Tag Archives: Theology

JRF

JRF’s #11 – In Christ Alone by Sinclair Ferguson

For the past few months I have been reading a few pages of this book every morning when I have extra quiet time. It has proven to be one of my favorite books of its type. Short chapters filled with truth. Each chapter can be read in 5 minutes or less, yet there is much to chew on and think about and apply.

Ferguson lays the book out in 6 parts:

I. The Word Became Flesh (Christology)
II. The Heart of the Matter (The Gospel)
III. The Spirit of Christ (Pneumatology)
IV. The Privileges of Grace (Sanctification)
V. A Life of Wisdom (Discipleship)
VI. Faithful to the End (Perseverance)

Although each of these sections has their own specific focus, they all flow out of the central theme of the sufficiency and glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Throughout the book I was impressed and helped by the way that Ferguson not only didn’t avoid, but embraced and applied difficult doctrines such as limited atonement, predestination, total depravity, suffering, and the perseverance of the saints in a pastoral, concise, and clear way.

I recommend this book for anyone wanting to be encouraged to grow in their love of Christ.

“Santa Christ is sometimes a Pelagian Jesus. Like Santa, he simply asks us whether we have been good. More exactly, since the assumption is that we are all naturally good, Santa Christ asks us whether we have been “good enough”…Jesus becomes a kind of added bonus who makes a good life even better. He is not seen as the Savior of helpless sinners.”

“There is, therefore, an element in the Gospel narratives that stresses that the coming of Jesus is a disturbing event of the deepest proportions. It had to be thus, for He did not come merely to add something extra to life, but to deal with our spiritual insolvency and the debt of our sin. He was not concieved in the womb of Mary for those who have done their best, but for those who know that their best is “like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6) – far from good enough – and that in their flesh there dwells no good thing (Rom 7:18). He was not sent to be the source of good experiences, but to suffer the pangs of hell in order to be our Savior.”

“Only a sinless Savior is able to die for our sins. He cannot die for our sins if He must die for His own.”

“Say this to yourself when you rise each day, when you struggle, or when you lay your head down sadly on your pillow at night: ‘Lord Jesus, You are still the same, and always will be.’”

JRF

JRF’s #10 – Transcend: Beyond the Limits of Discipleship by Matt Smay

Transcend: Beyond the Limits of Discipleship by Matt Smay – 114 Pages

This was a free ebook I downloaded from the Verge Network website.  It was a quick, easy read, and while there were some helpful thoughts in it, most of what was helpful can be found better said in other resources, and the spaces in between the helpful nuggets are filled with typical post emergent calls to be more relevant, descriptive narrative portions of Scripture used in prescriptive ways and early 2000s Christian catchphrases like “love on”,  ”lean into”, and “incarnational” (all phrases that I have used myself btw).

While I did find Smay’s outline of Discipleship helpful, I think he may have been a little overconfident when he states: “I will give you a new framework to use to lead yourself, your family, friends, community and church on the best run ever” – as if the church had been messing up discipleship for the last 2,000 years and he is going to fix it with his 5 step process.

He lays out his framework by using 5 E-words:

Expose:  the first step of discipleship is exposing people to the Gospel in a relational environment.
Embrace: next, moving from knowing about Christ to an embracing of Christ
Engage: a disciple who has truly embraced the Gospel will then live in light of it
Equip: Getting the “skillset to work from” to be successful on the journey of discipleship
Expand: Becoming disciples who make disciples who make disciples

I’m not sure what he meant by subtitling the book “Beyond the Limits of Discipleship” as these 5 E’s are much of what discipleship should be according to Scripture.

In summary, there are some helpful reminders in this book, enjoyable illustrations, and good intentions.  Anyone attempting to call the church to pursue making disciples is a friend and ally in my book.  However the meat contained here is more accessible and clearly presented in other books such as Radical9 Marks of a Healthy ChurchWhat is a Healthy Church Member?  to name a few.

JRF

JRF’s #8 – The God Who Is There by D.A. Carson

 

Let’s start with what I didn’t like, keeping in mind these criticisms are all relatively minor things and probably say more about me than the book and/or Carson:

- Too much poetry.

