What is the Bible?

This book contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrine is holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable.

Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy.

It contains light to direct you, food to strengthen you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter.

Here heaven is opened, and the gates of hell closed. Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet.

Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, health to the soul, and a river of life. It will be opened at the judgment, and is established forever. It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.

Toys are broken, machines are broken, buildings are broken, contracts are broken, but the Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35). It is more sure than the sun in the sky (Matt. 24:35). It makes me want to shout it from the housetops!

Equipped and Empowered

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20–21)

Christ shed the blood of the eternal covenant. By this successful redemption, he obtained the blessing of his own resurrection from the dead. That is even clearer in Greek than it is in English, and here it’s clear enough: “God . . . brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus . . . by the blood of the eternal covenant.” This Jesus — raised by the blood of the covenant — is now our living Lord and Shepherd.
And because of all that, God does two things:

he equips us with everything good that we may do his will, and
he works in us that which is pleasing in his sight.

The “eternal covenant,” secured by the blood of Christ, is the new covenant. And the new covenant promise is this: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33). Therefore, the blood of this covenant not only secures God’s equipping us to do his will, but also secures God working in us to make that equipping successful.
The will of God is not just written on stone or paper as a means of grace. It is worked in us. And the effect is: We feel and think and act in ways more pleasing to God.

We are still commanded to use the equipment he gives: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” But more importantly we are told why: “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13).
If we are able to please God — if we do his good pleasure — it is because the blood-bought grace of God has moved from mere equipping to omnipotent transforming.

– John Piper

Daily Thoughts: Wisdom from John Newton

How unspeakably wonderful is it to know that all our concerns are held in the hands that bled for us!

Our sea may sometimes be stormy, but we have an infallible Pilot, and thus we shall infallibly gain our port.

Our work is great, our time is short, and the consequences of our labors are infinite.

My grand point in preaching is to break the hard heart and to heal the broken heart.

I am persuaded that love and humility are the highest attainments in the school of Christ, and the brightest evidences that He is indeed our Master.

A deep sense of indwelling sin is essential to humble living.

Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines—as well as upon works!

I am still in the land of the dying; I shall be in the land of the living soon. (his last words)

This is faith– a renouncing of everything we call our own and relying wholly upon the blood, righteousness, and intercession of Jesus.

We can easily manage if we will only take for each day the burden appointed to it. But the load will be too heavy for us if we carry yesterday’s burden over again today, and then add the burden of tomorrow before we are required to bear it.

God sometimes does His work with gentle drizzle, not storms.

If we seem to get no good by attempting to draw near to Him, we may be sure we will get none by keeping away from Him.

Whoever is truly humbled will not be easily angry, nor harsh or critical of others. He will be compassionate and tender to the infirmities of his fellow-sinners, knowing that if there is a difference, it is grace alone which has made it! He knows that he has the seeds of every evil in his own heart. And under all trials and afflictions, he will look to the hand of the Lord, and lay his mouth in the dust, acknowledging that he suffers much less than his iniquities have deserved.

Once you love Christ, you will study to please Him.

It is a great thing to die; and, when flesh and a heart fail, to have God as the strength of our hearts, and our portion forever. I know whom I have believed, and he is able to keep that which I have committed against that great day. Hence forth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me that day.

Afflictions quicken us to prayer. It is a pity it should be so; but experience testifies, that a long course of ease and prosperity, without painful changes, has an unhappy tendency to make us cold and formal in our secret worship. But troubles rouse our spirits, and constrain us to call upon the Lord in good earnest when we feel a need of that help which we only can have from his almighty arm. Afflictions are useful, and in a degree necessary, to keep alive in us a conviction of the vanity and unsatisfying nature of the present world, and all its enjoyments; to remind us that this world is not our rest, and to call our thoughts upwards where our true treasure is, and where our heart ought to be. When things go on much to our , our ease and comfort, our hearts are too prone to say, “It is good to be here!”

