the opposite. Straight after v. 4, he goes on to write of how “his soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen [wait] for the morning” (Ps. 130:5–6). He fully embraces the fact that “with the Lord there is steadfast love” and “plentiful redemption” (Ps. 130:7). That is because the fear of the Lord that Scripture commends and which the gospel produces is actually the opposite of being afraid of God. See, for example, Exodus 20, where the people of Israel gather

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What Was Martin Luther’s Breakthrough?

Jim Davis: On October 31 we will celebrate the 504th anniversary of the day Martin Luther made his 95 theses public. But what exactly was Luther’s breakthrough? What realization did he come to that set the Western world on a course that would break the stranglehold of Roman Catholic authorities, produce Bibles in languages people could read, raise literacy rates across Europe, and birth thousands of new Christian denominations? Luther lived in a world dominated by a fear of death—a fear only increased by the Roman Catholic teaching that through our works, we can appease a vengeful God. In his own words, “Under the papacy we were told to toil until the feeling of guilt had left us.” But it never did. No matter how hard Luther worked, he never considered himself worthy of God. He entered into multiple periods of depression in which he began to ask one question that would lead to his breakthrough: Why is the gospel good news? In his forthcoming book, The

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Luther’s Advice for the Christian Life

By Sinclair B. Ferguson: What do the sovereignty of God, salvation by grace, justification by faith, and new life in union with Christ mean for the living of the Christian life? For Luther, they carry four implications: The first implication is the knowledge that the Christian believer is simul iustus et peccator,1 at one and the same time justified and yet a sinner. This principle, to which Luther may have been stimulated by John Tauler’s Theologia Germanica, was a hugely stabilizing principle: in and of myself, all I see is a sinner; but when I see myself in Christ, I see a man counted righteous with His perfect righteousness. Such a man is therefore able to stand before God as righteous as Jesus Christ—because he is righteous only in the righteousness that is Christ’s. Here we stand secure. The second implication is the discovery that God has become our Father in Christ. We are accepted. One of the most beautiful accounts found in

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The Bible’s Burden for Church Revitalisation

Bobby Jamieson: Throughout much of the United States (and a few other parts of the world) evangelical churches quite literally litter the landscape. Many of these churches are like trash left on a street corner—they cause people to cross to the other side to avoid them. The people who belong to them profess to believe in the gospel, and their historic statements of faith confess the gospel. And some true Christians do belong to such churches. But on the whole the life of the church broadcasts anything but a gospel message. These churches instead churn out toxic waste rather than the nourishing food that people need. Some churches in this state may be unrecoverable. But the sad thing is, many evangelicals seem content to ignore such churches and simply start new ones. Church planting is important and strategic, and I am glad to see more and more people taking up that work. But if you saw a garden overrun with

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Dressed in His Righteousness Alone

What Is Justification by Faith? David Briones: I’ll never forget meeting up with a mentor of mine at Starbucks shortly after becoming a Christian. We regularly met there to read and study the Bible. One day, a person walked by and was elated to find Christians. But during our conversation, my mentor began asking some pretty forthright questions, and I couldn’t quite understand why. “Do you believe that a person is justified by faith alone?” he said. The stranger hesitantly responded, “No, I believe that a person is justified by faith and works.” My mentor graciously but strongly insisted, “Then you don’t have a biblical view of justification.” A lot of back-and-forths followed, but because I was a recent convert, I found it immensely difficult to understand what was going on. I barely understood what the term justification meant! Eventually, I discovered the importance of this vital doctrine. Martin Luther and other Reformers considered the doctrine of justification by faith alone the article on which the

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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 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 socalled “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

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Victory Through Suffering: The True Meaning of Philippians 4:13

Benjamin L. Merkle: Nobody likes to lose. Winning is fun but losing is hard. In the midst of a challenging feat we might wonder if it’s appropriate to claim Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” After John 3:16, Philippians 4:13 is one of the most-searched verses in the Bible, and is often linked with athletes seeking to inspire victory and strength. But this common application unfortunately misses its real power. At its core, this verse is talking about a different sort of victory. How do you respond when you face challenges and hardships in life? Do you have victory in such circumstances? Can you have victory through suffering? Surveying the Context First, let’s look at the context of Philippians 4:13. Paul is under house arrest, probably in Rome during the reign of Nero, awaiting trial before the Roman Emperor. As he writes, he recognizes that death may be the end point of his imprisonment because the emperor Nero was

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What Is the Church?

R.C. Sproul: Paul gives great attention to ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church, in his letter to the Ephesians. In fact, we could say Ephesians answers this question: What is the church? In Ephesians 2:19–22, the chief metaphor Paul uses is that of a building—the household of God. Christians are part of the household in the sense that they have been adopted into the family of God, which is another image that Scripture uses to describe the church. But here the accent is not so much on the family of the household as it is on the house of the household: “[We] are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (vv. 19–20a). Paul says the foundation of this building called the church is made up of the prophets and the Apostles, that is, the Old Testament prophets and New Testament Apostles. Why? It’s because the prophets and

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