God’s Delight in Being God: The Foundation of Christian Hedonism

Sam Storms: You are all aware, I’m quite sure, that there is an eternity of difference between saying, “Delight yourself,” and “Delight yourself in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4). The former is pagan or secular hedonism. The latter is Christian Hedonism. So let’s unpack this notion that our delight or joy is to be in God. And the question is: Why, and what does that mean? In order to answer that, I want to direct your attention to a footnote. Strange as it may sound, often times the most powerful and transforming of truths can be found in footnotes rather than in the main text of a book. In the 2000 edition of The Pleasures of God, on page 26, footnote 3, John Piper writes this: “The truth that God is infinitely happy in the fellowship of the Trinity is . . . the ground of our ever-increasing happiness, as God grants us the unspeakable privilege of enjoying God with the

read more God’s Delight in Being God: The Foundation of Christian Hedonism

How Should We Interpret the Book of Revelation?

Sam Storms: Perhaps the single greatest controversy surrounding Revelation and the most important issue when it comes to interpreting the book, is the question of its structure. Many, perhaps most, evangelicals read Revelation as if it is describing a short period of time that is still in the future. Those who embrace what may be called the futurist view of the book most often will argue that what we have in Revelation 6-19 is a description of events that will take place in the future in a period of seven years they call The Great Tribulation. And as you know, there are many who insist that Jesus will return and rapture his people out of this world prior to the outpouring of divine judgment in the “Great Tribulation.” The result is that what we read in Revelation 6-19 has little, if any, immediate practical relevance for a lot of Christians. For them it is fascinating to talk about, but it

read more How Should We Interpret the Book of Revelation?

Replacement theology or inclusion theology?

Sam Storms: I was recently asked by a member at Bridgeway if I believe in what is called “replacement” theology. Although this is a massively complex subject, I tried to provide a brief answer. Here it is. All biblical interpreters recognize that there is development between the Old Testament and the New. Some say the Old Testament is the seed to which the New Testament provides the flower. Others speak of the relationship as one of symbol to substance, or type to anti-type. The point being that we must strive to understand the progress in redemptive history. And when I look at the relationship between Israel and the Church I see something similar to the relationship between the caterpillar and the butterfly. The butterfly doesn’t replace the caterpillar. The butterfly IS the caterpillar in a more developed and consummate form. The butterfly is what God intended the caterpillar to become. Likewise, the church doesn’t replace Israel. The church IS Israel

read more Replacement theology or inclusion theology?

10 Things You Should Know About the Church

Sam Storms: It’s both amazing and deeply distressing that I continue to hear of people who are supposedly “in love with Jesus” but not with the church. “We like you, Jesus, but we don’t care for your wife!” Really? The so-called “organized” church is for some reason offensive to them. Does the NT support such a notion? Is it possible for someone to be a Christian and remain opposed to his Bride, the church? I hope these ten truths about the church will forever put that misguided idea to rest. (1) The church is the primary means by which or through which God makes known the glory of his saving wisdom. We read this in Ephesians 3:10 – “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10). God’s ultimate aim is that his own “manifold wisdom” might be made known “through the church”. The

read more 10 Things You Should Know About the Church

10 Things You Should Know about Repentance

Sam Storms: Repentance is a massively important spiritual issue that calls for careful study and clear articulation. Here are ten things to remember about what it means to repent of our sin. (1) Genuine repentance begins, but by no means ends, with heartfelt conviction of sin. That is to say, it begins with recognition, which is to say, an eye-opening, heart-rending awareness of having defied God by embracing what he despises and despising, or at minimum, being indifferent towards, what he adores. Repentance, therefore, involves knowing in one’s heart: “This is wrong.” “I have sinned.” “God is grieved.” The antithesis of recognition is rationalization, the pathetic attempt to justify one’s moral laxity by any number of appeals: “I’m a victim! You have no idea what I’ve been through. If you knew how rotten my life has been and how badly people have treated me, you’d give me a little slack.” True repentance, notes J. I. Packer, “only begins when one passes out

