Why don’t we follow all of the Old Testament laws?

J.D. Greear: It’s pretty common these days for people to dismiss Christians as inconsistent because “they follow some of the rules in the Bible and ignore others.” The challenge usually sounds something like this: “When the Bible talks about certain sexual behaviors as sin, you quote that; but when it says not to eat shellfish or that you should execute people for breaking the Sabbath, you just ignore it. Aren’t you just picking and choosing what suits you best?” I’ve found that this objection carries a lot of weight, and not just with non-Christians. Many Christians have a hard time answering it … which is why we just secretly hope it never comes up. One of the most helpful ways to think about this is to look at the types of laws there are in the Old Testament. The 16th-century Reformer John Calvin saw that the NT seemed to treat the OT laws in three ways. There were Civil Laws,

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The Lion is also the Lamb: A Reflection on what makes Jesus so Irresistibly Attractive

Sam Storms: What is it about Jesus that makes him worthy of your adoration and praise? What is it about Jesus that makes him irresistibly attractive? Why is he alone worthy of your whole-hearted allegiance and love? Consider one answer from the portrait of Jesus in Revelation 5. In Revelation 5:5 he is called “the Lion of the tribe of Judah,” but in Revelation 5:6 is also portrayed as the “Lamb” who had been slain, though now standing, because alive. So, which is he? Both! Jesus is both Lion and Lamb. And it is in this glorious juxtaposition of what appear to be two contrasting images that we find the answer to our question. Think about this for a moment: The Lion in whom we find unimpeachable authority is also the Lamb who embodies humility and meekness in the highest degree. The Lion who wields power and strength that none can resist is also the Lamb who walked this earth

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We must distinguish!

Chris Watson Lee wants to help us talk about our disagreements over ‘secondary issues.’ The nature of the disagreement should affect the way in which we deal with it. Christians have disagreed with one another since the earliest days of the church (Philippians 1:27); this side of eternity, there are always going to be disagreements and differences. But how should we engage with theological differences? In the words of a Reformed scholastic like Francis Turretin, “we must distinguish” between different kinds of disagreement. The nature of the disagreement will (or at least should) affect the way in which we deal with it. This is not a new insight: you might be familiar with the old maxim, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” It reminds us that before rushing in to debate our disagreements, we must check ourselves – aiming for a humble attitude, dependence on the Lord, and love for others (Ephesians 4:1-16) Distinguishing Disagreements We

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Do Not Weep for Jesus

Kevin DeYoung: There were a lot of shocking things said and done on Good Friday. This paragraph describes one you may not have considered before. And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:26-31).

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The Priority of Preaching the Word

Steven Lawson: Understanding the fiery preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones requires an apprehension of the exceedingly high view he possessed of preaching. He believed that the chief business of the church is what Paul charged Timothy with his dying words, to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2). Preaching must come first in the life of the church before anything else can find its rightful place. With compelling clarity, he stated, “The primary task of the Church and of the Christian minister is the preaching of the Word of God.” Nothing, he maintained, must ever supplant the primacy of biblical preaching in the pulpit. The Doctor believed everything in the life of the church is defined and directed by the proclamation of the Scripture. Through the many challenges Lloyd-Jones faced, the public exposition of Scripture consistently occupied the central place in his ministry in Wales and London. In his estimation, the pulpit held the chief place in his ministry, and it was here

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Why Going to Church Does Not Make You a Christian

I am not a Christian because I attend church on Sunday. Neither are you. And neither is John Piper. This was a discovery Piper made in the opening pages of a book by C. S. Lewis. In God’s providence, a thin little blue book by the title of “The Weight of Glory” found its way into Piper’s life at age 23 (recently photographed, above). Here’s how he recounted the story in a 2015 sermon. John Piper: The second wave that broke over me in my 23rd year was the discovery that my desires were not too strong, but too weak. And the remedy for my early perplexity did not lie in getting rid of my desires, but on glutting them on God. That was revolutionary to me. Your problem, longing, aching, yearning, wanting, John Piper, is that you don’t yet want like you ought to want. I will come to you and I will put a fire under the fire

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What does it mean to fear God?