You have liberty to cast all your cares upon him who cares for you. By one hour’s intimate access to the throne of grace, where the Lord causes his glory to pass before the soul that seeks him, you may acquire more true spiritual knowledge and comfort than by a day or a week’s converse with the best of men, or the most studious reading of many books.

– John Newton

How to View Calamity

“The waves of death encompassed me, the torrents of destruction assailed me. . . . This God — his way is perfect.” (2 Samuel 22:5, 31)

After the loss of his ten children owing to a natural disaster (Job 1:19), Job said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). At the end of the book, the inspired writer confirms Job’s understanding of what happened. He says Job’s brothers and sisters “comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him” (Job 42:11).

This has several crucial implications for us — lessons for us here at the dawn of a new year — as we think about calamities in the world and in our lives — like the massive disaster that occurred December 26, 2004, in the Indian Ocean — one of the deadliest natural disasters on record with 1.7 million people made homeless, half a million injured, and over 230,000 killed.
Lesson #1. Satan is not ultimate; God is.

Satan had a hand in Job’s misery, but not the decisive hand. God gave Satan permission to afflict Job (Job 1:12; 2:6). But Job and the writer of this book treat God as the decisive cause. When Satan afflicts Job with sores, Job says to his wife, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10), and the writer calls these satanic sores “the evil that the Lord had brought upon him” (Job 42:11). So, Satan is real. Satan brings misery. But Satan is not ultimate or decisive. He is on a leash. He goes no farther than God decisively permits.

Lesson #2. Even if Satan caused that tsunami in the Indian Ocean the day after Christmas, 2004, he is not the decisive cause of over 200,000 deaths; God is.

God claims power over tsunamis in Job 38:8 and 11 when he asks Job rhetorically, “Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb . . . and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?” Psalm 89:8–9 says, “O Lord . . . you rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.” And Jesus himself has the same control today as he once did over the deadly threats of waves: “He . . . rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm” (Luke 8:24). In other words, even if Satan caused the earthquake, God could have stopped the waves. But he didn’t.

Lesson #3. Destructive calamities in this world mingle judgment and mercy.

God’s purposes are not simple. Job was a godly man and his miseries were not God’s punishment (Job 1:1, 8). Their design was purifying, not punishment (Job 42:6). James 5:11 says, “You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”

But we do not know the spiritual condition of Job’s children who died. Job was certainly concerned about them (Job 1:5). God may have taken their life in judgment. We don’t know.

If that is true, then the same calamity proved in the end to be mercy for Job and judgment on his children. This double purpose is true of all calamities. They mingle judgment and mercy. They are both punishment and purification. Suffering, and even death, can be both judgment and mercy at the same time.

The clearest illustration of this is the death of Jesus. It was both judgment and mercy. It was judgment on Jesus because he bore our sins (not his own), and it was mercy toward us who trust him to bear our punishment (Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24) and be our righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Another example is the curse and miseries that have come on this earth because of the fall of Adam and Eve. Those who never believe in Christ experience it as judgment, but believers experience it as merciful, though painful — a preparation for glory. “The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope” (Romans 8:20). This is God’s subjection. This is why there are tsunamis. But this subjection to futility is “in hope.”

Lesson #4. The heart that Christ gives to his people feels compassion for those who suffer, no matter what their faith is.
When the Bible says, “Weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15), it does not add, “unless God caused the weeping.” Job’s comforters would have done better to weep with Job than talk so much. That does not change when we discover that Job’s suffering was ultimately from God. No, it is right to weep with those who suffer. Pain is pain, no matter who causes it. We are all sinners. Empathy flows not from the causes of pain, but from the company of pain. And we are all in it together.

Lesson #5. Finally, Christ calls us to show mercy to those who suffer, even if they do not deserve it.
That is the meaning of mercy — undeserved help. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27). This is how Christ treated us (Romans 5:10), dying for us when we were his enemies. By that power, and with that example, we do the same.

– John Piper

Two Reasons for Jesus Coming

Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.(1 John 3:7–8)

When 1 John 3:8 says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil,” what are “the works of the devil” that he has in mind? The answer is clear from the context.