read more 10 Things You Should Know about Repentance

The Cure for a Superficial Faith

    Sam Storms: I’ve been a subscriber to World magazine for as long as I can remember. Some have referred to it as the Christian version of Time magazine. Actually, it’s a lot better than Time ever was and not simply because it is faith-based. But I’m not here to praise World. I’m here to draw attention to two things that I noted in its most recent, August 5, 2017, issue. In an article on the church in China titled “More Growing Pains, More Great Gains,” June Cheng reports on the struggles of believers in that communist country. This article is a follow-up on an earlier piece in which she profiled three groups of Christians “working to help mature the burgeoning Chinese church” (43). One of those on whom she focused is a pastor from Singapore “whose online sermons led to church plants throughout China” (43). When Cheng last saw this man, Joseph Su (whose name has been changed for safety reasons), he was actively involved

read more The Cure for a Superficial Faith

Is God a Megalomaniac?

Sam Storms: I’m currently reading through John Piper’s most recent book (and so should you!), Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture (Crossway, 2017). I’ll have a more complete review of it when I’m done, but I can assure you that it will most definitely be on my list of Top Ten Best Books of 2017. Early on in the book Piper picks up the objection that C. S. Lewis voiced concerning the way in which God constantly demanded praise of himself (especially as we see this in the Psalms). Lewis struggled to understand how God could be loving towards us at the same time he seemed so obsessed with his own praise. In other words, how does God escape the charge of being a megalomaniac? Shouldn’t God “humble” himself by seeking our good above and prior to his own glory? Piper’s answer follows: “If God demeaned his supreme worth in the name of

read more Is God a Megalomaniac?

Who is the Holy Spirit?

Sam Storms: From Sam’s contribution to The New City Catechism: Rarely does a Christian struggle to think of God as Father. And to envision God as Son is not a problem for many. These personal names come easily to us because our lives and relationships are inescapably intertwined with fathers and sons here on earth. But God as Holy Spirit is often a different matter. Gordon Fee tells of one of his students who remarked, “God the Father makes perfectly good sense to me, and God the Son I can quite understand; but the Holy Spirit is a gray, oblong blur.” How different this is from what we actually read in Scripture. There we see that the Spirit is not third in rank in the Godhead but is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and Son, sharing with them all the glory and honor due unto our Triune God. The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal power or an ethereal,

read more Who is the Holy Spirit?

The Most Serious and Severe Departure from the Faith in Our Day

Sam Storms: Heresy abounds. It always has and always will, until such time as Jesus returns and exposes the misguided theological fabrications of men and women and vindicates the truth of his Word. In our day, there are many heretical and deviant notions circulating within the professing evangelical church. But I am persuaded that the most serious and severe departure from biblical faith in our day is the repudiation of the truth of penal substitutionary atonement (together with the wicked, childish, inexcusable, or as J. I. Packer has put it, “the smarty-pants” caricature of penal substitution as “cosmic child abuse”). There is much that could be said about this, but today I restrict my comments to the declaration of Revelation 1:5b where John predicates of Jesus Christ “glory and dominion forever and ever.” And what is the ground for this doxology? Why is Jesus deserving of such praise? It is because, among other things, he “loves us and has freed

read more The Most Serious and Severe Departure from the Faith in Our Day

A Case for Covenant Membership in the Local Church

Sam Storms: Does the New Testament explicitly mention or describe formal church membership? No, it does not. However, there are numerous truths and responsibilities in the NT which would be minimized or denied if there were no definable local church membership. In other words, the fact that membership is not explicitly mentioned does not mean it didn’t exist. Those things which are explicitly mentioned necessarily assume that covenant membership existed. Therefore, if we conclude that covenant membership is necessarily entailed by the Bible’s commands for the church and the description of its life, we are morally obligated to pursue it in our churches today. If we conclude that it is not, we are free to regard local church membership as a matter of prudence which we may disregard if we think it not to be helpful in fulfilling our calling as the body of Christ. As I read the New Testament, I can see several truths or responsibilities that, in

read more A Case for Covenant Membership in the Local Church

Glorification Never Ends!

