“The Problem of Pain” by R.C. Sproul

by R.C. Sproul

The problem of evil has been defined as the Achilles’ heel of the Christian faith. For centuries people have wrestled with the conundrum, how a good and loving God could allow evil and pain to be so prevalent in His creation. The philosophical problems have generated an abundance of reflection and discussion, some of which will be reiterated in this issue, but in the final analysis, the problem is one that quickly moves from the abstract level into the realm of human experience. The philosophical bumps into the existential.

Historically, evil has been defined in terms of privation (privatio) and negation (negatio), especially in the works of Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas. The point of such definitions is to define evil in terms of a lack of, or negation of, the good. We define sin, for example, as any want of conformity to, or transgression of, the law of God. Sin is characteristically defined in negative terms. We speak of sin as disobedience, lawlessness, immorality, unethical behavior, and the like. So that, above and beyond the problem of evil always stands the standard of good by which evil is determined to be evil. In this regard, evil is parasitic. It depends upon a host outside of itself for its very definition. Nothing can be said to be evil without the prior standard of the good. Nevertheless, as much as we speak of evil as a privation or negation of the good, we can’t escape the power of its reality.

At the time of the Reformation, the magisterial Reformers embraced the definition of evil they inherited from the earlier church fathers in terms of privatio, of privation and negation. They modified it with one critical word. Privatio began to be described as privatio actuosa (an actual, or real, privation). The point of this distinction was to call attention to the reality of evil. If we think of evil and pain simply in terms of negation and privation, and seek to avoid the actuality of it, we can easily slip into the absurd error of considering evil an illusion.

Whatever else evil is, it is not illusory. We experience the pangs of its impact, not only in an individual sense, but in a cosmic sense. The whole creation groans, we are told by Scripture, waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. The judgment of God upon the human race was a judgment that extended to all things over which Adam and Eve had dominion, including the whole earth. The curse is spread far beyond the house of Adam into every crevice of God’s creation. The reality of this curse puts a weighty burden and uncomfortable cloak upon all of life. It is indeed a cloak of pain.

Many years ago I had a dear Christian friend who was in the hospital going through a rigorous series of chemotherapy treatments. The chemotherapy at that time provoked a violent nausea in her. When I spoke to her about her experience, I asked her how her faith was standing up in the midst of this trial. She replied, “R.C., it is hard to be a Christian with your head in the toilet.” This graphic response to my question made a lasting impression on me. Faith is difficult when our physical bodies are writhing in pain. And yet, it is at this point perhaps more than any other that the Christian flees to the Word of God for comfort. It is for this reason that foundational to the Christian faith is the affirmation that God is sovereign over evil and over all pain. It will not do to dismiss the problem of pain to the realm of Satan. Satan can do nothing except under the sovereign authority of God. He cannot throw a single fiery dart our way without the sovereign will of our heavenly Father.

There is no portion of Scripture that more dramatically communicates this point than the entire Old Testament book of Job. The book of Job tells of a man who is pushed to the absolute limit of endurance with the problem of pain. God allows Job to be an unprotected target for the malice of Satan. Everything dear to Job is stripped from him, including his family, his worldly goods, and his own physical health. Yet, at the end of the day, in the midst of his misery, while his home is atop a dunghill, Job cries out: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21). It is easy to quote this utterance from Job in a glib and smug manner. But we must go beyond the glib and penetrate to the very heart of this man in the midst of his misery. He was not putting on a spiritual act or trying to sound pious in the midst of his pain. Rather, he exhibited an astonishing level of abiding trust in his Creator. The ultimate expression of that trust came in his words, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (13:5). Job prefigures the Christian life, a life that is lived not on Fifth Avenue, the venue of the Easter parade, but on the Via Dolorosa, the way of sorrows that ends at the foot of the cross. The Christian life is a life that embraces the sacrament of baptism, which signifies, among other things, that we are baptized into the death, humiliation, and the afflictions of Jesus Christ. We are warned in Scripture that if we are not willing to embrace those afflictions, then we will not participate in Jesus’ exaltation. The Christian faith baptizes a person not only into pain, but also into the resurrection of Christ. Whatever pain we experience in this world may be acute, but it is always temporary. In every moment that we experience the anguish of suffering, there beats in our hearts the hope of heaven — that evil and pain are temporary and are under the judgment of God, the same God who gave a promise to His people that there will be a time when pain will be no more. The privatio and the negatio will be trumped by the presence of Christ.

We Recommend
Bringing Christ Into the Problem Article
What’s the Problem? Article by Burk Parsons
Turning Evil on Its Head Article by Joni Eareckson Tada

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From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343. www.ligonier.org
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“What Is The Biblical Teaching On Astrology?” by John MacArthur

“What is the biblical teaching on astrology?”

Deuteronomy 17:2; Isaiah 47:12; Daniel 2:27

John MacArthur

What is the biblical teaching on astrology?
Answer

My wife and I stopped to get a sandwich on the way home last night. We went in and, as I walked in this little place to get a sandwich, there was on the cash register a little sign that said, “The June Horoscopes Are In.” And I thought, “The June horoscopes, like all the rest, are definitely out.” But anyway, the sign said, “The June Horoscopes Are In,” and I thought, “Well, where do you get them?” I turned around and there was a dispenser on the wall where you put in a quarter and you get a horoscope. That’s about the most impersonal way I’ve ever seen it done: drop a quarter in and they’ll tell you about your destiny.

