DBG Christian Blogs and Sermons
Welcome to the DBG website for Christian blogs and articles written by Josh Buice.
Enjoy the following resources:
- Christian Blogs
- Christian Resources
- Theology Articles
- Preaching Resources
- Audio and Video Sermons
- Family Worship Recommendations
Providing Christian blogs, articles, and sermons on various topics from a biblical perspective.
- Expository Preaching
- The Exclusivity of Christ
- Dangers of the Health, Wealth, and Prosperity Theology
- Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
- Why the Church of Christ Will Prosper in an Age of Sexual Perversion
- Removing the Shame of Abortion
- Is Ignorance a Doorway to Heaven?
- Don’t Waste Your Worship
- Christian Persecution: The Danger of Following Jesus
- Rob Bell’s World and Why Inerrancy Matters
- The Duck Dynasty Gospel
- More Than Community: We Need The Church
The doctrine of limited atonement is perhaps the most controversial point of Reformed Theology. I have personally struggled with this doctrine in my life as a Christian, in fact, once upon a time I would argue with anyone over this doctrine because I believed it was an error. I have been helped by men like R.C. Sproul, and the video below is a good attempt to explain the doctrine that is often the center of debate.
Sola Scriptura Examined and Defended, Episode Two – James White’s second episode devoted to the subject of Sola Scriptura. It’s worth your time and consideration.
Donald Trump, Paula White Pray For Hedge Of Protection Along Southern US Border – Yes, this is one more reason why you should read Babylon Bee.
3 Reasons Not to Panic over Bible Translation Revisions – Is it wrong to allow modern English Bible translations to be updated over time as language changes? As we consider the wooden phrases of the KJV, we can see that this is necessary at times.
Tim Tebow started his professional baseball career off with a bang Wednesday, hitting the first pitch in his first at bat – Tim Tebow shows his athletic ability as he hits a home run in his first time at the plate. What a way to begin his journey in baseball.
Transgenderism, Outdoor School Policies, and How Christian Families Might Respond – “A parent who attended a recent outdoor school meeting for teachers wrote, ‘Bottom line, ODS can’t and won’t assure teachers and parents that a sixth grade student will not be in a cabin with a high school student [cabin leader] of the opposite gender.’”
$5 Friday: Apologetics, Prayer, & Election – Don’t miss good books each Friday at Ligonier.
How to Pray a Psalm – Justin Taylor provides some helpful words regarding praying through a psalm.
Theology Word of the Week: Baptism of the Holy Spirit
The New Testament proclaims the gift of the personal Holy Spirit to indwell all believers (Acts 2:18; Rom. 8:9; Gal. 3:2) as the seal, guarantee, means and firstfruits (Rom. 8:23; 2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13–14) of their eternal life of fellowship with the Father and the Son (Jn. 17:3; 1 Jn. 1:3). The Spirit, now revealed as a distinct agent who speaks, shows, witnesses, helps, intercedes, and can be grieved and lied to (Jn. 16:13–15; Rom. 8:16, 26; Eph. 4:30; Acts 5:3), mediates the presence of Christ (Jn. 14:16–18; Eph. 3:16–17), unites us to him (Eph. 4:3–4), regenerates (Jn. 3:5, 8; 2 Cor. 3:6; Tit. 3:5), illuminates (1 Cor. 2:13–16; Eph. 1:17), and transforms us (2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 5:22–23), testifies to our adoption, thus altering our self-knowledge (Rom. 8:16), sustains our praying (Gal. 4:6; Eph. 6:18; Jude 20), and gives to us all gifts for service (1 Cor. 12:4–11). His full new-covenant ministry, which presupposed Jesus’ return to glory (Jn. 7:39, cf. 17:5; 20:22 is an acted prophecy), began at Pentecost (Acts 2), according to Jesus’ pre-ascension promise of Spirit-baptism (Acts 1:5; 11:16) in fulfillment of John’s prediction that the coming Lord would baptize with the Holy Spirit (Mk. 1:8; Mt. 3:11; Lk. 3:16; Jn. 1:33). Acts embodies expectations that the gift of the Spirit, signalized apparently by charismatic manifestations, would accompany the water-baptism of adult believers (2:38, etc.), and views non-accompaniment as anomalous (8:14–17, 19:1–6). The baptism-image shows that the gift is to be viewed as initiatory, one element in the total process whereby sinners consciously become new creatures in Christ, accepted and alive as limbs in his body (so when Paul uses the image, 1 Cor. 12:13); the Pentecost story shows the gift as animating, transforming, emboldening, and bringing ability and usefulness in ministry
- Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 73.
Monday’s first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton proved to be the most watched presidential debate in history. According to the statistics, (Nielsen), the debate averaged a total of 84 million viewers across 13 of the TV channels that carried it live. In addition, many millions also watched the debate via live streams on the web. 
Be sure of this one thing, there is good money in politics. Don’t be fooled, someone is making lots of money on the latest edition of US presidential politics. Beyond the money is the sad reality that far too many people are placing their trust in elected princes who have no ability to save them. Perhaps this faulty trust is based on the reality that most people view their financial struggles or other social concerns as more important than the condition of their soul.
Trust not in Politics and Politicians
It’s a sad reality, but we must expect disappointment from politicians. The world we live in is crooked, depraved, and set against God. In short, it’s filled with sin, vile people with evil hearts, and oppression. When people are oppressed, they quickly fall prey to evil dictators, evil rulers, and evil kings who promise them security under oppression.
