A Beginner’s Guide to ‘Free Will’

John Piper: Before the fall of Adam, man was sinless and able not to sin. For God “saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). But he was also able to sin. For God had said, “In the day that you eat of it [the tree] you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). As soon as Adam fell into sin, human nature was profoundly altered. Now man was not able not to sin. In the fall, human nature lost its freedom not to sin. Why is man not able not to sin? Because on this side of the fall “that which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6), and “the mind of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7–8, my translation). Or, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural

read more A Beginner’s Guide to ‘Free Will’

How ‘Free Grace’ Theology Diminishes the Gospel

Justin Dillehay: It’s safe to assume that if you’re a Christian, you love the gospel. For that reason, it’s safe to assume that if something were diminishing the gospel, you’d want to know what it was. That’s why Wayne Grudem’s new book, “Free Grace” Theology: Five Ways It Diminishes the Gospel, is relevant for you. It’s relevant even if you’ve never heard of the “Lordship salvation” controversy. And it’s relevant because it deals with an issue at the heart of the gospel: the nature of saving faith. How does saving faith relate to repentance? Does it always produce good works? Should we ever doubt our faith is genuine? And what does it mean to say we’re justified by faith alone? These are the sorts of vital questions Grudem tackles in this book. What’s ‘Free Grace’ Theology?  In case you were worried, Grudem—author of numerous books including the widely read Systematic Theology—hasn’t suddenly turned against the doctrine of free grace. Look closely at the book’s title.

read more How ‘Free Grace’ Theology Diminishes the Gospel

Are you living blind to one of your greatest enemies?

Brad Bigney, author of, Gospel Treason: Betraying The Gospel With Hidden Idols: What am I talking about?  Idolatry. Yes, idolatry.  So why do we live blind to it so often?  Here’s why: idolatry doesn’t operate out in the open; that’s not how it happens. It’s elusive and often flies under the radar undetected.  And this is compounded by the fact you can struggle to even know your own heart, because the human heart is so deceptive. Jeremiah tells us: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? ‘I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds’ (Jer 17:9–10). Your heart and my heart are deceitful and desperately sick so we can’t trust them.  It’ll lead you into back alleys, one-way streets and dead-ends; all the while promising you life, joy, peace and purpose, but it’s a lie. It always

read more Are you living blind to one of your greatest enemies?

7 Ways to Deal with Doubt

Michael Patton: Do you ever struggle with doubt? You do if you’re honest. Doubt affects the lives of many believers. The reality is that no one’s faith is ever perfect in this life. That includes you. And if your faith is not perfect, then it can grow and become stronger today than it was yesterday. I like to think of doubt as the gap between our current faith and perfect faith. If this is the case, we all doubt. Not only this, but there is nothing Christians cannot doubt. Sometimes we doubt our salvation; other times we doubt God’s love. Many times we will even doubt the reliability of Scripture, the existence of God, or the identity of Christ. Even John the Baptist, whom Christ called the greatest man ever born (Matt. 11:11), once expressed doubt about the very identity of Christ (Matt. 11:3). Here are seven principles to consider when dealing with doubt. 1. Have mercy on those who doubt. Jude

read more 7 Ways to Deal with Doubt

Preach to Yourself

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:11) John Piper: We must learn to fight despondency. The fight is a fight of faith in future grace. It is fought by preaching truth to ourselves about God and his promised future. This is what the psalmist does in Psalm 42. The psalmist preaches to his troubled soul. He scolds himself and argues with himself. And his main argument is future grace: “Hope in God! — Trust in what God will be for you in the future. A day of praise is coming. The presence of the Lord will be all the help you need. And he has promised to be with us forever.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones believes this issue of preaching truth to ourselves about God’s future grace is all-important in overcoming spiritual depression. Have you realized that

read more Preach to Yourself

What Is Theology?

