Following the Faithful

John MacArthur: Nobody wants to be led off a cliff. But that’s a very real possibility for anyone who follows the wrong leaders. Jesus said as much concerning the religious leaders of His time on earth: “They are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:14). Following unfit leaders is a sure road to ruin.  Nowhere is that more apparent than in the church. Scan the evangelical landscape for all the proof you need of the severe damage that unqualified and untrustworthy leaders can do to their congregations. Biblical discernment is nonnegotiable—it is an essential quality for church leaders and critical for those of us who sit under their teaching. Believers need to follow and emulate those who demonstrate godly discernment, and carefully avoid the leadership of people who are themselves “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians

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How Scripture Empowers Personal Holiness

John MacArthur: Becoming More like God Godliness, Christlikeness, and Christian spirituality all describe a Christian becoming more like God. The most powerful way to effect this change is by letting the Word of God dwell in one richly (Col. 3:16). When one embraces Scripture without reservation, it will energetically work God’s will in the believer’s life (1 Thess. 2:13). The process could be basically defined as follows: Christian spirituality involves growing to be like God in character and conduct by personally submitting to the transforming work of God’s Word and God’s Spirit. Holiness Embodies the Very Essence of Christianity Christians have been saved to be holy and to live holy lives (1 Pet. 1:14–16). What does it mean to be holy? Both the Hebrew and Greek words for “to be holy” (which appear about two thousand times in Scripture) basically mean “to be set aside for something special.” Thus, God is holy in that he sets himself apart from creation,

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How Do We Become Spiritually Mature?

John MacArthur: We don’t want to remain spiritual children, perpetually stuck in infancy. We don’t want to be weak, vulnerable, and immature. Nor do we want to be ignorant about God’s truth, because we want to fully glorify Him for everything He has done. We want to appreciate Him in all His fullness, knowing and loving Him thoroughly. If that’s the goal, then how do we get there? How do we respond to the Word in a way that drives that progress? I see three definitive steps in the biblical pattern of sanctification. The first is cognition. John 17:17 gives our Lord’s prayer: “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” We have to understand what the Bible says and what it means if it is going to produce growth in us. Sanctification begins with spiritually renewing the mind, that is, changing how we think. We need “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). There is no premium on ignorance or naivete

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The Battle for Biblical Truth

John MacArthur: Antipathy toward God’s Word inherently resides in the hearts of all sinners. This antipathy may even be present in those within the church. If there is any doubt about this, it is worth asking why popular evangelicalism’s greatest fear is being out of sync with the culture. Pastors and leaders are chasing the culture, so that its trends show up in their churches. They treat this pursuit as a necessary evangelistic strategy. But the only way to be in sync with the culture is to diminish the presence of the Word of God, because unregenerate culture will always be fundamentally and irreconcilably incompatible with the truth of God. By catering to the unchurched or to the unconverted in the church, evangelical- ism has been hijacked by legions of carnal spin doctors seeking to convince the world that Christians can be just as inclusive, pluralistic, and open-minded as any postmodern, politically correct worldling. However, true biblical Christianity requires a denial

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You’re Insignificant for God’s Glory

  John MacArthur: Convinced of His Own Unworthiness Alongside Paul’s confidence in God’s sovereignty, he was kept faithful by a powerful conviction that he himself was nothing (1 Cor. 3:7; 2 Cor. 12:11). Paul did not have an exalted view of himself. He spoke of himself as the foremost of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15); “the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle” (1 Cor. 15:9); and “the very least of all the saints” (Eph. 3:8). Here in 2 Corinthians he writes, “We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7). Paul pictures himself as a cheap container holding a priceless treasure. What is the treasure? It is “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (v. 6). That’s a reference to the gospel. Paul was entrusted with it and called to proclaim it, and he saw it as

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Can you be a Christian and Deny the Trinity?

