10 Things You Should Know about the Necessity of Biblical Preaching

Sam Storms: In last week’s installment of our ten-things-you-should-know series I focused on the causes for the demise of biblical preaching. Today I want to focus on why it is so critical that pastors be committed to the exposition of the Word. (1) We must preach because of the power of the Word of God to change human lives and to transform the experience of the church. Tragically, although they would hardly admit it openly, many preachers have grown suspicious of the power of the Scriptures to change lives. Day in and day out they face marriages that are disintegrating, teenagers who are rebelling, both young and old fighting addictions from which they can’t break free, not to mention the spiritual apathy of their congregations, and they secretly doubt if there is much help to be found in digging deeply into an ancient book. Contemporary problems call for contemporary solutions, and nothing seems more irrelevant and obsolete than Scripture. If that

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He Leadeth Me!

Sam Storms: In 1862 Joseph Gilmore wrote one of the more familiar of our traditional hymns: He Leadeth Me. He leadeth me, O blessèd thought! O words with heav’nly comfort fraught! Whate’er I do, where’er I be, Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me. He leadeth me, He leadeth me, By His own hand He leadeth me; His faithful follower I would be, For by His hand He leadeth me When Jesus turns to describe himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep, he not only speaks of how he loves us but also how leads us. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep

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Caterpillars, Butterflies, and Replacement Theology

Sam Storms: Many times I’ve been asked by church members if I believe in “replacement” theology. Although this is a massively complex subject, I’ve tried to provide a brief answer. All biblical interpreters recognize development between the Old Testament and the New. Some say the Old Testament is the seed which becomes the flower in the New. Others speak of the relationship as one of symbol to substance, or type to anti-type. The point is we must strive to understand the obvious progress in redemptive history. And when I look at the relationship between Israel and the church, I see something similar to the relationship between the caterpillar and the butterfly. The butterfly doesn’t replace the caterpillar; the butterfly is the caterpillar in a more developed and consummate form. The butterfly is what God intended the caterpillar to become. Likewise, the church doesn’t replace Israel; the church is Israel as God always intended it to be. What we see in the New Testament, then, isn’t the replacement of

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God Created Us for “exceeding, inexpressibly great happiness”

Sam Storms: Saturday, October 5th, is the birthday of my theological hero, Jonathan Edwards. He was born in 1703 in East Windsor, Connecticut, and his life and words continue to affect me in countless ways. The Edwards home was rather unusual, as Jonathan had 10 sisters and no brothers! But that’s not my focus in this article. I want to briefly reflect on one of the more important truths that occupied his mind. Although what follows is primarily designed for those who, like Edwards, are in pastoral ministry, all of you can benefit greatly from reflecting deeply on what he said. Edwards was just 21 years old when he preached a sermon entitled, “Nothing Upon Earth Can Represent the Glories of Heaven.” It was the first sermon he ever preached based on a text from the book of Revelation (21:18). And it was in this sermon that he articulated one of the most important theological insights he ever had: “God created

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The Horror of a Different Jesus

Sam Storms: Our pluralistic, consumer driven society is all about choices, options, and diversity. If you don’t like what you see, be patient; another version, an updated edition, a new and improved alternative will soon appear. This is often the case in certain expressions of contemporary “Christianity” (so-called). Don’t like the Jesus of evangelical, orthodox biblical faith? No problem. There are plenty of other Jesus’s to choose from. There’s the liberal Jesus, the liberation Jesus, the Christ of the cults, and the Christ of Islam. There’s the entirely human but not so divine Jesus or, if you prefer, the entirely divine and hardly human Christ. Or perhaps you relish a more home-grown Jesus, one that is fashioned after the desires of your own heart. Messianic pretender? Philosophical sage? How about the Jesus of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code? Or the Jesus of The Gospel of Judas? 2020 is a presidential election year, so cast your vote: the Democratic Jesus or

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10 Things You Should Know about the Gospel

By Sam Storms: As much as we hear about the gospel of Jesus Christ one would think that everyone is on the same page when it comes to defining this word. Sadly, that is not the case. So just what is the gospel? How might we define it? Here are ten things to keep in mind. (1) The “gospel” is the gloriously great good news of what our triune God has graciously done in the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to satisfy his own wrath against us and to secure the forgiveness of sins and perfect righteousness for all who trust in him by faith alone. Christ fulfilled, on our behalf, the perfectly obedient life under God’s law that we should have lived, but never could. He died, in our place, the death that we deserved to suffer but now never will. And by his rising from the dead he secures for those who believe the promise

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What does it mean to worship God “in spirit and truth”?