Erik Thoennes: Meaningful relationship with God is dependent on correct knowledge of him. The Goal of Theology The study of theology is considered by many to be dry, boring, irrelevant, and complicated. But for those who want to know God, the study of theology is indispensable. The word “theology” comes from two Greek words, theos (“God”) and logos (“word”). The study of theology is an effort to make definitive statements about God and his implications in an accurate, coherent, relevant way, based on God’s self-revelations. Doctrine equips people to fulfill their primary purpose, which is to glorify and delight in God through a deep personal knowledge of him. Meaningful relationship with God is dependent on correct knowledge of him. Any theological system that distinguishes between “rational propositions about God” and “a personal relationship with God” fails to see this necessary connection between love and knowledge. The capacity to love, enjoy, and tell others about a person is increased by greater

read more What Is Theology?

10 Questions for Examining Your Life

Colin Smith: Examining your life is essential to your growth as a Christian believer. Seeing your own sins and failings will make it possible for you to confess, repent, find forgiveness, and grow in grace. These are the steps by which we move forward in the Christian life. If you can’t see your own failings, you can’t make progress. Self-examination is also a dangerous business. Satan will try to subvert your self-examination by pulling you down into self-condemnation and despair. So be careful. While you have one eye focused on your sin and failure, keep the other eye focused on God’s grace given to you in Jesus Christ. God has given two gifts to help you examine yourself successfully. These are his Word and his Spirit. The Word will show you sins and failings. The Spirit will open your eyes to see them. Self-examination, rightly pursued, will bring great benefits to your Christian life. Three Guidelines for Self-Examination 1. Be intentional.

read more 10 Questions for Examining Your Life

Is Jesus our Substitute or our Representative?

Andrew Wilson:   Here are the concluding two paragraphs of Simon Gathercole’s superb Defending Substitution: An Essay on Atonement in Paul. It’s not every day that the final paragraphs of an academic monograph are both a revelation and a joy to read. Nor is it common for a book to engage in detailed Pauline exegesis and dialogue with German interlocutors, and then conclude with a reflection from the Heidelberg Catechism. But this one is, and does: Even if the precise relations of substitution, representation, and liberation may be unclear, there is no reason all three cannot simultaneously inhabit Paul’s thought and biblical theology more broadly. It is striking how, when Paul comes to summarise his gospel in 1 Corinthians 15, he describes how Christ’s substitutionary death has dealt with sins (15:3) and in the same chapter also goes on to focus on the ultimate conquest of the “last enemy to be defeated,” death (15:26). Similarly, as was noted earlier, Colossians

read more Is Jesus our Substitute or our Representative?

We Experience the Spirit Through Faith

John Piper: If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25) The Spirit came to you the first time when you believed in the blood-bought promises of God. And the Spirit keeps on coming, and keeps on working, by this same means. So Paul asks, rhetorically, “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?” (Galatians 3:5). Answer: “By hearing with faith.” Therefore, the Spirit came the first time, and the Spirit keeps on being supplied, through the channel of faith. What he accomplishes in us is through faith. If you are like me, you may have strong longings from time to time for the mighty working of the Holy Spirit in your life. Perhaps you cry out to God for the outpouring of the Spirit in your life or in your family or church or

read more We Experience the Spirit Through Faith

Jesus Died To Make Obedience Possible, Not Optional

Matt Moore: Justification—being declared righteous before God—is possible only by grace through faith. You can heap all your good deeds upon one another and climb them to heaven, but if you aren’t clothed in Christ’s righteousness, God will toss your self-righteous self right out of his presence. Our sinfulness runs too deep for any of our deeds to be purely righteous (Isaiah 64:6), and the guilt we bear for our trespasses is beyond our ability to absolve. The blood of Jesus is the only hope any of us has. Seeing all that Christ is for us and trusting in him to save us is the only means by which we can be declared blameless. Christians glory in being justified as a gift by the grace of God alone—not their own works or morality (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, in every generation there have been ignorant and unstable people that take the message of God’s grace through Christ and, as Peter wrote, “twist it