What about these astrological charts? What does the Bible have to say? Well, we covered that in a tape on “Demons and Magic” and if you want a full understanding of that, you can get that. But, let me just mention a couple of Scriptures that help us. Deuteronomy 17:2. Deuteronomy 17:2: “If there be found among you within any of thy gates”—and this is part of God’s instruction for Israel—“If there be found among you within any of your gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, man or woman who hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the Lord thy God, in transgressing his covenant, and hath gone and served other gods and worshiped them, either the sun or moon or any of the host of heaven”—that’s the stars—“which I have not commanded; and if it be told thee and thou hast heard of it and inquired diligently and, behold, it is true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel, then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman who hath committed that wicked thing unto thy gates; even that man or that woman and shalt stone them with stones until they die.”

If Carrol Righter had been alive in the day of Israel, they would have stoned him to death. That’s how strong the Word of God speaks against anything connected with worship or seeking to know the revelation of some divine mind through the sun, the moon, or the stars of heaven. It was an offense that constituted an abomination to God and I would hasten to add that anything that used to be an abomination to God is still an abomination to God because whatever was abominating to his character is still abominating to his character because his character has not changed one bit.

So, that’s a very, very clear word. I would add to that, Isaiah 47. Isaiah 47:12—and here he was particularly judging the Babylonians who were really involved in this: “Stand now with your enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, in which thou hast labored from thy youth; if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail. Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators”—that’s the June horoscopes—“stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee. Behold, they shall be like stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: they shall not be a coal to warm at, nor a fire to sit before it.” They’re going to be so consumed, they won’t even smolder is what he’s saying. They won’t even be worth a coal to get warm over, they’re going to go up so fast in smoke. That’s God’s attitude towards astrology, stargazing, monthly prognostication.

Now, that’s fairly clear. No Christian has any business, in any sense, under any circumstance, fooling around with that. That simply opens your mind to demonic suggestion. If you listen to that suggestion, it isn’t that the horoscopes will tell you what you’re like; they will simply make you into what they want you to be. People who listen to that begin to pattern their life after that thing until, literally, they become transformed into their horoscope, if you will.

There are others in Acts 7 where it mentions “the tabernacle of Molech” and “the star of your God, Rephan.” This is the worship of Saturn and it’s again, mentioning the worship of the stars.

So, this was something that was completely and totally forbidden in the Word of God and the reason is because the stars can’t tell your future, they can’t tell your present—no way. That’s the revelation of God alone involved in telling the truth; that’s just a demonic way to capture the fancy of people so that the demons can persuade them toward a certain behavior. In Daniel 1, it says, “In all matters of wisdom and understanding, the king of Babylon inquired of them. He found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers in all his realm.” When he consulted God’s people, he found them ten times better! And that’s an understatement.

Verse 2 talks more about the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers and shows that they were inadequate, they were in error, they were helpless, they were hopeless. In Daniel 2:27, it talks about soothsayers, astrologers, and magicians again.

So, no Christian is to have anything to do with them at any time, at all. Don’t even fool with that, don’t even play around with it—it just opens up an avenue for Satan to influence you.
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
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“Where Did Old Testament Believers Go When They Died?” by John MacArthur

“Where did Old Testament believers go when they died?”

Psalms 16:11; Psalms 23:6; Job 19:25-27; Matthew 22:23-32

John MacArthur

When Old Testament believers died, their spirits went immediately into the presence of God. For example, in Psalm 16:11, the psalmist was anticipating leaving this world and going into the presence of God to find pleasure and fullness of joy forever. Again, Psalm 23:6 shows the psalmist anticipating being in the presence of the Lord after his death. Job expressed a similar idea when he stated “in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-27).

Furthermore, it is clear from Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:23-32 that He taught that Old Testament believers go directly into God’s presence upon death. In that passage, Jesus is rebuking the Sadducees, who argued against the idea of a resurrection (22:23). Notice what He said in verses 31-32:
But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

Those words have meaning only if Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob-all Old Testament saints-were presently and consciously living in the presence of God.

Old Testament saints will receive their glorified bodies at the Second Coming of Christ (Ezek. 37:12-14; Dan. 12:1-2; Matt. 25:46; 1 Thess. 5:1-11; Rev. 20:4-6). But in the meantime, their spirits dwell in the presence of God.
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
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“Can Satan Hear Our Thoughts?” by John MacArthur

By John MacArthur

The following is adapted from a Grace Church Q&A session.

Can Satan hear what we say and know our thoughts? Should we avoid praying out loud because Satan might hear us?

There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that Satan is omniscient. There are no verses that say he knows everything or that he can read our thoughts. But he is very adept at predicting human behavior because he’s seen it operate for so long. He can anticipate what you might do in a given situation without knowing your thoughts because of his knowledge of humankind and because he has a supernatural mind.

But in terms of being omniscient and being able to read your thoughts (as God can), the Bible does not support that idea at all. It never tells us that angels are omniscient. And if a holy angel isn’t omniscient, neither is a fallen one. So, Satan can’t read our thoughts, even if he’s great at predicting human behavior because he’s seen so much of it.

I was speaking at a conference in Iowa about this problem. People were asking questions like “How do you deal with demons?” and “Do we need exorcism to get rid of demons?” Well, there are a lot of people today who say you do. I once read a book about deliverance in which the author described a doctor who was supposedly delivered from the demon of post-nasal drip. And in this approach, whenever you think you have a demon, there’s a certain magical formula you say or you run around or “plead the blood”—whatever that phrase means, since it’s not from the Scripture. The blood has already been pled in your behalf at the time of your salvation and that takes care of it.

