Breathed Out by God: The Supremacy of Scripture

pexels-photo-250609All Scripture is supreme in the life of the church and in the lives of every believer. This truth is summed up in one phrase: All Scripture is God-breathed.

Scripture has a Divine Origin

What does the phrase “breathed out by God,” or “God-breathed” mean? Concerning the authority of Scripture, Wayne Grudem writes in his Systematic Theology, “The authority of Scripture means that all the words in Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.” There is an intrinsic and special connection between God and Scripture because Paul says that all Scripture is the very words of God.

“Breathed out by God” in this context seems to be a metaphor for speaking the words of Scripture. Unlike all other books that have ever been written, the Bible has at its core divine DNA. It comes to us through human agents, but its content is very specifically, the words from God. Notice that Paul writes that it is Scripture that is inspired by God, not the authors. Timothy can be certain that every word that he preaches is from God and not from man (2 Tim. 4:2). Because Scripture is God-breathed, this indicates that it is also completely truthful and holy.

Any book written today must stand the test of peer review and evaluation in light of similar works in that particular field in order to substantiate the claims of that book. This is because authors are flawed, no matter how gifted. However, when it comes to the holy Scripture, its Author is the opposite of flawed. The reason you see “Holy Bible” written on the front or side of your Bible is because it is the direct product of an infinitely holy God. The character of this Word reflects the character of the one who spoke it. And the supremacy of the Bible is self-evident as it attests to the supreme Being who created heaven and earth.

This means that when it comes to Scripture, there is no higher authority for the church and there is no higher authority for our lives as believers. We must submit to every single text of Scripture as it is all from God. To disobey Scripture is to disobey God.

Amazing Grace

Will you just stop with me for a moment to consider and marvel at this thought? The book that you hold in your hand is not just any book. It is a book in which every single word is God-breathed or uniquely intended by God to be written in a specific time by a specific writer. We should hold this book in the highest esteem and approach it with fear and trembling. It is not a plaything to be tossed around or a worldly work to be treated lightly. These words that we are reading and studying are from the One who created the Milky Way galaxy and the amoeba. May we never be flippant or silly with this Word. And may we always fall before this Word in submission and worship because of its unbelievably God-like nature. What unfathomable love! What amazing grace!

Three Striking Implications

In light of the supremacy of Scripture, there are three striking implications for the church and Christians today.

1. No text of Scripture is insignificant

All Scripture is God-breathed, and therefore contains a divine element that demands attention and submission. It is all-important and all vital for our faith and for the satisfaction of our souls. Man cannot live on bread alone (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4).

2. No text of Scripture is more authoritative than any other

For example, if Jesus did not say something, but Paul did, this does not mean that it lacks authority because Jesus didn’t say it. All Scripture is God-breathed.

3. No text of Scripture can be ignored

This impacts our preaching and Bible study. Do not only preach or study the four Gospels. Do not only preach or study the New Testament. Instead, recognizing that all Scripture is God-breathed, we must give ourselves to the preaching and reading and studying of both testaments and all 66 writings. If the pastor asks you to turn to Ezra or a Psalm or Leviticus, do not turn him off. If your daily reading is in Deuteronomy or 2 Chronicles or Romans, do not blow it off. Two lines out of Leviticus or two pages of genealogies out of Nehemiah contain more intrinsic worth and power than an entire book written by C.S. Lewis or J.K. Rowling because Leviticus and Nehemiah have the imprint of God himself.

We are not at liberty to pick and choose to obey only those passages that agree with our finite philosophies or wishes. Scripture is not subject to our will, but rather to the will of the one from whom it is breathed out! All Scripture is from the Spirit of God and because of this it is all holy and good and true. This means that when we come to difficult passages, we do not have the option to disregard it or deny it, for when we do so, we are denying God himself. It is therefore important to learn how to study the Bible. Yes, you want to wield a sword when an enemy attacks you, but if you do not know how to wield it correctly, you are great risk of maiming yourself. In the same way, if we do not know how to properly wield the Sword of Truth, we will only be maiming our souls.

