Ligonier Ministries Blog

Ligonier Ministries
Ligonier Ministries
  1. No soldier should go into battle unequipped. Yet how many members of the armed forces risk their lives around the world without access to the Word of God or trusted Christian teaching? Dr. R.C. Sproul established Ligonier Ministries’ Military Chaplain Outreach to provide a spiritual supply line for servicemen and women around the world, equipping them for the fight of faith. Your generous support today can bolster this outreach by delivering free discipleship resource packages: Copies of the Reformation Study Bible, Student Edition Bulk subscriptions to Tabletalk magazine Print and Digital Books from Ligonier Ministries Access to Ligonier Connect And More Supplying a Critical Need Thanks to your support, chaplains can receive credits to obtain the specific resources that will best serve the troops and families to whom they minister. A few years ago, we spoke with Chaplain Jim Carter, a former seminary student of Dr. Sproul’s and a longtime friend of Ligonier, about how essential it is for the military to be well supplied and spiritually fed. Watch below. Support the Troops We do not want to see anyone enter the fray unprepared. By God’s grace, your gift today can help make the difference, outfitting chaplains, soldiers, and their families with the unassailable truth of the gospel.
  2. People serving in the armed forces today face many ongoing spiritual battles. As military chaplains minister to soldiers and their families, we want to ensure that they’re amply outfitted with gospel-centered discipleship resources. Your support makes it possible to supply chaplains with custom resource packages so they can faithfully minister to those under their charge. Chaplain Chadwick Potts recently told us about the important role that Ligonier’s resources have played in his ministry to men and women in the armed forces: “Thank you so much for your support of the chaplaincy. In the Air Force, faithful Christians are consistently put in difficult situations. These resources are going to help strengthen the faith of those in our care and enable them to disciple others.” Today, more than 600 military chaplains partner with Ligonier. Most of these chaplains are ministering to thousands of servicemen and women at a time, providing trusted books, teaching series, the Reformation Study Bible, Tabletalk magazine, and more. Thanks to the financial generosity of those who support this outreach and want to see it grow, our partner chaplains serve more than 1,000,000 people, including men and women in uniform as well as their families. Thousands more on the front lines and the home front are eager to receive biblical discipleship materials. By God’s grace, your gift of $30, $50, or $100 can provide a spiritual supply line for soldiers, military families, and chaplains, arming God’s people with truth so they can stand firm in the faith and honor the Lord wherever He stations them. Give today. Thank you for prayerfully considering this opportunity to minister to the armed forces through your generous support.
  3. In the middle of Ecclesiastes 3 we read a puzzling statement: “God seeks what has been driven away” (Eccl. 3:15). People have interpreted this verse in different ways, some suggesting that Solomon comments here on the nature of God, who pursues the outcasts of society. Theologically, it is true that our God cares for the lowly and shows compassion to the humble. But the context of Ecclesiastes 3 hints that this is not the meaning of verse 15. The whole of Ecclesiastes 3 is about our relationship with time. It begins with a poem, through which he teaches our inability to master the seasons (Eccl. 3:1–8). He then explains the reason for this reality: God is in control of the clock, and our vulnerability should cause us to fear Him (Eccl. 3:9–15). Finally, Solomon uses justice as an example—when righteousness does not come at the right time, we are reminded again that we are not God (Eccl. 3:16–22). In this context, it seems that verse 15 speaks in some way about the nature of time. The Latin translation of the Bible (the Vulgate) offers an insightful interpretation: “God restores that which is past.” I think this is the sense of Ecclesiastes 3:15. Not only does God ordain the passing of time, but He keeps bringing the same seasons before us. Times of sorrow, times of rejoicing, times of planting and of reaping—we experience them all, and then we experience them again. This is the way of God’s providence. We see it not only across the seasons, but from hour to hour. At the end of each Sunday, Monday comes. A new week brings the same challenges, the same victories, the same blessings. God has designed the passing of our lives to feel strangely circular: eat, sleep, work, repeat. But why has He done this? Within the context, Solomon explains that our inability to master the seasons is supposed to drive us to fear God (Eccl. 3:14). In a similar way, the repetitive nature of life is purposeful. It is God’s wisdom that we should live according to various expressions of routine. Revisiting the same struggles, the same experiences, the same seasons is a way in which God instructs our hearts to submit to His reign. Understanding this truth is important if we are to make the most of the time that we have. We do not want to look back with regrets, but rather to say that by God’s grace we lived to the praise of His glory. We must learn to embrace what is past as God brings it before us again. The Value of Routine How, specifically, does God instruct our