Sam Storms: When we refer to the believer’s ultimate “glorification” we are speaking of the transformation of our whole being: body, soul, spirit, will, mind, and affections, in which sin is eradicated and we are made like Jesus (see Phil. 3:20-21; 1 John 3:1-3). What I want to suggest is that there is a very real and important sense in which this glorification of all believers never ends. I don’t mean that our glorification will never be reversed, although that’s true. There will never be the slightest diminishing or regression or reversal or loss of the purity and holiness and likeness unto Jesus that we gain at the resurrection of our bodies. What I mean is that although glorification will happen in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, it will also eternally grow and expand. The condition of our body, soul, and spirit, although entirely free from sin as a result of the event of glorification, is not the

read more Glorification Never Ends!

Do Christians “go to heaven” when they Die?

Sam Storms: There is a loud chorus of voices these days denouncing, in a somewhat condescending way, the long-standing belief among evangelicals that when Christians die they go to heaven. In one sense, this outcry is good and constructive. It is an understandable and much-needed response to the unbiblical gnosticism of some “fundamentalist” Christians who denigrate material creation, diminish the reality of a future bodily resurrection, and fail to reckon with the centrality in God’s redemptive purpose of the New Heavens and especially the New Earth. So, is my answer to the question posed in the title, No? Not quite. My answer is: Immediately, Yes. Eternally, No. Or again, to simplify, when a Christian dies he/she immediately passes into the conscious presence of Christ in heaven. But when the day of resurrection arrives, he/she will be given a new and glorified body in which all of God’s people will live and flourish on the New Earth (of Revelation 21-22). What

read more Do Christians “go to heaven” when they Die?

Worship is an End in Itself

Sam Storms: Worship is utterly and eternally unique in one critically important respect: unlike every other Christian responsibility or experience, worship is an end in itself. In other words, worship that glorifies God must be expressed in conscious awareness that this is the ultimate goal for which we were created and redeemed. We do not worship God in order to attain some higher end, or to accomplish some greater goal, or to experience a more satisfying joy. Every other ministry or activity of the Christian serves some higher end. There is a “so that” appended to everything we do, except for worship. We preach, so that . . . We evangelize, so that . . . We cultivate fellowship in the body of Christ, so that . . . We study the Bible, so that . . . But when it comes to glorifying God by enjoying him and all that he is for us in Jesus, we can never

read more Worship is an End in Itself

The Vine, the Branches, and Christian Perseverance

Sam Storms: A lot of people struggle with John 15:1-11 and our Lord’s teaching on the vine and the branches. This week I’ve been looking at the question of the relationship between professed faith in Christ and consistent obedience to his commands. This passage speaks directly to the issue. Let’s look closely at it. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart

read more The Vine, the Branches, and Christian Perseverance

The Gift of Eternal Life: Knowing God

Sam Storms: In the opening words of his prayer to the Father in John 17, Jesus defines for us the essence of eternal life. “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Sometimes I get the feeling that such texts as this were written distinctively and intentionally for our day and time. Of course, they are written for all God’s people in every age, but it is hard to think of a more immediately relevant statement to what we are facing today than what we find in v. 3. In a day when many are insisting that Allah, the alleged ‘god’ of Islam, is one and the same with the God and Father of Jesus Christ, this text is a ringing denunciation of that claim. Notice first that Jesus says the Father is “the only true God.” And this “Father” is explicitly said on countless occasions