There are people who advocate little formulas and séance-type practices with a Christian connotation, claiming that they can cast out demons and so forth. But when you get into the Bible, you find that dealing with the devil is really as simple as going to Ephesians 6 and putting on the armor of God. You see, in Ephesians 6, it says, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers,” right? We’re wrestling against demons and against Satan.

But what do we do about it? The best place to find out is to read right in that same chapter, isn’t it? Notice that it does not say, “Go get your demons exorcised with a Christian exorcism.” Nor does it say, “Go get somebody to cast your demon out.” It says, “Put on the whole armor of God,” and what that whole armor really consists of is righteousness. The heart of it is “the breastplate of righteousness.” The key then is to live a righteous, Spirit-filled life and to trust in the sovereign power of God.

So, there is nothing in the Bible that says Satan can read our thoughts. Certainly demons can hear what we say. They can understand what we say. And as I said before, they are very good at predicting the common responses of man because they’ve been at it for such a long time.

But don’t worry about that! A lady once said to me, “We whisper,” because she was afraid of demons hearing her prayers. My response was, “Well, that’s foolish!” You can go boldly before the throne of grace. In the Old Testament, it doesn’t say, “And David whispered to the Lord;” it says, “And David said unto the Lord”—and out it came. You never hear any time in the apostle Paul’s instruction to us about prayer when he says, “Don’t talk out loud.” When he wanted to pray, he just flat out prayed and it didn’t bother him whether Satan heard it because he was living in such a way that Satan couldn’t do anything about it anyway. That’s the issue.
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
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R.C. Sproul: On Legalism, Christian Freedom…..And Weighter Matters

“When to Stop, When to Go, When to Slow Down”

by R.C. Sproul

The college I attended was situated in a small western Pennsylvania town in an area heavily populated by one of the largest gatherings of Amish people found in the United States. The Amish are a delightful group totally committed to separation from this world. They go out of their way to avoid any social mixing with the non-Amish, or the “Gentiles,” who are present among them. They are easy to discern, as the clothing they wear is a clearly defined uniform, commonly consisting of blue denim. The men wear beards. Their clothes are never adorned with buttons but are gathered together with hooks and eyes.

The Amish make their way about the area in horse-drawn buggies. They studiously avoid the use of any modern devices and conveniences, such as cars, tractors, electricity, or running water. An Amish house ca n easily be identified by the presence of sheets hanging over the windows rather than the more ornate curtains that would indicate the home of somebody more worldly.

In any case, the entire system of Amish religion is dedicated to a kind of separatism that sees the use of modern conveniences such as electricity and gasoline operated engines as a descent into worldliness. The lifestyle of the Amish is driven in large measure by an ethical commitment that regards such separation as necessary for spiritual development.

The rest of the Christian community regards the use of buttons, electricity, and gasoline as a matter of moral or ethical indifference. That is, there is no inherent or intrinsic ethical content with respect to the use of the gasoline engine. To be sure, the use of the gasoline engine may be the occasion of sin if we use our cars in an ungodly manner, risking people’s lives and limbs by reckless speeding, for example. Yet the very existence of an automobile and its function in society has no intrinsic, ethical content. We regard automobiles, electricity, or telephones as matters that are adiaphora — things that are morally or ethically indifferent.

The concept of adiaphora was developed in the New Testament when the apostle Paul had to address emerging ethical concerns in the nascent Christian community. Christians coming out of a background of idolatry were particularly sensitive to issues such as whether it was appropriate to eat meat that had been offered to idols. After using such meat in their godless religious ceremonies, the pagans sold it in the market place. Some early Christians were convinced that such meat was tainted by its very use in pagan religion, so they went to great lengths to avoid it, thinking, according to their scruples for godliness, it was necessary to have no connection with such meat. Paul pointed out that the meat itself was not inherently good or evil, so the eating of meat offered to idols was a matter of ethical indifference. Yet at the same time, the apostle gave significant instructions as to how the Christian community is to relate to those people who develop scruples about certain behaviors that are not by nature ethically charged.

This problem that faced the early church persists in every Christian generation. Though we don’t struggle with the question of eating meat offered to idols today, we have other issues that touch upon the question of adiaphora. American fundamentalism, for example, has elevated adiaphora to a matter of major concern. In some areas of the church and of the Christian community, questions of watching television, going to movies, wearing makeup, dancing, and the like are considered matters of spiritual discernment. That is to say, people are instructed that true spirituality necessitates the avoidance of dancing and going to the movies, as well as other matters of this sort.

The problem with this particular approach to ethics is that these elements, on which the Bible is silent, become ethical matters of the highest consideration for some Christians. In a word, the adiaphora become elevated to the status of law, and people’s consciences become bound where God has left them free. Here a form of legalism emerges that is on a collision course with the biblical principal of Christian liberty. Even more important is that a substitute morality replaces the true ethical criteria that the Bible prescribes for godly people.

Although on the surface it seems rigid and severe to define spirituality as involving the avoidance of dancing, wearing makeup, and going to movies, in reality it vastly oversimplifies the call to godliness that the Bible gives to Christian people. It is much easier for someone to avoid going to movies, for example, than it is to manifest the fruit of the Spirit. True godliness concerns much weightier matters than superficial ways of distinguishing ourselves from our unbelieving neighbors.

