What Child Is This?

  David Mathis: As a child, I was not impressed with a Christmas song that asked a question everyone already knew the answer to. What child is this? Really? It’s Jesus, of course. We all know that — even the kids know that. What I didn’t yet understand is that questions aren’t just for solving problems and requesting new information. Sometimes questions make a point. We call those “rhetorical questions.” Other times the form of a question expresses awe and wonder about something we know to be true, but find almost too good to be true. It’s too good to simply say it directly like we say everything else. When the disciples found themselves in a great windstorm, with waves breaking into the boat, and Jesus calmed the storm, they said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41). They knew the answer from Scripture. Only God himself can still

read more What Child Is This?

All are welcome here

“The cross of Jesus displays the most awful exhibition of God’s hatred of sin and at the same time the most august manifestation of his readiness to pardon it.  Pardon, full and free, is written out in every drop of blood that is seen, is proclaimed in every groan that is heard, and shines in the very prodigy of mercy that closes the solemn scene upon the cross.  O blessed door of return, open and never shut, to the wanderer from God!  How glorious, how free, how accessible!  Here the sinful, the vile, the guilty, the unworthy, the poor, the penniless, may come.  Here too the weary spirit may bring its burden, the broken spirit its sorrow, the guilty spirit its sin, the backsliding spirit its wandering.  All are welcome here. The death of Jesus was the opening and the emptying of the full heart of God; it was the outgushing of that ocean of infinite mercy that heaved and

read more All are welcome here

Why is Monogamous, Heterosexual Marriage so Important to Evangelical Christians?

Sam Storms: Why do we who identify as conservative evangelicals put so much emphasis on the importance of heterosexual monogamy as the only morally acceptable option? Two reasons may be cited. Of course, I could mention historical, social, and cultural arguments, even psychological arguments for the benefits and blessings of heterosexual marriage. But let me mention two biblical arguments, both of which were recently discussed by my friend Ray Ortlund. First, this is God’s will for all mankind! Moses said it clearly: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). In a world where the primary human relationship was of a child and his parents, this was a stunning statement. We are being told that nothing trumps the one-flesh relationship between a man and his wife. A person’s deepest and most abiding loyalty is to his/her spouse. A man is to “hold fast” or

read more Why is Monogamous, Heterosexual Marriage so Important to Evangelical Christians?

Are we preaching Christ or preaching about Christ?

Ray Ortlund: “My wife always says the most important thing about the man as a preacher was, you didn’t notice him.  He came quietly into the pulpit, started quietly, and then something seemed to happen, and then you became absorbed in what he was saying. . . . ‘We beseech you, in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God’ (2 Corinthians 5:20).  Spirit-filled preaching — the preacher is in the background.  And something happens.  The worshiper, by the grace of God, is being spoken to by God and by the Word of God.  So Lloyd-Jones would often say, the difference between talking about Christ and preaching Christ, or talking about the gospel and actually preaching the gospel.  It’s a comparatively easy thing to talk about the gospel, but to really preach it is another thing. . . . So many preachers have to start their sermon with a nice little anecdote or something interesting, to catch people’s attention.  That is

read more Are we preaching Christ or preaching about Christ?

Unless God Gives You God

John Piper: I am not completely sure why the glory of God began to be so central for me. The roots probably go back farther than I think. My mother and my father quoted 1 Corinthians 10:31 to me as often as any other text, “Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” So I grew up thinking everything in life from eating pizza to drinking Coke is supposed to somehow glorify — make God look glorious. And so it felt early on primarily like a duty. That is what you are supposed to do. But the Bible reveals things about the glory of God that make that little duty in 1 Corinthians 10:31explosive with significance. Can You Define Glory? We use the term “glory of God” so often that we seldom pause to define it. It’s like trying to define beauty. So let me make a stab at

read more Unless God Gives You God

Having Jesus

Having Jesus, what has the believer more? He possesses a righteousness in which God views him complete and accepted, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. Is not this a comfort? To stand “complete in Him”—in the midst of many and conscious imperfections, infirmities, flaws, and proneness to wander, yet for the sorrowing and trembling heart to turn and take up its rest in this truth, “that he that believes is justified from all things,” and stands accepted in the Beloved, to the praise of the glory of Divine grace, what a comfort! That God beholds him in Jesus without a spot, because He beholds His Son, in whom He is well pleased, and viewing the believing soul in Him can say, “You are all fair, my love; there is no spot in you”! The blessed Comforter conveys this truth to the troubled soul, brings it to take up its rest in it; and, as

read more Having Jesus

Never Offer the Benefits of the Gospel Without the Benefactor Himself

Sinclair Ferguson, in Feed My Sheep: There is a center to the Bible and its message of grace. It is found in Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected. Grace, therefore, must be preached in a way that is centered and focused on Jesus Christ Himself. We must never offer the benefits of the gospel without the Benefactor Himself. For many preachers, however, it is much easier to deal with the pragmatic things, to answer “how to” questions, and even to expose and denounce sin than it is to give an adequate explanation of the source of the forgiveness, acceptance, and power we need. It is a disheartening fact that evangelical Christians, who write vast numbers of Christian books, preach abundant sermons, sponsor numerous conferences and seminars, and broadcast myriad TV and radio programs actually write few books, preach few sermons, sponsor few conferences or seminars, and devote few programs to the theme of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We give our best and

