If you have never heard James Montgomery Boice, this would be a good starting point. It would also serve as a good reminder of where the evangelical church was in his day and the present trajectory of the evangelical church, as he calls — “mindless times.”
Trump and the prosperity gospel – In case you haven’t already heard, President-Elect Trump is surrounding himself with a host of religious advisors, and many of them are from the prosperity gospel movement.
Simplicity in Preaching – Kevin DeYoung provides some helpful advice for preaching from J.C. Ryle’s work titled, Simplicity in Preaching.
Theology Word of the Week: Salvation
Salvation. ‘Salvation’ is the most widely used term in Christian theology to express the provision of God for our human plight. The word-group associated with the verb ‘save’ has an extensive secular usage which is not sharply differentiated from its theological usage. It can be used of any kind of situation in which a person is delivered from some danger, real or potential; as in healing a person from illness (Mk. 5:28), from enemies (Ps. 44:7) or from the possibility of death (Mt. 8:25). The noun ‘salvation’ can refer positively to the resulting state of well-being and is not confined to the negative idea of escape from danger. In the OT the verb ‘save’ expresses particularly God’s actions in delivering his people; in the context of his saving Israel from their enemies, the noun can be translated as ‘deliverance’ (Ps. 3:8, rsv). But it is also used in a very broad sense of the sum total of the effects of God’s goodness on his people (Ps. 53:6). Thus the OT understanding of salvation is quite concrete and often covers more than spiritual blessings.
In the gospels the word-group is used of the mighty works of Jesus in healing people from disease. But the terminology developed a distinctive sense which was based largely on the OT understanding of God and his gracious action towards his people. By the time of the later writings of the NT it was common to give both God and Jesus the title of ‘saviour’. (1 Tim. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:1), and it would not be unfair to say that this title summed up the Christian doctrine of God in relation to his people. The name ‘Jesus’ is etymologically ‘Yahweh is salvation’, and this meaning must have been known to Christians (Mt. 1:21). But salvation is now understood in a new way. The sense of rescue or deliverance is still uppermost, but the reference is to deliverance from sin and from the wrath of God as the ultimate fate which awaits the sinner (Rom. 5:9–10). Christians are those people who are certain that they will be saved, and it has sometimes been held that this concept of a future salvation is primary in the NT (Acts 2:21; Rom. 13:11; 1 Cor. 5:5; Heb. 9:28: 1 Pet. 1:15). However, Christians are also described as ‘those who are being saved’ (Acts 2:47; 1 Cor. 1:18; 2 Cor. 2:15) and indeed as ‘those who have been saved’ (Eph. 2:5, 8). Thus the moment of conversion is regarded as the moment of salvation (Tit. 3:5).
The use of the term in itself indicates that the thought is of an action from the outside by God who is the saviour; human beings cannot save themselves by their own efforts (Tit. 3:5). Thus salvation is dependent on the grace of God. It is effected through the action of Jesus Christ whose incarnation and atoning death took place in order that he might save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). It is revealed in the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:15), and it becomes effective for individuals through the preaching of the gospel (1 Cor. 1:21), provided that they respond to the gospel message with faith and repentance; those who call on the Lord are saved (Rom. 10:9–10). Thus the word becomes a technical term in NT theology to describe God’s action in rescuing people from their sins and their consequences and in bringing them into a situation where they experience his blessings. Salvation is then understood comprehensively as the sum-total of the benefits bestowed on believers by God (Lk. 19:9; Rom. 1:16). Although it will not be fully realized until the consummation of the new age, nevertheless it is a real experience in the here and now (2 Cor. 6:2; Phil. 2:12).
During the history of the church since NT times the doctrine of salvation has constantly been in danger of misunderstanding and corruption. Most commonly, salvation has been thought of as something that people must earn or merit by doing actions that please God and win his favour. At the Reformation, the Protestants insisted that the doctrine of justification by faith is the indication of whether the church is standing or falling from the truth of the gospel. They realized that salvation is the gift of God and that the church must not usurp his place in declaring who can be saved, even if it is true that the church is appointed to proclaim the gospel. More recently other errors have arisen. Salvation has sometimes been separated from the person of Jesus, who is then regarded as little more than a teacher of morality; the recognition that God was in Christ to reconcile a sinful world to himself has been lost, and salvation has been thought of as exclusively deliverance from ignorance of God and not also as cleansing from sin and its guilt.