Even in a free nation, such as America, we still find ourselves being promised the world through politics. Crooked politicians (and yes, most of them are crooked) continue to compete for votes, and often they lie, cheat, and steal their way to the top. Beware of putting your trust in politicians. The answer for America, and our world, is not found in politics, it’s something far greater. Keith Mathison writes, “Because our citizenship is in heaven, our hopes do not ride on earthly election results. We do not hope in candidates with ‘Messiah complexes.'” 
Trust not in Social Systems
If anyone takes a peek at all of the things the United States government has its hands in, it would boggle your mind. Just a take a look at the US Postal Service, is it a success? What about public housing, is it in a perpetual state of declined health? What about Social Security? What about the education system, is there any room for improvement there?
The fact remains, everything the US government oversees eventually declines. That’s why there has been so much controversy surrounding Obama Care. While the masses of non-Christians may view the political social system as the answer to their problems, we must remember, the princes who setup such systems were flawed and imperfect people. We can’t put our hope in such systems.
Trust not in Political Policies
Most politicians run their campaign upon a certain set of ideologies and policies that they promise to implement upon election. As with social systems, we can’t look to these policies as our hope in this fallen sinful world. We need something far greater than a strong economy, a robust military, and free college.
It doesn’t matter if Donald Trump promises to “make America great again,” he will likely fail in many of his promises. The same thing can be said of Hillary Clinton’s attempt to make us “stronger together.” All politicians and their policies fail at some level, so the fairy tale we’re all being promised is unlikely to happen either way. We must learn to not trust in such people for true hope and redemption! The same prince who protects Christians with one policy today may persecute Christians with another policy tomorrow. Beware of trusting in politicians and their policies.
Trust in the Lord
The Psalmist writes the following, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish” (Ps. 146:3-4). Simply put, princes are not redeemers. Princes can’t save. It must be known that princes have their own purposes in life and culture, but they are not intended to serve as saviors.
When we view the landscape of our nation and see the sinful effects of a secular culture, we must turn to the Lord who “executes justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry, sets prisoners free, opens the eyes of the blind, lifts up those who are bowed down, loves the righteous, watches over the sojourners, upholds the widow and fatherless, and brings the way of the wicked to ruin” (Ps. 146:7-10).
Every prince occupies a temporary office, a temporary seat, a temporary throne. The government was instituted by the Lord, and is for our good (Rom 13:1-7). However, even in a system instituted by God, we expect imperfection because of the reality that all leaders are imperfect people. We see that in the court room with judges, in nations of the world with their leaders, and in small towns with local politicians. There is a leader who rules from Heaven’s throne and His government will never fail (Is. 9:6; PS. 24). We must trust in Jesus Christ and serve Him through the local church. The plan for true hope is found in Christ, and genuine fulfillment in this life will be played out through the local church.
Don’t put your faith in Washington D.C., but don’t abandon it either. Should we view political issues as relevant to us now and into the foreseeable future? Absolutely. However, we shouldn’t turn to the princes of politics for the solutions that only a true Redeemer can provide.
Ultimately Christians must engage in the political world in the following ways:
- Prayer: Pray for politicians you like and those you dislike (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
- Evangelism: Pointing people to hope in the Redeemer rather than princes (John 3).
- Vote: Engage in the privileges afforded to free citizens.
- Debate breaks record as most-watched in U.S. history
- Keith Mathison, “Citizens of Heaven“
In this lengthy Dividing Line, James White deals with the subject of Sola Scriptura and much more.
For the Bible Tells Me So: Biblical Authority Denied … Again – Albert Mohler addresses the dangerous position Andy Stanley has embraced regarding the Word of God.
Washington, D.C.: ‘Topping Out’ the Museum of the Bible – Daniel Wallace was invited to a “Topping out” event at the Museum of the Bible.
Arnold Palmer remembered for bringing golf to the world – Arnold Palmer was loved for more than his golf game.
The Doctrine of God and Reformed Theology – In this excerpt from his teaching series What Is Reformed Theology?, R.C. Sproul explains that Reformed theology is committed to maintain the purity of the doctrine of God.
Is Seminary Really Necessary? – Tim Challies addresses a very important question.
Only Our God Speaks – The one true and living God of Scripture is the speaking God.
Today, I’m publishing an interview with Emily Thomes (@Emilysatt19), a young Christian lady who once identified as a homosexual. I initially met Emily at a recent G3 Conference, and since then she has been actively speaking out about her former sin struggles and her new life as a Christian. Since her conversion and over the past year, Emily has become Mrs. Benjamin Thomes.
Hi Emily. Thank you for joining me for this conversation. We first met at the 2016 G3 Conference. Since then, you’ve had a busy year. You’ve recently married your husband Benjamin Thomes and you’ve written some articles (see: “Girl in the Picture“) that have become rather controversial. In this interview, I’d like to talk through your conversion to Christianity and your views regarding marriage, headship, and the sin of homosexuality.
In recent days, you have spoken out about your life before you were converted by Christ. Can you briefly walk us through what that looked like?
Sure thing. I grew up in a relatively moral home and family. I attended church occasionally and even church camp some during the summertime. I made a profession of faith and was baptized pretty early in life. While believing I was saved, fully trusting in that sinner’s prayer and the water, I grew into being a really rebellious individual. Before graduating high school, I was smoking weed regularly, drinking, and sleeping with girls. In my young adult life before coming to know the Lord, I’d slowed down slightly. I was working full time so I wasn’t able to really party as often but was still smoking marijuana daily and was still dating and sleeping with various women. That was my life up until the day I was born again.
As you well know, our nation has recently faced a decision to legalize same-sex marriage. What do you think about this decision?
