The Key to Spiritual Breakthrough

Jon Bloom: “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2). How much enjoyment of God’s presence and experience of his power for mission are we missing out on because we do not ask God for them? Jesus also says we do not have because we ask with such little faith (Matthew 17:19–20). How much enjoyment of God’s presence and experience of his power for mission are we missing out on because our expectation is so small that prayer will result in anything? Jesus also says we do not have, because we do not ask long enough (Luke 11:5–13). All over the Bible we see, not in great detail but in sufficient detail, that we are involved in a great cosmic battle and that the prayers of the saints are crucial to the advancement of the kingdom of God (see Daniel 10:12–14 and Ephesians 6:18). We don’t need to know how it all works; we just need to know it

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Yes and Amen in Christ

Kevin DeYoung: God has promised us everything in Christ. Abraham knew the Lord as a promise-maker, Moses knew him as a promise-keeper, but we know the one in whom all the promises are yes and Amen. In Christ, there is now no condemnation for us (Rom. 8:1) In Christ we did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but a spirit of adoption by which we cry out, “Abba, Father!” (Rom. 8:16) In Christ the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed (Rom. 8:18). In Christ we know that he who did not spare his own son, but freely gave him up for us all, will also with him freely give us all things (Rom. 8:32). In Christ there is nothing in all creation—neither life nor death, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any

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10 Things You Should Know about the Incarnation

By Stephen J. Wellum, author of God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ: 1. The person or active subject of the incarnation is the eternal Son. John 1:14 is clear: “The Word became flesh.” In other words, it was the Son from eternity who became incarnate, not the divine nature. The Son, who is in eternal relation to the Father and Spirit, willingly humbled himself and chose to assume a human nature in obedience to his Father and for our salvation (Phil. 2:6-8). 2. As the eternal Son, the second person of the triune Godhead, he is the full image and expression of the Father and is thus fully God. Along with the Father and Spirit, the Son fully and equally shares the divine nature. As the image and exact correspondence of the Father (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3), the Son is fully God. All of God’s perfections and attributes are his since Christ is God the Son (Col. 2:9). As

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When a dragon tried to eat Jesus: the nativity story we don’t talk about

Chad Bird: I’m still searching for a Christmas card with a red dragon in the nativity, lurking amidst the cows and lambs, waiting to devour the baby in the manger. None of the Gospels mention this unwelcome visitor to Bethlehem, but the Apocalypse does. John paints a seven-headed, ten-horned red dragon onto the peaceful Christmas canvas. You can read all about it in Revelation 12. It’s the nativity story we don’t talk about. A dragon trying to eat our Lord. The red dragon was standing “before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.” Clearly, more was going on at Christmas than drinking eggnog and kissing under the mistletoe. Or even peace on earth. Hark the herald angels sing, a dragon waits to eat our king. SILENT NIGHT, VIOLENT

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Could Christ Have Sinned?

Stephen J. Wellum: Could Christ Have Been Tempted? And If So, Could He Have Sinned? A crucial theological question in Christology is, could Jesus have sinned? This question is not easy to answer, and as such, it requires careful reflection, given the variety of issues involved. Historically, classical Christology has argued that our Lord Jesus Christ experienced temptation like us, yet he faced it as one who was unable to sin, hence the affirmation of the impeccability of Christ (non posse peccare). The minority report, on the other hand, is that Jesus experienced temptation and that, although he never sinned, he was able to do so, hence the assertion of Christ’s peccability (osse non peccare). Both viewpoints admit that, in wrestling with the question, one must do justice to the following biblical truths: (1) Jesus never actually sinned. Scripture is clear on this point, so the issue is whether Jesus could have sinned, not whether he actually did. (2) Jesus

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The Irrepressible Christ of Christmas

Sam Storms: There was a time when the glitz and tinsel of Christmas used to bother me. But no more. It bothered me, then, because it seemed at times as if Jesus had become lost in all the hoopla of the holiday season. I was fearful that the secularism and sophistication of society had somehow obscured Christ right out of Christmas. But I’ve come to realize that it can’t be done. I’m not bothered by the trinkets of Christmas anymore because I’ve come to realize that no matter what anyone does or what a court may decree, the irrepressible Christ will be there. Even in the stores and shopping malls where crass commercialism is so rampant, Jesus is there. Although the Salvation Army may be banned from certain stores, his name is yet on the lips of adoring shoppers. The intercom in the department stores broadcasts for all to hear, strains of “Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the

