Why We’re Protestant – Nate Pickowicz (2017)

why we're prot

“Justification is the article upon which the church stands or falls.” So said Martin Luther as he battled for reform in the eye of the sixteenth-century storm that we know as the Protestant Reformation. The Reformers rediscovered the truth and beauty of the gospel message and proclaimed it faithfully and forcefully. Their allegiance to the gospel inform and inspire us as we strive to follow in their footsteps.

Nate Pickowicz beautifully summarizes the spirit of the Reformers in his most recent book, Why We’re Protestant: An Introduction to the Five Solas of the Reformation. First, the author clearly describes the “gospel crisis” that emerged in the sixteenth century. The crisis involves a fundamental disagreement on how sinners are justified. The answers proposed by Rome and the sixteenth century Protestants are clear. The answer proposed by Rome falls short of the biblical benchmark and leads sinners to a pathway of destruction. The Protestant reply is faithful to Scripture and leads sinners on a pathway to the Celestial City.

The essential message of the Reformation is captured in the five solas – grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, Scripture alone, and to God alone be the glory. Pickowicz guides readers on a journey that unfolds these remarkable truths in a way that is winsome, historically accurate, and faithful to Scripture.

Why We’re Protestant is a veritable battering ram and a boon for the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we draw near to the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation, I commend this fine work and trust that God will use it to fortify a new generation of reformers who exalt the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Gospel Reformation

bold

The excommunicated monk sits alone in silence. Beads of sweat accumulate on his brow as he reads from the pages of the Greek text. A dark cloud casts a shadow over his homeland as the grace of the gospel is obscured by a church that cares more about tradition than truth.

For the next ten months, Luther will pour over every word, translating the Greek into the heart language of the German people. When his work is complete, the German people will be able to read the Bible for themselves. They will no longer be dependent upon a priest who has misrepresented God, mangled the truth of his Word, and maligned the gospel of Jesus Christ.

For hundreds of years, the gospel had been buried and replaced by a system of “man-made righteousness.” The Roman Catholic Church exchanged truth for tradition. The power-brokers of tradition maintained a chokehold on people who didn’t know any better.  Confessing sin to a priest replaced confessing sin to a holy God.

Yet, Luther unearthed the precious jewel of the gospel, a reality which is unveiled in my new book, Bold Reformer:Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther. Only $0.99 for a limited time on Amazon.com.

The Legacy of Luther – R.C. Sproul and Stephen Nichols, Ed.

lutherR.C. Sproul and Stephen J. Nichols, The Legacy of Luther. Sanford: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2016, 308 pp. $15.66

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed the Ninety-Five Theses to the castle door in Wittenberg. One act of courage sparked a theological firestorm in Germany that set the world able in a matter of days. Spreading like wildfire, thousands were introduced to the gospel, which is received by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

The Legacy of Luther celebrates the accomplishments of this godly man. Edited by R.C. Sproul and Stephen Nichols, the book surveys Luther’s life, thought, and ultimately his legacy. A wide range of pastors and theologians contribute to this volume; men like Steven J. Lawson, Michael Horton, Sinclair Ferguson, and Derek Thomas, to name a few.

The Legacy of Luther is a sweeping look at the German Reformer. The book contains basic information that will appeal to first-time students of Luther. But it is also filled with a wealth of information that will satisfy the most deeply entrenched Luther scholar.

The Legacy of Luther certainly honors a significant man who stands head and shoulders above most others in church history. But at the end of the day, the book does not exalt a man; the book exalts the gospel of grace and celebrates the accomplishments of our Savior. The neglected gospel truths which were recovered by the Reformers are proclaimed with passion in zeal in this important volume.

Readers may be interested in my recently published book, Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther.

The Bride(zilla) of Christ

kluckTed Kluck & Ronnie Martin, The Bride(zilla) of Christ: What To Do When God’s People Hurt God’s People. Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2016. 198 pp. $10.15

Anyone familiar with the writing of Ted Kluck knows that he’s an expert at keeping real, sharing from the heart, and applying the truth of the gospel to everyday living. In his new book, The Bride(Zilla) of Christ, Kluck teams up with Ronnie Martin to answer an important question that is also the not so subtle sub-title of the book: What To Do When God’s People Hurt God’s People.

Both authors have a fair amount of experience in the local church and have many stories to tell. Anyone who has been around the church for any length of time will no doubt, have similar stories to tell. Honest people will admit that some of these stories are bad ones: Church splits, gossip, adultery, division, and a host of other sins have a tendency to emerge in the church, just like any organization.

Kluck and Martin write from different perspectives – but are both settled in the fact that the gospel speaks to every hurt. It is the gospel that has the power to reconcile severed relationships. And most of all, the gospel reconciles a holy God with a sinful people.