John MacArthur: A Mormon asked me this question a number of years ago, and through the years, I’ve asked a number of people this question, and I wanted to get your opinion. Can you become a Christian if you deny the Trinity? Answer: I would answer, “No.” If you don’t believe in the Trinity, then you don’t understand who God is. You may say the word “God” but you don’t understand His nature. Second, you couldn’t possibly understand who Christ is — that He is God in human flesh. The Incarnation of Christ is an essential component of the biblical gospel, as John 1:1-14 and many other biblical passages make clear. To deny the Trinity is to deny the Incarnation. And to deny the Incarnation is to wrongly understand the true gospel. In saying that, I realize that such an answer is going to not only impact people that you may have witnessed to (like Mormons), but it also applies to some

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Evangelism Starts With God

David Qaoud: One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in evangelism is telling people the good news without telling them the bad news. No wonder I’m met with blank stares or “That’s nice for you, but not for me.” When we don’t tell unbelievers about sin and wrath, they often think grace is irrelevant. They don’t see their need for a Savior. I know I’m not alone. Myself, I suspect I don’t like sharing the bad news because of fear of man. I don’t want to offend people or bring up words like hell and wrath and sin because then the conversation may get weird. I don’t like awkward moments. I want to seem cool. I want to win people to Christ simply by telling people only about Christ and avoiding all the difficult parts. DEFINING EVANGELISM But true evangelism requires more. As it’s been said, evangelism is sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with an unbeliever with the aim

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Sin Didn’t Kill Jesus—God Did

  John MacArthur: A Shocking Truth The reality of Christ’s vicarious, substitutionary death on our behalf is the heart of the gospel according to God—the central theme of Isaiah 53. We must remember, however, that sin did not kill Jesus; God did. The suffering servant’s death was nothing less than a punishment administered by God for sins others had committed. That is what we mean when we speak of penal substitutionary atonement. Again, if the idea seems shocking and disturbing, it is meant to be. Unless you recoil from the thought, you probably haven’t grasped it yet. “Our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). This is one of the major reasons the gospel is a stumbling block to Jews, and it’s sheer foolishness as far as Gentiles are concerned (1 Cor. 1:23). “But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, [the message of Christ crucified embodies both] the power of God and the wisdom of God” (v.

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Why We Should Not Fear Satan and Demons

From Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue: Are Demons in the World Today? Why do demons sometimes receive so much attention from the media? Are the reports biblically correct, or are they just the musings of uninformed people who see a demon behind every bush and under every rock? Has demon activity accelerated in the world? How can one know which concepts are biblically accurate and which are not? This subject deserves a full-length book, but it will only be summarized here. Consider several preliminary, general observations: We affirm the historical reality of Satan and demons, both in the past and in the present, as verified by the Bible. We affirm that the Bible admonishes Christians to expect Satan and demons to operate now much as they did in both Old Testament and New Testament times (1 Pet. 5:6–11). We affirm that the Bible teaches that, in living out the Christian life,

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How Scripture Empowers Personal Holiness

Adapted from Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth by John MacArthur. Becoming More like God Godliness, Christlikeness, and Christian spirituality all describe a Christian becoming more like God. The most powerful way to effect this change is by letting the Word of God dwell in one richly (Col. 3:16). When one embraces Scripture without reservation, it will energetically work God’s will in the believer’s life (1 Thess. 2:13). The process could be basically defined as follows: Christian spirituality involves growing to be like God in character and conduct by personally submitting to the transforming work of God’s Word and God’s Spirit. Holiness Embodies the Very Essence of Christianity Christians have been saved to be holy and to live holy lives (1 Pet. 1:14–16). What does it mean to be holy? Both the Hebrew and Greek words for “to be holy” (which appear about two thousand times in Scripture) basically mean “to be set aside for something special.” Thus,

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The Gospel Kind of Christ-Centeredness

Jared Wilson: Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance . . . — 1 Corinthians 15:1-3 To be gospel-centered is to be Christ-centered. But as it pertains to the pursuit of holiness and obedience to God’s commands we may opt more often for the terminology “gospel-centered,” because without more qualifications, “Christ-centered obedience” can be misconstrued to imply simply taking Jesus as a moral example. Jesus is our moral example, of course, but the power for enduring, joyful obedience comes not from trying to be like him, but in first believing that he has become like us, that he has died in our place, risen as our resurrection firstfruits, ascended to intercede for us, and seated to

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What Does Sola Scriptura Mean?

