The ‘Other Guys’ of the Reformation

In this talk on the Reformed tradition beyond Calvin, Ligon Duncan gives biographical sketches five lesser-known but key Reformers: Heinrich Bullinger, Ulrich Zwingli, Johannes Oecolampadius, William Farel, and Renée Ferrara. Date: April 4, 2017 Event: The Gospel Coalition 2017 National Conference, Indianapolis, Indiana You can listen to this episode of The Gospel Coalition podcast here. Related: Find more audio and video from the 2017 National Conference on the conference media page. Visit TGC The Gospel Coalition US

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Elizabeth Groves on Context, Context, Context

Every Bible teacher wants to be liked and appreciated by those he or she teaches. As a lecturer in Biblical Hebrew at Westminster Theological Seminary since 2009, Elizabeth (Libbie) Groves doesn’t have to wonder if her students appreciate her. She has repeatedly been the highest-ranked professor on student evaluation forms at the seminary. On the day I was there, not only had she dressed up like Elvis to make her point in Hebrew grammar memorable, she also fed her classes burritos. No wonder she’s a favorite! She’s also known for her dramatic recitations of passages in the Bible in Hebrew, including this presentation of the entire book of Jonah.  We’ve heard the saying over and over: “A text without a context is a pretext for a prooftext.” We want to understand the passage we’re teaching in context. But how do we work through context in a way that affects how we’re teaching? In our conversation, Groves walks listeners through two passages—Daniel 1 and Proverbs 3—demonstrating how exploring the various aspects of context in these passages saves us from teaching them insufficiently. You can listen to the episode here. Related Visit TGC The Gospel Coalition US

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Do You Wish You Had Accomplished More?

John the Baptist’s life began with great promise. An angelic proclamation. A call from God. A thriving ministry. Yet his life ended in virtual obscurity — alone in a small prison cell. “Can we find joy when God uses us, even if it looks like our influence and popularity is diminishing?” Tweet Share on Facebook John is not what we would consider a success. We celebrate people who begin with nothing and end with great accomplishments. We often find little to admire when it’s the other way around. Most of us begin with great expectations for our own lives. We want to make a name for ourselves, or have a fulfilling career, or raise an exceptional family. When the years go by and we have not accomplished what we had hoped to, we are left wondering what good our lives have been. We have a nagging feeling that somehow we haven’t measured up. I know that feeling all too well. Chasing Success I started off wanting it all. I wanted to make a name for myself in a successful career, while being a Proverbs 31 woman and raising an exceptional family. At first, it all seemed attainable. After earning my MBA, it felt like I was on the fast track to success. When I chose, a few years later, to be a stay-at-home mom, I felt the sting of embarrassment when several classmates laughed at my “admirable” choices. I then focused my energies on making our home a warm and hospitable place, a place where people felt welcome and cared for. But a diagnosis of post-polio syndrome forced me to stop using my arms for anything besides self-care, leaving little room for hospitality, much less home-cooked meals. Though I couldn’t serve others physically, I still poured myself into raising a… Read More

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God Holds Satan on a Leash

[embedded content] Audio Transcript God uses demons to undo the design of the father of demons. God uses Satan to defeat the purposes of Satan. This is not exceptional — like, “Whoa, that’s an eccentric view.” This is not exceptional. He did it with Job. He did it with Judas. He did it with Paul. He’ll do it with you. “The death of Jesus disarmed Satan in his warfare against God’s people.” Tweet Share on Facebook What happened when Satan entered into Judas? He handed Jesus over to be crucified. What happened when Jesus was crucified? I’ll read it to you. This is Colossians 2:15: “He disarmed the rulers [the satanic rulers] and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” The death of Jesus disarmed Satan in his warfare against God’s people. It stripped him of his one damning weapon: unforgiven sin. “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died” (Romans 8:33–34). None of your accusations stick anymore, Satan. You have been stripped of the one weapon with which you could damn us: unforgiven sin. No more. When Satan entered Judas, he signed his own death warrant with the blood of Jesus. The suicide of Judas was symbolic of the suicide of Satan. Over and over again in the history of God’s people, God shames Satan as a suicidal fool in the service of salvation — over and over. Praise God. That’s what he’s doing here: putting Satan to work for Paul’s protection from pride; putting the father of all pride to work to destroy pride in his apostle. I like the way God works. Read, watch, or listen to the full message: Your Thorn for the Shaming… Read More

