Daily Light – August 31, 2020

What the Law Could Not Do, God Did Sending Christ, Part 2 

3 Part Study provided by John Piper 

Part 2 

Romans 8:1-4   Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 

We are picking up in verse 3 where we left off three weeks ago. “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.” We said that it has four statements in it. 

God condemned sin in the flesh. 

He did this by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin. 

The law was not able to do this. 

The reason the law could not do this was because of our flesh. 

Last time we focused on the first two. Now we focus on the last two. 

So what I hope to do this morning is answer two questions: What was it that the law could not do? And, Why couldn’t it do it? The reason I think this is worth a whole message is that the two things that the law could not do are things that are absolutely necessary for us to experience if we are to have eternal life, and, even though the law could not and cannot do them, people still turn to the law to get them done. In other words, it is tremendously relevant to your life to know what the law cannot do for you, lest you go there for the help you can only get from Jesus Christ. 

The Law Could not Justify or Sanctify Us 

First, then, what is it that the law could not do? The answer is given twice in Romans 8:1-4, once in verses 1-2 and once in verses 3-4. Verse 1 says, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This is what we call justification – if we are in Christ Jesus – that is, if we are united to Jesus by faith in him – our condemnation from God because of our sin is taken away. God acquits us. Counts us righteous. Justifies us. He does not look upon us any longer as guilty and condemned, but as forgiven and righteous because of what Jesus did for us. 

Then comes verse 2: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” This is what we call sanctification. After we are justified, and because we are justified, the Spirit of God is poured out in our lives and begins to free us from the dominion of sin and death. This means that Christians are not only “counted” righteous in justification, but actually transformed by the Spirit of God into more and more actually righteous, loving, holy people. This is the practical evidence that we have trusted Christ and are united to him and are justified in him. 

Now my answer to our question is that these two things are what the law could not do. The law could not justify us and the law could not sanctify us. It was powerless to do both of these things. The first sign of this is that verse 3 begins with “for.” You could read it like this: Justification is “in Christ” (verse 1), and sanctification is “in Christ” (verse 2), for the law could not do these things, only Christ could, and so God sent his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. That’s the first answer to the question from verses 1 and 2. Justification and sanctification come to us by union with Christ Jesus (“in Christ”) for the law could not make them happen. 

Now the same answer comes in verses 3 and 4 as well. Verse 3 says that what the law could not do is condemn sin in the flesh, that is, it could not deal with sin, absorb its punishment, remove our condemnation. So God did this by sending Jesus into the world to die for us: “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.” So here we have the same point as verse 1: There is no condemnation because God executed the condemnation for our sin on his Son. That is the basis of our justification. That is what the law could not do. It could not remove the condemnation for our sin. It could identify it and name it and point away from it and stir it up and rub it in. But it could not remove our punishment. God did that in Jesus’ death. So again we see that justification is something the law could not do. 

Now verse 4, like verse 2, says that this justification leads to sanctification, which was also something the law could not do – since it could not justify us. Notice verse 4 begins with “so that.” This is a purpose of God’s condemning sin in the flesh. God put our condemnation on Jesus and provided the basis for our justification “so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Walking according to the Spirit is what we mean by sanctification. So what we see here again, as in verses 1 and 2, is that sanctification is the result or the effect of justification. And that means that both justification and sanctification are what the law could not do. 

You can see it most easily if you just say verses 3 and 4 like this: What the law could not do God did, namely two things: he condemned sin by sending his Son to die for us, and because of this basis for justification he enables us to fulfill the essence of the law by giving us the Holy Spirit. That is what the law could not do: justify us and sanctify us. It could not remove our condemnation or bring about our transformation. And yet both of these are absolutely necessary if we are going to be saved in the last day and have eternal life. 

The Law Could not Justify Us Because We Were of Flesh 

So we need to ask now: Why could the law not do these two things? Because if we can see the reason for this weakness clearly, we will be protected from the deadly mistake of counting on the law for justification and sanctification. And, even better, we will know where to look for the declaration that we are right with God and for the transformation that follows. 

And that is so crucial for us all. You may have come today wondering how these Baptists think about salvation and about how to get right with God and have eternal life. Well we think about it the same way Biblical Christians have thought about it for centuries: this is historic Christianity, not just Baptist Christianity. The law – the ten commandments and the other rules that Moses gave the people of Israel – cannot make you right with God and cannot transform you into the kind of righteous and loving persons you want to be. 

Why not? Verse 3 answers: “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did.” The problem with the law is not that its commandments are evil (Romans 7:12), but that we are evil (Romans 7:14). The word “flesh” does not mean skin, in Paul’s vocabulary. It means our old fallen nature. We will see this next week in the following verses where he contrasts the mind of the flesh and the mind of the Spirit. The flesh is what we are and what life is without God and his gracious, saving work by the Spirit. That is what the law encounters when it comes to us. 

So what is the weakness of the law? The weakness of the law is that it was not designed to redeem fallen, condemned, rebellious, selfish people like us. 

Think about this first in relation to justification. The reason we need to be justified is that we stand under the condemnation of God because we are fallen. Remember Romans 5:18, “Through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men.” Flesh is what we are by human nature, and what we are by human nature is under condemnation. What is the remedy for condemnation? If you are guilty of a capital offense and under the condemnation of a death sentence from God, what will save you? 

I’ll tell you what will not save you. Commandments will not save you when your problem is guilt and condemnation. What happens when commandments come? Paul tells us in Romans 7:9, “When the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.” The commandments don’t bring about redemption, they bring about wrath. Romans 4:15, “The law brings wrath.” A man who is guilty and under legal condemnation will not be saved by commandments; he will be saved by acquittal. He needs a judge to pardon and forgive. He needs justification by faith and not by works of the law. That’s why Paul comes to the end of his long indictment of the human race in Romans 1-3 by saying, “By works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). 

So the law could not do what absolutely has to be done if we are to be rescued from our guilt and condemnation: it could not justify us. It could not set us right with God. It could not take away our guilt. It could not absorb our condemnation. What it did was show us our guilt (Romans 3:207:7) and to make us even more sinful by stirring up the rebellion of our flesh (5:20; 7:5). “Through the commandment sin [becomes] utterly sinful” (Romans 7:13). 

Trust Jesus, not Law-Keeping 

So this morning, if you want to be set right with God, don’t look to the law. If you want to be acquitted and justified, don’t depend on law-keeping. No amount of law-keeping can turn the verdict of guilty to not-guilty. One thing can change that verdict that hangs over your head: the perfect Son of God living and dying in your place. For his sake alone God counts you to be righteous when you trust him. Hence Romans 3:28, “We maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” Trust Jesus, not law-keeping. 

So the law cannot justify us because we are in the flesh, meaning we are fallen and condemned. And commandments of the law cannot remove guilt and condemnation. Only Christ can. 

Why Is It that the Law Could not Sanctify Us? 

Now we turn to sanctification. Why can’t the law sanctify us? Why can’t it make us holy and righteous and loving people? Now here there is so much to say that I think I would do a disservice to the truth if I tried to pack it in here at the end of the message. So let me just tell you where we are going, Lord willing, next week as we take up this question and move with it into verses 4-8. 

It is a burning issue today how Christians can live in love and righteousness in the fragile world we have just moved into where fear and anger lie just beneath the surface of our lives. Fear of anthrax and bombs and the collapse of life-sustaining infrastructures we have always taken for granted. And anger at someone or some people and we are not even sure who. 

Do you have the resources in you to be confident and fearless and courageous and patient and kind and fair and loving and sacrificial, not returning evil for evil, but blessing those who curse you and praying for those who persecute you (Romans 12:17Matthew 5:44)? Where will you look for this? Will you look to the law? 

It won’t work. Look to Christ. The living, divine, loving, omnipotent Lord who died for you and rose again and promises to be with you and help you and satisfy your longings in life and death. Look to him. The law cannot sanctify you, but Christ can. That is what we will take up next week, if God wills. 

