The Gospel Is Not Just for Unbelievers, but Also for Believers

D.A. Carson: The gospel is not a minor theme that deals with the point of entry into the Christian way, to be followed by a lot of material that actually brings about the life transformation. Very large swaths of evangelicalism simply presuppose that this is the case. Preaching the gospel, it is argued, is announcing how to be saved from God’s condemnation; believing the gospel guarantees you won’t go to hell. But for actual transformation to take place, you need to take a lot of discipleship courses, spiritual enrichment courses, “Go deep” spiritual disciplines courses, and the like. You need to learn journaling, or asceticism, or the simple lifestyle, or Scripture memorization; you need to join a small group, an accountability group, or a women’s Bible study. Not for a moment would I speak against the potential for good of all of these steps; rather, I am speaking against the tendency to treat these as postgospel disciplines, disciplines divorced from

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There Are No Shortcuts to Growth

R.C. Sproul: I’m still amazed whenever I see the bumper sticker that reads, “Visualize world peace.” The idea is that if I, and enough other people, create the right mental picture of peace, it will soon come to pass. It’s astounding that some people actually believe that silly technique will bring about such a desirable goal. Then, there’s the popular “Coexist” bumper sticker. You may have seen it, the one spelled out with the symbols of different religions—the Islamic crescent forming the C, the Christian cross forming the T, and so on. The idea seems to be that if we religious people would just stop focusing on our differences, we could achieve world harmony. If we understood that our beliefs are all ultimately the same, all of the problems of war and strife would go away. The funny thing is, we’ll reject such sentiments when they appear on a bumper sticker, but we’ll accept them elsewhere. How many business seminars promise increased

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Kiss the Wave

Tim Challies: None of us makes it through life without suffering. None of us escapes physical pain, emotional distress, or spiritual agony. At some times and in some ways, we all suffer. No wonder, then, that so many authors have turned to the subject. As Christians, we are well-served with books to help us suffer well and books that help us grapple with the deeper theological questions that inevitably arise in the midst of our darkness. New to the market is Dave Furman’s Kiss the Wave: Embracing God in Your Trials. The title is drawn from a quote generally attributed to Charles Spurgeon: “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” Furman explains, “When I am in the midst of suffering, I am doing my best just to keep my head above water as the stormy waves of suffering crash over me. I have often longed to be lifted out of the rough and

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10 Things You Should Know about Suffering

Dave Furman: 1. Suffering is a result of the fall. God warned Adam that eating the forbidden fruit would result in death (Gen 2). Romans 5:12 confirms that this happened after Adam’s fall, “Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Death (and the accompanying pain and suffering) came as a result of that first sin and our continued sin. Pain, suffering, and death—in and of themselves—are not good. 2. God uses suffering for good. Thankfully, Romans 8 tells us “That for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God never tells us our pain is good, but he uses pain to work for our good in his miraculous and mysterious way. One of the ways God uses pain is to wake us up and bring up to himself. Our tendency in

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The Cure for a Superficial Faith

    Sam Storms: I’ve been a subscriber to World magazine for as long as I can remember. Some have referred to it as the Christian version of Time magazine. Actually, it’s a lot better than Time ever was and not simply because it is faith-based. But I’m not here to praise World. I’m here to draw attention to two things that I noted in its most recent, August 5, 2017, issue. In an article on the church in China titled “More Growing Pains, More Great Gains,” June Cheng reports on the struggles of believers in that communist country. This article is a follow-up on an earlier piece in which she profiled three groups of Christians “working to help mature the burgeoning Chinese church” (43). One of those on whom she focused is a pastor from Singapore “whose online sermons led to church plants throughout China” (43). When Cheng last saw this man, Joseph Su (whose name has been changed for safety reasons), he was actively involved

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Passive Christianity Is Dead Christianity

Jon Bloom: What do you want? What do you desire? What is your ambition? Do you really want to know? Look at your behavior. You do what you want. This is a devastatingly simple psychology of motivation. But it’s what the Bible teaches: James: Faith without works is dead. Don’t tell me you have faith if the way you live doesn’t back up what you say. (James 2:17–18) John: Love without deeds is dead. Don’t tell me you love if the way you live doesn’t back up what you say. (1 John 3:17–18) Paul: Grace without holiness is dead. Don’t tell me you revel in God’s grace if the way you live doesn’t back up what you say. (Romans 6:12–14) Jesus: Discipleship without obedience is dead. Don’t tell me I’m your Lord if the way you live doesn’t back up what you say. (Matthew 7:21) We may say what sounds orthodox, but we do what we really believe. We may

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The Christian Life is not the Bargain Bin

