Luke 6:20–26: The Kind of People God Blesses

Someone who is blessed of God and someone whom we think is blessed of God are often two very different people. In this lab, John Piper clarifies that if we are Christ’s disciples — whether poor, hungry, weeping, or persecuted — we are blessed.

Some questions to ask as you read and study Luke 6:20–26:

  1. Are you blessed of God? How do you know if you are?
  2. Read Luke 6:20–26. How would you summarize the relationship between poverty, hunger, weeping, and being hated with God’s promise of being blessed?
  3. Should you seek poverty, hunger, weeping, and being hated as a way to secure blessings for God? What kind of people does God bless?

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Principle for Bible Reading

Mine Within the Context First

Making connections to other passages enriches Bible study. We need to make connections, but we also need to be careful not to import other passages into the one we are studying before we have given the passage itself its proper due.

The problem with moving all over the Bible too quickly is that we can miss what the particular author wanted to communicate. In many cases, the author could have brought in other passages or made connections, but that might not have been his point.

Study cross-references and perform word searches, but let each author speak for himself without making a collage of other passages too quickly.

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Paul Tripp’s Tribute to David Powlison

My mentor, colleague, and friend, David Powlison, is gone, now home with the One whose love consumed his heart. There are times when words fail to capture the profound impact one man can have on another. The mind scans the years as the heart struggles to accept the reality that one so significant has gone on.

A Long Friendship

I first met David Powlison as a doctoral student at Westminster Theological Seminary in 1985. He taught a course on the dynamics of the spiritual life that revealed him to be a wise spiritual surgeon. I drove two and a half hours each way to take that class; few things would have kept me away. That class rose way above a required academic course, each session capturing my mind and stirring up a deeper love for Jesus in my heart. What I didn’t know as I sat under my favorite teacher was that he would become my colleague and friend.

In 1987 I was called to be a faculty member at CCEF and a lecturer at Westminster. David and I shared a heart for the gospel, for the church, and for a street-level application of Scripture to everyday life. In many ways, biblical counseling was in its theological and methodological infancy, and with Ed Welch, David and I spent hours and hours together trying to construct a theology of the heart and how the gospel works change, along with seeking to develop a methodology that would encourage lasting heart and life change.

I’m deeply blessed to have been part of those hours and hours of discussion. I’m passionate and a bit crazy; David was quiet and contemplative, so he would be making insightful observations as I bounced around the room, thinking out loud. David made me think: think deeply, think biblically, and think practically. Those discussions were never a waste of time.

As we got a greater sense of what God had called us to in the field of personal, pastoral, counseling ministry, we knew we needed to train others. Since the church wasn’t coming to Philadelphia, we would need to go to the church. So David and I traveled to churches all around the U.S. Since we were away from the daily busyness of counseling and teaching, we would talk. Those talks in planes, hotels room, airports, and restaurants were rich and formative. Each trip was more than a training opportunity. Each trip was marked by rich gospel fellowship with a uniquely gifted and godly friend. I will always treasure those trips.

Before long, our travel expanded. Multiple trips to South Korea and India deepened our discussions and my love for David. In Korea, we were confused together by food we didn’t know how to eat and customs we didn’t understand. In India, we were sick together, dragging ourselves out of bed only long enough to teach. But in each place, we together got new eyes to see the gospel, and in each place, I would try to get inside David’s brilliant mind to learn what he was seeing. In India, we had long discussions about what the overt idol worship there taught us about the covert idolatry that captures us all. I am blessed to have been able to serve my Lord and his church in those places, but even more blessed, that in his grace, I was able to do it alongside David Powlison. In each discussion, I was stimulated by the nuances of the gospel David was able to understand, by the details he was able to see, and by his surgical facility with Scripture.

A Profound Impact

There is so much more I could say about the richness of my 20 years learning from and working with this man whom I esteemed and loved so, but I want to end with two things. First, it’s hard for me to imagine that I would’ve written what I have written, taught what I have taught, and preached what I have preached without the impact of this dear man. But there is something more: I wasn’t just shaped by David’s mind, but more profoundly by the way he lived his life. His infectious love for Jesus, his gentle love for God’s people, his humble scholarship, and his zeal to incarnate God’s love marked me and has marked my ministry to others.

In the last several years, our ministries took us away from the regular contact we enjoyed for so long, but I have carried David in my heart and my prayers until this moment. Today I feel deep sadness mixed with profound gratitude. I am glad that David is in the arms of his Savior, but I am sure no one again will leave this kind of imprint on my heart, mind, life, and ministry.

