GOD’S GLORY ALONE: The Majestic Heart of Christian Faith – David Vandrunen (2015)

•February 8, 2016 • Leave a Comment

aGod’s Glory Alone – The Majestic Heart of Christian Faith and Life is the second title in the 5 Solas Series. The first volume by Thomas Schreiner, Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification walked readers through this important doctrine which was rediscovered in the sixteenth century. The latest installment is penned by David Vandrunen, professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics at Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, California.

God’s Glory Alone unfolds in three parts. Part one, The Glory of God in Reformed Theology summarizes the essence of the Reformation and is captured by the Latin words, soli Deo gloria – ”to God alone be the glory.”

Part two, The Glory of God in Scripture is a tour of redemptive history which presents the glory of God in both testaments and also includes a section the describes the glory of Christ in the glorification of his people.

Part three, Living for God’s Glory Today includes practical application which is an overflow of the first two sections. The author presents chapters that discuss prayer, worship, and the fear of the Lord.

Vandrunen’s work is welcome addition to the 5 Solas Series and is sure to serve pastors, theologians, and Christ-followers well, especially as we near the 500th year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Soli Deo gloria!

ON FIRE FOR CHRIST – REMEMBERING JOHN ROGERS (February 4, 1555)

•February 4, 2016 • 1 Comment

The smell of burning flesh hung in the air.  The villagers turned their heads and gasped.  Stray dogs fled.  The man’s wife wept bitterly.  His children watched inThe_Burning_of_Master_John_Rogers horror and the smell burned their nostrils.  The stench was a vivid reminder of who sat on the throne.  Mary Tudor ruled with ironclad authority.  Her subjects were obligated to obey.  Any dissenters would pay the ultimate price.  The world would remember her as “Bloody Mary.”

The day was February 4, 1555.  The man roped to the pyre was known well in the British village – a man of humble origins.  A man with bold ambitions and simple obedience to match.  A man who dared to challenge the throne with two simple acts – preaching the Word of God and printing the Matthews-Tyndale Bible.  His name was John Rogers.  Pastor, father, martyr.  He was the first Christ-follower to pay the ultimate price of death during Mary’s bloody reign of terror.  He was the first of hundreds who would die at the hands of this blood-thirst tyrant.

John Rogers stands in a long parade of God-centered men; men who preached the truth, confronted sin, lived uncompromising lives, and finished strong.  Like Rogers, some were martyred.  Others died of old age or were tormented with disease.  Those who participate in this Christ-exalting parade still have something to say.  Their courage emboldens us.  Their lives inspire us.  Their theology instructs us.  Their devotion moves us to action.2014-02-03 08.41.07

February 4, 2016 marks the anniversary of Roger’s brave march to the pyre.  Over 460 years later, the world is a very different place.  Yet the persecution of Christ-followers has not decreased.  It has increased.  As people committed to the sovereign reign of Jesus stand for truth,  righteousness, and justice – the persecution will grow steadily.  As Christians take a stand against homosexual marriage, abortion, human trafficking, and pornography – the persecution will escalate.  Tolerance is the popular buzzword, yet fidelity to God’s Word will not be tolerated by many in this world.  John Rogers is a reminder to stand firm in the face of adversity.  His picture is glued to the flyleaf of my preaching Bible and beckons me to boldly declare the truth of God’s Word – unashamed, unhindered, and resolute – on fire for Christ!

Semper Reformanda!

JOYFUL CALVINISM IS THE ONLY KIND OF CALVINISM

•February 1, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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Tony Reinke. The Joy Project. Minneapolis: Desiring God, 2015. 122 pp. $8.99

Every human being searches for happiness. No one is exempt. The Creator of the universe has hardwired human beings to be joyful. Tony Reinke makes this argument the centerpiece of his excellent book, The Joy Project. The thesis is simple and breathtakingly profound: “Making glad worshipers out of spiritually dead sinners is the grand design of God’s Joy Project.”