Nothing Can Cut You Off From God’s Love in Christ

nature-forest-waves-treesFor various reasons and purposes, dams are constructed almost anywhere there is a significant body of water. Sometimes dams are created to prevent flooding. Other times they are constructed to create lakes. But always, dams are constructed for the purpose of blocking water from reaching a certain area. Dams trap water in a certain area and prevent water from reaching another area.

Paul is finishing his answer to a question he has posed in verse 35: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Paul isn’t asking if God loves us. He’s asking if there is anything that can block God’s love from reaching us. He’s asking if there are any dams that can prevent the river of God’s love from flowing to us. He lists ten possible dams that might separate us from God’s love in Christ. Let’s look at each of them in three categories.

First, can life or death separate us from God’s love? No, because God’s love busts through each of these dams since “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:20). Even death is used by God’s love to only increase your experience of it.

Second, can angels or rulers or powers separate us from God’s love? No, because even Satan himself, the highest evil ruler and power, only serves the expansion of God’s love. Satan tempted Judas to betray Jesus to his own demise. God’s love crushes these supernatural and evil would-be dams. They cannot keep God’s love from you.

Third, can height or depth or anything else in all creation separate us from God’s love? No. Nothing. Nada. Goose egg. Not one conceivable person or thing can separate us from God’s love. There isn’t one single ruler, power, person, angelic or demonic being that can block God’s love from incessantly flowing to his people. Even death itself is a pawn in the hands of a loving God used for the ultimate good and joy of his people.

So, those of us who have unstoppable access to the river of God’s love must be rivers of living water (John 7:37-38). The love of God in Christ that has freely flowed to us must freely flow through us to others. Don’t construct any dams between you and others. Freely offer the love that has been given to you. Love relentlessly. Love incessantly. Love like your Father.

Morning Mashup 04/24

Morning Mashup

A daily mashup of book recommendations, articles, and videos for your information, edification, and enjoyment.


BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place | Andy Crouch

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Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture | David Murray

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ARTICLES

A Legacy of Forgiveness | The Washington Post

Jemar TisbyHe was walking home from an Easter meal on Sunday when a man walked up to Robert Godwin Sr., asked him to say a name and then shot him in the head. To add to the horror, the killer recorded the shooting and uploaded it to Facebook. Thousands of people saw the slaying before it was removed over an hour later.

The family’s grief, particularly that of Godwin’s children, was on display, too. But so was their love. In a baffling demonstration of grace, three of his children publicly forgave their father’s killer the next day.

Is the Enemy of My Enemy My Friend?| Ligonier

Albert Mohler: In a time of cultural conflict, the enemy of our enemy may well be our friend. But, with eternity in view and the gospel at stake, the enemy of our enemy must not be confused to be a friend to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Truthing in Love | GoThereFor

Lionel Windsor: Truthing in love means speaking the gospel, speaking the implications of the gospel, and speaking in a gospel-shaped way within the whole network of loving relationships characterized by God’s love for us in Jesus.

Three Lessons from an Intentional Life | ERLC

Lauren McAfee: I have the privilege of working in the company that grandpa started more than 40 years ago. There are many things I’ve learned from him over the years, but here are three specific lessons I’ve gleaned from his life:

10 Reasons to Be Humble Toward Opponents | TGC

Andrew DavisGod doesn’t will for us to give in for an instant on issues of biblical truth. It’s not humilty but self-serving cowardice that causes us to back down from doctrinal attacks. We must fight like lions for the truth of the gospel—the souls of our hearers are at stake. 

I think it’s unlikely for a work of church revitalization to go on without overcoming significant human opposition. But God commands us to be humble toward our opponents, entrusting ourselves to him. This is among the greatest displays of grace. And it’ll be instrumental in transforming your church.

