Sam Storms: I fear we often have an unrealistic image of the Apostle Paul. We tend to think of him as if he were some combination of a Navy Seal and a Super-Hero. And yet, Paul knew what it was like to experience human weakness. When he described his ministry in the city of Corinth he said that he was with them “in weakness and in fear and in much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3). I don’t need to tell any of you what it is like to feel weak and inadequate and overwhelmed. But here is the good news: The gospel can strengthen you! The gospel can empower you! The gospel can supply you with whatever you need to remain faithful to the Lord and to accomplish whatever he’s called you to do. How, you ask? I’ve got a lot of answers! Consider your suffering. The only way you can suffer unjustly without growing bitter and resentful is tied directly to
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Scott Redd: The story of the sea storm in the Gospel of Mark picks up right after Jesus has given a series of sermons. He’s preached to a crowd so large that he had to speak from a boat pushed a short distance into the water. Mark 4:35–41 tells the story of Jesus calming the storm—but, curiously, we find the Lord asleep as the chaos breaks out around him: And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. (Mark 4:37–39) Why was Jesus asleep in the boat? There are a few possible explanations. Mark, as well as most
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Sam Storms: In 1862 Joseph Gilmore wrote one of the more familiar of our traditional hymns: He Leadeth Me. He leadeth me, O blessèd thought! O words with heav’nly comfort fraught! Whate’er I do, where’er I be, Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me. He leadeth me, He leadeth me, By His own hand He leadeth me; His faithful follower I would be, For by His hand He leadeth me When Jesus turns to describe himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep, he not only speaks of how he loves us but also how leads us. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep
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John Piper: Looking at Harshness and Cheerfulness Most of us know people who are blunt. Sometimes their bluntness morphs into harshness and unkindness. If that happens often enough, we may sense that they have a kind of personality disorder, because they seem unable to express emotions other than frustration and anger. They give little positive affirmation and little praise—of anything. There is little spontaneous expression of the sort of joy that is self-forgetful and simply swept up into some wonderful experience. On the other hand, most of us know people who are always chipper, always smiling, always commending, always gentle and kind. We marvel at this. It seems wonderful and biblical. But then, over time, we may sense that something is amiss. These people never seem to notice the wrongs others do. They seem to never take note of evils and injustices in society. They are silent when others are wrestling with a difficult moral issue. They don’t give their
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John Piper: A Rare Trait I am drawn to people who suffer without murmuring. Especially when they believe in God but never get angry with him or criticize him. It seems to me that not murmuring is one of the rarest traits in the world. And when it is combined with a deep faith in God—who could alter our painful circumstances, but doesn’t—it has a beautiful God-trusting, God-honoring quality that makes it all the more attractive. Paul was like that. Brought to the Brink of Death Paul tells of the time when his faith was put to the test in a way that brought him to the brink of despair and death: We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a
read more The Key to Not Grumbling in Suffering
John Piper: So the challenge of the Christian life — and at 66, I am deeply desirous to learn how to do this. Paul did say, “I’ve learned the secret” as though it took some time (see Philippians 4:12 NASB). How many times do I come to the end of a day and I shake my head and say, “It’s been eight hours since I thought about trusting a promise.” I haven’t even thought about it. But do you know what else I’ve had in those eight hours? Anxiety. Murmuring. Where do they come from? Not trusting promises. This takes some of us a lifetime to learn. O you young people, get this now. That’s why I prayed at the beginning, “O God, build habits into our lives.” Habits of trusting promises, habits of hourly going to the Lord and saying, “I need you. I need you. I need you.” And then don’t just go away saying, “Yeah, I need him,” and feeling
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Tim Challies: Whatever else we may know about Christians, we know this: Christians are supposed to go to church. Every Sunday, Christians gather together to worship God and spend time in fellowship. But do we actually know why we do this? Do we pause to consider the purpose of the local church? In this series of articles we are considering the purpose of many things we may take for granted, and so far we have looked at marriage, sex, and children. Today we are broadening our perspective from family to the church. It is important to note that our concern here is not the universal church, which is comprised of all Christians of all times and places. Rather, we are answering the question: What is the purpose of the local church? In other words, why do we as Christians gather together in local congregations? Common Views of The Church As we consider why we gather week by week, we can
