Evangelism Must Explain What’s Wrong with the World

Becky Pippert: People around us today often scoff at the notion of sin. Our world has new names for what ails us: poor self-esteem, neurosis, addiction, anxiety, psychological wounding, and so forth. It isn’t that these issues aren’t a reality; it’s that such analysis doesn’t go deep enough to reveal the root cause. Yet for all the protest that sin is an old-fashioned, outdated concept, nearly everyone agrees that something has gone terribly wrong and must be made right. We see the wrong in world wars, racism, genocides, terrorism, human trafficking, exploitation of children—and in our own personal battles evidenced in broken relationships, anger, addictions, and on and on. What happened that caused our planet to go from paradise to our present brokenness? And how can this explanation be good news for our unbelieving neighbors? First Rebellion In Genesis 3, we discover that, though Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, they rejected God’s rule and chose to be

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What Preaching Christ From All Of Scripture Does And Does Not Mean

R. Scott Clark: In recent days there has been considerable discussion about what it means to speak of “preaching Christ from all of Scripture.” Some object to this way of speaking and this approach to Bible interpretation on the grounds that it does violence to the true meaning of Scripture. For those within Dispensationalism, there are two peoples of God, an earthly people (Israel) and a heavenly people. As they read Scripture, there is a genuine sense in which God’s promises to national Israel are the center of Scripture. In this view it is held that God intends to restore national Israel, including the temple and the sacrificial system. Thus, according to most forms of Dispensationalism, those promises of an earthly kingdom are thought to be the norm by which all the rest of Scripture must be understood. Another objection is that the project of preaching Christ from all of Scripture does not do justice to the particular text at hand,

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Christmas: A Story of the Wealth and Poverty of the Son of God

Sam Storms: No biblical text so vividly portrays for us the true meaning of Christmas as does 2 Corinthians 8:9. There the apostle Paul wrote this: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). In what sense was Christ “rich” or “wealthy”? I want you to think with me about what kind of “wealth” or “riches” characterized the Son of God in eternity past, before the incarnation, before he became a fetus in the womb of Mary, before he was born on that first Christmas morning. But I also want you to consider with me the ways in which the Son of God became “poor”. When I hear Paul say that the Son of God was “rich”, the first thing that comes to mind is the incalculable “wealth” of his eternal glory. The sacrifice of

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God’s Passion for God at Christmas

For this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name. —John 12:27–28 John Piper: Glory to God in the Highest One of the most famous Christmas scenes in the Bible is the announcement to the shepherds by an angel that the Savior is born. And then it says, “Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’” (Luke 2:11–14). Glory to God, peace to man. The angels are sent to make something crystal clear: the Son of God has come into his creation to display the glory of God and to reconcile people from alienation to peace with God. To make God look great in salvation and to make man glad in God. So when we come to John 12, there is no surprise when we hear Jesus praying that this would actually happen at

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Do You Believe in a Santa Christ?

Nathan W. Bingham: In Sinclair Ferguson’s book, In Christ Alone, he shares the sad reality that many Christians have a Christology that is more informed by Santa Claus than Scripture. For them, the message of the incarnation has been so twisted or diluted that they have in fact created for themselves a savior who is nothing more than a Santa Christ. As you prayerfully read Sinclair Ferguson’s words, ask yourself the following question this Christmas season: “Do I believe in a Santa Christ?” 1. A Pelagian Jesus is a Santa Christ Santa Christ is sometimes a Pelagian Jesus. Like Santa, he simply asks us whether we have been good. More exactly, since the assumption is that we are all naturally good, Santa Christ asks us whether we have been “good enough.” So just as Christmas dinner is simply the better dinner we really deserve, Jesus becomes a kind of added bonus who makes a good life even better. He is not seen as the Savior of helpless sinners. 2. A Semi-Pelagian Jesus is

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Why Must Jesus Be both Human and Divine?

