Believer, Become What You Are

John Piper: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1–2) Believer, you died and the new you is alive, and you are God’s. The whole of our Christian life is learning to become — by God’s Spirit — what we already are in Christ. These verses show us how this newness in us comes to life in our everyday choices. In this four-minute video, John Piper explains how the Spirit within and the word of God without work together to make us new.

The Spirit-Formed Community

Trevin Wax: The power of Pentecost makes for a fantastic story. Rushing wind, flaming tongues, and the proclamation of a fisherman turned evangelist calling people to repent and be baptized. But don’t miss how Acts 2 ends. The power of the Spirit that flowed through the apostles’ proclamation is the power that gathers people into a new community. So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers. Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now all the believers were together and had everything in common. So they sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. And every day they devoted themselves [to meeting] together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They

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John Owen on the Four Main Functions of the Holy Spirit

John Owen: The chief and principal ends for which the Holy Spirit is promised and received may be reduced to these four heads:—(1.) Regeneration; (2.) Sanctification; (3.) Consolation; (4.) Edification. There are, indeed, very many distinct operations and distributions of the Spirit, as I have in part already discovered, and shall yet farther go over them in particular instances; but they may be reduced unto these general heads, or at least they will suffice to exemplify the different manner and ends of the receiving of the Spirit. And this is the plain order and method of these things, as the Scripture both plainly and plentifully testifies: — (1.) He is promised and received as to the work of regeneration unto the elect; (2.) As to the work of sanctification unto the regenerate; (3.) As to the work of consolation unto the sanctified; and, (4.) As unto gifts for edification unto professors, according to his sovereign will and pleasure. (HT: The

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10 Reasons to Desire All the Spiritual Gifts

By Bryan DeWire, Desiring God blog: Some might tell you not to really desire all the spiritual gifts. But when you say that, it does not seem to do justice to what 1 Corinthians 12–14 really says. The apostle bookends his famous chapter on love (1 Corinthians 13) with these two (perhaps surprising) charges: “earnestly desire the higher gifts” and “earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” (1 Corinthians 12:31; 1 Corinthians 14:1). God means that we desire all of God’s gifts, not to glut our selfishness, but to selflessly strengthen others — “so that the church may be built up” (1 Corinthians 14:5). Here are ten ways and reasons from the New Testament to desire all the spiritual gifts, not just the comfortable ones. Desire all the spiritual gifts because you desire God himself. “To each is giventhe manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). Desire all the spiritual gifts, knowing that “the greatest of these is

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The Holy Spirit as the “wellspring and taproot of all holy and Christ-like action”

J. I. Packer’s insight into the nature of godly living must be noted. He rightly insists that: “we can never hope to do anything right, never expect to perform a work that is truly good, unless God works within us to make us will and act for his good pleasure. Realizing this will make us depend constantly on our indwelling Lord – which is the heart of what is meant by abiding in Christ. Our living should accordingly be made up of sequences having the following shape. We begin by considering what we have to do, or need to do. Recognizing that without divine help we can do nothing as we should (see John 15:5), we confess to the Lord our inability, and ask that help be given. Then, confident that prayer has been heard and help will be given, we go to work. And, having done what we could, we thank God for the ability to do as much

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Three Surprising Ways to Grieve the Holy Spirit

Kevin DeYoung: The Holy Spirit is often described as light. He shines into the dark places of the heart and convicts us of sin (John 16:7-11). He is a lamp to illumine God’s word, teaching what is true and showing the truth to be precious (1 Cor. 2:6-16). And the Spirit throws a spotlight on Christ so that we can see his glory and be changed (John 16:14). That’s why 2 Corinthians 3:18speaks of becoming more like Christ by beholding the glory of Christ. Just as Moses had his face transfigured when he saw the Lord’s glory on Mount Sinai (Ex. 34:29; 2 Cor. 3:7), so will we be transformed when, by the Spirit, we behold God’s glory in the face of Christ. The Spirit, then, is a light to us in three ways: by exposing our guilt, by illuminating the word of God, and by showing us Christ. Or to put it another way, as Divine Light, the Holy Spirit works

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Continuationist Pneumatology

Benny Phillips: The spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians Paul paints a picture for us in 1 Corinthians 12–14 of what continuationist pneumatology might look like in the New Testament church. The passage is not primarily designed to explain individual gifts of the Spirit, but rather to place their usage in the context of the larger picture of local church worship. Continuationist pneumatology is about more than our corporate worship; it carries implications for how we live life with others, and that includes our times together as a local church. Today’s church culture tends to highlight the theatrical. The music, drama and preaching all seem to be directed at an audience. The goal seems to be a good experience, including moving, engaging entertainment. As someone recently said to me after visiting a church, “I felt more like I was at a good Christian concert than a time of worship.” I don’t know how conscious church leaders are of this, but the

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The Hidden Floodlight Ministry of the Holy Spirit