As personal conduct goes, I believe there are at least 10 reasons we should be humble toward our opponents.

VIDEOS

Morning Mashup 04/17

Morning Mashup

A daily mashup of book recommendations, articles, and videos for your information, edification, and enjoyment.


BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

The Resurrection of the Son of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God, Vol. 3) | N.T. WRIGHT

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The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus | GARY HABERMAS & MICHAEL LICONA

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ARTICLES

CHRIST’S RESURRECTION AND OUR JUSTIFICATION | LIGONIER

R.C. Sproul: How is the resurrection of Christ linked to the idea of justification in the New Testament?

THE EMPTY TOMB POINTS US TO HOME | BLOGGING THEOLOGICALLY

Aaron Armstrong: Whenever we gather together with a body of believers in the area, even as visitors or semi-regular attendees as we’ve been doing over the last several months,1 it reminds us that there’s still one thing that’s the same, even if the faces and songs aren’t. And that doesn’t change for us just because this Sunday happens to be Easter. If anything, it makes this truth more real for me.

HOW DO I LOVE MY UNBELIEVING SPOUSE? | ASK PASTOR JOHN

The key to persevering in a discouraging marriage is hope and faith from God’s word that he can overcome the divide.

FOLLOW THE WOMEN AT THE TOMB | TGC

Kelly Minter: How many times have I looked for life in places where only dead men live? I’ve peered into the tombs of fame and wealth, stepped into caverns where the powerful and popular preside, and carried my offerings to the pleasures of this world, looking for life. And then the whisper that cuts with the tip of a sword slices through: Why are you looking for life here? Look for Jesus. No life is life except the life he gives.

AN EASTER SUNDAY MEDITATION | STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB THEOLOGY

Dane Ortlund: Easter is the promise of final in-breaking light to every pocket of darkness in our lives. Easter is the proven certainty of a sunrise on every self-inflicted sunset. Easter is the promise of reversal. 

VIDEOS

CHRIST IS RISEN, HE IS RISEN INDEED | TGC

 

 

Who Killed Jesus?: Meditations on the Murder of the Son of God

jacob-meyer-32136The crucifixion of Jesus is the focal point of Christianity because of the nature of the one nailed to the cross. Wayne Grudem has called the crucifixion of Jesus “the most evil deed of all history.”[1] This is because the most innocent man to ever walk the earth died the death reserved for the worst of criminals. An unjust trial led to brutal beatings and ultimate death by crucifixion, and the Son of God was nailed to a sinner’s cross. It is only fair that anyone with a moral conscious would have to wonder who is responsible for such a horrific act. When the innocent are murdered today, they warrant headline news. Jesus was brutally and unjustly killed. It is here we must ask, who did it? Who is responsible for such a horrific act?

The Method of the Murder

Crucifixion was not reserved only for Jesus. It was a form of execution perfected by the Romans. Crucifixion has been called “the most painful and degrading form of capital punishment in the ancient world.”[2] Originally developed by the Assyrians and Persians, crucifixion was later used by the Greeks and Romans as a form of capital punishment for those who opposed the state. By the time Jesus walked the face of the earth, crucifixion had become more and more common, as crosses bearing criminals became a normal sight on the sides of roads leading into towns.

The Roman method of crucifixion also included scourging and flogging.[3] Not only did scourging increase pain, but it also hastened death and was in one sense merciful as the torture of hanging on the cross was greatly reduced. Nevertheless, the torture was not lacking, as the one being crucified was forced to carry his crossbeam to the execution site where he was then stripped of his clothes and bore a sign detailing his crime.

Once at the execution site, the criminal would have his hands either tied or nailed to the crossbeam. A criminal was only nailed to a cross if the executioners desired a quicker death. If nailed, the nails would be driven through the wrists and feet. Though death often resulted from asphyxiation, it was also common for criminals to bleed out. More often than not, crucifixions were inhumanely brutal, torturously long, and indescribably shameful. This brutal form of capital punishment was on display for all to see. A man was stripped, beaten, scourged, flogged, mocked, degraded, dehumanized, and slowly killed as a public display of the nation’s might and resolve to punish any and all enemies of the state.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the sinless Savior, the suffering Servant, died the ancient world’s worst death in the absolute worst way.