At the same time, when these adiaphorous matters are elevated into the status of law, and people become convinced that God requires them to follow a certain path, the Bible gives instructions on how we are to be sensitive to them. It is not a matter of Christian liberty to bash or to ridicule those who have these scruples. We are called to be sensitive to them. We are not to offend unnecessarily those referred to in the Bible as weaker brothers. On the other hand, sensitivity to the weaker brother stops at the point where he elevates his sensitivity to become the law or defining rule of Christian behavior.

In every age and in every culture, discerning the difference between that which God requires and prohibits for His people, and that which is indifferent, requires a significant knowledge of sacred Scripture, as well as an earnest desire to be obedient to the Lord. There is enough in principle to keep us busily engaged in the pursuit of godliness and obedience without adding to it matters that are ethically indifferent.

How this issue applies to the big question of Christian worship is no small matter. But wrestle through it we must if we are to remain obedient to the living God and receive what He offers as the church worships Him — a taste of heaven.

We Recommend
Inward Cleanliness Devotional
No Root of Bitterness Devotional
Walking by the Spirit Devotional

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From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.
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“Mo and PoMo, Part 3” by John MacArthur

John MacArthur

POST-MODERNISM AND THE CHURCH

The church today is filled with people who are advocating post-modern ideas. Some of them do it self-consciously and deliberately, but most do it unwittingly. (Having imbibed too much of the spirit of the age, they are simply regurgitating worldly opinion.) The evangelical movement as a whole, still recovering from its long battle with modernism, is not prepared for a new and different adversary. Many Christians have therefore not yet recognized the extreme danger posed by post-modernist thought.

Post-modernism’s influence has clearly infected the church already. Evangelicals are toning down their message so that the gospel’s stark truth-claims don’t sound so jarring to the post-modern ear. Many shy away from stating unequivocally that the Bible is true and all other religious systems and world-views are false. Some who call themselves Christians have gone even further, purposefully denying the exclusivity of Christ and openly questioning His claim that He is the only way to God.

The biblical message is clear. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). The apostle Peter proclaimed to a hostile audience, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” The apostle John wrote, “He who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). Again and again, Scripture stresses that Jesus Christ is the only hope of salvation for the world. “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Only Christ can atone for sin, and therefore only Christ can provide salvation. “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12).

Those truths are antithetical to the central tenet of post-modernism. They make exclusive, universal truth-claims declaring Christ the only true way to heaven and all other belief-systems erroneous. That is what Scripture teaches. It is what the true church has proclaimed throughout her history. It is the message of Christianity. And it simply cannot be adjusted to accommodate post-modern sensitivities.

Instead, many Christians simply pass over the exclusive claims of Christ in embarrassed silence. Even worse, some in the church — including a few of evangelicalism’s best-known leaders — have begin to suggest that perhaps people can be saved apart from knowing Christ.

Christians cannot capitulate to post-modernism without sacrificing the very essence of our faith. The Bible’s claim that Christ is the only way of salvation is certainly out of harmony with the post-modern notion of “tolerance.” But it is, after all, just what the Bible plainly teaches. And the Bible — not post-modern opinion — is the supreme authority for the Christian. The Bible alone should determine what we believe and proclaim to the world. We cannot waver on this, no matter how much this post-modern world complains that our beliefs make us “intolerant.”
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org The picture was included in the original article at Grace to You.
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“Exposing the Permissive Will of God” -R.C. Sproul

from R.C. Sproul

The distinction between the sovereign will of God and the permissive will of God is fraught with peril and tends to generate untold confusion.

In ordinary language, the term permission suggests some sort of positive sanction. To say that God “allows” or “permits” evil does not mean that He sanctions it in the sense that He approves of it. It is easy to discern that God never permits sin in the sense that He sanctions it in His creatures.

What is usually meant by divine permission is that God simply lets it happen. That is, He does not directly intervene to prevent its happening. Here is where grave dangers lurk. Some theologies view this drama as if God were impotent to do anything about human sin.

This view makes man sovereign, not God. God is reduced to the role of spectator or cheerleader, by which God’s exercise in providence is that of a helpless Father who, having done all He can do, must now sit back and simply hope for the best. He permits what He cannot help but permit because He has no sovereign power over it. This ghastly view is not merely a defective view of theism; it is unvarnished atheism.

Coram Deo: How has a false view of God’s permissive will affected your Christian walk in the past? Do you have a different view of His permissive will now? How will it affect your walk in the future?

John 7:17: “If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.”

Psalm 37:23: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.”

Psalm 27:11: “Teach me Your way, O Lord, and lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.”
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From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343
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“Fear Factor” by Keith Mathison

Dr. Keith A. Mathison is an associate editor of Tabletalk magazine, academic dean of the Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies.

by Keith Mathison

When I moved to central Florida in 1992, I was told that this part of the state had not been directly hit by a hurricane since the fifties. We were hit by the outer edges of some hurricanes and tropical storms on occasion, but nothing major. All of that changed in 2004 when this one small part of the state was hit by not one, but three strong hurricanes in the short space of six weeks. Hurricane Charley hit us the evening of August 13. Three weeks later we were hit by Hurricane Frances. Three weeks after that we were hit by Hurricane Jeanne. It was not a pleasant time to live in this part of Florida.

