How Pastors Should Answer the Hardest Leadership Question

Sam Rainer: It’s the most challenging leadership question to answer: Am I humble? Humility is the most difficult leadership trait to determine about ourselves. Pride is the most dangerous leadership trait. Arrogance is the root leadership problem. Our sinful nature propels us to an excessive and unhealthy focus on ourselves. It’s the quintessential leadership struggle. We stand on a sliding scale somewhere between healthy humility and unhealthy pride. Even at our best, determining where we are on this scale is tricky. We almost always believe we are more humble than we are. Unfortunately, we rarely recognize our pride until it’s too late. Fortunately, there are three key questions to ask to reduce the potential for pride to puff up. Are you capable, and are you striving to learn more? This question involves competence. Quite frankly, do you know what you’re doing? Too many leaders fake it. Too many leaders do not want to swallow pride and ask for help. Too many leaders fear looking small by

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Pentecost Was a Reversal

Andrew Wilson: What goes up must come down. The earthly ministry of Jesus culminates in his going up: up to Jerusalem, up to Skull Hill, up onto the cross, up from death to life, up to the Mount of Olives, and finally up into heaven. But the story of the gospel, Luke explains, is only what Jesus began to do and teach (Acts 1:1). The next part of his activity on earth, which Luke focuses on in Acts, takes place through the church. And it involves a coming down. Pentecost and Babel The gift of the Spirit at Pentecost is often associated with Babel, and with good reason. People are not scattering, God comes down and works a miracle of language, people scatter throughout the world, and the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham begins. At Babel, this scattering was an act of judgment in response to disobedience, bringing incomprehension and fracture. At Pentecost, it’s an act of blessing in response to obedience,

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Theology of the Cross

Burk Parsons: One of my greatest fears for the church today is that we will become bored with the cross of Christ. I am concerned that any mention of Christ and Him crucified is leading many professing Christians to say to themselves: “Yeah, I know all about Jesus dying on the cross for my sins—let’s move on to something else. Let’s get past the basics, and let’s deal with bigger theological issues.” I firmly believe that Satan is set on trying to destroy us, but he’ll settle with just getting us to lose our astonishment regarding Christ and Him crucified. Such loss of astonishment usually begins in the pulpit, and it quickly trickles down into the hearts and homes of those in the pew. When pastors stop preaching about the cross or mention it only when they have to, the people of God can easily begin to see the cross as a perfunctory matter that only needs to be considered

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Christians Need the Gospel Too

Derek Thomas: Some twenty years ago, I spoke at a conference in Iowa along with Jerry Bridges. In a breakout session, I sat in the rear and listened to him explain why Christians need the gospel too. This was a recent insight, he confessed. In subsequent editions of his book Disciplines of Grace, he added this insight. I must confess that I have thought about it frequently ever since. At one level, the statement seems obvious. Of course Christians need the gospel every day. How could it be otherwise? When Paul writes to the church in Rome, he begins by saying, “So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome” (Rom. 1:15). The letter is addressed to professing Christians in Rome who, Paul reasons, need to hear the gospel again. He concludes the letter with these words: “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ” (16:25).

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How to Spot a Wolf

Rutledge Etheridge III: The Bible commands Christians, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account” (Heb. 13:17, NIV). But God’s Word also tells of times when we shouldn’t trust and submit to leaders. What are the circumstances when honoring God means disobeying, fleeing, or even calling out those who minister in his name? Paul warned the Ephesians elders of wolves who would come and not spare God’s flock (Acts 20:29). The apostle borrows the image of the wolf directly from Jesus (John 10:12; Matt. 7:15). As patterns of abuse come to light in the church, we urgently need this biblical warning that shows us the difference between a godly shepherd and one who preys upon the sheep. False teaching—preaching “a different gospel” (Gal. 1:6–7)—is a primary way a wolf reveals his true nature, but what are some other ways to tell a true shepherd from a wolf

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What Does It Mean to Pray “Your Kingdom Come”?

Kevin DeYoung: The Kingdom of God What is meant by God’s kingdom and by God’s will in the Lord’s prayer? Let’s start with the word kingdom. The Greek word for kingdom (basileia) occurs 162 times in the New Testament, so clearly this is an important biblical term. Although the Lord’s Prayer uses the word kingdom as a stand-alone term, it is obviously a reference to God’s kingdom. Any correct understanding of kingdom in the New Testament must emphasize that it is the kingdom of God. Matthew’s Gospel often calls it the “kingdom of heaven,” but that is simply a Jewish way of referring to the kingdom that belongs to the God who dwells in heaven. A simple definition is to think of the kingdom of God as his reign and rule. Another way to think of the kingdom is as God’s redemptive presence coming down from heaven to earth. It is important to say something here about the relationship between the

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Why Gentleness in Ministry Matters More Than You Think

Michael J. Kruger: Well it’s that time of year. This Friday we will graduate another class of seminary students at RTS Charlotte, sending them off to serve the Lord in a variety of ways.  And during each of these graduations, I have an opportunity to give a final “charge” as the president of the campus. This year, I have been reflecting on RTS’s motto: “A mind for truth, and a heart for God.”  At RTS, we care very much about the mind—we value rigorous scholarship combined with a commitment to the historic truths of Reformed theology. But that is not all that matters to us. We also care about our students’ hearts; what kind of person they are, and where their affections lie. In other words, preparation for ministry involves more than intellectual-doctrinal development. It also involves the development of one’s character. Now, there’s lots that can be said about what should mark a person’s heart, but I think we can

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What Is Christ to Us If He Is Not Our All-Satisfying Treasure?

