What are the most dangerous threats to the gospel today?

9Marks: It’s impossible to answer what’s “most” dangerous to the gospel today without God’s knowledge of everything. But here are some prominent threats that loom on the horizon: The prosperity “gospel.” The belief that the gospel is about God making us rich is a lie. Jesus came to save us from sin and reconcile us to God (Rom. 5:10-11; 1 Pet. 3:18), giving us every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3) and promising us suffering in this life and glory in the next (Acts 14:22, Rom. 8:18). The attack on penal, substitutionary atonement. Many people reject the idea that on the cross God punished Jesus for the sins of his people. But to reject this is to reject the heart of the gospel itself (Rom. 3:21-26). The rejection of the wrath of God. People today are extremely uncomfortable with the idea of a holy God who will punish sin. But if we reject the wrath of God we lie to ourselves about the fundamental problem the gospel

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Let’s Get Our Theological Priorities Straight

Luke Stamps: Get your priorities straight. This is true in the realm of Christian doctrine, just as it is anywhere else in life. Doctrinal prioritization has a strong pedigree. Jesus himself placed priority on the two great commandments: love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). The apostle Paul placed priority on the gospel proclamation of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection—the message he considered to be “of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3). And so all theologians must prioritize. Certain doctrines have greater significance than others for the whole of Christian theology. The deity of Christ is more consequential for the Christian faith than the timing of the millennium. The latter is still important, but it is not “of first importance,” to borrow the apostle’s phrase. But how do we get our doctrinal priorities straight? How do we know when to place special priority on a particular doctrine and when to avoid overstating the significance of another? Several years ago Albert

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The Joy of Calvinism

However the terms are refined, the main tenets of Calvinism are structured around the five-petaled acronym TULIP. But too often missing in this structure is the “sap of delight,” as Pastor John [Piper] calls it in his biography of Augustine. In the following excerpt from that biography, Pastor John explains why we need a delight-drenched theology like that of Augustine: R. C. Sproul says, “We need an Augustine or a Luther to speak to us anew lest the light of God’s grace be not only overshadowed but be obliterated in our time.” Yes, we do. But we also need tens of thousands of ordinary pastors, who are ravished with the extraordinary sovereignty of joy that belongs to and comes from God alone. And we need to rediscover Augustine’s peculiar slant — a very biblical slant — on grace as the free gift of sovereign joy in God that frees us from the bondage of sin. We need to rethink our Reformed view

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The Scope of Redemption Is as Big as the Scope of Creation

Mike Williams, Professor of Systematic Theology at Covenant Seminary and author of the wonderful and needed book Far as the Curse Is Found: “Many of our students come to us having been carefully nurtured and discipled in the biblical story and have already begun to lay hold of the breadth of it. Many others, however, come only with the story of the larger culture or that of popular Christian culture or with stories that invite them to see the Christian faith as being about and relevant to only their private lives—a spiritual existence that is always to be distinguished from the life of the body, the material world, and the work-a-day world of human social existence. Students are often more than a bit surprised to hear an understanding of the gospel and the Christian life that embraces the entirety of their lives, indeed, the whole of God’s creation. Putting the issue in the most explicit terms, the scope of God’s redemption

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Submit to Jesus, Submit to His Bride

Matt Smethurst: Church membership can feel boring, secondary, extrabiblical, and unimportant. Aren’t there plenty of more pressing things to talk about? Not really, suggests Jonathan Leeman in Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus (Crossway, 2012). In just 132 pages, Leeman unfolds a clear and compelling case for submitting our lives to King Jesus by submitting to his earthly bride. I corresponded with Leeman, editorial director for 9Marks and editor of its Journal, about the surprisingly pressing significance of local church membership. Why is it significant to understand that Christians don’t really “join” churches so much as submit to them? “Join” is a club word. You join a club, whether it’s a country club or a wholesale shopping club. You pay your dues. You receive the benefits. You come and go as you please. Nothing about your identity changes. No real demands are placed on you that you cannot extricate yourself from. “Submit” is a kingdom and citizenship word. It recognizes the presence of

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A sacred covenant promise

“Marriage is patterned after Christ’s covenant relationship to his redeemed people, the church. And therefore, the highest meaning and the most ultimate purpose of marriage is to put the covenant relationship of Christ and his church on display. That is why marriage exists.… Staying married, therefore, is not mainly about staying in love. It is about keeping covenant. ‘Til death do us part’ or ‘As long as we both shall live’ is a sacred covenant promise — the same kind Jesus made with his bride when he died for her.” — John Piper This Momentary Marriage (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2009), 25 (HT: Of First Importance)

The Law Is Abolished and the Law Continues: Why Matthew and Paul Don’t Disagree

Vern Poythress: Some people might suppose from a superficial reading of Matthew that Matthew asserts almost pure continuity of the law, and enjoins us merely to keep the same old law in the same form as always, only now empowered with the presence of Christ. In fact, however, the coming of Christ is the coming of the kingdom of God, the climactic fulfillment of all to which the Old Testament pointed. Reality supersedes shadows. Hence radical transformation of the law is included. Conversely, some people might suppose from a superficial reading of Paul that Paul primarily asserts only discontinuity in the law. The law is dead and gone, not to be obeyed, virtually irrelevant for Christian living (cf. Eph. 2:15; Rom. 7:1-6; Gal. 2:19). But Paul too sees the law as comprehensively fulfilled in Christ (Rom. 15:4-6; 1 Cor. 10:1-13; cf. Rom. 8:4; 13:10-14). When understood properly it is a most impressive means of communion with Christ (2 Cor. 3:15-18). The apparent differences between Matthew and

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Carson and Zaspel: Rest in the Gospel or Strive Unto Holiness?