Erik Raymond: Recently someone who is just beginning to investigate Christianity asked me an important question. As they are wading through the biblical data, the question came up, Why was Jesus both human and divine? Is this an important detail?   This is an important question. It’s vital that we understand not only that Jesus was truly God and fully man, but also why it is important.  I have found the Heidelberg Catechism quite helpful in its concise explanation.  On question 16 we read, Q:  Why must he be a true and righteous man? A:   He must be a true man because the justice of God requires that the same human nature which has sinned should pay for sin. He must be a righteous man because one who himself is a sinner he cannot pay for others. The answer here is focusing on the need for a real human nature. Why? Because the penalty for sin requires suffering in body and soul. And only

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10 Things You Should Know about Jesus Christ

Sam Storms: It actually sounds a bit silly, even irreverent, to speak of only ten things we should know about Jesus. There are thousands of things to know about him, perhaps millions. Indeed, when we arrive in the new heaven and new earth we will discover that there is an infinity of truths about our Savior that it will be our joy to see, know, and savor. But for now, today, let’s consider the ten things said about him in Colossians 1:15-20. There Paul writes: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,

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The Day of Atonement and Our Need for a High Priest

Michael Morales: Atonement—that is, reconciliation between God the Creator and sinful humanity—is at the heart of the Pentateuch’s theology. Indeed, the Day of Atonement is found at the literary center of the Pentateuch’s central book, Leviticus 16. Simply called “the Day” by ancient Jews, the Day of Atonement is dubbed a “Sabbath of Sabbaths” in Scripture (Lev. 16:31), a day of solemn convocation where all members of Israel were called to participate both by ceasing from labor and by “afflicting [their] souls” (Lev. 16:29)—understood as the one annual day of fasting mandated by the LORD. Failure to observe this Day would result in being “cut off” from among God’s people and being “destroyed” by the LORD, a sobering threat meant to underscore the gravity of the liturgy (Lev. 23:26-32). The ritual drama performed by the high priest, along with the severe warnings against neglecting this convocation, served to catechize Israel about the dire need for cleansing and the forgiveness of sins.

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The Gospel in Three Words

Russell Moore: Could you explain the gospel to an unbeliever using only three words? That was the challenge someone posted a couple of weeks ago on social media. “One can’t explain the whole gospel in only three words,” I mumbled to myself. “That’s why we have a canon of 66 books.” The more I thought about it, though, the more my mind changed, and I became open to taking up the challenge. I think I could explain the gospel in three words, so long as I would have follow-up time to explain all three words. And those words would be “Lord Jesus Christ.” 1. Lord The word “Lord” would mean pointing to the Godness of God, what it means to speak of God as sovereign king and as loving Father. This would entail a discussion of God as Creator, what it means for us to be his creatures. This would involve a discussion of what God has revealed to us

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Don’t Just ‘Prove’ The Resurrection. Talk About Why It Matters.

Matthew Payne: Why did Jesus rise from the dead? In my experience most Christians can’t answer this question very well. I suspect that the reason is that they have hardly ever heard it taught. One of the most common answers I’ve heard over the years is that Jesus rose ‘to prove that he is God’. But the Bible never identifies this as the reason, and there was surely ample proof already available for Jesus’ divinity given the number of miracles that he performed in his public ministry. The problem is that some of the more difficult Christian doctrines tend to be reduced to apologetic hurdles to get over rather than being treated as central, interconnected parts of the Christian message. The Trinity, miracles, predestination, the resurrection… these are the kinds of topics that present difficulties to our secular worldview and logic. We therefore spend most of our time trying to prove that these things are true rather than explaining what

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What is “the gospel of the kingdom”?