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Discipleship ≠ Following Christ Your Way

“Jesus is saying to us that, left to ourselves, we are all driving through life the wrong way. And we are about to meet the rush hour of God’s purposes coming in the other direction and, therefore, we need to turn around. If God’s kingdom is about to come and we’re lined up contrary to God’s kingdom, then we need to repent.” — Sam Allberry

Date: April 2, 2019

Event: TGC 2019 National Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana

Listen to this episode of The Gospel Coalition podcast.

Related:

Find more audio and video from the 2019 National Conference on the conference media page.

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Weekly Recap, June 8

Book Summary:

MELTDOWN: MAKING SENSE OF A CULTURE IN CRISIS, by Marcus Honeysett

A Brief Book Notice from Books At a Glance By Steve West   About the Author Marcus Honeysett worked with university ministries in the UK. He studied English, Theatre, and Postmodern culture and theory.   Introduction This book examines five…

SIDE BY SIDE: WALKING WITH OTHERS IN LOVE AND WISDOM, by Edward T. Welch

A “Bonus” Book Summary from Books At a Glance By Clay Werner   God uses ordinary lives, ordinary conversations, and extraordinary love to do most of the heavy lifting in his kingdom. Extraordinary love that helps others first recognizes its…

Author Interview:

Interview with Joel Beeke, co-author of REFORMED SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY, VOLUME 1: REVELATION AND GOD

An Author Interview from Books At a Glance   Greetings, I’m Fred Zaspel, editor here at Books At a Glance, and welcome to another Author Interview. Dr. Joel Beeke has been teaching Systematic Theology for a long time, and we…

Book Review:

CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE AND THE OLD TESTAMENT: THEOLOGY IN THE SERVICE OF EXEGESIS, by Gary A. Anderson

A Book Review from Books At a Glance By David Luy   Christian Doctrine and the Old Testament by Gary Anderson presents a fascinating collection of essays exploring the relationship between biblical exegesis and Christian doctrine. Gary A. Anderson (PhD, Harvard…

Our Blog:

Book Notice: THE VOCABULARY GUIDE TO BIBLICAL HEBREW AND ARAMAIC: SECOND EDITION, by Gary D. Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt

A Brief Book Notice from Books at a Glance   The Vocabulary Guide to Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic by Gary D. Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt is intended to accompany Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar. For the beginning student it is…

~ The Books At a Glance Team

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Book Notice: THE VOCABULARY GUIDE TO BIBLICAL HEBREW AND ARAMAIC: SECOND EDITION, by Gary D. Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt

A Brief Book Notice from Books at a Glance

The Vocabulary Guide to Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic by Gary D. Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt is intended to accompany Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar. For the beginning student it is an essential resource companion to aid in vocabulary memorization and acquisition. Updates in this second edition include the addition of a complete Aramaic word list and refinement of definitions.

Features include:

  • Hebrew words occurring ten times or more in the Old Testament arranged by frequency
  • Hebrew words arranged by common root
  • All Aramaic words occurring in the Old Testament arranged by frequency
  • Helpful appendices including lists of Hebrew homonyms, nominals, and verbs.

About the Authors

Gary D. Pratico (ThD, Harvard Divinity School) is senior professor of Old Testament and Hebrew language at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has been teaching Hebrew for more than thirty years and is coauthor with Miles V. Van Pelt of Basics of Basics of Biblical Hebrew (grammar and workbook) and The Vocabulary Guide to Biblical Hebrew.

Miles Van Pelt (PhD, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the Alan Belcher Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Languages at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, where he also serves as the Director of the Summer Institute for Biblical Languages and Academic Dean. Miles has been studying and teaching biblical languages for over 20 years and he currently lives in Madison, Mississippi, with his wife Laurie and their four children.

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The Vocabulary Guide to Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic: Second Edition

Zondervan, 2019 | 320 pages

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Was Job a Man or a Myth?

Audio Transcript

The book of Job is a profound work on human suffering, worthy of a lifetime of study and reflection. But was Job himself a real, historical character (like John Bunyan), or is Job a mythic legend (like Paul Bunyan)? And does it really matter in the end which he was — fact or folklore? The question comes to us from a listener named Lori.

“Dear Pastor John, I have enjoyed your messages on the book of Job. Recently, I was at a memorial service at a Reformed church in which the pastor said Job was a fictitious character. The lessons of the book, he said, are still helpful. But what do you think? Was Job a real person or not? Why or why not? And do you think it matters?”

Fact or Fiction?