Erik Raymond: The Christian life is difficult. It’s not quite spitting into the wind hard, but it’s still tough. But there is a difference between it being hard and being lousy. Christians are often portrayed in print and film as joyless prigs who have settled for a flavorless life. Sadly, many believers can fall into this same line of thinking. Being shaped by the world around us and some degree of truncated biblical application, we can buy the lie that the abundant life is out of reach. We think that we’ve settled for less. I was reminded of this on a recent visit to the store to pick up a couple of things for my wife. Walking through the supermarket I noticed a discount bin. In this section of the cooler there was discounted meat that was nearing its expiration. Nearby there was a shelf with damaged boxes. Things were discounted because they were not as good as the other

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The Key to Contentment

From New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul David Tripp: Stop Living for the Moment There is no doubt about it—the Bible is a big-picture book that calls us to big-picture living. It stretches the elasticity of your mind as it calls you to think about things before the world began and thousands of years into eternity. The Bible simply does not permit you to live for the moment. It doesn’t give you room to shrink your thoughts, desires, words, and actions down to whatever spontaneous thought, emotion, or need grips you at any given time. In a moment, your thoughts can seem more important than they actually are. In a moment, your emotions can seem more reliable than they really are. In a moment, your needs can seem more essential than they truly are. We are meant to live lives that are connected to beginnings and to endings. And we are meant to live this way because

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6 Truths that Will Lead You to True Joy

This post is adapted from Quest for Joy, a short-form tract by John Piper: 1. God created us for his glory. Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth . . . whom I created for my glory. (Isaiah 43:6-7) God made us to magnify his greatness—the way telescopes magnify stars. He created us to put his goodness and truth and beauty and wisdom and justice on display. The greatest display of God’s glory comes from deep delight in all that he is. This means that God gets the praise and we get the pleasure. God created us so that he is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. 2. Every human should live for God’s glory. So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31) If God made us for his glory, clearly we should live for his

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You Are Not Enslaved to Your Past

John Piper: Christianity means change is possible. Deep, fundamental change. It is possible to become tender-hearted when once you were callous and insensitive. It is possible to stop being dominated by bitterness and anger. It is possible to become a loving person no matter what your background has been. The Bible assumes that God is the decisive factor in making us what we should be. With wonderful bluntness the Bible says, “Put away malice and be tenderhearted.” It does not say, “If you can . . . ” Or: “If your parents were tender-hearted to you . . . ” Or: “If you weren’t terribly wronged or abused . . . ” It says, “Be tender-hearted.” This is wonderfully freeing. It frees us from the terrible fatalism that says change is impossible. It frees us from mechanistic views that make our backgrounds our destinies. If I were in prison and Jesus walked into my cell and said, “Leave this place

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Why Obey?

Paul Tripp: There’s simply nothing you can do to gain God’s favor. You have to accept this and remember it: you will never be righteous enough for long enough to satisfy God’s holy requirements. Your thoughts will never be pure enough. Your desires will never be holy enough. Your words will never be clean enough. Your choices and actions will never be honoring enough. The bar is simply set too high for us to ever reach. We all live under the same weight of the law, crippled by the inability of sin. We’re better at rebelling than submitting, more inclined to arrogance than humility, more skilled at making war with our neighbors than loving them. We leave a trail of evidence every hour that we’ve fallen short of the glory of God one more time. So what’s the point of obedience in the Christian life? Well, this hard-to-swallow pill of bad news is actually the doorway to eternal hope and

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Redeeming culture, building the Kingdom – Really?

  Some helpful insight from Kevin DeYoung: We need to be careful about our language. I think I know what people mean when they talk about redeeming the culture or partnering with God in His redemption of the world, but we should really pick another word. Redemption has already been accomplished on the cross. We are not co-redeemers of anything. We are called to serve, bear witness, proclaim, love, do good to everyone, and adorn the gospel with good deeds, but we are not partners in God’s work of redemption. Similarly, there is no language in Scripture about Christians building the kingdom. The New Testament, in talking about the kingdom, uses words like enter, seek, announce, see, receive, look, come into, and inherit. Do a word search and see for yourself. We are given the kingdom and brought into the kingdom. We testify about it, pray for it to come, and by faith, it belongs to us. But in the New Testament,

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Five things Jonathan Edwards teaches us about the Christian life

  Dane Ortlund: For many of us, Jonathan Edwards is a skinny white guy who never smiled, except when talking about hell. If we know anything more, it’s: that he wrote a lot of really dense books that he talked a lot about the glory of God that he was part of the Great Awakening that John Piper likes him a lot. And that’s about it. But there are riches to be mined in Jonathan Edwards far beyond what you may have been exposed to. Reading Jonathan Edwards is not for historians and professors mainly, but for the rest of us. Here are five things Edwards teaches us about the Christian life—your Christian life. 1. If you’re a Christian, you don’t realize how radically different and freshly empowered you now are. When sinners repent and believe for the first time, it often feels as if nothing much has happened, and it often looks as if nothing much has happened. Our

