JESUS CONTINUED – J.D. Greear (2014)

0310337763_bJesus Continued by J.D. Greear is a book about the Holy Spirit.  The subtitle is a better description about the big idea in Greear’s book – “Why the Spirit Inside You is Better Than Jesus Beside You.”  If nothing else, the subtitle is bound to prompt discussion about the role of the Holy Spirit.  Ultimately, if the discussion follows the basic flow of the book, the discussion will, in the final analysis prove fruitful and worthwhile.

Part One: The Missing Spirit

In part one, the author makes an absolutely crucial point that runs through the rest of his work, namely – we cannot fulfill the Word apart from the Spirit.  That is to say, the Spirit of God uses the Word of God to transform the people of God.  Eliminate the Spirit from this maxim and the result is dry academia which influence no one.  Eliminate the Word from this maxim and the result is fanatical extremism which may influence some people but is utterly useless.  Greear makes it clear that Christians must be “led by the Spirit and taught by the Word.”

The author discusses the role of the Spirit in the Christian life.  He adds, “Devotion to the mission of Jesus and the fullness with the Spirit of God, you see, always go hand in hand … The primary objective of God’s Spirit is to complete the mission.  To know him is to be devoted to that mission.  Without him, we cannot hope to succeed.  With him, we cannot fail.”

Greear clearly describes the role of the Spirit in the life of the believer and reveals the benefit of the indwelling Spirit which is better than “the Jesus beside you.”

Part Two: Experiencing the Spirit

In part two, the author helps readers understand how to experience the Holy Spirit.  He notes that Christians experience the Holy Spirit in at least six specific ways:

  • In the Gospel
  • In the Word of God
  • In our giftings
  • In the church
  • In our spirit
  • In our circumstances

Greear gives practical illustrations how the Holy Spirit is experienced and offers biblical support throughout.

Part Three: Seeking the Holy Spirit

Part three combines the best of parts one and two and challenges readers to surrender afresh to the Holy Spirit and to expect personal and corporate revival.  He encourages readers to pursue the “ordinary means of grace” by 1) repenting of sin, 2) preaching the gospel faithfully, 3) saturating themselves in the gospel, and 4) persisting in prayer.

Readers are urged to seek the Holy Spirit in prayer and living by faith in the promises of God.  In the final analysis, Greear writes so that Christians will see the Holy Spirit is beckoning them to follow him.

Several features not only make J.D. Greear’s book noteworthy; these features make this book one of the best Christian books of 2014.

  1. Jesus Continued is saturated in the Reformed tradition.  While the author writes with Reformed convictions, his focus is on the Holy Spirit which should encourage charismatics and challenge Reformed thinkers.
  2. Jesus Continued is a fresh look at the person and work of the Holy Spirit by a pastor who has a heart for theology and a love for the people of God.
  3. Jesus Continued presents a pneumatology which is Scripture-soaked.
  4. Jesus Continued is a personal work and practical work.  While this is the work of a top-notch scholar, the writing is simple enough for a high school student to understand but will also challenge seasoned pastors.

I highly recommend Jesus Continued.  I trust that it will receive a wide readership and that God will use it in mighty ways.  May Christ-followers surrender afresh to the ministry of the Holy Spirit!

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. 

5 stars

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STRANGE FIRE – John MacArthur (2013)

strange fireNadab and Abihu, the Old Testament miscreants who offered unacceptable worship to the Lord paid the ultimate price for their diabolical deed – death.  The “strange fire” they offered led to their untimely deaths: “The crux of their sin,” writes John MacArthur, “was approaching God in a careless, self-willed, inappropriate manner, without the reverence He deserved.  They did not treat Him as holy or exalt His name before the people.”  MacArthur offers an identical warning that is directed at the heart of the charismatic movement – a movement that is filled with “spiritual swindlers, con men, crooks, and charlatans.”

Many readers will be tempted to cast aside the arguments that MacArthur wields in his latest book, Strange Fire – a work that maintains the Holy Spirit is offended by counterfeit worship.  His critique of the charismatic movement may come across as severe and insensitive.  His comments may offend.  But jumping to a judgmental conclusion would be a mistake.  For the greatest offense in the universe involves creatures who approach God in an unworthy manner or offers “worship” that He deems unacceptable.   Cain, Nadab, Abihu, Uzzah, Ananias and Sapphira remind us that God will not trifle with man-centered “worship.”

