God uses even the most difficult times in our lives to shape us into the likeness of His Son. From our livestream event Made in the Image of God, John MacArthur explains why it matters for Christians to have the right motivation in the pursuit of holiness.
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Five hundred years ago, an Augustinian monk stood before an imperial council and was called to recant his teachings. With his conscience bound by the Word of God, Martin Luther refused to compromise. His stand fanned the flames of reformation as the Western church recovered the precious teachings that were long obscured by extrabiblical rules and traditions.
Tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. ET, join us for Here We Stand, a special online streaming event. Celebrating the five-hundredth anniversary of the Diet of Worms, this free event will explore the essential truths championed in the Protestant Reformation. As we consider the relevance of these truths for people of all ages around the world, we will be encouraged to stand with conviction on the Word of God today.
MESSAGES WILL INCLUDE
- Here I Stand by Stephen Nichols
- Here We Stand on Scripture Alone by Burk Parsons
- Here We Stand in Latin America by Sugel Michelén
- Here We Stand through Faith Alone by Derek Thomas
- Here We Stand in Europe by Michael Reeves
- Here We Stand in Christ Alone by Sinclair Ferguson
- Here We Stand in Asia and the Middle East by Nathan W. Bingham
- Here We Stand by Grace Alone by W. Robert Godfrey
- Here We Stand in Africa by Ken Mbugua
- Here We Stand for the Glory of God Alone by Steven Lawson
While shaking hands at the church door, ministers are sometimes greeted with a spontaneous, "I really enjoyed that!"—which is immediately followed by, "Oh! I shouldn't really say that, should I?" I usually grip tighter, hold the handshake a little longer, and say with a smile, "Doesn't the catechism's first question encourage us to do that? If we are to enjoy Him forever, why not begin now?"
Of course, we cannot enjoy God apart from glorifying Him. And the Westminster Shorter Catechism wisely goes on to ask, "What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?" But notice that Scripture contains the "rule" for enjoying God as well as glorifying Him. We know it abounds in instructions for glorifying Him, but how does it instruct us to "enjoy him"?
Enjoying God is a command, not an optional extra: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice" (Phil. 4:4). But how? We cannot "rejoice to order," can we?
True. Yet, Scripture shows that well-instructed believers develop a determination to rejoice. They will rejoice in the Lord. Habakkuk exemplified this in difficult days (see Hab. 3:17–18). He exercised what our forefathers called "acting faith"—a vigorous determination to experience whatever the Lord commands, including joy, and to use the God-given means to do so. Here are four of these means—in which, it should be noted, we also glorify God.
Joy in Salvation
Enjoying God means relishing the salvation He gives us in Jesus Christ. "I will take joy in the God of my salvation" (Hab. 3:18). God takes joy in our salvation (Luke 15:6–7, 9–10, 32). So should we. Here, Ephesians 1:3–14 provides a masterly delineation of this salvation in Christ. It is a gospel bath in which we should often luxuriate, rungs on a ladder we should frequently climb, in order to experience the joy of the Lord as our strength (Neh. 8:10). While we are commanded to have joy, the resources to do so are outside of ourselves, known only through union with Christ.
Joy in Revelation
Joy issues from devouring inscripturated revelation. Psalm 119 bears repeated witness to this. The psalmist "delights" in God's testimonies "as much as in all riches" (Ps. 119:14; see also vv. 35, 47, 70, 77, 103, 162, 174). Think of Jesus' words, "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full" (John 15:11). Does He mean He will find His joy in us, so that our joy may be full, or that His joy will be in us so that our joy may be full? Both, surely, are true. We find full joy in the Lord only when we know He finds His joy in us. The pathway to joy, then, is to give ourselves maximum exposure to His Word and to let it dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16). It is joy-food for the joy-hungry soul.
Joy in Communion
There is joy in the Lord to be tasted in the worship we enjoy in church communion. The church is the new Jerusalem, the city that cannot be hidden, the joy of the whole earth (Ps. 48:2). In the Spirit-led communion of praise and petition; soul pastoring; Word preaching; psalm, hymn, and spiritual song singing; and water, bread, and wine receiving, abundant joy is to be found. The Lord sings over us with joy (Zeph. 3:17). Our hearts sing for joy in return.