read more Jesus Died To Make Obedience Possible, Not Optional

10 Things You Should Know about the Lordship of Christ

Vern S. Poythress: 1. Christ is Lord over all because he is God. The Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Spirit is God. God rules over all things by his providential control (Ps. 103:19). Therefore it is also true that each person in the Godhead rules over all. Christ rules over all. This rule is comprehensive not only in its extent (over all of space, all of time, and all areas of human activity), but in its details—over each sparrow, each hair of the head, and each atom. 2. Christ is Lord over all because in his human nature he has accomplished perfect obedience, has won salvation for us, and has been given universal dominion as a reward. As a result of his resurrection and ascension, Christ has been enthroned at the right hand of God the Father, with universal dominion: . . . he [God the Father] worked in Christ when he raised him from

read more 10 Things You Should Know about the Lordship of Christ

Why the Church Is Vitally Important for Every Christian

  This post by Stephen J. Nichols is adapted from the ESV Student Study Bible. What Does the Bible Have to Say about the Church? Mention the church to a group of Christians and you are likely to get a mixed response. Some might say that, while they do love Jesus, they don’t love the church. Others might respond, “Of course we love the church.” God has ordained the church, a fellowship of the flawed, to carry out his purpose and will in the world. When we consider the biblical teaching on the church, we realize the church is vitally important for growing in Christ. Like a branch that grows because of its connection to the tree, we thrive when we stay connected to the church. To explore this issue, it is necessary to consider what the Bible says about the church. The Church in the Bible: Old Testament Life and Worship Before we can look at what the New

read more Why the Church Is Vitally Important for Every Christian

Only One Perfect Pastor

Taelor Gray: The more I walk with Jesus, the more I’m intrigued with the apostle Paul. Beyond the great demonstrations of the Holy Spirit’s power and the vast territories influenced by his evangelistic voice, I find myself drawn to his humanity. He is one of the most revolutionary people noted in Scripture, yet he is also one of the most accessibly transparent. His conversion displays one of the most fascinating contrasts of a before/after transformation, but many of his character traits remain intact. In his letters, Paul does not mince words in sharing his insecurities, his frustrations, and his sufferings. He virtually shames the church in Corinth regarding his right to receive financial support from the churches although he doesn’t ask for it (1 Corinthians 9). He later points to his own deficiencies while also doubling down in a classic tirade about his rightful place as an apostle, making a robust argument full of shallow comparisons and thick sarcasm (1

read more Only One Perfect Pastor

D. A. Carson on the Power of the Gospel

D.A. Carson: We tend to overlook how often the gospel of Christ crucified is described as “power.” Paul is not ashamed of the gospel, he declares, “because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). Writing to the Corinthians, Paul insists that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). He takes painstaking care not to corrupt the gospel with cheap tricks like manipulative rhetoric, what he dismissively sets aside as “words of human wisdom”—“lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1:17). The “incomparably great power” that is working in those who believe is tied to the exercise of God’s mighty strength when He raised Jesus from the dead (Eph 1:19–20). There is superb irony in all this, of course. When Jesus was executed in the first century, the cross

read more D. A. Carson on the Power of the Gospel

21 [quick] Thoughts on Preaching

Jared Wilson: In no particular order, here are some reflections, musings, and bits of advice on the noble task of preaching the Word of God. 1. I’ve heard it attributed to Tim Keller that you have to preach at least 200 sermons to get good. (Or something like that.) I think this is generally true. For those gifted to preach, it does take a long time to hit your stride and become reliably good, and even then, you keep growing and refining. For those who aren’t gifted to preach, I think even reaching the 200 mark shows no discernable growth. Someone is ungifted to preach when they’ve been at it a long time and show no real development. Sermon 201 is probably not noticeably improved from sermon 1. 2. I personally favor the use of manuscripts, but I understand they’re not for everyone. If you can’t preach from a manuscript without sounding like you are reading a manuscript, it’s probably

read more 21 [quick] Thoughts on Preaching

How Big is Your God?