There was one side effect of the 2004 hurricane season that I probably should have expected but did not, and that was the effect it would have on our local meteorologists. As the 2005 hurricane season approached, some of them lost their minds. If I may be permitted a bit of hyperbole, the typical weather report that year could be paraphrased as such: “A tropical depression has formed off the coast of Africa. It is probably going to turn into a major hurricane. It is probably going to hit us, and we are probably all going to die.” They seemed to have one goal — to create a perpetual state of fear and anxiety. I stopped watching after a few weeks of this and asked my wife to let me know if and when we needed to board up the windows or evacuate.

Those who have watched or read the news over the last several years have likely noticed this tendency regardless of where you live. Watch the news long enough and a monologue begins to develop in your mind: “The economy will soon collapse, hampering our war against the terrorists who are on the verge of attacking us again. The only thing that may stop them is a pandemic of bird flu, swine flu, or the black plague, but this pandemic will only affect those of us who haven’t already succumbed to the dire effects of global warming. Stay tuned for a report on what popular food product has been shown to cause cancer in lab rats and chimpanzees.”

How do we deal with all of this media-induced paranoia, fear, and anxiety? An example from church history proves instructive. Saint Augustine (354–430) lived at a time of great fear and anxiety. His world changed dramatically in A.D. 410 when the barbarian Alaric entered Rome. This was the beginning of the end for the western half of the Roman Empire. As refugees fled to northern Africa, bringing all manner of ominous reports, Augustine was forced to deal with the issues as many were going so far as to blame the fall of Rome on Christianity. His classic work The City of God was written to respond to the crisis. One of my favorite quotes from this book addresses the fearfulness of his readers. He encourages Christians who are surrounded by danger on every side, saying: “Among the daily chances of this life every man on earth is threatened in the same way by innumerable deaths, and it is uncertain which of them will come to him. And so the question is whether it is better to suffer one in dying or to fear them all in living” (bk. 1, chap. 11). These are the words of one who trusts the sovereignty of God. Augustine knew there was no point in being constantly fearful about all of the dangers surrounding him. He knew God was in control and that not a single hair could fall from his head apart from God’s will.

The world is fearful and anxious, but it is fearful and anxious about the wrong things. The world is fearful about the economy. The world is fearful about retirement accounts. The world is fearful about natural disasters and man-made disasters. The world is fearful of terrorism, and the world is fearful of disease. The world, however, is not fearful of God. Jesus tells us that we are not to fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead we are to fear God who can destroy both (Matt. 10:28). The wrath of God makes all other objects of the world’s fears seem like nothing in comparison. A truly fearful thing is to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31).

Those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ, however, have nothing to fear from man, or from anything else for that matter. Those who trust Christ have nothing to fear from hurricanes, diseases, economic collapse, war, famine, or even death. All of these things are under the control of our sovereign Father in heaven. Of course, this is easy enough for us to say, but we all too easily take our eyes off of God and dwell on the dangers surrounding us.

Is there anything we can do to fight worldly fear and anxiety? I believe Paul provides one important clue by contrasting fear with prayer. He writes: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6–7). A neglect of prayer almost always results in a corresponding rise in our fear and anxiety. This is no coincidence. Prayer is an act of faith in God, and faith in God leads to the peace of God.
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From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.
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“Mo and PoMo, Part 2” by John MacArthur

John MacArthur

Post-Modernism

Modernism is now regarded as yesterday’s way of thinking. The dominant world-view in secular and academic circles today is called post-modernism.

Post-modernists have repudiated modernism’s absolute confidence in science as the only pathway to the truth. In fact, post-modernism has completely lost interest in “the truth,” insisting that there is no such thing as absolute, objective, or universal truth.

Modernism was indeed folly and needed to be abandoned. But post-modernism is a tragic step in the wrong direction. Unlike modernism, which was still concerned with whether basic convictions, beliefs, and ideologies are objectively true or false, post-modernism simply denies that any truth can be objectively known.

To the post-modernist, reality is whatever the individual imagines it to be. That means what is “true” is determined subjectively by each person, and there is no such thing as objective, authoritative truth that governs or applies to all humanity universally. The post-modernist naturally believes it is pointless to argue whether opinion A is superior to opinion B. After all, if reality is merely a construct of the human mind, one person’s perspective of truth is ultimately just as good as another’s.

Having given up on knowing objective truth, the post-modernist occupies himself instead with the quest for “understanding” the other person’s point of view. So the words truth and understanding take on radical new meanings. Ironically, “understanding” requires that we first of all disavow the possibility of knowing any truth at all. And “truth” becomes nothing more than a personal opinion, usually best kept to oneself.

That is the one essential, non-negotiable demand post-modernism makes of everyone: we are not supposed to think we know any objective truth. Post-modernists often suggest that every opinion should be shown equal respect. And therefore on the surface, post-modernism seems driven by a broad-minded concern for harmony and tolerance. It all sounds very charitable and altruistic. But what really underlies the post-modernist belief system is an utter intolerance for every world-view that makes any universal truth-claims — particularly biblical Christianity.

In other words, post-modernism begins with a presupposition that is irreconcilable with the objective, divinely-revealed truth of Scripture. Like modernism, post-modernism is fundamentally and diametrically opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
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John MacArthur: On Who Killed Jesus….The Jews?….Gentiles?…..Or?….

“Who Killed Jesus?”

