BOOK REVIEW: Charles Spurgeon: Preaching Through Adversity by John Piper. Desiring God. 40 pages. 2015
This is the second book I’ve read about Charles Spurgeon this year, and this short book by John Piper certainly has some similarities to Zack Eswine’s excellent Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for Those Who Suffer from Depression. Piper writes “The question for pastors is not, ‘How do you live through unremitting criticism and distrust and accusation and abandonment?’—but, How do you preach through it? How do you do heart work when the heart is under siege and ready to fall?”
Piper offers seven reasons why Spurgeon is a model saint for modern saints. He writes that Spurgeon knew the whole range of adversity that most preachers suffer—and a lot more.
He writes about the impact on Spurgeon of a tragedy that took place when he was preaching at age twenty-two, when someone shouted “Fire!” and seven people were killed in a stampede, with many injured. Spurgeon also dealt with a wife who at age thirty-three became a virtual invalid, could no longer have children, and seldom heard her husband preach for the next 27 years until his death.
Spurgeon himself suffered from gout, rheumatism, and Bright’s disease (inflammation of the kidneys). The diseases eventually took his life at age 57. In addition to the physical suffering, Spurgeon had to endure a lifetime of public ridicule and slander, sometimes of the most vicious kind.
Spurgeon also had recurrent battles with depression, which he said was his “worst feature”, but he saw three specific purposes of God in his struggle with depression. Piper writes that there are innumerable strategies of grace in the life of Spurgeon, and then shares a few of them.
This short book will be most helpful to pastors.
BOOK REVIEW: The Hole in Our Holiness Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness by Kevin DeYoung. Crossway. 160 pages. 2012. Audiobook read by Adam Verner.
Over the past few years I’ve often pondered who would be the leaders in Reformed theology in the coming years. After all, R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur are in their mid-70’s and John Piper is 69. Sinclair Ferguson, Alistair Begg, Derek Thomas and Tim Keller are in their 60’s. Albert Mohler and Michael Horton are in their 50’s. Certainly Kevin DeYoung, who already has written several quality books at age 37, is in the mix to be among our future leaders, along with Matt Chandler and younger leaders such as Trip Lee.
I recently re-listened to this book, which was the first of DeYoung’s books I had read when it was first published in 2012. Some of the content in this book was similar to his excellent message “Do Not Love the World” from the recent Ligonier National Conference
DeYoung, who does an excellent job of using Scripture throughout the book to reinforce his points, writes that we tend to be neglectful of the pursuit of holiness, even though Jesus expects obedience from us. God saved us so that we may be holy. To be holy means to be separate, to be set apart from what is common. Holiness is a key theme in the Bible. In general, however, a concern for holiness is not apparent in most of our lives. Holiness is not an option for the believer. However, DeYoung points out that many Christians have given up on sanctification, a theological term for growing in our holiness.
Christians should not even have a hint of immorality in their lives. We are to be holy as God is holy. (1 Peter 1:15). But DeYoung writes that there is a gap between our love for the Gospel and our love for godliness.
Our pursuit of holiness does not diminish the fact that we are saved by faith alone. Justification is the root while holiness is the fruit. We should not confuse justification and sanctification. We shouldn’t confuse DeYoung’s discussion about personal holiness for legalism.
DeYoung discusses what holiness is (to be like God) and what it is not (worldliness). He discusses having a good or clean conscious and illustrates that with practical illustrations about boundaries in dating or the movies we watch.
He discusses the role of the law in the life of the believer and the so-called lordship salvation (we are saved by grace so can’t we live as we would like?). He states that we can please God, but only because of what He has done for us. Whenever we trust and obey God is pleased.
DeYoung writes that all sins are offensive to God, but some sins are worse than others. He asks if born again Christians can displease God and then answers by indicating that God is displeased when His people sin, and as a result He disciplines us.
The author looks at how the Holy Spirit works in our holiness and how the Gospel aids us in our holiness. We shouldn’t neglect the importance of our effort and work. We shouldn’t “Let go and let God”.
DeYoung includes a helpful section on union with Christ. It reminded me of one of my favorite professors, Dr. Phillip Douglas at Covenant Seminary, who covered this topic in his Spiritual and Ministry Formation course. DeYoung writes that the Christian life is a fight, but if you are in Christ, it is a fight you will win.
He offers helpful insights in discussing sexual immorality, talking about what we are doing and seeing. In today’s sex saturated culture sexual impurity seems normal to us. This is not so in the Scriptures. The sexually immoral are mentioned as not inheriting the kingdom of God in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. DeYoung defines sexual immorality as any sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman. Despite what our culture says, God says our bodies belong to Him.
Along with union with Christ is communion with Him. John Owen says that communion is mutual relations between us and God. We abide by obeying and obey as we abide. We commune with God by praying.
DeYoung closes the book by discussing the role of repentance in the pursuit of holiness. He states that it is more important where we are going than where we are now.
Throughout this helpful book DeYoung mentions the Puritans often. Other books that I have read and would recommend to you around this subject are R.C. Sproul’s Pleasing God and Jerry Bridges The Pursuit of Holiness.
