The Gospel is the Source of Strength for Weak People

Sam Storms: I fear we often have an unrealistic image of the Apostle Paul. We tend to think of him as if he were some combination of a Navy Seal and a Super-Hero. And yet, Paul knew what it was like to experience human weakness. When he described his ministry in the city of Corinth he said that he was with them “in weakness and in fear and in much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3). I don’t need to tell any of you what it is like to feel weak and inadequate and overwhelmed. But here is the good news: The gospel can strengthen you! The gospel can empower you! The gospel can supply you with whatever you need to remain faithful to the Lord and to accomplish whatever he’s called you to do. How, you ask? I’ve got a lot of answers! Consider your suffering. The only way you can suffer unjustly without growing bitter and resentful is tied directly to

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Knowing God – A Reader’s Guide to a Christian Classic

Article by Sam Storms: Theocentricity is a big and imposing word that simply means “God-centered.” To be theocentric means that God himself is the core of all you believe, and the governing, gravitational force of all you do. And in my judgment, no one in recent memory more readily embodied this perspective on life more than the late J.I. Packer (1926–2020), especially in his classic work, Knowing God. James Inell Packer is justifiably known for much. His rigorous, thoroughly biblical articulation of penal substitutionary atonement, his unwavering defense of biblical inerrancy, and his penetrating insights into the contribution of the Puritans are just a few of the many qualities for which he is remembered. But when he himself was asked, “What is the best thing in life, bringing more joy, delight, and contentment than anything else?” he did not hesitate to answer: the knowledge of God (33). Pigmy Christianity Packer had little patience for those who would speak of the Christian

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What Is the Difference between Union and Communion with Christ?

Sam Storms: An important distinction that a lot of Christians misunderstand is between the eternal union we have with God and the experiential communion that we have on a daily basis. By eternal union, I mean the fact that we are in Christ and nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8). Scripture gives us all these potential threats. We think Well, if I don’t respond well to this or if I don’t say the right thing in this current context, I’m going to be cut off from Christ eternally. No. Once we are in Jesus by faith, we are in an eternal bond, union, covenant relationship that cannot be broken, cannot be undermined, cannot be shattered—even in the midst of our sin. But, on the other hand, we have what I call experiential communion. The word experiential is to be contrasted with eternal. Eternal happens all the time. It’s unchangeable, unbreakable. Experiential is what

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3 Things God Will Never Do with Your Sin

Sam Storms: God’s Way of Dealing with Sin vs. Our Way Consider for a moment how we “deal” with others. We keep fresh in our minds their injustices toward us. We nurture the memory of their faults and failings. We never let them forget what they did and we often make sure others are mindful of it as well. We seek every opportunity, often secretly and surreptitiously, to make them pay for their transgressions. We hold it in our hearts and over their heads and persuade ourselves that it’s only fair that they be treated this way. 1. God “Does Not Deal with Us According to Our Sins” Our good and gracious God, on the other hand, “does not deal with us according to our sins” (Ps. 103:10). Our sins do not constitute the rule or standard or plumb line according to which God makes his decisions on how to treat us. He does not recall or bring to the

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Do you pray for lost souls? If so, how?

Sam Storms: I assume that you, like Paul, pray fervently for the salvation of close family members or colleagues at work. In Paul’s case, they were the many Jewish men and women of his day who had openly and persistently denied that Jesus was the Messiah. He expressed his profound and persistent sorrow and grief over their lost condition back in Romans 9:1-3. In Romans 10:1 he declares unashamedly that his “heart’s desire and prayer to God” is “that they may be saved.” Paul doesn’t say anything about the nature of this prayer. He doesn’t give any details about the wording that he might use. We don’t know beyond his general affirmation precisely in what way he would ask God to save them, but my suspicion is that he prayed that God might ravish their hearts with his beauty and that he might unshackle their enslaved wills and cause them to come alive! When you pray for lost souls, what specifically are you

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The Word became Flesh – A Christmas Meditation on the Most Breathtaking Verse in the Bible

Sam Storms: “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14) Let’s think for a moment of the beauty of Jesus as revealed in the act of incarnation. For some of you that’s a new and unfamiliar word. It may sound esoteric, but without it we are a hopeless people. Without it Jesus is nothing to us and we are nothing to him. So what exactly do I mean by the word “Incarnation”? The idea is found in several texts which speak of Jesus as “coming in the flesh” (1 Jn. 4:2; 2 Jn. 7), being “sent in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3), “appearing in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16); he also “suffered in the flesh” (1 Pt. 4:1), “died in the flesh” (1 Pt. 3:18), made peace by abolishing “in the flesh the enmity” (Eph. 2:15), and “made reconciliation in the body of his flesh” (Col. 1:21-22). In sum, “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). Thus, by the Incarnation we mean that the eternal

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Did Jesus Exist Before Christmas?