Yes, if I heard my pastor make the confident statement that Job was a fictitious character, I would seriously consider finding another church. (Now, I want to be sure here that I’m not assuming that Lori got it right — that she’s really quoting her pastor accurately. She may not be.) I say that I would consider finding another church not because the pastor’s statement can’t be true and the Bible still be infallible. I say it because there are no grounds for being dogmatic that Job is fictitious. That’s my first reason.

“If I heard my pastor make the confident statement that Job was fictitious, I would seriously consider finding another church.”

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My second reason is that the inclination to take the book as fiction with a moral truth betrays a mental leaning that I think throws the pastor’s biases into question. That’s the way I would put it for myself. I’d say his biases are leaning in the wrong direction. That’s my concern.

Now, are there good reasons for taking the book of Job as an accurate account of events that really happened, or do we just say, “Well, it’s a draw”? I read some commentators who said, “It’s just a draw. We don’t know if it’s a parable or if it’s history. It doesn’t matter,” they say. Let me give three reasons for taking the story as real history rather than a parable with good morals and good theology.

Man from Uz

First, take the way the book opens: “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job” (Job 1:1). Now compare that with the beginning of Judges 17:1, which begins a story: “There was a man of the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Micah.” Or compare it to the beginning of 1 Samuel: “There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah” (1 Samuel 1:1).

Now, one of the ways to assess whether a piece of writing is history or whether it bears the traits of fiction would be to compare how the books are written. The fact that Job begins the way those chapters begin, which are not presented as parable or fiction, is at least one pointer to the way readers would have taken it as they began to read this book. They would have taken it the way they took Judges or 1 Samuel — as an account of things that really happened. That’s my first argument.

Linked to History

Second, in Ezekiel 14:12–20, where the prophet is showing how helpless Jerusalem is under God’s judgment because of how much immorality there is in the land, it says this:

And the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, when a land sins against me by acting faithlessly, and I stretch out my hand against it and break its supply of bread and send famine upon it, and cut off from it man and beast, even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness. . . . Or if I send a pestilence into that land and pour out my wrath upon it with blood, to cut off from it man and beast, even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, declares the Lord God, they would deliver neither son nor daughter. They would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness.” (Ezekiel 14:12–14, 19–20)

“James treats Job like one of the prophets. He puts him in the category with others in history who remained steadfast.”

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Now, I know that there are more or less conservative scholars who say that these names — Noah, Daniel, and Job — are mentioned here not because they’re historical, but because they’re all eminently righteous in the books that tell their story. Nevertheless, the case of Jerusalem is so bad that this writer, Ezekiel, chooses three people, two of which are manifestly historical, and the other we would presume is historical.

Think with me as we notice two things. Noah and Daniel are unmistakably historical. The Bible does not treat them as fictional ever, and Job is listed with them with no distinction made at all. That would be really strange if Job were not like them historically. Here’s the second thing to observe: Ezekiel entertains the hypothetical possibility that Noah and Daniel and Job might be “in the land.” It is a real stretch to think he is saying Noah and Daniel, the historical persons, might be in the land as real people, but Job has to be thought of as in the land in a totally different way.

In other words, it just seems to me that we would need very strong reasons to think Job is fictional if we’re going to take Ezekiel 14:14 and 19 in such an unnatural way. Two historical figures and one fictional functioning in the same way? I doubt it.

Testified by James

Here’s the last point. In James 5:10–11, James says this:

As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets [that’s important] who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

“The readiness to treat the book as fictional signifies a mindset that leans more easily toward critical trends than I think is healthy.”

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Now, again, there are those who say, “This proves nothing about Job’s historical reality. He’s just being used as a fictional character the way we might use Shakespeare’s Hamlet as an example of tragic indecision, for example.” Job, they say, is being used as an example of perseverance.

Really? I mean, James says, “Take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job.” He’s not speaking about Job in a vacuum. He’s treating Job like one of the prophets. He’s putting him in the category with others in history who remained steadfast.

Why It Matters

I would say that we have at least these three lines of evidence that Job is historical: (1) the internal similarity to some of the other historical works, (2) the treatment of Job in Ezekiel, and (3) the treatment of Job in James.

Then Lori asks, “Do you think it matters?” Of course, fiction can teach real flesh-and-blood truth. The parables of Jesus do that. It’s not wrong to write fiction to communicate truth. So it’s not as though the theology of Job would have to be sacrificed if the book were inspired fiction.

But I would say it matters for other reasons. Given the way Ezekiel and James treat the book and the person of Job, the readiness to treat the book and the man as fictional signifies a kind of mindset, a kind of soul inclination, which leans more easily toward critical trends than I think is healthy. That would be a concern to me.

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Better to Marry Than to Burn With Passion?

