Jesus, Creation, and Your Purpose Here on Earth


This is part of a series on seeing how the Old Testament points to Jesus Christ. Read Part One.

There are some questions about life that every human being asks:

  • Where did this world come from, and how did it come to be the way it is?
  • Is there a God?
  • If so, who is he?
  • Is there something special about human beings, or are they just like the animals?
  • What is our purpose in life here on earth?

As Christians, it is crucial to know what the Bible has to say. Genesis 1:1-2:3, one of the most helpful passages addressing these questions is also one of the most familiar passages in the Bible–which means its awesome truths can be overlooked and not fully contemplated.

Genesis 1:1 starts off with the famous words, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” That verse answers the first two questions from above and starts to answer the third–we know that God is a Creator God. This creator God existed before creation and created the universe out of nothing, or ex nihilo.

One of the striking features about the creation account is that God is the central figure in creation. God created the heavens and the earth by merely opening His mouth. During days one through six of creation, God created the heavens, the earth, made light, the sea and sky, and filled His beautiful creation with plants, animals, lights and luminaries, and the pinnacle of His creation, man, whom He made in His own image. While God’s conclusion for His work days 1-5 was to declare His work “good” (Genesis 1:410121825), the conclusion for the day God made man was “very good” (Genesis 1:31, emphasis added). Creating mankind in His own image shows that we have dignity above the rest of creation, capacity for reflecting God’s image as image-bearers, and responsibility to work and keep God’s good creation.

Unfortunately since the fall of man, we have corrupted God’s creation by putting ourselves at the center of the story instead of giving God His proper place. Men have suppressed the truth in unrighteousness, darkening their hearts, and dishonoring God by rejecting His eternal power and divine nature shown at creation (Romans 1:18-21).

The One at the Center

This rejection of God is also a rejection of His Son, Jesus Christ. The New Testament reveals that Jesus Christ is the creator of all things and at the center of the story:

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him (Colossians 1:16).

We were created by Jesus Christ and for Jesus Christ. Our purpose in life is totally wrapped up in who Jesus Christ is and what He has done for us. Yet, if you’re like me, your life can quickly become wrapped up in your own interests and pursuits instead of our Creator. I liked how, Michael Horton describes this tendency in his book Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church:

There is the tendency to make God a supporting character in our own life movie rather than to be rewritten as new characters in God’s drama of redemption.1

Who’s the Main Character in Your Life?

When you think of telling the story of your life, what role does God have? Is He a small, supporting character that can fade into the background and easily be forgotten, or is He the most important person and influence in your life? How would your life’s movie look if Christ wasn’t in it? Drastically different? Eerily the same?

Living a Christ-centered life is not easy. The default setting of my heart is to put myself on the throne of my life instead of putting God on the throne, His proper place. This tendency even weaves its way into ministry. I like to think about who I have touched, what I have done for God, or what I will do for God instead of remembering what He has done for me and that my life is all about Him. And when I forget my purpose in God’s greater story, I lose sight of my purpose on earth. Michael Horton diagnoses this problem and prescribes the remedy:

When we try to fit God into our life movie, the plot is all wrong–and not just wrong, but trivial. When we are pulled out of our own drama and cast as characters in his unfolding plot, we become part of the greatest story ever told. It is through God’s Word of judgment (law) and salvation (gospel) that we are transferred from our own pointless scripts and inserted into the grand narrative that revolves around Jesus Christ.2

When we are tempted to care too much about ourselves, our busy schedules, our relationships, and even our suffering–we must remember the gospel. We must remember that God created the world and everything in it for Himself and that our lives find their purpose in Him. Christ died on the cross to forgive us for putting ourselves on the throne, and gave us new hearts that would desire to see Him exalted and put in the proper place.

We must cling to the historical facts of the life, death, and resurrection of our Living Savior and know that by God’s grace we play a small role in the greatest story ever told of God reconciling sinful humanity to Himself through His Son Jesus Christ.

Only by remembering our part in God’s Great Story will we enter the rest that we were created for that God modeled on creation’s seventh day. This rest and the peace God provides will fill our hearts with thankfulness and energy to live out our God-given purposes here on earth for His glory.

Related Links:

1 Michael Horton in Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church, page 19.

2 Ibid, page 98.

image credit

“Take that Bible Away from that Man!”


The man pictured above is named Omar Jiménez. Omar is a pastor in our Honduras group and is very active training other pastors with the Training National Trainers program.

The story below describes a valuable lesson one of the pastors in Omar’s group learned about relying too much on outside framework in reading Scripture (see more about Text and Framework in our Dig and Discover Hermeneutical Principles Booklet.)

In the last group of pastors I (Omar) led, there was a pastor who was given a study Bible, which he brought to our training. For him, every good pastor who preached correctly should preach according to what the notes in that Bible were saying. Even if you went to preach at his church, he was expecting you to follow the notes of his study Bible!

One time, one of our fellow pastors said, “Please, take that Bible away from that man!”

Because of that study Bible, he was feeling that he was better than everybody else. One time, one of our fellow pastors said, “Please, take that Bible away from that man!”

He brought this mentality to our training as well. On the first day, when I went to lead the TNT training, I noticed that while the other men were participating in the training, this man was comparing whatever was said with his study Bible’s notes. I told him that he could not express an opinion until he put his study Bible to the side. And when he prepared and delivered his own practice sermon, his message was very strange and very different.

I challenged him to use just the Bible, and not the study Bible notes in the training. But he kissed the Bible and said, “No, I’m not going to get rid of this Bible, at all, ever. There is no other Bible like this.”

I took my little Bible out, and said, “I’m going to be your teacher now with my Bible, small and old and used.” I told him he needed to understand that actually it is the Word of God that is inspired – not the study Bible notes – and he needed to leave his study Bible to the side and just to try to concentrate on doing his preaching with the Bible alone.