Acts 4:27, Isaiah 53:10, Acts 2:23, Romans 8:28

by John MacArthur

The murder of Jesus was a vast conspiracy involving Rome, Herod, the Gentiles, the Jewish Sanhedrin, and the people of Israel–diverse groups who were seldom fully in accord with one another. In fact, it is significant that the crucifixion of Christ is the only historical event where all those factions worked together to achieve a common goal. All were culpable. All bear the guilt together. The Jews as a race were no more or less blameworthy than the Gentiles.This is very plainly stated in Acts 4:27, a corporate prayer offered in an assembly of the very earliest believers: “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together.” So there is no justification whatsoever for trying to fix the blame for Jesus’ death on any one people group. This was, in essence, a corporate act of sinful humanity against God. All are guilty together.

And yet even that does not exhaust the full truth about who killed Jesus. Scripture emphasizes from cover to cover that the death of Christ was ordained and appointed by God Himself. One of the key Old Testament prophecies about the crucifixion is Isaiah 53. Isaiah prophetically describes the torture of the Messiah at the hands of a scoffing mob, and then adds, “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief” (Isaiah 53:10).

God put his own Son to death?

That is precisely what Scripture teaches. Why? According to Isaiah 53:10 , it was to “make His soul an offering for sin.” God had a redemptive purpose.

The designs of those who killed Christ were entirely murderous. They are by no means exonerated from their evil, just because God’s purposes are good. It was still the act of “lawless hands” (Acts 2:23). It was, as far as the human perpetrators were concerned, an act of pure evil. The wickedness of the crucifixion is in no sense mitigated by the fact that God sovereignly ordained it for good. The truth that it was His sovereign plan makes the deed itself no less a diabolical act of murder.

And yet this was clearly God’s holy and sovereign plan from before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). Look again at that prayer from Acts 4, this time in its full context:

Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: “Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the LORD and against His Christ.” For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done (Acts 4:24-28), emphasis added).

Acts 2:23 echoes the same thought: “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death” (emphasis added).

God ordained the murder of Jesus. Or to put it starkly in the words of Isaiah 53:10, it pleased the Lord to bruise Him.

In what sense was God pleased by the death of his Son?

He was pleased by the redemption that was accomplished. He was pleased that His eternal plan of salvation was thus fulfilled. He was pleased with the sacrifice of his Son, who died so that others might have eternal life. He was pleased to display his righteous anger against sin in such a graphic way. He was pleased to demonstrate His love for sinners through such a majestic sacrifice.

For all the evil in the crucifixion, it brought about an infinite good. In fact, here was the most evil act ever perpetrated by sinful hearts: The sinless Son of God–holy God Himself in human flesh–was unjustly killed after being subjected to the most horrific tortures that could be devised by wicked minds. It was the evil of all evils, the worst deed human depravity could ever devise, and the most vile evil that has ever been committed. And yet from it came the greatest good of all time–the redemption of unnumbered souls.

The cross is therefore the ultimate proof of the utter sovereignty of God. His purposes are always fulfilled in spite of the evil intentions of sinners. God even works His righteousness through the evil acts of unrighteous agents. Far from making Him culpable for their evil, this demonstrates how all He does is good, and how He is able to work all things together for good (Romans 8:28)–even the most wicked deed the powers of evil have ever conspired to carry out.”
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2010. Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org
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“Examining the Preceptive Will of God” – R.C. Sproul

from R.C. Sproul

The preceptive will of God relates to the revealed commandments of God’s published law. When God commands us not to steal, this decree does not carry with it the immediate necessity of consequence. Where it was not possible for the light to refuse to shine in creation, it is possible for us to refuse to obey this command. In a word, we steal.

We must be careful not to make too much of this distinction. We must not be lulled into thinking that the preceptive will of God is divorced form His decretive will. It is not as though the preceptive will has no effect or no necessity of consequence. We may have the power to disobey the precept. We do not have the power to disobey it with impunity. Neither can we annul it by our disregard. His law remains intact whether we obey or disobey it.

In one sense, the preceptive will is part of the decretive will. God sovereignly and efficaciously decrees that His Law be established. It is established and nothing can disestablish it. His Law exists as surely as the light by which we read it.

Coram Deo: During the next few days, read Psalm 119, which praises the preceptive will of God as revealed in His written Word.

Romans 12:2: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

John 1:12–13: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Mark 3:35: “For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister
and mother.”

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From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343
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“Dealing with Anxiety” – R.C. Sproul – Morning Devotion

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:34).
– Matthew 6:25–34

Despite our attempts to create security for ourselves with savings, insurance, a strong police force, and so on, we cannot eliminate the fears plaguing our society. The potential dangers of terrorism, various diseases, rising crime rates, natural disasters, and so on bombard us daily, making it impossible to escape our culture of anxiety.

Such fear is nothing new; people have always found something to be afraid of. Some have phobias regarding heights, snakes — you name it. Surveys routinely tell us that the number-one fear of most Americans is the fear of having to speak in public.

Whatever the catalyst may be, all of our fears manifest our apprehensions about the future. If we fear heights, we are afraid that we will fall at some future point. Extreme weather frightens us because we know it might cause great destruction or death, moments or years from now. We cannot control or predict what is coming, and that is what terrifies us most of all.

Jesus knows our tendencies toward anxiety, and that is why we find “fear not” coming from His lips on many occasions (for example, Luke 12:32). Yet persistent fear is fundamentally linked to a lack of faith, and so Jesus rebukes us in today’s passage for worrying incessantly about what tomorrow will bring. If God cares for the birds and the flowers, aspects of creation with less worth than humanity, certainly we can trust Him to provide for us in the future (Matt. 6:25–33). We are not to worry about tomorrow, for we can trust our Father to take care of it (v. 34).