read more Never Offer the Benefits of the Gospel Without the Benefactor Himself

The war between the serpent and the seed

The war between the serpent and the seed of the woman looms large across Jesus’ whole life and ministry, as he casts out demons, heals the sick, reconciles outcasts to himself, and announces the arrival of the kingdom. The real conquest is underway. What Adam and Israel failed to do — namely, drive the serpent from God’s holy garden and extend his reign to the ends of the earth — the Last Adam and True Israel will accomplish once and for all. The serpent’s head is crushed and the powers of evil are disarmed (Ro. 16:20; Col. 2:14–15). Death and hell no longer have the last word. Oppressors and those who perpetrate violence, injustice, and suffering throughout the earth have been delivered their own death warrant. In the meantime, it is a time of grace — when enemies are reconciled and even Satan’s coconspirators can be forgiven, justified, and renewed as part of God’s new creation. — Michael Horton The Christian

read more The war between the serpent and the seed

What does it mean to “accept Jesus”?

Ray Ortlund: “You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”  1 Thessalonians 1:9 You and I are not integrated, unified, whole persons.  Our hearts are multi-divided.  There is something like a board room in every heart.  Big table.  Leather chairs.  Coffee.  Bottled water.  Whiteboard.  A committee sits around the table.  There is the social self, the private self, the work self, the sexual self, the recreational self, the religious self, the childhood memories self, and many others.  The committee is arguing and debating and voting.  Constantly agitated and upset.  Rarely can they come to a unanimous, wholehearted decision. We are like that.  We tell ourselves it’s because we are so busy, with so many responsibilities.  The truth is, we are just indecisive.  We are held back by small thoughts of Jesus. A person in this condition can “accept Jesus” in either of two ways.  One way is to invite him onto the committee.  Give Jesus

read more What does it mean to “accept Jesus”?

The Unchanging Truth about Jesus and the Danger of Following Fads

Sam Storms: There is an interesting connection between Hebrews 13:8 and 13:9 that is not immediately evident. There are no explicit words that connect the two: no “therefore” or “in order that” or “because of.” So let’s look briefly at the two verses to see how they relate and what we can learn from them. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them” (Hebrews 13:8-9). You may recall that earlier in Hebrews 5:11-14 the author of this epistle rebuked his audience for their immaturity in matters of Christian doctrine. Hebrews 13:9 is yet additional evidence that doctrinal instability was a disheartening reality among these believers. Hence the admonition that they put an end to the influence of false teaching. Literally he says, “do not go on

read more The Unchanging Truth about Jesus and the Danger of Following Fads

The Kingship of Jesus

Tim Keller: The power of Christ’s kingly rule is now present among gathered Christians (Luke 17:20-21), liberating people from false masters and enslaving idols. Among the disciples, the kingdom is a new human order in which power, money, recognition, and success are properly reordered in light of the registry of the kingdom. It is not that these things no longer matter but that they become transposed by the unleashing of Christ’s new creation – by service, generosity, and humility (Luke 6:17-29). Jesus’ kingship is not like human kingships, for it wins influence through suffering service, not coercive power. We enter it not through strength but through the weakness of repentance and the new birth (John 3) and becoming like a child (Matt 18:3-4). Christ’s liberating rule is not fully here. All his disciples are to pray for it to come, according to Matthew 6:10, and at the end of time we will receive it in completion (Matt 25:34). But finally

read more The Kingship of Jesus

Dazzling the Eyes of Angels

Dane Ortlund: In his little book Saved by Grace on Ephesians 2:5 John Bunyan considers God’s ‘carriage’ toward sinful men and women. How does he come to us? In what heart? What is the look on his face, the tone of his voice? God comes to the sinner while he is in his sins; he comes to him now, not in the heat and fire of his jealousy, but in the cool of the day, in unspeakable gentleness, mercy, pity, and bowels of love: not clothing himself with vengeance, but in a way of entreaty, and meekly beseeches the sinner to be reconciled to him. It is expected among men that he who gives the offense should be the first in seeking peace; but, sinner, betwixt God and man it is not so. God is the first that seeks peace. O sinner, will you not open? Behold, God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ stand both at the door

read more Dazzling the Eyes of Angels

The Bible is Not a Portrait; It’s a Window

Matt Papa: The Bible is not a portrait; it’s a window. It’s not wrong to come to the Bible to get doctrinal clarity. But it is wrong to come to the Bible mainly to get doctrinal clarity. That is idolatry. That is knowing God to sound smart. It’s not wrong to come to the Bible to get wisdom for your daily living. That is wonderful. But it is wrong to come to the Bible mainly to get wisdom for your daily living. That is idolatry — using God to get your best life now. You will never see Glory that way. You will never get outside of yourself that way. So how do we do it? A lot of people will make suggestions about the best ways to read Scripture. They will offer questions for you to ask as you read like: “Is there a command to obey here?” Or, “Is there an example to follow?” “Is there a sin to avoid?” These are