The pastor said, “No, I’m not going to stop using this study Bible. I’m going to leave if you make me use the plain Bible.”

Thankfully, I convinced him to stay.

A Change of Mind and an Important Lesson

On the second day of the training, I told him again that he needed to just use the Bible without the notes. And he said, “Okay I’ll do that. I’ll use the Bible without the notes.”

Later, when he gave his second practice sermon, we all cheered because he did a much better job than the first one!

Afterwards, he said, “Now I’m going to check my notes in comparison with the study notes.” And so, when he compared his study of the passage with the study Bible notes, he said, “My conclusions are better than the notes.”

He said, “Now I’m going to use the notes just as a reference after doing my own study in the Bible.”

It wasn’t until we learned the Text and Framework hermeneutical principle that he understood that his study Bible’s notes were a framework preventing him from letting the text speak to him on its own terms.

He said, “Now I’m going to use the notes just as a reference after doing my own study in the Bible.”

After the training, of course, he was a changed man. Now he’s preaching the Word as it is written in the Word, and doing so with a humble heart.

This isn’t the first time Omar has been featured on our blog. Read how one man he trained confessed to wasting thirty-five years in ministry preaching nothing.

Related Links:

Acts 29 Pastor Shares His Experience Training Pastors in Kenya with LRI


jeff-and-jen-geneva-300x200Jeff Brewer serves as the Lead Pastor of Hope Fellowship in Lombard, IL and is part of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network. Prior to planting Hope Fellowship, he served as the church plant pastor at College Church in Wheaton, IL.

We recently talked with Jeff about his recent trip with Leadership Resources to train pastors in Kenya in biblical exposition with the Training National Trainers program.

Can you briefly describe your role on the recent trip to Kenya?

IMG_2497-300x225Pastor Jeff Brewer: I went to Kenya and helped train pastors in the various hermeneutical principles LRI uses and also mentored some of the top pastors there. I was able to preach at two different churches and did some sort of teaching and interacting with Kenyan pastors everyday.

Learn more about the Dig and Discover Hermeneutical Principles that the Training National Trainers program uses.

What surprised you the most about God’s work on your recent trip?

A few years ago I traveled with Bill Mills and Don Couwenhoven to train in the Middle East. My wife and I used to live in Istanbul, Turkey, and most of the traveling I’ve done is to least-reached countries in a Muslim context. The biggest surprise to me was seeing what could be considered a “reached” but under-resourced country that has a huge need for pastoral training–even though there are many missionaries and local leaders there. I saw a poverty in their understanding of the Word that bears itself out in all of pastoral ministry. Leadership Resources is playing an important role in filling the needs of Kenyans by training pastors in the Scriptures.

The Need is Great: “This training helps us avoid heresies and focus on the Word.”

What was your experience like serving with LRI Staff? (Take it easy on Doug!)


Doug Dunton (right) with Pastor George. Read George’s amazing testimony.

Doug Dunton is so easy to travel with and fun to be around. I’ve known him for about ten years, but this was our first time traveling together. I enjoyed watching him interact and relate with local leaders. He is able to enter the African culture and earn trust, building many valuable relationships that are bearing fruit. Doug is outgoing, and pastors all over Kenya gravitate towards him.

I appreciated his emphasis during the whole week: that it’s not about Doug or LRI—it’s about training faithful men who are able to train others as well (2 Timothy 2:2). A lot of ministries claim to have that focus, but I appreciated seeing it first hand.

How did the pastors receive the hermeneutical principles LRI teaches?

IMG_2517-300x225I saw great receptivity to the principles on my earlier trip, and it was no different in Kenya. I saw transformation begin as early as the second day of training. The pastors hear about “Staying on the Line” of Scripture, and it changes their whole worldview of being a pastor. It was like Doug unlocked the door that opened up Scripture and ministry to them in a way that they both saw it clearly and yet couldn’t believe they hadn’t seen it before. After three days, the pastors were speaking a different language than the one they walked in speaking. This training will forever change the way they think about ministry.

Can you share a story or two of how God’s Word and the TNT program are bringing transformation to pastors in Kenya?

We heard over and over again from pastors there that they don’t prepare for preaching. They just roll out of bed on Sunday mornings, go to church, and start preaching. We saw that ten hours after we landed. We were in a church service, and they called on me to preach. Thankfully, I preached on something I preached here in the US a few weeks before. We heard from men all over Kenya say that preparing in the Word before preaching was new for them and that LRI’s training helps them see the importance of it.

“This training is necessary for all of the pastors I work with. How can I get this into their hands?”

At the end of the week we saw our training begin to sink in when one man, named Thomas, said, “I am seeing that studying the Word in this way is very necessary for me.” That was huge. Another man, named Justus, a bishop who leads a group of around thirty-five churches both in Kenya and internationally, was visibly moved to the point of saying, “This training is necessary for all of the pastors I work with. How can I get this into their hands?”

When the pastors debriefed at the end of the week, no one was praising LRI as a great organization or Doug as a great teacher–they were talking about the principles and what they had learned from God’s Word. They saw how essential the training was for their ministry. We don’t care about promoting LRI in East Africa, but we desperately care about training men in the Word.

What would you say to pastors considering traveling with LRI?

IMG_2422-300x225I have loved LRI and similar organizations, like Simeon Trust, for a while. After seeing God’s work through LRI first hand, I thought it was an easy “sell” talking with our elders about the impact this ministry is having, and it made me realize that I want to get behind this work even more.

I saw God’s work on my first trip, but seeing it in English made me hear more of the pastors’ stories and witness their transformation without the language barrier. I got to know the guys, and now I’m corresponding with some of them through email. I’m corresponding with one guy each week on Ephesians. He’s already taught his people the principles of TNT. It’s great to see their eagerness for the Word.

