The Critical Question for Our Generation

John Piper: The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there? And the question for Christian leaders is: Do we preach and teach and lead in such a way that people are prepared to hear that question and answer with a resounding No? J. C. Ryle: But alas, how little fit for heaven are many who talk of going to heaven, when they die, while they manifestly have no saving faith and no real acquaintance with Christ. You give Christ no honor here. You have no communion with Him. You do not love

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Why Joni Eareckson Tada wants to take her wheelchair to heaven

Joni, from her moving booklet Hope . . . The Best of Things: I sure hope I can bring this wheelchair to heaven. Now, I know that’s not theologically correct. But I hope to bring it and put it in a little corner of heaven, and then in my new, perfect, glorified body, standing on grateful glorified legs, I’ll stand next to my Savior, holding his nail-pierced hands. I’ll say, “Thank you, Jesus,” and he will know that I mean it, because he knows me. He’ll recognize me from the fellowship we’re now sharing in his sufferings. And I will say, “Jesus, do you see that wheelchair? You were right when you said that in this world we would have trouble, because that thing was a lot of trouble. But the weaker I was in that thing, the harder I leaned on you. And the harder I leaned on you, the stronger I discovered you to be. It never would have

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“I never made a sacrifice”

“If you knew the satisfaction of performing a duty as well as the gratitude to God which the missionary must always feel in being chosen for so noble and sacred a calling, you would have no hesitation in embracing it.  For my own part, I have never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office.  People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. . . . Anxiety, sickness, suffering or danger now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause and cause the spirit to waver and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment.  All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall hereafter be revealed in and for us.  I never made a sacrifice.  Of this we ought not to talk when we remember the great sacrifice which He made, who

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The Inner Essence of Worship

John Piper from 2008: The essential, vital, indispensable, defining heart of worship is the experience of being satisfied with God. This satisfaction in God magnifies God in the heart. This explains why the apostle Paul makes so little distinction between worship as a congregational service and worship as a pattern of daily life. They have the same root – a passion for treasuring God as infinitely valuable. The impulse for singing a hymn and the impulse for visiting a prisoner is the same: a thirst for God – a desire to experience as much satisfaction in God as we can. Excerpted from Gravity and Gladness on Sunday Morning, Part 1.

Beware of Mirrors

John Bloom writes: Remember the story of Narcissus? He’s the proud, beautiful man in the Greek myth who saw his reflection in a pool, fell in love it, couldn’t tear himself away, and it killed him. Mirrors are very dangerous for proud people. Believe me. I speak from experience. But mirrors present most of us with a different danger than Narcissus. When we look into a mirror we do not see enchanting beauty, nor do we see the glory of God imaging forth in the indescribably complex, ingenious, phenomenal, spectacular miracle that is a human being. What we see mainly are defects. The captivating power mirrors wield over us is not what we see, but what we want to see. What we see is deficiency. What we desperately want to see is sufficiency. And worse yet, we see mirrors are all around us. Fallen, proud hearts turn just about everything into a mirror. Whether we’re gazing at magazines or malls or mutual funds

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Only grace has the power to change us

“The best way of casting out an impure affection is to admit a pure one; and by the love of what is good, to expel the love of what is evil. . . . Thus it is, that the freer the Gospel, the more sanctifying is the Gospel; and the more it is received as a doctrine of grace, the more will it be felt as a doctrine according to godliness.  This is one of the secrets of the Christian life . . . . Salvation by grace – salvation by free grace – salvation not of works, but according to the mercy of God – salvation on such a footing is not more indispensable to the deliverance of our persons from the hand of justice, than it is to the deliverance of our hearts from the chill and the weight of ungodliness.  Retain a single shred or fragment of legality with the Gospel, and we raise a topic of

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Treasure Christ, and You Cannot Lose

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. —Philippians 1:21 Edwards, preaching on this text– If it be so that your death is your gain, be exhorted to wean your hearts more and more from the world. If your gain consists not in staying in the world but in going out of it, how important is it to set your hearts upon it as if it consisted in it. Will you set your hearts upon the things of this life when your gain consists not in this life but in the next? Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Is death gain to you? Be entirely resigned to God’s will while living or dying: you are always safe in either of these conditions, for you to live is Christ and to die is gain. . . . And seeing it is so that you are got into such a happy estate and condition that

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Owen: How to Strengthen Yourself Against Future Temptation