Reinke’s undergirds his thesis by making a case for historic Calvinism. He refers readers back to the Synod of Dort where the doctrines of grace were systematically spelled out by our theological forefathers. What grew out of the Synod was the well-known acronym, TULIP. The author puts the five points of Calvinism on display in vivid terms:

  • TOTAL DEPRAVITY is not just badness, but blindness to beauty and deadness to joy.
  • UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION is how God planned, before we existed to complete our joy in Christ.
  • LIMITED ATONEMENT is the assurance that indestructible joy in God is infallibly secured for us by the blood of Jesus.
  • IRRESISTIBLE GRACE is the sovereign commitment of God to make sure we hold on to superior delights instead of the false pleasures that will ultimately destroy us.
  • PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS is the almighty work of God to keep us, through all affliction and suffering, for an inheritance of pleasures at God’s right hand forever.

The author proclaims, “Our eternal joy will flourish when we are the objects of God’s sovereign grace. So the remainder of the book is devoted to unpacking the doctrines of grace (otherwise known as the five points of Calvinism). Critiques of Reformed theology will no doubt be drawn to Reinke’s winsome approach, an approach which is drowning in grace and Christ-saturated joy. Folks who are already convinced of Reformed theology will walk away with warmed hearts and drawn to the heart of the Savior.

The Joy Project could be viewed in many ways as the cliff notes for John Piper’s best-selling book, Desiring God. Tony Reinke should be commending for articulating the doctrines of grace in such a creative way, without losing any doctrinal punch. I recommend The Joy Project to anyone ready to be captivated by sovereign grace.  Readers will certainly discover that joyful Calvinism is the only kind of Calvinism.

Download a free version of this book at [http://www.desiringgod.org/books/the-joy-project]

4.5 stars

HAPPINESS by Randy Alcorn

•January 25, 2016 • Leave a Comment

1414389345_bRandy Alcorn. Happiness.  Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2015.    480 pp. $14.45.

Randy Alcorn is an author who consistently places strong, biblical challenges before his readers. His newest work, Happiness, is no exception. The book is arranged in four parts and is arranged as is summarized below.

Part 1: Our Compelling Quest for Happiness

Alcorn lays the groundwork here by making the biblical case for happiness. He confronts the typical evangelical notion that God is only concerned with our holiness but disregards the need for happiness. Such views are not only unbiblical but harmful to Christian growth and progress.

The author argues that happiness is a part of the warp and woof of the Christian life. “Every man,” says Augustine, “whatsoever his condition, desires to be happy.” Ultimately, Alcorn reminds readers that their happiness is grounded and rooted in a relationship with God through Christ: “Longing for the happiness of humankind once knew, we can be drawn toward true happiness in Christ, which is offered us in the gospel.”

Part 2: The Happiness of God

Part two explores a theme that has been largely neglected in the church, not to mention, most works of Systematic Theology. Alcorn says, “Some people suppose happiness is uniquely human, unrelated to God’s nature: as he gave us a body and hunger, which he doesn’t have, he gave us a capacity for happiness, which he also doesn’t have. I believe. Something radically different – that God wants us happy because he’s happy.” Jonathan Edwards adds, “It is of infinite importance…to know what kind of being God is. For he is…the only foundation of our happiness.”

The author builds an unshakeable case for the happiness of God by pointing to key texts in Scripture (Zeph. 3:14, 17; Ps. 2:12; 16:11; Deut. 30:9; Ps. 35:27; Isa. 62:5).

At the heart of section two is the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity. For in the Trinity, we find a God who is eternally happy. Alcorn cites Michael Reeves who says, “The Trinity is the cockpit of all Christian thinking.” Indeed, as Alcorn writes, “The only way God’s happiness or love could be without beginning is if there exists within God himself a reasons for and object of his happiness and love.”

The author helps readers understand the earth-shattering consequences of a happy God and the impact this reality has on our worldview: “But God is fully happy, one day we will be fully happy.”

Part 3: The Bible’s Actual Words for Happiness

Part three is the most technical part of the book as Alcorn includes a detailed word study of happiness and all the related words in Scripture. One section is especially significant as the happiness which emerges from Scripture is set forth in vivid detail. A few samples include:

Happy are those who believe in Jesus.

Happy are those facing trials for Jesus’ sake.

Happy are those who see and hear Jesus for who he is.

Happy are those who serve God faithfully.

Happy are those who trust God’s promises.

Happy are those who obey God’s Word.

Happy are those who help and serve others.

Happy are those who have been forgiven by the Lord.

Happy are those who see unhappiness as a warning sign.

Happy are those who are also holy.

Ultimately, our joy is not optional. Rejoicing in the Lord is a command (Phil. 3:1; 4:4).