My church and I want to be involved with this as much as possible, both financially and by traveling on future trips. It is very helpful to see first hand.

What would you say to a pastor considering supporting Leadership Resources?

IMG_2513-225x300Many say that the time for western missionaries being sent overseas has come to a close and that supporting a pastor for $30 a month in India (or other such country) is more effective. There is an element truth to this, but there is a necessary role that the Western church can play in training, specifically training those pastors to be committed to the Word of God so that they do the work. I would say to a US pastor that for a relatively small amount of money, through a partnership with LRI, you can invest in training men who will train hundreds or thousands of men to preach the Word with a sustainable model.

Go and see for yourself! Participation will lead to a desire to see more men trained and your church supporting LRI’s important work. We’re committed to sending out men and women to the mission field. We are equally committed to seeing pastors around the world trained in the Word because it’s such a huge need.

Thank you Pastor Brewer for your time and service to the Kingdom!

Related Links:


10 Recommended Books on Expository Preaching


As an organization, we thought it would be helpful to compile a few lists of the best books on expository preaching so those in our training can know where to turn for further study and those who don’t know us can learn what we’re all about.

The following ten books match the “preaching DNA” of our organization and our Training National Trainers and Fellowship of the Word programs; that is, they communicate our core convictions and methodology for expository preaching and task of a preacher.

These ten recommendations may overlap some in subject matter, but are useful for new preachers, growing preachers, and experienced preachers wanting a tune up in their thinking or preaching.

Also Worth Mentioning: 10 Recommended Books on Biblical Theology

10 Recommended Books on Expository Preaching

1. Speaking God’s Words: A Practical Theology of Preaching by Peter Adam

51R963T2MYL._SL250_There are many books on preaching, but few, if any, on the theology of preaching. Yet, whether it is recognized or not, theology underlies any preaching that claims to be biblical. In Speaking God’s Words Peter Adam builds confidence in preaching by laying a firm theological foundation for it. Preaching rests upon three great pillars: God has spoken, his words are now recorded in Scripture and he commissions people “to explain, preach and teach his written words to their contemporaries.” Throughout the book, using well-chosen illustrations, Dr Adam encourages preachers to give themselves to the demanding yet thrilling task of “preaching God’s words” today.

2. When God’s Voice is Heard: The Power of Preaching Edited by John Stott, Christopher Green, David Jackman

qWhat is the place of preaching in the life of the church today? What priority does the Sunday sermon have when new church structures and ever-changing technology seem to exacerbate the increasing pastoral demands on a busy church leader? Good preaching is more than historical revelation, skilled oration, or the ability to give multimedia presentations. Rather it is the present Word of God to his people. And it is to communicate this that is the preacher’s first calling.

“Good preaching is the present Word of God to his people”, argues J. I. Packer. And it is to communicate this that is our first calling. In this inspiring collection of essays, experienced preachers explore the different aspects of preaching. The first edition of this book was subtitled as essays on preaching presented to Dick Lucas and this is a great line-up of contributors writing in gratitude to God for Dick’s faithful expository ministry over many years.

3. Setting Hearts on Fire: A Guide to Giving Evangelistic Talks by John Chapman

qIn this book, which is the fruit of his 40 years experience as an evangelist, John Chapman passes on the skills of his craft. He explains how telling people the gospel of Jesus Christ requires us to be servants: servants of the Word itself (to understand it accurately), and servants of the people (to explain it clearly).

Whether you are a person who teaches the Bible in a Sunday school class, a small group Bible study, Scripture at School, a teenage fellowship group or through preaching sermons, this book is for you. In his inimitable way, ‘Chappo’ shows you, step by step, how to prepare and deliver a talk that clearly explains the gospel of Jesus Christ.

4. The Archer and the Arrow: Preaching the Very Words of God by Philip Jensen and Paul Grimmond (See an illustration used in the book: Preachers as Stewards of the Mysteries of God)

q“My aim is to preach the gospel by prayerfully expounding the Bible to the people God has given me to love.” (Phillip Jensen)

Join Phillip Jensen and Paul Grimmond as they explore each phrase in this carefully wrought statement, and show not only why faithful, powerful, biblical preaching is so important, but how to go about it.

Recommendation from William Taylor: “Preaching is the lifeblood of the local church. This is an outstanding book by one of the world’s foremost preachers, and is essential reading for any would-be Bible teacher.” (William Taylor, Rector, St Helen’s Bishopsgate, London, UK).

5. Saving Eutychus: How to Preach God’s Word and Keep People Awake by Gary Millar and Phil Campbell

qPoor Eutychus might have tumbled off his perch in Acts 20, but it’s humbling to notice that what took Paul many hours of preaching to achieve – near-fatal napping in one of his listeners – takes most preachers only a few minutes on a Sunday.

Saving Eutychus will help you save your listeners from such a fate. Written by an Aussie and an Irishman with very different styles who share a passion for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, Saving Eutychus delivers fresh, honest, faithful and practical insights into preaching the whole word of God, Sunday by Sunday, without being dull.

6. Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon by Bryan Chapell

This complete guide to expository preaching teaches the basics of preparation, organization, and delivery–the trademarks of great preaching. With the help of charts and creative learning exercises, Chapell shows how expository preaching can reveal the redemptive aims of Scripture and offers a comprehensive approach to the theory and practice of preaching. He also provides help for special preaching situations.

The second edition contains updates and clarifications, allowing this classic to continue to serve the needs of budding preachers. Numerous appendixes address many practical issues.