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Sing to Savor: Some Thoughts on Worship

May 30, 2018 | By: Sam Storms All too often people arrive at a Sunday corporate gathering of God’s people and give little to no thought about what they are doing. It’s become something of a mindless, weekly routine. When the pastor preaches, they listen. When another prays, they pray (or doze off). And when the congregation sings, they sing. But do we understand what is happening when we sing? Do we think much of the spiritual dynamics when we sing our praises to God? Do we understand what we are saying not only to God but to our city and state? We are saying that we refuse to be seduced by this world’s treasure and pleasure. We are saying that we refuse to buy into the Satanic lie that there is more satisfaction to be found in the world than in Jesus. We are saying what David said in Psalm 16:11, that it is in God’s presence that we find fullness of joy and at God’s right hand that we experience pleasures that never end. Here is how John Piper put it: “Corporate worship is the public savoring of the worth of God and the beauty of God and power of God and the wisdom of God. And therefore worship is an open declaration to all the powers of heaven and to all of Babylon that we will not prostitute our minds or our hearts or our bodies to the allurements of the world. Though we may live in Babylon, we will not be captive to Babylonian ways. And we will celebrate with all our might the awesome truth that we are free from that which will be destroyed.” Worship is far more than singing. We don’t merely sing songs. We sing to celebrate and proclaim the God of… Read More

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Why You Need a Priest

“We need to understand what it means that Christ is a priest—we need to understand what he has achieved—so that we can come confidently to him. If we remain in the dark, fuzzy, hazy, unsure about what Christ has achieved as a priest, what’s going to happen? We will not enjoy assurance.” — Lewis Allen Text: Hebrews 2:14–18 Preached: May 14, 2017 Location: Hope Church, Huddersfield, England You can listen to this episode of TGC Word of the Week here. Related: Visit TGC The Gospel Coalition US

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I Left Same-Sex Romance for Love

It’s easy for people to misunderstand why I left a life of romantic and sexual relationships with women. They string the list of renunciations together like a necklace — no to former love, no to former sexual patterns, no to fulfilling unasked-for attractions, no to a way of life — and to some this looks like a type of adornment. To many more, a chafing collar. My life, however, is sustained by a resounding yes, a yes that is only found in Jesus Christ. Like a diamond that weighs down your hand, that makes you avert your eyes for its rainbow brilliance, coming to know Jesus has continually revealed just how dingy, superficial, and man-made the things were I used to consider treasure. But God has saved me and shown me that saying yes to Jesus is far better. A Better Authenticity Perhaps nothing carries more cultural cache today than the longing for the authentic, especially in the self. But how can we tell what our authentic self is? The answer of the culture around us is to look deep within, mining our desires. Because these spring from within us, they must be the keys to who we are. We have only one life. The greatest tragedy is to waste it by forcing ourselves into someone else’s mold. “Knowing Jesus has continually revealed just how superficial and man-made the things I used to treasure were.” Tweet Share on Facebook This finds force especially in the realm of sexuality, where boundaries are cast as repressions that strangle the true self. Because I still experience but don’t pursue same-sex attractions, the world calls me foolish, like someone trying to dam the Mississippi with popsicle sticks. They see a no to those attractions as too feeble to hold back their desires. And they’re… Read More

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A Gem from Robert Murray McCheyne

“Nothing that is imperfect can make us perfect in the sight of God. Hence the admirable direction of an old divine: ‘Labor after sanctification to the utmost; but do not make a Christ of it; if so, it must come down, one way or another. Christ’s obedience and sufferings, not thy sanctification, must be thy justification.’ “ Advertisements Share this: Like this: Like Loading… Visit ResponsiveReiding

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‘The Faith of Donald J. Trump’: A Book Review

