Crossing the River

The contrast between Bunyan’s mastery of devotional English writing and his earlier unregenerate use of the language is truly staggering.

The Bible was the antidote for Bunyan’s early, unpromising years, which held out little hope for his writing the most popular Protestant devotional work of the ages. This is not, to say the least, the usual expectation for a tinker (his father’s trade as well) with very little formal education. John Owen, Oxford’s Puritan theologian... Continue Reading

James Cone, Jesus Christ, & the Perils of Liberation Theology

Liberation Theology violates Scripture and our own confessional commitments.

As I reflect more broadly on our current context, I’ve become convinced of two things: While Southern Baptists do not have a wide-spread problem with Liberation Theology, some lingering questions persist. Secondly, most people in the pew do not know what Liberation Theology is, or why it is worthy of concern and critique. As for... Continue Reading

7 Things I’ve Learned Breaking (and Living) Free From Porn

When the dean confronted me with my internet history report and alleged porn problem, she told me “We know this wasn’t you. Women just don’t have this problem.”

A year later, I outed myself, and told someone I struggled with pornography and needed help. I found help, and it took me almost two years to feel like I was “free” from pornography. While I’ve been “free” for over a decade, I’ve never stopped battling it.  Those ten years of freedom have included moments... Continue Reading

What Role Does Natural Theology Have in Reformed Thinking? (A Review of Reforming Apologetics by J.V. Fesko)

Fesko sees apologetics functioning in a threefold manner: to respond to intellectual challenges, to clarify the truth, and to encourage believers.

The Gallican Confession (1559), The Belgic Confession (1561), the Canons of Dort (1618–1619), and the Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) affirm ideas like the book of nature, innate knowledge in terms of common notions, or the light of nature. And in particular, Anthony Burgess, a framer of the WCF, penned a work affirming natural theology... Continue Reading

Into the Abyss

As the dust of Easter celebrations settles after the special services and events, some details of the Passion week linger on in my mind.

The high drama of the Day of Atonement would have been burned into the consciousness of every Jew from his or her earliest years. It was the central day of the Jewish year that dramatically portrayed how Yahweh promised to deal with the central problem of their life as a nation and of themselves individually.... Continue Reading

As Christ loved the Church…

The question that I have for you is this: Are you strong enough to love a woman?

Are you strong enough to live with her with understanding; or do you simply wish to never be inconvenienced, smashing the vessel of her heart on the floor like a cantankerous child? Are you strong enough to protect her heart? To never do anything that would damage her reputation? Would you rather die yourself than... Continue Reading

The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach From Old Testament Narrative Texts

We need not be surprised at our sterility and poverty if we refuse to be beggars for the Spirit’s help.

All biblical texts are fair game for preaching. But you’d never know it. It almost seems like some ogre once promulgated an unwritten decree that certain texts are off limits for preaching. Naturally, most of them are Old Testament texts. Some apparently think that although God allowed these accounts in his written word, he must... Continue Reading

Repentance and Learning to Hate Sin

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Satan, the enemy of God and all of God’s people, wants you to believe his lie: “Confessing your sin brings shame upon you and you must hide it at all costs.” We’re also reluctant to confess and to repent because we understand that sin is a reproach to us, since we bear the image of... Continue Reading

Is “Homosexual” a Noun or an Adjective and What Difference Does It Make?

A noun is a person, place, or thing; it defines or describes one's identity.

Homosexual actions, desires, thoughts, and affections are all sinful and therefore unacceptable to God. One who is tempted in this area must repent and run to Jesus for sanctifying grace. Do we not already say the same about the other nouns in the text of 1 Timothy 6:10? Immorality or sexual sin, kidnapping, and lying... Continue Reading

Can God Change?

God is unlike the Sun and Moon whose being causes shadows as they ‘turn’. (James 1.17)

But the God who does not change brings about changes. How can this be? Augustine, a greatly-gifted man, put his finger on the lines, if not of a solution, yet of a way of thinking of the one who is changeless brings about changes. ‘Willing a change is not changing a will’ occurs a number... Continue Reading

Two Big Reasons the Trinity Matters

To know God savingly is to know him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Anything less is not Christian.