It breaks my heart. I know how easy it is for our own flesh and heart to deceive us and provide us comfort and assurance in sin. It makes it all the more easy when the world around us not only affirms but encourages our sin, too. When I first realized I was attracted to girls as a child, I kept it to myself for years because it wasn’t accepted like it is today. I can’t imagine growing up with same-sex marriage being legal and celebrated. I’ve got a few friends that are now legally married to their partners, and it’s even harder to try and point them to truth. With it legalized, the message I’m attempting to share daily is even more ridiculous.
It’s becoming increasingly popular to hear people toss around the category of “gay Christian.” Is it possible to be a gay Christian?
I hear that expression far too often. It’s really important to be clear with our terms when discussing things like this, and it’s why I try and use phrases like “practicing homosexuality” and “same sex attracted” in order to maintain clarity because “gay” means different things to different crowds. It is absolutely possible for one to be battling same sex attraction as a believer. I’m in that camp currently. Even as believers, our flesh will always pull us towards various types of sins. Now, can one practice homosexuality unrepentantly, meaning without contrition, conviction, and without a daily desire and attempt to abstain, and be a Christian? No. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 makes that very clear, regarding homosexuality specifically. In a general sense, we see throughout the epistles and the gospels that those who are saved don’t continue in unrepentant sin and that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit. Though our flesh desires sin, believers will deny themselves and follow Jesus instead. We won’t make any provision for the flesh and we will flee sexual immorality rather than leap into it. This isn’t to say that believers won’t ever fall into sin. Undoubtedly they will; it’s why we so eagerly await the glorification and removal of these bodies of death we currently carry around. When believers stray, the Lord convicts and disciplines those whom He loves and they will repent and be restored or else they were not of us.
As a former homosexual, what advice would you provide to the church today (in general) regarding methods and strategies of reaching people with the gospel?
We’re called to love God and love our neighbors. In order to do both of those, we must be reaching out to those that are lost in order to bring them into the fold. We’re all sovereignly placed in our communities and workplaces and families in order that we be ambassadors for Christ in those roles. Charles Spurgeon said that every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter; that’s because those who are regenerate have a burden to see the lost saved. In our congregations, we ought to be being equipped and exhorted to be faithful witnesses when we’re outside of the assembly. It’s crucial that we be uncompromising but also gracious and humble in our evangelism. We’re to be Jesus to those who are still in darkness and that cannot exclude truth or love.
Would you encourage churches to develop homosexual support groups that reach out to those who struggle with the sin of homosexuality and seek to provide support for former homosexuals within the church?
Hmm. That’s a good question. My initial instinct is to say “No” though I’d be open to persuasion. It’s not been of much benefit for me to discuss, regularly anyway, my battle with same sex attraction with those who battle it also. It’s actually been most helpful for me to discuss the differing struggles that myself and others face in order to see that though the specific sin struggle varies, the human condition does not. It’s also helped others to better understand homosexuality and see it through the lens of scripture and as another sin that one can fall into rather than something completely foreign. Too much of an emphasis on same sex attraction, in my experience, can nearly glorify the sin and make the struggler feel like more of an alien than what comes with it anyway. It’s also an easy way to continue holding on to the identity that’s rooted in sin rather than in Christ for those that are prone to that type of thing.
What advice would you provide for people who are dealing with sexual identity problems and are thinking about pursuing a homosexual lifestyle?
I would say that if someone is seriously considering entering into an unrepentant state, they need to be questioning if they do in fact belong to the Lord or if they’re actually already unrepentant. It’s very normal, because of the fall, for believers to think on sin and to wrestle with the thoughts that can entice us, but deliberately choosing to walk in and remain in rebellion to God is a very serious matter and is not the fruit of a regenerate person. Experiencing an inclination towards sin proves you’re human; it doesn’t give one a license to sin and the believer won’t take it as one.
Other than the Bible, what resource (book, article, or sermon) has helped you think biblically about the homosexual agenda in our nation?
Rosaria Butterfield has probably been my greatest influence regarding understanding sexuality and identity thus far. Her books, articles, and videos have been very helpful to me personally. I’ve actually recently been hearing and reading Kevin DeYoung regarding homosexuality and our culture, and he articulates it wonderfully. Listening to Al Mohler on The Briefing daily has also been instrumental in helping me to understanding the sexual revolution and how our world is moving forward into it in both blatant and more subtle ways.
How prevalent is pornography in the homosexual community and what would be your advice for people who find themselves trapped by the pornography industry?
I can only answer this one from my own experience in my life and that of those whom I’ve spoken with in the LGBT. From what I can discern, porn is unfortunately rampant across all groups of people presently. I used to watch it and knew many others that did also. I also know that it, like heterosexual porn, is available in ridiculous quantities. For those struggling with porn, like those battling any sin, it’s important not to elevate or diminish it. Yes, it is a deplorable sin that God will not overlook. He’s either dealt with it at the cross or will do so in eternity. But no, it is not a sin or a sin struggle that the Lord cannot enable the believer to overcome and even use it for His glory and the good of the user. Accountability with this sin is a huge benefit to the one wrestling it whether that be believing friends, Covenant Eyes, a browser that filters through explicit content, or all of the above. As with all sin, the fight is real and though we will fall, He will sustain and keep His people to the end.
Often times you hear people who are former alcoholics consistently referring to themselves as former alcoholics as their mark or identity. Is it helpful to consider yourself a former homosexual as your true identity in life?
I can see no reason that one would label themselves by any sin struggle, past or present. If I’m speaking to someone about sin and specific struggles, I’ll be open about my battle with same sex attraction, but I’m not going to use it as a modifier for my place in Christ. Biblically, in Corinthians specifically, we see that Paul while carried along by the Holy Spirit said “As were some of you” regarding those who were practicing homosexuality. He also tells us that we’re new creations in Christ, that the old has passed away, etc. Part of growth and sanctification is that we’re no longer fixating on our sin but on the finished work of Christ. We will see our shortcomings daily and everyday, we’ll look to Jesus instead of ourselves. We’ll fight and mourn our flesh but cling tightly to the promises of God and put off the old self in exchange for the new one.