What does the Bible mean when it says that it is better to marry than to burn? Does mean that marriage is the cure for sexual impurity?

1 Corinthians 7:9 – But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

As I was reading today: A Thought from Matthew 15

Matthew 15:32–33 (ESV) — 32 Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” 33 And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?”

This is commonly referred to a Jesus feeding the 4,000. It comes pretty close on the heels of His feeding the 5,000 a short time before. And in it, I see my own faithlessness mirrored in the disciples.

How much like me these men are.

They had been in this position once before. Not long before either. And yet they repeat what they did the first time – they sputter to themselves about what they cannot do. One would have thought they would turn to Jesus once again first instead. But no. Like me they went through the ritual of personal helplessness first rather than running to Christ first. They rehearsed and bemoaned their lack, when the very Fountain of all life stood before them.

Oh Father, help me to seek your face before I get into a dither about what I can’t do. Seeing every situation, make my first thought to run to you.

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9 Things You Should Know About D-Day

This past Thursday marked the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Here are nine things you should know about the battle that changed both the outcome of World War II and the course of human history:

1. On June 6, 1944, American, British, and Canadian military forces launched Operation Overlord, the codename for the largest amphibious invasion in world history. This first day of the invasion—known as D-Day—began the Battle of Normandy on five separate beachheads in Normandy, France.

2. General Dwight Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force in the European theatre, oversaw planning for Operation Overlord. On the day of the invasion Eisenhower issued an Order of the Day that was distributed to the 175,000-member expeditionary force:

Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is will trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

3. What does the “D” in D-Day mean? Military historians still disagree about exactly what the letter means. Some claim it merely stands for Day and that the coded designation “D-Day” was used for the day of any important invasion or military operation. Others sources, however, claim that when someone wrote to General Eisenhower in 1964 asking for an explanation, his executive assistant Brigadier General Robert Schultz answered: “General Eisenhower asked me to respond to your letter. Be advised that any amphibious operation has a ‘departed date’; therefore the shortened term ‘D-Day’ is used.”

4. As Prime Minister Winston Churchill said after the invasion, “This vast operation is undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever taken place.” Prior to D-Day, about 3,200 reconnaissance missions were launched to take photos of the landing zone. On the day of the battle, which began after midnight, more than 2,200 allied bombers dropped approximately seven million pounds of bombs in what turned out to be a mostly ineffective air bombardment of the beaches and inland. This wave was followed by another 10,521 combat aircraft and 24,000 airborne assault troops (i.e., paratroopers).

5. US troops went ashore on the landing beaches at 6:31 am. Within the first few hours of the invasion the Allies landed more than 160,000 troops at Normandy, which included 73,000 Americans. The heaviest losses were on Omaha beach where US forces suffered 2,000 casualties. In the first hour the chance of becoming a casualty was one in two.

6. While the preparation and logistics of getting to the battle were an impressive feat, the outcome of the operation relied on the men who were fighting. Historian Tony Williams notes that, “whatever the massive logistical build-up, extensive preparations, and impressive firepower of the Allies, the success of the invasion depended upon the individual soldiers.” A postwar study by the 116th Infantry Division found, as historian Peter Caddick-Adams explains, that the success of the invasion was “largely to the initiative and aggressiveness of small unit leaders who made the best of a bad situation. Landing in most cases far off their assigned objectives, with large losses of men and equipment in the water, they had to improvise in order to cope with the strange fortifications to their front.” As Williams adds, “They were citizen-soldiers of a free society who were allowed to take the initiative and debate the best course of action as they fought together in small groups in pursuit of a common purpose.”

7. Nearly 3,000 Americans were killed or wounded on Omaha Beach, most of them in the first few hours. (In comparison, that is almost twice the number (1,833) of those killed in action in Afghanistan over a period of seventeen years.) In total, more than 4,400 Allied soldiers lost their lives during the invasion. Still, this was far fewer than the expected number of casualties Allied leaders had expected. On the eve of D-Day, Churchill said to his wife, “Do you realise that by the time you wake up in the morning, 20,000 men may have been killed?”

8. After D-Day, the fighting of World War II would continue for nearly another year. But as Marc LiVecche says, “D-Day was in many ways the first day of the end of the war in Europe.” By August, 1944, the Allied forces had liberated northern France and began to move into Germany where they met Soviet forces and ended Nazi rule.

9. On the fortieth anniversary of the D-Day invasion, President Ronald Reagan delivered a speech in Normandy extolling the courage and faith of the soldiers:

The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge—and pray God we have not lost it—that there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.”

You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.”