Till then, if you need to get right with God this morning, look to Christ, not the law. And if you need help being a loving and righteous person this week – and who doesn’t – look to Christ, not the law.  (Part 3 tomorrow) 

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Coronavirus and Christ.    

Daily Light – August 28, 2020

Friends:  The next 3 days will provide incredibly powerful and discernable ‘light’ and truth that will give you new strength and spiritual energy…to see yourself as God sees you…and thus, by faith, begin to grow stronger and deeper in your daily fellowship with our Lord…to produce more eternal fruit.  And ‘that’ is why we are here…to make an eternal difference.  Dig in, absorb, pray about what you see and learn.  Blessings…dh

What the Law Could Not Do, God Did Sending Christ  

3 Part Study provided by John Piper

Part 1 

Romans 8:1-4  Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 

Verse 1 declares that in Christ Jesus there is no condemnation. God does not condemn us for our sins if we are in Christ Jesus. Jesus is a safe place from the hurricane of God’s holy and just wrath. Verse 2 declares that in Christ Jesus there is freedom from the power of sin. Not yet perfect and final freedom, but decisive and irrevocable freedom. That is, the triumphant blow has been struck, the dominion of sin has been broken, and its final defeat is sure. 

The reality of verse 1 is called justification, and the reality of verse 2 is called sanctification. And the relation between them is that the freedom of verse 2 supports acquittal of verse 1 as evidence, but not as cause. We are not justified because our lives have changed. Our lives are changing because we have been justified. 

Now we look at verse 3. “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.” It has four statements in it. 1) God condemned sin in the flesh. 2) He did this by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin. 3) The law was not able to do this. 4) The reason the law could not do this was because of our flesh. 

“God . . . Condemned Sin in the Flesh” 

Let’s draw out some of the wonders in these statements. First, “God condemned sin in the flesh.” Notice three wonderful things about what this statement says. 

1. Sin Has Been Condemned, not Merely Shown to Be Condemnable 

First, sin has already been condemned. What does that mean? It does not mean that sin has been criticized and called condemnable – as when we say, President Bush “condemned” the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. We know it does not mean this because this is something the law could do and did do quite well. The law criticized sin and called it condemnable. The law says, for example, “You shall not covet” (Exodus 20:17). And the law pronounces punishments on law breakers (Deuteronomy 28:15). So the law clearly “condemned” sin in this sense. 

But Romans 8:3 says, “What the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did.” So God did something more than merely criticize sin and call it condemnable. What then does Paul mean when he says, “God condemned sin in the flesh”? He means that in Jesus’ flesh – in his suffering and dying body on the cross – God executed a final sentence of condemnation on the sin of everyone who is in Christ. In other words, “God condemned sin” means God found sin guilty and sentenced sin to be finally punished and carried out the penalty of suffering in the death of his Son. 

That’s the first wonderful thing about this statement, “God condemned sin” – in the death of Christ, sin was not merely shown to be condemnable, it was condemned, it received its full and just sentence and penalty – for all who are in Christ Jesus. 

2. Our Sin Was Condemned in the Suffering and Death of Christ, Since He Had no Sin to Condemn 

Now here is the second wonderful thing about this statement: There was no sin in Jesus Christ to condemn. Paul says it here indirectly and says it directly elsewhere. Here he says, “Sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.” Notice that word “likeness.” He says “likeness of sinful flesh” because he was not sinful. Jesus had no sin. His flesh was human, and it was like sinful flesh. But it was not sinful. 

So how could God condemn sin in his flesh? There was none there to condemn. The clearest answer is given in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “[God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” There it is. Paul says it as clearly as it can be said: “He knew no sin.” Jesus never sinned. Of all the people who have ever lived, Jesus is the only one who did not deserve to die. Jesus is the only person who ever lived who did not deserve to suffer. But he died and he suffered. 

So the question is: Whose sin was condemned when Jesus’ flesh was tortured and killed? God condemned sin in the flesh of his completely innocent Son. Whose sin? The answer is given clearly. Romans 4:25, “He . . . was delivered over because of our transgressions.” 1 Corinthians 15:3, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” Galatians 1:4, “[He] gave Himself for our sins.” 1 Peter 2:24, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.” 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous.” Isaiah 53:5-6, “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.” 

The answer is that our sin was condemned in the suffering and death of Christ, not his. He had none. Which practically means what? Let Paul say it the way he likes to say it in Romans 8:33-34, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; (34) who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died.” When the question rises, “Who can condemn God’s elect?” the answer understood here is, “Nobody.” Nobody in heaven or hell or on the earth. Why? Answer: “Christ Jesus is he who died.” 

And now we know why the death of Jesus Christ takes away all my condemnation. Because when he died God was condemning sin, sentencing it, and punishing it completely and fully and finally for all God’s elect – all who are in Christ by faith. Therefore it was my sin that was being condemned and sentenced and punished completely and fully and finally when Christ died. And if my sin was punished there finally and fully, I will not be punished for it again. 

Brothers and sisters, there is no other cleansing agent in all the universe that can clean your conscience, besides this one. There is no other shield that can protect you from the white hot wrath of God, besides this shield. There is no other argument that will hold up in the final courtroom of heaven than this argument: Christ died for my sins. Christ bore my condemnation. Christ absorbed all the divine wrath that would and should have come on me. 

I need no other argument,
I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that he died for me. 

That’s the second wonderful thing about this statement that “God condemned sin in the flesh.” The first is that sin has already been condemned, sentenced, punished, executed in Jesus. The second is that Jesus had no sin to condemn. It was ours that was punished. “[God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf.” 

3. God Condemned Sin in the Flesh 

The third wonderful thing about this statement is that God did it. “God condemned sin in the flesh.” Two things are powerfully relevant for us here. 

The Love of God Rescued Us from the Wrath of God 

3.1 One is that Jesus Christ did not put himself forward between God and man to reconcile them to each other. It’s not as though God is only angry at sinners, and sinners are hostile to God, and Jesus loves sinners and puts himself between his angry Father and sinful man to rescue man from God’s anger. That is not what Christianity teaches. That is not what happened. 

The text says – and the whole Bible is built on this view – that God did this. “Sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, [God!] condemned sin in the flesh.” Jesus did not put himself forward between God and man; God put Jesus forward between God and man (Romans 3:25). God “sent His own Son.” God saw to it that the eternal, uncreated Son of God took on “the likeness of sinful flesh.” God poured out his wrath on the Son as the condemnation and punishment of our sins. Jesus didn’t butt in to save us from God. God sent him in to save us from God. God himself saved us from the wrath of God. 

When you ponder the cross, don’t just ponder the love of Jesus rescuing us from the anger of God. Ponder the love of God rescuing us from the anger of God. If you know Jesus, you know the Father. The heart of Jesus is the heart of the Father. Jesus is as angry at sin as the Father is. And the Father is as caring for sinners as Jesus is. 

Jesus said in John 14:7-9, “‘If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.’ (8) Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ (9) Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and yetyou have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how canyou say, “Show us the Father”‘?” 

So be crystal clear on this: the work of Jesus the Son of God is the work of God the Father. If you know Jesus, the Son of God, you know God the Father. If you love Jesus, the Son of God, you love God. 

God did it. God condemned sin in the flesh. And the first thing that is so relevant about that for us is that it keeps us from playing Jesus and God off against each other. It helps us see that the Father and the Son have one heart and one mind as they take their different roles in saving us from our sin. 

The Exclusivity of the Gospel of the Glory of God in Christ 

3.2. The other thing that is so relevant about this third point (that it was God himself who condemned sin in the flesh of the Son of God), is that this does not fit in with other major religions, like Islam or Judaism or Hinduism or Buddhism. The point here is not to be inflammatory in a tense global situation. The point is to preserve the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4), the divine Son of God and only sin-bearing Mediator between God and man, in the midst of a cultural stampede toward inclusivism. 

