“Even if you could enter heaven without holiness, what would you do? What joy would you feel there? What holy man or woman of God would you sit down with for fellowship? Their pleasures are not your pleasures. Their character is not your character. What they love, you do not love. If you dislike a holy God now, why would you want to be with him forever? If worship does not capture your attention at present, what makes you think it will thrill you in some heavenly future? If ungodliness is your delight here on earth, what will please you in heaven, where all is clean and pure? You would not be happy there if you are not holy here. Or as Spurgeon put it, ‘Sooner could a fish live upon a tree than the wicked in Paradise’” (Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in our Holiness, 15).
Enjoying God Blog
We return to Paul’s prayer in Romans 15:13 and take note of yet another of the five important truths found in it.
Third, pleasure in God is the fruit of faith in God.
It is from or through the Scriptures that joy and peace arise. Why do I say this? I say it because Paul prays in Romans 15:13 that God would "fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." The phrase “in believing” could as easily be rendered, “as” you believe or “because” you believe or “in connection with” believing. In any case, the point is that God will most assuredly not fill you abundantly with these if you don’t believe. Both joy and peace are the fruit of believing, which in turn yields hope.
But believe "what"? Belief is confidence placed in the truth of what God has revealed to us in Scripture about who he is and our relationship to him through Jesus. The “believing” Paul has in mind is confidence and faith and trust in (1) the person of God revealed in Jesus, (2) the promises of God articulated in Scripture, and (3) the power of God by which he makes it all come to pass.
Belief does not plant itself in mid-air, but in the firm foundation of inspired, revelatory words inscripturated for us in the Bible.
And it’s not just joy and peace that come from believing God’s Word. The Word of God is the spring from which the waters of faith arise. Paul says in Romans 10:17 that "faith comes from hearing" and that hearing comes "through the word of Christ." People are drowning in skepticism and suffocating from doubt. They desperately need faith, but it doesn’t just happen serendipitously. Faith doesn’t miraculously appear out of thin air; it comes only if and when we hear and treasure the word of Christ.
There’s still more. It is
In an earlier post I explained why prayers such as Romans 15:13 are so important and instructive. In this one I want to unpack Paul’s petition with two of five observations.
First, God is no miser with his mercy. Note the words “fill”, “all”, and “abound”.
Paul prays that God will “fill” us with joy and peace, not simply “give” or “impart” or “enable” us to experience these blessings, but that he might “fill” us with them! His emphasis is on the effusive, generous, expansive abundant, overflowing, and measureless way in which God answers prayers (cf. Ps. 16:11). We don’t simply “have” or “possess” these blessings: we are “filled” with them, inundated and awash and overflowing with them.
Note also that it is not “some” joy or a “fraction” of peace or “a small measure” of hope. Paul prays that we be filled with “all” joy and “all”. Not just a little here and there but with the totality of joy and the entirety of peace.
Furthermore, we don’t simply “hope.” Far less do we hang on by our fingernails. Rather we “abound” in hope! Again Paul points to the lavishness of God’s grace. God is no miser when it comes to his mercy. This is no tentative, anxious, uncertain, doubt-filled wish. It is a prayer for the overflowing and effusive gift of God’s grace.
Second, Paul prays for joy and peace because he knows that pleasure in God is the power for purity.
In yet another passage Paul stated clearly that his motive for ministry was the joy of God’s people (2 Corinthians 1:23-24). Whatever decisions he made, whatever he wrote in his epistles, was always based on what he believed would best serve their joy! Paul had some harsh things
In view of the recent tragic death of Rick Warren’s 27-year-old son, Matthew, perhaps we should give some deep consideration to the nature of suicide and the oft-asked question: Is suicide the unpardonable sin? But before diving into the deep end of this devastating topic, please pause and pray for the Warren family, as well as for others who have lost a friend or family member in a similar fashion.
Statistics can often deceive and be used to prove just about anything. But these don’t lie. They are sobering and serious (from the Associated Press, Public Health Service).
There are four male suicides for every one female; however, at least twice as many females as males attempt suicide.
Sixty percent of all people who commit suicide kill themselves with guns.
Guns are now used in more suicides than homicides.
Women are more likely to use drugs or poison than violent means; men are more inclined to use a quick, violent means of suicide such as a gun or hanging.
500,000 Americans survive suicide attempts each year.
Of those who commit suicide, only 25% are determined to have been mentally ill.
Of those who commit suicide, 80% warned someone that they were contemplating doing so.
The highest suicide rates are among people ages 35-49 and people 65 and over.
The suicide rate on American Indian reservations is 5x the national average.