Sam Storms: That may sound like a strange question to ask, but such was the title of an article I recently read. 63% of church-going Christians said Yes, which means that 37% said No. When the survey included all American adults, only 41% believe Jesus existed before his birth in Bethlehem. So, let’s get this straight. What I’m about to say may at first sound heretical, but be patient with me. No, Jesus, the human being who walked the earth, died on a cross, and was raised from the dead, did not exist prior to his being conceived in the womb of a young virgin girl named Mary. Before you cast me aside as an apostate, listen closely. The Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, has always existed. There are countless texts that affirm the eternal pre-existence of God the Son. One thinks immediately of two texts in John’s gospel, where Jesus himself said this: “Jesus said

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How does Hope Serve to Sanctify our Souls?

Sam Storms: The words of the apostle John in 1 John 3:2-3 are both inspired and inspiring. He tells us that if we put our hope in the return of Christ, in the prospect of seeing Jesus “as he is,” this will serve to purify or sanctify our souls. Here is the passage: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3). How exactly does this work? What is it about our hope for the return of Jesus and seeing him face to face that serves to purify our souls? I can think of four things. (1) We know that we will stand in the presence of Jesus to be judged for the things done in his grace and power.

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Three principles of the Christian life

Sam Storms: One of my spiritual and theological mentors was Russ McKnight. Not many will have heard of that name, but Russ’s influence on me and numerous others, including a dozen or more men now in full time ministry, was monumental. Russ was a layman who served as an Elder at Metropolitan Baptist Church in Oklahoma City. I first met Russ in 1969 on the campus of the University of Oklahoma. Russ was teaching a Bible study on Romans every Saturday morning in the Student Union building. Russ was the first man who taught me about the doctrines of sovereign grace, or what is more commonly known as Calvinism. I was a thoroughly convinced Arminian at the time, and Russ’s love, patience, and remarkable gift at unpacking the truths of the Bible eventually led to my embracing the doctrines of grace. Russ sold his business in the late 1970’s and moved to Dallas where he studied for his master’s degree

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Providence and the Counterintuitive Wonders of God

Sam Storms: It’s only one word, Providence, but it is indescribably rich and complex and challenging and comforting. It is also the title to John Piper’s most recent book (Crossway, 2020, 751pp.). Piper defines providence as God’s “purposeful sovereignty.” In other words, it is more than mere sovereignty. It is more than power or oversight. It is the way in which God directly and intentionally brings about his ultimate aim of glorifying himself. One of the things that you will read from John is his emphasis on what he calls “counterintuitive wonders” (14). These wonders of how God governs the world “are not illogical or contradictory, but they are different from our usual ways of seeing the world – so different that our first reaction is often to say, ‘That can’t be.’ But the ‘can’t’ is in our minds, not in reality” (14). Right from the start of this massive and important work, Piper encourages his readers to “let the word of

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His Nearness to Us, Our Dearness to Him

Sam Storms: One of the more precious passages in all of Scripture to me is Psalm 16:11. Here David speaks of the presence of God and the inimitable pleasure and power that flood the soul of those who experience it. Knowing this ought to instill in us a ravenous hunger for intimacy with God. What surprises many is to discover the immense practical benefit of such desire. I first saw this in something said by the author of the epistle to the Hebrews. In the opening verses of chapter thirteen we are exhorted to love each other (v. 1), to be hospitable (v. 2), to be compassionate to the oppressed and needy (v. 3), to pursue sexual purity both inside and outside of marriage (v. 4), and perhaps most difficult of all, not to love money but to be content (v. 5). A formidable task indeed! How can God possibly expect such behavior from people as self-absorbed as we? The answer,

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Spurgeon on the eternal security of the believer

Sam Storms: Few theological issues are as fraught with as much controversy and rancor as that of the security of the believer in Jesus Christ. I continue to marvel at how energetic people are on both sides of this issue when it comes to defending their cherished view. Without delving into the subject in exegetical detail, I would like to cite the words of Charles Spurgeon. His zeal for the truth of eternal security is deserving of our careful and prayerful consideration. “If one dear saint of God had perished, so might all; if one of the covenant ones be lost, so may all be; and then there is no gospel promise true, but the Bible is a lie, and there is nothing in it worthy my acceptance. I will be an infidel at once when I can believe that a saint of God can ever fall finally. If God hath loved me once, then He will love me forever.

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Heaven is a World of Love

Sam Storms: Crossway has recently launched a series of short books under the heading, Crossway Short Classics. The most recent one is the essay by Jonathan Edwards, Heaven is a World of Love. They asked me to write the Foreword to it, which you will find below. I can’t think of anyone who was more productive during the course of his earthly life than Jonathan Edwards. One need only glance at the Yale University Press edition of his collected works to verify this as fact. And that does not take into account the vast number of as yet unpublished sermons that we hope will one day be made available. I cite this about Edwards merely to refute the oft-heard cliché that some people are so heavenly minded as to be of no earthly good. Edwards’s earthly achievements may be directly linked to his focus on, dare I say his obsession with, the glory of heaven that he had not as yet experienced. Edwards was

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What Happens when Revival Comes?

