The work of the Spirit that anticipates the future

Michael Horton: Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7) “It is to your advantage that I go away.” What a strange thing to say. Right at the verge of Jordan in this new covenant conquest, how does Christ’s leaving benefit the disciples—or you and me? First of all, we need to exercise empathy here. When we read about how the disciples had not yet experienced the Holy Spirit’s illumination of their hearts so they could understand what was happening, we have to imagine how they would have heard this. In this light, it makes perfect sense that they were stunned. Here is the true and great Joshua—Jesus—standing on the verge of the Jordan, on the verge of the conquest, ready to lead the armies of God into

read more The work of the Spirit that anticipates the future

Hell Is Not Separation from God

Michael Horton: Irresponsible speculation about hell has made discussing the doctrine considerably more difficult over the years. Whether it is vivid descriptions of Dante’s Inferno or revivalist “hellfire and brimstone” sermons, the impression is too often given that we must go beyond biblical description to alert people to avoid such a dreadful place. The problem here is that hell, rather than God, becomes the object of fear. But consider Jesus’s sober warning: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matt. 10:28) Hell is not horrible due to alleged implements of torture or its temperature. (After all, it is described variously in Scripture as “outer darkness” and a “lake of fire.”) Whatever the exact nature of this everlasting judgment, it is horrible ultimately for one reason only: God is present. Presence of God This sounds strange to those of us familiar with the definition

read more Hell Is Not Separation from God

Gospel transformation

Michael Horton: The gospel transforms us in heart, mind, will, and actions precisely because it is not itself a message about our transformation. Nothing that I am or that I feel, choose, or do qualifies as Good News. On my best days, my experience of transformation is weak, but the gospel is an announcement of a certain state of affairs that exists because of something in God, not something in me; something that God has done, not something that I have done; the love in God’s heart which he has shown in his Son, not the love in my heart that I exhibit in my relationships. Precisely as the Good News of a completed, sufficient, and perfect work of God in Christ accomplished for me and outside of me in history, the gospel is ‘the power of God unto salvation’ not only at the beginning but throughout the Christian life. In fact, our sanctification is simply a lifelong process of

read more Gospel transformation

What’s wrong with the common question, “How was church today?”

  From an interview with Michael Horton about his latest book, Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World: Belonging to the body of Christ, being exposed regularly to the means of grace and to the communion of saints, is radically life-changing. But that process can’t usually be measured in days, weeks, and months. We have to simply believe God’s promise. It’s easy to burn out when we expect every public service or daily time with the Lord to be earth-shattering. And just when it becomes ordinary, we back off because we don’t want it to become “routine.” But that’s just the point: it’s good to have routines that we stick to regardless of the fireworks. Again, I think of analogies: “How was your marriage today?” “How was your workout?” Most of the time, it’s “fine.” You can’t have revolutions every day or there wouldn’t be steady growth. Pastors, too, can burn out when every “worship experience” has to be phenomenal.

read more What’s wrong with the common question, “How was church today?”

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

read more Fear Not, Little Flock

The ‘Prosperity Gospel’ is not the Gospel

Michael Horton: “It is appropriate that a prosperity gospel be born in the hedonistic, self-centered, get-rich-quick milieu of modern American society. We are, by nature, pagan. Either our religion will transform us or we will transform our religion to suit our sympathies. . . . The prosperity Bible does not deal only with freedom from sickness. It would have us read, ‘He himself bore our sicknesses and poverty in His body on the tree, so that we might die to infirmity and lack; for by His wounds you have been healed.’ In contrast, there was no question in the mind of the apostles that the gospel promised, ‘spiritual riches in heavenly places in Christ’ (Ephesians 1:3), not earthly ones. Our Lord was afflicted so that we could be healed. But that is a metaphor for the wonderful truth that the penalty justly meant for us was endured by Christ, our substitute. The rod of justice that dealt the Lamb of

read more The ‘Prosperity Gospel’ is not the Gospel