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Jon Bloom: What do you want? What do you desire? What is your ambition? Do you really want to know? Look at your behavior. You do what you want. This is a devastatingly simple psychology of motivation. But it’s what the Bible teaches: James: Faith without works is dead. Don’t tell me you have faith if the way you live doesn’t back up what you say. (James 2:17–18) John: Love without deeds is dead. Don’t tell me you love if the way you live doesn’t back up what you say. (1 John 3:17–18) Paul: Grace without holiness is dead. Don’t tell me you revel in God’s grace if the way you live doesn’t back up what you say. (Romans 6:12–14) Jesus: Discipleship without obedience is dead. Don’t tell me I’m your Lord if the way you live doesn’t back up what you say. (Matthew 7:21) We may say what sounds orthodox, but we do what we really believe. We may
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Eric Geiger: We need confrontation. In Christian community, we live and labor alongside broken and struggling brothers and sisters. We ourselves, no matter how long we have walked with the Lord, are broken and struggling with our own issues. All of us are prone to wander and fall, so we need people around us who “if they see something, say something,” who care when something in our lives is left “unattended.” We need people around us who are loving enough to confront us when our hearts are unattended by His truth, when our marriages are unattended by our affections, when our relationships are unattended by forgiveness, and when our decisions are unattended by His agenda. We need to confront. If sin goes un-confronted, the community can self-destruct because the community loses the commitment to the values and beliefs that make her distinct. If you are in Christian community and you see something in a brother or sister’s life, if you
read more 4 Ways Confrontation Must Happen in Christian Community
Brad Bigney, author of, Gospel Treason: Betraying The Gospel With Hidden Idols: What am I talking about? Idolatry. Yes, idolatry. So why do we live blind to it so often? Here’s why: idolatry doesn’t operate out in the open; that’s not how it happens. It’s elusive and often flies under the radar undetected. And this is compounded by the fact you can struggle to even know your own heart, because the human heart is so deceptive. Jeremiah tells us: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? ‘I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds’ (Jer 17:9–10). Your heart and my heart are deceitful and desperately sick so we can’t trust them. It’ll lead you into back alleys, one-way streets and dead-ends; all the while promising you life, joy, peace and purpose, but it’s a lie. It always
read more Are you living blind to one of your greatest enemies?
Matt Moore: Justification—being declared righteous before God—is possible only by grace through faith. You can heap all your good deeds upon one another and climb them to heaven, but if you aren’t clothed in Christ’s righteousness, God will toss your self-righteous self right out of his presence. Our sinfulness runs too deep for any of our deeds to be purely righteous (Isaiah 64:6), and the guilt we bear for our trespasses is beyond our ability to absolve. The blood of Jesus is the only hope any of us has. Seeing all that Christ is for us and trusting in him to save us is the only means by which we can be declared blameless. Christians glory in being justified as a gift by the grace of God alone—not their own works or morality (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, in every generation there have been ignorant and unstable people that take the message of God’s grace through Christ and, as Peter wrote, “twist it
read more Jesus Died To Make Obedience Possible, Not Optional
Darryl Dash: The older I get, the more I try to remember the basics. This is what I appreciate in the pastors I love. These are the qualities I want to see in my life. A deepening love for the Lord — Nobody should be more amazed by the depth of God’s grace than the pastor. The thing that people need most from a pastor isn’t strategy or charisma. It’s a heart that is alive to the triune God. A genuine, loving marriage — I remember seeing Jill Briscoe laugh at Stu Briscoe’s jokes. It told me more about him as a man and pastor than if I’d read every book he’d written. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. A ministry committed to the Word — I take 1 Peter 4:11 seriously. If you speak, speak God’s Word. Don’t give us your thoughts or musings, or repackage something you read or heard. Give us God’s Word. Gratitude and love
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Donald S. Whitney: When we’re born again from above by the Spirit of God, the Lord makes a “new creation” of us (2 Cor 5:17). But when he accomplishes that radical, regenerating transformation of us, he does not eliminate our minds, our bodies, our emotions, our will or anything that’s a part of what makes us human. God’s grace doesn’t eliminate any of those things, instead he gives dramatically new purposes to them. He calls us to live the Christian life with the full — though God-centered — use of our minds and judgment and everything else that is a part of our humanity. Let go and let God? However, many people will tell you that your spiritual problems stem from the fact that you are trying to live the Christian life but that God never intended you to do so. They say that just as God never intended for you to save yourself, so he does not expect you to live
read more The Christian life isn’t meant to be effortless
John Piper: Seventeen Aspects of Holy Dissatisfaction One mark of Christian authenticity is discontentment with anything less than “all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). Coasting is not discipleship. Drifting in self-contentment is not like basking in the pool of security, but like floating, fast asleep, toward the falls. “We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away” (Hebrews 2:1). There is a holy discontentment. It is not a nail-biting uncertainty about our standing with God. It is the increased appetite of those who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good (1 Peter 2:2–3). It is the pursuit of those who have been pursued and captured by the strong arms of love. “Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12).
