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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

The Crown of Thorns

James Stalker: “When Adam and Eve were driven from the garden into the bleak and toilsome world, their doom was that the ground should bring forth to them thorns and thistles. Thorns were the sign of the curse; that is, of their banishment from God’s presence and of all the sad and painful consequences following therefrom. And does not the thorn, staring from the naked bough of winter in threatening ugliness, lurking beneath the leaves of flowers of summer to wound the approaching hand, tearing the clothes or the flesh of the traveler who tries to make his way through the thicket, burning in the flesh where it has sunk, fitly stand for that side of life which we associate with sin — the side of care, fret, pain, disappointment, disease and death? In a word, it symbolizes the curse; and as he lifted it on his own head, he took it off the world. He bore our sins and

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The bible’s kind of marriage is most like a crucifixion

C.S. Lewis on our Pattern in marriage: We must go back to our Bibles. The husband is the head of the wife just in so far as he is to her what Christ is to the Church. He is to love her as Christ loved the church–read on–and gave his life for her (Eph 5:25). This headship, then, is most fully embodied not in the husband we should all wish to be but in him whose marriage is most like a crucifixion; whose wife receives most and gives least, is most unworthy of him, is–in her own mere nature–least lovable. For the Church has no beauty but what the Bridegroom gives her; he does not find, but makes her lovely. The chrism of this terrible coronation is to be seen not in the joys of any man’s marriage but in its sorrows, in the sickness and sufferings of a good wife or the faults of a bad one, in his

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You are not the light

  Kevin DeYoung: I had read John 1 hundreds of times before. But this time I got stuck on verse 8: “He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.” “Huh,” I thought, sitting up straight and staring at nothing in particular for a minute or two, “that’s a word I need to hear as a pastor.” More than that, it’s a word I need to hear as a Christian. Here’s John the Baptist–pretty important guy, wildly popular prophet, forerunner of the Messiah, just about the greatest person ever born of a woman (Mt. 11:11). And when the Holy Spirit takes a moment to introduce him in John’s prologue, He wants to make clear: John the Baptist was not the light. Hey pastor, have you forgotten that this whole church thing isn’t about you? Have I forgotten that it’s not about the size of my church, the number of compliments I receive, or the reach of

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Sunday: Gathering in Gratitude for Our Substitute Sacrifice

Mark Dever, from It Is Well: Expositions on Substitutionary Atonement: Christian brothers and sisters, do you climb up the church steps every Sunday burdened with guilt, as if there’s some way you need to perform on a Sunday morning in order for God to once again be sufficiently pleased with you to allow you to go on for another week? That’s not the gospel; that’s not the good news of Jesus Christ. Do you feel that there is something you still need to do to gain God’s favor? There isn’t. There is nothing else you need to do in order to gain God’s favor. God has done that for you in Christ. God has provided a substitute to bear His correct punishment of us for our sins, to bear His wrath for us, and because of that we are left in the incredible state of freedom and acceptance. Indeed, for us to think there is something else we need to do

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Every Story Casts His Shadow

“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:27 Welcome to the world of Biblical Theology. Tevin Wax: Here’s a brief video that shows how the Old Testament stories point forward to Christ. This is the heart behind The Gospel Project Chronological. You can preview sessions here.

A sermon cannot do any good unless there is a savour of Christ in it

C.H. Spurgeon: A young man had been preaching in the presence of a venerable divine, and after he had done he went to the old minister, and said, “What do you think of my sermon?” “A very poor sermon indeed,” said he. “A poor sermon?” said the young man, “it took me a long time to study it.” “Ay, no doubt of it.” “Why, did you not think my explanation of the text a very good one?” “Oh, yes,” said the old preacher, “very good indeed.” “Well, then, why do you say it is a poor sermon? Didn’t you think the metaphors were appropriate and the arguments conclusive?” “Yes, they were very good as far as that goes, but still it was a very poor sermon.” “Will you tell me why you think it a poor sermon?” “Because,” said he, “there was no Christ in it.” “Well,” said the young man, “Christ was not in the text; we are not

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