  R.C. Sproul: We need to make some important distinctions about the biblical meaning of “fearing” God. These distinctions can be helpful, but they can also be a little dangerous. When Luther struggled with that, he made this distinction, which has since become somewhat famous: He distinguished between what he called a servile fear and a filial fear. The servile fear is a kind of fear that a prisoner in a torture chamber has for his tormentor, the jailer, or the executioner. It’s that kind of dreadful anxiety in which someone is frightened by the clear and present danger that is represented by another person. Or it’s the kind of fear that a slave would have at the hands of a malicious master who would come with the whip and torment the slave. Servile refers to a posture of servitude toward a malevolent owner. Luther distinguished between that and what he called filial fear, drawing from the Latin concept from which

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Preaching and Biblical Theology

By Dr. Jim Hamilton, excerpted from Text-Driven Preaching (B&H Publishing Group, 2010) Biblical theology helps us get our arms around the big picture that ties together everything from Leviticus to Esther, and we see how Amos, John, Romans, and Revelation fit, too. Knowing what the forest looks like enables understanding of the individual trees. If we are to preach the whole counsel of God, we need biblical theology. What sets the agenda in your preaching? Nehemiah really is not about the building program some church wants to initiate, and the Psalms are not in the Bible for amateur psychotherapists to explore their inner depths from the pulpit. Has God communicated His agenda in the Bible’s big story—its overarching message? Does the Bible’s big story set the agenda for your preaching or does something else drive it? If we are going to understand God’s purposes, which are revealed in the Bible, we need biblical theology. Biblical theology pushes us to understand

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Three Ways We Can Better Love Those We Lead

  Eric Geiger: Researchers and leadership authors continually contend that the best leaders are those who love and care for those they lead. Examples include: In his seminal book Servant Leadership, published over forty years ago, Robert Greenleaf coined the term “servant leader” and painted a picture that the most effective leaders love and serve those they lead. In his popular books Emotional Intelligence and Primal Leadership, researcher and author Daniel Goleman writes that the most effective leaders are emotionally intelligent. They have the ability to manage their emotions, to genuinely connect with people, to offer kindness and empathy, to lead with joy and inspiration, and to display the master skill of patience. In the recent research-based leadership book Return on Character, Fred Kiel reveals that better performing companies are led by leaders who are filled with integrity, compassion, and forgiveness. Christian leaders should be the most loving leaders. God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the

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God is Happiness

  Sam Storms: Charles Spurgeon, though on occasion depressed and despondent, held firmly to the truth that joy or cheerfulness or happiness must be the aim of every Christian. There are several reasons why he believed this to be true. Here is the first: “Working Christians should, as far as possible, be cheerful of countenance, happy in manner, and merry in heart; and there are several reasons why I think so. They should be happy, BECAUSE THEY SERVE A HAPPY GOD. It enters into the essential idea of God that he is superlatively blessed. We cannot conceive of a God who should be infinitely miserable. . . . As it is true that ‘God is love,’ so is it equally true that God is happiness. Now it would be an exceedingly strange thing if, in proportion as we became like a happy God, we grew more and more miserable. . . . Congruity is to be studied everywhere, and it

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Obedience is the Secret to Joy

  John Piper: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). So we have a great promise: He will give you the desires of your heart. And we have a command: Delight yourself in the Lord. The command is the condition of the promise. So delight yourself in me, God says, and I will satisfy your heart. Somebody asked me one time: Should you pursue joy or should you pursue obedience? And I said, “That is like saying, ‘Should you pursue apples or should you pursue fruit,’ because if you obey the command — Delight yourself in the Lord — you are pursuing joy and so obedience and joy can’t be contrasted like that.” We are called upon to delight ourselves in the Lord. And here is a big glitch for a lot of people. You can’t enjoy a God that you are not sure is for you. If you have

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What Does it Mean to Fear God?

  R.C. Sproul: We need to make some important distinctions about the biblical meaning of “fearing” God. These distinctions can be helpful, but they can also be a little dangerous. When Luther struggled with that, he made this distinction, which has since become somewhat famous: He distinguished between what he called aservile fear and a filial fear. The servile fear is a kind of fear that a prisoner in a torture chamber has for his tormentor, the jailer, or the executioner. It’s that kind of dreadful anxiety in which someone is frightened by the clear and present danger that is represented by another person. Or it’s the kind of fear that a slave would have at the hands of a malicious master who would come with the whip and torment the slave. Servile refers to a posture of servitude toward a malevolent owner. Luther distinguished between that and what he called filial fear, drawing from the Latin concept from which we

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Enjoying His Fullness

John Piper: From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (John 1:16) Just before the service last Sunday, the little band of praying saints was hard at work fighting for the faith of our people and for the churches of the Twin Cities and for the nations as they prayed. At one point one man prayed the words of John 1:14–16: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. It was one of those epiphany moments for me. God granted in that moment that the word “fullness” — from his fullness — carry a fullness that was extraordinary in its effect on me. I felt some measure of what the word really carries — the fullness of Christ. I felt some of the

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What Ephesians Teaches Us about Our Past, Present, and Future

  Edward T. Welch: The Rich Story of Scripture You probably have a friend or family member who has told the same story dozens of times, but somehow, each time, you are still interested in hearing it. Stories that have this kind of staying power are not simply entertaining. They are instructive. They are about the past but affect the present and might even point the way to a future. That’s what we want to do with Scripture. We want to be able to tell and retell the story and have it shape us. This will help us remember it and quickly return to it when life’s troubles come our way. Ephesians 1:3–14 is a particularly rich way of telling the story of Scripture, and Paul’s excitement is such that the original passage is one long, breathless sentence. The flow of his thought goes from past, to present, to future. Past Our past is a mess of good things and