Judging by the church’s historic creeds, Christians used to think the Trinity is really important. Judging by the honest answers likely given to the questions above, many modern Christians have lost the sense of why it’s so important, even if they’ve retained it in their doctrinal statements. But judging by a growing number of voices,... Continue Reading

Begging: The Place to Start

We are guilty of arrogance, not merely neglect, when we fail to beg for the Spirit’s help in the study of Scripture.

Deep into our study time, the thought occurs to us that we have not looked – nor did we think of looking – to the God who breathed out this Scripture to give us an understanding of the Scripture. He will likely give that understanding through the tools we use, but when we use tools... Continue Reading

Canons Of Dort (30): God’s Gracious Assurance Of Perseverance

At the Synod of Dort the Reformed churches reaffirmed that Christians persevere and are preserved sola gratia, by grace alone, sola fide, through faith alone.

Even within the Reformed churches and within broader evangelicalism influenced by some aspects of Reformed theology (but not themselves Reformed nor members of Reformed churches) many have been tempted to modify Reformed theology in similar ways. E.g., it is popularly taught in some quarters that sinners are initially justified (declared righteous with God) sola gratia, sola fide but they are... Continue Reading

The Ichabod Church and Basil

By all accounts it was the delicate, retiring, and sensitive Basil of Caesarea (329-379) who ultimately stood foursquare against the surging sea of heresy and prevailed.

The age was not without men of merit.  John Chrysostom (345-407) was a golden-tongued preacher of extraordinary courage and tenacity.  Gregory of Nazianzus (329-390) was a brilliant theologian, a gifted poet and hymn writer, and a careful expositor.  But as dynamic as both of these men were, they were unable to turn the tide.  In the end they were... Continue Reading

“It’s All About Jesus” or “Union with Christ” or “Identity in Jesus”: What Do These Mean?

The good news of the gospel—of Christianity as a whole—is that we can be linked with him. We’re in him.

This, in a nutshell, is an explanation of our union with Christ. The Christian’s identity is about Jesus. What happened to him identifies and defines us. What’s true of him becomes true of us. So Christians, let’s make it crystal clear: The reason you and I are forgiven is not just that God forgives. It’s because... Continue Reading

Humble Confidence, Not Self-Love

It is only when we are self-forgetful that we can possess the right kind of courageous confidence we need to face the challenges of life.

Paul warns about a forthcoming time of godlessness and argues that its chief characteristic will be that men will be “lovers of self” (2 Tim. 3:2). When one’s center of gravity shifts from God and others to self, it serves as fertilizer for the cultivation of a variety of other sins. One might well ask... Continue Reading

Our Identity Is Not in Their Performance

I just had to be faithful in loving Jesus through loving people and proclaiming truth. I am not in charge of how you respond.

My identity is firmly fixed in Christ and it is not wrapped up in my performance. As Bunyan said so many years before, “my righteousness is in heaven and it’s not dependent upon my good frames or my bad frames”. My standing with the Father is already settled. My record is established. I am in... Continue Reading

Your True Retirement Plan

Remember that you have an inheritance that is coming.

While it has been given to you by grace alone in Christ alone, remember that God is working in you both to will and to do those things that are in a response to His grace. You have a path to walk in this life, it is a path of trust and obedience. Your rest... Continue Reading

Walk with Me Through a Midlife Crisis

Perhaps the reason the crisis comes at midlife is to show us, at the cresting of our natural powers, who is truly sovereign. And merciful.

Perhaps you will not be surprised, then, that 26 years later, as my ministry at Bethlehem was coming to a close, the message I chose to give at Together for the Gospel celebrated the sovereign keeping power of God over my life. “Now to him who is able to keep you . . .” (Jude 24). I suppose I could look... Continue Reading

Tried with Fire: When Pain is Personal

Peter clearly states that Christians are called to suffer (1 Pet 2:20-21).