Sam Storms: Everyone, it seems, has their own definition or description of revival. Here I want to identify ten features of biblical revival. Among the many who have influenced my thinking on this topic, I have to mention J. I. Packer, on whom I am greatly dependent. This week at Bridgeway we embark on four days of prayer and fasting. There are many things for which we are praying and seeking God, chief among which is a revival of his people and his church. So, here is what happens when revival comes. 1. God draws near. God comes down. This is certainly the imagery found in Isaiah 64:1-2 where God’s presence is portrayed in terms of a brushfire. “It is with this searching, scorching manifestation of God’s presence that renewal begins, and by its continuance that renewal is sustained” (Packer, 26). During the Welsh revival one pastor said: “If one were asked to describe in a word the outstanding feature of those days,

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Beholding the Glory of Christ in Scripture in 2021

Sam Storms: Many of you are already well on your way to reading through the Bible in 2021. Like every other year, you’ve heard the call: “Let’s read through the Bible together this year.” Sadly, though, the resolve to read lasts for about a month or two. Then life’s demands and the pressures of each day suppress the commitment we earlier made. How can we not let that happen again this year? I want to suggest that our failure to maintain our pledge to read Scripture consistently is largely due to a misunderstanding of what we think we’ll find in reading God’s written Word. What I want to suggest is that we recognize that in reading Scripture we encounter the resplendent glory of Jesus Christ himself. Here at Bridgeway, in 2021, we are reading through the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, together with the book of Acts. Not just once, but repeatedly. Why? I love the way John

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Rejoicing that our God is Able

“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases”(Psalm 115:3). Sam Storms: When was the last time you thanked God simply for being able? I can’t imagine anything more disheartening and depressing than believing in a God who lacks the power to fulfill his purposes, whose energy wanes in the heat of battle or whose strength diminishes in a moment of crisis. Good intentions notwithstanding, if God can’t carry out his plans and can’t fulfill his goals and can’t keep his promises, I’m not sure I want anything to do with him. The apostle Paul consistently celebrated the ability of God and his limitless power to act on behalf of his people. Typical is this doxology in his letter to the Ephesians: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in

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When God Calls You His Beloved

Sam Storms: In Romans 1:7 Paul describes those to whom this remarkable letter is addressed. He refers to them as those “who are loved by God.” You may not think that anyone else cares anything at all for you. I don’t believe that’s true, but you may be convinced that it is. Satan is trying to convince you that it is true. He wants you to feel excluded, unloved, uncared for, and unnoticed by others. You aren’t. But hearing me reassure you probably won’t change things. What will change things is your capacity to believe and receive God’s love for you. Think about that for a moment. We talk about it all the time. We sing about it on Sunday mornings. But God wants you to feel his affection for you. He wants you to be set free from self-contempt and shame and the pain it brings as you reflect on the glorious truth that the God of the universe, the Creator

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Blessed are the Persecuted. Really?

Sam Storms: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12). Seriously? Did Jesus really mean what he said? Yes. Let’s look closely at this stunning statement. This beatitude explodes several myths that people believe about what it means to be a Christian. • It shatters the myth that Christianity is a means of deliverance from suffering. As we become more like Jesus, we should expect to be treated like Jesus! • It shatters the myth that God loves his children too much to allow them to suffer at the hands of unbelievers. God does indeed love us, but that does not mean we will be insulated from

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Did Paul Teach the Prosperity Gospel?

Sam Storms: On more than one occasion I’ve heard contemporary proponents of the so-called prosperity gospel appeal to Paul’s use of the principle of sowing and reaping to support their view. But was Paul really an intentional or inadvertent advocate of this view? Twice in his writings Paul appeals to the principle of sowing and reaping when making an appeal for Christians to be generous and sacrificial in giving money to ministry causes. First, in Galatians 6 he writes: Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do

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The Holiness of God

Sam Storms: What does it mean to say that God is holy? Most people think of moral rectitude or righteousness or goodness, and that is certainly true. To be holy is to be characterized by purity and blamelessness and integrity, both in terms of one’s essence and one’s activity. In this sense, God’s holiness and his righteousness are somewhat synonymous. He is described in the OT as “too pure to behold evil” and intolerant of evil (Hab. 1:12-13). But this is only a secondary way in which God is said to be holy. We need to understand the primary thrust of the word. The Biblical evidence God is regularly identified in Scripture as “the Holy One“. See Job 6:10; Isa. 40:25; 43:15; Ezek. 39:7; Hosea 11:9; Hab. 1:12; 3:3. He is also called “the Holy One of Israel” in 2 Kings 19:22; Isa. 1:4; 43:3 (a total of 25x in Isaiah alone); Jer. 50:29; 51:5; and elsewhere. In Isa. 57:15 God is described as “the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity, whose name is

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