Jesus is not telling us that we should not plan for the future, as Scripture commends prudent measures to deal with what may come (Prov. 21:5). The problem comes when we place confidence in our own machinations (Luke 12:13–21). We fear the future because we trust in our own abilities, and then we realize that we have no real power over what lies ahead of us. However, the Lord holds the future in His hand (Prov. 16:1, 9), and we must trust Him for our security. God does not promise us a life free of trouble, but He does pledge to be with us always, and He will not break this promise (Matt. 28:16–20).

Coram Deo
Tomorrow we will look at some of the practical steps we can take to overcome fear and trust God for the future. Today, take some time to consider where you put your trust. Do you adapt well when things do not go as planned? Are you troubled incessantly by what might happen in the days ahead? If you have difficulty adapting to circumstances that you are not expecting or are constantly worried, it may be a sign you are having trouble trusting the Lord. Trust Him today.

Passages for Further Study
Ps. 9:10; 56:1–11
Prov. 29:25
Luke 17:5–6
Heb. 11:6

We Recommend
Fear and Courage Devotional
Your Exile Devotional
The Freedom of Fear Article by Chris Donato

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From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343
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John MacArthur: On How To Control The Tongue….Speaking With Graciousness.

John MacArthur

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person. (Colossians 4:6)

Consistency of life must be followed by consistency of speech. Paul is not speaking here of preaching the gospel, but general conversation. Believers’ speech must always be with grace, as was Christ’s (Luke 4:22). There is no place for those things that characterize the unredeemed mouth. Whether undergoing persecution, stress, difficulty, or injustice, whether with your spouse, children, believers, or unbelievers—in all circumstances believers are to make gracious speech a habit. To speak with grace means to say what is spiritual, wholesome, fitting, kind, sensitive, purposeful, complementary, gentle, truthful, loving, and thoughtful. Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

The speech of the new man must also be seasoned… with salt. It is not only to be gracious, but also to have an effect. Salt can sting when rubbed into a wound (cf. Prov. 27:6). It also prevents corruption. Believers’ speech should act as a purifying influence, rescuing conversation from…..continued at The MacArthur New Testament Commenatary page —> (Click Here)

“What Does “coram Deo” Mean?” – R.C. Sproul

“What Does “coram Deo” Mean?”

from R.C. Sproul

I remember Mama standing in front of me, her hands poised on her hips, her eyes glaring with hot coals of fire and saying in stentorian tones, “Just what is the big idea, young man?”Instinctively I knew my mother was not asking me an abstract question about theory. Her question was not a question at all—it was a thinly veiled accusation. Her words were easily translated to mean, “Why are you doing what you are doing?” She was challenging me to justify my behavior with a valid idea. I had none.Recently a friend asked me in all earnestness the same question. He asked, “What’s the big idea of the Christian life?” He was interested in the overarching, ultimate goal of the Christian life.

To answer his question, I fell back on the theologian’s prerogative and gave him a Latin term. I said, “The big idea of the Christian life is coram Deo. Coram Deo captures the essence of the Christian life.”

This phrase literally refers to something that takes place in the presence of, or before the face of, God. To live coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God.

To live in the presence of God is to understand that whatever we are doing and wherever we are doing it, we are acting under the gaze of God. God is omnipresent. There is no place so remote that we can escape His penetrating gaze.

To be aware of the presence of God is also to be acutely aware of His sovereignty. The uniform experience of the saints is to recognize that if God is God, then He is indeed sovereign. When Saul was confronted by the refulgent glory of the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, his immediate question was, “Who is it, Lord?” He wasn’t sure who was speaking to him, but he knew that whomever it was, was certainly sovereign over him.

Living under divine sovereignty involves more than a reluctant submission to sheer sovereignty that is motivated out of a fear of punishment. It involves recognizing that there is no higher goal than offering honor to God. Our lives are to be living sacrifices, oblations offered in a spirit of adoration and gratitude.

To live all of life coram Deo is to live a life of integrity. It is a life of wholeness that finds its unity and coherency in the majesty of God. A fragmented life is a life of disintegration. It is marked by inconsistency, disharmony, confusion, conflict, contradiction, and chaos.

The Christian who compartmentalizes his or her life into two sections of the religious and the nonreligious has failed to grasp the big idea. The big idea is that all of life is religious or none of life is religious. To divide life between the religious and the nonreligious is itself a sacrilege.

This means that if a person fulfills his or her vocation as a steelmaker, attorney, or homemaker coram Deo, then that person is acting every bit as religiously as a soul-winning evangelist who fulfills his vocation. It means that David was as religious when he obeyed God’s call to be a shepherd as he was when he was anointed with the special grace of kingship. It means that Jesus was every bit as religious when He worked in His father’s carpenter shop as He was in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Integrity is found where men and women live their lives in a pattern of consistency. It is a pattern that functions the same basic way in church and out of church. It is a life that is open before God. It is a life in which all that is done is done as to the Lord. It is a life lived by principle, not expediency; by humility before God, not defiance. It is a life lived under the tutelage of conscience that is held captive by the Word of God.