7. Expositional Preaching: How We Speak God’s Words Today by David Helm

Preachers fill our church pulpits, conference stages, and television airwaves. But the question remains: What does good preaching sound like? In this accessible volume—written for church leaders and laypersons alike—pastor David Helm offers us an answer as he outlines the four foundational elements underlying truly life-giving, God-glorifying preaching: contextualization, exegesis, theological reflection, and application. Emphasizing faithful exposition of the biblical text over snappy sound bites or quippy platitudes, this short book offers practical, step-by-step guidance for preachers and will equip laypersons to recognize good preaching when they hear it.

8. Prepared to Preach: God’s Work and Ours in Preparing to Preach by Greg Scharf

‘Prepared to Preach’ offers an accessible and concise aid for all those who have been challenged to preach or feel a growing compulsion to do so. This is an essential read for all those who are wondering precisely where to start in preparing to expound God’s word, whether it is for the Divinity Student, the layperson, the parachurch worker or the short-term missionary. This is a comprehensive yet digestible guide.

Scharf focuses on the attitudes and skills those inexperienced in preaching need to develop, whilst at all times re- enforcing that although there are a number of things you, the preacher, must do, it is what God does that is at the heart of preaching. This book illuminates to us how to prepare our minds to preach, how to prepare the congregation to hear and obey God’s word, how to prepare the message God gives you to preach, and also how to deliver the message you have prepared.Throughout it all Scharf is motivated by a tremendous concern to equip preachers so that they might clearly express God’s word.

9. Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture: The Application of Biblical Theology to Expository Preaching Graeme Goldsworthy

Goldsworthy first examines the Bible, biblical theology, and preaching and shows how they relate in the preparation of Christ-centered sermons. He then applies the biblical-theological method to the various types of literature found in the Bible, drawing out their contributions to expository preaching focused on the person and work of Christ.

Clear, complete, and immediately applicable, this volume will become a fundamental text for teachers, pastors, and students preparing for ministry.

10. NIV Proclamation Bible: Correctly Handling the Word of Truth from Zondervan Publishers (be sure to read our review)

The NIV Proclamation Bible offers a valuable resource for those who teach from the Bible regularly and anyone who enjoys studying Scripture in greater depth.  This edition, developed by Lee Gatiss in collaboration with the Proclamation Trust, includes a wealth of additional material from leading theologians, pastors, and Bible teachers to enhance your study of the word. The Bible features ten introductory essays on theology, doctrine and the application and interpretation of Scripture, as well as detailed overviews of each literary genre in the Bible–from the historical narratives to the apocalyptic literature. It also features introductions to every Bible book.

Related Posts:

10 Things to Know about the Bible’s Barnabas

XIR155497 The Deliverance of St. Paul and St. Barnabas (oil on canvas) by Halle, Claude-Guy (1652-1736) oil on canvas Musee de la Ville de Paris, Musee Carnavalet, Paris, France out of copyright

Character studies of Bible heroes are of great value for the church. Many Bible studies walk through the lives of Joseph, Moses, David, the Apostle Paul, or Peter for great profit.

The Bible also contains some hidden gems, more “behind the scenes” type of characters including Barnabas–a man mentioned 23 times in Acts and five times in the Pauline Epistles.

Who is Barnabas in the Bible?

10 Things to Know about the Bible’s Barnabas

  1. “Barnabas” wasn’t his birth name (Joseph was), it was his nickname meaning “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36). This rather obscure Bible character was so encouraging that it became his name. What a legacy to leave! What an example to follow. What would people nickname you?
  2. Background: Acts 4:36 records that Barnabas was a Levite and a Cyprian (that is, a native of the island of Cyprus).
  3. Barnabas put the kingdom first with possessions. His first recorded action is that he “sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:37). He also was acknowledged by Paul for supporting himself financially for his ministry instead of depending on churches (1 Corinthians 9:6).
  4. After Paul’s dramatic conversion, Barnabas courageously vouched for him when the Jerusalem church was suspicious that a former persecutor would want to join their ranks (Acts 9:26-31).
  5. Barnabas was a Christian leader and preacher (Acts 15:35). On one occasion, he was sent by the Jerusalem church to Antioch. Acts 11:23-24 describes his arrival, “When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.” After his arrival, Barnabas sought out Saul to help him with the work (Acts 11:25). Barnabas’ ministry and effectiveness touches on one of the goals of the Fellowship of the Word program, which is to equip leaders to preach God’s Word with God’s heart and to empower pastors to train others in the Scriptures as well.
  6. While praying, fasting, and worshiping God, Barnabas and Saul received the call from the Holy Spirit to go on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:1-3).
  7. Barnabas, along with Paul, served to straighten out Jew/Gentile tensions that arose in the early church by sharing from the Scriptures and his experience how the Gentiles were being saved and could fellowship with Jews (Acts 15:1-21; Galatians 2:1-10). Although this issue was not without its challenges for Barnabas. In Galatians 2:13, Paul called Barnabas out for being led astray by Jewish circumcision party hypocrisy for a time (presumably before the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15).
  8. Barnabas had a sharp disagreement with Paul that ended their ministry together. Acts 15:36-41 explains that Barnabas wanted to take Mark along on their missionary journey while Paul did not because Mark had abandoned them on a previous trip. Paul would eventually describe Mark as “useful to me” at the end of his life (2 Timothy 4:11). It makes sense that Barnabas would stick up for Mark–they were cousins (Colossians 4:10).
  9. There was wide speculation about Barnabas in early church history. James Brooks explains, “In the third century Barnabas was identified by Clement of Alexandria as one of the 70 of Luke 10:1; Tertullian referred to him as the author of Hebrews; and the Clementine Recognitions stated he was the Matthias of Acts 1:23, 26. All of these are most unlikely. In the second century an epistle bearing Barnabas’s name appeared, became quite popular, and even received some consideration for a place in the NT. Later an apocryphal Acts of Barnabas and perhaps even a Gospel of Barnabas were circulated.”1
  10. Barnabas left a tremendous legacy. All of the above facts (except #9) prove Barnabas to be a strong man of faith that left a lasting legacy and stored up for himself a lucrative inheritance in heaven.

lasting_legacy1_1024x1024-194x300Go deeper with Barnabas and be challenged to invest your life wisely in Craig Parro’s booklet A Lasting Legacy: Investing Our Lives in People available from the following retailers:

1 Brooks, James A. “Barnabas”. Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Ed. Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England, Steve Bond, E. Ray Clendenen and Trent C. Butler. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003.