Joy in Tribulation
Here, indeed, is a divine paradox. There is joy to be known in the midst of and through affliction. Viewed biblically, tribulation is the Father's chastising hand using life's pain and darkness to mold us into the image of the One who endured for the sake of the joy set before Him (Heb. 12: 1–2, 5–11; see Rom. 8:29). We exult and rejoice in our sufferings, Paul says, because "suffering produces . . . hope" in us (Rom. 5:3–4). Peter and James echo the same principle (1 Peter 1:3–8; James 1:2–4). The knowledge of the sure hand of God in providence not only brings stability; it is also a joy-producer.
All of this adds up to exultation in God Himself. In Romans 5:1–11, Paul leads us from rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God (v. 2) to joy that comes in tribulation (v. 3) to exulting in God Himself (v. 11; see Ps. 43:4). The unbeliever finds this incredible, because he has been blinded by the joy-depriving lie of Satan that to glorify God is the high road to joylessness. Thankfully, Christ reveals that the reverse takes place in Him—because of our salvation, through His revelation, in worship's blessed communion, and by means of tribulation.
Enjoy! Yes, indeed, may "everlasting joy . . . be upon [your] heads" (Isa. 51:11).
This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine.
As finite creatures, we're always changing—either for the better or for the worse. But God has no potential for change, for He has all being perfectly within Himself. In this brief clip, R.C. Sproul explains what it means for God to have “pure actuality.”
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But there’s no statement in secular philosophy that has jerked me back to contemplation more often than that one: “Whatever is, is.” What he’s saying is that reality, to be real, cannot be changing. Because that which is changing never truly is. You are not what you are, because since I’ve started that sentence, you changed. And not even Robin Williams with the Popeye image can say, “I am who I am, who I am, who I am: Popeye the sailor man.” What he should say is, “I'm potentially Popeye the sailor man. I’m becoming Popeye the sailor man. Because maybe I was Popeye the sailor man, but I'm not anymore. And even when I was, I wasn’t, because when I was, I was changing.” You can't freeze time with creatures who are constantly undergoing this state of flux. That’s why it is a matter of great profundity that the God of sacred Scripture defines Himself as “I AM,” not “I am becoming,” not “I am changing.” But He is eternally perfect in His actuality. To put it another way: For God, there is no potential. God has no lack or deficiency into which He must grow to realize His full potential. He has pure actuality. And yet, as Aristotle would later discover, if something were only potential, and potentially everything, it would be actually nothing. So, there can’t be pure potentiality, or there can’t be something that is purely becoming. If all you are is change, if all you are is becoming, all that means is that what you are is that you are an illusion. You’re fig newton of somebody’s imagination. Because you don’t have anything that really is. Now, many of the thinkers following this debate in antiquity came to that conclusion. They said, “Whatever is, is changing.” If that’s true, then everything that undergoes change is just an illusion. It can’t really be. Now, what does that say about flowers and rocks and hills and rivers? Then the whole external world of our experience is an illusion. What about you? If you are undergoing change, and if you are in a state of becoming, if all you are is becoming, then you aren’t anything. You are nothing. But common sense says, “I may be changing but it is an I—an actuality—who really is changing.” But where do I find this being that keeps me from being just an illusion? You're not going to find the answer in Parmenides. You're not going to find it in Heraclitus. You’re going to have to go back to Mars Hill and have to hear the Apostle Paul say, “In Him you live and move and have your being.” The only thing that keeps me from being an illusion is the power of the One who created me, who Himself has all being perfectly within His own identity.
Does God love everyone in the same way—both His redeemed people and His enemies? From one of our live events, R.C. Sproul helps us understand what it means that “God so loved the world” (John 3:16).
The official blog of Ligonier Ministries, founded by theologian Dr. R.C. Sproul in 1971 to help Christians know what they believe, why the believe it, how to live it, and how to share it.