Part 4: Understanding and Experiencing Happiness in God

The concluding section includes several chapters that include practical ways to pursue happiness. The culmination of the book includes several meditations on the essence of our existence on the New Earth where we will experience unvarnished happiness in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Happiness is a breath of fresh air in a world that tends to minimize happiness. Alcorn aggressively confronts the popular notion that God is only interested in our holiness but has not interest in our happiness. He advocates the radical pursuit of joy, which by definition, necessitates holiness. Indeed, on cannot have one without the other.  The pursuit of joy and the commitment to holy living are not at odds!  Randy Acorn’s work is loaded with encouragement that lifts readers out of the clutches of mediocrity, discouragement, and complacency. He urges readers to pursue a higher calling, namely, happiness.  Such happiness is found in the gospel, in a relationship with the God of the universe and his Son the Lord Jesus Christ!

Highly recommended!

25 MOST INFLUENTIAL BOOKS

•January 21, 2016 • 7 Comments

Often I am asked, “What are the most influential books in your life?”  While the Bible is obviously the most influential book in my life, I offer twenty-five more that should be required reading for every Christ-follower.  Some titles do not include reviews, since I read these before my blogging days.

# 1 THE DOCTRINE OF GOD – John Frame

The most influential book in my life, outside of Scripture

# 2 TOTAL TRUTH – Nancy Pearcey

One of the most important books of the 21st century.

# 3  THE PLEASURES OF GOD – John Piper

This book taught me above all that God is delighted to be God.

# 4  THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD – A.W. Pink

An absolutely foundational book that deserves to be read and re-read.

# 5  DESIRING GOD – John Piper

See my review

My introduction to Christian hedonism.

# 6 – FOUNDATIONS OF GRACE – Steven Lawson

A book that shows how the doctrines of grace show up in every book of Sacred Scripture.

# 7 A DISSERTATION CONCERNING THE END FOR WHICH GOD CREATED THE WORLD – Jonathan Edwards

See my review


# 8 INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION – John Calvin

One of the most important Christian books of the last 500 years.

# 9 THE HOLINESS OF GOD – R.C. Sproul

See my review

A classic that will likely be in print for years to come.  A great place to begin the journey into God.

# 10 RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS – Jonathan Edwards

See my review

As important now as it was in the 18th century.

# 11 FREEDOM OF THE WILL – Jonathan Edwards

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No author has surpassed Edwards’s arguments.  Any discussion of free will should turn to this book.

# 12 THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS – John MacArthur

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One of the first serious books I read as a Bible College student.  MacArthur gets the gospel right.

# 13 THE GOD WHO IS THERE – Francis Schaeffer

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Important lessons in evangelism and apologetics.  This is the book that got me interested in the discipline of apologetics.

# 14 JONATHAN EDWARDS – George Marsden

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My favorite biography on Jonathan Edwards.

# 15 WILLING TO BELIEVE – R.C. Sproul

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A great overview of the historical debate concerning free will.

# 16 PILGRIM’S PROGRESS – John Bunyan

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The number 2 selling book of all time.  Spurgeon read Pilgrim’s Progress at least 100 times.

# 17 HE IS THERE AND HE IS NO SILENT – Francis Schaeffer

See my review

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# 18 CHOSEN BY GOD – R.C. Sproul

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This book helped me work through the issue of predestination and election over 20 years ago.

# 19  REDEMPTION ACCOMPLISHED AND APPLIED  – John Murray

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Terrific treatment on soteriology.

# 20 THE FORGOTTEN SPURGEON – Iain Murray

See my review

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Iain Murray has a special gift that introduces readers to Spurgeon.

# 21 SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY

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My favorite systematic theology.

# 22 HISTORICAL THEOLOGY – Gregg Allison

See my review

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My favorite historical theology.

# 23 PILLARS OF GRACE – Steven Lawson

See my review

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# 24 THE DEATH OF DEATH IN THE DEATH OF CHRIST – John Owen

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Important work on the atonement.

# 25 GEORGE WHITEFIELD – Arnold Dallimore

0851510264_lA tremendous biography that educates, inspires, and convicts.

THE NATURE AND END OF EXCOMMUNICATION – Jonathan Edwards

•January 18, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Jonathan_Edwards_engravingThe Nature and End of Excommunication is a timely and practical sermon.  For many churches in our generation simply refuse to exercise church discipline on the unrepentant.  This act of passivity is not only cause for grave concern; it is a violation of Scripture.