hearts through repetition? Throughout Ecclesiastes, Solomon explains that the best we can do is to embrace the life that has been set before us (Eccl. 2:24; 3:12, 22; 8:15). We are not God; we cannot control all things. We must learn our place within the economy of life and choose contentment with our lot. This is easier said than done. I don’t enjoy the alarm clock sounding early on a Monday morning. I wouldn’t choose times of sickness or ill-health. I want to avoid life-altering tragedies. Even when my lot is good, it is difficult to embrace the life that God has set before me because my sinful tendency is to make too much of the blessing. I am prone to worship the gift, not the giver. Ecclesiastes seeks to lead us in the path of wisdom—one wherein I submit to divine providence and humbly accept my circumstances with reverence toward my Creator. Time is a particularly effective tool that God uses to teach us this wisdom. As He ordains the repetitive nature of life, with many seasons of lament, recurring seasons of joy, and frequent expressions of everything in between, God provides for us countless opportunities to learn. Every Monday morning is another chance for me to refrain from grumbling. If I fail, God is patient. Next week I can try again. If I respond well, I have grown in wisdom. My life is richer for it, and next Monday will be a blessing. God brings back each season to help us learn how to respond to His providence. The Danger of Novelty The time in which we live poses challenges to this dynamic. Like Solomon, we often pursue pleasure in the wrong way. We try to experience happiness, comfort, and joy through novelty. Social media feeds are governed by algorithms that give us new content by the second. Seeing the same post twice would be boring. Novelty satisfies. Career mobility is higher than ever. Working the same job for more than a few years seems monotonous. A new environment, a new company, a new role is exciting. When any area of life feels a little jaded, the solution is change. Rather than seek out what has been before, we go searching for novelty. The problem with this way of living is that it runs contrary to God’s means of instruction. His design is for us to experience the reality of each season many times over. God wants us to learn the way of contentment and live as those who fear Him. When we pursue novelty, we rob ourselves of opportunities to grow in wisdom. We give to ourselves only one opportunity to respond well before moving on. More than that, we avoid those struggles that only manifest themselves with time and fail to develop the skill of honoring God when the excitement fades. This is not altogether different from Solomon’s efforts to escape reality. He tried to create for himself a version of Eden that was not real but concluded that it offered nothing (Eccl. 2:1–11). The sad irony of pursuing endless expressions of novelty is that we strip even the new of all enjoyment. Every experience is just another point on a clustered map. Nothing is meaningful because novelty has made us numb. Not only have we forfeited contentment, but we have not learned to fear God. The Beauty of Each Sunday How can we learn to submit to God’s sovereignty over the seasons? How can we embrace His providence in the repetitive rhythms of life? Simply being aware of God’s design is important. Knowing that He has ordained life’s routines as a means by which we grow can help us to embrace the circumstances that God has set before us. We can also look to some more tangible expressions of God’s grace to provide us with anchor points that inform our understanding of everything else. For the Christian, Sunday worship is perhaps the most fixed expression of routine in the week. Every Lord’s Day, the disciples of Jesus gather—where else would we be? What is more, when Sunday comes, we worship just as we did before. We sing the same old songs, we rehearse the same glorious gospel, we sit again under the preaching of God’s sufficient Word. Here, the temptation to seek novelty is less. We understand that part of the value of each service is bound up in its familiar nature. The beauty of every Sunday stems from two thousand years of church history. It is a testimony to the faithfulness of God, the glory of His Son, and our eternal security in Him. As we embrace God’s design through repetition on a Sunday, we learn to fear Him. Every Lord’s Day, we worship in spirit and truth, responding to our Creator with reverence. That this happens on the first day of the week is not incidental. We should project the beauty of Sunday’s routine across everything that follows. The light of the Lord’s Day should inform every other routine. Though neither the daily commute nor the weekly yard work is as charged with historical significance, nevertheless they mark the passing of time and provide an opportunity to learn. As we joyfully accept the reoccurrence of Sunday’s gathering, we should also see that Monday’s routine is a gift from God. Changing another diaper, emptying the trash again, taking another call at work—these are expressions of divine providence that flow out of God’s love for us in Christ. If we pursue every routine in response to the truths we rehearse on the Lord’s Day, they quickly become means by which we worship, and so fear. And if we navigate every season as an expression of providence, marked by the certainty of Sunday’s gathering, we learn to embrace the life that God has set before us. In times of great sorrow and of abounding joy, we are content because we eat, sleep, worship, repeat.
