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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Coping with Coronavirus by means of Good Theology!

Sam Storms: Bridgeway Church likely is no different from other gospel-centered churches when it comes to the frequency and variety of suffering that people endure. On top of all it all, we can now add the emotional instability and, on the part of some, panic that has set in as we watch the spread of Covid-19. I’m inclined to think the best way to respond to such personal tragedies, such as the sudden and inexplicable death of a loved one or an extended illness or the loss of a job, is simply to say nothing. I have little patience for those who feel the need to theologize about such events, as if anyone possessed sufficient wisdom to discern God’s purpose. On the other hand, people will inevitably ask questions and are looking for encouragement and comfort. So how best do we love and pastor those who have suffered so terribly? How do we persevere in faith when the future days

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10 Things You Should Know about the Necessity of Biblical Preaching

Sam Storms: In last week’s installment of our ten-things-you-should-know series I focused on the causes for the demise of biblical preaching. Today I want to focus on why it is so critical that pastors be committed to the exposition of the Word. (1) We must preach because of the power of the Word of God to change human lives and to transform the experience of the church. Tragically, although they would hardly admit it openly, many preachers have grown suspicious of the power of the Scriptures to change lives. Day in and day out they face marriages that are disintegrating, teenagers who are rebelling, both young and old fighting addictions from which they can’t break free, not to mention the spiritual apathy of their congregations, and they secretly doubt if there is much help to be found in digging deeply into an ancient book. Contemporary problems call for contemporary solutions, and nothing seems more irrelevant and obsolete than Scripture. If that

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He Leadeth Me!

Sam Storms: In 1862 Joseph Gilmore wrote one of the more familiar of our traditional hymns: He Leadeth Me. He leadeth me, O blessèd thought! O words with heav’nly comfort fraught! Whate’er I do, where’er I be, Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me. He leadeth me, He leadeth me, By His own hand He leadeth me; His faithful follower I would be, For by His hand He leadeth me When Jesus turns to describe himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep, he not only speaks of how he loves us but also how leads us. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep

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Caterpillars, Butterflies, and Replacement Theology

Sam Storms: Many times I’ve been asked by church members if I believe in “replacement” theology. Although this is a massively complex subject, I’ve tried to provide a brief answer. All biblical interpreters recognize development between the Old Testament and the New. Some say the Old Testament is the seed which becomes the flower in the New. Others speak of the relationship as one of symbol to substance, or type to anti-type. The point is we must strive to understand the obvious 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 as God always intended it to be. What we see in the New Testament, then, isn’t the replacement of

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God Created Us for “exceeding, inexpressibly great happiness”

Sam Storms: Saturday, October 5th, is the birthday of my theological hero, Jonathan Edwards. He was born in 1703 in East Windsor, Connecticut, and his life and words continue to affect me in countless ways. The Edwards home was rather unusual, as Jonathan had 10 sisters and no brothers! But that’s not my focus in this article. I want to briefly reflect on one of the more important truths that occupied his mind. Although what follows is primarily designed for those who, like Edwards, are in pastoral ministry, all of you can benefit greatly from reflecting deeply on what he said. Edwards was just 21 years old when he preached a sermon entitled, “Nothing Upon Earth Can Represent the Glories of Heaven.” It was the first sermon he ever preached based on a text from the book of Revelation (21:18). And it was in this sermon that he articulated one of the most important theological insights he ever had: “God created

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The Horror of a Different Jesus

Sam Storms: Our pluralistic, consumer driven society is all about choices, options, and diversity. If you don’t like what you see, be patient; another version, an updated edition, a new and improved alternative will soon appear. This is often the case in certain expressions of contemporary “Christianity” (so-called). Don’t like the Jesus of evangelical, orthodox biblical faith? No problem. There are plenty of other Jesus’s to choose from. There’s the liberal Jesus, the liberation Jesus, the Christ of the cults, and the Christ of Islam. There’s the entirely human but not so divine Jesus or, if you prefer, the entirely divine and hardly human Christ. Or perhaps you relish a more home-grown Jesus, one that is fashioned after the desires of your own heart. Messianic pretender? Philosophical sage? How about the Jesus of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code? Or the Jesus of The Gospel of Judas? 2020 is a presidential election year, so cast your vote: the Democratic Jesus or

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10 Things You Should Know about the Gospel

By Sam Storms: As much as we hear about the gospel of Jesus Christ one would think that everyone is on the same page when it comes to defining this word. Sadly, that is not the case. So just what is the gospel? How might we define it? Here are ten things to keep in mind. (1) The “gospel” is the gloriously great good news of what our triune God has graciously done in the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to satisfy his own wrath against us and to secure the forgiveness of sins and perfect righteousness for all who trust in him by faith alone. Christ fulfilled, on our behalf, the perfectly obedient life under God’s law that we should have lived, but never could. He died, in our place, the death that we deserved to suffer but now never will. And by his rising from the dead he secures for those who believe the promise

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