The Faith of Donald J. Trump by David Brody and Scott Lamb represents an evangelical apologetic for supporting a deeply flawed, non-evangelical politician. It is a book for the already-converted. It will resonate with religious people who voted for the president, and who take Vice President Mike Pence at his word when he says “President Donald Trump is a believer.” Seen in this context, the book explains many white evangelicals’ affinity for this businessman and entertainer who rarely darkens a church door. This is not to say that The Faith of Donald J. Trump presents Trump as an unsullied saint. The authors—one a reporter for Christian Broadcasting Network, the other a vice president of Liberty University—dutifully note Trump’s divorces, financial excesses, and the notorious Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged about sexually accosting women. Sometimes the authors do rush past Trump’s “women stories” and other failings. The book does not detail his draft deferments during the Vietnam War, even though it speaks about his formative years at New York Military Academy. Allegations about Trump’s liaison with porn star Stormy Daniels, and his lawyer’s 2016 payoff to her, presumably broke too late to be included in the book. Trump is a relic of the once-thriving mainline northeastern Christian establishment. He was confirmed in 1959 at First Presbyterian Church, Jamaica, Queens, New York. When he was 8 years old, he received a gift Bible from his mother. (He swore on this Bible, and one of Abraham Lincoln’s, at his inauguration.) It was a Revised Standard Version, a favorite of mainliners and the bane of fundamentalists and “neo-evangelicals” because of the RSV’s progressive translations of key verses. As an adult, Trump became a devotee of the self-help pioneer and pastor Norman Vincent Peale at New York’s Marble Collegiate Church. Some like Paul… Read More

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9 Things You Should Know About MS-13

In a recent roundtable discussion in New York, President Trump called MS-13 a “menace” and said about the gang members, “They’re not people. They’re animals.” The controversial statement was the first time many Americans have heard about the group that has been called the “world’s most dangerous gang.” Here are nine things you should know about MS-13. 1. MS-13 (also known as Mara Salvatrucha, Mara, or MS) is an international criminal gang that originated in Los Angeles in the 1980s and has since spread throughout the United States, as well as to Mexico, Canada, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, and other Central American countries. In 2012 MS-13 became the first—and remains the only—street gang designated by the U.S. government as a “transnational criminal organization.” 2. Because of ongoing conflicts in Central America during the 1980s, both refugees and guerrilla fighters from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua fled to the United States. Many settled in the Rampart area of Los Angeles ,where they were frequently victimized by the Mexican Mafia, a Hispanic gang that dominated the area at the time. Some of the Salvadoran youth banded together to protect themselves and formed the gang “Mara Salvatrucha.” 3. The gang’s name comes from “mara,” a Central American term for gang; “salva,” referring to El Salvador; and “trucha,” which means “trout” in English and is a slang term for “clever” or “sharp.” The meaning is roughly translated as street-smart Salvadorans. 4. In 1993 leaders of Mara Salvatrucha formed an alliance with the Mexican Mafia. They added the number 13 to their name—standing for “M,” the 13th letter of the alphabet—and marking them as Sureños, an alliance of gangs in the southwest United States and Mexico. During this time MS-13 began accepting members of other nationalities, such as Ecuadorians, Guatemalans, Hondurans, Mexicans, and Peruvians. 5. MS-13 frequently recruits boys and girls from middle… Read More

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Your Thorn for the Shaming of Satan: To the Class of 2018

Subscribe to the John Piper Sermons Podcast, available in iTunes, YouTube, RSS, and more. Let’s think together for a few minutes about the experience of the apostle Paul and the way his body and soul were made the theater of unparalleled revelations of God, lifelong pain, demonic harassment, and the glory of Christ. And then let’s apply this to the next sixty years of your life — or whatever you have left. We are going to focus on 2 Corinthians 12:7–10. “To keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations . . .” So here’s the situation: God has granted to Paul the absolutely extraordinary experience of special revelations of himself in heaven. Paul says in verses 3–4 that he “was caught up into paradise . . . and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.” Tempted Toward Conceit So the situation is that God had caught Paul up into paradise — whether in the body or out of body Paul didn’t even know (verse 3) — and had revealed things to Paul that were so glorious and so wonderful, he can’t even talk about them. What a spectacular privilege. What an unspeakable — literally unspeakable — joy. And God gave Paul this privilege and this joy, knowing that he was putting Paul at the risk of conceit — pride, self-exultation. Now that’s mind-boggling at multiple levels. First, I thought seeing more of God would make us humble and more like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18). And now we’re told that seeing more of God runs the risk of making us conceited. And the other mind-boggling thing is, I thought God cares for us and does not lead us into temptation (Matthew 6:13). And here he is giving Paul these spectacular… Read More

