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

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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

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How to Become Holy

Joe Carter: Among God’s characteristics, as he has revealed himself, none is more significant than his holiness (seeLev. 11:44–45; 19:2; 20:7). “Holy” and “holiness” occur more than 900 times in Scripture, and both the Old and New Testaments speak more about his holiness than any other attribute. Because of this characteristic God is not able to tolerate our sin. As Habakkuk 1:13 says, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.” Christ does not just save us from our sin, though, he saves us so that we might become holy (Eph. 1:3-4). And as Peter says, “just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Pet. 1:13). “The Bible could not be any clearer,” Kevin DeYoung says, “The reason for your entire salvation, the design behind your deliverance, the purpose for which God chose you in the first place is holiness.” Holiness is associated

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If We Love God Most, We Will Love Others Best

Jon Bloom: The most loving thing we can do for others is love God more than we love them. For if we love God most, we will love others best. I know this sounds like preposterous gobbledygook to an unbeliever. How can you love someone best by loving someone else most? But those who have encountered the living Christ understand what I mean. They know the depth of love and breadth of grace that flows out from them toward others when they themselves are filled with love for God and all he is for them and means to them in Jesus. And they know the comparatively shallow and narrow love they feel toward others when their affection for God is ebbing. There’s a reason why Jesus said the second greatest commandment is like the first: if we love God with all our heart, we will love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37–39). It functions like faith and works; if we

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The most important step to becoming more like Jesus Christ

  Mark Altrogge: How do we become more like Christ? By beholding him. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18). “In what way do we behold his glory?…It’s the gospel that reveals Christ’s glory. Therefore, to behold his glory we must gaze into the gospel by faith. As we do this, the Spirit will transform us more and more into his likeness.” – Jerry Bridges, Bob Bevington, Bookends for the Christian Life We become like the One we behold in the Word. As we see him stretch out his hand in compassion to heal a leper, we see how we should be compassionate. When we see Jesus have mercy on the woman caught in adultery, we grow in mercy. As we observe Jesus resist the temptations of Satan

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The Humble Leader

Kevin DeYoung: According to Numbers 12:3, Moses was more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. What was it about Moses that caused this scribe (whom I take to be other than Moses) to come to such a lofty conclusion? No doubt, there are many examples of Moses’ humility in the Pentateuch, but let me point out three that are present in Exodus 18. 1. The humble leader shows respect to others. Moses was a big deal. He was God’s chosen instrument for leading the Israelites out of four centuries of slavery. He stood face to face against the most powerful man in the world (Pharaoh) and won. He was in charge of 2-3 million people, handling their complaints, leading them through the wilderness, and acting as the Supreme Court for their toughest disputes. Moses was the man. And yet, when he was reunited with his family, he showed Jethro, his father-in-law the proper respect by going out

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J. I. Packer on Something More Important Than Knowing God

  J.I. Packer: What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it—the fact that he knows me. I am graven on the palms of his hands [Isa. 49:16]. I am never out of his mind. All my knowledge of him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. I know him because he first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters. This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort—the sort of comfort that energizes, be it said, not enervates—in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love to me is utterly realistic,

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Nothing Fancy… Just the Basics

Darryl Dash: The older I get, the more I try to remember the basics. This is what I appreciate in the pastors I love. These are the qualities I want to see in my life. A deepening love for the Lord — Nobody should be more amazed by the depth of God’s grace than the pastor. The thing that people need most from a pastor isn’t strategy or charisma. It’s a heart that is alive to the triune God. A genuine, loving marriage — I remember seeing Jill Briscoe laugh at Stu Briscoe’s jokes. It told me more about him as a man and pastor than if I’d read every book he’d written. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. A ministry committed to the Word — I take 1 Peter 4:11 seriously. If you speak, speak God’s Word. Don’t give us your thoughts or musings, or repackage something you read or heard. Give us God’s Word. Gratitude and love

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The Ten Pleasures

David Murray: The Ten Commandments are framed mainly in the negative: “Thou shalt not.” But each negative also implies a positive, and each prohibition of vice enjoins a pleasure in virtue. So, here’s my attempt to re-frame the 10 commandments as 10 pleasures to pursue. 1. Enjoy the pleasure of knowing, worshipping and serving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. 2. Enjoy the pleasure of worshipping God in ways that He approves, loves, rewards, and responds to. 3. Enjoy the pleasure of speaking and singing about God’s beautiful persons, names, attributes, and acts. 4. Enjoy the pleasure of six days working in God’s calling for you and then enjoy the freedom of one full day off work to worship God and rest. 5. Enjoy the pleasure of loving and following the leaders God has placed in your life for your temporal and eternal good. 6. Enjoy the pleasure of healthy attitudes and activities that will improve the