Writing a fair and honest review is difficult for me because I have been a big fan of Ted Kluck for several years now. Having said that, I must admit that the book is written in a rather haphazard way. Perhaps the intent was to write a book from the heart that didn’t read like a theological treatise. If that’s the case, mission accomplished.

The “scattered feel” of the book does not, however, detract from the overall message. Kluck and Martin clearly describe some of the church hurts and heartaches but are quick to prescribe the healing balm of the gospel.

A few quotes made the book worth reading for me. My hope is that these citations will motivate readers to give the book at try:

“Every time we use our hurt as a reason to disconnect, isolate, disassociate, or abandon, we’ve not understood the forgiveness we have in Christ and how it needs to manifest itself to others.”

“Whenever we let our minds gravitate to the heart that’s been leveled at us, we are simultaneously forgetting the hope that Christ extended to us on the cross.”

“The shocking thing to come to grips with is that we’re not any better than the people who have hurt us, even when that hurt has been a one-way bullet fired right into our heart.”

What stands out in this work is the hope that Christ offers us in the gospel. Kluck and Martin should be commended for writing such a transparent book that has the power to encourage many people. Their book is recommended, especially for pastors who have endured a “dark night of the soul” or had the unpleasant experience of being beaten up by the sheep.

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

THE GOSPEL – Ray Ortlund (2014)

1433540835_bThe “gospel” has become somewhat of a buzzword in evangelical circles.  It’s a funny thing because the gospel is at the very center of the Bible and God’s redemptive purposes.  So it’s counterintuitive to claim the very idea that the gospel has become a buzzword.  Christ-followers knowingly or unknowingly validate a ministry, band, or organization by attaching the label, “gospel.”  In most cases, this approach is a good measuring rod of the validity of anything or anyone which claims to adhere to the historic Christian faith.  But in some cases, it is a mere word that carries no more meaning that a sticker on a product.  In this sense, the word becomes another piece of Jesus junk.  Thankfully, the book under consideration does not fall into the later category.

The Gospel by Ray Ortlund is the latest in a series of books in the 9Marks series, edited by Mark Dever.  I’ve read nearly all the books in the series.  They’re all good and are chock-full of sound biblical counsel.  Each of the books is designed to help establish and nurture healthy churches.  I commend each book to pastors, leaders, and Christ-followers who love the church and have a passion to see Christ’s glory penetrate the nations.  It’s almost unfair to compare the books because each one stands alone and is an important contribution.  Having said that, Ray Ortlund’s book stands head and shoulders above the others.

Ortlund establishes the beauty of the gospel in the introduction: “God, through the perfect life, atoning death, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, rescues all his people from the wrath of God, with a promise of the full restoration of his created order forever – all to the praise of the glory of his grace.”  With this definition of the gospel in place, the author defines the purpose of the book, namely -“to show how Christ puts his beauty into our churches by his gospel.”

The first sentence in the book provides a framework for the rest of the journey through this wonderful little treatise: “Gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture.  The doctrine of grace creates a culture of grace.”  He adds, “Truth without grace is harsh and ugly.  Grace without truth is sentimental and cowardly.”  Unfortunately, many churches reflect the later.  But Ortlund is not deterred.  In a short chapter devoted to expositing John 3:16, he unpacks the wonder and majesty of the gospel of grace.  The gospel is compared to other so-called hopes that are offered up in the marketplace of ideas.  But the conclusion is simple: “Every other hope is based, explicitly or implicitly, on how deserving we are.  Only the Christian gospel is based – clearly, boldly, and insistently – on how loving God is to the undeserving.”  In short, “Gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture, and it matters.”

Ortund maintains the gospel is for the church: “The doctrine of grace creates a culture of grace where good things happen to bad people.”  As such, the author guides readers through a stunning exposition of Ephesians 5:25 – “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  Again, the culture is ultimately affected by the power of the gospel.  It is the gospel that makes us holy.  It is the gospel that makes us acceptable in the sight of a holy God.

The author draws the attention of readers to the comprehensive nature of the gospel.  The new heaven and earth are presented.  In other words, as Ortund writes, “This present heaven and earth, will be renewed.  God will restore this creation that he made, owns, and loves – this creation where we ourselves feel at home.”  At the end of the day, the gospel produces a culture which is brimming with hope – the hope that Christ will make all things new!

This is a book worth reading and re-reading.  It is a book that needs to be absorbed and assimilated into the fabric of every local church.  The Gospel should be placed in the hands of new believers and veteran believers.  It should be gifted to non-believers who express an interest in the gospel.

5 stars