First, 1 John 3:5 is a clear parallel: “You know that he appeared in order to take away sins.” The phrase he appeared to occurs in verse 5 and verse 8. So most likely the “works of the devil” that Jesus came to destroy are sins. The first part of verse 8 makes this virtually certain: “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.”
The issue in this context is sinning, not sickness or broken cars or messed up schedules. Jesus came into the world to enable us to stop sinning.

We see this even more clearly if we put this truth alongside the truth of 1 John 2:1: “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” This is one of the great purposes of Christmas — one of the great purposes of the incarnation (1 John 3:8).
But there is another purpose which John adds in 1 John 2:1–2, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”
But now look what this means: It means that Jesus appeared in the world for two reasons. He came that we might not go on sinning — that is, he came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8); and he came so that there would be a propitiation for our sins, if we do sin. He came to be a substitutionary sacrifice that takes away the wrath of God for our sins.

The upshot of this second purpose is not to defeat the first purpose. Forgiveness is not for the purpose of permitting sin. The aim of the death of Christ for our sins is not that we relax our battle against sin. The upshot of these two purposes of Christmas, rather, is that the payment once made for all our sins is the freedom and power that enables us to fight sin not as legalists, earning our salvation, and not as fearful of losing our salvation, but as victors who throw ourselves into the battle against sin with confidence and joy, even if it costs us our lives.

– John Piper

God’s Indescribable Gift

If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:10–11)

How do we practically receive reconciliation and exult in God? We do it through Jesus Christ. Which means, at least, that we make the portrait of Jesus in the Bible — that is, the work and the words of Jesus portrayed in the New Testament — we make that portrait the essential content of our exultation over God. Exulting in God without the content of Christ does not honor Christ. And where Christ is not honored, God is not honored.

In 2 Corinthians 4:4–6, Paul describes conversion in two ways. In verse 4, he says it is seeing “the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” And in verse 6, he says it is seeing “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” In either case you see the point. We have Christ, the image of God, and we have God in the face of Christ.

To exult in God, we exult in what we see and know of God in the portrait of Jesus Christ. And this comes to its fullest experience when the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, as Romans 5:5 says. And that sweet, Spirit-given experience of the love of God is mediated to us as we ponder the historical reality of verse 6, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”

So here’s the Christmas point. Not only did God purchase our reconciliation through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:10), and not only did God enable us to receive that reconciliation through the Lord Jesus Christ, but even now we exult in God himself, by the Spirit, through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:11).

Jesus purchased our reconciliation. Jesus enabled us to receive reconciliation and open the gift. And Jesus himself shines forth as himself the indescribable gift — God in the flesh — and stirs up all our exultation in God.
Look to Jesus this Christmas. Receive the reconciliation that he purchased. Exult in him. Experience him as your pleasure. Know him as your treasure.

– John Piper

The Glory of the Incarnation

Christ became what we are, that He might make us what He is. – Athanasius

The Son of God became the Son of Man, in order that the sons of men might become the sons of God. – John Blanchard

When Jesus came to earth, it was not His Godhood He laid aside, but His glory. – John Blanchard

Christ voluntarily took upon Himself everything that is inseparable from human nature. – John Calvin

Christ took the form of a servant while He retained the form of God; it is exactly that which makes our salvation possible and achieves it. – William Hendricksen

It was to save sinners that Christ came into the world; He did not come to help them save themselves or somehow enable them to save themselves. He came to save them.
– William Hendricksen

The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sunk Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding. – Martin Luther

The divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie there, stare, wiggle, and make noises, needing to be fed, changed, and learning to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. – J. I. Packer

He that made man was made a man. – C. H. Spurgeon

Christ took our flesh upon Himself, that He might take our sins upon Himself. – Thomas Watson