A Grand Murder Mystery Party

In seeking to answer the question, “Who killed Jesus?” it is like participating in a cosmic and historic murder mystery party. The Son of Man hangs on a cross, bows his head, gives up his spirit, and dies. He lays down his life for his sheep. But who is to blame? Who is at fault? Who is responsible? As Jesus’ mangled and bloody body hangs from the cross, all look around on top of the hill outside Jerusalem and wonder who truly killed this sinless and innocent man.

Like all good murder mystery parties, we must look for evidence—clues that lead us to the culprit. There are many suspects and many answers we can give. Let’s look at them.

  1. Was it the Romans?

One could argue that it was the Romans who were responsible for the death of Jesus. Rome did have authority in Israel. Rome was the governing empire in Jerusalem, and all who lived in Israel were subject to Roman rule. Crucifixion also belonged to the Romans. It was their form of capital punishment that killed the Son of God, so it must be Rome! After all, was it not the Roman soldiers that actually carried out the act of crucifixion, nailing Jesus to a cross, waiting for him to die? Did not Jesus appear before multiple Roman leaders? What about Pilate? Did Jesus not appear before him (Matt. 27:2)? Wasn’t it Pilate who ordered the death of Jesus (Matt. 27:17, 22, 24; Luke 23:25)? What about Herod? He mocked the Son of God, found him innocent, yet sent him back to Pilate to make the final call (Luke 23:11). These Roman leaders called for the execution of a man they knew to be completely innocent (Luke 23:14-15). Does it get more evil than this?

The prayer of the early church affirms: “For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel” (Acts 4:27, emphasis added). So did the Romans kill Jesus? Yes. Yet their motives were evil, and their role was small.

  1. Was it the Jews?

Though we have meddled through some evidence and seen that, yes, the Romans killed Jesus, there is much more evidence at hand. Could there be multiple culprits, multiple killers? Scripture seems to answer so. Surely, the Jews killed Jesus. Was it not the Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus from day one of his ministry? Was it not the Jews who called for his death (Matt. 27:20, 22-23)? Jesus did appear before the Jewish Council where he was questioned and condemned for blasphemy.

Since it was the Jews who pressured Pilate to crucify Jesus, surely the Jews are responsible for the death of the Christ. Peter himself accused the Jews of murdering Jesus in his Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:23). Again, the prayer of the early church affirms: “For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel” (Acts 4:27). So, did the Jews kill Jesus? Yes. Yet their motives were evil, and their role was small.

  1. Was it Judas?

How about Judas? We have seen that, yes, it could be said that both the Romans and Jews killed Jesus. However, we have more evidence to consider—a suicide victim. What guilt led Judas to the point of suicide (Matt. 27:3-5)? He “betrayed innocent blood” (Matt. 27:4). Judas was one of the original twelve disciples and was chosen by Jesus to follow him. He was a lover of money (John 12:4-6), and he chose silver over the Treasure. It was Judas who betrayed Jesus with a kiss (Matt. 26:47-50; Luke 22:47-48). Judas delivered Jesus into the hands of those who would crucify him. Surely he is responsible for the death of the Son of God. Based on the evidence at hand, can we say that Judas killed Jesus? Yes. Yet his motives were evil, and his role was small.

God Killed Jesus

We have three suspects before us so far—Romans, Jews, and Judas. Each played a role in the death of Jesus. The Romans judged and crucified him. The Jews delivered and accused him. Judas betrayed him. Each of these components led to the death of the Son of God, and each suspect carried out their respective roles with malice in their hearts. However, there is a better “suspect,” if you will. There is a much greater answer we can give to this question. Who killed Jesus? God did. His motives were pure and his role was grand. God is ultimately responsible for the death of Jesus. The Father did not only send his Son to die, but he sent his Son to be killed at his hand. Realizing this radically changes our understanding of God and his love for sinners. In the active work of the Father in the death of his Son, we get a glimpse of his glory and incomparable love.

