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life and unity of the body of Christ, Satan is anything but a passive, innocent bystander. Although he may be invisible to the eye and undetected by physical means, you may rest assured that he is present, employing every imaginable device (and some unimaginable) to undermine the integrity of God’s people and to sow seeds of discord and confusion. Paul was himself extremely careful and deliberate in how he sought to resolve the problem in Corinth, lest they all &ld...Read More

One of the more not-so-subtle delusions that exists in many corners of the professing Christian church is what I refer to as Triumphalism. I use that word rather than a more technical theological phrase (“Over-realized Eschatology”) lest I lose you up front.   The bottom line in triumphalism is the belief that the overt and consummate victories that we will experience only in the age to come are available to us now. I’m not saying that we as Chri...Read More

How do you measure success? By what standard do you assess how well you’ve done? When you take stock of your life or evaluate the effectiveness of whatever ministry God has given you, how do you determine the outcome? Do you count heads? Or money? Do you apply the criteria typically used in a Gallup poll or Barna survey? Do you size up your efforts as over against those of high-achieving folk in the market place or perhaps line up your congregation, side by side, w...Read More

As noted in an earlier meditation, the dangers of triumphalism are very real and imposing. We must resist the temptation to think that faith either insulates us from the trials and struggles and groan of life or elevates us above them altogether. Our “triumph” is precisely in our grace-empowered endurance in the midst of suffering as we faithfully proclaim the gospel, regardless of whether or how many either believe or repudiate the message. But we must also...Read More

Salvation and our relationship to the Lord are described in any number of ways in the New Testament, using a variety of images, metaphors, and analogies. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and we are the sheep. God is the giver of life and we are born again. He is the compassionate Father and we are adopted. God is the righteous judge and we are justified. The Spirit is an indwelling presence and we are his temple, and the list could go on without end. But one of the more intri...Read More

Nothing is more frustrating than knowing what one ought to do and lacking the power to perform it. To see and read and be confronted with the will of God all the while one is bereft of the resolve and spiritual energy to respond in a positive fashion is my definition of despair! That is why I thank God daily that I do not live in an age when the law of God was merely written on stone and called for my obedience without the promise of the provision of power. That is why ...Read More

There are times when I worry if I’m making progress in the Christian life. Honestly, there are times when I’m quite sure I’m not. I’m not talking about overt backsliding or moral regression, but a feeling of spiritual inertia that causes me to wonder if I’m moving forward toward greater conformity to Christ.   Of course, if I weren’t making progress I probably wouldn’t be worried about whether I am or not! In other words, ...Read More

How do you fight discouragement? Or do you? Are you among those who simply yield to its relentless onslaught and give up? People who fall into the latter category typically deal with disappointment in one of two ways. Some continue to work and “minister” (if that word is even appropriate to describe what they do) but do so with murmuring and impatience, bitterness toward God, self-pity within, and anger at anything that moves. Others respond to the pain of ...Read More

Earlier in 2 Corinthians 3:17, the apostle Paul spoke of those who were “peddlers of God’s word”. In our meditation on that passage, I explained that he had in mind someone who dilutes the full strength of the gospel, perhaps eliminating (or at least minimizing) its offensive elements, or altering certain theological points, so that the finished "product" will be more appealing to the audience. The aim was obviously to gain as large a following as possi...Read More

If you want to maintain a reputation in secular society for being culturally sophisticated, educated and enlightened, don’t ever mention the fact that you believe in a literal devil. Few things will more quickly and thoroughly sabotage your reputation and standing than letting it be known that you believe demonic spirits are real and active and to an extent are responsible for why those who are mocking you are, in fact, mocking you. On the other hand, if you are m...Read More

If Satan is actively blinding the minds of unbelievers to compound and perpetuate their bondage in spiritual darkness (2 Cor. 4:3-4), what possible hope is there? We seem left only to despair of unsaved loved ones. What, if anything, can bring the unregenerate into life? What, if anything, can dispel the darkness of unbelief and awaken the heart to the beauty of Christ? What, if anything, can we do in the face of such Satanic opposition? The answer, said Paul, is to pro...Read More

All of us, at one time or another and some more than others, fear that our weakness is a barrier to God’s purposes. We feel so very keenly the promptings of our flesh, the lack of emotional energy, our ignorance of basic truths, not to mention physical exhaustion or sickness, anxiety, and self-doubt. Then, of course, there is the absence of political and social influence, the ridicule incurred for following Christ and, for some, oppression and more severe forms of ...Read More

Last night I spoke briefly with a long time friend who is facing yet another round of intense treatments for a recurring brain tumor. The dosage level of pain medication which he requires simply to survive each day is almost incomprehensible. When I got off the phone, visibly shaken, Ann asked me how he was doing. It seemed only fitting to answer: “He’s afflicted in every way, but not crushed; quite obviously he and his family are perplexed, but not driven to...Read More

Fear can be a paralyzing force in the life of the Christian. Whether from fear of being rejected or persecuted or perhaps not wanting to be seen as lacking cogent answers to controversial questions, many remain silent.   I doubt if there has ever been a believer who hasn’t at some time kept his or her mouth shut when they should have spoken. With hindsight, we look back on the occasion and feel the sting of guilt, even shame, for having let cowardice rather ...Read More

I can’t remember who said it or wrote it, but I agree with it: the power to persevere comes from gazing intently at what you can’t see. Needless to say, that calls for explanation. But the explanation itself requires a context.   The context is Paul’s discussion of how we as Christians daily carry about in our bodies the dying of Jesus, and do so without succumbing to despair or bitterness. His comments that concern us today, in 2 Corinthians 4:1...Read More

I’m dying. I don’t say that because I’ve just returned from the doctor with a fatal diagnosis, whether of cancer or heart disease, but I’m dying. So, too, are you. With each passing moment, no matter how vigorously we exercise and how nutritiously we eat, we are deteriorating physically. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “our outer nature is wasting away.” Nevertheless, and for this we praise God, “our inner nature is being ren...Read More

“Let us consider this settled,” said John Calvin, “that no one has made progress in the school of Christ who does not joyfully await the day of death and final resurrection” (Institutes, 3.9.5). All non-Christians and, sadly, some professing believers, would regard that as a statement of unparalleled lunacy. For them, the “day of death” is something to dread, the prospect of which evokes fear and the avoidance of which justifies any sa...Read More

To this point in our study of what happens when a Christian dies, most everyone is pleased with what Paul has written. So why spoil everything by talking about judgment? I can anticipate what people will say: “I was thrilled when you described the reality of the intermediate state and the assurance of bodily resurrection. I was ecstatic upon hearing that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. But judgment? Couldn’t you have conveniently sk...Read More

The inescapable reality of the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10) is a sobering thing. It takes hold of the heart and forces us to think about what we cherish and how we speak and what we do and the many and varied ways that we use our time and money and energy and gifts.   But what effect, if any, does it have on your responsibility toward others? It’s easy to become self-absorbed when thinking about judgment and recompense for deeds done in this life. B...Read More