In our sin and sorrow, we default to wishlist thinking, but Jesus never did. We question our Father’s character and work—but Jesus trusted his Father unto death. We are weak, but Jesus obeyed in perfect strength. And those who look to him in faith are united with him in his righteousness. This is good news! Even as we doubt, we receive Jesus’s perfect track record and Jesus himself—what can compare to this eternal reality?
I love Christmas. Glowing tree lights illuminate sentimental ornaments, candlelight glints on red berries—everything gauche and shiny and celebratory. Christmas books adorn the coffee table. My long-suffering family endures endless repetitions of “Carols from St. Paul’s Cathedral.” There’s meal planning, card sending, and gifts.
This—receiving gifts—is where my family’s Christmas celebration can get derailed. Anyone else? We can begin to believe we should get precisely what we want. For all its convenience, the Amazon wishlist can become a petty tyrant, serving our bullying demands. This is self-focused—greedy rather than grateful. When it comes to Christmas presents, we can spot that.
But what about how we respond to the life God gives? We all live in a reality that, in some way, is not what we wanted. I never expected my husband to face young-onset Parkinson’s Disease, yet he does. I don’t want to see him growing weaker, yet he is. You may not want to struggle against sexual sin or singleness or discontentment. And family gatherings can make the season extra difficult, highlighting estranged relationships, grief, or loneliness. In all this heartache, do we see God as the tight-fisted arbiter of our life’s wish list—holding out on the good stuff? Or will we trust our heavenly Father?
God’s plans are better than our wish list life, even when we can’t see it and don’t feel it. He is good. He’s able and willing to do us good. Whether or not we believe this truth impacts everything.
Four realities about God’s providence nourish our belief:
1. God Works for Our Good
You may be happily married or aching with loneliness, struggling to care for a gender-dysphoric child or enjoying family life, daily fighting sexual sin or living victoriously. Whether you’re facing the best or the worst things, God’s Word says, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28, my emphasis).
It’s hard to think of trials as gifts in God’s hands. And it’s true that evil itself is evil. Yet God sovereignly works even evil things for good to his children. In this light, we can receive all things as gifts tailored to us from the wise hand of our good Father.
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By Mark Devine — 3 days ago
Looking over the last twenty years, it becomes clear that Keller-movement Evangelicals built platforms, brands, and messages in order to be found winsome by the blue communities they sought to reach. As with the old-line liberalism of Friedrich Schleiermacher, exquisite sensitivity to target audiences will shape the message delivered far more than its deliverers intended.
Tensions churning within the Keller-led Reformed resurgence among Evangelicals eventually found articulation among the movers and shakers themselves. In March of 2021, North Carolina pastor Kevin DeYoung acknowledged that the once nationwide, cross-denominational Calvinist party was effectively over:
On the other side of Ferguson (2014), Trump (2016), MLK50 (2018), coronavirus (2020–2021), George Floyd (2020), and more Trump (2020–2021), the remarkable coming together [of Reformed evangelicals] seems to be all but torn apart…We won’t be able to put all the pieces of Humpty Dumpty back together again…
DeYoung accurately identified pressing political realities as key factors in the break-up of the movement. We could add to DeYoung’s list of political flash points: the emergence of critical race theory (CRT), the crisis at the Southern U. S. border, Black Lives Matter, identity politics, and the stunning Biden-supported transgender rights campaign in the nation’s K-12 schools.
More fundamentally, however, are the political sensibilities that precipitated Humpty Dumpty’s fall from his wall. With such a promising start, the movement that put so much stock in being found winsome by its target audience found itself divided over branding strategies that could not please the full spectrum of Reformed evangelicals  Indeed, as a winsomeness campaign targeting blue communities not red, it resulted in a politically-subtle “seeker sensitivity” movement and a church growth model that aimed to please the so-called political party of “compassion,” not “conversativism.” In what follows, I will outline the fruit produced by Keller’s “Third Way,” and I will show how it has impacted Evangelicals.
Keller’s Third Way
Once again, the genesis of this commitment to winsomeness goes back to Tim Keller’s Third Way. As noted in my last essay, Keller encouraged Christian engagement with culture both as the path to clear communication of the gospel and as a necessary protection against compromise of the gospel message through unwitting capitulation to cultural rather than biblical norms. But Keller never called for and never modeled serious engagement with politics. Politics was treated as a dangerous threat to the gospel message and as a temptation to an idolatrous attachment of believers to one political party or to one politician. Accordingly, Keller tried to position his movement between the political parties and above politics writ large in a quest to avoid ongoing responsibility to weigh in on thorny political debates.
The attempt to inoculate his movement from a perceived political minefield appeared in Keller’s first book, the 2008 bestseller, The Reason For God. There Keller outlined for evangelical leaders his so-called “Third Way” whereby Christians could allegedly fly between and above liberal and conservative political loyalties. According to him, Republicans got some things right; Democrats were better on others. Between the two, however, there exists a rough moral equivalence and a freedom to vote as one pleases—or so the argument went.