The scope of salvation has also been a matter of dispute. The OT usage of the term to express God’s action in saving his people from their enemies has been taken as normative, and salvation has been understood as freeing people from hunger, poverty and the threat of war so that they may live a whole life in this world; the thought of spiritual salvation has retreated into the background. But while there can be no doubt that Christians should be working for these desirable ends, the unfortunate effect can be that the distinctive theological emphasis of the term, which lies at the centre of the NT message, is lost. People fait to realize that the major need of humanity is for reconciliation with God, and that it is only when there is peace between God and humanity that lasting peace between the peoples of the world is possible; in other words, spiritual salvation is not simply a small and dispensable part of a broader ‘salvation’ but is the basis of a new attitude between people. Granted that the task of the church is to care for the spiritual and the physical needs of people, the NT sees the spiritual task, which is inseparable from material concern, as fundamental.
One of the great expositors of recent church history is Martyn Lloyd-Jones, known as “The Doctor.” In this sermon, he preached on the doctrine of election, and you will find it helpful and powerful. If you are tempted to listen only to a few minutes, listen all the way to the end if time permits.
John MacArthur on the Legacy of Martin Luther – This is how the article begins, “Much of the discussion about Martin Luther these days seems to focus on his flaws rather than his faith, and that’s a pity.” It’s worth reading and taking to heart.
John 6 for Roman Catholics – James White is preparing to debate Trent Horn, a Roman Catholic, as a pre-conference to the G3 Conference next week. The issues discussed in his coverage of John 6 is key to the upcoming debate.
When people ask me to name preachers that I enjoy listening to and learning from, the name of Alistair Begg always comes up in the conversation. This clip from a Ligonier conference will demonstrate why Alistair Begg is such a good preacher and one that I commend to you.
Passion With No Discernment Is Deadly – My friend, Chad Everson, takes an interesting approach as he points to the problem of Carrie Underwood’s performance at Passion 2017. He writes, “If one were to save 10,000 girls from being sex slaves but miss the Gospel they have still done irreparable damage.”
Worship. Man’s sense of awe in the presence of the magnificent, the frightening or the miraculous illustrates something of what is meant by ‘worship’. His response may be one of speechlessness, paralysis, emulation or dedication.
Revelation and response
At the heart of Christian worship is God himself. In order truly to worship two fundamental elements are needed: revelation, through which God shows himself to man, and response, through which awe-stricken man responds to God. Martin Luther claimed that ‘to know God is to worship him’. In so saying, he succinctly embraced both aspects of worship. He also insisted that worship is not an optional extra for the godly person, but an essential symptom or expression of that knowledge.
God makes himself known in a number of ways: through his works in creation (Ps. 19:1); through his written word (Ps. 19:7); supremely, through Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:18); and through the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:13).
Christian worship will depend on that revelation. It is therefore founded on theology—the knowledge of God. The shortest route to deeper and richer worship is a clearer theology. This will enable the worshipper to know who, and how great, God is. Further, it will inform the worshipper how God wants worship to be expressed.
The biblical words used for worship convey significant insights into its nature. One of the most common Heb. words comes from the root ’eḇeḏ, meaning ‘servant’. This contains the idea of service of every kind, acts of adoration as well as doing the chores (e.g. Ex. 3:12; 20:5; Dt. 6:13; 10:12; Jos. 24:15; Ps. 2:11). The occasional use of hištaḥawâ (prostrate, religiously or in the course of duty), refers exclusively in OT to ritual acts (Gn. 27:29; 49:23). The Gk. equivalent, proskyneō, is used more extensively in the lxx and in the NT (e.g. Mt. 4:9–10; 14:33; Mk. 15:19; Acts 10:25).
The two most important words for worship in the NT are: 1. latreia, meaning ‘service’ or ‘worship’. Its exact translation depends on the context (see particularly Rom. 12:1 and commentary discussion; also Mt. 4:10; Lk. 2:37; Acts 26:7; Heb. 8:5; 9:9). 2. leitourgia, a word taken from secular life, means service to the community or state, frequently without charge or wage (Lk. 1:23; 2 Cor. 9:12; Phil. 2:30; Heb. 9:21; 10:11). The implication is that Christian worship and service are essentially one.