What I mean by inclusivism is the teaching that all religions are legitimate paths to God. There is a fear today to speak of the exclusivism of the gospel of Jesus – that he is the Way the Truth and the Life and no one goes to the Father but by him (John 14:6). But this is what Paul is saying here in Romans 8:3. God – the one and only Creator of the universe – sent his Son (his pre-existing, divine, eternal Son) in human flesh to bear the outpouring of his wrath in condemnation on sin. THAT is who God is. If you say, “God did not do that,” then the God you worship is not God. 

Who is the true and only God? The true and only God is the God and Father of Jesus Christ who was in “the form of God” and “equal with God” (Philippians 2:6) and took on the form of a servant in the likeness of sinful flesh, so that all the fullness of deity dwelt in him bodily (Colossians 2:9). The true and only God sent this divine Person into the world and in his flesh condemned sin – sentenced it, punished it, executed it. Yours and mine. And everyone’s, who by faith are in Jesus Christ. 

This is the gospel we preach to the entire world – to every religion. There is one God, the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the uncreated, eternal, divine Son of God, whom God sent in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin in order to die for sinners, so that all who believe might be saved – from his wrath and for his glory. The most loving thing we an do for Muslims is to peacefully, meekly, and sacrificially proclaim to them the gospel of Jesus Christ, without which no one will be saved. 

To love people like this will require that you have come to see Romans 8:3 as the most precious event in the history of the world. God did it. God condemned sin in the flesh of his own Son. There is no other cleansing for the conscience. No other protection from wrath. No other argument in the last judgment. 

Let’s believe it, bank on it, live it, and sing it. 

My faith has found a resting place,
Not in device nor creed;
I trust the ever living One,
His wounds for me shall plead. 

I need no other argument,
I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that he died for me. 

Enough for me that Jesus saves,
This ends my fear and doubt;
A sinful soul, I come to him,
He’ll never cast me out. 

My heart is leaning on the Word,
The written Word of God,
Salvation by my Savior’s name,
Salvation through his blood. 

My great Physician heals the sick,
The lost he came to save;
For me his precious blood he shed,
For me his life he gave. 

(Part 2, Monday) 

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Coronavirus and Christ

Daily Light – August 27, 2020

He’s Still There and Still Not Silent 

Revisiting Francis Schaeffer’s Classic 

Review and this article by Douglas R. Groothuis PhD, Philosophy, University of Oregon 


As one of the greatest Christian philosophers of the 20th century, Francis Schaeffer made it his mission to relate Christianity to the surrounding culture’s worldview. His works continue to have relevance today as Christians grapple with current issues in metaphysics, morals, and epistemology. In this redesigned apologetic work, Schaeffer encourages readers to have a deeper understanding of who they are, who God is, and how they know him as they encounter the infinite-personal God who is there and is not silent. 

Shortly after becoming a Christian in 1976, I read Schaeffer’s books, starting with The God Who Is There. Not long after, I read He Is There and He Is Not Silent, and I’ve read it many times since. I developed a Christian worldview through his books, and Schaeffer gave me an intellectual courage that has only grown over the years. Indeed, many Christian thinkers were inspired by Schaeffer’s books, including Charles Colson, Michael Card, John Whitehead, Os Guinness, and Nancy Pearcey.  

Schaeffer’s Breadth of Insight 

Schaeffer had a sharp mind, a warm heart, and what jazz musicians call “big ears”—the ability to listen well and respond sympathetically. Although some may want his arguments to be more thorough and his references to philosophers more nuanced, he had a nose for truth and knew how to defend it in ways that mattered to “the watching world,” as he put it. When people wanted him to discuss arcane apologetic theory, he’d say, “I am an evangelist!” He had an apologetic method, but reaching real people—not making a mark on academia—was his passion. 

Schaeffer was a deep thinker. His thought penetrated cinema, philosophy, theology, and much more. For him, apologetics was never a matter of merely winning arguments, but of leading real people to the living God he knew. Schaeffer’s books often use the phrase “with tears” or refer to the anguish of those lost in the meaninglessness of his time. Even in his most philosophical books, Schaeffer shows his pulsing concern for people. On the same page he might switch from intellectual history to recounting an encounter with a lost person. 

For Schaffer, apologetics was never a matter of merely winning arguments, but of leading real people to the living God he knew. 

In He Is There and He Is Not Silent, Schaeffer speaks of a couple who stayed at L’Abri and spent hours talking with each other, trying to completely understand one another. Since they didn’t have the “infinite-personal God” as their final “integration point,” they couldn’t get to the bottom of what it means to be human or to be in a loving relationship. Schaeffer saw both the philosophical issue to be solved and also the existential problem to be faced. Unlike some other Christian thinkers, Schaeffer wrote with a profound sense of the lostness of modern people, which is evident throughout the book. That awareness gives his writings a vibrancy and pathos not often found in apologetics books. 

Touring the Book 

He Is There and He Is Not Silent advances a brief philosophical argument for the existence of the Christian God. Unlike many other apologetic books, it acknowledges the history of ideas (sometimes in a rather swashbuckling way), tying in myriad cultural illustrations. Schaeffer considers the basic Christian worldview, rather than evidence for the reliability of the Bible or Jesus’s resurrection—although he never denied the worth of these arguments. He focuses on how the Christian account of reality explains what is (metaphysics), what we should do (morality), and know we can know (epistemology).  

“The Metaphysical Necessity” gives the possibilities regarding the origin of existence. Either there is (1) no explanation for everything, (2) an impersonal explanation (mystical or materialistic), or (3) a personal explanation (Christianity). A “personal beginning” explains both human uniqueness and the order of the universe, since a divine mind is behind it. That infinite-personal being is three-in-one (the Trinity), which solves the problem of the one and the many, which other worldviews are unable to do. The unity and diversity in creation is based on God’s own unity (one God) and diversity (three persons). 

In chapter two, “The Moral Necessity,” Schaeffer argues that we all have “moral motions,” or a sense of right and wrong. This is because we’re made in God’s image and have a conscience that answers to him. Without God, morality dissipates into merely human opinion, which can so easily turn ugly. Rather, the character of the infinite-personal God is the basis of morality. 

Chapters three and four explain epistemology, or the basis for knowledge. The deepest problem in Schaeffer’s day, he grasped, was that people were alienated from a reliable source of knowledge due to their rejection of the God who speaks, revealing himself in nature, conscience, Scripture, and Jesus Christ. Both the philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and the film director, Ingmar Bergmann, said that only silence greets our quest for meaning and reality. But Schaeffer shows that the biblical worldview makes meaningful communication between God and people possible. We live in an orderly universe open to God’s communication and to human significance. He is there and he is not silent! 

Schaeffer shows that the biblical worldview makes meaningful communication between God and people possible. 

The book concludes with appendices on the meaning of biblical revelation and the nature of biblical faith. If an infinite-personal God exists, it would make sense for him to communicate to us verbally, since we as persons communicate verbally. God’s revelation in Scripture wouldn’t be exhaustive, but it would report the truths we need to know. Last, biblical faith isn’t a blind leap off of a cliff, but a well-informed choice to trust a reliable authority.  

Take Up and Read 

He Is There and He Is Not Silent condenses years of reading and conversation with thoughtful people about what matters most—God and our need to hear him. Please read it, since the essential issues and answers haven’t changed. 

Souls are at stake. 

Douglas R. Groothuis (PhD, Philosophy, University of Oregon) is professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary in Denver, Colorado, where he directs the Christian Apologetics and Ethics MA program. 

Daily Light – August 26, 2020

Before the Throne for You 

What It Means for Christ to Intercede 

Article by Chris Bruno, Professor, Bethlehem College & Seminary 

If you are a follower of Jesus, he is interceding for you right now. 

When was the last time you paused to consider this? I’m persuaded that we do not give this important truth the attention that it deserves. Think about it: The risen Christ, the one to whom all authority in heaven and on earth has been given, is pleading with the Father on your behalf. Not only that, but he is pleading on the basis of his own person and work. The very life of the risen Christ is a plea for us. If we are united by faith to him, his ongoing life at the right hand of the Father is a form of intercession for us. Whether and how he brings each of our specific cases to the Father, our union with him means that he always stands in our place before the Father. This truth, when we recall it more, will fill us with tremendous confidence and hope. 