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Unmasking Idolatry

  Tony Reinke: From Luke Timothy Johnson’s Reading Romans (2001), 48: Paul’s starting point is the analysis of idolatry in Romans 1:18–32. Jews thought of idolatry as a matter of worshiping the wrong gods, and therefore something that only Gentiles could do. Paul thought more deeply on the matter. He saw that idolatry was a disease of human freedom, found as widely among Jews as among Gentiles. Idolatry begins where faith begins, in the perception of human existence as contingent and needy. But whereas faith accepts such contingency as also a gift from a loving creator from whom both existence and worth derive, idolatry refuses a dependent relationship on God. It seeks to establish one’s own existence and worth apart from the claim of God by effort and striving (“works”) of one’s own. Paul will use the striking expression “the flesh” (sarx) and speak of “life according to the flesh” (Romans 7:5, 18, 25; 8:3–7). He means by flesh the

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A great teacher can simplify without distortion

  RC Sproul: The K-I-S-S principle is frequently requested in a learning environment. The acrostic stands for “Keep it simple, stupid.” It seems we are a people who loathe difficult study. We want easy answers and we want them quickly. Mastery of a subject, however, requires years of diligent labor and study. But once the teacher has mastered his material, how does he transmit it to his students? Certain assumptions are made in the classroom. The first is that the teacher knows more about the subject than the student. It is, in general, a safe assumption. The second assumption is that the teacher cannot communicate his mastery of the subject all at once. To educate (as the Latin root suggests), we must lead students “out of” ignorance into knowledge. That knowledge moves in increments, from the simple to complex. The great teacher helps his students gain understanding. This may be the most vital and most difficult task of teaching. Students often complain

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When a Christian Sins

  Jason Helopoulos: Every Christian sins. Every child of light stumbles into momentary darkness. Every prince or princess acts like a rebel at times. As Christians in this world, we are sinners and saints. Redeemed, yet still needing to repent. Forgiven, yet still needing to forsake. Confessing Christ, yet still needing to confess sin. This reality of our lives is not easy. In fact, few moments in life pain or discourage the Christian more than the instant we become conscious of having committed yet another sin against our heavenly Father. Surely, it grieves us. And at times, it can lead to anxiety, guilt, melancholy, embarrassment, and even depression for many Christians. In the midst of such struggle, the Christian does well to remind themselves of the gospel comforts of Scripture. There is peace to be had and love to enjoy. Our Heavenly Father ever extends His grace to us. The Christian also does well to take to heart gospel encouragements.

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The necessity of expository preaching

  Derek Thomas: According to the legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, the best thing he ever did was to discover the “fundamentalist” teacher Jack Grout, who taught him the basics that he has followed ever since. Great preachers, like great golfers, follow basic rules. The more they practice these rules, the better they become. One such rule, put succinctly in English prose that now sounds dated, but which is as needful now as when it was first penned, comes from the Directory for the Publick Worship of God, written in 1645 by the Westminster Assembly of Divines. When raising a point from the text, the directory says, preachers are to ensure that “it be a truth contained in or grounded on that text, that the hearers may discern how God teacheth it from thence.” In other words, preaching must enable those who hear it to understand their Bibles. In laying down this principle, the divines were following the first book on homiletics to

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For the brokenhearted

  Ray Ortlund: The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.  Exodus 34:6-7 “Well, you say, but though God is able to help me, I fear that God is not willing to help me, and therefore I am discouraged.  But be of good comfort, says the Lord, for my name is Merciful, and therefore I am willing to help you. But you say, though the Lord is willing to help me, yet I am a poor unworthy creature and have nothing at all to move God to help me.  Yet be of good comfort, for the Lord says again, My name is Gracious.  I do not show mercy because you are good, but because I am good. Oh, you say, but I have been sinning a long time, ten,

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Christianity is not for the self-sufficient

All the Poor and Powerless David Mathis: You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.—2 Corinthians 8:9 Christianity is not for the self-sufficient. It’s not a religion for the rich and the strong. Jesus didn’t come to comfort the well-to-do and rally those who have their lives all in order. He didn’t come to gather the good, but the bad. Jesus came not to call the righteous, but sinners (Mark 2:17). This is one of the great paradoxes of the gospel. It is the poor he makes rich, the weak he makes strong, the foolish he makes wise, the guilty he makes righteous, the dirty he makes clean, the lonely he loves, the worthless he values, the lost he finds, the have-nots who stunningly become the haves — not mainly in this age, but in the new creation to

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