If you could speak to all evangelical preachers, what advice would you give to them regarding their preaching ministry and the need to reach out to people struggling with sexual identity and the sin of homosexuality?
It sounds simple but I’d encourage pastors to holdfast to a biblical worldview when dealing with the sin of homosexuality from the pulpit and personally with those who are battling it. Faithful pastors will discuss homosexuality in the same way that they discuss sexual immorality among heterosexual couples. They won’t cower back from it, but they won’t elevate it to being so heinous and unknown that those who are in it are beyond the hand of God should He draw them. In the same way that pastors and those they’re shepherding should reach out to the lost battling alcoholism or pride, we must attempt to reconcile those practicing homosexuality to Christ knowing He gives the growth if He chooses to. Remembering that if not for the grace of God we would all be practicing every single kind of wickedness ought to drive us to push past our discomfort and into loving our neighbors with truth. As bothered as we are by the sins we don’t understand, the sins that we coddle are far more grotesque to God, yet He loves us still.
If you could talk to law makers and politicians, what advice would you give to them as they continue to embrace and further the homosexual agenda in our nation?
I would proclaim the gospel to them firstly and explain that like all those who have yet to be born again, they stand in rebellion to a holy God who will not overlook their sin. I’d plead with them to reason within themselves concerning creation, the clearly intended design, given our anatomy if nothing else, and the unignorable Creator who will hold all of humanity accountable for every word and deed.
Apart from the Lord opening their eyes to see His glory though, they’re unlikely to view the “homosexual agenda” as a bad thing. Without a biblical worldview, this is another civil rights matter and we would truly be on the wrong side of history. I remember believing that in standing up for the LGBT I was standing for the underdogs, and I saw that as noble. Apart from the God of the Bible and a right understanding of sin and sexuality, telling people that their desires are wrong and that they must stop doing them, especially because they don’t cause physical harm to another person, would make us actually bigoted. Remembering the ideals I held for so long allow me to pity those who are under this strong delusion rather than to be angry with them. Their hearts are darkened. They truly do believe that sexual orientation is as much of one’s personhood as race or gender and unless He grants them sight for spiritual matters, they’ll continue in that understanding. I pray for those who are blinded by all sin but this sin in particular because so many believers view them, and not the spirit that leads them, as the enemies. May we look at those propagating the homosexual agenda as broken, fallen people who are in need of a Savior and are attempting to find peace and happiness apart from Him like we all once were.
Is submission to Christ and submission to your husband (the idea of complementarianism) belittling or oppressive to women?
Submission to one’s husband is God’s design for wives as it’s His design for husbands to love their wives like Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for her. Scripture makes it very clear that wives are coheirs with their husband of His grace and that both bear His image and are therefore equal in value and in worth. Contrary to my previously held ideals and those held by so many today, gender has significance. Gender is assigned by God and the roles prescribed to each are as well. As the Creator, God knows how His creations best function and has lovingly provided a system for us in which we can best operate (and be sanctified if you’re like me and meekness doesn’t come at all natural to you) and model His gospel to the world. Like Jesus to His Father, wives are to humbly submit in all things to their husbands. Like Christ to His bride, the church, husbands are to sacrificially love, pursue, and nourish their wives. Before becoming a believer, complementarianism was preposterous. I didn’t understand that it wasn’t because I lacked worth but was instead because I had worth that God intended me as a helpmate to a husband who was to love and provide for me. I feel not belittled but made much of understanding that I’ve been given protection, security, and unconditional love from both the Lord who saved me and the husband He ordained for me.
Yestreday I preached from Ephesians 1:7-10 on the work of Christ in redemption. As we’re beginning this expositional study of Ephesians, we have noticed that verses 3-14 are one single sentence in the Greek. Paul went off into a monumental doxology regarding our salvation. In this one long verse, Paul points to the fact that our salvation is a Trinitarian salvation. He began with the work of the Father in verses 3-6 and then focused on the work of the Son in verses 7-10 and this section is centered on the work of redemption.
Jesus’ Work of Redemption
There are three different words used in the New Testament to describe the work of redemption.
- ἀγοράζω – to buy.
- ἐξαγοράζω – to buy back, or buy out of.
- λύτρωσις – or here in verse 7: ἀπολύτρωσις – to loose, to release, – by the payment of a price.
Redemption is rooted in the idea of buying back slaves from the marketplace. In the agricultural marketplace, slaves were often sold as property. To buy them back from the market would be to provide the price. This price would release them from bondage and that is what redemption has in mind in the NT.
The Bible provides us the foundational understanding of our spiritual depravity. We were not born innocent beings who could then freely choose to obey or disobey God. We were born as dead sinners, depraved, and with a heart that was set against God. Our only hope was that a Redeemer would rescue us! R. C. Sproul writes, “God brings about this redemption through the blood of Christ and this is linked, by Paul, with the forgiveness of sins. In the New Testament, the redemption of man is redemption from the bondage and the power of sin, involving a resolution of the power of guilt.” 