Related Posts:


Implications of Justification by Faith from Romans 5-8 in Graphical Form

What does it mean to be justified by faith?

That is a central question that Paul answers in Romans. The book of Romans begins by declaring all men to be sinners and deserving the wrath of God (1:18-3:20). Paul then begins to describe the good news of Jesus Christ that man can be justified before God by faith in Jesus Christ (3:21-4:25).

The next three chapters (5-8) of Romans unpack rich implications of justification by faith. The structure of those chapters is outlined and illustrated below, and serve to give the big picture argument of Romans 5-8:*

1. Romans 5:1-11 Paul begins by declaring believers to “have peace with God” and having obtained access to God’s grace in Christ (Romans 5:1-11). This floods believers with joy and hope because God’s love as demonstrated in Christ’s death (Romans 5:8) “has been poured out into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1

2. Romans 5:12-14Before justification by faith, believers are in the realm of Adam where sin and death reign.

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…” Romans 5:12


3. Romans 5:15-21 Through Christ’s death and resurrection, a new realm has been created that coexists with the realm of Adam. In Christ’s realm, grace, life, and righteousness reign.

“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:17


4. Romans 6:1-7:6 Union with Christ in His death and resurrection mean Christians are able to enter the new realm of Christ. This union with Christ breaks the power of sin and death that characterize Adam’s realm and free believers to live in the new realm.

“Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:8-11


5. Romans 7:7-8:17 While the power and penalty of sin no longer holds Christians, Christians still sin because they live in the overlap of realms (7:7-8:17). Romans 8:11 makes it clear that we will be freed from the realm of Adam through physical resurrection.

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:11


6. Romans 8:18-30  Christians still suffer in this world but can be confident that God will bring Adam’s realm of sin, suffering, and death to and end (Romans 8:18-30).

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18


7. Romans 8:31-39 Paul closes his argument showing that nothing can stop God’s salvation and that believers should have complete assurance.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

Romans 5-8 covers some of the richest implications of the gospel for believers and should flood our hearts with hope and a love for God. After three chapters describing God’s righteousness to Israel and the Gentiles (9-11), Paul shows us the proper response to the grace of God:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1

Understanding how each part of Romans fits together allows us to conform our understanding and interpretation of the Scriptures to what Paul had in mind. Being conscious of a biblical book’s structure (like we have just demonstrated) provides clarity to our understanding, and as a result, clarity to the preaching and teaching of the Word.

Learn more about structure by viewing our Dig & Discover Hermeneutical Principles Booklet which is based on material in our Fellowship of the Word and Training National Trainers programs.

*This material is adapted from Read Mark Learn: Romans A Small Group Bible Study from St. Helen’s Bishopsgate and are used with kind permission from Christian Focus Publishers.


Review of The NIV Proclamation Bible from Zondervan

NIV-Proclamation-Study-Bible-Review-and-Cover-Timothy-KellerSometimes when preparing to teach or preach from a book in the Bible you need a little nudge in the right direction to get you where you need to go. Too often, the right “nudge” often seems buried in thick commentaries and can be lost among scholarly details that don’t focus on helping you understand and apply God’s Word to your hearers.

The NIV Proclamation Bible from Zondervan was made to give readers the most relevant information they need to teach and/or preach through each book of the Bible. Lee Gatiss, the editor, shares the idea behind this Bible, “If you have ever wished you could have just a few minutes with an expert at the start of your journey into a passage of the Bible, then here is a study resource that provides just that.” The all-star cast of expert scholars and expositors who contribute articles and book overviews includes Peter Adam, David Jackman, Dick Lucas, G.K. Beale, Daniel Block, David Helm, Douglas Moo, Peter O’Brien, Vaughn Roberts, William Taylor, John Woodhouse, and Chris Wright, and others.

This Bible features about sixty pages of introductory articles giving readers an overview of the Bible, its historical reliability, tips on finding each book’s “Melodic Line,” and a handful of articles on applying and preaching the text. Each biblical book has a short one page introduction providing the “Melodic Line” of each book, the book’s structure, important points to consider, and a few recommended commentaries for further study.

I found several of the articles extremely helpful including Mark Thompson answering “What is the Bible?” and Tim Ward’s “Finding the Melodic Line of a Book.” Each of the articles introducing biblical books is extremely helpful and give teachers and preachers the most relevant and practical information for studying a particular biblical book. Although I found the book introductions very helpful, but couldn’t help but want more at times. It’s hard to do a lot on one page. This Bible also includes cross-references and a concordance.

Timothy Keller’s endorsement on the cover at first intrigued me–and then made me feel deceived–and then made me glad when I understood the goal of this volume. Keller’s endorsement on the cover says, “There are many Study Bibles, but none better.” I don’t disagree that this is a great resource, but I don’t necessarily agree that it should be classified as a “Study Bible.” When I think of features included in a Study Bible, I think first of study notes and commentary that accompany the text. This Bible doesn’t have that. If that’s what you’re looking for, you will be very disappointed. But it is a great tool for study. (OK, I guess it does live up to basic the “Study Bible” label! I wonder if Zondervan would ever considering selling all of the articles and book introductions as a separate 150 page book. That would make this important work cheaper and more accessible.)