Sam Storms: Everyone is familiar with the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman in John 4. But not everyone can explain what Jesus meant when he said that the Father is seeking men and women who will worship him “in spirit and truth” (v. 23)? To say that we must worship God “in spirit” means, among other things, that it must originate from within, from the heart; it must be sincere, motivated by our love for God and gratitude for all he is and has done. Worship cannot be mechanical or formalistic. That does not necessarily rule out certain rituals or liturgy. But it does demand that all physical postures or symbolic actions must be infused with heart-felt commitment and faith and love and zeal. But the word “spirit” here may also be a reference to the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul said that Christians “worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no

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J. I. Packer’s Thoughts on Holiness

A Habitual Attitude Sam Storms: There is no holiness or Christian life that does not have repentance at its core. Repentance is not merely one element in conversion, but a habitual attitude and action to which all Christians are called. It is, argues Packer, a spiritual discipline central to and inseparable from healthy holy living. But what is it? How should it be defined? What are its characteristic features? A close reading of Packer reveals that he understands repentance to entail a number of interrelated themes. The most important dimension in godly repentance is the fundamental alteration in one’s thinking with regard to what is sin and what God requires of us in terms both of our thoughts and actions. Repentance thus begins with a recognition of the multitude of ways in which our thinking and attitude and belief system are contrary to what is revealed in Scripture. We are by nature and choice misshapen and warped in the way

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God’s gracious gift of the new birth

Sam Storms: What did Jesus mean in John 3 when he spoke to Nicodemus of being born again? The best way to answer that question is by taking note of what Jesus did not mean. And it is, somewhat surprisingly, Nicodemus himself who supplies us with the answer. (1) We know, first of all, that being religious is not the same as being born again. We know this because Jesus was speaking to one of the most religious men in Israel, a Pharisee, and to that man he says, “You, Mr. Pharisee, you, Nicodemus, must be born again.” (2) Being well-trained in the Bible and able to instruct others in what it says is not the same as being born again. Nicodemus was “a ruler of the Jews” and one of the primary teachers of Israel (John 3:10, but he wasn’t born again. An intimate knowledge of the Scriptures and the ability to communicate it clearly does not always mean you are born again. (3) Attending religious

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How Important is the Gospel?

Sam Storms: Many have reached a saturation point when it comes to the notion of gospel centrality. “Enough already,” they cry, with more than a little exasperation. I understand this reaction. We who identify as evangelicals are good at taking what is otherwise a fully biblical term or concept and beating it into the ground or pounding it into the heads of our people. So, yes, it’s possible for us to grow justifiably weary of certain terminology. After years of watching “gospel-centered” be used as an adjective to describe everything from children’s ministry to a Wednesday night pot-luck dinner to global missions, I pray that we not lose sight of how indescribably important the gospel actually is. So I thought it might be helpful if we simply let Scripture address the matter. This post, therefore, is designed for those of you who, in your understandable frustration with what has often become a mindless and repetitive use of the language of gospel-centrality,

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Perhaps the most important reason we struggle with personal evangelism

Sam Storms: The 13th reason why we stink at evangelism is simply that people don’t actually know what the gospel is, or if they do know it, they struggle to articulate it in face-to-face conversations with unbelievers. Feeling ill-equipped to explain the gospel, they look for ways to avoid interaction with non-Christians. So what is the gospel? I was greatly helped by Tim Keller in answering this question, as he identified one of the major mistakes people make in thinking of the gospel. He explained how most Christians live in an “if / then” relationship with God. If I do what is right, then God will love me. If I give extra money to missions, then God will provide me with a raise at work. If I avoid sinful habits, then I will be spared suffering and humiliation, etc. It’s a conditional relationship that is based on the principle of merit. The gospel calls us to live in a “because /

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12 reasons we often fail in personal evangelism

Sam Storms: I was motivated to write this brief article because of something I saw in the text that I recently preached at Bridgeway. In John 1:35-51 we read about several individuals who followed Jesus. One of the first to do so was Andrew. We read in John 1:42 that “he [Andrew] brought him [Peter] to Jesus.” What a wonderful way to be remembered, as a man who brought another to Jesus! So why don’t we do likewise? Here are the a dozen reasons why. There may be more, but I’ll settle for these. (1) We are reluctant to share the gospel with others because of a loss of belief in the reality of hell. If there is no eternal conscious punishment for those who reject Jesus, why bother with taking the time and making the effort of telling them about him? If divine wrath is little more than a figure of speech, there is no urgency in taking the gospel to the lost.

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A brief reflection on truth

Sam Storms: Of the many things John writes concerning the Word, the Son of God, in John 1, one of the more important is his statement in v. 14 that he is “full of grace and truth.” Let’s be clear right from the start. God isn’t whatever you want him to be. He is who he is whether you like it or not. God is not like silly putty in the hands of those who wish to twist and shape him into something more palatable to their senses. He has always been, is now, and will forever be the same. His character and revealed will do not change when culture does or when he falls out of favor with human opinion. Jesus Christ embodies, defines, and speaks truth whether or not you think he does. Simply because you don’t like some of the things Jesus said or did does not mean they aren’t true. Truth is not what works or

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Philippians 2:12-13 – The Most Important NT Text on the Christian Life and Sanctification

