The Inaugurated Kingdom Empowers Missional Living

Jon Nagle: I’ll always remember two of the most incredible moments of my life. The days that my wife and I discovered she was pregnant with our two boys were breath-taking experiences. With our firstborn, I was sitting in the bedroom of our first apartment; and with our second-born, I was sitting in the master bedroom of our current house. In both instances, my wife decided to sneak away into the bathroom to take a pregnancy test without telling me. And in both instances she exited the bathroom to surprise me with that infamous blue plus-sign. Tears of joy flowed, and the same life-altering thought that struck me the first time—”Wow, I’m a father!”—also struck me the second time, “Wow, I’m a father … again!” Indeed, in those very moments, though there were still many months of pregnancy and growth ahead of us, I was already a father. And although my newborn sons were yet to be seen in their

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Why We Dare Not Seek God without Christ

Mark Jones: Too Much for Us We believe that thou art a being than which nothing greater can be conceived. —Anselm, Proslogion Whoever has seen God and has understood what he saw, has seen nothing. —Maximus the Confessor, In Epistula Dionysii The majesty of God is too high to be scaled up to by mortals, who creep like worms on the earth. —John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion The true and living God is too much for us to bear, to handle, to conceive, to adore, to know, to trust, to understand, and to worship. The Incomprehensible One is simply too much for us in every conceivable way. Christ the Mediator However, that the Son became flesh makes our human nature appear lovely to God. But he also makes God appear lovely to us.1 Take away Christ, the God-man, and we are reprehensible to God and he to us. But in Christ, God is well pleased with us and

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The Beatitudes

Matt Boga: This is the famous introduction to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount recorded in the Gospel of Matthew chapters 5-7.  In these 10 verses Jesus quickly flips everything that we think to be correct on its head, and beautifully offends and astonishes all readers/hearers. The Beatitudes – much like the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 – describe the entire Christian.  No one of them sufficiently describes a Christian, but all of them together paint a well-rounded picture of Christianity.  Jesus speaks about the narrow gate of entrance that leads to life later in the Sermon on the Mount, but in this opening passage he wonderfully describes what that gate looks like. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The poor in spirit are those that understand, by the work of the Holy Spirit, that they are spiritually bankrupt.  The poor in spirit understand that no man has anything to bring to

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The law of God is not a burden

Joe Thorn: The commands of God can be a heavy reality. The Lord calls us to love him above all things, to love others as ourselves, and to even love our enemies. We are commanded to be content in all circumstances without coveting, and to not only tell the truth but defend those who are maligned. As sinners who break all of these commands the law can be crushing. They show us the way to go, and then reveal that we are prone to go our own way (Rom 7). For the unbeliever the law of God, if taken seriously, is a burden too great to bear. For the unbeliever the law not only commands and convicts, it also confounds and condemns. The Law stands true and bears witness against one’s sins leaving him or her without excuse before the face of God. But, for the believer the law of God is not burdensome. For this is the love of

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Having Jesus As Our Greatest Treasure – A Prayer

. Scotty Smith: Philippians 3:7 – I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. Lord Jesus, as I meditate on the Apostle Paul’s words, I smell the aroma of a free man, a joyful man, and a grace-man–a man I want to become more like. Things he once treasured became Paul’s “garbage.” Old stuff that used to consume him, no longer even amused him. Enjoying an intimate and robust relationship with you mean more to Paul that any other competing currency and treasure. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with

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What We Need Most

Kevin DeYoung: The biggest need in your life, and in mine, is to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. I’m convinced that more evangelism, more prayer, more fruitfulness, more holiness will flow from the fountain of our lives only when we start drinking more deeply of Christ. If you want to be more merciful, look upon Jesus who cried out at the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” If you want to be more loving, look upon Jesus who ate with sinners and welcomed repentant prostitutes and tax collectors into the kingdom. If you want to be purer, look upon Jesus whose eyes are like flames of fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze. If you want more courage in the face of lies and injustice, look upon Jesus who drove out the money changers from the temple with a whip. If you want to be stronger in the

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Don’t Pursue Feelings. Pursue Christ.

Joe Thorn: Human beings are emotional creatures. We love or hate, feel happy or sad, angry or joyful. And yet christians sometimes struggle with integrating emotion into their spiritual lives and end up falling victim to dangerous tendencies when it comes to their emotions. These tendencies occupy two ends of a spectrum, and they have led many into a superficial kind of Christianity. We see these tendencies at both the personal level and at the corporate level. One danger is emotionalism, in which we allow our feelings to interpret our circumstances and form our thoughts about God. This is putting feelings before faith. The other danger is a kind of stoicism, where faith is rooted in theology but void of affection. This tendency removes feelings from faith altogether. While it is true that our emotions should not lead our theology, it is vital to our faith that theology lead to a deep experience of our triune God. Good doctrine is critically important

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What’s so ‘good’ about Good Friday?

Bruce Ashford: On a dark Friday two thousand years ago, Jesus of Nazareth was crucified. Powerful members of the religious, political, and military communities colluded to strip him naked, mock him publicly, and crucify him. Yet two millennia later, Christians—who believe that Jesus is the Son of God—celebrate that dark day by calling it Good Friday. Why on earth would Christians refer to this day as “good” Friday? It’s called Good Friday because even while powerful men were conspiring to kill the Son of God, God himself was acting to save the world from itself, once and for all. Even while the world’s authorities were conspiring to perpetrate history’s greatest evil, God was working to bring about history’s greatest good. It didn’t have to be this way. After all, God created the world as his good kingdom in which humans could flourish, and in which they would never have to experience evil. Yet, the very first couple, Adam and Eve,

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Our Whole Salvation Comprehended in Christ

John Calvin at his God-glorifying best: We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is “of him.” If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects that he might learn to feel our pain. If we see redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness

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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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