As I navigated through the NIV Proclamation Bible and studied various passages to teach, I realized this volume’s intentions: it wants you to wrestle with Scripture for yourself and not take any short-cuts when studying and preparing to minister the Word. It’s a refreshing approach because there are so many short-cuts available today that distract us from diligent study and hearing from God’s Word for ourselves. Learning God’s truth second-hand can keep us from truly meditating on it as God desires. This conviction and the expositional mentality and methodology go hand-in-hand with what we teach in our biblical exposition workshops.

While there are differing opinions about the new NIV translation–our purpose in recommending this Bible is not to evaluate the version, but to share a resource that will help preachers.

I recommend the NIV Proclamation Bible for anyone looking for a helpful resource to help them in their studies. It would be a great tool for Sunday school teachers, small group Bible study leaders, or preaching from the pulpit. I will use this Bible as I prepare to preach and lead workshops in biblical exposition in Leadership Resources’ Training National Trainers program.

This Bible will make it easier for readers to see the author’s intent and our intended response for each book of the Bible. While you may or may not agree to call it a “Study Bible,” it is nonetheless a tool that will propel many into a faithful and diligent study of the Word for themselves, and that is where the greatest value of any edition of the Bible lies.

Title: The NIV Proclamation Bible
Publisher: Zondervan
Year: 2015
Pages: 1496

Lee Gatiss on the NIV Proclamation Bible


The Dangers of Moralism and Why We Need the Storyline of the Bible: An Interview with Trevin Wax (Part Two)

This is Part Two of an interview series with Trevin Wax (@TrevinWax). View Part One: Disciple-Making in the 21st Century: An Interview with Author Trevin Wax.

Kevin Halloran: Moralistic therapeutic deism seems to be the default setting for many Christians. How is it related to the false gods of our culture? Why is it something important for Christians (and pastors, especially) to know about?


Trevin Wax: The term “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” (MTD) is being called “moralism” for short. Moralism is now the boogieman. Nobody wants to be moralistic, but a lot of people don’t know what it means. It comes from two sociologists about a decade ago who did a survey of the religious lives of American teenagers.

Christian Smith is most known for coining the phrase. He says the default religion of our society is moralistic therapeutic deism and that it crosses denominations and crosses even religions. He has five tenets of moralistic therapeutic deism that I lay out in Gospel-Centered Teaching (read the five tenets under the second point), with more detail in his own book. The idea is that moralistic therapeutic deism means that God is distant except when you really need him to be involved in your life. And the reason we would believe in God, or cry out to him, is because we want him to fulfill us and make us happy (that’s the therapeutic part). Your purpose in life is to find your own meaning and fulfillment in becoming who it is that you are, and God comes alongside and assists you there. The moralistic side is to be good people at the end of the day; that’s the point of all religions. If a religion doesn’t teach that, they’re wrong. Good people go to heaven when they die. The whole purpose of religion is helping you fulfill yourself and be kind to people.

This is summed up really well in an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. Ray is talking to his daughter about a question she has about where babies come from. He’s totally prepared to have the discussion with her about sex. Her question is not where babies come from; instead it is, “Why are babies here? What’s the whole purpose of life?” He’s totally not prepared to answer that, so he goes downstairs to his family. What’s amazing is that everyone in the family takes a different philosophical position–the older brother is like Nietzsche’s position [for example]. At the end, the whole point of life, according to Ray and the family, is to be kind to people. It’s moralistic therapeutic deism.

If moralistic therapeutic deism is the default setting of the human heart in our society, we need to know the context that we’re presenting the gospel in to be good missionaries. I like to say that if you were to go and present the gospel in a predominately Muslim context, you would need to study up on Islam. If you were going into a Hindu context, you’d have to study up on Hinduism. If we’re going to be missionaries in the 21st century in North America, then we really need to know what it is that we are dealing with here. We need to know how the gospel challenges and confronts the dominant worldview of our day.

Kevin Halloran: Why is being grounded in Scripture’s storyline so vital to fight against moralism?

Trevin Wax: That’s a great question. I think the reason why the storyline matters so much is that apart from the storyline, we start to treat the Bible like it’s bits and pieces and then we consume the Bible from a moralistic framework. In other words, apart from the big drama of redemption that we see on the pages of Scripture, it’s easy to go to Bible stories and find little moralistic, inspirational helps that are just going to feed into the overarching me-centered understanding of reality.

The biblical storyline explodes the me-centered understanding of reality and gives us a very God-centered view of reality. The Bible is not a message primarily about us; it’s about God the Father sending His Son and now sending His Spirit to indwell His people. It is a message for us, but it’s about God. The storyline of Scripture helps us keep God front and center and helps us understand that the big drama here is not us and our individual stories, but God’s big story.

I’m reading right now a book by a theologian, J. Todd Billings, called Rejoicing in Lament, in which he receives a terrible cancer diagnosis as a young theologian with very young children, and he’s going back to the Psalms. One of the amazing parts early in his book is when he talks about a fifteen-year-old girl with Down syndrome that sent him a card that said, “God is bigger than cancer.” She’s not saying, “God will heal you of cancer or cure you,” or, “Just cheer up; cancer isn’t that bad.” But she is saying that at the end of the day, God is bigger. The story of God’s redemption is bigger than our individual stories, even when we lament and go through difficult times of suffering. In the fog of everyday life and suffering, we know there is a bigger story that we are just a small part of.

Our stories find meaning and significance not when we are at the center, but when Jesus is at the center and we are orbiting around him.

It doesn’t mean that our stories aren’t important; it places them within the bigger framework. That was very meaningful for me hearing it from someone who is wrestling in the furnace of affliction himself. I think moralistic therapeutic deism doesn’t have much to say other than little tidbits and practical advice for daily living. When you come to an experience like that, you need something more–you need something bigger. And the good news is that God is bigger and the gospel is bigger. Our stories find meaning and significance not when we are at the center, but when Jesus is at the center and we are orbiting around him.