- Too much Scripture.  I know, that sounds really bad (especially when I complained that Keller didn’t have enough scripture in his book a few posts ago) What I mean is that in virtually every chapter Carson quotes and reprints multiple, long sections of Scripture, many taking up many pages.  I love the Word, but if I want to read the Word I will read the Word (which I do btw).  If I want to read a book about the Word, it better be filled with references to the Word, but to reprint huge sections of Scripture seems lazy.

- Why did he have to use the same name as the classic Francis Schaeffer book?

- I didn’t like the writing style.  It felt like it kept switching from a casual conversation (“let me list one or two reasons here” …are you making this up as you go?…weird Canadian colloquialisms…”jolly well”….etc)  to lecture notes to a systematic theology.  This was distracting and I think is linked with the next, and in my opinion, largest drawback of the book.

- I couldn’t figure out exactly who his audience was – non believers? new believers? students? Pastors?  All of the above? At times I felt like I was in a kids Sunday school class only to step into the seminary on the next page.  Not understanding exactly who he was trying to address was confusing at times.

Having said all of that I still would recommend this book for it’s excellent content, even if I didn’t like the presentation of it. Many passages were just flat out brilliant in the way they explained simple, beautiful doctrine.  Carson does accomplish what the subtitle states – Finding Your Place in God’s Story – making this is a helpful resource for those seeking to understand the overarching themes of God’s Glory and Grace woven throughout the pages of Scripture.

 

JRF

JRF’s #6 – The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller

Based off of a popular sermon series that Pastor and author Tim Keller preached atRedeemer Presbyterian Church in ManhattanThe Meaning of Marriage provides a timely and powerful voice to the modern Christian trying to understand and live out a Christ-centered marriage.  The Keller’s challenge both ends of the spectrum of error concerning marriage, showing that marriage as God intended it can be both more enthralling than any illegitimate pleasure as well as more exhausting and sacrificial than what modern notions of love and romance advertise.

The Keller’s have a well known love for C.S. Lewis and his influence is felt a lot in this book. They write with a Lewis-like approach: lots of compelling and wise theologically based thoughts…not an abundance of Scripture exposition.  Kierkegaard and poets get as much ink as the Word of God.  That approach isn’t necessarily wrong, it just needs to be recognized for what it is and read with discernment.

My wife and I read this book together, setting aside time a few times a month to discuss it.  The conversations that ensued were very helpful and fruitful.  A discussion that was particularly eye opening and exciting was when the Keller’s point out the differences between a consumer relationship vs. a covenant relationship and their implications on marriage.

This book is a great resource filled not only with wisdom for married couples but anyone trying to understand the purposes of God in the institution of Marriage.

JRF

JRF’s #49 – Of Temptation: The Nature and Power of It by John Owen

Last year I read John Owen’s classic, The Mortification of Sin.  This year I tackled his much shorter, but no less potent, Of Temptation.

Using Christ’s instruction to his disciples in Matthew 26:41 “Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation”, as the foundational verse of his book, Owen then dives deep into the meaning of temptation, the circumstances by which we enter into it, and the way of preventing and resisting it.

In typical Owen fashion, the heart is laid bare and the truth of God’s Word is expertly applied to both convict and offer hope to those caught in the current of temptations’ flood.

Ultimately and most poignantly Owen points his readers to a Trinitarian Hope: The faithfulness of God the Father’s promises to those who believe, the grace of God the Son who secures and accomplishes the Father’s promises, and the power and efficacy of God the Holy Spirit who executes those promises.

I hope to cling to these promises and the God who gives them more tightly in 2013 because of reading this book.

“Confidence of any strength in us is one great part of our weakness…He that says he can do anything, can do nothing as he should.”

“What a man’s heart is, that he is.”

“Prosperity has slain the foolish and wounded the wise”

“He that would indeed get the conquest over any sin must consider his temptations to it, and strike at the root; without deliverance from thence, he will not be healed.  This is a folly that possesses many who have yet a quick and living sense of sin.  They are sensible of their sins, not of their temptations – are displeased with the bitter fruit, but cherish the poisonous root.”

“…store the heart with a sense of the love of God in Christ, and his love in the shedding of it; get a relish of the privileges we have thereby – our adoption, justification, acceptance with God; fill the heart with the thoughts of the beauty of his death – and you will, in an ordinary course of walking with God, have great peace and security as to the disturbance of temptations.”

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