Nestled in the heart of New York City, Keller’s Third Way appeared to have evangelistic traction in his secular locale. And many young, Reformed evangelicals followed his political example. Unfortunately, Keller’s commitment to winning blue communities with winsomeness broke through his supposed political neutrality. Keller and his followers offered too many reductive caricatures of the political left and right that incentivized critique of conservatives and showed openness to the contemporary social justice movement the Democratic party cherishes.
Keller credits the left with what they want but don’t deserve—the supposed reputation of compassion for the poor and love for justice. He then reductively defines conservatives as primarily concerned with eternal souls, the unborn, and money—a caricature that the left is happy to declare and then impugn. The Third Way means to make it kosher for ostensibly pro-life Christians to vote Democrat while giving an edge to Democrats on the compassion front. Although he identifies as pro-life, Keller recently tweeted, “The Bible tells me that abortion is a sin and great evil, but it doesn’t tell me the best way to decrease or end abortion in this country, nor which policies are most effective.” Really? It is possible that support for the Democratic party might offer “the best way to decrease or end abortion in this country,” when this party not only celebrates abortion on demand at every stage of pregnancy but looks to punish anyone who refuses to publicly celebrate such abortions? I think not!
By Kendall Lankford — 2 months ago
When Jesus says that some will be taken, he is saying that some will be arrested, taken into custody, beaten, and killed when the day of the Lord’s wrath comes. This day happened just like Jesus predicted, within a single generation, when the Romans came into the city, murdered, raped, and killed the Jews, and took the remaining survivors “into custody.”
You’ve Been Left Behind…
At the zenith of my choral career, circa the late 1990s, I was chosen to perform a solo in front of my entire private Christian high school. Apparently, the talent pool was a bit low that year. Either way, I was given the unenviable task of alerting all the would-be tares, sown into a Christian School wheat field, to repent or face their eschatological doom… With a Brady-bunch quiver ready to strike at my undeveloped teenage vocal cords, I crooned out the following warning to my classmates: “There’s no time to change your mind, the Son has come and you’ve been left behind.” If you are blanking on the reference, take a moment to enjoy some dispensational cringe and then come back for the article proper.
Wonkavator in the Sky
When it comes to eschatology, the most common view bumbling around pulpits and popular Christian literature these days asserts that at some point in the immediate future, believers will be whisked away from the world in a secret rapture. Christians will apparently vaporize, leaping invisibly into the heavens, leaving clothing, dentures, and plastic surgical additions piled neatly behind them. Planes will fall out of the sky. Unmanned cars will careen over cliffs. And all the world will be thrown into the kind of panic that only a cavalier Antichrist could rectify, which will jumpstart a seven-year tribulation that ends in Armageddon.
This kind of murky reasoning once seemed rational to me. That is until I left the eschatological bog of big Eva publishing swamps and started reading the Bible for myself. It is amazing how such a simple action can clear up so much confusion. Who would’ve thunk it?
With that, today, I want us to explore what the Bible says about the rapture in Matthew 24. Is it God’s heavenly dispensational wonkavator that is meant to zap us out of here before the world gets really crazy? Or, have we misunderstood what the Scriptures are saying about these things and need to adopt a better view? Let us begin!
A Brief Disclaimer
As I have mentioned before. Jesus is going to return at the very end of human history. The dead in Christ will rise. The living and the dead will be judged. Some will be thrown into the lake of fire where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. And some will enter into the eternal kingdom with Christ in the new heavens and the new earth. All of that is true and is still in our future.
But, what we have also shown in this series, is that many of the most popular eschatological fantasies, peddled as the Gospel today, will not happen in the future, because they have already happened in the past. For instance, over the last several weeks we have shown that the rise of False Messiah’s, Wars and Rumors of Wars, Earthquakes and Famines, Tribulations, Signs of the Times, the Abomination of Desolation, The Great Tribulation, and the “Second Coming” (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), all occurred in the events that happened in the Church’s first tumultuous forty years.
If you are all caught up on the series, today, we will examine how the events of Matthew 24:36-41, are not referring to a pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-tribulational “rapture”. But, instead is more evidence that Jesus was describing events that would happen in the first century. If you are not caught up, this post may be interesting, and I feel sure you will get something out of it, but, I would suggest reading the previous articles in the series for a fuller treatment. You can find those in blog form here, or in podcast form here.