As I’ve been reflecting on the intercession of Christ, I’ve taken my cue from John Bunyan, who wrote a devotional book on Hebrews 7:25, “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Rather than simply repeating Bunyan’s insights, however, I want to step back and consider this amazing verse in its context to see the unique nature of Christ’s intercession; from there, we will consider the foundation of this intercession and its implications for us. 

He Saves to the Uttermost 

To see the glory of Christ’s intercession, first consider the argument of Hebrews 7:23–28. Verses 23 and 28 make the same essential point. Both verses contrast the priesthood under the old-covenant law and the priestly ministry of Christ in the new covenant. In verses 23–27, the author moves from the superiority of Christ’s priestly office to the result of his priestly work. In short, he is interceding for us; therefore, he is able to save us to the uttermost. 

What does it mean to save to the uttermost? The word that the ESV translates “to the uttermost” (pantelēs) could have two different senses. It could mean something like “completely,” or it could mean “always.” Both translations fit with the context, because Jesus’s intercession is both complete (so that we can have confidence that he will complete his work in us) and ongoing (so that we can have confidence that he will never abandon us). He saves both completely and forever — to the uttermost. But as we continue to trace the argument in Hebrews 7, notice the last part of verse 25. This gives us the reason why we can have confidence that Jesus is going to save his people in every way: “He always lives to make intercession for them.” 

Unique Intercessor 

If you are united by faith to him, Jesus is interceding for you right now in such a way that he will most certainly save you in every way. This means we don’t need this kind of intercession from anyone else, living or dead. I have several friends who are Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, and they hold to some version of prayer to the saints, who will then intercede to God on our behalf. I love these friends dearly, but I cannot see a biblical foundation for praying to the saints. 

The best versions of this doctrine do not teach that we pray to the saints so that they will somehow intervene in events on earth; instead, my friends will say that we ask the saints to intercede on our behalf because they have closer access to God. Retired Roman Catholic professor Robert Doud describes this understanding well: “We think of saints as especially close to God and as influential for others in their relationship with God. . . . The saints love us; they care for us; they intercede for us” (“Saints, the Church and Personal Prayer,” The Way 55:1, 41). 

Some might say that this intercession is just like asking our fellow church members to pray for us. But when the New Testament speaks of intercessory prayer, it is a call to labor together in ministry as brothers and sisters in Christ, as Paul asks the Corinthian church to do (2 Corinthians 1:11). It is not pleading to God on the basis of our superior closeness to him with the aim of winning acceptance from him. That kind of intercession is reserved for Christ alone. 

Apart from the lack of any biblical evidence supporting prayer to the saints, there is a real danger of letting those prayers supersede our dependence on Christ. He alone intercedes for us in such a way that we will be saved to the uttermost. If we think that saints who have gone before us can help more because they are especially close to God, we could lose sight of the foundation of Christ’s intercession: his own person and work. 

We intercede for each other to share in ministry together and plead with God on behalf of our brothers and sisters, but we do not intercede with each other on the basis of our own righteousness that we give to each other. However, we can see in texts such as Romans 8:34 and 1 John 2:1 that Christ’s intercession for us is exactly that. No saint, living or dead, can intercede for us the way Christ does and must. 

Christ Pleads Himself 

In Romans 8, Paul reminds us that we have supreme confidence in God’s acceptance of us because Christ, who died and rose again, is at the Father’s right hand, interceding for us. In the ongoing argument of Romans, the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection is clear. A few chapters earlier, Paul concludes that Christ “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25). Christ died for our sins, rose again so that we might be justified in union with him, and is now pleading our case before the Father on the basis of his work for us. His intercession can save us to the uttermost because his intercession is rooted in his death and resurrection. In other words, the great gospel events provide the foundation for Jesus’s ongoing intercession for us: he pleads for us on the basis of who he is and what he has done. 

This is also why John can write with the reassurance that if anyone sins, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). A few lines earlier, John writes that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us” (1 John 1:9). This forgiveness is on the basis of Christ, the righteous one. He actively pleads his righteousness on our behalf. As surely as Christ pleads for us, our sin will be forgiven. 

So then, we need not pray to the saints, because we have the same access to Christ that they have, and he is the one who is interceding for us! His intercession means that he will save us to the uttermost because he pleads on the basis of his work, with the result that our sins will be forgiven. This should fill us with unshakable confidence and a hope that seems almost irrational to anyone watching us. 

Boldly Come Before the Throne 

We live in days that could easily drive us under the covers and into hiding. When we look out of our windows at the injustice and pain around us, we will not have much reason for hope. Neither will running to any political parties or institutions that devalue life and perpetuate what John Paul II called the “culture of death” in the West. No, our confidence and hope is found in this: Christ, the righteous one, the one who died for our transgressions and was raised for our justification, is interceding for us right this moment. 

And because of this, we can be sure that he will save us to the uttermost. He will save us completely, and he will save us forever. He is pleading his case for us now, and he will continue to do so for all eternity. Because he intercedes for us, we can come to God with what looks like unexplainable confidence and irrational hope, because we come on the basis of Christ. 

In his work on Christ’s intercession, Bunyan concludes: 

Let this doctrine give thee boldness to come to God. Shall Jesus Christ be interceding in heaven? Oh, then, be thou a praying man on earth; yea, take courage to pray. Think thus with thyself — I go to God, to God, before whose throne the Lord Jesus is ready to hand my petitions to him; yea, “he ever lives to make intercession for me.” This is a great encouragement to come to God by prayers and supplications for ourselves, and by intercessions for our families, our neighbours, and enemies. (Christ — A Complete Saviour, 239) 

May we pray with this confidence, knowing that Christ himself intercedes for us. 

Chris Bruno (@chrisbruno1) is assistant professor of New Testament and Greek at Bethlehem College & Seminary and author of the book Paul vs. James: What We’ve Been Missing in the Faith and Works Debate. He and his wife, Katie, live in Burnsville, MN, with their four sons.

Daily Light – August 25, 2020

Will the New Creation Look Like This One? 

Interview with John Piper, Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org 

Will the new creation to come resemble this creation as we know it? Will we recognize mountain ranges and the location of cities? Will we recognize metro skylines? Will we depend, in the new creation, on similar technologies like jets and cars and houses that resemble what we think houses should look like? Or will everything in the new creation be radically dissimilar? This is always a great question, on the discontinuity and continuity of what we can expect in the new creation. Today it comes to us from a podcast listener named Zack: “Pastor John, hello, and thank you for this podcast. As I continue to read Scripture, particularly about the events to come, I tend to get confused. I don’t really understand what’s meant by the new heavens and new earth. My confusion boils down to this: Will the new creation look a lot different than this world looks right now? Or will it be very similar? When the sin and sorrow is gone, what can we expect to see?” 

As I read the New Testament — indeed, the whole Bible — it seems to me that we are encouraged, on the one hand, to believe that in the age to come beyond death, beyond this fallen world, there will be enough overlap with our present experience of creation and of God that we should hope for a sweet sense of sinless familiarity. That’s one emphasis I see. 

But on the other hand, we are confronted in the Bible with inevitable dimensions of the future that are unknown — really unknown: the unknowns of what those joys will be like beyond our present capacity to experience and to imagine. 

In other words, the Bible requires us not only to live by faith right now, rather than by sight, but also requires us to die by faith rather than by sight. Great faith (at least I feel this) will be needed in that hour of death, so that the unknown dimensions of life beyond this life will not feel terrifying. I mean, just think of it: God clearly does not want his children to be terrified at the prospect of entering into the fullness of their inheritance; that’s a no-brainer. And yet, how natural it is to tremble at such a vast, never-ending, infinite unknown. So, we will need great faith when we put our foot in the river for the final crossing. 

Now, the Bible is not silent about these things. There are so many wonderful passages where God is helping us rejoice in hope and be confident in the hour of moving from this known world to that largely unknown world. So, let me point to a few passages that get at this both-and: the expectation of familiarity and the expectation of the unknown. 