Something else helped the men of D-day: their rockhard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause.

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Hard Questions Will Only Serve Him: A New Dawn for Christian Apologetics

I have waited my whole life to read The Lord of the Rings to my kids. Last night, we hit my favorite scene, in which the shield-maiden Éowyn confronts the Witch-king of Angmar: a terrifying agent of evil, before whom all, but she, have fled.

When Éowyn challenges this undead King, he mocks her with the words of a prophecy. “Thou fool! No living man may hinder me!” But Éowyn, who has gone into battle disguised, laughs at the line. She pulls her helmet off, her hair flows free, “No living man am I,” she says, and kills her foe. What looked like a promise of victory for the enemy only prophesied defeat.

After nine years working with Christian professors at leading secular universities, I believe we are on the edge of a similar reveal. If we look beyond the secularizing West, which prophesies Christianity’s demise, to the global stage, we’ll discover that Christianity is thriving and growing, while the proportion of people without religious affiliation declines.

If we look more closely at each seeming roadblock to faith, like the three examples below, they turn out to be signposts to Christ.

1. Diversity

Christianity is an exclusivist faith. We claim Jesus is Lord, regardless of race or place or culture. But rather than pulling against diversity, as many assume, Christianity is the greatest movement for diversity in all of history. Jesus tore through the racial and cultural barriers of his day (John 4:5–29) and commanded his followers to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Two thousand years later, Christianity is not only the largest global worldview (and expected to remain so) but also the most racially and culturally mixed.

To be sure, Christians have sinned time and again in this respect, and turned the love-across-differences (to which Christ calls us) into hatred, racism, and xenophobia. But the New Testament texts and the global church are the two greatest rallying points for diversity in all of history. Indeed, far from stamping out diversity, Christianity insists on it.

2. Science

Christianity proclaims an all-powerful Creator God. But far from that belief pitting us against science, it aligns us with the very origins of the modern scientific method.

The first empirical scientists believed that the God who created the universe is rational, and so they hypothesized that he built the universe according to rational laws. But they also believed this God is free, so the only way to find out what those laws are was to go and look. These two beliefs laid the foundation for empirical science, the project (in early astronomer Johannes Kepler’s words) of “thinking God’s thoughts after him.”

To be sure, science can raise complex theological questions, but Christians have been at the forefront of science from the first, and today, there are Christians at the cutting edge of every scientific field that is thought to have discredited Christianity. Rather than conceding science to atheism, we should be thrilled to discover more about God’s world — not because we don’t believe in a Creator, but precisely because we do (Revelation 4:11).

3. Sexuality

Believing that sex belongs only in marriage between one man and one woman puts us at odds with unbelieving friends. Indeed, we may find ourselves accused of hatred and bigotry. Rather than being a tiny candle in the wind of progressive morality, however, biblical sexual ethics are well supported by the data around human flourishing.

For women in particular, increasing numbers of sexual partners correlates with more sadness, depression, and suicidal ideation, while for both sexes, stable marriage is measurably good for one’s mental and physical health. Married people have more and better sex than their unmarried peers, and the happiness-maximizing number of sexual partners in the last year turns out to be one!

When it comes to same-sex sexuality, we are utterly at odds with our immediate culture. But in this area as well, Christianity has more resources than most think. Some of the first Christians experienced same-sex attraction and came to Christ with homosexual histories (1 Corinthians 6:9–11). The same is true of the church today, as increasing numbers of same-sex attracted Christians are standing up for biblical sexual ethics on a costly platform of personal sacrifice.

The Bible calls us to firm boundaries around sex. But these are not hateful barriers designed to keep people out. Rather, they are marks on the playing field of human life, designed to create space for different kinds of love, each mirroring a different aspect of God’s love. In light of this, the Bible calls us to a particular model of marriage, a high view of singleness, and deep intimacy in friendships, where we are brothers and sisters (Matthew 12:50), one body (Romans 12:5), “knit together in love” (Colossians 2:2), and comrades in arms (Philippians 2:25). Indeed, Paul calls his friend Onesimus his “very heart” (Philemon 12) and tells the Thessalonians he was among them “like a nursing mother taking care of her own children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7).

In true Christian community, no one is left out. So, our response to the secular mantra “Love is love” need not be hostility or defensiveness. Rather, it can be our single Savior’s radical claim: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

Best Answer in Apologetics

In the area of sexuality, as in every other area of apologetics, Jesus lies at the heart of the answer. We believe that marriage is one man and one woman for life because it models Christ’s love for his church (Ephesians 5:22–33). We believe that the scientific method works because the universe is sustained by the all-powerful word of God (Hebrews 1:3). We believe in love across racial and cultural difference because one day people from every tribe and tongue and nation will worship Jesus in fellowship together (Revelation 7:9–10).