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Between the Advents

Duke Revard: For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this. – Isaiah 9:6 Six and Seven year-olds massacred in Newtown, CT. Others randomly shot in a mall in Oregon. Dozens of other headlines highlight less spectacular bloodshed in your hometown newspaper. It appears there is no end in sight. Random wickedness and brokenness are also your problem in your otherwise safe pocket of the world. Evil is local and apparently sustainable. It seems to be everywhere and affecting everything. Though the topic

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How God Became a Man – What Jesus Did for Thirty Years

David Mathis: It is striking how little we know about most of Jesus’s life on earth. Between the events surrounding his celebrated birth and the beginning of his public ministry when he was “about thirty years of age” (Luke 3:23), very few details have survived. Given the influence and impact of his life, humanly speaking, we might find it surprising that so little about his childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood is available — especially with the interest his followers, who worshiped him as God, took in his life. That is, unless, divinely speaking, this is precisely how God would have it. After the birth story, the first Gospel tells us about the visit from magi, pagan astrologers from the east (Matthew 2:1–12), the family’s flight to Egypt for haven (Matthew 2:13–18), and their eventual return upon the death of Herod (Matthew 2:19–23). Matthew then jumps immediately to the forerunning ministry of John the Baptist, and Jesus as a full-grown adult

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3 motivations to hate sin

Erik Raymond: In counseling, parenting, and my own personal pursuit of godliness I have found that hating sin is an easily overlooked but never overstated priority. Sin brings consequences. Often these consequences are painful. It is a real temptation for us to hate the consequences and never get around to hating the sin. Don’t get me wrong, we should hate how sin hurts ourselves and others. But we can’t leave it there. Until sin is actually hated for its odious and repulsive character we will not make true progress in godliness. We may make progress in morality but not holiness; for this requires a godly hatred of sin. So here are three reasons why you should hate sin. In thinking upon these, may they provoke a holy hatred of all that opposes the reign of God in our lives. 1. BECAUSE IT OPPOSES GOD’S WORD The Word of God is good. It reflects God’s character, teaching us what holiness is

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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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True Leadership Is Sacrifice, Not Privilege

David Mathis: It is one of the filthiest lies Satan whispers in the ear of our comfortable and entitled generation. From before we can even remember, we have been indoctrinated, at nearly every turn, with the idea that being “a leader” means getting the gold star. Leadership is a form of recognition, a kind of accomplishment, the path to privilege. Being declared a leader is like winning an award or being identified among the gifted. Leadership is a form of success. And since you can do whatever you dream, and can achieve whatever you set your mind to, you too can be a leader — at home, at work, in the community, in the church. Why would you settle for anything less? Leadership means privilege, and no generation has considered itself more entitled to privilege than ours. The Lie About Leadership The world’s spin on leadership is in the air of our society, felt in the subtext of our adolescence,

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He Nourishes and Cherishes Her

Ray Ortlund (adapted from Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel): The Nature of True Love The heart of a Christian husband comes to a focal point in one word, the key word for the husband, in Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” The word love is wonderful. We can see its sacrificial boldness in this very verse. But this word love is overused in our world today. So can we drill down more deeply into this word? Paul helps us to do so, in verse 29. In the coherence of the passage, the words “nourishes” and “cherishes” in verse 29 restate and clarify the meaning of the word “love”: “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.” So Christ nourishing and cherishing the church as his own body is equivalent to Christ not hating but loving his

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Do All Paths Lead to God?

Sam Storms: If there is anything clear in God’s Word it is that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father. This is not a popular assertion, as it strikes many as arrogant and exclusivistic. But there it is in John 14:6 – “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is the “way” to God precisely because he alone embodies and tells the “truth” about who God is and what is needed to be reconciled to him. He alone embodies the true and consummate revelation of the Father. When Jesus says that reconciliation to the Father comes only “through me” we must define what he means in light of the broader context of John’s gospel. And everywhere in John we are told over and over again that you must believe in Jesus. You must trust him alone. You must look to his work on the cross

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10 Things You Should Know about Definite Atonement

By Jonathan Gibson, coeditor of From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective. 1. Definite atonement is a way of speaking about the intent and nature of Christ’s death. The doctrine of definite atonement states that, in the death of Jesus Christ, the triune God intended to achieve the redemption of every person given to the Son by the Father in eternity past, and to apply the accomplishments of his sacrifice to each of them by the Spirit. In a nutshell: the death of Christ was intended to win the salvation of God’s people alone; and not only was it intended to do that but it effectively achieved it as well. Jesus will be true to his name: he will save his people from their sins. In this regard, the adjective ‘definite’ does double duty: Christ’s death was definite in its intent—he died to save a particular people; and it was definite