Kevin Halloran: When we put ourselves at the center, that’s the recipe for a futile life and dissatisfaction.

Trevin Wax: We would be disillusioned if we were at the center, because we were never meant to be there.

Kevin Halloran: What’s one take away from your talk that you want everyone to learn about discipleship?

Trevin Wax: I’d say the main takeaway is that discipleship includes worldview formation–the formation of understanding who we are in the world God has put us in. Part of that formation must include the question of, “What time is it?” A lot of times we think the big worldview questions are, “Who are we?” “Where are we?” “What’s the solution?” One of the key questions that needs to be in any discipleship process we have is helping people understand their times.

One of the key questions that needs to be in any discipleship process we have is helping people understand their times.

The Chronicles talks about the sons of Issachar, who understood their times, and on account of that, they knew what Israel was supposed to do. I think discipleship, in some ways, is contextual–not that it’s relativistic, but that it’s contextual, meaning we live as disciples in a certain time and place. Part of understanding what it means to live as disciples is to understand our context and how the gospel shapes how we are to live in our particular context. And we don’t know how to answer that question unless we know what time it is. And you won’t know what time it is if you are taken in by false eschatologies, by false narratives, by false understandings of what progress is. We need to know who we are as believers and where the Scriptures say the world is going.

My takeaway for church leaders who will be at this conference is how we implement the question “What time is it?” in our discipleship process so that people are not taken in by the false eschatologies of the enlightenment, the sexual revolution, or consumerism.

Kevin Halloran: Trevin, thank you for your time and excellent work on such an important topic.

Disciple Making in the 21st Century: An Interview with Author Trevin Wax (Part One)

Trevin-Wax-199x300While gospel truth never changes, the way we live it out can change depending on our cultural context.

I don’t know anyone better to discuss this topic with than author Trevin Wax (@TrevinWax). In addition to serving as the Managing Editor of The Gospel Project, Trevin blogs at Kingdom People (hosted by the Gospel Coalition), has written several books including Gospel-Centered Teaching: Showing Christ in All of Scripture, and was named to Christianity Today’s “33 Under 33″ list of millennials who are impacting the next generation of evangelicalism.

I recently had a conversation with Trevin discussing discipleship in the 21st century in which he shared about current obstacles to discipleship, the dangers of moralism, and why we need to place ourselves in Scripture’s storyline.

Kevin Halloran of Leadership Resources: The title of your workshop at The Gospel Coalition Conference in April is “Discipleship in the Age of Richard Dawkins, Lady Gaga, and Grounding Believers in the Scriptural Storyline that Counters Rival Eschatologies.”  Can you unpack the title of your workshop for the layperson?

Trevin Wax: As Christians, we are all called to make disciples. Pastors, I think, sense this more acutely because they recognize that they are to make disciples and they are also called to equip people who make disciples. It almost feels like a double burden at times.

When I use the term discipleship, I’m already tapping into what a church is about. We don’t make disciples in a vacuum; we are to make disciples here and now in the context God has put us in. What is this particular context that we live in here in North America?

Charles Taylor, the philosopher, would say we live in a secular age. In the secular age we can see certain trajectories, certain narratives, or stories that people in our world live by, which is what I mean by, “rival eschatologies.” When I say “Discipleship in the Age of Richard Dawkins, Lady Gaga, and,” I’m not going to be focused on those two individuals and one website–I am focusing on the broader worldview narrative that they represent:

  • Richard Dawkins is almost the extreme version of the secularist or atheist type of person. I choose him as a representative. He might be on the fringes, but he’s a representative.
  • Lady Gaga, too, is on the fringes, yet I think she’s a good representation of where the sexual revolution will go and take us.
  • is synonymous with a consumeristic society, where everything we need we can have very quickly and for good prices. In a consumeristic society, a lot of our identity comes from the brands we have and the labels we wear. Amazon really fuels that because they make it so easy.

I’m really saying, “How do we make disciples in an age when there’s an Enlightenment narrative, a sexual revolution narrative, and a consumeristic narrative that is all taking place at the same time?” What does discipleship look like in that age?

Kevin Halloran: What false hopes do the major rival eschatologies give, and how do they hurt discipleship?

Trevin Wax: The Enlightenment’s false eschatology is the idea that we are progressing into a better and better future in which we are casting off the chains of superstitions of the past. In this view, religion is something fine if it helps you–but to really determine where the world goes, we need facts, science, and what we can observe with our eyes and ears and senses.

To put your hope in the Enlightenment view is somewhat futile, because it is demonstrably false that the world is becoming less religious. It was not long ago that I linked to and interacted with some statistics from Rodney Stark at Baylor about how the world is actually more religious now than it was fifty years ago [book summary | interaction]. In fact, the number of religious adherents and attendants of religious services in the United States is at about the same place as it was in the 1940s. We had an increase in the 50s and 60s and have gone back. So there is decline. We are not in a new place in that regard.

We can see this in the rise of ISIS and the allure they have for people surrounded by secularism who are leaving here and going to over there. The president likes to talk about how if these people just had better jobs or if they weren’t in poverty, then they wouldn’t be leaving and going to join these terrorist organizations. There is some truth to that, but that’s actually saying that the problem is a material problem, rather than some sort of spiritual longing–however distorted and wrong–that makes terrorism attractive for western people surrounded by secularism.

I think the Enlightenment is a myth. I think the myth of progress, whether it’s moral, scientific, or technological, needs to be exposed. Part of what discipleship looks like in our context is not falling for that myth of what the Enlightenment says progress is, but actually judging all “progress” in light of Jesus Christ.