John Piper: The King of the Kingdom Is the Treasure Jesus said in Matthew 13:44, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Clearly, the treasure in this parable is identified as the “kingdom”—the rule of Christ, both in future glory and in the King’s present power and fellowship (“Behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you,” Luke 17:21). “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field.” It does not say, “Jesus is the treasure.” But as Jesus and the writers of the New Testament unfold the meaning of the kingdom, it becomes plain that the value of the kingdom derives from the value of Christ himself (the King!), and is inseparable from him. When we “enter the kingdom” (Matt. 5:20), whose reign do we enter? When we “receive

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The Divine Word of God

Matt Foreman: In the book, “Taking God At His Word”, Kevin DeYoung writes, “Scripture, because it is the breathed out word of God, possesses the same authority as the God-man Jesus Christ. Submission to the Scriptures is submission to God.”[1] Over the last 200 years, many critics have disputed such a claim. They have accused Christians of worshiping the Bible and not making necessary distinctions between the Bible and God. Some have said that we need to see the truths behind the Bible, and not worry so much about the Bible itself. However, the Bible itself actually supports DeYoung’s claim, and often deliberately blurs any distinction between God and the Scriptures. Hebrews 4:12-13 is one of the most famous statements in the Bible about the Bible: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the

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The Bible’s Not an Instruction Manual

Jared Wilson: “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth” Ever heard the Bible explained that way? It’s a handy mnemonic device that certainly has some truth to it. But does it get at the heart of what the Bible really is? The way so many of us treat the Scriptures—as God’s “how to” book—doesn’t seem quite right when we carefully look at what its own pages say. And I fear that the way we use the Bible in this way actually accomplishes the opposite of what we intended. If the Bible is not essentially an instruction manual for practical application, then, what is it? If it’s not mainly about what we need to do, what is it about? If it’s not about us, who is it about? The Bible Is about Jesus About Jesus? Well, duh,” you’re thinking right now. That goes without saying. And I agree. It has been going without saying. But we need to keep saying it. We don’t “go”

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Anticipating Easter in the Old Testament

Davy Ellison: Imagine you live in first-century Jerusalem. A year has passed since the Messiah left an empty grave in his wake. Shortly after, you heard Peter preach on the Day of Pentecost, and you repented, believed, were baptized, and joined the church (Acts 2:41). Today, you look forward to gathering with fellow members of “the Way” (Acts 9:2). What passage of Scripture do you think would be preached to mark the occasion? If I had the pastor’s ear, I might have encouraged him to trace the theme of resurrection through the pages of the Hebrew Bible—the Scriptures of the earliest Christians. Let me offer a five-part homiletical outline. 1. Resurrection Power The first port of call is the Bible’s beginning: creation. Resurrection, after all, is predicated on a God who has the power to resurrect. And God showed resurrection-like power when he spoke the world into being. Throughout Genesis 1, God speaks—and heaven, light, sky, land, living creatures, and humanity come into

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One of the Most Overlooked Arguments for the Resurrection

Michael J. Kruger: Well, soon it will be Easter. That wonderful time of the year when we remember (and celebrate) the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. But, not all will be celebrating. There are many that find Easter to be a senseless holiday—apart from, perhaps, the joys of Sunday brunch or chocolate eggs. After all, it is argued, we all know that people don’t rise from the dead. And there are no reasons to think it happened in the case of Jesus of Nazareth. In response to such skepticism, apologists have been making their best arguments for the resurrection.  There’s the empty tomb. There’s the fact that women were the first eyewitnesses which was unlikely to be invented. And there’s the larger appearance to the 500 witnesses. But, of course, each of these claims has been contested. As for the empty tomb, scholars have argued that standard Roman practice was to put crucified criminals in a common grave, not

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Jesus, the Bread of Life

Jared C. Wilson: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). John 6 details a fascinating episode in the ministry of Jesus. It is a long chapter and a complex one, beginning with the miraculous feeding of the five thousand. As with all miracles, we are meant to see them as pointers to the signified, Christ himself and his kingdom. Like the parables, the miracles are windows into the life of the in-breaking kingdom of God. But many wanted Jesus to be their performing magician, like a trained miracle monkey or some such blasphemy. The Pharisees often sought signs from him this way, as later did Herod (Luke 23:8). The average Joes of Jesus’ day were rather a mixed bag. It is difficult to know if even all he physically healed were born again. Certainly many were gifted faith and therefore had the eyes to

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Should the Church Really Be Always Reforming?