It is odd to speak of the death of Christ in this way. It seems quite blasphemous to even say, “God killed Jesus.” Killing connotes sin, and we know that God cannot sin (Titus 1:2; Heb. 4:15; 6:17-18). Nevertheless, this is the way the Bible puts it. In the great Servant Song in Isaiah 53, the prophet writes, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted…All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all…Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief (Isa. 53:4, 6, 10, emphasis added). Do you see the active language? God “crushed” his Son. He “put him to grief.” Jesus was “smitten by God.”

Still further in Acts 2:23, Peter proclaims this very idea of divine smiting: “Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” This tells us that behind the evil intentions and actions of the Romans, the Jews, and even Judas was God not merely passively observing, but actively working with the greatest intentions of all. God’s sovereignty over all sin, evil, and suffering is exemplified in the cross of Christ as God is the one who delivers Jesus to be crucified. God smote his Son. God crushed the Christ. God laid on him the iniquity of us all. Who killed Jesus? His Father did. Why? Because God is eternally holy and eternally love (Isa. 6:3; 1 John 4:8, 16). God’s love for his own righteousness and his love for sinners find reconciliation in the death of Jesus. God cannot justly magnify his glory and love sinners without a sinless sacrifice to atone for sin. John Piper words it this way:

The Son was bruised because God-dishonoring sin could not be ignored. And why couldn’t it all be ignored? Why couldn’t God just let bygones be bygones? Because God loves the honor of his name. He will not act as though sin, which belittles his glory, didn’t matter. It cannot simply be swept under the rug of the universe, as though nothing awesome were at stake. The judge of all the earth will do right. He will judge the world in righteousness.[4]

For Love and Glory He Died

God did not sit by idly as lawless men killed his Son. No, God actively killed his Son out of his indescribable love for those who have belittled his glory, defamed his name, and delighted in sin. Who killed Jesus? His Father did. And through this death, God put his glory, his love, his grace and his sovereignty on full display. The Father poured out his wrath on his Son so that guilty sinners would be counted righteous. Jesus bore the wrath of God in our place. Jesus hung in shame on a cross on a hill outside Jerusalem. He was slaughtered by sinful Romans, Jews, and even one of his disciples. Oh, but he hung in glory and love as he bore the sin of those whom God would save. The cross of Christ is a display of sinful man and a sovereign God. In his crucifixion, Jesus’ sinless death displays the glory and love of God for all to see.

In the cross of Christ, we see the righteousness of God in saving sinners. “It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). Christian, you can delight in God’s prerogative to kill his Son on your behalf. By your faith in the Son who was slain, you will enter into life. In the death of Christ, death found its death.

Because the Father is eternally committed to his glory and passionately loves sinners, he actively designed in eternity past and carried out at the perfect time the death of his Son (Acts 4:27-28). This is the greatest news for you and me. God vindicated his love for his glory and his love for sinners in the substitutionary death of Jesus. Jesus was forsaken, smitten, crushed, and ultimately killed by God all for love, all for glory, and all for the global worship of the Lamb who was slain (Rev. 5:9; 7:9). Rejoice in the God-designed plan of salvation that only comes through the Christ who was “pierced for our transgressions [and] crushed for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5).

*This post originally appeared as a chapter in my book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God.


[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 326.

[2] Grant Osborne, “Cross, Crucifixion” in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. Chad Owen Brand, Charles W. Draper, and Archie W. England (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 368.

[3] Scourging is the process in which a criminal was “beaten with a whip consisting of thongs with pieces of metal or bone attached to the end” (Ibid., 368).

