Theology And The University In Nineteenth-Century Germany

The history of modern German theology is dominated by two figures, Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834) and G. F. W. Hegel (1770–1831) but there is more to the story. If Schleiermacher and Hegel formed the skeleton, a series of lesser-known figures and institutions formed . . . Continue reading →

The Value of Meditating Upon God’s Word

After reading Scripture, we must ask God for light to scrutinize our hearts and lives, then meditate upon the Word. Disciplined meditation on Scripture helps us focus on God. Meditation helps us view worship as a discipline. It involves our mind and un…

Weekend A La Carte (August 19)

Check out Westminster Books for some new deals on timely books. Yesterday I shared a review of an excellent new book: Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage: Critical Questions and Answers. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Eclipses Atlas Obscura answers a host of questions about the coming eclipse. 10 Suggestions For New Bible College Students “From one Bible college graduate to another, here’s a brief word to students beginning their education this month…” Seminary Is Not an Oasis “While my mind …

A Surprising Ingredient in Christian Contentment

A Surprising Ingredient in Christian Contentment

“What are you doing?” we asked. My grandmother surprised us all when she sampled the raw meat she was seasoning.

“I’m cooking,” she replied tersely. She was making Golumpkis, a favorite Polish dish of hers stuffed with cabbage. As for the strange practice of eating raw meat, she explained, “I measure by tasting.” She is a veteran in the kitchen who knows the required ingredients to achieve the desired end.

I wonder what you would list as essential ingredients of contentment. Some familiar items should immediately come to mind. We must know God’s word, trust his providence, and cling to his promises. However, there’s another I’d like to add that you may not be expecting. Let me give you fair warning: like my grandmother’s uncommon and perhaps unsettling culinary practice, this ingredient involves you experiencing something a bit unpleasant. But in the end, like Golumpkis, it’s worth it.

An essential ingredient of contentment is a robust doctrine of sin.

What Is Sin?

The Bible describes sin in several different ways: missing the mark (Romans 3:23), stepping across the line (Colossians 2:13), lawlessness (1 John 3:4), debt (Matthew 6:12). God has a standard of what is right and acceptable. Sin is our rebellious violation of this standard.

This might seem abstract. Let’s make it personal.

Sin is evil because of whom it’s against. Each of the descriptions of sin pivots on who the offended party is. Sin is missing God’s mark, crossing God’s line, and breaking God’s law. While sin certainly has horizontal implications with others, it is fundamentally vertical. Sin is against God. And there is nothing more evil than to oppose the one who is infinitely good.

The Bible teaches us that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Because sin is an attack upon God’s character, it requires a corresponding judgment. Jesus describes this as an eternal fire (Matthew 25:41). Hell is God’s ongoing opposition to all who belittle his glory.

To make matters worse, we have no way to remedy the problem ourselves. Everything “good” we do is smudged by our fingerprints of depravity. Left to ourselves, we are all unrighteous (Romans 3:10–18)

The World’s Biggest Disaster

Sin is indisputably wicked and relentless, but how is understanding it an essential ingredient of contentment? It’s through knowledge of sin that we learn to hate all that robs our contentment and love the one who is the true source of it.

When we stop to think about it, this makes sense. If God is the source of contentment, then understanding (and increasingly despising) all that opposes him is crucial. Calvin famously correlated advancement in the knowledge of God with an increasing displeasure in ourselves. The Apostle Paul rarely rings the bell of personal depravity without also waving the banner of divine mercy (1 Timothy 1:13–15). When we begin to understand what sin is and why it is so bad, then we see the beauty of mercy.

At present, there are about seven and a half billion people in the world. Among this sum, there are a lot of problems. Measured on the scale, some of these issues are weightier than others. But how would people’s lives change if they had their largest problem solved? As Christians, we know that the most pressing issue facing every person in the world today is the penalty for our sin. Regardless of whether it is felt or suppressed, the reality that everyone must stand before God on the last day is our most substantial problem.

Jesus taught a right ordering of our fears when he instructed his hearers not to fear the one who can only kill the body but instead to fear the one who has the power and authority to sentence you to hell (Matthew 10:28). Without taking anything away from the legitimate issues that people are facing, the biblical doctrine of sin relativizes every other issue and subordinates it to this one. There are over seven billion problems in the world, but none is more pressing than how we deal with the truth that wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

God’s Greatest Solution

As a pastor, I have the blessing of sitting down and talking with many people about their relationship with God. If they are Christians, I’m often privileged to hear them retell how God brought the gospel to them. I’m deeply affected by how a believer’s eyes tell the story along with his or her words. Often, as people talk about the Jesus’s kind and patient mercy, their eyes well up with tears. Those tears mark moments of clarity
— for the one speaking and me. They remind us of the ultimate priorities in life.

The truth is, we deserve hell and we got mercy! Instead of suffering the eternal weight of divine wrath, Jesus, God’s Son, stood in our place. He drank the cup of condemnation so that we could drink the cup of blessing. God took care of our greatest problem imaginable. Certainly, you can see how this would inform our understanding of contentment. When you deserve hell, anything else is a cause for celebration!