As Christians, we don’t believe that the light came on in the 17th Century with the onset of reason after the Reformation. We believe the culminating point of human history was when Jesus walked out of his tomb on Easter morning. We have a whole different narrative that will counter the Enlightenment’s understanding of progress.

Read Part Two for the rest of the interview discussing dangers of moralism and why we need grounding in Scripture’s grand storyline.

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Biblical Authority in Life and Ministry with Dr. John Woodbridge (Part Three)

Professor-John-Woodbridge-Trinity-Biblical-Authority-and-Evangelism-200x300This is Part Three of a series interviewing church historian Dr. John D. Woodbridge on biblical authority. Read Part One sharing the history and a definition of biblical authority or Part Two about biblical authority’s implications for missions and evangelism.

How should the Bible’s authority affect the pulpit and pastoral ministry?

Dr. Woodbridge: One has to be careful how biblical authority is applied in the pulpit and other places, because people can ask the Bible questions that it doesn’t answer. I’m thinking about it in the area of counseling. The Bible gives very helpful comments about counseling. But this should not mean in the pastoral ministry that we don’t turn to psychologists and doctors and others to give help. God’s creation is open to understanding by people who may not be believers, but they do know something about our bodies and minds. So as we use the Bible, we have to be careful to apply it in a way that doesn’t backtrack us into cul-de-sacs by asking the Bible to speak to things it doesn’t speak to specifically. Nor is the Bible, as Charles Hodge and others have said, a scientific textbook. It talks about the world in a way that is truthful, but we have to be careful about juxtaposing it with things that people do in science. I don’t believe in evolution, and I think the Bible is pretty clear about creation, Adam and Eve and so forth. There are realms where the Bible is applicable, but we don’t want to push it beyond what it claims for itself.

What I’d also say though is that individuals who are in the pulpit—and those who have been to seminary—they have to watch out for seeing the Bible as an object they dissect. The danger is that they might know Hebrew and they might know Greek and bring a lot of knowledge to the Scriptures, and in some respects tame the Bible by their knowledge. Calvin and others make it very plain—and they’re right—that to open Scripture and preach it is a great privilege, but we shouldn’t run over it with our knowledge. If you start to do that, you become the arbiter of Scripture.

The Bible’s authority doesn’t depend on us. We don’t make Scripture the Word of God. Scripture has its own authority. So, one problem that pastors confront is that they can domesticate the Bible. The other point is that we can get caught up in fancy-dancy programs for renewing church life. We are very good at having all kinds of programs, but in the history of Christian thought, people like Spener are absolutely right: the way the churches are renewed is through the preaching of the Bible; and the way people are renewed is to love the Bible.

Now how does that occur? In the history of Christian thought, one of the keys is Scripture meditation—Psalm 1. If, in point of fact, we have people who come in and out of our church services who are not meditating on Scripture and having their lives changed, then, in one sense, they are just going from one week to another week. The real transformation in a person’s life comes when Scripture seeps into the very pores of a person’s thinking. Paul Meier, who taught here [at Trinity] a while ago, is a psychiatrist who did a study seeking to learn about the psychological and spiritual lives of students at Dallas Theological Seminary and Trinity. Meier was surprised when he noticed the factor that made the greatest difference between the healthy and unhealthy students was the practice of daily Scripture meditation. The students who studied Scripture but didn’t meditate on it didn’t have changed lives.

[You can read more about this study in the book Dr. Woodbridge edited: Renewing Your Mind in a Secular World.]

We had a fella who was in my formation group a couple of years ago. He had been in the Navy. I asked him, “How did you survive all of the temptations of the Navy?” He said that fortunately he had been led to the Lord by somebody in the Navigators and that he memorized Scripture. It flowed through his mind. He said that is what kept him out of difficulty with all of the temptations of Navy life. [Transformation through meditation on Scripture] is not play-stuff.

Sometimes in ministry we can domesticate Scripture by the way we study it. We can forget about its power. We can forget that Scripture distribution is good in of itself. And we can forget that the very reading of Scripture is very important. The killer issue is that we don’t have our people understand that if they don’t meditate on Scripture, their lives will not be transformed. When we say we don’t want to have our devotions, it’s not just an issue of a personal decision, the evil one doesn’t want us to read Scripture. Luther says when you read Scripture, you shouldn’t read it necessarily straight through in the sequence of a year, you should read Scripture until the Lord stops you. Then when the Lord stops you, you think about that passage. And then after you think about that passage, you meditate on it. That’s when you will have to ask for the Lord’s protection, because the evil one will go after you when Scripture really starts to transform your life.

Leadership Resources: You said that preachers can sometimes “domesticate” God’s Word. Would you agree that sometimes that can be done when we put our own terms on the Bible instead of taking it at its own terms?

Dr. Woodbridge: That’s exactly right. Or not having a humble spirit in approaching Scripture. My colleague Scott Manetsch gave a presentation on Calvin’s view of Scripture and said that Calvin had a sense of awe and saw the privilege it was to open Scripture. The routine of a pastorate—where you have to come up with a sermon—and the routine of the Christian life can even, with well intentioned people, overwhelm them.

This is why we have to pray and we have to have the Holy Spirit’s help, because the evil one wants us to domesticate [the Scriptures]. When Scripture is elevated, a church is healthy. When Scripture is not key, you have it imprisoned. Scripture really is the key for the advance of the gospel. Graham knew that, all of the great evangelists knew that, and often we forget it.

Leadership Resources: Thank you Dr. Woodbridge for sharing with us, and may we all faithfully and wisely proclaim God’s powerful Word—first in our own hearts, and then to a world in need.

Leadership Resources is committed to equip and encourage pastors to preach God’s Word with God’s heart. We train pastors in biblical exposition and meditate on God’s Word in community in our Fellowship of the Word program. Visit our website to find out how you and your church can make a difference strengthening the global church with the Scriptures.

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