read more The Bible is Not a Portrait; It’s a Window

The beauty of Christ

Jonathan Edwards: He is indeed possessed of infinite majesty, to inspire us with reverence an adoration; yet that majesty need not terrify us, for we behold it blended with humility, meekness, and sweet condescension. We may feel the most profound reverence and self-abasement, and yet our hearts be drawn forth sweetly and powerfully into an intimacy the most free, confidential, and delightful. The dread, so naturally inspired by his greatness, is dispelled by the contemplation of his gentleness and humility; while the familiarity, which might otherwise arise from this view of the loveliness of his character merely, is ever prevented by the consciousness of his infinite majesty and glory; and the sight of all his perfections united fills us with sweet surprise and humble confidence, with reverential love and delightful adoration. — Jonathan Edwards Works, Vol. 1 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth), cxxxix (HT: Of First Importance)

The Affection of Christ Alone

Tim Keller: Luther says that if we obey God’s law without a belief that we are already accepted and loved in Christ, then in all our good deeds we are really looking to something more than Jesus to be the real source of our meaning and happiness. We may be trusting in our good parenting or moral uprightness or spiritual performance or acts of service to be our real and functional “saviors.” If we aren’t already sure God loves us in Christ, we will be looking to something else for our foundational significance and self-worth. This is why Luther says we are committing idolatry if we don’t trust in Christ alone for our approval. The first commandment is foundational to all the other commandments. We will not break commandments two through ten unless we are in some way breaking the first one by serving something or someone other than God. Every sin is rooted in the inordinate lust for something

read more The Affection of Christ Alone

Pleasure in Jesus is the root of holiness

From Michael Reeves’ latest book Rejoicing in Christ: Anyone can use the word, of course, but without Christ holiness tends to have all the charm of an ingrown toenail. For, very simply, if holiness is not first and foremost about knowing Christ, it will be about self-produced morality and religiosity. But such incurved self-dependence is quite the opposite of what pleases God, or what is actually beautiful. God is not interested in our manufactured virtue; he does not want any external obedience or morality if it does not flow from true love for him. He wants us to share his pleasure in his Son. What is the greatest commandment, after all? “Love the Lord your God” (Mt 22:36–37). That is the root of true God-likeness. Nothing is more holy than a heartfelt delight in Christ. Nothing is so powerful to transform lives. (86–87) (HT: Tony Reinke)

He is Just the Christ I Need!

The believer, too, beholds a suitability in Christ, sees Him to be just the Savior adapted to the necessities of his soul; and this renders Him peculiarly precious. “I see Him,” exclaims the believer, “to be exactly the Christ I need- His fulness meets my emptiness- His blood cleanses my guilt- His grace subdues my sin- His patience bears with my infirmities- His gentleness succours my weakness- His love quickens my obedience- His sympathy soothes my sorrows- His beauty charms my eye. He is just the Savior, just the Christ I need, and no words can describe His preciousness to my soul!” –Octavius Winslow, The Precious Things of God (HT: Erik Raymond)

How to deal with indwelling sin

Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s testimony to overcomining sexual sin. You can read the whole thing here. This is a wonderful model for dealing with any aspect of indwelling sin: What is the sin of sexual transgression? The sex? The identity? How deep was repentance to go? Meeting John Owen In these newfound struggles, a friend recommended that I read an old, seventeenth-century theologian named John Owen, in a trio of his books (now brought together under the title Overcoming Sin and Temptation). At first, I was offended to realize that what I called “who I am,” John Owen called “indwelling sin.” But I hung in there with him. Owen taught me that sin in the life of a believer manifests itself in three ways: distortion by original sin, distractionof actual day-to-day sin, and discouragement by the daily residence of indwelling sin. Eventually, the concept of indwelling sin provided a window to see how God intended to replace my shame with hope.

read more How to deal with indwelling sin

The beauty of Christ

  Jonathan Edwards: He is indeed possessed of infinite majesty, to inspire us with reverence and adoration; yet that majesty need not terrify us, for we behold it blended with humility, meekness, and sweet condescension. We may feel the most profound reverence and self-abasement, and yet our hearts be drawn forth sweetly and powerfully into an intimacy the most free, confidential, and delightful. The dread, so naturally inspired by his greatness, is dispelled by the contemplation of his gentleness and humility; while the familiarity, which might otherwise arise from this view of the loveliness of his character merely, is ever prevented by the consciousness of his infinite majesty and glory; and the sight of all his perfections united fills us with sweet surprise and humble confidence, with reverential love and delightful adoration. — Jonathan Edwards Works, Vol. 1 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth), cxxxix (HT: Of First Importance)

Jesus is Alive!

  The resurrection: Vindicates the life, ministry, teaching and especially the death of Christ. Shows Christ’s victory over sin, Satan, hell and death. Validates the believer’s justification and forgiveness Serves as a visual-aid for the believer’s new risen life in Christ. Verifies the Christian’s own ultimate resurrection and eternal blessedness in the new creation. The unveiling of the new creation; its inauguration.