Part 1: Confronting a Counterfeit Revival

MacArthur argues that charismatics “often seem to reduce the Spirit of God to a force or a feeling.”  The author notes how many charismatics are locked into a health and wealth gospel which is in the final analysis no gospel at all.  But the heart of the problem is that “Pentecostals and charismatics elevate religious experience over biblical truth.”  MacArthur maintains, “If Scripture alone were truly their final authority, charismatic Christians would never tolerate patently unbiblical practices – like mumbling in nonsensical prayer languages, uttering fallible prophecies, worshipping in disorderly ways, or being knocked senseless by the supposed power of the Holy Spirit.”

The origins are the charismatic movement are explored in a fascinating biographical account of Charles Parham – founder of the Apostolic Faith Movement.  Parham’s was discredited by his ungodly character and false teaching.  As a result the movement as a whole was subject to suspicion from the start.

The remainder of part one is a theological tour de force that guides readers through a thought process that equips them to exercise biblical discernment by testing the spirits, in keeping with 1 John 4:2-8.  Believers should ask five questions to test every proposition or movement:

1. Does the work exalt the true Christ?

2. Does it oppose worldliness?

3. Does it point people to the Scriptures?

4. Does it elevate the truth?

5. Does it produce love for God and others?

The questions noted above are prompted by Jonathan Edwards’ fine work on this biblical passage.  MacArthur not only helps readers develop biblical discernment; he includes numerous examples of charismatics who have abandoned the truth of God’s Word and as a result ignored the prompts of the Holy Spirit.

Part 2: Exposing the Counterfeit Gifts

In part two, the author cites concrete examples of a movement that has moved from bad to worse.  While some leaders like C. Peter Wagner affirm the beginning of the Apostolic Age, MacArthur rightly argues that the canon is closed: “Hence, the writing so the New Testament constitute the only true apostolic authority in the church today.”  The author argues strenuously that the office of apostle was unique to the first century church, an office that faded away and no longer necessary with the closing of the canon.

False prophets are addressed and rightly labeled as “dry well wells, fruitless trees, raging waves, wandering stars, brute beasts, hideous stains, vomit-eating dogs, mud-loving pigs, and ravenous wolves.”  Readers offended by such language need only turn to Scripture where each title is assigned to false teachers.  The author helps readers identify false prophets with three defining benchmarks:

1. Anyone who leads people into false doctrine and heresy.

2. Anyone who lives in unrestrained lust and unrepentant sin.

3. Anyone who proclaims any supposed “revelation from God” that turns out to be inaccurate or untrue.

MacArthur helps readers determine whether the modern version of tongues is equivalent with the original biblical gift.  After presenting a lengthy argument, the author concludes, “It is a false spiritual high with no sanctifying value.  The fact that modern glossolalia parallels pagan religious rites should serve as a dire warning of the spiritual dangers that can be introduced by this unbiblical practice.”

Finally, two so-called faith healers are examined: Oral Roberts and Benny Hinn in what proves to be one of the most interesting chapters in the book.  The conclusions are clear and decisive.

Part 3: Rediscovering the Spirit’s True Work

Part three includes a robust treatment of the person and work of the Holy Spirit.  The author uncovers the Spirit’s role in salvation, sanctification, and the Word of God. The biblical contrast with the previous two sections could not be clearer.  Charismatics are encouraged to carefully read this section and contrast MacArthur’s treatment with what currently resides in the modern Pentecostal sanctuary.

Summary

The charismatic movement is carefully evaluated through the lens of Scripture in Strange Fire.  The critique is forthright and charitable.  But the criticism is not for the faint at heart.  Readers should approach Strange Fire with a biblically informed worldview and be prepared to make necessary adjustments.

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).  We must worship God in the way that he prescribes.  To move outside the boundaries of Scripture or invent man-made models is tantamount to idolatry.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. 

4.5 stars

THE FORGOTTEN GOD – Francis Chan (2009)

Forgotten God by Francis Chan is an introductory book about the person and work of the Holy Spirit.  The subtitle describes the essence of the book, namely – Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit.  Many churches through fear or ignorance have done just Chan suggests; they have neglected the Holy Spirit.  And the net results are tragic indeed.

Chan holds that many people “have an eisegetically formed concept of the Holy Spirit.”  His accusation is essentially this: These people have “cut and pasted whatever verses and ideas work for [them].”  So the author sets out to “present the core truths that have been revealed to believers about the Holy Spirit.”

Each chapter includes a brief explanation of the person and work of the Holy Spirit.  At the end of each chapter, the author includes a short vignette of real life characters who exemplify a life led by the power of the Spirit.

Forgotten God reveals much about the author.  This is solid writing that is clear and biblical.  High school students and first year Bible College students will benefit greatly from Chan’s insight.  This book may be the most helpful starting point for anyone seeking an introductory look at the Holy Spirit.

4 stars