The Right Kind of Prosperity Gospel

J.D. Greear: I recently took a trip with my family to Zion National Park (which is amazing, by the way). To get into the park, you pass through a long tunnel. The tour guide told my kids that if they held their breath the whole way, they would get a wish. That night, one of our kids—who was apparently feeling rather spiritual—said, “You know what I wished for? That God would use me in his global mission.” Not to be outdone, another kid piped up, “Well, I wished that God would let me be a NICU nurse helping kids in poor countries.” Finally, my youngest jumped in, saying, “I wished for a dog.” (That would have been me as a kid.) So What’s the Right Answer? Most of us have dreamed of what we would ask for if we ever got a free wish. Of course, we know the usual rules: You can’t make anyone fall in love with you;

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Two ways to know you are saved

J.D. Greear: I get the question from Christians a lot: “How can I know for sure that I’m saved?” So often, in fact, that I wrote a book addressing it: Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart. I struggled with the question a lot myself until someone pointed me to passage from 1 John that helped open my eyes. In 1 John 5:13–18, John identifies 2 ways that we can be sure of our salvation. 1. We have placed our hopes for heaven entirely on Jesus. (1 John 5:13) “I write these things to you,” John says, “who believe in the name of the Son of God.” It’s so simple that we’re liable to miss it, but assurance comes from believing in Jesus. This is the gospel: when we trust in his name, we cease striving to earn heaven by drawing upon our own moral bank account; instead, we withdraw on his righteous account in our place. The gospel, by its very nature, produces assurance. Because

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7 Truths About Hell

J.D. Greear: Concerning hell, C. S. Lewis once wrote, “There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this, if it lay in my power.” In many ways, I agree with him. No one, Christians included, should like the idea of hell. Those of us who believe in hell aren’t sadists who enjoy the idea of eternal suffering. In fact, the thought of people I know who are outside of Christ spending eternity in hell is heartbreaking. As a young Christian, when I began to learn about hell and its implications, I almost lost my faith. It was that disturbing. Hell is a difficult reality, but it is something that the Bible teaches, and we can’t fully understand God and his world unless we grapple with it. These seven truths should frame our discussion of hell. 1. Hell is what hell is because God is who God is. People speak glibly about “seeing God,” as if seeing God face-to-face would be a warm and fuzzy

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Three lies about forgiveness

J.D. Greear: A few years ago I read a fascinating book called The Bishop of Rwanda, by John Rucyahana. He talked about the horrible genocides in Rwanda, and the aftermath of the civil wars there. He said that the genocides were, obviously, horrendous, but it was the lingering bitterness and hatred afterwards that was the most difficult. Most people couldn’t even consider the idea of forgiveness. Rucyahana pointed out that the obstacles to forgiveness really came from lies people believed about forgiveness. These three lies are as applicable in big cases (like his) as they are in our more everyday cases of forgiveness. Lie #1: You must wait until the person shows they’ve repented. Well, to put it bluntly, Jesus didn’t. He forgave his enemies on the cross, at the very moment they were killing him. Forgiveness isn’t the same as reconciliation. With reconciliation, you need both sides to come to the table. But forgiveness is first about releasing you from

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Are you weak enough for God to use you?

J.D. Greear: There aren’t many societies that praise weakness. Ours is no different. Whether you’re a pastor or a police officer, an on-the-go salesman or a stay-at-home mother, weakness is seen as a liability. Nobody wants to be weak. Strong is the name of the game. Sadly, our obsession with strength blinds us to a key biblical truth: God uses the weak. It’s so pervasive that you’d be hard-pressed to find a book of the Bible that can’t be summarized this way. And yet despite being hard-wired into the very DNA of Scripture, we don’t really believe it. We still clamor after strength. But God doesn’t need our strength to deliver us. In fact, our strength is actually more of a liability than an asset. I’ll go a step further: God is so single-minded in his preference for weakness, that when he wants to use us, he often begins by weakening us. Case in point: the Bible’s most courageous coward,

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5 insights into idolatry

  J.D. Greear: There are certain themes in Scripture that tend to beat you over the head with their persistence. Idolatry is one of those. It’s such a prominent theme in Scripture that some have said it is the central theme of the entire Bible.[1] And when it comes to idolatry, we humans are endlessly creative. As John Calvin said, “The heart of man is a perpetual factory of idols.” Give us the chance, and we’ll replace God with any and every object, person, ideal, or dream. Most modern people don’t quite get the Bible’s obsession with idolatry. We think of idolatry as an ancient problem for backwards people who bowed down to statues, not a relevant one for sophisticated folks like us. But we aren’t beyond idolatry. We simply dress it up in different clothes. Acts 19 gives us 5 insights into the reality of idolatry for us today: 1. An idol is anything that promises a life of