Finally, enjoy this article from Tony Reinke of Desiring God featuring twenty helpful quotes from the book: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/20-quotes-from-the-hole-in-our-holiness
- Christianaudio’s Free Audiobook of the Month. The October free audiobook of the month from Christianaudio is a good one. It is Follow Me by David Platt. Follow Me asks the key question: What does following Jesus really look like? Follow Me is a life and death message for all who claim the name of Christ. Jesus’ call to follow him is more than an invitation to pray a prayer. It is a summons to lose your life. And find new life in him.
- ICHTHUS. I’m looking forward to this new book by Sinclair Ferguson and Derek Thomas, to be published by Banner of Truth.
- Happiness. David Murray reviews Randy Alcorn’s new book Happiness, giving it high praise, while raising a few concerns. Murray indicates that is his 2015 book of the year. High praise indeed.
- 6 Great New Books for Kids. Tim Challies looks at six new books for children, including The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden by Kevin DeYoung.
- We Cannot Be Silent. Albert Mohler’s new book We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong, will be published October 27.
- Why Every Student Should Read Martyn Lloyd-Jones. This article begins an occasional series on the SBTS blog, Why Every Student Should Read . . . This series is intended to spotlight and commend for further investigation pastors, teachers, theologians, books, sermons, and figures from church history as well as from the current evangelical scene.
- Tim Keller’s Bookshelf. Here’s an interesting glimpse into the books that Tim Keller is reading.
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?
This book made a significant impact on my wife Tammy when she read and discussed it with friends thirty years ago. When I picked up my diploma the day after graduation ceremonies from Covenant Seminary last year I was given a copy of this book. After enjoying Lloyd-Jones book Spiritual Depression (and the sermons the book was taken from), I couldn’t wait to read this book, which is the printed form of sermons preached for the most part on successive Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London. This week we look at Chapter 7: Righteousness and Blessedness:
- In this particular statement in the Sermon on the Mount we are looking at another of the characteristics of the Christian, a further description of the Christian man.
- If this verse is to you one of the most blessed statements of the whole of Scripture you can be quite certain you are a Christian; if it is not, then you had better examine the foundations again.
- In this verse we have one of the most notable statements of the Christian gospel and everything that it has to give us. Let me describe it as the great charter for every seeking soul, the outstanding declaration of the Christian gospel to all who are unhappy about themselves and their spiritual state, and who long for an order and quality of life that they have not hitherto enjoyed. We can also describe it as one of the most typical statements of the gospel.
- It emphasizes one of the most fundamental doctrines of the gospel, namely, that our salvation is entirely of grace or by grace, that it is entirely the free gift of God.
- According to the Scriptures happiness is never something that should be sought directly; it is always something that results from seeking something else.
- Whenever you put happiness before righteousness, you will be doomed to misery. That is the great message of the Bible from beginning to end.
- Oh, the tragedy that we do not follow the simple teaching and instruction of the Word of God, but are always coveting and seeking this experience which we hope we are going to have.
- The desire for righteousness, the act of hungering and thirsting for it, means ultimately the desire to be free from sin in all its forms and in its every manifestation.
- It means a desire to be free from sin, because sin separates us from God. Therefore, positively, it means a desire to be right with God; it also means of necessity a desire to be free from the power of sin.
- It means a desire to be free from the very desire for sin, because we find that the man who truly examines himself in the light of the Scriptures not only discovers that he is in the bondage of sin; still more horrible is the fact that he likes it, that he wants it. Even after he has seen it is wrong, he still wants it.
- The man who hungers and thirsts after righteousness is a man who wants to get rid of that desire for sin, not only outside, but inside as well.
- To hunger and thirst after righteousness is to desire to be free from self in all its horrible manifestations, in all its forms.
- To hunger and thirst after righteousness is nothing but the longing to be positively holy.
- It means that one’s supreme desire in life is to know God and to be in fellowship with Him, to walk with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the light.
- To be in fellowship with God means to be walking with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the light, in that blessed purity and holiness. The man who hungers and thirsts after righteousness is the man who longs for that above everything else.
- To hunger and thirst really means to be desperate, to be starving, to feel life is ebbing out, to realize my urgent need of help.
- If you really are hungering and thirsting after righteousness you will be filled.
- Hunger and thirst after righteousness, long to be like Christ, and then you will have that and the blessedness.
- How does it happen? It happens-and this is the glory of the gospel-it happens immediately, thank God. But, it is also a continuing process. The Holy Spirit, as already shown, begins within us His great work of delivering us from the power of sin and from the pollution of sin. We have to hunger and thirst for this deliverance, from the power and from the pollution. And if you hunger and thirst for that you will get it.
- But of course, finally, this promise is fulfilled perfectly and absolutely in eternity. There is a day coming when all who are in Christ and belong to Him shall stand in the presence of God, faultless, blameless, without spot and without wrinkle.
- You see the Christian is one who at one and the same time is hungering and thirsting, and yet he is filled. And the more he is filled the more he hungers and thirsts. That is the blessedness of this Christian life.
- It goes on. You reach a certain stage in sanctification, but you do not rest upon that for the rest of your life. You go on changing from glory into glory `till in heaven we take our place’.
- It goes on and on; perfect, yet not perfect; hungering, thirsting, yet filled and satisfied, but longing for more, never having enough because it is so glorious and so wondrous; fully satisfied by Him and yet a supreme desire to `know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.’