9Marks: It’s very popular these days to talk about “the gospel of the kingdom.” Many people claim that when Jesus came “preaching the gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23) he was preaching a message about the overthrow of evil government powers, the transformation of society, and the lifting up of the poor. All kinds of revolutionaries can get behind these ideas. But is that what the Bible means when it speaks about the gospel of the kingdom? Not exactly. When Philip the evangelist preached “the good news about the kingdom of God,” men and women believed and were baptized (Acts 8:12). This “gospel of the kingdom” called them to turn from their sin, trust in Jesus Christ and begin a new life, symbolized by baptism. On the other hand, when Jesus speaks about the kingdom of God coming near (Mk. 1:15), he is referring to something truly revolutionary. He means that with his own coming to earth, God’s saving rule and

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The Binding of Satan

Douglas F. Kelly: Revelation 20 is the only place in the Bible that speaks of “the millennium”—the thousand-year reign of the triumphant Christ on earth. Nowhere else does Holy Scripture mention this word, so it is necessary to look at related teachings elsewhere in Scripture to understand what it means in Revelation. A sound principle of biblical interpretation (used from ancient times by Augustine, Tychonius, and other early Christian writers) is that one interprets the few mentions of a word or concept in light of the many, and the symbolic in light of the plain. It would be contrary to a clear understanding of the Scriptures to make the many fit into the one, or the plain into the symbolic. Therefore, we should understand what Revelation 20, a highly symbolic book, says about the millennium in light of the very large number of other biblical passages that tell us more plainly (and less symbolically) what occurs between Christ’s resurrection and

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The Christmas Miracle of the Incarnation of the Omnipresent Word

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  — Hebrews 13:8 Jared Wilson: Every year at this time as we celebrate the birth of baby Jesus to the virgin Mary, I don’t suppose it occurs to too many merrymakers that what they’re really celebrating is the incarnation. All of the other miracles are in service of that central miracle: God became man. And in becoming, through spiritual conception, the man Jesus of Nazareth, the Word of God did not cease to be God. Baby Jesus, from the moment of conception to the straw habitation of the manger, was fully God and fully man. That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. When we put our minds long to the idea of Jesus being 100 percent God and simultaneously 100 percent man, they naturally feel overwhelmed. The orthodox doctrine of the incarnation is compelling, beautiful, biblically sensible, and salvifically necessary, but it is nevertheless utterly inscrutable. And that’s okay. In

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What Did Jesus Believe About the Bible?

Paul Carter: Recently I wrote about the 3 different ways that Post Evangelicals are relating to the Bible. The more conservative group will tend to appeal to the Protestant Reformers while the more progressive folks will cite Origen or Gregory of Nyssa. While it is interesting and helpful to be guided by history, the past can be used to support just about anything. As the wise man of the Old Testament said: What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9 ESV) Today’s novel interpretation is likely a repackaged version of yesterday’s discarded heresy. A footnote is not a foundation. Rather than grasping for a quote from the sixth or sixteenth century, Christians ought to be primarily concerned to study the example of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Word of God. He is the Spirit of Prophecy. He is God in the flesh, so if

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Glory of the Newborn King

Caleb Cangelosi: Of all the hymns written about the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the words of Charles Wesley’s “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” are among the most theologically dense and substantive–because all five stanzas are filled with Scriptural truths about Jesus. Before considering the Christology of this beautiful carol, though, it will help us to recall a little of the fascinating and ironic history behind it. Charles Wesley first penned the words of this poem in 1739, a year after his conversion. He originally wrote ten shorter stanzas, without a refrain, and his first two lines were “Hark! How all the welkin rings // Glory to the King of Kings.” Nearly all of us today would ask, “What on earth is a welkin?” A welkin is actually not “on earth” at all. Rather, it is the archaic English word referring to the sky or the celestial sphere where the angels dwell with God. Fifteen years after Wesley first wrote his poem,

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The Word Became Flesh! A Meditation on the Paradoxes of the Incarnation