Jesus came to do far more than perform miracles. He came to do more than:
- Walk on water
- Feed multitudes with a little boy’s lunch
- Heal the sick
- Raise the dead
- Open blind eyes
- Give healing to the deaf
- To preach sermons
Jesus came to save sinners (Matt. 1:21)! Jesus came on a rescue mission to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). The hymn writer described the mission of Christ by writing:
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
Jesus Revealed the Mystery of God
In the ancient world, there was a class of religions known as “mystery religions.” They were secret religions where only the members were given the secrets over a long period of time, but the secrets were guarded and protected from outsiders. When Paul used this word mystery he doesn’t have that type of secret religion or secret society in mind. The idea here is that God progressively revealed His redemptive plan by making it known openly.
In the Old Testament, the promise was made to Abraham in the covenant that He would have descendants that would be innumerable and would be a blessing to the nations – not just Jews. However, that open plan to redeem Gentiles was not completely unveiled until we arrive in the New Testament. Jesus was born with a saving purpose. The Son of God became a man in order to save His people from their sins. The idea of a Messiah was veiled, but revealed in Christ in the New Testament. Many Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah, because they had such a different picture of Him.
After His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection, He commissioned His people to go and tell the good news and make disciples. Eventually, the apostle Paul was sent to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Peter goes to the house of Cornelius and then the whole plan of God was unveiled in Christ.
Slowly over time, God unveiled His redemptive plan. He has now sent His people out into the world to proclaim it from the housetops that all have sinned against God, there is only one hope for the entire world, and Jesus Christ saves sinners.
Looking back to the word predestination and contemplating the sovereignty of God in saving sinners, William Hendriksen writes, “In addition, grace sanctifies this knowledge to the hearts of those destined to be saved. Paul says, “He made it known to us” (cf. “toward us” in verse 8), that is, to myself and to those whom I am addressing.” 
One day, everything in the whole universe will be brought together in a unique harmony that has not been experienced by creation since the fall of Adam and Eve. That unity and harmony will take place in Christ Jesus. Although He is already presently reigning as the King of the entire universe (Matt. 28:18; Ps. 24), one day He will return to bring judgment to the wicked and what the first Adam messed up, the second Adam (Christ) will restore. Philippians 2:5-11:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
- R. C. Sproul, The Purpose of God: Ephesians (Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 1994), 27.
- William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of Ephesians, vol. 7, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 84.
In the recent 2016 Fall Conference at the Reformation Bible College — Albert Mohler and R. C. Sproul joined Chris Larson for a questions and answers session.
Your Testimony Isn’t About You – A really helpful reminder.
Older, Restful, and Reforming – Jared Wilson looks back at Collin Hansen’s article that became a book that charted a movement.
Glasgow University archivists find John Knox’s Bible – Perhaps a question mark at the end of the title would be more appropriate. However, if this turns out to be true, it would be a very impressive discovery.
Young Man, Young Woman: Set An Example – This is the first in a new series by Tim Challies. He writes, “If you are sixteen or eighteen or in your twenties, if you are in high school or college or just moving into marriage and career, I want to speak to you.”
Latest Biblical Diet Plan Purees Scriptures Into Healthy Shakes – The Babylon Bee does it again….
Kids can build a LEGO drone with Flybrix kits – Drones are the hot commodity these days, so lookout for Lego toys to be flying by soon!
Theology Word of the Week: Redemption
Redemption is a concept found in the OT to express the action of a relative in setting free a member of his family or buying back his property (Lv. 25:25ff.) or in general that of purchasing something for a price. A ransom-price is paid to secure the release of what would otherwise be under forfeit (e.g. Ex. 21:30). Religiously God acts as redeemer by powerfully delivering his people from captivity (Ex. 6:6–7; Is. 48:20) or even from sin (Ps. 130:8). A ransom may also be paid to God in the form of a sacrifice or offering, to deliver people whose lives would otherwise be forfeit (Ex. 13:13). There is dispute whether, when the action of redeeming is ascribed to God, he is regarded as paying a price to set his people free; certainly cost and effort are applied, but the thought of a price being received by somebody from him is absent (Is. 43:3 is metaphorical; cf. 52:3). The term was also applied to the setting free of slaves in the Graeco-Roman world on the payment of a ransom to their owners; this could be done in various ways, one of which involved a religious ceremony in which the slave was the object of a fictitious purchase by a god so that he was free of earthly masters. The terminology used is somewhat different from that employed in the NT, and has led recent scholars to doubt whether the origin of the NT metaphor lies in this area; nevertheless, the manumission of slaves would surely have formed an excellent and relevant illustration of redemption.
In the NT the starting-point for the use of the concept is found in the sayings of Jesus, which state that no-one can give anything in exchange for his life (Mk. 8:37; cf. Ps. 49:7–9), but that the Son of Man came to give his life a ransom for many (i.e. for all; Mk. 10:45 as paraphrased in 1 Tim. 2:6; cf. Tit. 2:14). Jesus thus does what God alone can do (Ps. 49:15) by giving his own life, and the use of the noun lytron makes it quite clear that he gives his life in exchange for those whose lives are forfeit and thus sets them free. The death of Jesus is thus conceived as the sacrifice (Acts 20:28; Rom. 3:24; 1 Pet. 1:18) through which we are set free from our sins and their consequences, in other words through which we receive forgiveness (Col. 1:14; Eph. 1:7). Redemption is by faith in Christ (Rom. 3:24f.), and there is no longer any need to keep the law, as the Jews supposed, to secure salvation (Gal. 3:13; 4:5). Believers, however, can also be said to have been purchased by God to become his people; he has paid the price for them (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23). Thus the term ‘redemption’ can be used in quite a broad sense to express the general concept of salvation and deliverance (e.g. Lk. 24:21).
- Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 560.