  4. Simon Peter was a man with two names and two opposite inclinations. Many Christians see themselves in his wavering between faith and failure. But as we trace the trajectory of Peter’s life, we also see a man powerfully renewed in his walk with Jesus Christ. In his new teaching series and companion book, Dr. Derek Thomas surveys the story of Peter from his first encounter with the Lord to his defining moments in the book of Acts. Understanding Peter’s transformation from the brash fisherman into the bold Apostle can guide us in pursuit of our own growth in grace. Order the teaching series and preorder the book today. We Can Relate to Peter He spoke and acted in ways he would soon regret. He often had good intentions but made many mistakes. He sinned greatly and failed his Lord at times. Yet Christ used this vessel of clay to spread the hope of the gospel. A Portrait of the Christian Life Dr. Thomas does more than tell the story of a New Testament figure in his new teaching series and book. He paints a portrait of a man whose life was gripped by grace. At every stroke, our eyes are drawn behind the disciple to his Master, who fashions stumbling believers into stalwarts of faith. Here is teaching to remind Christians that Jesus is the Hero in our story. Watch Now as a Ministry Partner Did you know that Ligonier’s Ministry Partners now enjoy complete streaming access to our teaching series library? If you’d like to stream The Life of Peter and 240+ other series online and in the Ligonier app, partner with Ligonier today. Your committed prayers for the ministry and your monthly donation will help fuel gospel outreach so more Christians worldwide can benefit from this biblical teaching. Many Teaching Series Formats Available Get it on DVD Digital download Ligonier Connect course Study guide (paperback or digital) Preorder the Book You’ll be among the first to receive the hardcover edition of The Life of Peter when it becomes available next month. An encouraging read for any Christian, this book beautifully shows how the grace of God transforms and sanctifies His people.
  5. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine listed “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” At the top was Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” Second on the list (presuming no bias in the choices made by the magazine) came the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” This song, both in its intended sense and even when pruned of its innuendo, has served as the anthem of the past half-century (it was released in 1965). It therefore comes as no surprise that USA Today reports that the majority of Americans, in every age group, feel that they have never discovered their destiny. There is no reason they should have. For once we cut ourselves off from the ground, means, and end of both our satisfaction and our destiny, we simply starve to death spiritually. No satisfaction means no contentment. Here is one more facet of the gospel that meets our culture at its point of need: Jesus Christ gives what the world cannot—contentment. This at least is what Saul of Tarsus—one of the least naturally contented of men—discovered: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound . . . I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11–13). Contentment What does it mean to be content? Paul may have startled his Philippian friends by using a Stoic term for a Christian disposition. Was he hinting that what Stoicism sought—detachment from the disturbances of strong emotions—the gospel alone provides, but without denying or avoiding the reasons for the emotions themselves? By contrast, for Paul contentment comes to expression in situations that arouse strong emotion—having plenty, having nothing—but it is learned in a different school from the Greek Stoa. Back to School How, then, can we discover what Jeremiah Burroughs called the “rare jewel of Christian contentment”? Some of us naively believe we are naturally “contented people.” But higher tolerance levels are contentment lookalikes, even imposters. Spiritual contentment is learned, not natural. And it is learned in situations that test us, as Paul indicates—when we are brought low and when we abound. Contentment is the ability to be equally satisfied in both situations, not just in one or other, but in both. That may seem paradoxical, even contradictory. But the contented believer is one who believes that God’s provision is always sufficient and His appointments are always appropriate. Only when we have faced both good and bad (as most of us do, to whatever degree) can we know that neither draws us away from the anchor of our contentment in Christ. Both situations, then, become the school in which we learn to rest in Christ as our sufficiency and to do all things through Him. The Backstory Loss of contentment has a long history. Its origin lies before the dawn of time. Satan was (and still is) discontented. For whatever reason (was it, after all, jealousy that the real King of the angels was the Son of God?), he was not content with God’s provisions or appointments. And the discontented always seek company. So the serpent deceived our parents. They, in turn, became discontented with being the creaturely likeness of God, and they desired to be as God Himself. Their