Our ‘Mortal Bodies’ 

So first, God wants us to know that we will be raised bodily from the dead. Romans 8:11, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” That’s real continuity. That’s not like God saying, “I’m going to make up a new body”; that’s real. 

Now, what will life be like in these new resurrection bodies, which are our mortal bodies? Jesus gave a pointer in Matthew 22:30: “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” There will be radically new dimensions of love and joy that make the sweetest, deepest married love seem like child’s play. For those of us who’ve been married happily for fifty years, that’s pretty hard to imagine. “Noël, where did you go?” Well, she won’t disappear. No, it’s impossible for us to imagine. That’s why I talk about the unknown: like no marriage, like angels. 

Our ‘Spiritual Bodies’ 

Now, when Paul was pressed about what kind of body we would have when we are raised, he said in 1 Corinthians 15:42–44

So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 

So, we have imperishable bodies, glorious bodies, powerful bodies, spiritual bodies. Who knows what a spiritual body is? The closest glimpse we get is the resurrection body of Jesus. He ate fish to prove to his disciples that he’s not a ghost or a spirit (Luke 24:36–43). And yet he came and went, it seems, in ways that defy the ordinary categories of space and time. 

This is what I mean by the combination of familiar — like eating fish — and unknown. Where did he go? How did he get here? That’s something of the paradox of our spiritual bodies, our resurrection bodies. 

Saved to Sin No More 

One of the greatest hopes we have beyond the physical body is to sin no more, to displease the Lord never again. Oh, what a glorious freedom of conscience that will be! And to make it even better, John tells us that the basis of this new sinlessness that’s coming will be the sight of Jesus himself. Remember that from 1 John 3:2? “We know that when he appears we shall be like him [there goes all the sin], because we shall see him as he is.” 

It’s a double blessing of “there he is; face to face with Jesus” and — whammo! — there goes all the sin at the sight of Jesus. What a glorious prospect! 

Cosmic Renovation 

And when we turn our attention to the kind of world that Zack is asking about — even more specifically, the world in which we sinless, imperishable, glorious, powerful, spiritual, embodied people will live — Paul answers that we’re going to live in a world perfectly suited to our new freedom from sin and from perishable, dishonorable, weak bodies. Here’s the way he put it in Romans 8:20–21

The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and [this is the amazing part] obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 

In other words, we don’t get adapted to the new heavens and the new earth so much as they get adapted to us. The creation obtains “the freedom of the glory of the children of God,” from which I think we should infer a very precious familiarity, because he talks about setting the old creation free for us. 

Now, sometimes this new world is described as so radically new that we wonder if there could be anything recognizable in it at all. For example, 2 Peter 3:1012–13 says, 

The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed [some manuscripts read burned up instead of exposed]. . . . The heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 

If that were the only passage in the Bible on the future of this world, we might think, “Well, I guess the heavens are just going to go away; they’re going to pass away, and there won’t be any continuity at all with the world that we live in and this world.” 

The Lamb Is Its Lamp 

But here’s another picture from Revelation 21:2–4

I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down [that is, to earth] out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride [the church] adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 

We’re happy to have such former things pass away like crying and pain. But what about sun and moon? I mean, thousands of poems of joy have been written about the sun and the moon. They’re beautiful. I love sunsets and sunrises. The thought of not having sunsets and sunrises strikes me as boring. And yet Revelation 22:5 says, “Night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” 

I think this is a good example to end with. I must ask myself as a lover of the moon and a lover of sunrises and sunsets, Will I be disappointed in heaven, in the new earth, at the absence of sun and moon as we know them? And my answer is no. And there are two reasons why John Piper, lover of sunrises, lover of sunsets, says, “No, I won’t be disappointed.” 

The first answer is that the point of Revelation 22:5 was not that something was taken away, but that something infinitely better was given to me that makes the other, literally, by comparison, as nothing. They might be there, but they’re not going to be what they once were, because the Lord God will be our light, and we’re not going to be disappointed with that new kind of light. 

And the other reason I’m not going to be disappointed is this: God promised in Psalm 84:11

The Lord God is a sun and shield;
     the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
     from those who walk uprightly. 

Now, if that’s true now on the earth — “No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” — and it most certainly is true, then how much more will that be true on the new earth? Nothing will be withheld from those who walk uprightly, and all we’ll do there is walk uprightly. 

So, from that I infer this closing principle: whatever we love rightly in this world will either be perfected and preserved, or will be taken from us only in the sense that something will be given that is so much better as to make the thing we hoped never to lose as nothing by comparison. 

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Coronavirus and Christ

Daily Light – August 24, 2020

Will Your Life Count When You’re Gone? 

A Plea for Spiritual Fathers 

Article by Greg Morse, Staff writer, desiringGod.org 

A good friend recently found out that his biological father may have Alzheimer’s disease. When I asked him how he felt about it, he replied, “I’m torn. On the one hand, I’m terrified for him. The disease is savage, and it’s pitiable for anyone to slowly become a stranger to all his loved ones and even himself. I pray to God that he does not have it.” 

I nodded, waiting for him to continue. 

“On the other hand,” he began, and then stopped. “Can I be honest? I know how this will sound.” When I assured him he could, he looked down and continued, “My first thought was that he had Alzheimer’s his whole life. Alzheimer’s when I was a child trying to ride a bike. Alzheimer’s during my first peewee football game. Alzheimer’s for almost every birthday, most Christmases, and at graduation. The hurt I hate to still have crushes me. Should he have this disease — and I pray to God that he doesn’t — I’m angry he won’t have memories of me to forget.” 

What can be said about the internal bleeding that a father can leave with a child? My friend is not the only son to be forgotten. Fatherlessness, real or functional, is not only prevalent in our homes, but even (and more tragically) in the family of God. With male discipleship in the church so rare, with much spiritual leadership in the home so distinctively absent, how many men in the church, if they were to die suddenly, would have spiritual children to leave behind? 

The Man Who Began Well 

Men of God, we are engaged in a multigenerational war for the glory of Christ. Unless our Lord returns first, our sons will have a battle to fight long after we are gone. Should we show so little interest to train them? Let the story of Judah’s greatest king, Hezekiah, warn us from doing many valiant deeds for the Lord and yet, in the end, failing the future men who need us. 

This king accomplished many notable feats during his life. If half of what was said broadly of Hezekiah could be said of us, we could die blessed: 

He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered. (2 Kings 18:5–7

Several great accomplishments marked his mostly-impressive 29-year reign. 

He Abolished Idolatry 

Hezekiah began his rule as a man of God. At just 25 years old, he tore down all idolatry within his grasp. He removed the high places, broke the pillars, and cut down Asherah poles. He shattered Nehushtan, the bronze serpent Moses lifted up for their salvation in the wilderness that the nation had come to worship as an idol (2 Kings 18:4Numbers 21:9). He also waged military campaigns not seen since the reign of David, striking down the Philistines as far as Gaza (2 Kings 18:8). 

And he didn’t just cut out idolatry from the land, but promoted unity of worship of Israel’s God, inviting other tribes to join them in Passover. He sparked a spiritual reformation by opening the doors to the temple, putting God’s house in order, and returning the people to the law of God (2 Chronicles 29:3–11). Hezekiah burned with jealousy for God’s name. 

So far, so good. 

He Defied the Pagan Superpower 

Hezekiah ascended to the throne when Judah lay sandwiched between two superpowers, Egypt to the south and Assyria to the north. Assyria swept across the lands asserting itself as the imperial power of the day, conquering and making smaller nations, like Judah, pay taxes. When Hezekiah initially refused to pay them, things escalated, and Assyria mobilized to invade. 

While King Hezekiah flashed brilliance as a military tactician, switching the water channel from outside Judah’s walls to inside to undermine a siege, he demonstrated his real worth as king by trusting in his God. While Assyria surrounded the city, calling out in an effort to intimidate their surrender (2 Kings 18:19–35), Hezekiah tore his clothes and prayed, “O Lord our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone” (2 Kings 19:14–19). 