According to the Bible, God alone is to be worshipped or served (Ex. 20:1–3). He is to be served with man’s whole being (Dt. 6:5; Lk. 10:27). Mind as well as emotions, physique as well as feelings are to combine in God’s praise. The very nature of God, overwhelming in his attributes, demands everything of man. Personal, individual worship is practised (e.g. Psalms) and corporate acts are described (e.g. 2 Ch. 7). Wesley’s ‘O for a thousand tongues to sing/My great Redeemer’s praise’ reflects this fact: that God is so great that no one person can adequately worship him.
God, transcendent and immanent
The tension between God’s transcendence (his wholly otherness) and immanence (being at hand) has frequently brought dissension. In both testaments these attributes are explicit (Ex. 19:10; Jb. 38–41; Ps. 8; Is. 40:12ff.; Jn. 1:1–14; Heb. 1–2; and Gn. 3:8; Dt. 7:21–22; Ps. 23; Is. 43:1–2; Mt. 1:23; 28:20; Phil. 4:19). From the OT it is clear that sin cuts people off from God, but through sacrifice he brings about a new oneness (Gn. 3; Lv. 16; cf. Redemption). With the ultimate atonement made by Jesus’ own sacrifice, the rituals of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are no longer relevant; but their careful exposition is still important since they reveal abiding principles of worship. For example, sincerity, purity and holiness are constant requirements, as is the offering of what is best to God (e.g. Ex. 24–40; Lv. 1–10; 16; 21–27; Nu. 7; 15; 28; 2 Ch. 3–4).
In the NT the commands of Jesus embrace a comprehensive understanding of worship and service (e.g. fellowship, Jn. 13:34; ordinances, Mt. 28:19–20; 1 Cor. 11:23–24 and evangelism, Mt. 28:19–20). The fulfilment of these commands is worship—‘in the beauty of a holy life’ (Ps. 96:9, rsv).
With the giving of God’s Spirit in fulfilment of prophecy (Joel 2:28–32; Jn. 14:26; 16:7) at Pentecost upon all who believe in Christ (Acts 2), the church was empowered as a ‘kingdom and priests to serve … God’ (Rev. 1:6; Ex. 19:6). From time to time in its history, the church has been engaged in divisive controversies about the nature of the gifts of the Spirit, but without exception Christians agree that the Spirit’s enabling is vital to worship-service.
Worship in history
From the outset the Christian church recognized herself as a people who worship and not so much a place of worship. In the early church Christians normally worshipped in homes (Acts 2:46; 11; 12:12), public halls (Acts 19:9), synagogues (Acts 13:14ff.; 14:1; 17:1–2) and at the Temple (Acts 2:46; 3). Evangelism was conducted in those places and in the open (Acts 16:13–14; 17:22–23). The conversion of emperor Constantine (ad 312) brought greater freedom to build basilicas for corporate worship.
Music and singing were an important part of the worship of biblical Judaism (e.g. Pss; 1 Ch. 16:7ff.; 25). Together with the reading and explaining of the Scriptures and prayer, this constituted the heart of synagogue worship and stood alongside the sacrificial aspects of Temple worship (1 Ch. 22:17–19; 2 Ch. 6:12ff.; Ne. 8:1–8). The early Christians included music and singing in their corporate gatherings (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19) as well as in personal devotion (Acts 16:25), though history shows considerable differences of opinion about the place of music and other creative arts in worship.
The division between the Church of the East and that of the West in the 11th century reflected tensions in approaches to worship, to which the stronger mystical element of the East and the rational element of the West contributed.
With the Reformation in the West, religious practice was largely released from superstition, and from what had become merely ceremonial or ritual. The Reformation’s emphasis on the word as central to worship led to the Protestant emphasis on preaching as the royal sacramant and as the highest raison d’être of corporate worship. In the context of mind-stretching, relevant and passionate exposition of Scripture, the liturgy of music and prayer become simpler and less ritualistic. Together with an emphasis on the need for the Holy Spirit to enliven preacher and congregation, this emphasis has undergirded evangelical worship until today. Tensions continue between those who look for a common liturgy, uniting churches wherever they meet, and those who depend on the spontaneous expression of faith. Many have found the need to be free to use both forms. What is central to Christian worship is not ‘forms’ but the presence of the triune God, who through his word, the Bible, and by his Holy Spirit, enlivens, enlightens and enables all who believe in order that they may worship-serve him in spirit and in truth. 
In only 15 days, the 2017 G3 Conference will be held in Atlanta. If you would like to join us, seats are still available (registration). Take time to listen to Paul Washer as he encourages younger men to be faithful pastors.