The Birth of the Ancient of Days

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world — to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37)
This is a great Christmas text even though it comes from the very end of Jesus’s life on earth, not the beginning.
Notice: Jesus says not only that he was born, but that he “came into the world.” The uniqueness of his birth is that he did not originate at his birth. He existed before he was born in a manger. The personhood, the character, the personality of Jesus of Nazareth existed before the man Jesus of Nazareth was born.
The theological word to describe this mystery is not creation, but incarnation. The person, not the body, but the essential personhood of Jesus existed before he was born as man. His birth was not a coming into being of a new person, but a coming into the world of an infinitely old person.
Micah 5:2 puts it like this, 700 years before Jesus was born:
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
The mystery of the birth of Jesus is not merely that he was born of a virgin. That miracle was intended by God to witness to an even greater one; namely, that the child born at Christmas was a person who existed “from of old, from ancient days.”
And, therefore, his birth was purposeful. Before he was born he thought about being born. Together with his Father there was a plan. And part of that great plan he spoke in the last hours of his life on earth: “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world — to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37).
He was the eternal Truth. He spoke only the truth. He acted out the greatest truth of love. And he is gathering into his eternal family all those who are born of the truth. This was the plan from ancient days.
– John Piper

The Greatest Salvation Imaginable

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah . . . ”(Jeremiah 31:31)

God is just and holy and separated from sinners like us. This is our main problem at Christmas — and every other season. How shall we get right with a just and holy God?

Nevertheless, God is merciful and has promised in Jeremiah 31 (five hundred years before Christ) that someday he would do something new. He would replace shadows with the Reality of the Messiah. And he would powerfully move into our lives and write his will on our hearts so that we are not constrained from outside, but are willing from inside, to love him and trust him and follow him.
That would be the greatest salvation imaginable — if God should offer us the greatest Reality in the universe to enjoy and then move in us to know that Reality in such a way that we could enjoy it with the greatest freedom and the greatest pleasure possible. That would be a Christmas gift worth singing about.

That is, in fact, what he promised in the new covenant. But there was a huge obstacle. Our sin. Our separation from God because of our unrighteousness.

How shall a holy and just God treat us sinners with so much kindness as to give us the greatest Reality in the universe (his Son) to enjoy with the greatest possible joy?

The answer is that God put our sins on his Son, and judged them there, so that he could put them out of his mind, and deal with us mercifully and remain just and holy at the same time. Hebrews 9:28 says Christ was “offered once to bear the sins of many.”
Christ bore our sins in his own body when he died (1 Peter 2:24). He took our judgment (Romans 8:3). He canceled our guilt (Romans 8:1). And that means our sins are gone (Acts 10:43). They do not remain in God’s mind as a basis for condemnation. In that sense, he “forgets” them (Jeremiah 31:34). They are consumed in the death of Christ.

Which means that God is now free, in his justice, to lavish us with the all the unspeakably great new covenant promises. He gives us Christ, the greatest Reality in the universe, for our enjoyment. And he writes his own will — his own heart — on our hearts so that we can love Christ and trust Christ and follow Christ from the inside out, with freedom and joy.

— John Piper

Making Salvation Real for His People

Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. (Hebrews 8:6)

Christ is the Mediator of a new covenant, according to Hebrews 8:6. What does that mean? It means that his blood — the blood of the covenant (Luke 22:20; Hebrews 13:20) — finally and decisively purchased and secured the fulfillment of God’s promises for us.
It means that God, according to the new covenant promises, brings about our inner transformation by the Spirit of Christ.
And it means that God works this transformation in us through faith — faith in all that God is for us in Christ.
The new covenant is purchased by the blood of Christ, effected by the Spirit of Christ, and appropriated by faith in Christ.
The best place to see Christ working as the Mediator of the new covenant is in Hebrews 13:20–21:

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

The words “working in us that which is pleasing in his sight” describe what happens when God writes the law on our hearts in accord with the new covenant. And the words “through Jesus Christ” describe Jesus as the Mediator of this glorious work of sovereign grace.
So, the meaning of Christmas is not only that God replaces shadows with Reality, but also that he takes the Reality and makes it real to his people. He writes it on our hearts. He does not lay his Christmas gift of salvation and transformation under the tree, so to speak, for you to pick up in your own strength. He picks it up and puts it in your heart and in your mind and gives you the seal of assurance that you are a child of God.

– John Piper