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What You Admire Is What You’re Becoming

It is one of the most fundamental dynamics of our lives: We are always becoming like what we most adore. And yet when we look at ourselves, what we adore so often fluctuates in intensity all throughout the day, and yet, in Christ, we are progressing toward maturity in him. John Piper explains how all this dynamic works together from 2 Corinthians 3:18 in a recent sermon. Here’s what he said. John Piper: This is so variable, I am tempted to say it is just incalculably variable; meaning, the morning and the mid-morning and noon and the afternoon and the night are all different. Your heart for God is different at 10:00 a.m., and noon, and 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. It is different. Your emotions are just like this. Nobody lives like this. Nobody. And from week to week and month to month and year to year — and saints are allowed to move into seasons of great darkness,

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Knowing the Bible Does Not Automatically Make You More Holy

D. A. Carson, “I Am the Truth,” in The God We Worship: Adoring the One Who Pursues, Redeems, and Changes His People, ed. Jonathan L. Master (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2016), 157–58: Knowledge of the Word does not sanctify us by mere education. I have now lived long enough and have belonged to enough professional biblical societies that there are not many front-rank New Testament scholars in the world whom I have not met. Some of them are very brilliant minds indeed. One chap in Germany used to conduct a postdoctoral seminar in which he wanted only a few people, the brightest of the bright. So on the first day, he offered them a test: write out the epistle to the Ephesians in Greek. Well, that got rid of a lot of the less determined, but there were still too many students for the professor’s preference, so the next class was another test: write out the epistle to the Ephesians in

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What Is Self-Discipline?

Steven Lawson: Growth in personal holiness is largely determined by our progress in self-discipline. Without this foundational discipline, there can be no advancement in grace. Before other disciplines can be administered, whether in the home, business, or church, there first must be self-discipline. Admittedly, personal discipline is not a popular subject today. In our society, any insistence upon self-discipline is largely resisted, even among many Christians. Legalism, they cry, defending their rights of Christian liberty. These free-spirited believers maintain that discipline restricts their freedom in Christ, binding them in a spiritual straightjacket. But many of these believers have so abused their freedom in Christ that they have virtually no spiritual discipline. They have swung the pendulum so drastically toward Christian liberty that their spiritual lives are out of balance. Such neglect of self-discipline prolongs their spiritual immaturity, leaving them with little self-control to resist temptation and sin. Let us be clear, if there is no discipline, there is no discipleship. If we do

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My Sin, Not in Part, But the Whole

. “My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought.” Caleb Brasher: This is a strange phrase. Has it ever caught your attention before? In the third stanza of “It is Well,” the hymn writer leads with this curious arrangement of words. It always struck me as odd. How can I consider my sin blissful? Eventually, I learned to look at things in their proper context. I had never connected those lines with the lines that followed: “My sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!” We find this bliss by doing two things: by being honest with ourselves and seeing the depth of our depravity in our sin, and by looking to the cross and seeing the depth of God’s mercy in Christ. Seeing Our Sin Clearly As long as we aren’t that bad of sinners, we won’t need that

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The Christian life isn’t meant to be effortless

Donald S. Whitney: When we’re born again from above by the Spirit of God, the Lord makes a “new creation” of us (2 Cor 5:17). But when he accomplishes that radical, regenerating transformation of us, he does not eliminate our minds, our bodies, our emotions, our will or anything that’s a part of what makes us human. God’s grace doesn’t eliminate any of those things, instead he gives dramatically new purposes to them. He calls us to live the Christian life with the full — though God-centered — use of our minds and judgment and everything else that is a part of our humanity. Let go and let God? However, many people will tell you that your spiritual problems stem from the fact that you are trying to live the Christian life but that God never intended you to do so. They say that just as God never intended for you to save yourself, so he does not expect you to live

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13 Reasons We Need Church History