[4] John Piper, The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God (Sisters: Multnomah, 1991, 2000), 161.

Morning Mashup 04/12

Morning Mashup

A daily mashup of book recommendations, articles, and videos for your information, edification, and enjoyment.


BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together | Jared Wilson

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Reading the Bible Supernaturally: Seeing and Savoring the Glory of God in Scripture | John Piper

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ARTICLES

THE NEW MARTIN LUTHER MOVIE | PATHEOS

Gene Veith: I’m not a huge fan of this hybrid of documentary and drama, but this one works as well as I’ve seen.  Luther’s life is so interesting and so inherently dramatic that the narrative is gripping and entertaining, even though it is continually interrupted by the scholars.

THE HORROR OF CRUCIFIXION | DESIRING GOD

Tony Reinke: This week we celebrate the death of our Savior. And today we are going to look at the crucifixion from its historical and physical realities.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE RECOVERY | CHRISTWARD COLLECTIVE

Nick BatzigWhen we have sinned in our Christian life or made a error in judgment in pastoral ministry, we need to remember that so much of the Christian life and pastoral ministry is in the recovery.

SOME HELPS FOR FAMILY WORSHIP | VASSAL OF THE KING

Geoffrey Kirkland: What is family worship? What does it look like? How does one get started? Is it really doable in our ‘fast-paced society’? This is the outline that I provided our men to guide us in our discussion through this important topic.

PASTOR, DON’T WASTE YOUR EXCLAMATION POINTS | TGC

Jared Wilson: If you’re one of those rah-rah guys firing on all emotional cylinders for everything from bake sales and the book table to baptisms and baby dedications, you create an equality between minutiae and missional milestones that can be disorienting, and ultimately dulling. But more directly, just remember that if everything is exciting, nothing is.

VIDEOS

MARTIN LUTHER | PATHEOS

 THE UNIQUENESS OF THE PSALMS | LIGONIER

Morning Mashup 04/11

Morning Mashup

A daily mashup of book recommendations, articles, and videos for your information, edification, and enjoyment.


BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

The New City Catechism: 52 Questions and Answers for Our Hearts and Minds | TGC

 

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The New City Catechism Devotional: God’s Truth for Our Hearts and Minds | TGC

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ARTICLES

ANXIETY: MY THORN IN MY FLESH | A DAUGHTER OF THE REFORMATION

Rachel Miller: I woke up last week with a feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. Nothing, in particular, was wrong, but that didn’t stop my mind from racing through every possible thing that I could worry about. And then it latched on to something. And I began to obsess about it. And worry about it. And I prayed and talked myself down. And then “but, what if?” And then it latched on again. And I continued to obsess about it. And worry about it. And I prayed and talked myself down. Again, and again, and again. For days. Every night I’d go to sleep praying about it. Every morning I’d wake up early with the same dread, and the cycle would begin again. It was exhausting.

YOU’RE WELCOME HERE | DESIRING GOD

Stephen Witmer: The redeeming death of Jesus saves individuals, but it does more than just this. It creates communities, miraculously forming redeemed people into churches who live as family with one another.

ALABAMA GOVERNOR RESIGNS AMID ETHICS SCANDAL | WORLD MAGAZINE

Robert Bentley, an Alabama Republican once known as a champion of family values and conservative Christian morals, resigned as the state’s governor today amid a sex scandal that triggered a state ethics investigation.

A CATECHISM–WITH OUR KIDS? | TGC

Kathy Keller“Catechism—with our kids?” Years ago that was my response when someone suggested we begin doing a catechism with our very young, very active boys. But, to my amazement, it was a truly wonderful experience.

Grandfather Apologizes After Dylann Roof’s Guilty Pleas Add to Sentence | NY TIMES

It was Ms. Collier who stunned the nation by leading a procession of family members who expressed forgiveness for Mr. Roof at his bond hearing, only two days after the shootings. She reinforced that message in addressing Mr. Roof on Monday. “I just want to say,” Ms. Collier said, “have mercy on your soul.”