Sam Storms: When it comes to our understanding and experience of Christian sanctification, I can’t think of a more important biblical text than Philippians 2:12-13. Here is what Paul wrote: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13). Paul’s point is that we work out the Christian life, or act in obedience to the Word of God, only because God has already been at work within, performing a miracle in our lives. At the heart of Paul’s argument is the fact that when it comes to the Christian life, God is always antecedent. He comes first. He acts before we act. We only act because he has already acted. God works in us in advance of our working for

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10 Things You Should Know about Spiritual Adoption

Sam Storms: As glorious and wonderful as is the physical birth of a new-born baby, it pales in comparison with the spiritual re-birth of a person and the new life in Jesus Christ that they receive by God’s mercy and grace. I don’t mean to downplay the beauty of physical birth. It is truly a miracle and puts on display God’s creativity and power. But the second birth, being born again, as the NT describes it, is greater still. Physical birth only gives us physical life. Being born again gives us eternal life as the children of God. So let’s look at ten things we all should know about what it means to be an adopted child of God. (1) Although we should be careful when we compare the goodness of God’s gifts, I believe that spiritual adoption is near the top of the list. This isn’t in the least to slight justification or forgiveness or the indwelling presence of

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What makes ‘Good Friday’ good?

Sam Storms: If you plan on being in Oklahoma City on Friday, April 18, I want to invite you to join us for our traditional “Good Friday” service at 6:30 p.m. in our auditorium. I would also encourage you to invite friends and family members who may not know Jesus and his saving love. This will be a wonderful time for them to hear a short and pointed presentation of the gospel. So, why do we speak of the Friday when Jesus was brutalized and crucified as good? It would almost seem as if there could hardly be a day that is worse! In one sense, you are correct. Jesus was unjustly tried, lied about, scourged, and sadistically crucified. But in a far more ultimate sense this was immeasurably good. It was good for two reasons. First, the crucifixion of Jesus, as horrible and unjust as it was, fulfilled God’s plan. Peter declared this in Acts 4:27-28 by reminding us that, in crucifying

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We’re in a War, Folks!

Sam Storms: The Apostle Peter tells us that “the passions of the flesh” are waging “war against” our “souls” (1 Peter 2:11). Don’t underestimate the significance of this daily battle for our souls. So, how are we to fight? With what weapons do we wage this war? Peter says we do so “as (or because we are) sojourners and exiles” (v. 11a; see 1 Peter 1:1,17). His point is that we should draw strength to say No to fleshly passions because they belong to this world and we don’t! We are citizens of a heavenly kingdom that operates under the Lordship of Christ. The culture of heaven is governed by a different ethic, a different spirit, a different morality. So remind yourself often of where you belong. We belong to the Lord Jesus, not to this world, so take your cues from him, not it. John Piper put it best when he said that “we must cultivate the mindset of exiles.” This truth is designed

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The Answer to God’s Seeming Megalomania

Sam Storms: I recently returned to reading John Piper’s book, Reading the Bible Supernaturally, and was stunned yet again by a truth that has utterly transformed my life. That’s not an overstatement. I can’t think of another theological principle that has meant more to me than what you are about to read. I have often in my books tried to say the same thing, but it always seems to fall short of how John has expressed it. John begins by citing C. S. Lewis and his description of how he struggled with the incessant demand by God that all creation praise him. Lewis confessed that God sounded like “a vain woman who wants compliments.” Then came the discovery that changed Lewis’s life too: “But the most obvious fact about praise—whether of God or anything—strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise.

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Is Jesus Precious to Your Soul?

Sam Storms: There is an astounding statement in 1 Peter 2:6 about Jesus Christ that stands as a challenge to each of us who claim to be his followers. Peter describes Jesus as “a cornerstone chosen and precious.” Think about it: he is chosen of the Father and precious! He is of immeasurable value to God the Father and must therefore be precious and of immeasurable value to us! Treasuring Christ is God’s response to Christ and therefore should be ours. Consider this. God is omniscient. He knows everything. He sees not merely the outward appearance but the inner reality. Nothing is hidden from him. And above all that, he has limitless wisdom and discernment. He knows what is valuable and what isn’t. He knows what is of great worth and what is worthless. And according to 1 Peter 2:6, God says that Jesus, his Son, is infinitely precious. If God embraces his Son as indescribably and incomparably precious, shouldn’t we also? One

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10 Things You Should Know about Seeing Christ in all of Scripture

Sam Storms: Ours is a splintered, fractured world, that often in its differing political parties and conflicting ethical systems and its seemingly endless variety of opinions on virtually every imaginable subject holds out little hope for ultimate meaning. And yet in the midst of undeniable diversity and the differences that so often divide us, the Bible tells us that there is a single, overarching, unitary theme and purpose and goal to all of human history and experience. The apostle Paul touched on this in several places. Let me mention only two. In Romans 11:36 he concludes a major section of his letter with this brief doxology: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Paul’s point is not simply that all things are the creative product of our great Triune God. Yes, all things, everything, came “from him.” He is the originating cause of everything that is. But Paul also tells us

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