God listened to his prayer and promised that Assyria “will not even shoot an arrow” within the city (2 Kings 19:32 NLT). And they didn’t. “That night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians” (2 Kings 19:35). Sennacherib would retreat home to be greeted with an assassination. Hezekiah proved to trust God in the face of their mighty enemies. 

So far, so good. 

Sought the Lord for Healing 

In the very next verse, we discover that Hezekiah becomes fatally ill. Isaiah gives him this word from God: “Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover” (2 Kings 20:1). Upon hearing this, Hezekiah wept bitterly and cried out to God, “Now, O Lord, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight” (2 Kings 20:3). 

God heard his prayer, saw his tears, and added fifteen years to his life (2 Kings 20:5–6). When his life lingered in the balance, Hezekiah went, as he had to that point, to his God for help. 

So far, so good. 

How Not to End Well 

Hezekiah’s story, however, ends on a surprisingly ungodly note. It began with a foolish decision. Once the king recovered, the prince of Babylon sent his greetings. Whether flattered, proud, or perhaps hoping for a political alliance, Hezekiah welcomes the Babylonian envoy and shows them his kingdom — including Judah’s treasure house, its silver, its gold, its costly oils, its armory, and all its riches (2 Kings 20:12–13). 

Afterwards, the prophet Isaiah brings this solemn word, 

Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. (2 Kings 20:17–18

Because of his decision, his children and people would be plundered, captured, and enslaved. Any good king or father would be compelled to fight, to pray, to sacrifice, to defend. 

So, how would Hezekiah respond? Would he tear his garments and seek the Lord, like he had when his kingdom was threatened by Assyria? Would he weep bitterly, like he had for himself when the fatal illness came? Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “‘The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.’ For he thought, ‘Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?’” (2 Kings 20:19). 

A king forgot his people. A general forgot his army. A father forgot his children. All he had been charged to lead, provide for, and protect would suffer, and suffer horribly. His own sons would be slaves. But he would be long gone by then. What did he care? 

Call for Spiritual Fathers 

Hezekiah’s stunning end stands as a plea for older men of the faith to not forget about the next generation. Our churches need more spiritual fathers — present, pastoral, praying. Strong men to lead their families in the Lord, and men to love spiritual children outside their homes. 

It may be well with you in your day. Perhaps you grew up under religious freedoms, spent your youth for Christ, have seen spiritual forces of darkness flee before the banner of our King. Perhaps you feel that many of your most prominent victories lay behind you, that your lot has fallen in pleasant places. You’re content to let the young men in the pews figure it out — just like you did. They serve the same sovereign Lord who will sustain them as he sustained you. 

But as a young man speaking for young men, please do not take off your uniforms. You may have the scars and stories to prove your valor, but your ribbons and medals are no protection for yourself or your spiritual sons following after you. The same enemy that has hunted you these many years hunts us both still today. 

Do not fall to the temptation of selfishness that slew Hezekiah. We ask you to imitate Paul and take under your watchfulness your own Titus, Onesimus, and Timothy. Will you delightfully overhear Paul’s counsel to pass on all that he has received to other faithful men (2 Timothy 2:2)? Let the thought of more crowns before the Lord entice you to spend even these last stretches laboring for the eternal good of those who you leave behind to carry on the work (1 Thessalonians 2:19). Young men in the church need your wisdom, your prayers, your fatherhood, your help. 

Greg Morse is a staff writer for desiringGod.org and graduate of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Abigail, live in St. Paul with their daughter. 

Daily Light – August 21, 2020

Survey: Majority of American Christians Don’t Believe the Gospel

By Joe Carter, Editor, The Gospel Coalition

The Story: A new survey finds that a majority of people who describe themselves as Christian accept a “works-oriented” means to God’s acceptance.

The Background: A survey conducted by the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University find that American adults today increasingly adopt a “salvation-can-be-earned” perspective. A plurality of adults (48 percent) believe that if a person is generally good, or does enough good things during their life, they will “earn” a place in heaven. Only one-third of adults (35 percent) disagree.

A majority of Americans who describe themselves as Christian (52 percent) also accept a “works-oriented” means to God’s acceptance—even those associated with churches whose official doctrine says eternal salvation comes only from embracing Jesus Christ as savior. Almost half of all adults associated with Pentecostal (46 percent), mainline Protestant (44 percent), and evangelical (41 percent) churches, as well as nearly two-thirds of Catholics (70 percent), hold that view.

While about 65 percent of American adults describe themselves as Christians, only about half (54 percent) believe they will experience heaven after they die. Only one-third of adults (33 percent) believe they will go to heaven solely because of confessing their sins and embracing Jesus as their savior. Another one-in-five expecting to experience heaven are counting on earning their way in or because they embrace universalism (i.e., that God will let all people into heaven).

Among those with other views, 15 percent said they don’t know what will happen after they die; 13 percent said there is no life after death; 8 percent expect to be reincarnated; and another 8 percent believe they will go to a place of purification prior to entering heaven. A mere 2 percent believe they will go to hell.

Based on age groups, just 20 percent of people age 18 to 29 believe that when they die they will go to heaven only because they have confessed their sins and have accepted Jesus as their savior; 30 percent of those 30 to 49 and 40 percent of adults 50 and older hold that belief. Women were more likely than men (36 percent versus, 30 percent, respectively), and those who have conservative political views were much more likely to hold that belief (52 percent) than were political moderates (28 percent) or liberals (16 percent). More than one-third of whites and blacks (35 percent each) also held this view compared to only one quarter of Hispanics did (25 percent).

What It Means: Christians who believe that salvation can be earned need to read the New Testament.

The Gospel of Matthew tells of a rich young man who asked Jesus what good works he must do to inherit eternal life (Matt. 19:16). Jesus responded that if the man wanted to be judged by his works, then he must keep the entire Law—and do so perfectly. The young man thought he had done enough good works to earn a place in heaven because he was judging himself by man-made standards rather than the perfect standard of God. But that’s not how it works. As the apostle James clarifies, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (Jam. 2:10).

Because we can’t keep the Law perfectly, we have to rely on someone who did—Jesus (1 Pet. 2:22). When we believe in who Jesus and what he did our “faith is credited as righteousness” (Rom. 4:5). That the good news; that’s the gospel.

The gospel according to Paul is simultaneously an affirmation of who Jesus is (Rom. 1:3-4) as well as of what he has done (1 Cor. 15). In Romans 1, Paul says he was “set apart for the gospel of God which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord . . .” Then, in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul adds:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

Simon Gathercole summarizes the Pauline definition of the gospel as: God’s account of his saving activity in Jesus the Messiah, in which, by Jesus’s death and resurrection, he atones for sin and brings new creation. Our faith in Jesus, not our works, makes us right with God (Rom. 3:28).

There is, of course, more to the gospel than the good news about our salvation being purchased by Jesus and through faith in him sinful men and women are reconciled to a holy God. But if you do not believe that aspect of the gospel you do not believe the gospel. And if you don’t believe the gospel you should stop calling yourself a Christian.

This survey shows that too many Christians aren’t Christians at all. They are not relying on the finished work in Christ but trusting that their own works will be judged worthy by God. There are many reasons why this belief is prevalent among self-identified Christians, but a primary cause is that they likely haven’t heard the gospel.

This may seem like an absurd claim since Christian leaders in America appear to be constantly talking about the gospel. But this is partially due to self-selection bias: if you’re the type of person who would visit the website of The Gospel Coalition to read an article about how American Christians don’t believe the gospel, you probably assume most Christians are also familiar with the gospel. Even in gospel-centered churches, though, we can’t take for granted that the good news has been fully heard. As my friend and pastor Eric Saunders says, when you get tired of talking about a subject is usually when your audience is just starting to pay attention to your message.

This survey should be a reminder how easy it is for people to slip back in to relying on themselves, and how we need to constantly proclaim the gospel—to ourselves and our neighbors—until we fully realize that we can only be rescued from our sin through what Jesus accomplished by his life, death, and resurrection.