This really scratches where I itch! From The Gospel Coalition: During the recent Together for the Gospel conference, Kevin DeYoung delivered an excellent message, “Spirit-Powered, Gospel-Driven, Faith-Fueled Effort.” My prolific friend and fellow Council member for The Gospel Coalition also has a book coming out on the subject, The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness. Anyone attuned to the reformed evangelical blogosphere will know that Kevin’s sermon and book spring in part from lively in-house discussions over the last year about the nature of sanctification: its relationship to justification, the gospel, effort, and so on. (If that’s news to you, start here.) Those who have been tracking that ongoing discussion might be interested to know that many of these sanctification-related issues were recently addressed by D. A. Carson and Fred G. Zaspel at Clarus ’12, a TGC regional conference.   In keeping with the conference theme, “The Cross-Shaped Christian Life,” much of the panel discussion was

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Living Ready for Heaven

Jonathan Edwards: We ought not to rest in the world and its enjoyments, but should desire heaven. We should “seek first the kingdom of God.” 236 We ought above all things to desire a heavenly happiness; to be with God; and dwell with Jesus Christ. Though surrounded with outward enjoyments, and settled in families with desirable friends and relations; though we have companions whose society is delightful, and children in whom we see many promising qualifications; though we live by good neighbours, and are generally beloved where known; yet we ought not to take our rest in these things as our portion. We should be so far from resting in them, that we should desire to leave them all, in God’s due time. We ought to possess, enjoy, and use them, with no other view but readily to quit them, whenever we are called to it, and to change them willingly and cheerfully for heaven. The Works of Jonathan Edwards

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How can Christians be meek and war-like at the same time?

In discussing the sixth sign of authentic spiritual affections, Jonathan Edwards poses this question. After arguing that true godly experience results in meekness, gentleness, lowliness of spirit, he raises the objection — But here some may be ready to say, Is there no such thing as Christian fortitude, and boldness for Christ, being good soldiers in the Christian warfare, and coming out bold against the enemies of Christ and his people? Edwards responds: To which I answer, There doubtless is such a thing. The whole Christian life is compared to a warfare, and fitly so. And the most eminent Christians are the best soldiers, endowed with the greatest degrees of Christian fortitude. And it is the duty of God’s people to be steadfast, and vigorous in their opposition to the designs and ways of such, as are endeavoring to overthrow the kingdom of Christ, and the interest of religion. But yet many persons seem to be quite mistaken concerning the

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The true feast

Richard Baxter, in A Christian Directory (Ligonier, 1990), page 140, lists seven benefits of delighting ourselves in God.  Updating the language a little: 1.  Delight in God will prove that you know him and love him and that you are prepared for his kingdom, for all who truly delight in him shall enjoy him. 2.  Prosperity, which is merely the small addition of earthly things, will not easily corrupt you or transport you. 3.  Adversity, that is, the withholding of earthly delights, will not much grieve you or easily deject you. 4.  You will receive more profit from a sermon or good book or conversation you delight in, than other people, who don’t delight in them, will receive from many such opportunities. 5.  All your service will be sweet to yourself and acceptable to God; if you delight in him, he certainly delights in you (Psalm 149:4; 147:11; 1 Chronicles 29:17). 6.  You will have a continual feast with you, to sweeten all the

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The Greatest Preachers

“Throughout the history of the church the greatest preachers have been those who have recognized that they have no authority in themselves and have seen their task as being to explain the words of Scripture and apply them clearly to the lives of their hearers. Their preaching has drawn its power not from the proclamation of their own Christian experiences or the experiences of others, nor from their own opinions, creative ideas, or rhetorical skills, but from God’s powerful word. Essentially they stood in the pulpit, pointed to the biblical text, and said in effect to the congregation, “This is what this verse means. Do you see that meaning here as well? Then you must believe it and obey it with all your heart, for God himself, your Creator and your Lord, is saying this to you today!” Only the written words of Scripture can give this kind of authority to preaching.” – Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (p. 82). (HT: Jared Wilson)

Will We Arrive Blameless on the Day of Christ?

John Piper: There is a faith-sustained holiness that Paul wants his converts to have on the day of Christ — the day of his return, when the dead in Christ will be raised (1 Corinthians 15:23). This holiness (which he also calls “blamelessness” and “guiltlessness” and “being above reproach” and “purity”) is certain through God’s faithfulness, contingent on persevering faith, and dependent on human agency. Certainty Paul is certain that God will work this persevering faith and holiness in his converts for the day of Christ. This is part of God’s faithfulness. May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23–24) You wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by

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