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In the world, but not of it

  Taken from John Piper’s post on voting. I have reproduced the teaching from 1Corinthians only. You can read the whole post here, including his topical application. What kind of attitude we are to have as Christians, living in this world, because “the present form of this world is passing away” and, in God’s eyes, “the time has grown very short.” Here’s the way Paul puts it: The appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. (1 Corinthians 7:29–31) 1. “Let those who have wives live as though they had none.” This doesn’t

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Fear Not, Little Flock

  Eric Raymond: I am thoroughly enjoying Michael Horton’s new book Ordinary. I hope to review it soon, but will doubtless be quoting from it for months. Here is a sample: I think that if Jesus were to return today, he might tell us to stop taking ourselves so seriously. “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18, italics added). The gates of hell are no small matter, at least for us. We’re quite anxious. We have to do something about this (this being whatever we’re shocked by at present). America is in moral free-fall. The media are persecuting us. Churches seem to be losing their way. Radical Islam is on the march–not to mention the perfect storm of AIDS, famine, and war that has taken millions of lives in Africa. Every time we turn on the news, our compassion or anger is aroused–to the point that we become numb to it. And people in the

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5 Easy Steps to a Shallow Christian Life

  By Josh Bount: Wait no longer! Write them on Post-It notes, cross-stitch them on your pillow, have Siri repeat them to you daily. 1. Don’t stop searching until you’ve found “The Secret to the Christian Life.” It’s out there! Don’t give up. It might be baptism in the Holy Spirit. It might be true surrender. It might be faith. It might be resting in what God’s already done. It might be…well, you go find it on your own. Don’t let the fact that two thousand years of Christian history has yet to produce the final solution to the perplexities of living as redeemed sinners in a fallen world stop you. Maybe the secret was just waiting for YOU to get out there and discover it… 2. In your advice to yourself and to other believers, use the word “just” regularly. This will be a lot easier after you’ve found the answer to #1. Then you can tell people, “Stop

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Sam Storms on J.I. Packer’s New Book

J. I. Packer. Weakness Is the Way: Life with Christ Our Strength. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013. 125 pp. Sam Storms: This comparatively short book with its strange title delivers a powerful blow to the rampant triumphalism that has infected much of the Bible-believing world. Using Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians as his principal resource, J. I. Packer has once again provided us with both the theological depth and practical wisdom necessary to live in a way that pleases and honors Christ. The reader should not draw false conclusions from the title. Whereas Packer advocates a form of “weakness” as the only way in which to live to the glory of God, he does not deny the proper place of spiritual strength. The subtitle reminds us that it is in and through our weakness that Christ’s powerful presence is made known. Packer’s decision “to take soundings in Second Corinthians” (p. 16) is a wise and helpful one, as it is in

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The Love of Jesus is Sacred

“I apologize for putting this so bluntly, but it’s in the Bible. We need to face it. How can we hope to be true to Christ if we look away from the Bible’s stark portrayal of our natural corruption? The Bible alerts us that a blasphemous attitude lurks in all our hearts. We tell ourselves: ‘What’s the big deal about this or that compromise? He’ll understand. He’s all about grace, right?’ But what man would say: ‘What’s the big deal about my wife’s adulteries? It’s only marriage. I understand. I’m all about grace’? In the same way, our divine Husband does not think, ‘Well, she’s brought another lover into our bed, but as long as they let me sleep, what’s the big deal?’ The thought is revolting. “The love of Jesus is sacred. He gives all, and he demands all, because he is a good Husband. Only an exclusive love is real love. Only a cleansing grace is real grace.

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The Empty Tomb

Paul Tripp: I love Easter. I love the celebratory music we sing at church. I love the passages of Scripture we read during worship. And most of all, I love the visual image of the empty tomb. I’m deeply persuaded that the empty tomb of the Lord Jesus Christ reveals three fundamental character qualities about God. 1. FAITHFUL The empty tomb reveals that God is faithful. Centuries earlier, after Adam and Eve had disobeyed God, God promised that He would crush wrong once and for all. He sent his Son to defeat sin and death by his crucifixion and resurrection. For thousands of years, God neither forgot nor turned from His promise. He didn’t grow weary, nor would he be distracted. He made a promise, and he controlled the events of history (large and small) so that at just the right moment, Jesus Christ would come and fulfill what had been promised. 2. POWERFUL The empty tomb also reveals that

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Preach the Gospel to Yourself

  David Mathis: No one is more influential in your life than you are. Because no one talks to you more than you do. So observes Paul Tripp — and in doing so, he accents our need to daily preach the gospel to ourselves. In our sin, we constantly find our responses to life in our fallen world to be disconnected from the theology that we confess. Anger, fear, panic, discouragement stalk our hearts and whisper in our ears a false gospel that will lure our lives away from what we say we believe. The battleground, says Tripp, is meditation. What is it that is capturing your idle thoughts? What fear or frustration is filling your spare moments? Will you just listen to yourself, or will you start talking? No, preaching — not letting your concerns shape you, but forming your concerns by the gospel. Defensive and Offensive Preaching the gospel to ourselves is a spiritual discipline that is both

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