Just as Éowyn’s revelation of her sex spelled death for the Witch-king of Angmar, so time and again, when we look more closely at supposed obstacles to faith, they point us to Christ. So, let’s not sound the retreat. Instead, let’s arm ourselves with love, prayer, and humility — and with the best insights we can glean from God’s world through careful study — and let’s meet our unbelieving friends where they are.

Christ’s love compels us to embrace the hardest questions, knowing his truth will surely win the day.

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As I was reading today: Matthew 7

Matthew 7:7–8 (ESV) — 7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

We are all familiar with this passage. But unfortunately, it seems most often to be applied with the idea that if I want something from God, I must simply dun Him for it in prayer until I receive it. But I do not believe that is what Jesus is really after here. The context is the key.

I cannot help but think this admonition refers especially to coming to know our Father so as to have Him hallowed in our own hearts and minds…etc.. In other words – its main application is in encouraging us to trust that the petitions taught to us in the prayer of 6:9-13 – will indeed be ours if we set ourselves unswervingly upon them.

But why ask (and keep on asking), seek (and keep on seeking), knock (and keep on knocking)? Why the perpetuation of these three? Because we tend to think that God’s graces come to us as a once-for-all bestowment, rather than a continual supply which must be continually looked for in ongoing dependence upon Him.

So for instance, one cannot just ask and seek and knock for deliverance from some sin – thinking all the while that someday (in this life), we’ll just have absolute freedom from that temptation and not have to face it any longer. This is not the reality of the Christian life. I must ask continually, because I will face the same challenge continually. I must seek Him continually because each day brings distractions from Him. I must knock continually because sin closes up my heart and mind and spiritual eyes and ears continually. I must rely on His grace continually that I might experience the ongoing supply of that grace.

We want once-for-all solutions. But the once-for-all, is realizing that He is the once-for-all source and fountain – which must nevertheless be appealed to and relied upon constantly.

This dynamic remains the reality regarding every grace from God we desire. Victory over sin, and the receipt and manifestation of every fruit of the Spirit. No one has a “gift” of longsuffering. We can only be sustained in it.

Keep seeking Him Christian. Ask for His name to be hallowed, His kingdom to come and His will to be done in this earth as it is in Heaven. Keep looking to Him and Him alone for your daily bread, the forgiveness of sins, a forgiving heart and deliverance from the Devil’s schemes. For it all and always rest in Him and Him alone. What a great and glorious God we serve.

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Immediate Aid, Eternal Relief: Why Christians Work for Both

The following is a lightly edited transcript.

Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering.

Christians care about all suffering. That’s intended to prick the conscience of Christians who believe that caring about the suffering of disease or malnutrition or disability or mental illness or injury or abuse or assault or loneliness or rejection or calamity has to be restricted, because caring about these kinds of suffering may distract from or diminish our commitment to the gospel of Christ crucified and the use of it to relieve a far greater suffering, namely eternal suffering.

“Loving your neighbor as you love yourself is to feel compassion for all suffering.”

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And the first point of this sentence is: No, Christians care about all suffering because Jesus is our model. Over and over and over in the Gospels, it says, Jesus cared or felt compassion on the harassed crowds (Matthew 9:36), and on the sick (Matthew 14:14), and on the hungry (Matthew 15:32), and on the blind (Matthew 20:34), and on the leper (Mark 1:41), and on the demon-possessed (Mark 9:22), and on the bereaved (Luke 7:13).

And then he told a parable to try to help us absorb what it means for us to be like that. And in the parable he said that when the Samaritan saw the stranger on the side of the road, suffering, he felt compassion (Luke 10:33). Jesus is unpacking the meaning of “love your neighbor as yourself” there (Matthew 22:39), for part of the soul’s disposition of loving your neighbor as you love yourself is to feel compassion for all suffering — to care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering.

The word especially is designed to call out the unbelief of Christians who either don’t believe there is such a thing as eternal suffering, or who have convinced themselves it is more loving not to warn people about it — not to plead with them to escape it by the provision God has made through the death and resurrection of his Son. For whatever reason, they don’t care, and I want to call them out. I want you to call them out because Jesus cared about eternal suffering.

Then he [the King] will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” . . . And these [on his left] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:41, 46)

Jesus cared enough to warn us. Paul cared too.