Store the heart with a sense of the love of God in Christ, with the eternal design of his grace, with a taste of the blood of Christ, and his love in the shedding of it; get a relish of the privileges we have thereby–our adoption, justification, acceptation with God; fill the heart with thoughts of the beauty of holiness . . . and thou wilt, in an ordinary course of walking with God, have great peace and security as to the disturbance of temptations. –John Owen, quoted in Sinclair Ferguson, John Owen on the Christian Life (Banner of Truth, 1987), 144 (HT: Dane Ortlund)

God means to fill us with himself

If we would rise to the full measure of God’s standard for us, let us realize the magnitude of God as well as of our own being, for it is with nothing less than Himself that He means to fill us. Let us take in the full dimensions of His resources of grace, their length, their breadth, their depth, their height; and then let us measure, if we can, the magnitude of God who is the living substance and personal source of all this grace, and we shall have some approximation at least to what the apostle means when He exclaims, ‘Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.’ — A.B. Simpson, quoted by Fred Sanders inThe Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything(Wheaton, IL: Crossway,

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Being a Christian means Christ is all!

Iain Murray writes: Christianity means knowing and trusting Christ as a living Person; it is a relationship which so captures both the mind and the heart of the believer that henceforth to know Christ, to esteem Him and His words, becomes the very object of existence: “To you who believe He is precious” (1 Pet. 2:7) – more precious certainly than all earthly goods or even life (Luke 14:26). A Christian is someone who no longer lives for himself but understands, with Paul, why Christ is his righteousness, his life, his all . . . A Christian . . . is one who so knows Christ that all things are secondary to his Saviour . . . A Christian is one whose greatest pleasure is to see God magnified in Christ. Iain Murray, Evangelicalism Divided (Carlisle: Banner Of Truth, 2001), 152, 159, 166, 316. (HT: Dan Orr)

The Diverse Excellencies of Christ

Via Jared Wilson, this is fom John Piper’s 2008 Together 4 the Gospel Conference message titled “How the Supremacy of Christ Creates Radical Christian Sacrifice”. Christ is supreme because: He is God’s final revelation He is the heir of all things He is the creator of the world He is the radiance of God’s glory He is the exact imprint of God’s nature He upholds the universe by the word of His power He made purification for sins He sits at the right hand of the Majesty He is God enthroned forever with the scepter of uprightness He is worshiped by angels His rule will have no end His joy is above all other things in the universe He took on human flesh He was crowned with glory and honor because of his suffering He was the founder of our salvation He was made perfect in all of his obedience by his suffering He destroyed the one who had the power

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Christ has enough of all we most desire

What is there that you can desire should be in a Savior, that is not in Christ? What excellency is there wanting? What is there that is great or good; what is there that is venerable or winning; what is there that is adorable or endearing; or what can you think of that would be encouraging, which is not to be found in the person of Christ? Would you have your Savior to be great and honorable, because you are not willing to be beholden to a mean person? And is not Christ a person honorable enough to be worthy that you should be dependent on him; is he not a person high enough to be appointed to so honorable a work as your salvation? Would you not only have a Savior of high degree, but would you have him, notwithstanding his exaltation and dignity, to be made also of low degree, that he might have experience of afflictions and

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Transformed!

My thanks to Tim Challies for posting this article by Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Recently I ran into a woman I had not seen for several weeks. I hardly recognized her. Her hair, normally blonde, had turned completely white. The transformation was dramatic. All it took was forty minutes and some bleach. If only spiritual transformation were that easy. Just read a book, see a counselor, attend a conference, make a fresh commitment, shed a few tears at an altar, memorize a few verses … and, presto, out comes a mature, godly Christian. To the contrary, the experience of many believers looks like this. Commit. Fail. Confess. Re-commit. Fail again. Confess again. Re-re-commit. Fail again. Give up. After all the struggle and effort, we tend to want a “quick fix”—a once-for-all victory—so we won’t have to keep wrestling with the same old issues. In my own walk with God, I have discovered some helpful principles about how spiritual change takes place. 1. Deep, lasting spiritual change rarely happens

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Christ the manifestation of the Father

