Category Archives: Bible Study

A Scripture We’ve Missed in the Battle Against Anxiety

When we or someone we know is struggling with anxiety there are a few Scripture texts that we turn to more than others.  One of those is Philippians 4:6-7:

6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving images (63)let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The promise of this verse is that God’s peace will guard your heart and mind in Christ when you depend on Him through prayer and thank Him for His graciousness to you.  I have clung to this promise many times in my life, but like so many other Bible passages, with this one, I have stopped reading too soon.

When you reach verse 9, the Lord gives some more hope for the anxious believer:

9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Here is another promise of peace.  When we follow the example of holy living that Paul set for us, we will receive peace.  My conclusion in all of this is that God does not intend for us to be inactive in receiving His gracious gift of peace.  For His glory and by His grace, He has planned that we must draw near to him in prayer, thanksgiving, and a life of devoted obedience to experience the peace He promises.


An Easy Way to Remember the Believer’s Relationship to the Law of God

images (56)My apologies for the week-long hiatus from blogging.  My family just moved out to California for the summer so I could attend Grace Advance Academy, which is essentially a two-month crash-course in church leadership and church-planting.

On a another subject entirely, as I was meeting with God in the book of Galatians this morning, he brought my attention to a subject I am trying to clarify more and more – the relationship between the law of God and the Christian.  In Galatians 4:21, Paul addresses the Galatians by calling them “you who desire to be under the law”.  What does this designation mean?  Does it have a negative or positive connotation?  Well, given the context, the connotation is a negative one that speaks to the desire of the Galatians to rely on the law (specifically, their obeying the law) to gain a right standing before God.  Paul demonstrates in chapter 3 that the law was not given so that we would be saved by keeping it (that’s impossible), but rather so that we would see our sin and believe in Christ to save us (the only One who has kept the law perfectly).

So, Galatians makes it clear that the law has no place in the life of a Christian as a system for salvation, but that does not mean that the law has no place in the life of a Christian.  Tim Keller, in his book, Galatians for You, gives an easy way for us to remember what place the law should have in our lives now that we’ve trusted Christ alone for salvation: we are called to law-obeying, not law-relying.  He explains:

Law-obeying, not law-relying – These are Christians who understand the gospel and are living out the freedom of it.  They obey the law of God out of the grateful joy that comes from the knowledge of their sonship, and out of freedom from the fear and selfishness that false idols had generated.


When Christ’s Death Means Everything to Us

This morning I am continuing to be blessed by an illustration that Tim Keller uses in his book, Galatians for You.  The illustration is used to depict the reality of Paul’s words in Galatians 2:21, which read, I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

Keller comments, Christ will do everything for you, or nothing.  You cannot combine merit and grace.  If justification is by the law in any way, Christ’s death is meaningless in history and meaningless to you personally.

His illustration helps:images (42)

Imagine that your house were burning down but your whole family had escaped, and I said to you, “Let me show you how much I love you!” and ran into the house and died.  “What a tragic and pointless waste of a life”, you would probably think.  But now imagine that your house was on fire and one of your children was still in there, and I said to you: “Let me show you how much I love you!”, ran into the flames, and saved your child but perished myself.  You would think: “Look at how much that man loved us.”

Keller wraps it up by stating, If we could save ourselves, Christ’s death is pointless, and means nothing.  If we realize we cannot save ourselves, Christ’s death will mean everything to us.


The Gospel is Not a Second Chance

This week I started studying Galatians in the mornings and I’ve been using Timothy Keller’s book Galatians for You as a tool to help shed images (1)some light on the text.  In the book, Keller says something about Galatians 1:4 that gave my heart fodder for praise.  Let me quote the text, then Keller:

“…the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver (or rescue) us from the present evil age…”

Commenting on what it means that Christ gave himself to “deliver” us, Keller says,

“[Jesus] did not merely buy us a ‘second chance’, giving us another opportunity to get life right and stay right with God.  He did all we needed to do, but cannot do.”

Do I have to say how profound this is?  What would have become of us if the gospel was simply a second chance to “get life right”?  We would fail miserably again, running from God in rebellion as we claim our own independence and worth!  The truth is that we lack the capacity for obedience altogether.  Even if God gave us a million second chances, we would never reach God’s standard.  It is true that time along with trial and error is what Thomas Edison needed to invent the electric light bulb, but time for us, left to ourselves, will only result in more sin.

This is why we needed Jesus to rescue us.  We are spiritually unable to get life right so we could save ourselves, so Jesus had to get life right for us so he could save us.  It is common for Christians to say that we serve “a God of second chances”.  To that we should ask, “Second chances to do what?”  Is it second chances to get life right or second chances to prove ourselves?  If so, we need to be reminded of the gospel which says, “We would use second chances the same way we used the first chance, therefore, we need Jesus to rescue us – the one who does not need second chances; the one who got life right the first time… for us.”


From Explanation to Adoration

images (1)As Christians, we must discuss what it means when the Bible describes God in a certain way, using certain terms.  I believe Bible studies and seminary classrooms where we engage in the task of explanation and even friendly debate when it comes to understanding the character of God are wonderful and necessary.  We should be people of precision in our comprehension of God, and that takes work.  We have to go into study mode, clarification mode, and definition mode, but the attributes of God should never stay in those modes.

As I was studying Psalm 90 last week, I was struck by how Moses (the author) gives significant explanatory attention to the reality that God is eternal, yet he begins the Psalm by praising God for this attribute (vv. 1-2).

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Do you get stuck in the duty of defining and explaining while forgetting the duty of adoring worship?  Your precise understanding of God should always lead you to acute, pointed praise.  Because we do the work of studying and clarifying God’s character, we can praise him in a more specific way, drawing  out deeper realities that please him and bless us more.  The work of explanation makes worship richer and fuller, because as we study God more, we see that he is so much more amazing than we often realize.


The Deity of Christ in the Old Testament

images (22)A few years ago I heard John Piper say that he prays Psalm 119:18 before he opens the Bible to meet with God: Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.  I have been trying to do the same thing ever since.  This morning the Lord definitely answered my prayer.

I was in Ezekiel 34.  In this chapter God has called Ezekiel to prophesy against the leaders of Israel (kings, priests, and prophets).  God calls these leaders shepherds and tells them that he must rescue his people (sheep) from their leadership because they have been seeking their own gain at the expense of the people (vv. 8-10).

The way God will rescue his sheep is by making himself their shepherd – I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep (v. 15).  That’s definitely cool, but it gets really good in verse 23.  Here he says, I will set over [the people] one shepherd, my servant David…  Wait a sec, didn’t God just say he would be their shepherd and now he is saying his servant David will be their shepherd?  How do we reconcile this?

Well, in 2 Samuel 7:12-16, through the prophet Nathan, God says that he will establish the throne of David’s offspring forever.  This is a prophesy referring to Christ’s rule, and Ezekiel 34:23 is obviously not referring to David (since he has long been dead), but rather, his offspring who would rule at a later time.

So, once we’ve made the connection that Ezekiel 34:23 is referring to Jesus as the one shepherd, it is not hard to reconcile this reality with verse 15 where God says he will be the shepherd of the people.  How can God and his servant David be one shepherd?  Because Jesus, the offspring of David, is both man and God.  God and his servant David are one in the same.  They are united in the person of Jesus Christ.

Fast-forward about 600 years and we read in John 10 the words of Jesus: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (v.11).  Prophesy fulfilled.

See, I told you…God answered my prayer!  This is truly wondrous!


A Gospel-Centered Approach to Reading the Bible

Yesterday, I ran across this well-balanced quote from J.D. Greear’s book, Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary.

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