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What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus; what is discipleship? John Piper: A couple of observations about the word. The word discipleship never occurs in the Bible. The term is ambiguous in English. It can mean my discipleship in the sense of my own pattern of following Jesus and trusting him and learning from him. That is my discipleship. It could mean that. Or it can mean my activity of helping others be disciples in that sense of learning from him, growing in him. The second meaning — this helping others — does have a verb in New Testament Greek: mathetuo, to make disciples. It can mean preach the gospel so that people get converted to Christ and become Christians and, thus, disciples. For example, Acts 14:21says, “When they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium.” So that “make disciples” is one Greek word there and
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By Nathan Rose: I read recently that my denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, has a total of 16 million members, but on a typical Sunday only 6 million of those members attend their local church’s corporate worship gathering. Considering the importance and necessity of corporate worship for the Christian, this is a very discouraging statistic. Not only is it disheartening, it is also spiritually dangerous for those who profess Christ, but regularly miss worship with their church family. Below, I want to list some reasons and explain why skipping church is a really bad idea.  1. You will miss out on God’s primary design for your spiritual growth and well-being. The central aspect of corporate worship is the preaching of God’s Word. The proclamation of Scriptures is God’s primary means for a disciple of Jesus to grow in spiritual maturity. When a professing Christian misses church they are missing God’s prescribed process for spiritual growth. 2. You disobey God.
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A very helpful synopsis from Bradley Green (23-24): 1. Loving or knowing God is linked with obedience (John 14:15, 21,23; 15:10; 1 John 2:3-6; 3:22, 24; 5:3; 2 John 6; Rev. 12:17; 14:12) 2. The ‘conditional’ nature of our future salvation (Rom. 11:22; 1 Cor. 15:2; Heb. 3:6, 14; 4:14) 3. Christians must ‘overcome’ if they are ultimately to be saved (Heb. 10:38-39; Rev. 2:7, 11; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7) 4. The necessity of a great righteousness (Matt. 5:20) 5. The requirement of the law being met ‘in us’ (Rom. 8:3-4) 6. God will efficaciously work ‘in’ us, moving us to obey him (Phil. 2:12-13) 7. The necessity of putting to death the old man, by the power of the Spirit (Rom. 8:13-14) 8. ‘Faith’ and ‘obedience/works’ used as virtual synonyms (2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17; Rev. 12:17; 14:12; cf. 6:9) 9. We are truly judged, or justified, by our works (Matt. 7:21, 25; Rom. 2:13; cf. Jas.
read more The Necessity of Good Works and Obedience
All our obedience, every resolve to do good, and every work of faith is ‘by his power’ and so that the Lord Jesus would be glorified because of the grace he gives. Yes, we must pursue obedience, but that obedience must always be cruciform, formed by Christ’s cross. We must seek to obey because of the cross, find the grace to obey because of the cross, and live free from condemnation whether we succeed or fail in the light of the cross. The cross must be our only story, as Paul boldly proclaimed: ‘For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (1 Cor.2:2). — Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson Counsel from the Cross (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2009), 171-72 (HT: Of First Importance)
Joe Thorn: Last Sunday I preached a sermon titled “Gospel Affection” from 1 Peter 1:22-25 as a part of our Standing in Grace Series. At the end of the sermon I offered 10 practical ways to show love to one another in the church. Consider what follows a simple encouragement to press into a life of love in practical ways. A life God has called us to, saved us for, and modeled for us. 10 WAYS TO LOVE YOUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS 1. Put Them First “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Phil. 2:3) Self-denial lives at the center of love. True love denies self and supports another. Putting others first should be more than an act of humility, but an act of affection. It’s not that we think so little of ourselves, but that we feel so warmly toward our brothers and sisters in Christ that we are
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Tim Challies: I love to find and share practical methods or techniques for living the Christian life—ways other Christians live out their Christian faith day-by-day. As I speak with people, as I read books, as I listen to sermons, I am always looking for these tips which I call “faith hacks.” I am going to share another one with you today. It comes from Jerry Bridges and deals with the important disciplines of preaching the gospel to yourself. Bridges has written in several of his books about the importance of the daily practice of preaching the gospel to yourself. In The Discipline of Grace he writes, “When you set yourself to seriously pursue holiness, you will begin to realize what an awful sinner you are. And if you are not firmly rooted in the gospel and have not learned to preach it to yourself every day, you will soon become discouraged and will slack off in your pursuit of holiness.”
read more Faith Hacking: Preaching the Gospel To Yourself