J.I. Packer: The Holy Spirit’s distinctive new covenant role, then, is to fulfill what we may call a floodlight ministry in relation to the Lord Jesus Christ. So far as this role was concerned, the Spirit “was not yet” (John 7:39, literal Greek) while Jesus was on earth; only when the Father had glorified him (see John 17:1,5) could the Spirit’s work of making men aware of Jesus’ glory begin. I remember walking to a church one winter evening to preach on the words “he shall glorify me,” seeing the building floodlit as I turned a corner, and realizing that this was exactly the illustration my message needed. When floodlighting is well done, the floodlights are so placed that you do not see them; you are not in fact supposed to see where the light is coming from; what you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained. The intended effect is to make it

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Union With Christ as Assurance of Life

“I grew up in a common form of American Christianity that basically treated anxiety like a fruit of the Spirit. If you were not worried about your own holiness, something was wrong. In relation to this, Reformed teaching on the double grace and the will’s bondage is very good news: rather than being ‘tossed back and forth without any certainty,’ with ‘our poor consciences . . . tormented constantly,’ as the Belgic Confession says, we come to rest in Jesus Christ, knowing that new life is a gift received in union with him. In this way, we are freed to actually love and delight in God and neighbor. Otherwise, our praying, our acts of mercy, our evangelism, all are done to build up our own holiness — which blocks God and neighbor from being our focus. When both our justification and our new life are found in Jesus Christ, then this burdensome, disingenuous Christianity is replaced by Spirit-empowered gratitude.” – J.

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Let’s Pray for Revival

The Gospel Coalition Council members Kevin DeYoung, Bryan Chapell, and Richard Phillips recently sat down to tackle this knotty topic. “In a true revival, you’re not adding human manipulative techniques to a biblical ministry,” Phillips explains. Rather, you’re “doing biblical ministry, fortified by prayer, and the Holy Spirit is giving you a great harvest.” Moreover, Chapell points out, “True revival is often very disruptive to the traditional church.” As a result, many churches “want revival until it comes.” On the other hand, DeYoung adds, some don’t desire to see revival unless it occurs in their church. To be sure, the history of revivalism is shot through with examples of well-meaning people seeking to engineer what only God can do. As Lloyd-Jones warned: “Pray for revival? Yes, go on, but do not try to create it, do not attempt to produce it; it is only given by Christ himself. The last church to be visited by a revival is the church trying to make

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The Twin Temptations of Pragmatism and Authoritarianism

Jonathan Leeman: It is easy for church leaders to look only to their left or only to their right in seeking to avoid the errors of others. Something I have learned from watching Tim Keller is the importance of looking in both directions. Hence, the man always seems to have a “third way” on offer. When the topic turns to philosophy of ministry or church practice, it has been the tendency of 9Marks writers like myself to look leftward toward the squishy tendencies of mainstream evangelicalism. This is a response to the evangelicalism of my youth that was constantly anxious to avoid slipping too far rightward toward some type of authoritarian fundamentalism. Many things in life are binary, and there is no third way. But I do believe there are errors both to the right and to the left of a biblical philosophy of ministry. On the left are the errors of pragmatism, and on the right are the errors of authoritarianism. What’s most

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Newton on Preaching Unsearchable Riches

Tony Reinke: The following story was shared by John Newton in a letter to his friend, a theological liberal minister, Thomas Scott, on November 17, 1775. Newton’s role in the theological formation (transformation) of Scott is a remarkable story worth studying in itself. But for now, here’s the story Newton shared with Scott, as published in Newton’s Works (1:596-98): A most valued friend of mine, a Clergyman now living, had for many years given a rational assent to the Gospel. He laboured with much earnestness upon your plan; was very exemplary in his whole conduct; preached almost incessantly (two or three times every day in the week for years), having a parish in the remote parts of Yorkshire, of great extent, and containing five or six different hamlets at some distance from each other. He succeeded likewise with his people so far as to break them off from outward irregularities; and was mentioned, in a letter to the Society for propagating the

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This he said about the Spirit

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”  Now this he said about the Spirit.  John 7:37-39 “‘Ah,’ you say, ‘I have not reached to that.’  A point is gained when you know, confess and deplore your failure.  If you say, ‘I have all things and abound,’ I am afraid you will never reach the fullness of the blessing.  But if you know something of your failure, the Lord will lead you further.  It may be that the Spirit of Life which comes forth for you is but a trickling brooklet or even a few tiny drops.  Then be sure to confess it and you will be on the way to a fuller blessing! What a Word of God is this!  Rivers of living water!  Oh, that all professing Christians were such fountains!  See how spontaneous it is—’Out of his

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How can we tell when God is really at work?