Sam Storms: I’ve often said that the single most amazing, mind-boggling verse in the Bible is John 1:14 – “The Word became flesh!” As we approach Christmas, I thought it would be good to post again some observations I made in my book, Pleasures Evermore. I pray you are blessed by this meditation on the paradoxes of the Incarnation. Take a deep breath and ponder what this means. Don’t dismiss it as theological speculation. This is a truth on which your eternal destiny hangs suspended. This is a truth the beauty and majesty of which will captivate your attention and cause sin to sink in your estimation. Wherein lies the power to turn from iniquity and say No to sin? It lies in the power and irresistible appeal of an uncreated God who would dare to become a man! The Word became flesh! God became human! the invisible became visible! the untouchable became touchable! eternal life experienced temporal death! the transcendent one descended

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How Does Jesus’ Temptation Link Him to Israel?

Nicholas Batzig: As a young man, I would sometimes spend time talking with a family friend who was a watch expert. I was fascinated by the way in which he could quickly distinguish a true Rolex from a fake. On one occasion, my friend pointed out the seemingly microscopic initials that a watchmaker had engraved into the underside of a timepiece. It was this small detail that enabled my friend to authenticate this particular watch. I would never have thought to look for such a small and seemingly insignificant detail if he had not pointed it out to me. Similarly, the Scriptures identify the Lord Jesus as the true Israel of God by means of the smallest and seemingly most insignificant details in the records of His temptation in the wilderness. No sooner had God brought His son (Ex. 4:22), Israel, out of Egypt and through the waters that He brought him into the wilderness for forty years—to be tested

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Binding the Strong Man

Jesus ‘Bound the Strong Man’ and What That Means for You by Brandon D. Crowe: All Christians acknowledge that the Gospels are vital for discipleship today. But interpreting and applying the Gospels can be difficult since they’re about things that happened a long time ago—“back then.” What difference do these ancient events make for our daily lives? The Gospels are relevant because they showcase the victory that Jesus Christ, through his lifelong obedience, won on our behalf. The victory he won back then has cosmic and personal consequences that affect us right now. To demonstrate such relevance, let’s turn to a difficult parable of Jesus: the binding of the strong man, as found in Mark 3:22–30. Although this passage can be a head-scratcher, it’s best understood as a parable explaining Jesus’s mission. In Mark 3 Jesus’s mission is under attack. After announcing the coming of God’s kingdom (Mark 1:14–15), he begins to heal the sick, cast out demons, teach with authority, call disciples, and even forgive

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The Eternal Shore

Five Things We Forget About Heaven, by Gavin Ortlund: In 1952, Florence Chadwick tried to swim from Catalina Island to the coast of California. For fifteen hours, she endured choppy waters, possible shark attacks, and extreme fatigue. Then a thick fog set in. She gave up. Two months later, she tried again. This time, though it was foggy again, she made it. When asked what made the difference, she said, “The first time all I could see was the fog. The second time I kept a mental image of that shoreline in my mind while I swam.” For me, Chadwick’s comment gives a great image of how heaven should function in our lives as we follow Jesus. In order to persevere through the fog and fatigue of life, we need a mental image of the eternal shoreline toward which we swim. But if you’re like me, you tend to think about heaven far less than you should. Many days it’s completely

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How Can I Forgive Myself?

H.B. Charles: The most faithful response to this question is to reject it as an illegitimate question. The biblical teaching about forgiveness can be summarized in two main ideas: God forgives sinners freely, completely, and sacrificially. Ultimately, divine forgiveness is paid for by the cross of Christ. Christians must forgive those who wrong us, as God has forgiven us for the sake of Christ. That’s it. Sermon over. There is not third point. God has forgiven us and we must forgive others. Period. There are more than 125 direct references to forgiveness in the Bible. But the Bible does not teach that we should forgive ourselves. It does not explain how to forgive ourselves. It does not say anything about forgiving ourselves whatsoever. God is just, holy, and righteous. We are not. We are sinners who cannot do anything to win the approval of God. We cannot reach up to God. But God has reach down to us through the

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