Sam Storms posts on Scott Christensen’s, What About Free Will? Reconciling our Choices with God’s Sovereignty (P&R, 284pp.). In Chapter Three, titled, “How Big is Your God?” Christensen describes God’s sovereignty in these terms: When the Bible unfolds God’s supreme control it speaks of a glorious choreographer who causally determines the course of history in a way that is not conditioned by anything his creation or creatures do. Rather the whole panorama of the cosmos is entirely dependent upon his meticulous guidance. His foreordination of all things was forever settled before the foundations of the earth were laid and nothing can change this fact. He neither established his plan by consulting the future choices of his creatures nor does he alter it by considering what they have already done. The Scripture is replete with passages that paint just such a portrait of God. As the psalmist says, “The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules

read more How Big is Your God?

10 Reasons Jesus Came to Die

  John Piper: 1. To destroy hostility between races. The suspicion, prejudice, and demeaning attitudes between Jews and non-Jews in Bible times were as serious as the racial, ethnic, and national hostilities today. Yet Jesus “has broken down . . . the dividing wall of hostility . . . making peace . . . through the cross” (Ephesians 2:14–16). God sent his Son into the world as the only means of saving sinners and reconciling races. 2. To give marriage its deepest meaning. God’s design was never for marriages to be miserable, yet many are. That’s what sin does . . . it makes us treat each other badly. Jesus died to change that. He knew that his suffering would make the deepest meaning of marriage plain. That’s why the Bible says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). God’s design for marriage is for a husband to love his

read more 10 Reasons Jesus Came to Die

The Qur’an and the Bible: Three Differences

By Ray Ortlund. Three significant differences between the Qur’an and the Bible are considered here: 1. Epic story versus topical instructions The Bible is written as an epic story on a grand scale, formed along a narrative arc starting in a glorious creation (Genesis 1-2), then a catastrophic betrayal (Genesis 3), then slow movement toward the Redeemer (Genesis 4 to the New Testament), finally resolved in a glorious re-creation (Revelation 20-22). The Qur’an is not structured as narrative with an overall plot. Its chapters are formed around topics, with snippets of stories here and there. But the Qur’an is primarily instructions, with promises of eternal reward and warnings of eternal hellfire. This makes a difference. The Bible develops its doctrines as it moves toward Jesus. For example, marriage is defined (Genesis 2), then disrupted (Genesis 3), then regulated by the law (for example, Deuteronomy 24:1-5), and finally unveiled as a picture of the gospel itself (Ephesians 5:22-33). But marriage in the

read more The Qur’an and the Bible: Three Differences

Progressive Covenantalism

Adapted from an interview given to Fred Zaspel on Progressive Covenantalism: Charting a Course between Dispensational and Covenant Theology. Stephen Wellum: At the heart of Progressive Covenantalism is seeking to understand the whole counsel of God. Now, of course all Christians want to do that, but we want to see how God’s plan from eternity past is one plan. His one plan of salvation – keep emphasizing that – is put together because it doesn’t come to us all at once. It comes to us, God has chosen to bring about his sovereign purposes and redemptive purposes, especially now in light of the fall, in history. In what we call redemptive history. So that’s the notion of progressive. So over time the eternal plan, God creates a stage and now unpacks that plan and unfolds and reveals that plan over time. What we are arguing here is that on the Bible’s own terms and in the Bible’s own categories we

read more Progressive Covenantalism

How God Is Both Incomprehensible and Knowable at the Same Time

We cannot know God fully. We can know him truly. This post by Erik Thoennes is adapted from the ESV Study Bible: The Incomprehensibility of God Scripture teaches that we can have a true and personal knowledge of God, but this does not mean we will ever understand him exhaustively. The Bible is clear that God is ultimately incomprehensible to us; that is, we can never fully comprehend his whole being. The following passages show this: Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. (Ps. 145:3) Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand? (Job 26:14) For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your

read more How God Is Both Incomprehensible and Knowable at the Same Time