John Bunyan was born in 1628 in Elstow England, approximately one mile south of Bedford (approximately fifty miles northwest of London). In no uncertain terms, Bunyan was a depraved wretch. His life was filled with all manner of evil and he describes his life in his autobiography Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. After his conversion, Bunyan was baptized in the River Great Ouse that runs through the town of Bedford in approximately 1650. Soon thereafter, he would have an unescapable call to preach the gospel. Although we remember Bunyan most for his writings, especially The Pilgrim’s Progress, we remember him also for his preaching.
John Bunyan Preached to the Soul
Like many Puritans, Bunyan was direct in his approach to preaching. He didn’t believe in the indirect or veiled approach to gospel proclamation. In the same way that George Whitefield would announce that he had come to talk to the people about their soul, Bunyan would address the heart of people with the power of the gospel. Unlike the seeker approach that has become so prevalent in our time, Bunyan expected participation from the congregation. He wanted more than attention, he demanded participation.
Gordon Wakefield describes Bunyan’s preaching as, “folksy and colloquial as he confronted his hearers with the issues of life and death, heaven, and hell.”  With a bright imagination and skilled use of illustration, Bunyan was never a boring preacher. As people gathered to hear the unlearned tinker preach, he demanded a response. To grow in godliness and sanctification is to obey Christ. As believers heard Bunyan preach, they would be moved to greater sanctification. As unbelievers heard Bunyan preach, they would often be moved to tearful repentance. In either case, there was more than attention given to the sermon, there was involvement. We would do well to expect the same thing in our weekly sermons as well.
John Bunyan’s Plea for Souls
In a recent interview, Andy Stanley read a letter from an atheist who had visited his church with a friend. In the letter, the atheist made the following observation.
I have to say the sermon you delivered was so incredibly on-point. I felt completely understood as an atheist, not at all judged, and I felt my way of thinking challenged, but not aggressively. There was no “gotcha” moment that I was expecting, no sales pitch for God, and no bids for my soul.
In the interview, Andy Stanley seemed thrilled that an atheist would have such a response to his sermon. His approach to preaching is the complete opposite approach of John Bunyan who spoke directly to the souls of people – including unbelievers. Perhaps that’s why Bunyan has not been overlooked in the pages of history over 350 years later. In one sermon, Bunyan compared a false convert to a barren fig tree, and he illustrates the scene of judgment by saying:
And now he begins to bethink himself, and to cry to God for mercy; Lord, spare me! Lord, spare me! Nay, saith God, you have been a provocation to me these three years. How many times have you disappointed me? How many seasons have you spent in vain? how many sermons and other mercies did I , of my patience, afford you? but to no purpose at all. Take him, death! 
As Bunyan relentlessly preached the gospel, often people would gather in the early hours of the morning before work to hear the tinker expound the Word of God. It was obvious that the Lord’s unction was upon him for the work of preaching. When King Charles discovered that the great intellect John Owen would often travel great distances to hear this unlearned tinker preach, he wanted to know the reason. Owen responded by saying, “I would willingly exchange my learning for the tinker’s power of touching men’s hearts.” 
As Bunyan preached Christ, he pressed people to see that Christ was more thrilling and of more value than anything else the world has to offer. In one sermon, he said the following:
O sinner! what sayest thou? How dost thou like being saved? Doth not thy mouth water? Doth not thy heart twitter at being saved? Why, come then: “The Spirit and the bride say, come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). 
Apparently John Bunyan tweeted before Twitter, in a different way of course. He was pressing upon the souls of people to see the value of Christ Jesus! Unfortunately many preachers believe preaching directly to the souls of people is counter productive to growth. What would happen today if men preached like this uneducated tinker from history who has not faded away?
- Gordon Wakefield, Bunyan the Christian (London: Harper Colllins, 1992), 32.
- John Bunyan, The Barren Fig Tree, in The Works of John Bunyan, ed. George Offor (1854; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1991), 3:579-90.
- John Brown, John Bunyan his Life, Times and Work, (London: The Hulbert Publishing Co., 1928), 366. This is a paraphrase of an indirect quote.
- John Bunyan, Saved by Grace, in The Works of John Bunyan, ed. George Offor (1854; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1991), 1:342.
In the 2000 Ligonier National Conference, John Piper preached a sermon titled, “Let the Nations be Glad.” You will find it helpful as you consider the sovereignty of God in salvation and the firm command to go and make disciples among the nations.
The Pope Offers Mercy—Protestants Won’t Be Indulged – Is salvation really for sale? This is proof that the Reformation isn’t over.
Is the Bible Foundational to Christianity? Engaging with Andy Stanley – Michael Kruger weighs in on the Andy Stanley debacle over holy Scripture.
85 Years Ago Today: J. R. R. Tolkien Convinces C. S. Lewis that Christ is the True Myth – Written by Justin Taylor yesterday, this is a good article – especially for those of you who enjoy Tolkien and Lewis.
What is Preaching, Anyway? – Jared Wilson provides some helpful thoughts on the subject of preaching.
The Church & God’s Eternal Plan – John MacArthur explains God’s plan for the church.
Ehrman and Islamic Apologetics and More on Andy Stanley and Russell Moore – James White talks Islam and Andy Stanley.
Sex Negative – Carl Trueman writes, “The attitude toward sex in our secular culture is simultaneously tedious and disturbing. Tedious because of its predictability. Disturbing because of its profound negativity, despite absurd claims to the contrary.”
Are you too busy for the church? Are you too busy building your career while neglecting to build God’s kingdom? Are you finding time to invest in secular relationships while neglecting spiritual relationships among your fellow church members? Are you using your talents while neglecting to use your spiritual gifts? If this sounds familiar, I would encourage you to take time to evaluate what the Bible says about neglecting the church.