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Faithful churches must pursue both width and depth

J.D. Greear: The Great Commission is, in many ways, the marching orders of the church, the benchmark by which we measure success. Inherent to the Great Commission is the command to make disciples, which implies two types of growth—width and depth.We are to reach people from every nation on earth. That’s width. We are to make true disciples of them, teaching them to obey all that he has commanded. That’s depth. To be faithful, a church must vigorously pursue both. Depending on a person’s disposition, however, it is easy to gravitate toward one or the other. It certainly makes decision-making a lot easier. But evaluating success by width alone or by depth alone is both unfaithful and self-defeating.Churches that grow only wide (and not deep) are not growing nearly as wide as they think; and those that grow deep (without caring about width) are not nearly as deep as they think. 1. Width Without Depth Is Unfaithful. When a church produces converts who aren’t really

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5 lessons that Jacob’s wrestling teaches us about prayer

J.D. Greear: Genesis 32 contains the fascinating story of Jacob wrestling all night with God. The whole wrestling match comes about in the midst of Jacob praying, and his physical struggle teaches us 5 lessons about prayer. 1. The blessings of God are released into our lives through prayer. Before Jacob was even born God had prophesied that the blessing would be his and not his brother’s (Gen 25:23). But it was not until Jacob took it in a prayer-wrestling match with God that it really became his. He laid hold of the promise of God through a night of prayer. The Bible is a book full of promises—3,000 of them! And while many of them apply to specific and unique situations, Paul calls all the promises of God “Yes” in Jesus (2 Cor 1:20).  So in a Christ-centered way, every one of them is Yes for me and for you. So do not simply read through your Bible. Pray through it! The Bible is our primary prayer book,

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Belief: why present posture matters more than a past memory

J.D.Greear: Here is how many Christians think of “getting saved:” You realize you’re a sinner and you need Jesus to save you. So you approach Him and ask. Of course He says, “Yes,” writes your name in the Lamb’s book of life, and gives you a “certificate” of salvation. If you begin to doubt whether or not you are really “saved,” you go back and replay the moment of your conversion. Wrong image, I believe. Here’s the problem with it: What if you begin to ask, as I did, “Did I really feel sorry enough for my sin? Did my life change enough after I asked Him into my heart? Did I understand enough about Jesus, or my sin, or grace, when I prayed?” Uh-oh. Better ask again. Back you to go to Jesus, asking Him again to save you, and you feel better for a while. You can do this as much as you want until you meet Jesus in heaven, at

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Don’t Feel Your Way into Your Belief; Believe Your Way into Your Feelings

J.D. Greear: If you were honest, you’d probably admit there are moments when you do not feel “Christian” at all. Moments in which you care more about what’s coming on TV that night than you do the spread of the kingdom of God in the world. Moments in which you have fallen to that same old temptation for the thousandth time. Moments when God feels distant, almost like a stranger. Seasons in which your emotions for Him are lukewarm, if not downright cold. When you don’t jump out of bed in the morning hungry for His Word. When your mind wanders all over the place during prayer—that is, when you can bring yourself to pray. Moments when you’re not even sure you believe all this stuff. Does that sound familiar to you? Times like that are familiar to me. Not all the time, not even most of the time, but certainly more often than I’d care to admit. What do

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2 Ways to Know You Are Saved

J.D. Greear: I get the question from Christians a lot: “How can I know for sure that I’m saved?” So often, in fact, that I wrote a book addressing it: Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart (which you can pre-order here). I struggled with the question a lot myself until someone pointed me to passage from 1 John that helped open my eyes. In 1 John 5:13–18, John identifies 2 ways that we can be sure of our salvation. 1. We have placed our hopes for heaven entirely on Jesus. (1 John 5:13) “I write these things to you,” John says, “who believe in the name of the Son of God.” It’s so simple that we’re liable to miss it, but assurance comes from believing in Jesus. This is the gospel: when we trust in his name, we cease striving to earn heaven by drawing upon our own moral bank account; instead, we withdraw on his righteous account in our place. The gospel, by its very nature,

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