Those who do not know God and . . . do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus . . . will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might. (2 Thessalonians 1:8–9)

John, the beloved disciple, used stronger language than anybody for the length and the intensity of eternal suffering:

The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. (Revelation 14:11)

Jesus, Paul, and John really cared about eternal suffering. Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller asked, “How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them?” Millions of Christians, including many missionaries, have convinced themselves that they are loving lost people by caring mostly about their suffering in this world, and little about how they will spend eternity.

“Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering.”

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I just read an article about the reaching of an unreached people. It began by foregrounding the beneficial earthly effects of missionary work — education, medicine, prosperity, written language — and ended with a focus on earthly human flourishing, with one passing mention about Jesus in the middle of the article. No God, no wrath, no cross, no salvation, no forgiveness of sins, no faith, no hell, no heaven, no eternal joy with God. And it was presented as a model of missionary success. I don’t know if the writer reported faithfully. It was the presentation I was concerned about.

So, my prayer for you, especially for the graduates, is that you absolutely reject the either-or: either relieve suffering now, or plead with people to escape eternal suffering and embrace eternal joy through Jesus Christ. I hope you will say No to the soul-destroying dichotomy and even the prioritizing of temporal good over eternal good.

I hope that for the rest of your life, you will say, Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering.


Read, watch, or listen to the full message:

What Do Christians Care About (Most)? To the Class of 2019

What Do Christians Care About (Most)?

To the Class of 2019

May 30, 2019

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The Issues I Address and the Questions I Answer in my New Book, The Language of Heaven: Crucial Questions about Speaking in Tongues

the-language-of-heaven-sam-stormsMy new book, The Language of Heaven: Crucial Questions about Speaking in Tongues was officially released yesterday, on June 4, and is available now at Amazon. Below is the list of 30 questions about tongues that I seek to answer in the book.

Introduction: Tongues – A Good Gift from the Father of Lights
My First Experience of Speaking in Tongues
(1) What happened on the Day of Pentecost?
(2) Where Else in Acts did People Speak in Tongues?
(3) Does the gift of tongues always and invariably follow Spirit baptism as its initial physical evidence?
(4) Are tongues always human languages previously unlearned by the speaker, languages such as German or Japanese or Swahili? If not, what kind of language is speaking in tongues?
(5) Is the Gift of Tongues primarily Designed for the Evangelism of Unbelievers?
(6) Is it OK to seek one’s own Personal Edification by Speaking in Tongues?
(7) What does Paul mean when he says that the person who prophecies is greater than the person who speaks in tongues? Does this mean that tongues is always inferior to prophecy?
(8) Is Tongues Speech an “Ecstatic” Experience?
(9) Is speaking in tongues a sign of anti-intellectualism or perhaps an indication that people are afraid of the mind and deep theological thinking?
(10) When one speaks in tongues is it primarily directed to men or to God?
(11) If tongues is primarily a form of prayer in words we don’t understand, how can it be helpful to us in our relationship with God?
(12) Is tongues also a way to worship God?
(13) Is it permissible for people to sing in tongues in corporate worship?
(14) Does Paul always insist on interpretation if tongues are used in the public gathering of the church, and if so, why?
(15) Does Paul teach that tongues may be used in private devotional prayer or must all tongues speech take place in the corporate assembly of the church, followed by interpretation?
(16) What is the Gift of Interpretation of Tongues?
(17) Why is Tongues Speech often so Rapid?
(18) Why do some say that speaking in tongues is the least important spiritual gift? Is it?
(19) Is the fact that Tongues is mentioned only in Acts and 1 Corinthians an indication that it was regarded by NT authors as comparatively unimportant in the Christian life?
(20) What does it mean to “pray in the Spirit”? Is this a reference to speaking in tongues?
(21) Does Romans 8:26-27 refer to the gift of tongues?
(22) Can we learn anything about tongues from Mark 16:17?
(23) Can a person pray for another person in uninterpreted tongues?
(24) How might tongues help us in our spiritual battle with Satan and his demonic forces?
(25) Are tongues revelatory?
(26) Are tongues a sign of judgment against unbelieving Jews?
(27) If I don’t have the gift of tongues but want it, what should I do?
(28) Can/Should all Christians speak in tongues? Is tongues a gift that God intends to supply to every believer or is it only given to some?
(29) Do we have good biblical reasons to believe that the gift of tongues is still valid for today?
(30) Did tongues disappear in church history following the death of the apostles only to reappear in the 20th century?

I conclude the book with several fascinating and encouraging testimonies of others who speak in tongues, specifically Jackie Pullinger, to whom the book is dedicated.