As a pastor, I’m extremely concerned for the distracted, over-worked, casual church member. I’m not merely concerned that they’re not occupying space in the sanctuary. I’m concerned for their soul. Consider the following warnings from the pages of Scripture.
#1 – Church Member: Neglecting to assemble for worship with the gathered church is a sin
Are you consistently absent from your church’s worship services? Online church is not church. It’s a filler for sick days or travel days, but it’s certainly not church. In Hebrews 10:24-25 we see that our calling should be to “stir up” one another to love and good works. How is this possible when you’re rarely gathered together with the church? Consider the words of Mark Dever:
Nonattendance, in the early years of our church, was considered one of the most sinister of sins, because it usually veiled all the other sins. When someone began to be in sin, you would expect them to stop attending. 
#2 – Church Member: Neglecting God’s Word is a sin
Our appetite reveals much about our spiritual condition. When you’re around sick people, they often have a very poor appetite. This often results in the use of IV therapy in order to force the person to receive the nutrients necessary to sustain life. What about the person who has time for their career, college football, recreation, vacation, and outdoor activities with the family but doesn’t desire the Word of God – specifically – the preaching of God’s Word? What does this reveal about the spiritual condition of the described person? The early church is pictured in Acts 2 as a people who desired the preaching and teaching of the Word. The people of God in the Old Testament came out of a lengthy period of rebellion and had a burning appetite for God’s Word (Neh. 8). If you find yourself in a state where you don’t have an appetite for God’s Word, you should search your heart for the reason.
#3 – Church Member: Neglecting the care of fellow church members is a sin
Membership in the local church involves responsibility. Did you know that the physical and spiritual wellbeing of your fellow church members is your business? This is one of the most important reasons to attend the weekly prayer meeting. Exactly how are you involved in the regular care of your church on a spiritual level? Consider what God’s Word says in Rom. 12:9-13, 1 Thess. 5:11, Phil. 2:4, and Gal. 6:2, 10. Kevin DeYoung writes, “The man who attempts Christianity without the church shoots himself in the foot, shoots his children in the leg, and shoots his grandchildren in the heart.” 
#4 – Church Member: Neglecting to use your spiritual gifts for God’s glory is a sin
Have you considered the purpose in God’s gift to you and to His church with spiritual gifts? Take time to consider what it would be like if tomorrow your right leg decided it wasn’t getting up for work. How would that change your daily routine? That’s why Paul used the body as an illustration about the importance of the entire church. Everyone is needed and each body part is important (1 Cor. 12:12-26).
1 Corinthians 12:26 – If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
#5 – Church Member: Neglecting the gospel is a sin
Do you believe the gospel? What are you doing to uphold the gospel and protect the church from a false gospel? Not only did we need the gospel at the point of salvation, but we need the gospel daily. Not only do we need the gospel daily, but so does the entire church family. We must praise God through the gospel on a daily basis and preserve the church from error (Gal. 1:6; Jude 1:3; 1 Pet. 3:15; Titus 1:9). Have you sought to correct anyone in your local church who has strayed away in the past 12 months?
#6 – Church Member: Neglecting to observe the ordinances (baptism and the Lord’s supper) is a sin
We are commanded by Christ to observe baptism and the Lord’s supper together as a church (Matt. 28:18-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-25). To neglect this responsibility and privilege is to neglect your own soul. This is not an optional or extra credit opportunity suggested for a select group in the church. This is ground zero, foundational, and essential for spiritual health. Consider the words of Mark Dever:
Broadly speaking, baptism tends the front door of the church, while the Lord’s Supper tends the back door. Properly administered baptism (i.e., baptism of believers only upon a credible profession of faith) helps to ensure that only genuine believers are admitted into the membership of the church. Properly administered communion (i.e., communion given only to members in good standing of evangelical churches) helps to ensure that those who are under church discipline for unrepented sin do not scandalize the church or eat and drink judgment to themselves by partaking of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:29). 
#7 – Church Member: Neglecting to make disciples is a sin
We have been called to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). In the most logical manner, we begin in our neighborhood and move outward to the nations. Notice that the command is not to go and get conversions. We are to leave the converting up to God, and when that fruit comes, we are to baptize them and disciple them in the truth. This involves the hard and persistent work of evangelism and discipleship – both rooted and grounded in the work of the local church. That is not a command for “professionals” or pastors. It’s a command for all of the children of God.
#8 – Church Member: Neglecting to follow your pastors is a sin
God has given us pastors for a reason. That purpose involves leadership and spiritual care. That type of leadership and spiritual care rubs against the grain of the American independent mindset. We don’t want anyone getting into our business, so when someone unexpectedly applies Richard Baxter’s model of membership care, it seems odd, outdated, antiquated, and intrusive. According to Hebrews 13:17, church members are to “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” Why is this command given? The writer to the Hebrew Christians follows up with Hebrews 13:18 – “Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” To resist pastoral leadership is to endanger your soul.
#9 – Church Member: Neglecting members’ meetings is a sin
How does the church make decisions? Are all decisions given over to the elders? Does your church operate with any measure of congregationalism? If so, you need to attend the church conferences (business meetings) and engage in the decision making of the church. What ministries are being organized? How are you helping to support and uphold the different ministries of the local church? How does your church accept members or release members to other churches? Are you involved with this process in the members’ meeting? Do you know what’s happening in the life of the church? What goals are the elders putting before the church? What financial needs are present? Do you know any specific need that you can pray for in the life of your church? Consider the words of Charles Spurgeon:
I know there are some who say, “Well, I’ve given myself to the Lord, but I don’t intend to give myself to any church.” I say, “Now why not?” And they answer, “Because I can be just as good a Christian without it.” I say, “Are you quite clear about that? You can be as good a Christian by disobedience to your Lord’s commands as by being obedient? There’s a brick. What is the brick made for? It’s made to build a house. It is of no use for the brick to tell you that it’s just as good a brick while it’s kicking about on the ground by itself, as it would be as part of a house. Actually, it’s a good-for-nothing brick. So, you rolling stone Christians, I don’t believe that you’re answering the purpose for which Christ saved you. You’re living contrary to the life which Christ would have you live and you are much to blame for the injury you do.” 