Ray Ortlund: In The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God (1741), Jonathan Edwards pulled out of 1 John 4 the biblical indicators that God is at work, even if the people involved are complicating it with their own sins and eccentricities.  And we do complicate it.  In this life, the work of the gospel is never pure, always mixed.  But we do not need to be stuck in analysis-paralysis.  The true gold of grace is discernible, within all the mess, in four ways: One, when our esteem of Jesus is being raised, so that we prize him more highly than all this world, God is at work. Two, when we are moving away from Satan’s interests, away from sin and worldly desires, God is at work. Three, when we are believing, revering and devouring the Bible more and more, God is at work. Four, and most importantly, when we love Jesus and one another more, delighting in him

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The Holy Spirit and decision making

Jude St.John: The role of the Spirit in decision making can bring up some contentious issues. Extremes range from the charismaniac who is always looking for some type of “sign” from God to the hardcore cessationist who will deny any sort of input-prompting, impulse, intuition-that could be attributed to God’s direction. This may be a difficult area for Christians to navigate, but I think this excerpt from Gospel Centered Discipleship is helpful in terms of adding some balance to the backlash against the Spirit’s involvement in our decision making. After his baptism, Jesus was “lead by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil” (Luke 4:1-2). Notice that the Spirit played a directive role in the life of the Son of God. Mark tells us that the Spirit “drove” Jesus into the wilderness (Mark 1:12). Jesus clearly relied on the Spirit for direction. This sensitivity to the directing influence of the Holy Spirit is characteristic of the

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Charismatic Renewal: 10 Strengths and Weaknesses

By Sam Storms: It seems everyone has an opinion on what is known as the charismatic movement. I’m no exception. But in this article I want to focus on what I perceive to be both its strengths and weaknesses. In a subsequent post I’ll comment on what I think is most needed in the charismatic world for it to move forward to the glory of God. (1) The charismatic tradition has done well in emphasizing the role of authentic experience in Christian living. Charismatics are to be applauded for bringing a more holistic approach to our relationship with God. In doing so, the dualism between body and spirit, as well as between the affective and cognitive dimensions, has been overcome. On the other hand, this has led at times to a de-emphasis on the mind (even a “demonizing” of it) and a failure to appreciate the necessity of a rigorous intellectual engagement with the faith. (2) The charismatic renewal has

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Not By Might, So It Just Might Work

Kevin DeYoung: I think one of the main reasons we struggle to tell people about Jesus is that deep down we just don’t think it will ever work. We think we’ve already tried to share with people before and nobody was interested. We imagine sharing our faith to be nothing but muscling up our strength to go do our duty and embrace failure. We soldier on, expecting fruitlessness, so we can say, “I did it, pastor.” Most of us lack faith that God actually has people prepared for us who will listen. This is where the doctrine of predestination is the best news in the world. We have not yet exhausted the number of God’s elect. God has more people to be saved, so keep on sharing. When Spurgeon was asked why he kept preaching the gospel when he believed in election, he replied, “Because the elect don’t have yellow stripes down their back.” In other words, he could not

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Effectual Calling and Regeneration

“So, then, what is this effectual, internal call that we are speaking about? Well, the most we can say about it is — and this must of necessity be true in the light of these scriptures — that it is the exercise of the power of the Holy Spirit in the soul. It is a direct operation of the Holy Spirit within us. It is immediate, it is spiritual, it is supernatural, miraculous. And what it does is to make a new mode of spiritual activity possible within us. Without this operation we are incapable of any true spiritual activity but as the result of this operation of the Holy Spirit upon us, we are rendered capable, for the first time, of spiritual activity and that is how this call now becomes effectual, that is what enables us to receive it. “Now this is very important and I want to emphasise the immediacy, the direct action. You see, what happens

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Freely offered and fully finished

“There is no inconsistency or incoherence in the teaching of the New Testament about, on the one hand, the offer of Christ in the gospel, which Christians are told to make known everywhere, and, on the other hand, the fact that Christ achieved a totally efficacious redemption for God’s elect on the cross. It is a certain truth that all who come to Christ in faith will find mercy (John 6:35, 47–51, 54–57; Rom. 1:16; 10:8–13). The elect hear Christ’s offer, and through hearing it are effectually called by the Holy Spirit. Both the invitation and the effectual calling flow from Christ’s sin-bearing death. Those who reject the offer of Christ do so of their own free will (i.e., because they choose to, Mat 22:1–7; John 3:18), so that their final perishing is their own fault. Those who receive Christ learn to thank him for the cross as the centrepiece of God’s plan of sovereign saving grace.”  J. I. Packer, Concise Theology, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993), 138-39 (HT:

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John Piper Interviews Jerry Bridges

Jonathan Parnell posts a conversation between two of my heroes: Few people work faithfully for the same organization for almost 60 years. Yet it was 1955 when Jerry Bridges, a Korean War veteran, joined the team at The Navigators where he continues to this day. An author of several books, Mr. Bridges is a leading voice in explaining the significance of the gospel in everyday life, including The Discipline of Grace,The Gospel for Real Life, and The Pursuit of Holiness, to name a few. John Piper recently sat down with Mr. Bridges in Minneapolis to talk about life and ministry. In this 25-minute video, they discuss key issues regarding God’s providence, spiritual disciplines, and the Christian life.