Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

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BOOK REVIEW:

If I Should Die Before I WakeIf I Should Die Before I Wake: What’s Beyond this Life? by K. Scott Oliphint and Sinclair Ferguson. Christian Focus. 128 pages. 2014 Edition.
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This book was first published in 1995 and updated in 2004. This edition was published by Christian Focus in 2014. The book’s title comes from the two-hundred year old children’s prayer, a prayer for mercy and for grace at the time of death.

The book discusses the subject of death and asks the question: ‘Why do you expect to get to heaven?’ and looks at both true and false answers. The book helps explain what the Bible has to say about the future and about what heaven is like.

The authors state that the majority of people believe in heaven, and also believe they have a ‘good-to-excellent’ chance of going there. However, some people may admit that they are rather vague about how God’s assessment will be made. After all, in our modern, rights-oriented society, it has become unthinkable that we might not go to heaven when we die. When asked why they expect to go to heaven after death, most people answer in such terms as: ‘Because of what I have been and done.’ The authors also tell us that a poll indicated that the most offensive teaching of the Christian faith is that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father and therefore to heaven.

The authors state the fact that people feel at liberty to flaunt the laws of God as they do is itself an indication that the judgment of God has already begun. God’s response to our sin is appropriate to our response to him. His judgments are completely righteous in this respect. The authors state that the New Testament is clear that each one of us will be judged by God on the basis of what we have done.

The authors state that Heaven is the presence of God and that being in heaven means living with him forever. Jesus said that He is the One through whom we must come in order to be with the Father. This is the essential condition for our going to heaven. The authors emphasize that those who hope that they can enter heaven in some other way than through His grace will be sorely disappointed (Matt. 7:21-23).

But some religions teach that the way to heaven is by our own efforts. Those efforts may take the form of personal discipline and sacrifice, humanitarian acts, sincerity or honesty in one’s beliefs, or even gifts to charity. But Jesus tells us that there is nothing we can contribute to our salvation. No matter what we offer to God it will never be adequate enough to compensate for our sins.

The Bible has much to say about heaven, one of the most basic being that God is present with his people. In heaven Christians will experience a deepened relationship with Christ.

People wonder what our bodies will be like in heaven. The Apostle Paul tells us that our bodies will be spiritual, glorious, and unrecognizable. Some people want to know if we will be able to recognize each other in the future. The authors tell us that the resurrection of the body implies that we will be identifiably the very same persons we are now, even though we will not be constituted of precisely the same physical substance.

But what about those who do not belong to Christ, who do not trust Him as the way, the truth, and the life? The authors tell us that the New Testament is clear that there will be those who will one day go to the left hand of Christ. They will be forever lost. Their destiny is described by Christ Himself in a series of vivid, terrible pictures. Jesus also teaches that there are graduations of punishment for the lost. This is the final operation of God’s perfect justice.

Some, most notably the respected theologian John Stott, have believed that the lost simply cease to exist, usually referred to as annihilationism. The authors do not believe that the idea of annihilation is supported by the scriptures and include a detailed appendix on the subject to support their argument.

The authors ask how we can develop a Christian attitude toward death, and state that the Christian views death as a defeated enemy. They see death as the entrance to a yet-more-glorious life that gives a clearer vision of Jesus. The Christian also looks forward to a wonderful reunion with those who have already gone to be with Christ.

The authors communicate in a very readable manner on these important topics. This would be a good book to read and discuss with those who may have questions.

Book News

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?

Studies in the Sermon on the MountStudies in the Sermon on the Mount by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

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 10: Blessed are the Pure in Heart

  • We come now to what is undoubtedly one of the greatest utterances to be found anywhere in the whole realm of Holy Scripture. Anyone who realizes even something of the meaning of the words, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God”, can approach them only with a sense of awe and of complete inadequacy.
  • Who are the pure in heart? Essentially, as I am going to show you, they are those who are mourning about the impurity of their hearts.
  • We begin of course with the `heart’. The gospel of Jesus Christ is concerned about the heart: all its emphasis is upon the heart. The heart is the whole center of His teaching. He puts His emphasis upon the heart and not upon the head.
  • We have to remind ourselves again that the Christian faith is ultimately not only a matter of doctrine or understanding or of intellect, it is a condition of the heart.
  • “Blessed are the pure in heart”; blessed are those who are pure, not merely on the surface but in the center of their being and at the source of their every activity. It is as deep as that.
  • Then, secondly, it emphasizes that the heart is always the seat of all our troubles. The trouble is in the heart, and the heart is desperately wicked and deceitful.
  • Now we come to the second term. “Blessed”, says our Lord, “are the pure in heart”, and you see again how packed with doctrine these Beatitudes are.
  • What does our Lord mean by “pure in heart”? It is generally agreed that the word has at any rate two main meanings. One meaning is that it is without hypocrisy; it means, if you like, “single”.
  • This pureness of heart, therefore, corresponds to “singleness”. It means, if you like, “without folds”; it is open, nothing hidden. You can describe it as sincerity; it means single-minded, or single-eyed devotion.
  • Now the pure heart is the heart that is no longer divided,
  • But that is not the only meaning of this term “purity”. It also obviously carries the further meaning of “cleansed”, “without defilement”.
  • But perhaps we can perfectly express it by saying that being pure in heart means to be like the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. To be pure in heart, in other words, means to keep “the first and great commandment”, which is that “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Reducing it still further, it means that we should live to the glory of God in every respect, and that that should be the supreme desire of our life. It means that we desire God, that we desire to know Him, that we desire to love Him and to serve Him.
  • We must be pure in heart before we can see God.
  • Our terms are so inadequate, and our minds are so small and finite, that there is a danger in any attempt at a description of God and His glory. All we know is that there is this glorious promise that, in some way or other, the pure in heart shall see God.
  • I suggest, therefore, that it means something like this. As with all the other Beatitudes, the promise is partly fulfilled here and now. In a sense there is a vision of God even while we are in this world.
  • But of course that is a mere nothing as compared with what is yet to be.
  • Do you realize that a day is coming when you are going to see the blessed God face to face? Not as in a glass, darkly; but face to face. Surely the moment we grasp this, everything else pales into insignificance.
  • Do you spend time in meditating upon the glory that yet awaits you? If you do, the greatest concern of your life will be to have a pure heart.
  • But how can our hearts become pure? There are two great ideas. First there are those who say there is only one thing to do, that we must become monks and segregate ourselves from the world. All such efforts at self-cleansing are doomed to failure.
  • The way of the Scriptures is rather this. All you and I can do is to realize the blackness of our hearts as they are by nature, and as we do so we shall join David in the prayer, “Create in me a clean heart, 0 God; and renew a right spirit within me”.
  • The only way in which we can have a clean heart is for the Holy Spirit to enter into us and to cleanse it for us.
  • That does not mean that I therefore remain passive in the matter.
  • Our one confidence is that He is working in us and preparing us for that. But let us also work and purify ourselves `even as he is pure’.

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Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence. I’m married to my best friend. I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan, a manager at a Fortune 100 company, a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people determine their callings, develop to their fullest potential and to utilize their strengths more fully. My favorite book is the Bible and my favorite verse is Romans 3:23. Some other favorite books are Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, The Prodigal Son by John MacArthur and Crazy Love by Francis Chan.

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