I am not much interested in responding to theoretical questions posed by philosophers and theologians (though I am one of them). My concern is with Christ’s lambs who find themselves staggering under the weight of affliction. If God has any purpose in allowing His people to suffer, then I want to find it. If Scripture... Continue Reading

The Mod: Don’t Be Deceived By Experiences

By the Holy Spirit opening our eyes in faith we can see past the temporal and into the spiritual.

Jesus is telling us that the only way to build our life in a way that the storms we experience around us won’t bring the house down is to build the house on the rock of ages himself. Jesus Christ is the truth (Jn. 14:6), and our lives need to be built within sanctifying design... Continue Reading

Money Matters

On judgment day, it won’t matter how much you possessed on earth but Whom you possessed.

Jesus didn’t mince words when He asked, “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:25). You can have all this world but still not have the One who holds the world. Building bigger barns and fattening your soul with the comforts of this fleeting... Continue Reading

An Overview of the Nineteenth Century

One of the more poignant lessons of church history is that it rarely enables us to foretell how future history will unfold.

The Reformed tradition in many ways enjoyed a golden age in nineteenth-century America. The list of notable American Reformed theologians and scholars includes Charles Hodge (1797–1878) and his son Archibald Alexander Hodge (1823–86), William G.T. Shedd (1820–94), Robert Lewis Dabney (1820–98), James Henley Thornwell (1812–62), Benjamin Morgan Palmer (1818–1902), John Girardeau (1825–98), John B. Adger... Continue Reading

Three Biblical Signs of Spiritual Immaturity

Like any kind of growth, Christian maturity happens slowly over time.

As we mature in faith, certain perspectives we had about God often do develop, but the spiritually immature are marked by instability. With each new book or blog post they read, they change their views whichever way the wind is blowing. As we grow up in that gospel, the waves and winds of weird doctrines... Continue Reading

This is Your Time (God Has a Plan and Purpose to Every Season of Your Life Under Heaven)

Learn to apply Psalm 31:15 in tranquility: My times are in thy hand.

Whatever the case, recognize the season and that it is God’s appointed time for you.  Resolve to live within it and live it with purpose and peace.  And realize that just like America’s winter is Brazil’s summer so your seasons of life overlap with others but do not always correspond. One man’s spring blossoms during... Continue Reading

Where Do the Prayers of a Mom Go?

No role, no gift was greater than the imprint she left of Jesus.

It may be true, there is no rest for the weary. For every moment is sacred. The impact today on a little child’s life tomorrow has no measuring tape long enough. In eternity’s light, it streams on and on, beyond what we can see, touching who we can’t know. May our razor thin space mark... Continue Reading

The God Who Disturbs Our Consciences

He brings uncomfortable truths back into the light—so that we can find cleansing and redemption.

I was preaching from the story of Joseph in Genesis 42. It might be ancient history, but we were drawing lessons for today—for God still works in similar ways. He often pokes at our consciences, or uses circumstances and trials to bring our guilt before our own eyes. Or sometimes He even uses the unsuspecting... Continue Reading

Every Pastor’s Greatest Desire

He does not serve for a salary but “eagerly” for an eternal reward (1 Pet 5:2, 4).

The verb “aspires” (oregō) is used elsewhere to speak negatively of a false teacher’s “craving” for money (1 Tim 6:10) and positively of the faithful’s “desire” for a heavenly city (Heb 11:16). In both instances, there is an aspiration for something that drives the whole of one’s life, for better or worse. To aspire to... Continue Reading

Depravity Unleashed

What we see unleashed in our society today is not the product of an enlightened mind, but rather a willing descent into the darkness of sin.

To protect a child from the foolishness bound up in the heart is to exercise love, as is direction in the way of righteousness. Just as God has given parental authority to safeguard children, so He has given governmental authority to safeguard citizens. Societal structures represent common grace to restrain evil, to keep people from self-destructive... Continue Reading

Worth a Thousand Years of Waiting

The Staggering Rise of the Church in Iran.

The rise of persecution against Christians in Iran has served both as a sign of the rapid growth of Christianity within the country and as fuel for further growth. In the 1990s, several key leaders of the church in Iran were killed. One of the most famous martyrs, Mehdi Dibaj, gave a defense before the... Continue Reading