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What We Lose When We Collapse the Four Gospels into One

The ordinary Christian adult would struggle to articulate why we have four Gospel accounts rather than one. Wouldn’t it be simpler if we only had one account? Do differences among the four accounts invite unnecessary doubt? Do similarities among the four accounts create unhelpful redundancy?

Many people read the Bible a verse or two at a time, simply looking for a quick dose of inspiration. They might think they’re faithful Bible readers, but they’re barely scratching the surface. They’ve been trained to read small sections—not entire books—of the Bible, and this practice negatively affects their reading experience.

As a father, I see how most resources for young children don’t teach them to read entire books of the Bible, especially when it comes to the Gospels. Children’s books about Jesus tell stories without saying which Gospel account they come from. Books that helpfully summarize the whole Bible, such as The Jesus Storybook Bible or The Biggest Story, collapse the four Gospel accounts into one as well. They don’t explain how Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John differ from and complement one another.

So what do we lose when we collapse the four Gospels into one? I believe we lose at least three things: the author’s unique perspective, the artistry of the story, and the apologetic of the life of Jesus.

Author’s Unique Perspective

Each Gospel author had a different experience of Jesus, and those experiences shape how they tell the gospel story. Matthew was a tax collector. When Jesus called him to become his disciple, the Pharisees disdained and disrespected Jesus for his choice (Matt. 9:9–13). Have you ever brought shame to someone by your association with them? If that person loved you anyway, do you think it would affect how you told others about him?

Mark’s family hosted a prayer meeting in their home (Acts 12:12). James had been killed; Peter was in prison. What would become of the community who followed Jesus? Then Rhoda, the servant girl, announced that Peter was at the gate. Peter!? What a miracle! If you witnessed this interrupted prayer meeting, do you think it would affect how you tell others about Jesus?

John was in the inner circle of Jesus’s disciples. He was one of the few invited up the mountain. When the appearance of Jesus changed to blazing glory, he saw it all. Can you see something like that and not be forever marked by it? Can you tell the story of Jesus without reference to his divine, cosmic, supreme glory?

Artistry of the Story

Each Gospel also has its own style and pace that communicate truths about Jesus and his work. The genealogy of Matthew is beautiful. There are repeated names for emphasis—Abraham and David. They both received promises that their descendants would bless others. There are also unusual names for a first-century Jewish genealogy—Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and the wife of Uriah. Each of them was marginalized in some way, yet was eventually brought into the family of God.

Matthew introduces the story of Jesus with a reminder of the promise-keeping nature of God and the grace-extending heart of God. Mark has an urgency to his storytelling. There is a strange man announcing the coming of the Lord and calling people to repent. Then, the Lord appears and immediately Satan attacks. Afterward, Jesus says to repent and believe the gospel, and an unclean spirit recognizes him as the “Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24). At this point we’re little more than halfway through the first chapter. If your habit is to read only a verse or two at a time, you’ll miss being drawn into the drama of the story as Mark intends.

Luke writes as a thoughtful friend and guide. He personally addresses Theophilus. This opening address, a brilliant single sentence (Luke 1:1–4), is longer than Mark’s account of Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness (Mark 1:12–13). The expectation is set to sit back and listen to a story that will unfold at a more leisurely pace. Luke’s pace will allow him to develop subthemes throughout, such as the Holy Spirit, prayer, wealth, and outcasts.

Apologetic of the Life of Jesus

It’s one thing to believe Jesus died on a cross as a historical fact. It’s quite another to be persuaded that Jesus would willingly die on the cross for the eternal good of others. Only a close examination of his life—what he taught, how he treated others, and why he died—could persuade anyone that Jesus really is this type of person. Each Gospel writer understood there’s no way to separate the work of Christ from the person of Christ.

John writes about an encounter that Jesus had with a Pharisee named Nicodemus (John 3:1–15). He follows that story with an encounter that Jesus had with a Samaritan woman (John 4:1–42). Reading these encounters in close succession, as John intends, shows that the good news is for men and women, for well-connected leaders and socially invisible minorities.

Matthew gives us a unique window into Jesus as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Herod ordered the execution of all the male Bethlehemites younger than 2 after Jesus’s birth. Years later, when news came to Jesus that John the Baptist had been killed, Jesus withdrew to a desolate place. He knew pain and suffering before the cross, and he willingly endured the pain and suffering of the cross to bring eternal hope and justice to the senseless evils of this world.

When you see the unique perspective and style of the Gospel writers, and the apologetic of the life of Christ, you will no longer think four accounts are unnecessary or unhelpful. Instead, to borrow and adjust a phrase from Charles Wesley, you’ll long for for a thousand Gospels to sing our great Redeemer’s praise (John 21:25).

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