The Bible doesn’t say much about suicide, other than to record the occurrence of six incidents where a person takes his life. In none of these is an explicit moral evaluation or judgment rendered: the case of Abimelech in Judges 9:50-57; the case of Samson in Judges 16:28-30 (although some are not convinced this is suicide in the strict sense of the term); Saul and his armor-bearer in 1 Samuel 31:1-6 (2 Samuel 1:1-15; 1 Chron. 10:1-13); Ahithophel in 2 Samuel 17:23; Zimri in1 Kings 16:18-19; and Judas Iscariot in Matthew 27:5. It is wor
It’s been a while since Christmas, but my thoughts are still fixed on the holiday season. I only ventured out once into the shopping malls of Oklahoma City prior to Christmas Day, and once, I assure you, was quite enough. Although the atmosphere was in many ways electric and exciting and people seemed to be having a good time, I couldn’t help but wonder how these same people would be feeling the week after Christmas, after all the holiday festivities had died down and they suddenly discovered that life hadn’t changed much.
You see, for the non-Christian, Christmas is incredibly artificial. It’s a little bit like nitrous oxide or laughing gas that some dentists use to calm you down before a tooth extraction. It’s rather pleasant for a while and no one feels any pain, for a while. And then its numbing effect slowly begins to dissipate, and the pain of life returns in full force.
For those who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, Christmas serves only to give them an excuse to pretend that they somewhat like their family and that all is well and that there is hope for the future. But once the lights are turned out and the food is all eaten and family members have returned to their homes, life is still there, waiting for them. The problems they faced before Christmas haven’t magically disappeared, the broken relationships haven’t healed, and the bills they must pay have only gotten bigger and even more unmanageable.
So how is it any different for the Christian? Well, there are countless ways, but let me mention only three. For those who know and follow Jesus there is an abiding joy that no amount of family discord or financial pressure can undermine. For those who know and follow Jesus there is peace, a tranquility of soul and spirit that has the power to overcome whatever turmoil and tragedy we’ve yet to face. And there is hope;
I’m excited about a new biography of C. S. Lewis just released by Tyndale House. Alister McGrath, Professor King’s College, London, has written: C. S. Lewis: A Life, Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2013), 427 pp. The only other biography written by McGrath that I’ve read is his treatment of the life of J. I. Packer. This one looks to be quite good, if the endorsements are any measure of its quality. McGrath is applauded by such as Tim Keller, Eric Metaxas, N. T. Wright, and Alan Jacobs. Perhaps the most informed C. S. Lewis scholar of our day is my former colleague at Wheaton College and good friend, Lyle Dorsett. Dorsett writes: “For people who might wonder if we need another biography of C. S. Lewis, McGrath’s crisp, insightful, and at times quite original portrait of the celebrated Oxford Christian will change their minds.” As soon as I’ve had opportunity to read it, I’ll post on whether you should.
Let me mention one additional interesting historical fact. As many of you know, 2013 is the 50th anniversary of Lewis’s death (he actually passed away in 1963 on the same day when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated). But this year is also the 60th anniversary of the death of Joseph Stalin. Stalin led the former Soviet Union from 1924 until his death in 1953. What a striking contrast between two lives: one who was wholly devoted to Christ for the sake of others, and the other wholly consumed with himself at the expense of others.
We earlier saw that the gospel is what binds Paul and the Philippians, indeed, it is what binds you with other believers as well. I pointed out that this expresses itself in four ways, two of which we’ve already noted. We turn now to the third and fourth.
Third, Paul’s joyful gratitude to God is also based on his confidence that the work God initiated in them he will bring to completion (v. 6).
Paul had seen his fare share of people who loudly proclaimed their faith in Jesus only later to betray the fact that they never truly knew him as Lord and Savior. But he is confident beyond all doubt that what God had started in the lives of the Philippians he would in fact finish and bring to consummation. That isn’t to say that these people wouldn’t face obstacles to Christian growth. It isn’t to say that Satan had given up trying to deceive them and derail their faith. It isn’t to say that the Philippians had graduated into some super-spiritual condition that put them beyond the reach of temptation and sin.
Neither is it to say that they need not strive and maintain their spiritual diligence and pursue holiness in life. Rather it is to say that God is faithful to his work. It is to say that God will do whatever it takes to uphold the Philippians in their faith in Jesus, and you in your faith in Jesus. It is to say that God will persevere in his commitment to supply them (and you) with whatever it takes so that our confidence in Christ would not fail or falter and the work of grace he began would ultimately be brought to its proper goal when Jesus returns.