But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left.—Matthew 24:36-41
A Past Day in View
While many believe this section of Scripture is referring to a future rapture of a righteous church, the context of Matthew 24 makes it abundantly clear that Jesus is referring to events that have already happened in the past to the unrighteous nation of Judah. We know this for at least three reasons. First, the context bears it out. Jesus is answering the disciples’ questions about when the temple will be destroyed, what will be the sign this is about to occur, and how will that factor into the end of the Jewish age of redemption (Matthew 24:1-3). From verse 3 onward, Jesus is giving an unbroken answer to their question, describing events that must soon take place in their lifetimes, without deviating from that objective. There is not a single moment in verses 1-35, where Jesus jarringly shifts away from His audience to the distant future, to somehow wax proleptically. He stays on task and so should we.
Second, Jesus said a mere two verses earlier: “This generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (v. 34). This tells us unequivocally that Jesus believed everything in this prophecy would occur within a forty-year window. That alone should end the debate, right? Do we believe Jesus or not?
Third, whenever Jesus uses the word “day” in this chapter, He is not referring to an indeterminate day that will occur sometime in an undisclosed future. Instead, He is referring to a well-defined day, known as the “Day of the Lord”, which makes its Biblical appearance in the Old Testament prophetic writings. According to the prophets, the “Day of the Lord” was a special day when God uniquely brought His covenantal fury against His enemies. According to Jesus, that day had come in full when Judah rejected the reign of God (See Matthew 23:35-36). This undoubtedly served as the chiefest of all betrayals and pitted the Jews as mortal enemies with God. This is why Jesus alludes to, quotes from, and appeals to the very prophets who refer to this awesome and terrible day because that day would afflict the very generation He was speaking to (See for example Joel 1& 2; Amos 5; and Malachi 3 & 4).
By Stephen Unthank — 4 months ago
What better news could you ponder than to know that the God of all creation, the God who controls every detail and atom in existence, is your Father. Consider that personal pronoun, your. You are his child, and he your Father. Stand tall, dear Christian, and remember who your beloved and loving Father is.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.—Romans 8:14
Is there anything more comforting in all of God’s revealed word than the thought that in Christ we are sons of God? We are finding ourselves climbing higher and higher up the mountain peak of Romans 8 and now in verse 14 we have stepped out on to one of those rare ledges where we can look out and take in one of the most beautiful views in all the landscape of God’s Scripture: the glorious doctrine of our adoption in Christ. The air up here is fresh and breathing it in brings an exhilarating assurance to any Christian who takes the time look and take in the wonder of its truth.
The first thing we need to notice is the immediate logic which leads Paul to declare this stunning truth. He’s just been arguing that since Christians are people who have the Spirit of Christ indwelling them, and therefore the Spirit works within them to put to death the deeds of the body, to mortify sin within our lives. But notice the move he makes here in verse 14. It’s as if he’s saying, how could our lives look any different! Of course, Christians put sin to death because “all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” In other words, if you have the Spirit of God within you, you will necessarily act and live your life in such a way that shows you are a part of God’s family. “All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
I remember in High School my father pulling me aside anytime I was ready to go to some get together with friends, and he’s always say the same thing: “Remember who you are. Remember your last name, that you are an Unthank.” His point was clear. How I acted at this High School party represented my whole family and therefore he was reminding me to not act in such a way that was contrary to how he and my mom raised me. To my shame I didn’t always heed his advice well, but looking back I know those brief reminders kept me out of far more trouble then had he never said anything at all.
In one sense, Paul is doing the same thing here. He’s reminding us of who we are. Do you see the objective reality of his statement. It’s a statement of indicative truth. If you are led by the Spirit of God, then, says Paul, that means you are a son of God. He doesn’t say “All who live a life of righteousness will one day, maybe, gain the status of being God’s son. No, if you have his Spirit then, de facto, you are God’s son. On one level, this is nothing more than Paul reminding us, you’re a Christian; God is now no longer your judge but your Heavenly Father, and because of that you yourself are a changed person! Live like it! “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
But there’s more to what Paul is saying here. He’s also reminding us that we are in Christ. Remember, that’s been the major thrust of Paul’s argument so far in Romans 8. He began by declaring the wonderful good news that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And we’ve seen how all the benefits of our salvation and redemption aren’t gifts given to us out of thin air; no, everything we have in terms of salvation we have by being found in Christ. He is our Righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30) and so by faith in him and becoming one with him, his righteousness becomes our righteousness. He is Wisdom (Proverbs 8) and so by becoming one with him through faith, his wisdom becomes our wisdom. And now Paul is telling us, “Look, Jesus is the Son of God. And so, by believing in him and thus becoming one with him, his sonship now becomes our sonship.” It’s a staggering reality! Because of Jesus Christ we are now adopted as sons in the Son. Incidentally, I think this is why Scripture always uses the language of “son” rather than “sons and daughters.” The emphasis is on our union in Christ. We are all sons, whether we’re male or female, simply because we’re united in the Son. Ladies, don’t fret, all believing men are caught up in the image of the church as the Bride of Christ, so it all evens out.