folly led to our misery. Expulsive Power How, then, are we to learn contentment? Thomas Chalmers spoke rightly of the importance of “the expulsive power of a new affection.” Discontentment can only be reversed and driven out by an affection that is both greater than and opposite to it. Enter, then, the riches that are ours in union with Christ. Only when our Christ is big enough to satisfy us can we be content no matter our particular circumstances; more than that, satisfied with the circumstances and not merely despite the circumstances. This is a telling point. We have not yet attained to biblical contentment when we would be content with Christ were it not for our circumstances. No, genuine contentment is realized both in our circumstances and with our circumstances. A Four-dimensional World Wherein, then, lies this contentment? In the following four dimensions of our knowledge of Christ: Dimension 1: Everything we need and everything we lack is found in Christ. All Christians believe this. But do we? The power of our union with Christ in our lives requires a growing knowledge of all that is ours in Him. Yet the doctrine itself can be enthusiastically endorsed while it remains what Jonathan Edwards called merely a “notion.” We have the idea, but the reality does not touch our affections. As John Owen would put it, we know the truth but not the power of the truth. How, then, does it become a reality? Only by having our hearts soaked in the lavish grace revealed in such passages as Ephesians 1:3–14 or Colossians 2:6–3:4. This is the tonic Calvin eloquently prescribes: “We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else” (Institutes 2.16.19). Calvin tellingly ends by contrasting those for whom this is true with those who are “not content with Christ alone.” Dimension 2: This all-sufficient Christ is with us. Hebrews 13:5–6 famously exhorts us to “be content with such things as you have” but also explains why. Whether we win or lose, whether we have or have not, whether in joy or in sorrow, “He himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’“ (emphasis added). The Greek text here contains an entire handful of negatives—bad in English grammar, permissible in Greek, but glorious in theology. The message is: this all-sufficient Lord Jesus is with you; no way will He leave you. This is all you need. At the end of the day, He is your only sufficiency—you will have nothing else as you breathe your last. But since He will be sufficient for you for all eternity, He is no less so now as well. Dimension 3: We are in this all-sufficient Christ. We are united to Him in the eternal counsel, in the federal union, by His incarnation, and through faith. All the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily, and we have come to fullness of life in Him—indeed, we are complete in Him (Col. 2:9–10). As Calvin teaches us: in His incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, session, and return, Christ considers Himself incomplete without us. What contentment is found in knowing this to be true! Dimension 4: This all-sufficient Christ is in us. We can say with Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). We do not minimize the shocking parallel reality that “sin . . . dwells in me” (Rom. 7:17). But neither should that fact diminish the more staggering truth of Christ’s promise to come to indwell us in the power of the Spirit—even to make His “home” with us (John 14:17, 20, 23b; 17:23). Those gripped by these truths learn in whatever state they are to be content. In Christ, they find all that they need and all that they lack. The Fifth Dimension Paul understood this (see Phil. 3:7–11). However, he also knew that neither he nor we have attained to its full realization (vv. 12–14). But Christ is also in us as “the hope of glory” (that is, the present assurance of what has not yet been realized; Col. 1:27). One day, He will appear and transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body (Phil. 3:21). Then, we will awake and be satisfied with His likeness (Ps. 17:15; see 1 John 3:2). Then, possessing new resurrection capacities, we will at last be able to drink in all that Christ is and has done for us, and know the utter contentment for which we were created. We already taste this now; then we will eat and drink it unendingly in the new heaven and earth. We were actually created to feast on glory. But we have sinned and fallen short of it (Rom. 3:23). It has become unattainable. No wonder, then, that those made for the eternal are by nature discontented with the temporal. We try the broken cisterns, but their waters fail and mock us until, in God’s providence, we learn that there is “none but Christ,” as the old hymn states: > Now none but Christ can satisfy, None other name for me! > There’s love, and life, and lasting joy, Lord Jesus, found in thee. A Picture Psalm 131:2 pictures all this for us. By nature, we are like unweaned children. We have a desire only for milk. We have no taste for solids. We are discontented until we confess, “I can’t get no satisfaction.” Exhausted, we yield to Christ and learn to say, “My soul is as a weaned child.” Here is the blessed paradox: the moment you give in to Him is the moment you begin to learn contentment. May God grant this contentment for all who know Him.