Bible in Pulpit

Is the Preaching Any Good?

One of the most fundamental truths to understand about the church’s corporate gathering is that Jesus is a giver.

Jesus, our Savior and salvation — the one to whom we are united by faith — gave himself to us by becoming like us. He then gave himself to us by dying in our place. And still today, every week when the church meets, he gives himself to us through the preaching of his word and the sharing of his Supper.

This matters because, as surely as we have received him as the God-man and trusted in his finished work, we should anticipate that there is yet more of him to experience in weekend worship.

More of Christ

More of Christ, after all, is the great aim of the Christian life. Paul’s goal in ministry was to present everyone mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28). His one-thing-I-do ambition was to know Christ more (Philippians 3:10–14). His great prayer for the church was that Christ dwell in our hearts (Ephesians 3:17) — with the view of us reaching the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13), that is, to grow up in every way into Christ (Ephesians 4:15).

It really is all about Jesus.

And exactly how we get more of him is chiefly through the means of grace he has ordained — the word and the “sacraments” of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, or as Marcus Peter Johnson calls it, “the audible and visible gospel” (see chapter 8, One with Christ). But for now, let’s just focus on the word part — the audible gospel, the preaching.

Many of us know that Bible-intake is fundamental to our sanctification. It’s the bread and butter of spiritual growth. And many of us also know that “not neglecting to meet together” is another habit on the path to spiritual maturity. But have we seen the relationship between the two? Have we connected the dots that one of the primary means of grace in the worship event is Jesus extending himself to us through his preached word?

Setting Himself Forth

In Preaching: A Biblical Theology, Jason Meyer makes the case that the faithful preaching of God’s word is always an encounter with God himself. This means that through the heralding of his gospel, through the vocal means of a human minister, Jesus sets himself forth to be believed and enjoyed.

It matters little who the preacher is, or how skilled he is in communication, or the measure of his IQ, as long as he is faithfully unfolding the text of Scripture. It’s in that moment when the very presence of Jesus is mediated to us. Jesus himself, by the power of his Spirit, comes to sit by us, to speak to us, to effect more of his likeness in our lives, to deepen our union. Therefore, we are freed to walk into the corporate gathering with this kind of expectation.

This is what Jesus does when his word is proclaimed, and we ask, is the preaching any good?

At Least One Connection Between Baseball and Prayer

Memorial Day weekend is the traditional welcome into summerLong days, outside reading, baseball, iced tea, sunshine — ’tis the season of unparalleled displays of God’s common benevolence.

And it’s also full of exciting opportunities for us to grow in the grace of prayer.

God’s grace is immeasurable, not seasonal (Ephesians 2:7). There’s not more of him now than in January, but summer tends to open our eyes a little wider. We can see a little clearer. And this helps how we pray.

C. S. Lewis:

For what I call “myself” (for all practical, everyday purposes) is also a dramatic construction. . . Normally I call this construction “me,” and the stage set “the real world.” Now the moment of prayer is for me — or involves for me as its condition — the awareness, the re-awakened awareness, that this “real world” and “real self” are very far from being rock-bottom realities” (Letters to Malcom, 81).

In other words, prayer is when we snap out of it — out of the busyness, out of Facebook charades, out of our culture-imposed identities. Prayer is the most real thing we do, and if summer is when we are most awake, then let it teach us how to pray. Let it invite us into deeper fellowship.

Jonathan Dodson writes of prayer,

Prayer is about love not about lists. It is about drawing near to God, not about impressing God. It is about enjoying his grace not enduring guilt. In fact, our genuine guilt for loving something altogether more than we love the Father is gone in Christ. God so loved us that he sent his only Son to be cut off in death so that we might be wonderfully united with him in life. Prayer is a response to the Father and the Son; it is a warm reaction to what they have together done for us. Prayer is communion with God, a cementing of souls together in a common delight, in this case, a delight in God and his grace towards us in Christ. It begins and continues with honest words about our loveless lives, our guilt-ridden approaches to prayer, and a shameless embrace of God’s reckless love and grace. (What to Do with Prayerlessness)

May the next four months be the background of deeper discoveries in what this means.


Read the original post at the DG blog: How Summertime Helps Us Pray.

An Unprofitable Christology (That’s Even Orthodox)

Men profess to know the truth; but they know it not in its proper order, in its harmony in use. It leads them not to Christ, and brings not Christ unto them; and so is lifeless and useless. Hence, oft-times, none are more estranged from the life of God than such as have much notional knowledge of the doctrines of Scripture. For they are all of them useless, and subject to be abused, if they are not improved to form Christ in the soul, and transform the whole person into his  likeness and image.

This they will not affect where their relation to him is not understood—where they are not received and learned as a revelation of him, with the mystery of the will and wisdom of God in him.

For whereas he is our life, and in our living unto God we do not so much live as he lives in us, and the life which we lead in the flesh is by the faith of him—so that we have neither principle nor power of spiritual life, but in, by, and from him—whatever knowledge we have of the truth, if it does not affect a union between him and our souls, it will be lifeless in us, and unprofitable unto us. It is learning the truth as it is in Jesus, which alone renews the image of God in us (Ephesians 4:21-24).

John Owen, The Glory of Christ, VI.2, 84.

To know you to know you, Jesus.
Not about you nor of you, nor merely what Paul said. But really you.

The Greatest Barrier Between Us and This Book

There is no doubt that visiting Turkey is really cool. I would love to check out the ancient ruins and take lots of photos for my desktop. But if that makes the Bible “come alive” for me then I’ve been doing something wrong.