VIDEOS

WHY IS SIN IRONIC? | GENTLE REFORMATION

Expositional Devotions

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One of the most common experiential complaints about expository preaching is the tedious work of walking through a Bible book over an extended period of time. It can be difficult to stay energized, excited, or awake(?) throughout a 75 week sermon series through Romans.

At the same time, the struggle of every expositor is to not only faithfully preach the text, but to do so in a way that best suits his people. Expository preaching expresses itself uniquely in different settings. What’s best for one congregation may not be what’s best for another. However, whether you’re walking through a Bible book over the course of one month or one year, a crucial question remains: How can I best drive the message, themes, and content of this book into the minds and hearts of my people?

Other than commentaries, few of which are suited for lay people, there aren’t many resources designed to help churches walk through Bible books together. One way I help shepherd as a pastor at my church is to write devotions based on the passages we are preaching. As we walk through Bible books, our people are given five devotions every week to help them study the text throughout the week. The devotions function as gospel-centered commentaries on Bible books that speak directly to both the head and heart. The goal in writing these devotions is multi-faceted.

The goal is for readers to know and experience the text better.

The goal is to teach readers how to better study the Bible

The goal is to help readers better see glimpses of Jesus on every page of Scripture.

The goal is for God’s people to know, love, and enjoy him more. 

I’m going to start sharing these devotions on the blog in the future as we continue walking through Bible books. I pray the devotions published here will be helpful for all believers, but especially for those walking through Bible books in expository preaching.


Mathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew and his wife, Erica, live in Tupelo with their two boys, Jude and Jack.

In a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Why Epics Leave Us Satisfied and Longing

photo-1444703686981-a3abbc4d4fe3This year, a movie released in theaters that filled some longtime fans with a nostalgia and excitement they have not experienced in some amount of time. They became captivated (again) with the opposing Jedi and Sith orders, hoping to see the side to which their allegiances lie burst forth in victory. When Star Wars: The Force Awakens released, people moved to their sides and planted themselves firmly. Many viewers were enraptured by this return to childhood memories (as many in this camp would not consider the prequels to be Star Wars movies in any form, although that’s another topic entirely); some were less than thrilled.

However, one word that cannot be used to describe the vast majority of viewers is that of “neutral.” This film either rekindled fond memories of childhood fantasies or reaffirmed a distaste for George Lucas’s fictional universe. One common denominator does in fact exist between both seemingly mutually exclusive groups. Even though fans of Star Wars experienced great delight in seeing this series continued (and continued well), I feel that they would have to admit some sort of feeling (on varying levels, contingent on the degree of fanaticism the fan attains) of dissatisfaction.

Dissatisfaction is our human method of expressing longing – we long for that which we do not have, and are thus dissatisfied. I would make the assertion that the source of our longings is paradoxically the same source as that of our satisfaction. The reason we find the narratives of such epics so compelling (and yet unsatisfying) is that we are subconsciously longing for the true epic narrative that these only shadow. The reason they are compelling to us is because the narrative of our universe follows a similar (albeit infinitely more fulfilling) trajectory, and the reason they are so unsatisfying is that they do not and cannot satisfy our ultimate longing. This longing can only be met in the ultimate narrative that God Himself created.

“The Heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1) Since orthodox Christians affirm the doctrine of general revelation (that God reveals generally to all people his existence through His creation), we can see that all that God has created is created with the intent to bring glory to Him, and to bring us to an awareness of Him. However, as Romans 1 indicates, this is not sufficient to bring us to saving knowledge of Him.

Our purpose in being created was to become worshippers of God, and any deviation from this end must necessarily leave us in longing. This is what one of the primary ends of creation is – to nurture in us a longing for God (even in those who “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” [Rom. 1:18] there is a longing created, although they seek to supplant it with other temporal pleasures). One way in which we come to a deeper longing is through myths, legends, and epics. J.R.R. Tolkien aptly explains why:

We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they                               contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal                          truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming “sub-                               creator” and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he                              knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however                             shakily towards the true harbour, while materialistic “progress” leads only to a                              yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.

