Posts by William Boekestein

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In places with a Christian heritage the weightiness of baptism can easily be underestimated. Many people get baptized, or baptize their children, out of impulse, or as a matter of custom. It isn’t usually a sobering decision. Believers under persecution understand baptism differently. Immediately...
Has the church has missed God’s plan for spiritual growth? Conventional wisdom promotes pragmatic self-help schemes, elaborate church programs, and charismatic leaders. But what if God actually authorized a simpler way? Early Christians committed to expository preaching, fellowship, and prayers (...
The visible church is an institution. Like any other organization the church has structure. Anyone who takes the Bible seriously realizes that the gathered community of God has leaders, doctrine, and rules for membership. As unpopular as it might be to say, Christianity is a religion and the...
“A Christian without a church is a Christian in trouble.” [i] Like a lion hoping to snatch prey that wanders alone Satan aims to devour professing Christians who are disconnected from God’s family. We need the church. To become persuaded of this truth we need to know what the church is. It isn’t an...
The primarily calling of every person is to glorify and enjoy God. And in our pursuit of God we are ultimately responsible for ourselves. But we do not go through life alone. We need to know how to honor God in our relationships. And for most adults our most influential relation is our spouse...
The topic of civil government is complicated; not so much because of what the Bible says about it but because of our disparate political opinions and experiences. The civic convictions of Christians seem to depend on which party is presently in office. When our party is in control we have a more...
The question of the propriety of vows and oaths may not strike us as an urgent matter. All serious religious questions are important but vows and oaths may seem like less weighty matters of the law. Actually, this topic helps us get to the very nature of truth itself and what it means to follow God...
( This article is abridged from a chapter in Glorifying and Enjoying God: 52 Devotions through the Westminster Shorter Catechism.) In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus teaches us to pray for the coming of his kingdom (Matt. 6:10). This sounds like a grand idea, something we should surely do. But how do we do...
Modern worship, even by some definitions, has more to do with feelings than form. What matters, it seems, is not the quality of the offering but the affection of the worshiper. Actually, both are important. We must worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:23). But attitudes do not trump actions...
It is a sad fact: liberated Christians aren’t always good at practicing Christian liberty. We struggle to break free from the hold of besetting sins. Sometimes we even justify sin on the basis of our freedom in Christ. And we are tempted to hold others to the same standards as us even on matters in...
Unlike every other religion Christianity is fundamentally a message of grace. True believers are “not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned” (cf. Rom. 6:14) Believers are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. But a misunderstanding of grace...
People who believe in Jesus and want in all things to please God can still struggle with assurance of salvation. Circumstances like the transition from childhood to adulthood, major trauma, and the imminence of death can trouble believers with spiritual doubts and fears. But Scripture urges us to “...
Many people suppose that “true believers are able to fall through their own fault into shameful and atrocious deeds, to persevere and to die in them; and therefore finally to fall and to perish.” [i] This opinion seems to be supported by Scriptural warnings against falling away, and examples in the...
Martin Luther began his 95 Theses emphasizing the need for repentance. “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Luther also understood that Jesus’ instruction “does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner...
At the start of his ministry the Lord Jesus used just two verbs to summarize the good news of his kingdom: “Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Paul condensed his ministry in a similar way: I testified “both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus...
Of all the words that have lost meaning in modern culture, faith must be near the top of the list. Today faith is considered a generic attitude of openness and trust. Even many modern Christians boast of having no shared creed. In our day faith is believing in good things. The Christian concept of...
The purpose of your life is to be holy as God is holy. God is “majestic in holiness” (Ex. 15:11). His holiness—his complete lack of character flaws—is the theme of angelic praise (Isa. 6:3). And God aims to manifest his holiness among his people (Ez. 28:22). This will surely happen. Those whom God...
Martin Luther said that justification is the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls. And justification is a vital, glorious reality. God declares that because of Christ’s righteousness the claims of the law are satisfied for everyone who believes. Justification is a verdict of “no...
Those whom God “predestined he also called” (Rom. 8:30). The Father will draw to himself all those he has eternally given to the Son as his reward (John 6:37, 44). In the effectual call God changes sinners by giving them genuinely holy interests. Regenerated sinners truly know and love the Lord. We...
Salvation is like a treasure that becomes more precious to us the better we understand it. One way of better understanding our salvation is to study what theologians call the ordo salutis, or the order of salvation, the “process by which the work of salvation … is subjectively realized in the...
It’s a common objection to the doctrine of particular redeeming grace: What about free will? With a free will can’t we desire God, and decide to follow him on our own initiative? But that argument begs the question; what needs to be proven is merely assumed. We need to know what Scripture teaches...
One complaint against theology is that it complicates simple matters. Do we really need doctrine if we believe the Bible and trust Jesus? Might we not lose our first love while stockpiling spiritual information? We might. And so we must resist replacing faith with mere knowledge. But the objection...
Every relationship needs definition. Without clear terms we are unsure how to interact with each other. Marriage is a good example of how definitions aid relationships. Upon marriage an otherwise unrelated man and a woman become united by covenant. In the presence of witnesses each partner promises...
One of the first questions friends ask parents of newborns is, “Does she look like mom or dad?” Often it’s hard to say; kids inherit traits from both their parents. Children share more than their parents’ looks. They also acquire their nature. “When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in...
God “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). We study God’s decree—his eternal plan—to grapple with his sovereign foreknowledge. We reflect on God’s providence —his working all things—to appreciate his present involvement in our world. God has not left us to fend for...