Reveling in Wrath – Tim Challies writes, “As we look at a society that is demanding the right to practice every evil deed, a society that is rejoicing in what the Bible describes as the darkest evil, we see evidence that God is loosening his grip, pushing the boat away from shore.”
90,000 Christians died for their faith last year – “Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world, according to a European study. In 2016, 90,000 Christians were killed because of their faith. This, however, was an improvement over 2015, when 105,000 Christians were martyred.”
Borrowed Conviction – Jeremy Walker writes, “Do not be one of those who, in these respects, are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2Tim 3.7). Learn and embrace the fundamentals of Christian faith and living before God, among the saints, and under authority, and you will find–under God–that this is the place and this is the sphere to know and enjoy developing spiritual health and advancing biblical holiness and increasing Christian happiness.”
The Great American Word Mapper [HT: Challies] – If you like words and enjoy knowing where they’re most often used, you’ll like this website. Just type “grits” and press the button. Instantly, you’ll see how it works.
Death: The Last Enemy, and Our Deliverer – Randy Alcorn writes, “The moment we die the meager flame of this life will appear, to those we leave behind, to be snuffed out. But at that same moment on the other side it will rage to sudden and eternal intensity—an intensity that will never dim, only grow.”
Theology Word of the Week: Repentance
Repentance. The OT often speaks of repentance to describe Israel’s turning back to their God (e.g. 2 Ch. 7:14), in response to a promise of restored fortunes for the nation. In the NT, however, the preaching of repentance is greatly heightened and given specific content for the individual. This feature starts with the preaching of John the Baptist (Mt. 3:5–12; Lk. 3:7–14). The Gk. words used throughout the NT are mainly forms related to the verb metanoein, ‘to change one’s mind’. This small phrase, however, describes a radical change in the individual’s disposition, for the change of mind concerns his judgment upon himself and his sin together with an evaluation of God’s demands upon him. The transformation implied, therefore, is not a matter merely of mental judgment, but of new religious and moral attitudes (a turning to God, 1 Thes. 1:9) and of new behaviour (Acts 26:20), as John’s preaching spelt out.
Since repentance is God-directed and affirms newly received principles, it is inseparable from faith by which alone comes the knowledge of God. It is a serious misrepresentation of Scripture to separate repentance and faith as if the former were in any sense a condition of receiving the latter. This is clear from the fact that apostolic preaching sometimes summoned people to repent (Acts 2:38; 17:30; 26:20) but on other occasions to believe (Acts 13:38–41; 16:31). Equally, forgiveness of sins follows upon either repentance or faith (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 10:43). Repentance and faith, therefore, are simply two aspects of the same movement, though it is true that, in the case of faith, the NT emphasizes consciousness of Christ (Acts 20:21). Hence repentance, like faith, is regarded as a gift of God (Acts 5:31; 11:15–18; 2 Tim. 2:25).
The importance of repentance is seen from the early preaching of the apostles and from its place as a first principle of the Christian message (Heb. 6:1). Although there is in conversion a decisive change of mind, the renewing of the mind towards God is a continuous process (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23) just as faith is to be increased. Turning, and renewal of faith in the Christian’s life, are the active side of the process called sanctification, of which regeneration and preservation are the passive aspects.
Due to the increased emphasis on penitence (sorrow for sin) associated with repentance, the idea of confession and penance came to overshadow the sense of ‘changing one’s mind’, and it was Luther who rediscovered the NT Gk. word, metanoein. With this he replaced the prevailing Latin Vulgate rendering of ‘do penance’, and allied repentance closely to faith.
It cannot be stressed too much that repentance is a moral act involving the turning of the whole person in spirit, mind and will to consent, and subjection, to the will of God. It is in a very real sense a moral miracle, a gift of grace. Terms often confused with repentance, such as penitence, remorse or penance, do not do justice to the impact of grace which we call repentance.
Several years ago, Conrad Mbewe preached in the Strange Fire conference. His topic was, “Are We Preachers or Witch Doctors?” You can view the full sermon below and consider the problems facing Conrad Mbewe and his church in Zambia, and how such problems are prevalent in the United States as well. What does the Bible say?
Why Are Women More Eager Missionaries? – John Piper asks, “Where are the men?” He writes, “More single women serve in missions than single men, but God is able to give grace for every circumstance.”
Amazon Made Its First Drone Delivery – 2016 was a big deal for drone advancements. The first delivery was made in England, and Amazon hopes that in the upcoming days drones will be as numerous as mail trucks.