John MacArthur: The Reformation principle of sola Scriptura has to do with the sufficiency of Scripture as our supreme authority in all spiritual matters. Sola Scriptura simply means that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture. It is not a claim that all truth of every kind is found in Scripture. The most ardent defender of sola Scriptura will concede, for example, that Scripture has little or nothing to say about DNA structures, microbiology, the rules of Chinese grammar, or rocket science. This or that “scientific truth,” for example, may or may not be actually true, whether or not it can be supported by Scripture—but Scripture is a “more sure Word,” standing above all other truth in its authority and certainty. It is “more sure,” according to the apostle Peter, than the data we gather firsthand through our senses (2 Peter 1:19). Therefore, Scripture is the highest and supreme authority

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Common Interpretive Pitfalls

  by John MacArthur Every paratrooper knows precisely where he is supposed to land, but no paratrooper will jump without also knowing the surrounding territory. To do otherwise can leave one disoriented and lost, which can have disastrous consequences. In the same way, to randomly parachute into Bible passages, trying to glean spiritual gems devoid of context, can lead to wasted time and stunted spiritual growth. Regular Bible reading according to a strategic plan is the right foundation for successful Bible study. And the principles of accurate interpretation will take that Bible study to the next level of spiritual blessing and benefit. Reading God’s Word answers the question: What does the Bible say? But interpreting it answers the question: What does the Bible mean by what it says? Proper Bible interpretation is a critical element of successful Bible study. The reader does not have license to decide what it means. He has to learn what it means. Paul’s pastoral counsel to

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Don’t tolerate false teachers

Many Christians today are greatly concerned about the rising influences of communism, humanism, secularism, and social injustice. Yet those evils, great as they are, do not together pose the threat to Christianity that false shepherds and pastors do. Throughout the history of redemption, the greatest threat to God’s truth and God’s work has been false prophets and teachers, because they propose to speak in His name. That is why the Lord’s most scathing denunciations were reserved for the false teachers of Israel, who claimed to speak and act for God but were liars. Yet for some reason, evangelical Christianity is often hesitant to confront false teachers with the seriousness and severity that Jesus and the apostles did, and that the godly prophets before them had done. Today, more than at any time in modern history and perhaps more than at any time in the history of the church, pagan religions and cults are seriously encroaching on societies that for centuries

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Our determination to be biblical

John MacArthur writes: The market-driven philosophy of user-friendly churches does not easily permit them to take firm enough doctrinal positions to oppose false teaching. Their outlook on leadership drives them to hire marketers who can sell rather than biblically qualified pastors who can teach. Their approach to ministry is so undoctrinal that they cannot educate their people against subtle errors. Their avoidance of controversy puts them in a position where they cannot oppose false teaching that masquerades as evangelicalism. In fact, the new trends in theology seem ideally suited to the user-friendly philosophy. Why would the user-friendly church oppose such doctrines? But oppose them we must, if we are to remain true to God’s Word and maintain a gospel witness. Pragmatic approaches to ministry do not hold answers to the dangers confronting biblical Christianity today. Pragmatism promises bigger churches, more people, and a living church, but it is really carnal wisdom–spiritually bankrupt and contrary to the Word of God. Marketing

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Doctrine is Practical

“The word doctrine simply means “teaching.” And it’s ludicrous to say that Christ is anti-teaching. The central imperative of His Great Commission is the command to teach (Matthew 28:18-20). Yet there’s no shortage of church-growth experts, professional pollsters, and even seminary professors nowadays who are cautioning young pastors that doctrine is too divisive, too threatening, too heady and theoretical—and therefore simply impractical. Impractical? I agree that practical application is vital. I don’t want to minimize its importance. But if there is a deficiency in preaching today, it is that there’s too much relational, pseudo-psychological, and thinly life-related content, and not enough emphasis on sound doctrine. Moreover, the distinction between doctrinal and practical truth is completely artificial; doctrine is practical. In fact, nothing is more practical than sound doctrine, because there’s ultimately no basis for godly behavior apart from the truth of God’s Word. Practical insights, gimmicks, and illustrations mean little if they are divorced from divine principle. Before the preacher

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