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition, author of The Life and Faith Field Guide for Parents, the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible, and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator. He also serves as an executive pastor at the McLean Bible Church Arlington campus in Arlington, Virginia. You can follow him on Twitter.

Daily Light – August 20, 2020

The Forgotten Book for Sexual Purity 

Article by Marshall Segal, Staff writer, desiringGod.org 

Conquering sexual sin, especially the sin of indulging in pornography, takes more than internet filters and accountability reports. Good tools are priceless, even indispensable. Accountability software proved invaluable in my own battle for purity. We need good tools, just as a soldier needs good weapons. But tools and weapons are inadequate on their own. 

And we know they’re inadequate, because our sexual sin isn’t something somewhere out on the internet, waiting for us to fall into its trap. “Out of the heart,” Jesus says, “come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person” (Matthew 15:19–20). Pornography, as wicked and murderous as it is, isn’t ultimately to blame for our failures. Illicitness around us taps into illicitness inside us. The whole vile industry would suffocate without our own iniquity. 

The sobering reality about pornography is that our sin emerges not in front of us, but from within us. The images and videos awaken and encourage the suicidal hungers already there. That means we can download any software, apply any filter, discard any device or screen, and still not break free. We need something bigger and more powerful than software. 

More than anything, we need God — his saving power, through the cross, to forgive and cancel our sin (Colossians 2:13–14), his renewing Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:17), his grace and wisdom (1 Corinthians 10:13), his people to fight with us weekly, daily, hourly if necessary (Hebrews 3:13). While acknowledging this, though, many of us may have missed a mountain of help, an ocean of strength, a river of perspective and guidance, a field of superior pleasure, a forgotten well of purity. We may have misplaced an old and proven book on how to be free. 

The Lost Book 

God himself opens that book for us when he confronts Job and leads him to repentance. The suffering Job experienced was not a judgment against his sin (Job 1:8), but Job did sin by contending with God (Job 31:35), arguing with God over how he had been treated (Job 13:3). Every sin, especially sexual sin, can be defined as contending with God. Different sins contend differently, but all challenge the wisdom, power, and worth of the Almighty. To indulge in temptation is to defy God, to disregard his commands, to dare him to judge our sin. To sin is to say that God did not mean what he said, and that he won’t do what he promised. 

So, if you were Job’s friend, and listened to him argue with God, how might you lead him to confession, repentance, and renewed purity? God does something surprising (which is also surprisingly relevant thousands of years later). God confronts Job with creation, walking with him through the wonder and wisdom of all that he has made. T.M. Moore writes, 

God himself was able to lead Job to humility and repentance by a tour de force of the creation. . . . The majesty, beauty, power, and intimate care of God revealed in things he has made, and daily sustains, brings Job to his knees and turns him from sliding into sin to pursuing holiness before the Lord. (Consider the Lilies, 74, 82) 

What kept Job from sliding further into sin? Getting outside and seeing, really seeing, the glory in what God has made. Maybe the lost book on sexual purity in our day is the book God has been writing from the very beginning, the book of continents and constellations, of winds and waves, of lions, ravens, and reptiles — the book of “his eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20). Maybe we would finally conquer sexual temptation if we uncovered the purifying power of creation. 

The Tour de Force 

Someone may have already counseled you to flee the scene when sexual temptation strikes — close the computer, put away your phone, leave the house, take a walk. It’s good advice. And it’s made better when we don’t just flee from sin, but flee to something. What if we took a walk and deliberately looked for something, anything, God has made? That’s what God does for Job. 

The Lord begins, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:4). Even the ground under our feet can remind us that he is God. Then he wades into the seas, reminiscing about the boundaries he built around them saying, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed” (Job 38:11). Shores exist not because oceans run out of water, but because God drew a line in the sand. How could we contend with a God like this? 

Then the Lord describes where he stores his avalanches of snow and hail, each flake and stone kept for the day he has appointed (Job 38:22–23). And then he runs his divine fingers through the channels that deliver the spring rains (Job 38:25), and stops to admire the clouds he scattered across the sky (Job 38:9), remembering the fearsome precision of his lightning (Job 38:25). Then he climbed even higher, to retrace the stars he hung, constellations he himself mapped, connecting each blazing dot (Job 38:31–33). How could we disregard the breathtaking power and wisdom of a God like this? 

Then the Lord embarks on a wilderness safari, narrating creatures that roam the earth, and soar through the sky, and dive in the deepest waters. He begins with the lion’s pride, reminding Job who feeds every animal on the food chain, from top to bottom (Job 38:39–40). He flies with ravens, and climbs with mountain goats (Job 38:41–39:4). He dwells on the ostrich (of all creatures!), every ounce of her strangeness filled with his purpose (Job 39:13–18). He rides horses into battle, and hunts with hawks and eagles (Job 39:19–30). Then he goes where few dare to trod, hiking to find the biggest, most dangerous predators of the forest (Job 40:15) and diving amidst the most terrifying sea creatures (Job 41:1). How could we sin against a God like this? 

Along the way, the Lord reminds Job of one of the more overlooked weapons in the fight against temptation: 

Behold, Behemoth,
which I made as I made you;
he eats grass like an ox. (Job 40:15

Lest we get lost in the breadth and length and height and depth of all creation, God reminds us of the most intimate window we have into his wisdom and power: his creation of us. Even if you don’t have quick access to oceans or forests, lions or constellations, you have full and unfiltered access to you. 

He formed us, fearfully and wonderfully, in an unlit world (Psalm 139:13–14). Our features were not fit together in an assembly line, but woven together with artistic care (Psalm 139:15). Our stories are not unfolding accidentally, but every day was known, planned, written down before we took our first breath (Psalm 139:16). How could we, made by God in his own image, exchange him for a few illicit images on a screen? 

Job’s Response and Ours 

So, what did Job say after his long, wild walk with God? Did he repent and turn away from sin? “Then Job answered the Lord and said: ‘Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth’” (Job 40:3–4). Wonder gave way to humility. Majesty quieted all his arguments. The universe dispelled the enticement of sin. 

Creation humbles us by reminding us just how small, fragile, and powerless we are (“I am of small account”), but also by reminding us just how big and powerful our God really is. Job continues, 

I know that you can do all things,
     and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. . . .
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
     but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
     and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:25–6). 

If God can roll out the earth like carpet in our living room, what can’t he do? If God could carve out the Pacific Ocean, deciding where it would rise and fall and stop, can we really question his wisdom and power? If God can feed and keep lions and whales, bears and squids, hawks and even ostriches, could he not satisfy our souls forever? If God can count and name every star anywhere in the universe, will he not notice every time we secretly sin? And if he makes, sustains, and rules it all in perfect holiness and purity, will he not judge, with almighty wrath and justice, everyone who contends with him? 

In light of all of the evidence in creation, all of this living, breathing, flying, growing, running, blooming, swimming, thundering evidence for God, how could we wander, again, down the dark alleys of pornography? 

Enemies of Lust 

In the summer of 1990, John Piper preached a series of two sermons on this often neglected ministry of God, “Do You See the Joy of God in the Sun?” In the second message on Psalm 19, he narrows in on lust. 

“Do you know why there are no windows on adult bookstores?” he asks, “Or do you know why there are no windows on certain kinds of nightclubs in the city? I suppose your answer would be, ‘Well, because they don’t want people looking in and getting a free sight.’ That is not the only reason. You know why? Because they don’t want people looking out at the sky. You know why? The sky is the enemy of lust. I just ask you to think back on your struggles. The sky is a great power against lust. Pure, lovely, wholesome, powerful, large-hearted things cannot abide the soul of a sexual fantasy at the same time.” 

Piper continues, “I developed strategies over the years that have proved very effective. And one way of fighting was simply to get out of the dark places — get out of the lonely rooms. Get out of the boxed-in places. Get out of the places where it is just small — me and my mind and my imagination, what I can do with it — and get to where I am just surrounded by color and beauty and bigness and loveliness. . . . There is something about bigness, something about beauty that helps battle against the puny, small, cruddy use of the mind to fantasize about sexual things.” 