The assurance that fills Paul’s heart and accounts in part for the joy that floods his prayers on their behalf is that God will do whatever it takes to guarantee that no born-again child of God will ever lapse into unbelief and apostasy. That isn’t to say the people of God won’t at t
Just a few weeks ago I read about one of the most heart-breaking and eternally consequential tragedies imaginable. It was touted as the world’s largest religious festival (known as the Kumbh Mela) and concluded when nearly two million people took a dip in the River Ganges in India. The Ganges River is worshipped as a god and is believed to be the giver and taker of life. By immersing themselves in its sacred waters, they believed that their sins were washed away.
More than 120 million people attended the two-month-long event that occurs every 12 years at the conjunction of two sacred rivers on the outskirts of the northern Indian city of Allahabad.
A tent city covering more than 5,000 acres was constructed, together with five electrical sub-stations and tens of thousands of streetlights. More than 35,000 makeshift toilets were brought in for the event.
The end of the Kumbh was marked when a mass of dreadlocked “holy men” plunged into the river, while other pilgrims filled plastic bottles with Ganga Jal (holy water) to be used in religious ceremonies at home.
So why not just ignore the event? What difference does it make? If these people feel encouraged and believe the guilt of their sins has been cleansed, what’s the harm?
The harm is that there is no cleansing from sin, whether in India or Indianapolis, except through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Peter reminds us that we were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from our forefathers, “not with perishable things such as silver or gold [and certainly not by means of the water in the Ganges River], but with the previous blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
We have been ransomed and redeemed, not because the H2O in a filthy river has divine powers, nor because someone took a pile of silver or a bag of gold to a temple and gave it to some pagan god or goddess. W
In an earlier post I argued that the gospel is what unites Christians at a more fundamental and life-changing level than anything else. Paul’s relationship to the Philippians illustrates this in four ways, the first two of which we’ll look at below.
The first thing we see is that Paul is moved and motivated to intercede on behalf of the Philippians. Quite simply, he prays for them constantly.
I can’t even begin to think of Paul as the sort of man who would pull the hypocritical stunt that you and I are so often guilty of perpetrating on one another. How many times have you said to another Christian, perhaps in passing in the church atrium or down the hall, “It was good to see you; I’ll pray for you,” all the while knowing you have absolutely no intention of doing any such thing?
May I be so bold as to challenge you today, even as I issue the same challenge to my own soul, that if you promise to pray for another believer you actually carry through with your pledge? And that you not do it as a perfunctory performance or because you feel morally obligated or because you made a promise and “by golly I’m going to keep my word whether I feel like it or not,” but that you do it as Paul did, “with joy.”
“But Sam, life’s hard, and time is short, and my schedule is crammed full of things I can no longer afford to ignore. I might be able to devote a few minutes each day to praying for the needs of people, but how I am expected to do it with joy?”
Let me remind you of something. Paul isn’t writing this letter from an air-conditioned three-bedroom, two-bath, two-car garage home in a safe neighborhood in Oklahoma City or a condo in downtown Chicago! He’s writing this from a dark, damp, cramped prison cell most likely in either Rome or Caesarea. His freedom has been taken from him. His food is barely adequate to keep h
My new book on biblical eschatology, Kingdom Come, is now available, at least to those in the U.K.! The reason I know is that I am in the U.K. speaking at a conference called New Word Alive and the book is here at my side. I couldn’t be more pleased. Christian Focus Publishers has done a marvelous job in its production and I think you’ll enjoy it. It is only available in hardback and is a mere 589 pages in length! Sorry for that, but I had a lot to say. I’ve been told that copies are aboard a ship at this very moment and the book should be available in the U.S. around the first of May. You can place a pre-order with Amazon by clicking on the link below on the right hand side of the home page.
Here are some of the endorsements provided by some names you may recognize. I’m incredibly blessed by their kind and encouraging words.
“Evangelicals continue to be divided over eschatology, and such divisions will likely continue until the eschaton. For some, premillennialism is virtually equivalent to orthodoxy. Sam Storms challenges such a premise with a vigorous defense of amillennialism. Storms marshals exegetical and theological arguments in defense of his view in this wide-ranging work. Even those who remain unconvinced will need to reckon with the powerful case made for an amillennial reading. The author calls us afresh to be Bereans who are summoned to search the scriptures to see if these things are so.”
Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Louisville, Kentucky
“This is a remarkable book which will surely become the standard bearer for Amillennialism for years to come. Storms is particularly adept (and gracious) at critiquing premillennial positions, especially dispensationalism. His interaction with postmillennialism and preterism is equally intelligent and insightful. This i