Coram Deo … before the face of God. That’s the big idea. Next to this idea our other goals and ambitions become mere trifles.
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From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343
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“Comprehending the Decretive Will of God” – R.C. Sproul

from R.C. Sproul

God’s decretive will is sometimes described as the sovereign, efficacious will by which God brings to pass whatever He pleases by His divine decree. An example of this may be seen in God’s work of creation. When God said, “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3), He issued a divine imperative. He exercised His sovereign, efficacious will. When He did so, it was impossible for the light not to appear. It appeared by the sheer necessity of consequence.

The decretive will can have no other effect, no other consequence than what God sovereignly commands. He did not request the light to shine. Neither did He coax, cajole, or woo it into existence. It was a matter of absolute authority and power.

No creature enjoys this power of will. No man’s will is that efficacious. Men issue decrees and then hope they will bring about their desired effects. God alone can decree with the necessity of consequence.

Coram Deo: Read Genesis 1, observing how God repeatedly exercised His sovereign, efficacious will in creation.

Colossians 1:9: “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.”

1 John 2:17: “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

1 Peter 4:1–2: “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.”
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From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343
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“Mo and PoMo, Part 1” by John MacArthur

John MacArthur

Modernism

Consider the record of the past century, for example. A hundred years ago, the church was beset by modernism. Modernism was a world-view based on the notion that only science could explain reality. The modernist in effect began with the presupposition that nothing supernatural is real.

It ought to have been instantly obvious that modernism and Christianity were incompatible at the most fundamental level. If nothing supernatural is real, then much of the Bible is untrue and has no authority; the incarnation of Christ is a myth (nullifying Christ’s authority as well); and all the supernatural elements of Christianity -including God Himself -must be utterly redefined in naturalistic terms. Modernism was anti-Christian at its core.

Nonetheless, the visible church at the beginning of the twentieth century was filled with people who were convinced modernism and Christianity could and should be reconciled. They insisted that if the church did not keep in step with the times by embracing modernism, Christianity would not survive the twentieth century. The church would become increasingly irrelevant to modern people, they said, and soon it would die. So they devised a “social gospel” void of the true gospel of salvation.

Of course, biblical Christianity survived the twentieth century just fine. Wherever Christians remained committed to the truthfulness and authority of Scripture, the church flourished. But ironically, those churches and denominations that embraced modernism were the ones that became increasingly irrelevant and all but died out before the century was over. Many grandiose but nearly empty stone buildings offer mute testimony to the deadliness of compromise with modernism.
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This article here originally appeared at Grace To You © 1969-2010.
Grace to You. All rights reserved. www.gty.org

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John MacArthur – “Absent from the Body, Present with the Lord” – Morning Scripture Exposition

“Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6–7)

In verses 6–8 Paul reached the pinnacle of heavenly anticipation. He looked forward to his new, glorified body, the perfection of heaven, and the eternal fulfillment of God’s plan. But beyond all of that was the wonderful reality that death would usher him into the presence of the Lord. Therefore points back to the foundational truths Paul expressed in verses 1–5. On the basis of those truths, Paul was always of good courage in the face of death. His courage was not a temporary feeling or a passing emotion; it was a constant state of mind. He faced death cheerfully, with complete confidence. It was not that he did not love the people in his life, but he loved the Lord more. Life for Paul was a race to finish, a battle to win, a stewardship to discharge. Once the race was over, the battle won, and the stewardship discharged, Paul saw no reason to cling to this life. The only reason for him to remain on earth was to serve God, and he stated his readiness to leave when”….continued at the MacArthur New Testament Commentaries page (click here). Be sure to listen to audio portion, as well.

“Hold the Fire and Brimstone, Please” by Burk Parsons

Burk Parsons

Several years ago I had the opportunity to teach a class on heaven and hell. On the first day of class I asked the middle-aged students to raise their hands if they could recall the last time they had heard a sermon on hell. None of the students raised his hand. I then asked the students if they could recall the last time they heard a sermon on heaven. Once again, not one student raised his hand. Nevertheless, regarding the latter question, many explained that from time to time they had heard a pastor mention heaven in a sermon, but not one of the students could recall even one instance when he had heard a pastor preach on hell in a sermon. Their responses were not surprising to me. In fact, the very reason I asked such questions was to validate the purpose of the class and to help the students understand the deficiency of biblical preaching in many churches.

Many Christians have left behind many of the biblical truths concerning things to come. In some cases it seems pastors have intentionally forgotten to preach on the eternal destiny of the unrepentant. Many pastors don’t preach on hell because they don’t want lost sinners to have a bad impression of themselves, and they certainly don’t want the message of the Gospel to offend anyone who might be “seeking” God, as if anyone sought God without God first seeking him. However, if so-called pastors don’t preach the Gospel of Christ, they themselves may be in danger of going to that very place they don’t want to mention. They would do well to remember the message of Jesus Christ who, more than any other figure in the Bible, preached on hell. Indeed, they would do well to remember the apostle Paul who wrote that he was not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God to everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16).

The subject of the eternal destinies of human beings is not a footnote to the Gospel, it is at the heart of understanding the very essence of the Gospel. We would not need mercy if we had no sin, and we would not need grace if we had no future. God bestows His grace upon us not merely so we can get a fire ticket out of hell. In fact, in preaching fire and brimstone, the Lord graciously provides us with a bad impression of ourselves so that we might be offended by our sin and turn to Him in repentance and faith through Christ.

We Recommend
The Point of No Return Devotional
Paradise Restored Article by Keith Mathison
Weeping and Gnashing Devotional

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From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.
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