  Matthew J. Hall I love teaching on a wide range of historical subjects. Get me lecturing to undergraduate American history students on the Cold War and the emergence of political conservatism, and I’m in my scholarly happy place. Step into my world history class and you’ll find me fired up to explain how colonization reshaped the entire world. But teaching church history is different. While I bring some basic assumptions (and standards of historical research) to any historical study, studying and teaching church history is a profoundly theological enterprise. Here are 13 principles for why studying church history is crucial. 1. Remembering is vital. Throughout Scripture, rightly remembering is critical to faithfulness. As early as Eden, Eve listens to the serpent, succumbing to faulty interpretations of the past and of God’s revelation in particular. Throughout the Old Testament, God calls his people to recall and retell his gracious saving acts. Yet Israel repeatedly forgets, fails, and strays. The New Testament is also clear:

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Seven Ways to Improve Your Preaching

  Kevin DeYoung: I loved the post last week from Mike Kruger, Note to Aspiring Preachers: Here are Seven Key Pitfalls to Avoid. His advice got me thinking about what advice I would give (or have given) to aspiring preachers, or any to preachers for that matter. Below are seven practical ways we can improve our preaching. And please note: I deliberately use the words “we” and “our,” because I’m thinking of my sermons as much as anyone’s. These suggestions are things I continue to work on as a preacher, sometimes with success and often with less progress than I would like. 1. Make sure your points point to something. It’s fine to say, “I have three points this morning: Abraham received precious promises. Abraham believed God. Abraham was saved by faith.” It would be better, however, to tell us what holds those points together. Are they three acts in the life of Abraham, or three lessons we can learn,

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Why Patience Doesn’t Come Naturally

Sam Storms: How many of you reading this article are by nature patient? Is there anyone who finds patience as natural as breathing? Anyone? Anyone? I’m looking for that man or woman, young or old, who instinctively responds to irritating people and aggravating circumstances with a calm and controlled spirit. Anyone? Anyone? Hmmm. I didn’t think so. No one comes by patience naturally. No one instinctively responds to adversity and interruptions without at least some measure of irritation and anger. No one encounters opposition to one’s plans without some degree of agitation and frustration. Patience, to put it simply, is counter-intuitive. It is not something with which we are born. It is, instead, a work of God’s grace in the human heart, a fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Let me begin with a confession. I’m an impatient man. I hate it, but it’s true. I get frustrated when a train stops on the tracks and I’m delayed

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Five Benefits of Corporate Worship

  David Mathis: Worshipping Jesus together may be the single most important thing we do. It plays an indispensable role in rekindling our spiritual fire, and keeping it burning. Corporate worship brings together God’s word, prayer, and fellowship, and so makes for the greatest means of God’s ongoing grace in the Christian life. But thinking of worship as a means can be dangerous. True worship is fundamentally an experience of the heart, and not a means to anything else. So it’s important to distinguish between what benefits might motivate us to be regular in corporate worship, and what focus our minds and hearts should pursue in the moment. According to Don Whitney, “There’s an element of worship and Christianity that cannot be experienced in private worship or by watching worship. There are some graces and blessings that God gives only in the ‘meeting together’ with other believers” (Spiritual Disciplines, 92). Surely, many more could be given, but here are five

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3 Truths to Speak To Your Temptation

  Tim Challies: As a true son of Adam, a person born with a natural affection for sin, I have no shortage of opportunities to consider sin and to consider the desire to commit it in its infinite varieties. As a husband and father, a pastor, and a church member I have no shortage of opportunities to speak to other people about their sin and their temptations. And time and time again I find myself returning to the simplest truths, to words that can and must be spoken to temptation. The first thing to say to the sin that is tempting you is this: That is not who I am! That temptation, that sin, does not fit your deepest identity. Those who have put their faith in Christ Jesus are in Christ Jesus—“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). There is now a union in Christ that provides an entirely new

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What Does the Word “Gospel” Mean in the New Testament?

R.C. Sproul: The gospel is the possession of Jesus, but, even more, Jesus is the heart of the content of the gospel. We use it so glibly in the church today. Preachers say they preach the gospel, but if we listen to them preach Sunday after Sunday, we hear very little gospel in what they are preaching. The term gospel has become a nickname for preaching anything rather than something with definitive content. The word for “gospel” is the word euangelion. It has that prefix eu-, which comes into English in a variety of words. We talk about euphonics or euphonious music, which refers to something that sounds good. We talk about a eulogy, which is a good word pronounced about someone at his funeral service. The prefix eu- refers to something good or pleasant. The word angelos or angelion is the word for “message.” Angels are messengers, and an angelos is one who delivers a message. This word euangelion, which means

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