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The Cross Stands at the Centre of Ministry

Darryl Dash: 1 Peter 5 is a goldmine for pastors. I’m intrigued by how Peter introduces himself: “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ…” (1 Peter 5:1) Not only is Peter a fellow elder, but he’s also a witness of the sufferings of Christ. Why does Peter write about the sufferings of Christ as he begins to address elders? Two reasons. The Cross Is All We Have In the ministry of pastors, the cross is all we have. Without the cross, we have no message, no power, no confidence, and no hope. Peter heads to the cross because it’s impossible for him to imagine ministry without it. Peter heard Jesus predict his sufferings. He heard Jesus’ family call him crazy. He saw Jesus become popular, and he saw the crowds turn against him. He sat at Jesus’ last Passover meal, and he watched Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, and trial.

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What Does it Mean to Pray in the Name of Jesus?

Sam Storms: Can we really believe the words of Jesus in John 14:14 when he declares: “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it”? Twice in vv. 13-14 Jesus says you must pray “in my name”. What does that mean? Is Jesus telling us that all we have to do is attach the words, “In Christ’s name” at the end of each prayer and we will be guaranteed a positive answer? If that were the case, the words “in Christ’s name” or “in the name of Jesus” would function much like a magical incantation, no different from what a magician would do when he says “Abracadabra” or what the owner of a magic lamp would do to evoke the presence of a genie who would then grant him three wishes. It’s important to note that one need not even repeat the words “in Christ’s name” to pray “in Christ’s name.” The perfect inflection of the word

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What Did Jesus Believe About the Scriptures?

Sam Storms: The question: “What think ye of the Bible?” reduces to the question: “What think ye of Christ?” To deny the authority of Scripture is to deny the lordship of Jesus. So what did Jesus think of the Scriptures (or at least of the Old Testament)? Consider the people and events of the OT, for example, whom/which Jesus frequently mentioned. He refers to Abel, Noah and the great flood, Abraham, Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot, Isaac and Jacob, the manna from heaven, the serpent in the desert, David eating the consecrated bread and his authorship of the Psalms, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha,, and Zechariah, etc. In each case he treats the OT narratives as straightforward records of historical fact. But, say the critics, perhaps Jesus was simply accommodating himself to the mistaken beliefs of his contemporaries. That is to say, Jesus simply met his contemporaries on their own ground without necessarily committing himself to the correctness of their views. He chose

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Leviticus: It’s all about Jesus

J.D. Greear: If you ask Christians for their favorite book of the Bible, hardly anyone is going to answer, “Leviticus.” (I do know one guy at our church who loved Leviticus—he called it “The Book of Enchantment,” though we could never figure out why—but he was probably the only one.) The book of Leviticus can seem downright strange to us. It’s got a lot of odd rules that don’t always make sense. It’s often tough to get through: more Bible Reading Plans have shipwrecked on the shoals of Leviticus than perhaps any other book of the Bible. But if we just skip over all the ceremonies and rituals and rules, we would miss one of the clearest images of Jesus in the entire Old Testament. Right in the center of Leviticus, in chapter 16, is a ceremony the Jewish people held to be more holy and crucial than any other—a day so thick with meaning and sacredness that they simply

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10 Reasons Jesus Came to Die

  John Piper: 1. To destroy hostility between races. The suspicion, prejudice, and demeaning attitudes between Jews and non-Jews in Bible times were as serious as the racial, ethnic, and national hostilities today. Yet Jesus “has broken down . . . the dividing wall of hostility . . . making peace . . . through the cross” (Ephesians 2:14–16). God sent his Son into the world as the only means of saving sinners and reconciling races. 2. To give marriage its deepest meaning. God’s design was never for marriages to be miserable, yet many are. That’s what sin does . . . it makes us treat each other badly. Jesus died to change that. He knew that his suffering would make the deepest meaning of marriage plain. That’s why the Bible says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). God’s design for marriage is for a husband to love his

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The most important step to becoming more like Jesus Christ

  Mark Altrogge: How do we become more like Christ? By beholding him. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18). “In what way do we behold his glory?…It’s the gospel that reveals Christ’s glory. Therefore, to behold his glory we must gaze into the gospel by faith. As we do this, the Spirit will transform us more and more into his likeness.” – Jerry Bridges, Bob Bevington, Bookends for the Christian Life We become like the One we behold in the Word. As we see him stretch out his hand in compassion to heal a leper, we see how we should be compassionate. When we see Jesus have mercy on the woman caught in adultery, we grow in mercy. As we observe Jesus resist the temptations of Satan

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