While I do not necessarily believe that myths are the greatest natural supplement to our eternal longings, I do believe there are a few parallels between the mythical narratives and God’s ultimate redemption narrative that lead us to desire God more deeply. Just as in experiencing Epics we experience an acute awareness that something is wrong within the world of the narrative, so also do we who are in Christ reach an awareness that there is something wrong (both outside of ourselves and within ourselves).

Were there not within us an acute sense of our prior normality, there would be no means through which to understand our own present corruptions. Apart from general revelation, we would have no basis for comparison, and would thus be rendered incapable of reaching a determination regarding the state of our wickedness. Therefore, while general revelation is futile without special revelation, this does not minimize the necessity of general revelation; rather, it enhances it.

Just as our physical bodies hunger and thirst for sustenance, so also do our spiritual bodies hunger and thirst for that which shall enable us to ultimately satiate our longings (John 6:35). This does not necessarily indicate that we will never eat or drink again (or any other capacity we have that leads to desire, for that matter); rather, it indicates that the satisfaction we will find in God will be utterly sufficient.

All that we have desired in our lives will ultimately and finally reach the end which they have always longed to reach. We may experience satisfaction in media and literature – and understandably so, considering good art glorifies God and brings us pleasure – but ultimate satisfaction can only be found in the ultimate narrative God has and is writing. What a joy it is that the author of our souls is simultaneously the author of all of creation and redemption.


Micah Russell is a senior at Blue Mountain College in northeastern Mississippi. He is pursuing degrees in Biology and Christian Ministry. Micah is a member at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He enjoys reading good books, drinking good tea and coffee, and playing frisbee and chess. You can follow him on Twitter @micahclay.

Sin Doesn’t Stand a Chance Against You

people-men-fight-challengeHave you ever been in an intense wrestling match? Wrestling matches between siblings are often much more entertaining and dangerous than WWE wrestling matches because, frankly, they are much more real. Growing up, I was about six years older than my brother, so I always had a physical advantage over him when we would fight. We didn’t fight all the time, but we always fought when we played games with each other. A game couldn’t pass by without one of us starting a fight. Our fights didn’t just begin the same way; they also always ended the same way—with me on top of my brother and my brother crying for help. In our fights, my brother didn’t stand a chance.

Romans 7:14-25 is all about a bitter struggle that occurs within the soul of every Christian. Paul emotionally and painfully cries out for deliverance at the end of Romans 7, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Paul is describing the nature of the war that rages in the Christian mind and heart. It is an intense wrestling match against a formidable opponent. Sin is strong. If you give in to sin very quickly, it is because you are either not in Christ or underestimating the strength of your opponent. In fact, if you are giving in to sin quickly, you don’t even realize the bell has rung! From the moment your heart is changed by the Holy Spirit, there is a struggle with sin that doesn’t end until you die or Christ returns.

Genuinely fighting sin is exhausting. There is a serious temptation to give in because the fight is hard. But the greatest motivation for staying the course in our fight against sin is found in one simple, yet life-changing statement: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Our struggle against sin is one we cannot lose, so it is one we must fight! No matter how hard sin fights against you, and no matter how many battles it wins, if you are in Christ, sin doesn’t stand a chance against you. Because Jesus died on the cross in your place, you will never have to face God’s wrath. He was condemned, so there is no condemnation for you. He became sin. You receive righteousness. Sin doesn’t stand a chance against you because you are united to the one that condemned sin. Nothing provides more freedom and hope to fight sin than knowing God’s wrath has been fully absorbed by Christ and there is none left for you. Justification not only leads to sanctification, it fuels it.


Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (Westbow Press, 2016). He is an M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their sons, Jude and Jack. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.