“We have only to track the divine footsteps of the Redeemer on earth, there to behold ‘as in a mirror the glory of the Lord.’ What do we see? A Being, indeed, of infinite holiness—unsparing and uncompromising in His rebuke of iniquity, sternly denouncing sin in all its forms, driving with a scourge the sacrilegious traffickers from His Father’s house, proclaiming the impending and certain doom awaiting incorrigible sinners, the workers of iniquity; even predicting by discourse and parable the dreadful verities of a judgment-day, and pronouncing everlasting doom on the impenitent and unbelieving; on all traitors to their trust, on all neglectors and squanderers of committed talents; thus repeating, in words not to be misunderstood, the very truth which fell on the ears of Moses in his Rock-cleft, as the sublime voice and vision were dying away—’And that will by no means clear the guilty.’ But yet, in combination with this, we are called to contemplate one of infinite

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I must have Christ

From Voices from the Past: Puritan Devotional Readings (p. 251) by Thomas Watson: We know the kingdom of grace has been set up in our hearts by the change wrought in the soul.  There is a new nature, light in the mind, order in the affections, a pliable will, and tenderness in the conscience.  If there is no change of heart there is no sign of grace.  God’s children desire God, like the beating of the pulse indicates life.  Saints love him, not only for what he has, but for what he is; not only for his rewards, but for his holiness.  Hypocrites may desire him for his jewels, but not for his beauty.  A believer cannot be satisfied without God; let the world heap her honours and riches, it will not satisfy.  No flower will satisfy the thirsty.  The Christian says, “I must have Christ, grace, and heaven, though I take it by storm.”  We desire Christ more than the world, and

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Preaching Christ or preaching about Christ?

Outstanding from Ray Ortlund: There is a difference between preaching Christ and preaching about Christ.  Preaching Christ is presenting him so clearly and directly that the people experience the sermon this way: “It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified” (Galatians 3:1).  Preaching about Christ is presenting ideas related to him.  It’s a good thing to do.  But preaching Christ is more profound, more daring and more helpful. In Intellectuals, page 31, Paul Johnson wrote of the poet Shelley, “He burned with a fierce love but it was an abstract flame and the poor mortals who came near it were often scorched.  He put ideas before people and his life is a testament to how heartless ideas can be.”  It is not enough for us preachers to burn with a fierce love.  We must burn with a fierce love for Christ the crucified Friend of sinners and for the sinners right there before us who need that Friend. 

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Strength Depending on Weakness

From Burk Parsons: We have heard people say, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Both believers and unbelievers alike cling to this proverbial life principle that gives us a sense of comfort and hope in the midst of our daily anxieties, miseries, and afflictions. This is a universally understood truth that Scripture itself teaches (Rom. 5:3-5; Jam. 1:2-4, 12; 1 Pet. 4:12-19). Trials do indeed make us stronger and more steadfast in our faith. Trials mature us. They help us to grow up. However, this is only one part of the biblical equation. When we as a human race fell into sin, our affections changed, and we who once had the ability not to sin became a people who could not help but sin and even found pleasure in sin, albeit fleeting pleasure. Sin ravaged our hearts and minds, and, like Tolkien’s Gollum, we began to wallow in the mire of sin-dependent idolatry all the while maintaining our autonomy

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How is Your Worship Life?

An excerpt from Marcus Honeysett’s EMA address: The question I most want to ask any Christian, but especially any group of Christian leaders is “how would you describe the state of your worship life at the moment?” Do you currently have the space, capacity and leisure to enjoy God? If not, something will have to go. The reason I say this is that biblical leadership and preaching are by-products of joy in God. They don’t work properly unless they spring from this source. You can’t say “I honour God in my preaching” if you heart is not bursting for him in your affections and adoration. You really can’t. The tasks of leadership and preaching centre around working with people for their progress in the Lord and their joy in the Lord (Phil 1, 2 Cor 4). And the strength to carry out the task, that ability to labour and struggle with God’s energy powerfully working in us, comes from the joy

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The Sin of Sodom

From Tyler Kenney at Desiring God: As Bible-believing Christians, we are known for our convictions against sexual immorality. But are we known equally as well for our contempt for religious arrogance? Scripture clearly states that sexual immorality is sin (Matthew 15:19; Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 6:18; Galatians 5:19, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, etc.). We must also remember, however, that this is only one bad fruit of our rebellion against God, one among a list of many others, including idolatry, theft, greed, drunkenness, reviling and swindling (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). And all of these, God says, are just spin-offs of a more deep-seated trouble. Speaking to a disobedient Israel, the prophet Ezekiel declares, Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it. (Ezekiel 16:49-50) In the context surrounding this passage,

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