Do You Believe in a Santa Christ?

Nathan W. Bingham: In Sinclair Ferguson’s book, In Christ Alone, he shares the sad reality that many Christians have a Christology that is more informed by Santa Claus than Scripture. For them, the message of the incarnation has been so twisted or diluted that they have in fact created for themselves a savior who is nothing more than a Santa Christ. As you prayerfully read Sinclair Ferguson’s words, ask yourself the following question this Christmas season: “Do I believe in a Santa Christ?” 1. A Pelagian Jesus is a Santa Christ Santa Christ is sometimes a Pelagian Jesus. Like Santa, he simply asks us whether we have been good. More exactly, since the assumption is that we are all naturally good, Santa Christ asks us whether we have been “good enough.” So just as Christmas dinner is simply the better dinner we really deserve, Jesus becomes a kind of added bonus who makes a good life even better. He is not seen as the Savior of helpless sinners. 2. A Semi-Pelagian Jesus is

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Why Must Jesus Be both Human and Divine?

Erik Raymond: Recently someone who is just beginning to investigate Christianity asked me an important question. As they are wading through the biblical data, the question came up, Why was Jesus both human and divine? Is this an important detail?   This is an important question. It’s vital that we understand not only that Jesus was truly God and fully man, but also why it is important.  I have found the Heidelberg Catechism quite helpful in its concise explanation.  On question 16 we read, Q:  Why must he be a true and righteous man? A:   He must be a true man because the justice of God requires that the same human nature which has sinned should pay for sin. He must be a righteous man because one who himself is a sinner he cannot pay for others. The answer here is focusing on the need for a real human nature. Why? Because the penalty for sin requires suffering in body and soul. And only

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Why Christians Should Think More About Heaven

Owen Strachan: You’ve no doubt heard the saying, “Don’t be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good.” I get the meaning here. We all know absentminded folks. If you’re the type of person who thinks deeply about life but goes out the door in mismatched socks, you might need to become a bit more practical. We’ve all met people who fit this mold. Maybe you and I are those people! But I have observed that most Christians struggle the opposite way. Let me put it plainly: I don’t think we’re nearly heavenly minded enough. We focus a ton on what’s right in front of us—politics, movies, our social-media feeds—but give little thought to what lies ahead in eternity. Small wonder so many believers today are discouraged. There is a marvelous and easy-to-comprehend solution to this common problem. If we will take the time to think about heaven, we will find our gaze lifted. If we will give less attention to tracking the latest Twitter

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Mind Your Christmas Imperatives

Tim Challies: Christmas is coming and with it a special season for Christians. Or most Christians, anyway. As we get into the season and as so many people begin their month-long reflections on the birth of Jesus Christ, it’s probably a good time to consider our Christmas imperatives. What are Christians commanded to do in the Christmas season? The Incarnation is nothing short of a miracle. As Christians, we believe that God took on flesh. Jesus Christ, who was and is and always will be God, became a man. The infinite and eternal God was, in the words of John Wesley, “contracted to a span” and “incomprehensibly made man.” An early theologian marveled, “Remaining what he was, he became what he was not.” He became what he was not so he could save the people he loved. Without the incarnation there could be no salvation. Little wonder, then, that God’s people celebrate it on this day and through this season

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God Is Incomprehensible

R.C. Sproul: What can we know about God? That’s the most basic question of theology, for what we can know about God and whether we can know anything about Him at all determine the scope and content of our study. Here we must consider the teaching of the greatest theologians in history, all of whom have affirmed the “incomprehensibility of God.” By using the term incomprehensible, they are not referring to something we are unable to comprehend or know at all. Theologically speaking, to say God is incomprehensible is not to say that God is utterly unknowable. It is to say that none of us can comprehend God exhaustively. Incomprehensibility is related to a key tenet of the Protestant Reformation—the finite cannot contain (or grasp) the infinite. Human beings are finite creatures, so our minds always work from a finite perspective. We live, move, and have our being on a finite plane, but God lives, moves, and has His being in infinity.

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The Great Exchanges of Romans

Sinclair Ferguson: When the wonder of the gospel breaks into your life, you feel as though you are the first person to discover its power and glory. Where has Christ been hidden all these years? He seems so fresh, so new, so full of grace. Then comes a second discovery—it is you who have been blind, but now you have experienced exactly the same as countless others before you. You compare notes. Sure enough, you are not the first! Thankfully you will not be the last. If my own experience is anything by which to judge, discovering Romans can be a similar experience. I still remember, as a Christian teenager, the slow dawning of this thought in my mind: all Scripture is God-breathed and useful to me, but it also seems to have a shape and structure, a center and circumference. If that is so, then some biblical books may be foundational; these should be mastered first. Then came the realization that

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Do You Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness?

R.C. Sproul: Some years ago, I spoke with a man whose business was to help people plan for the future. He asked me about my goals, about what I wanted to accomplish in life. As I went through this exercise, I noticed that one thing was conspicuously absent from my goals: there was nothing there about righteousness. I thought, “What’s wrong with this picture? How could a Christian establish life goals and not have at the top the attainment of righteousness in the sight of God?” Did not our Lord say, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33)? One of the scariest things that Jesus ever said was the warning He gave that “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). The Pharisees were devoted to the quest for righteousness, but they ended up in a

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Penal Substitution and Gospel Proclamation

Jonathan Griffiths: It is one thing to accept that a doctrine is true; it is quite another for it to shape the life and ministry of the church. The doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement (PSA) is a controversial doctrine in some circles. But those of us who affirm that it is a truly biblical doctrine need to grapple carefully with how it should shape and inform our ministry. The purpose of this brief article is to argue that PSA should be at the heart of our proclamation of the gospel—at the heart of our regular preaching of the word of God. There are important reasons for this both at the level of theological integrity and at the level of pastoral practicality. Theological reasons for the centrality of PSA in preaching Preaching that is biblical in the truest sense must be sensitive to the wider storyline of Scripture and properly contextualized within biblical theology, consciously shaped by certain key biblical-theological truths.

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That you can pray

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self controlled so that you can pray.”   1 Peter 4:7 Paul wrote in the thirteenth chapter of his letter to the Romans that…”The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” (Rom.13:11)  Now, if that was true for first century believers how much more so for us who are well int the third millennium. Two thousand years have past since Paul gave this exhortation to vigilance in the light of Christ’s return, and we may be tempted to think that He will never come. Peter addresses this kind of mistaken thinking in his second epistle, explaining that the ‘delay’ in Jesus return has to do with God’s kindness and patience in bringing many people to salvation. (see 2 Peter chapter 3) So the exhortation remains relevant. We are to rouse ourselves from spiritual lethargy

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Where Did Satan Come From?

Guy M. Richard: The Bible’s account of the fall in the Garden of Eden raises a number of important questions. Chief among them usually goes something like this: Where does evil come from in a good world created by a good God? We must admit that the Bible does not explicitly and definitively answer this question. But we must also acknowledge that the Bible does tell us many things that, taken together, can help us make a reasonable attempt at an answer. Where Did the Serpent Come From? Genesis 3:1 is the first Bible’s first mention of a serpent. Genesis 1–2 gives no record of God creating any such animal. But several factors support the idea that God created serpents at the same time he made every other “beast of the field.” For one thing, Genesis 3:1 tells us the serpent was “more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made,” which implies that God made the serpent, just as

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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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