read more The Gift of Eternal Life: Knowing God

10 Things You Should Know About the Necessity of Prayer

Sam Storms: There is a reason why I speak of the “necessity” of prayer and not simply ten things to know about prayer. I want us to consider the necessity of prayer in terms of what we stand to lose if we don’t pray. Sadly, prayer for many who profess faith in Christ has become a meaningless ritual. They have lost sight of the fact that God suspends great and glorious blessings on our asking for them. So let’s take a look at ten reasons why prayer is necessary. Or perhaps we could say, let’s consider what we otherwise stand to lose if we choose not to pray. (1) We must pray because otherwise God will not be glorified. Here is how Jesus put it: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). Answered prayer isn’t the only way in which God may be glorified, but it

read more 10 Things You Should Know About the Necessity of Prayer

10 Things You should Know about the Virgin Birth of Jesus

Sam Storms: Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent, so it only seems fitting that we should turn our attention to the glorious message of Christmas. We will do that by devoting today’s article to 10 things all of us should know about the virgin conception and birth of Jesus. (1) Some object to this doctrine by pointing to the many parallels to it in ancient literature. Their argument is that countless myths concerning the virgin births of various Greek gods and superheroes were prevalent in paganism. Those Greek Christians who were familiar with them account for the narratives in Matthew and Luke that describe this “miracle.” In other words, Christians in the early church simply created, i.e., concocted or fabricated their own story of their “hero” and “Lord” being born of a virgin. One problem with this is that all these alleged parallels prove to be quite different from the NT account of the conception and birth of Jesus.

read more 10 Things You should Know about the Virgin Birth of Jesus

10 Things You Should Know about Being Filled with the Holy Spirit

Sam Storms: In an earlier installment of the “10 Things You Should Know” series, we looked at Ephesians 5:18 and what it says about being filled with the Spirit. But here I want to look more closely at the issue as it is found in other portions of God’s Word. I’ve found that the best way to help people understand what it means to be “filled” with the Spirit is to compare and contrast that experience with being “baptized” in the Spirit. (1) Spirit-baptism is a metaphor that describes our reception of the Holy Spirit at the moment of our conversion to Jesus in faith and repentance. When we believe and are justified, we are, as it were, deluged and engulfed by the Spirit; we are, as it were, immersed in and saturated by the Spirit. (2) The result of being baptized in the Spirit is that (a) we are made members of the body of Christ, or incorporated into

read more 10 Things You Should Know about Being Filled with the Holy Spirit

10 Things You should Know about Interpreting the Bible

Sam Storms: Today we look at 10 things we should know about how to interpret the Bible (or conversely, how not to interpret it). But before we begin, it’s important to remember that the Bible is not an answer-book that provides ready-made explanations for all problems or solutions to puzzling questions. When I run into a problem with my computer, I click the Help button and find a topically organized list of solutions to virtually every difficulty I may be facing. But the Bible did not come to us with an Index of topics or a Table of Contents. With that in mind, we begin. (1) We should never forget the incredible privilege and responsibility that falls on every Christian to interpret the Bible for himself/herself. This is the principle of private interpretation, based on the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. But don’t misconstrue what it means. Private interpretation does not mean that we should rely solely on

read more 10 Things You should Know about Interpreting the Bible

Wisdom from Spurgeon on the Mystery of Divine Election

Sam Storms: …there is still in the human soul an uneasiness concerning God’s sovereign choice. To many, it seems arbitrary and unfair. If this is problematic to you, read carefully Charles Spurgeon’s response. It’s lengthy but well worth the effort: “But there are some who say, ‘It is hard for God to choose some and leave others.’ Now, I will ask you one question. Is there any of you here this morning who wishes to be holy, who wishes to be regenerate, to leave off sin and walk in holiness? ‘Yes, there is,’ says some one, ‘I do.’ Then God has elected you. But another says, ‘No; I don’t want to be holy; I don’t want to give up my lusts and my vices.’ Why should you grumble, then, that God has not elected you to it? For if you were elected you would not like it, according to your own confession. If God this morning had chosen you to

read more Wisdom from Spurgeon on the Mystery of Divine Election