As a pastor I desire the best for the members entrusted to my care. Pastoring is more than preaching, and the work of caring for the church is vitally important. When sheep come up missing, it’s essential to find out why and work to bring them back into the family of faith.
If you’re an absentee church member, I want to encourage you to consider the danger of remaining in that position. Don’t neglect the good gifts of God that come through the church. Don’t neglect your faith, your family, and your own soul. It’s time to stop saying that you’re too busy and start taking responsibility for your sin.
- Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2000), 171.
- Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 132.
- Mark Dever, “Applying the Regulative Principle,” The Deliberate Church, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2005), 90.
- Tom Carter, Charles Spurgeon at His Best, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1988), 34.
Yesterday I preached from Ephesians 1:3-6. The topic of verses 3-14 is focused on our eternal salvation provided to us by our gracious and merciful God. In fact, verses 3-14 are one lengthy sentence in the Greek. In yesterday’s sermon, I took the first part of this lengthy sentence and focused on the work of God the Father in saving wretched sinners. As we continue to expound this lengthy doxology to God, we will look at the work of the Son and the Spirit in saving sinners as well.
God the Father — Giver of Eternal Blessings
Every blessing we enjoy in life comes from God. He has blessed us in Christ, and provided innumerable blessings in the heavenly places. In other words, as children of God we have received blessings from God that we enjoy presently and countless blessings that we will enjoy in eternity. They are reserved for us in Christ. Paul points out the πνευματικός – spiritual, blessings. This is why the hymn writer could write the following words:
Let all things their Creator bless,
and worship him in humbleness,
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
and praise the Spirit, Three in One:
O praise him, O praise him,
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
God the Father — Chose Us
In Ephesians 1:4, we see the word “chose” used by Paul. It’s a word in the Greek (ἐκλέγομαι) that means – to pick out or choose for oneself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the doctrine of election and predestination explained incorrectly. Many people claim that God looks through a tunnel of time to see the actions of a sea of humanity in the distant future. Based upon their decisions to repent and believe the gospel, God then elects them and predestines them to be His children for all of eternity. There are countless problems with this view and I want to name a few of them.
- If God looked through a tunnel of time to see the distant decisions of a sea of humanity in the future, God would be bound by time and space. The God of Scripture is not bound by time and space.
- If God looked through a tunnel of time to see the decisions of all humanity in the distant future, there would have been a moment in time when God didn’t have all information and needed to “learn” or “gain” information. That would be a heretical view of God.
- If God looked through a tunnel of time to see the decisions of people in the distant future in order to make His decision regarding election and predestination – that would place the reigns of sovereignty in the hands of sinners rather than in the hands of the sovereign God of the universe.
- If God was merely waiting to see what sinners would do by looking through this tunnel of time, God would have watched every last person rebel against Him and then die and go to hell. Why? Because according to Scripture – not one person seeks after God on his own (Romans 3:10-11).
The proper view of the word “chose” in verse 4 is that God in eternity past acted out of divine love and mercy to save guilty sinners by choosing them in Christ to salvation. Any other view does violence to this word in the context of Scripture and it does violence to the doctrine of God.
God the Father’s Plan of Holiness
God has planned for His children to be holy. For Paul to press upon the church at Ephesus (and surrounding regions) to pursue God in holiness is not legalism. Holiness is the intended plan of God for all of His children. So many people struggle with their salvation because they’re living in a perpetual state of sin. According to Scripture, people who are not pursuing God in holiness should question their salvation. I like what Kent Hughes writes about this point in his commentary:
If your life is characterized by a pattern of conscious sin, you very likely are not a Christian. If some of your most cherished thoughts are hatreds, if you are determined not to forgive, you may not be a true believer. If you are a committed materialist who finds that your greatest joys are self-indulgence — clothing your body with lavish outfits, having all your waking thoughts devoted to house, cars, clothing, and comforts — you may not be a Christian. If you are a sensualist who is addicted to pornography, if your mind is a twenty-four-hour bordello — and you think it’s okay — you may very well not be a Christian, regardless of how many times you have “gone forward” and mouthed the evangelical shibboleths. Election ultimately results in holiness, but the process begins now. Are you concerned for holiness? Are you growing in holiness? 
God the Father’s Purpose in Predestination
First of all, we must note that the doctrine of predestination is taught in the Bible. Predestine (Προορίζω) means o decide upon beforehand, predetermine. It’s an unhelpful and unwise thing to use the biblical word as an expletive. In fact, Paul doesn’t use the subject of predestination as a means for an apologetic debate or to engage in a fight with his Arminian friends. He used the word to praise God for saving sinners who didn’t deserve an ounce of mercy.
Predestination is connected to adoption just as election is connected to holiness. God had a plan to adopt guilty sinners, Jews and Gentiles, and a people from every tongue, tribe, people, and nation on planet earth. As adopted children, we receive the full legal rights as the children of God. We are made joint heirs with Jesus Christ and enjoy all of the spiritual blessings that God has given to us in Christ.
Consider the heights and depths of our salvation as pre-planned by the Trinity before the foundation of the world. It should bring us to a point of humility and genuine praise!
- R. Kent Hughes, Ephesians: The Mystery of the Body of Christ, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990), 25–26.