Kevin DeYoung: The Church doesn’t get everything right. Anyone who knows church history will admit that Christians have been wrong before, and they will be wrong again. And yet, to confess our interpretive imperfection is not to open the door to every interpretive innovation. Change is not always good and drifting with the winds of the world is always bad. Whenever there is a push to alter the church’s historic understanding of the faith — regarding sexuality or biblical authority or the historicity of Adam and Eve or whatever — you are bound to hear someone appeal to the Reformation slogan semper reformanda. We are told that the Spirit reveals new truths for a new day, that Jesus is pouring old wine into new wineskins, that the church must be “always reforming.” While it’s true that we all see through a glass dimly and must be open to changing our minds, the Latin phrase semper reformanda was not about reforming the church’s confessions

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5 Reasons to Love Repentance

Will Anderson: The imperative—“Repent!”—assaults modern sensibilities like nails on a chalkboard. Repentance is often dismissed as the sadistic mantra of self-loathers; or worse, dreaded as a pistol drawn in pulpits to scare sinners into submission. But repentance—the act of turning from sin and toward God—pervades the biblical story as a life preserver for God’s people, not a cruel waterboarding tactic. Strikingly, Jesus’s main message is summarized in the Gospels as: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:15; Luke 5:32). If repentance is so central in Jesus’s teaching, why is it so peripheral (or nonexistent) in ours? Repentance, Where Art Thou? Different tribes give different responses. Progressives tend to deny repentance altogether, rejecting it as fundamentalist fodder. I recently met with a local progressive church leader who feels this way, and during our charitable yet lively conversation, she remarked: “I never address sin from the pulpit. I don’t think it’s helpful to tell people how bad they are all the time.” While

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How to Help Those Who Believe the Prosperity Gospel

By Sean DeMars Explain the True Gospel How do we help our family members, friends, coworkers, or even fellow church members who are swept up in the prosperity gospel? Here are a few simple ideas as you prayerfully engage their error. The most important way to help is to teach them a right understanding of the gospel. According to Scripture, the gospel says we were dead in sin (Eph. 2:1), separated from God, and destined for his holy wrath (Isa. 59:2). But even when we were dead in our sins, God loved us and sent his Son to die for us (Rom. 5:8). Through Jesus’s death and resurrection, God has reconciled us to himself (2 Cor. 5:18). The benefits of Christ’s work are applied to us personally when we recognize this message to be true and respond by repenting of our sin and trusting in Christ alone, joyfully recognizing Jesus’s lordship over our lives (Mark 1:15; Rom. 10:9; 1 John 5:3). This

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J. I. Packer on the Surprise Blessing of Trials

Jeremy Linneman: I remember where I was when I read these words by the late theologian J. I. Packer: “A certain type of ministry of the gospel is cruel. It doesn’t mean to be, but it is.” What is the cruel sort of ministry Packer had in mind? His answer would haunt me. I was going through a particularly hard season of depression and had been suffering from chronic illness. It was a season of trial and discouragement that had lasted far too long—or so I thought. I’d prayed. I’d talked with wise counselors. I’d prayed more. But this difficult season was unrelenting, and my spirit wasn’t lifting. Then my friend recommended Packer’s Knowing God. I’d read it before, but he pointed me to a chapter late in the book called “These Inward Trials.” I reopened the classic, found the chapter, and began to read. That very night, my whole mindset toward pain and suffering began to change. (Some lessons can’t be

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Knowing God – A Reader’s Guide to a Christian Classic

Article by Sam Storms: Theocentricity is a big and imposing word that simply means “God-centered.” To be theocentric means that God himself is the core of all you believe, and the governing, gravitational force of all you do. And in my judgment, no one in recent memory more readily embodied this perspective on life more than the late J.I. Packer (1926–2020), especially in his classic work, Knowing God. James Inell Packer is justifiably known for much. His rigorous, thoroughly biblical articulation of penal substitutionary atonement, his unwavering defense of biblical inerrancy, and his penetrating insights into the contribution of the Puritans are just a few of the many qualities for which he is remembered. But when he himself was asked, “What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment than anything else?” he did not hesitate to answer: the knowledge of God (33). Pigmy Christianity Packer had little patience for those who would speak of the Christian

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God’s Sovereignty and Glory

Derek Thomas: God is sovereign in creation, providence, redemption, and judgment. That is a central assertion of Christian belief and especially in Reformed theology. God is King and Lord of all. To put this another way: nothing happens without God’s willing it to happen, willing it to happen before it happens, and willing it to happen in the way that it happens. Put this way, it seems to say something that is expressly Reformed in doctrine. But at its heart, it is saying nothing different from the assertion of the Nicene Creed: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty.” To say that God is sovereign is to express His almightiness in every area. God is sovereign in creation. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Apart from God, there was nothing. And then there was something: matter, space, time, energy. And these came into being ex nihilo—out of nothing. The will to create was entirely

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