This kind of pleasure-seeking is the opposite of indulging in pornography, which is passive, lazy, unimaginative, self-consumed. Instead of letting Satan drag you back into smallness, fight temptation with bigness, with walks and runs, with long drives and nature documentaries, with skies and fields and parks, with more and more glimpses of God. 

Marshall Segal (@marshallsegal) is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod.org. He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating. He graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Faye, have a son and live in Minneapolis. 

Daily Light – August 19, 2020

Aren’t the Genealogies of Jesus Given in Matthew and Luke Contradictory? 

Explanation provided by Josh McDowell, Josh McDowell Ministries 

A question that has longed perplexed the readers of the New Testament concerns the differing genealogies of Jesus Christ recorded in Matthew 1 and Luke 3. 

At first glance, the impression is created that both accounts are tracing the family line of Jesus through His earthly father Joseph in which case we would be faced with an obvious contradiction, because Matthew 1:16 indicates Jacob is Joseph’s father, while Luke 3:23 tells us that Heli is the father of Joseph. 

A plausible solution to this difficulty is to understand that Matthew is indeed giving us Joseph’s family line, but Luke is tracing the genealogy of Mary. The reason that Mary is not mentioned in Luke 3 is because she has already been designated the mother of Jesus in several instances. 

The usual practice of a Jewish genealogy is to give the name of the father, grandfather, etc., of the person in view. Luke follows this pattern, and does not mention the name of Mary, but the name of the legal father. However, Luke is quick to add that Joseph is not, in reality, the father of Jesus, since Jesus had been virgin born (Luke 1:34, 35). 

A literal translation of Luke 3:23 would be, “Jesus, when He began, was about thirty years old, being the son (as it was thought) of Joseph, of Heli.… ” This does not at all mean that Jesus was the son of Heli, but that Jesus was a descendant, on His mother’s side, of Heli. The word “son” has this wider meaning. 

Thus Luke is tracing the roots of Jesus through His mother, Mary, who was a descendant of Heli, etc. Joseph’s name is mentioned, according to the common practice, but he is clearly portrayed as the supposed father of Jesus, and God as the actual father. 

The purpose of the two genealogies is to demonstrate that Jesus was in the complete sense a descendant of David. Through His foster father, Joseph, He inherited—by law—the royal line, albeit a deposed line according to Jeremiah 22:28–30. More importantly through His mother He was a flesh and blood descendant of King David through David’s son Nathan. Thus, Jesus had the proper credentials for the throne of David. 

Daily Light – August 18, 2020

Men of God Are Men of His Word 

Article by Ben Collins, Pastor, San Luis Obispo, California 

After years of pastoral ministry, and after meeting with dozens of men, here’s one lesson I have learned: Christian men know and feel that they should be reading the Bible. Generally speaking, we don’t need to be told that we need to read the Bible. 

And yet most men, myself included, get lazy and lonely in their Bible reading, and end up burdened by guilt and shame. Other men, myself also included, get serious and strategic in their Bible reading, but end up burdened by pride and self-righteousness. How do we find the narrow path between avoiding Bible reading and boasting in it, between negligence and arrogance? How do we become the Psalm 1 man who “who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1–2)? 

As I look back at my own experience, the seasons of greatest love for God and others have corresponded with more than faithfully finishing a Bible reading plan. Not less than, but always more than. And that “more than” has included reading the word as a son, hearing the word as a brother with other men, and then speaking the word as a father. 

Read His Word as Sons 

Of the three, reading God’s word as a son is likely the most familiar paradigm. You know that the Bible is more than just checking a box. It is more like opening a box personally addressed to you. God is not communicating with you as his peer, his buddy, or as his enemy, but as his precious son. The Bible is God’s gift to his children. 

The apostle John happily and purposefully clarifies that we aren’t just “called children of God” but that “we are” children of God (1 John 3:1). Being a son of God is both static and dynamic. In one sense, it never changes; it never becomes untrue. What a motivation to persevere in hearing from him each day! Yet, in another sense, being a son of God changes as it becomes more true — as we become more Son-like. How does this happen? Ultimately, the arrival of all that it means to be a son of God will occur upon “see[ing Jesus] as he is” when he arrives in glory (1 John 3:2). On that day, we won’t doubt or wonder anymore what it feels like to be a child of God. But even today, we can experience sonship more and more, as “everyone who thus hopes in [Jesus] purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). 

So, when we take the posture of a son when we read the Bible, we experience his word as a purifying gift, one we gladly receive from our heavenly Father. Our Father gave his sons his word that he might deliver us from being “conformed to this world” and to being “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 12:28:29). 

Hear His Word as Brothers 

The danger of only receiving his word as a son lies in our self-deception. Reading the Bible in isolation can be dangerous. We can unknowingly pick and choose which words we’ll receive, embrace, and obey, while our hearts hush the voice of the Spirit calling to us through the rest of Scripture. 

I’ve had plenty of insightful moments in the word in my own personal study, and yet oftentimes I uniquely experience that “two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit” when someone else wields it for my good (Hebrews 4:123:13). We need other paradigms, other sets of eyes. We need to hear his word together, as brothers. 

We not only need to open our eyes to the pages of God’s word, but we need to open our ears to other men of the word. We need others to speak the word of God into the corners of our hearts, the places we sinfully resist going and addressing. And by hearing and obeying the word from others, something incredible happens — we experience the rare and refining gift of brotherhood (Psalm 133:1). 

Speak His Word as Fathers 

Danger also awaits if we read as sons, and even as brothers, but forsake this final approach: speaking the word of God as fathers. If we only read and hear the word, where then is our ministry? Where then is our obedience to the “one another” commands in Scripture? Where then is the pervasive joy Paul and John experienced among their children in the faith (Philippians 4:13 John 1:4)? Joy and glory are found as we commit to speaking his word as spiritual fathers. 

Paul refers to the Corinthian believers as his “beloved children” (1 Corinthians 4:14) and writes, “Though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me” (1 Corinthians 4:15–16). Paul has a fatherly affection for his children, as opposed to the countless guides “who give out their services as hirelings,” John Calvin writes, “in such a manner as to discharge as it were a mere temporary office, and in the meantime hold the people in subjections and admiration.” Fathers are in it for their children (“You are my joy and glory”). Guides are often in it just for themselves (“I am my joy and glory”). Fathers discipline to grow and mature their children. Guides often brandish their authority to avoid being shamed by the behavior of those beneath them. We need fathers. And we need to be fathers. 

Paul calls for his spiritual children to imitate him. To speak as he spoke. To love as he loved. To become fathers as he fathered them in Christ. To experience the joy and glory of seeing God use words from our mouths to snatch souls “from the domain of darkness” and transfer them “to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13). To watch their own spiritual children in the faith grow and mature, through the words of God, that they might become complete and ready for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17). 

More Than Bible Readers 

Men, whether we have languished under the weight of guilt and shame or swelled with pride and boasting in our Bible reading, I pray we will be more than just Bible readers. The Pharisees were Bible readers, but many were far from the heart of God. Aim to be men of God by giving yourself to his word as sons. 

Then ask God to bring humility to your heart so you can hear the word from other men. It can be scary to hand the two-edged sword of the word to another. Many are unwilling to entrust themselves to a brother. Perhaps you’re like me; you’re fine operating on others’ hearts, but you’re frightened to lie on the operating table yourself. Lie down, brothers. Let another brother faithfully and accurately wield that two-edged sword into your soul, and experience the joyful death of your self-deception and sin again and again. 

Finally, friends, don’t miss the joy of being a father to other children of God. Aim to say of many of your children in the faith as Paul said of his, “You are [my] glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:20). Let their progress and joy in believing drive you deeper into the word and move you to share what you have seen. 

Ben Collins is a campus pastor of Grace Central Coast in San Luis Obispo, California, and a former faculty member at Bethlehem College & Seminary, where he lectured in the Omnia program. He is married to his wife, Erica, and they have three children.