Have you ever told someone, “I must have missed the first part of your story. I don’t understand”? Without a context most stories lose meaning. So it is with the story of humanity. Ignorance of our beginning breeds confusion and purposelessness. Even the drama of salvation by grace makes sense only...
When studying God one quickly has to answer challenging questions. How far does God’s authority extend? How much of what happens in this world is God responsible for? For those who take Scripture seriously God’s eternal decree cannot be avoided. Paul sums up what the entire Bible reveals: God “...
Most theological and moral failures can be traced back to a wrong view of God. We charge God with being unfair only if we think he must submit to our concept of fairness. We will contentedly live one way in public and another in private only if we believe him to be local and limited like us. We can...
If you were going to introduce Christianity to someone where would you begin? You might start with God and his holiness. The first fact is that “there is one simple spiritual being, whom we call God.” [i] Or you might lead with our need for God to deliver us from Satan’s tyranny. [ii] Both...
Is there any use in studying a summary of Scripture that is pushing 400 years of age? Before answering that question let’s think about what the question supposes and what it says about our thinking today. We are suspicious of old things. Of course, not everything older is better. But truth doesn’t...
Apologetic conversations aren’t about hypothetical truths, but about life’s most important matters. We mustn’t simply stick to the scripts of critics; we must see ourselves as God’s prophets “anointed to confess his name” and reveal the mysterious “counsel and will of God concerning our deliverance...
Christian apologists give reasons that substantiate the faith. But sometimes Christians are the reason people find the Christian message implausible. People object to Christianity because of their sense—accurate or not—that the gospel doesn’t make people better and, in fact, seems to make some...
Statistics indicate that scientists are three times less likely to attend weekly religious services than non-scientists. [1] Less than ten percent of American scientists believe in a personal God. To atheist Richard Dawkins these statistics prove “that the more intelligent, rational, and...
The people of Israel were starving. Their land was rich, but their enemies devoured the produce (Judges 6:4). A young man named Gideon summed up the crisis: “If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?” (6:13). That is the problem of evil. And it is one of the most obvious...
Apologetics requires certainty and confidence. Its basic purpose is conquering doubts cast on the Christian faith. But what about the doubts of Christians? How do we defend a faith that we are not always certain of? Doubt is not a virtue; it is a serious problem. Doubt is dishonorable. God wants us...
One of Billy Graham’s early crises of faith was over whether he could totally trust the Bible. After much struggle he prayed to God, “I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word.” [1] Graham’s conclusion sets a good...
Apologetics is often associated with the so-called proofs of God’s existence: ontological, cosmological, teleological—and already my head is spinning. But the quest to prove God has several problems. First, it ignores that all people already know God. Even animals can tell us that God created the...
All Christians are apologists. All of us must be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks us for a reason for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). But God not only demands that we defend the faith, he also defines how we must defend it. By demanding confidence, love, and holiness (1 Peter 3:...
Note: This article kicks off reformation21's latest series, "Christian Apologetics." Join us each Friday as William Boekestein outlines how we can prepare to make a defense for the hope that is in us. From the earliest days, Christians needed to defend not worshiping like their neighbors. The...
Popular opinion concerning sexuality is changing rapidly. “It took more than a century for the homosexual movement to win cultural affirmation. Transgenderism’s acceptance happened much more speedily, partly due to the path carved out by the homosexuality movement.” [1] The traditional boundaries...
Struggling Christians should get in the habit of calling their elders for prayer. “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders” to pray for God’s healing (James 5:14). Do you? Or do you treat this invitation as a throw-back to a pre-scientific era in which a “spiritual cure” was a sick...
It's six o'clock Wednesday evening. Your church's mid-week Bible study starts in one hour, but you don't feel like going. The trouble is, you can't think of a fresh excuse and you don't dare to say what you, (and several others) would like to say: "Is this really what a Bible Study is supposed to...
How is it that our perceived contentment can fluctuate so dramatically? The new clothes we used to love now seem hopelessly out of date. We appreciated that pay-raise until we acclimated to new spending habits. We thought we had a fine home until we visited that friend’s house that makes ours feel...
In 1754, Benjamin Franklin published a cartoon called “Join or Die.” It pictured a snake cut into eights representing the British colonies in the New World. Franklin argued that unless the colonies formed one body, they would never be able to resist the powerful threat of the French and their...
"I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is 'deconstruction,' the biblical phrase is 'falling away.' By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian." So was the recent confession by former pastor, Joshua Harris...
Lois Lowry tells a story about how a utopian state required that all of the community's memories going back through the generations be committed to a single person, a receiver. The elders engineered a society where no one but the receiver had to feel or remember. Life was safe and comfortable. The...
Lois Lowry tells a story about how a utopian state required that all of the community's memories going back through the generations be committed to a single person, a receiver. The elders engineered a society where no one but the receiver had to feel or remember. Life was safe and comfortable. The...
Lois Lowry tells a story about how a utopian state required that all of the community's memories going back through the generations be committed to a single person, a receiver. The elders engineered a society where no one but the receiver had to feel or remember. Life was safe and comfortable. The...
Lois Lowry tells a story about how a utopian state required that all of the community's memories going back through the generations be committed to a single person, a receiver. The elders engineered a society where no one but the receiver had to feel or remember. Life was safe and comfortable. The...
There is a lot to like about the story of John Newton . And Simonetta Carr and Amal tell and illustrate it beautifully (Reformation Heritage Books, 2018). Newton first told the story himself in an 18 th century best-seller. A young man with a dead mother and hard-to-please father pursues riches and...