Edwards utilizes 1 Cor. 5:11 as his text:

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Cor. 5:11, ESV)

DoctrineThose members of the visible Christian church who are visibly wicked, ought not be tolerate in the church, but should be excommunicated.

Edwards explains and articulates three main headings which support the doctrine.

1. The Nature of Excommunication

Edwards wastes no time explaining the essence of excommunication: “It is a punishment executed in the name and according to the will of Christ, whereby a person who hath heretofore enjoyed the privileges of a member of the visible church of Christ, is cast out of the church and delivered unto Satan” (c.f. 2 Cor. 2:6).

Ultimately, church discipline is meant for the good of the person in question and seeks their repentance and restoration to the body of Christ.  Edwards, adds, “Excommunication itself is to be performed as an act of benevolence.  We should seek their good by it; and it is to be used as a means of their eternal salvation.”

2. The Proper Subjects of Excommunication

Those who walk through the process of excommunication are the “visibly wicked.”  Two things mark such a person:

  • By gross sin 
  • By remaining impenitent in their sin

3. The End of Excommunication

Three specific ends are delineated by Edwards:

  • That the church may be kept pure, and the ordinances of God not be defiled.
  • That others may be deterred from wickedness.
  • That the persons themselves may be reclaimed, and that their souls may be saved.

Application

5 points of application are set forth by the preacher from Northampton:

  1. That you tolerate visible wickedness in your members, you will greatly dishonor God, and our Lord Jesus Christ, the religion which you profess, the church in general, and yourselves in particular.
  2. Your own good loudly calls you to the same thing.  From what hath been already said, you see how liable you, as individuals, will be to catch the contagion, which is easily communicated by reason of the natural depravity, in a degree at least, remaining in the best of men.
  3. The good of those who are without should be another motive.
  4. Benevolence towards your offending brethren themselves, calls upon you to maintain discipline in all its parts.
  5. But the absolute authority of Christ ought to be sufficient in this case, if there were no other motive.

These powerful reminders should beckon every church to seriously consider the high calling of operating in a God-glorifying way.  Edwards wonders out loud, “Now, how can you be the true disciples of Christ, if you live in the neglect of these plain positive commands?”  He concludes, “If you strictly follow the rules of discipline instituted by Christ, you have reason to hope for his blessing; for he is wont to bless his own institutions, and to smile upon the means of grace which he hath appointed.”

In this short sermon, Edwards demonstrated the necessity of carrying out church discipline on unrepentant church members.  How very far are so many churches from this biblical model?  How long will it take to come in alignment with the teaching of Scripture?

THE MARKS OF A SPIRITUAL LEADER – John Piper

•January 11, 2016 • Leave a Comment

full_the-marks-of-a-spiritual-leader“Spiritual leadership is knowing where God wants people to be and taking the initiative to use God’s methods to get them there in reliance on God’s power.” John Piper’s definition permeates this little book, appropriately titled, The Marks of a Spiritual Leader. Piper maintains that the essence of spiritual leadership involves helping people move toward heart change. Of course, it is the Holy Spirit who transforms hearts, but in his mercy and grace, he sovereignly uses Christian leaders to play an important part of this process.

The author presents to aspects of spiritual leadership. First, the inner circle. The ultimate aim here is to glorify God. Piper urges, “The ultimate goal of all spiritual leadership is that other people might come to glorify God, that is, might so feel and think and act as to magnify the true character of God.” This is where people meditate on and pray over the Word of God. This is where people acknowledge their desperate need for God.

Piper cites the examples of Hudson Taylor and George Mueller as men who understood this inner circle, men who were committed to godliness and genuine heart change.

Second, the outer circle of spiritual leadership. This is the arena where leaders manifest qualities that are consistent with godliness. Piper presents several qualities that meet this criteria, including restlessness, optimism, intensity, self-control, thick-skin, energy, thinking ability, and being theologically oriented – among others.

The Marks of a Spiritual Leader is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to Christian leadership. Others have written more comprehensive books like Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders and The Conviction to Lead by Al Mohler. Piper’s work is a helpful addition and will no doubt encourage many men as they walk the path of a spiritual leader.

 
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