Do you remember when you were first converted to Christ? Mercy and love flowed down from heaven through the words of the gospel. You were forgiven and accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6). God had taken care of your most pressing problem, and he had taken care of it powerfully and permanently.

A New Perspective

If you are having a hard time being content, make a list of everything you have that you don’t deserve, and then make a list of everything you deserve that you don’t have. This puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? When we are chasing contentment in Christ, we spy mercy in every condition and have our hearts covered with thanksgiving.

Initially unsettling and frankly a bit off-putting, a robust doctrine of sin is an essential ingredient for our contentment.

You Need the Gospel Every Single Day

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Bavinck: The Image Is Not In Man But Is Man

Now this splendid view of the image of God and of original righteousness has come more clearly into its own in the Reformed church and Reformed theology than in the Lutheran. In Lutheran theology the image of God is restricted to original . . . Continue reading →

Free Stuff Fridays (Conference Tickets)

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by the G3 Conference which also sponsored the blog this week. The G3 Conference will be taking place January 18-20 in Atlanta, Georgia, and will feature a long list of speakers including Steven Lawson, Voddie Baucham, Keith Getty, H.B. Charles Jr., Tom Ascol and many more. It will also include a Spanish pre-conference on January 17. There will be five winners this week and each will receive a great prize: Passes for two to attend the G3 …

Mr. Moral Magoo? (Adam Parker)

I’m sure there’s a generational gap when someone refers to Mr. Magoo. If you’re under 30, there’s a good chance that you’ve probably never heard of Mr. Magoo. I just so happened to have watched enough classic cartoons over the years to have seen a few episodes. Mr. Magoo is a cartoon about a legally blind man who blundered around the city, never knowing where he was going or what he was doing. And yet he always seemed to end up in the right place. By the end of the episode, Mr. Magoo had tripped off of girders only to land on another girder exactly in the right place. It made no sense, but he always seemed to survive by the end of an episode. He accidentally made it every time. He had always gone the wrong way and ended up at the right place.

I wonder how many of us have good theology and solid moral positions, but we have no idea how we got to them. Many in the Church have “Magooed” themselves into moral and theological positions that happen to be biblically sound, but we have no idea how we got there. If someone asked us why we believe or do what we do, we couldn’t give an answer for it beyond our own cultural norms.

Christians, of all people, need to understand that the why of our moral and theological positions is just as crucial as the what of our moral and theological positions. Here is one example of that about which I am thinking: In the south, when I read Scripture that relates to human sexuality, there is very little pushback. When I read Paul’s words regarding homosexual behavior in the south, I am preaching to the choir. I still never have anyone come up to me after the service and say that they need to talk about what I said – maybe people are thinking it, but there isn’t any obvious pushback. For most, I hope, this is because they’re been exposed to the teachings of Scripture and submit themselves willingly and joyfully to God’s own revealed will about biblical morality.

However, I suspect that many have simply inherited a proclivity toward…

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reformation21 is the online magazine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting reformation21 and the mission of the Alliance. Please donate here.

Discovering God’s Love Together

In Ephesians 3.18 Paul prays that God would give his readers the strength they need to comprehend something of the limitless dimensions of the love of Christ, but he tucks a little phrase into the prayer that we can so easily skate over: ‘with all the saints’. We comprehend the love of Christ with all the saints. In other words, it’s just not possible to understand the love of Christ in isolation. Paul is not asking that the Ephesians would have thrilling individual revelations of the love of Christ as they each sit on top of a mountain or in their own home. He is praying that together, collectively, they will grow in their appreciation and experience of the love of God. It’s not far away from what he says in the next chapter, in verse 16, when he speaks of the body building itself up in love.

There is a corporateness, a togetherness, about New Testament Christianity that is lacking in so many Western churches. We are so focused on our own personal time with God and what he is saying to me and how he is blessing me that we lose this important emphasis: ‘with all the saints’.

Part of […]

Race and the Imago Dei (Editors)

In light of current discussions regarding racial reconciliation, we thought that it might be a benefit to our readers to run a series of videos from a longtime contributor, Rob Ventura, and his wife, Vanessa, concerning a variety of subjects related to interracial marriage. Rob is the pastor of Grace Community Baptist Church in Providence, RI. Rob and Vanessa have been married 20 years and have three children.

The interviewer, Suhylah Claudio, has provided the following rationale for this series of interviews:

“To share the varying perspectives on race, ethnicity, culture, and nationality from various ethnic backgrounds. The purpose is to dispel myths and stereotypes and expose points of view from those whom we may not feel are ‘like us’ and ultimately to think about what Scripture says about these things. My goal is to help unite us as one race of Christians who are aware of the perceptions and experiences of one another so that we can be more sensitive and loving as brethren in Christ.”

In this video, Rob and Vanessa talk about race, all mandking being made in the image of God, and how the cross gives meaning to all of life

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reformation21 is the online magazine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting reformation21 and the mission of the Alliance. Please donate here.