Contact with the history of the Bible may seem to accentuate the text—and it indeed helps people. But there is a potential expense too great to risk. All the searching in history to vivify the Holy Scripture may actually blur what the Holy Scripture actually is. Yes, a document written in history. Yes, a document written by humans who lived in that history. But more than anything, the revelation of God. This Book is an action, the work of the triune God to reveal himself and reconcile a people for his own.

The greatest barrier between us and this Book is not the history and culture that separate us from its human authors, but the heart of darkness that separates us from its divine author. We need faith more than understanding the geographical layout of Asia Minor. We come to the Holy Scripture in need of an illumining work, not a historicizing one.

Why Forgiveness in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is Not Arbitrary, Contra Forgiveness in Islam

Forgiveness in Islam is arbitrary. In Islam, Allah’s forgiveness is not in reference to anything but Allah’s whimsical prerogative. There is no assurance. No referential guarantee. There is nothing to point to, nothing to stand on.

The forgiveness of sins that is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is amazingly different. The LORD’s freedom in election is different in that it was a Trinitarian action–a work performed in the mind of the LORD’s intratrinitarian fellowship. For those who embrace Jesus Christ by faith, our election (the Father) was “in Christ”  (the Son) for the purpose of “being holy and blameless” (the Spirit) (Eph 1:4). Election was not arbitrary because it does not exist without reference to the death and resurrection of Christ or the perfecting work of the Spirit.

The “who” of election may seem arbitrary as in “that guy and not this one.” But election is not drawing from a hat, nor is it a “pick your team.” It is instead the creative work of God to make for himself a people. It is a work ex nihilo–calling into existence that which does not exist (Rom 4:17). And this creative work of election before the foundation of the world comes into fruition as people all over the world put their faith in Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus Christ is an integral episode in God’s salvation of sinners, stemming from the creative love of the Father and pointing to the perfecting work of the Holy Spirit.

The Miracle of Thinking

It is amazing how consistently the New Testament refers to the depravity of the individual by mentioning the debasement of the mind. In Ephesians 4 Paul describes those who are outside of Christ in a string of clauses that regard the intellectual faculty of a person– “in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” (Eph. 4:17-18, italics mine).

Outside of Christ, something is messed up in how we think. This grave condition of our minds is countered by the transformation that occurs in God’s salvation of sinners. Paul calls it the “renewal of the mind” and he prays for its effect (Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 4:23; Col. 3:10; cf. Eph. 5:10; Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9; Phlm 6).

The implications are glorious. I think that what it means at the most basic level is that thinking is a matter of the life transformed by the gospel. Thinking rightly is not about intellectual giftedness. A person’s main problem with messed up thinking is not their IQ, but alienation from their Creator.

Thinking and theology–thinking about God–is utterly miraculous. In order for it to happen Jesus Christ bore our sins in his body on the tree. The smallest reception in our heads of God’s truth is miraculous enough to leave us bewildered and intoxicated by grace until we’re speechless. What do you have that has not been given? What do you know that has not been purchased for you by the blood of Christ?

It is for this reason alone that a kid who bombed his SAT’s can still look forward to a conference on the subject of thinking. Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God is not a conference  for academicians, but for those who have been radically transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Marriage: Three Years Later Today

I, Jonathan, take you Melissa to be my wife, before God who brought us together; to love and cherish you even as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her, to lead you and share all of life’s experiences with you by following God, that through His grace, Melissa, we might grow together into the likeness of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.


I said these words to you three years ago today.

I mean them all over again right now.

Happy Anniversary!

I love you,


The Daughter of Jerusalem Has Everything To Do With The Gentiles of Ephesus

Zephaniah 3:17 makes more sense when you read Ephesians 2:10.

“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

(Zephaniah 3:17 ESV, italics mine)


For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

(Ephesians 2:10 ESV, italics mine)

Obadiah Has Good News…

God will judge the enemies of Israel. The restoration of Israel includes His triumph over the nations who have dealt violently with His people. Amos ends with a vision of Israel being restored and engulfing the remnant of  Edom, in fact, all the nations who are called by the LORD’s name (9:11-12).

Obadiah clarifies. These enemies of God will be judged. Evil will be put down (1-18). But the LORD’s kingdom will be extended. Israel will possess their land and cities. It all is the LORD’s.

Jonah follows up by highlighting God’s mercy to the nations who turn to Him.

The Apostles got this. James read the prophets to be in agreement with the circumstances of Acts 10-15. James says that God’s visiting the Gentiles to take from them a people for His name is right in line (Acts 15:14-17)!

It is no small thing that Jesus Christ came a preached peace to us who were far off.

The immeasurable magnitude of His grace makes the degree of our gratitude unintelligible. We should just live stunned.

Who Are You?

Identity precedes instruction.

This is the context of ethical commands in the Bible. It is seen explicitly in the book of Ephesians. Paul discusses the wonder of Christ’s work in creating the church. The picture is glorious. Then he gives the divine command for us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling (4-6). Reminiscent of Galatians 2:14, the whole idea of walking in step with the truth of the gospel. Ethics are not shackles, some mere list of do’s and don’ts. The commands of God are not burdensome. They are good. They are the walking in the reality of what is–of what Christ has done.

Before we are told what to do, we are told who we are. Moreover, we are told who God is and what He has done by grace through Jesus Christ to make His enemies become His children. He calls me, a sinner, His own. The object of His mercy, a recipient of His immeasurable grace.

And may everything we do in life testify to that glorious truth. He has made me His.