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10 Things You Should Know about Quenching the Holy Spirit

Were it not for the fact that no less than the Apostle Paul himself commanded us not to quench the Spirit, who among us would ever have suggested that this is even within the realm of possibility? To suggest that the omnipotent Spirit of God, the third person of the Godhead, could ever be quenched and thus limited or hindered or in some manner restricted in what he might do in our lives and in the life of the local church is to tread on thin theological ice. Yet in 1 Thessalonians 5 we are told that the Spirit has, in some sense, granted to the Christian the power and authority either to restrict or release what he does in the life of the local church. What are we to do with this? Certainly the Holy Spirit can accomplish all that he wills to accomplish. But it is no less true that in certain instances, especially when it comes to spiritual gifts, he will rarely, if ever, force himself upon us against our will or judgment. To use Paul’s metaphor or analogy, the Spirit is like a fire whose flame we must be careful not to quench or extinguish. He is not literally or metaphysically a fire, but what he does in us and through us, says Paul, is analogous to the effect fire has on dry wood or hay or dead grass. The Holy Spirit wants to intensify the heat of his presence among us, to inflame our hearts and fill us with the warmth of his indwelling power. And Paul’s exhortation is a warning to all of us lest we be part of the contemporary bucket brigade that stands ready to douse his activity with the water of legalism and fear and extra-biblical rules and a flawed theology… Read More

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Lest We Forget: Reflections Heavenward on Memorial Day

Drizzle dappled the path and steeped the morning in melancholy. My kids sat in their red wagon and occasionally inquired about the trumpets and clarinets clutched to chests the elementary school band. They covered their ears when rifle shots cracked the air. We pointed out gravestones as Boy Scouts laid flowers on them, continuing the tradition followed by generations since the Civil War. Headstones fringed the hillside. Before many of them stood small acrylic flags, folded on themselves amid a scrabble of dew-slicked grass. In some cases, the names etched into granite, more than a century old, denoted stories we would never completely know, faces we would never see. Others elicited tears from people in the crowd whose grief remained raw and tender. All epitomized sacrifice, life given to ensure our freedom. On this day, the gifts of fallen soldiers felt near, palpable and heavy in the air. Yet how easily we forget. When the holiday passes, we return to our routines: emails, paychecks, diaper changes, commutes, deadlines. Monotony we take for granted each day. Luxuries accessible to us only through the sacrifices of soldiers, those who died so we might be free. Even the origin of Memorial Day has drifted from public consciousness. A day meant to commemorate fallen soldiers now signals the arrival of summer. We relish the opportunity to tuck away sweaters and flaunt our pastels. We rejoice over backyard barbecues with a couple of six packs, grilled chicken, and babyback ribs. Even the origin of Memorial Day has drifted from public consciousness. Such celebrations are not wrong. On the contrary, revelry gives our gratitude light and color. It lends music and expression to the deep stirrings of the heart. Yet when we focus on the festive trappings without reflection on the day’s somber motive, we dishonor those… Read More

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10 Things You Should Know about the Second Coming of Christ

May 7, 2018 | By: Sam Storms There is in the New Testament a plethora of information and detail regarding the second coming of Christ. I couldn’t begin to cover it all in one short blog post. So, in this article I will only draw your attention to what we are told in Revelation 19:11-21, one of the more graphic portrayals of who Jesus is and what the second coming will mean for unbelievers in particular. (1) We must first remind ourselves that the second coming of Jesus is our sure and certain, rock-solid and immovable hope. Paul speaks of this in Romans 8:22-25 where he describes us as groaning inwardly “as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” For it “in this hope we were saved.” He also speaks of our hope for the return of Christ in the midst of grief in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. And in Titus 2:13-14 he calls the second coming “our blessed hope.” Peter exhorts us to set our “hope fully on the grace that will be brought” to us “at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). The practical effects of setting our hope on seeing Jesus is stated by John in his first epistle. There he writes “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). Careful reflection on Christ’s return, sustained meditation on what it will mean in that moment and for all eternity, has a purifying effect on the soul. It turns sin sour in our mouths and serves to conform us… Read More

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