Good News: The Gospel of Jesus Christ by John MacArthur. Reformation Trust Publishing. 143 pages. 2018
In this book about Jesus Christ and the Gospel, from one of our most respected pastors and authors, John MacArthur tells us that a right understanding of Jesus Christ is essential to understanding many other vital truths, particularly the gospel and salvation. He tells us that there is no good news apart from Christ, and how we answer the question “Who is Jesus?” has significant and ultimately permanent consequences. The right answer alone can lead to salvation.
The author addresses that there are even those who identify themselves as evangelicals that teach that there is more than one way to get to Heaven. He tells us that today the word evangelical is so ambiguous that it doesn’t really mean anything. A high percentage (between 45 and 65 percent of so-called evangelical Christians), are convinced that Jesus is not the only way to heaven. He writes that a “radically abridged and ambiguous view” of the gospel has captivated the church today. But there is no “back door” to heaven. If we don’t know the true God and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, we will suffer the fury of God. Jesus made it clear to people that they needed to repent and believe.
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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and a review of Are People Basically Good? (Crucial Questions Book 25) by R.C. Sproul
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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In this short book comprised of six chapters that read like they could have originally been delivered as sermons, he addresses such topics as Jesus’ glory and holiness (from John’s vision in the first chapter of Revelation), sin being an offense to God, the forgiveness of sins, evangelism, justification and sanctification, headship, and the authority of Christ.
He writes that 2 Corinthians 5:21 sums up the entire gospel and God’s ministry of reconciliation. He tells us that God treated Christ on the cross as if He had lived our life, so that He could treat us as if we had lived His life. That’s the beautiful glory of the gospel.
He writes about the difference between justification and sanctification. He tells us “Justification is instantaneous, while sanctification is a process that will continue throughout the life of the believer. Justification is a formal decree from God that our guilt has been wiped away and we’ve been declared righteous in Christ. Sanctification is the process of actually growing in righteousness. It’s the living out of the transformation that God has already worked in us.”
The author, long one of my favorites, is known for his defense of the Gospel and the Scriptures. This book is clearly written and easy to understand. It would be a good one to read and discuss with new believers.
Are People Basically Good? (Crucial Questions Book 25) by R.C. Sproul. Reformation Trust Publishing. 70 pages. 2016
In this booklet from his Crucial Questions series, the late Dr. R.C. Sproul looks at what Scripture says about the nature of man, including such related topics as the image of God and the reality of sin. He writes that the Scriptures tell us that humans, male and female, are defined as creatures made in the imago Dei, or the image of God. Whatever happened to mankind in the fall, man still bears the image of God. What uniquely stamps us as bearing the image of God has to do with our ability to mirror and to reflect the character of God.
He tells us that two things that every human being absolutely must come to understand are the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. Sin is not an external blemish, but something that goes to the very core of our being. “Radical Corruption”, a term the author prefers to “Total Depravity”, means that the sinful nature goes to the root or the core of human experience. The heart of the matter is that we, though made in the image of God, transgress His law.
He tells us that we are taught that man is basically good. Yes, we have imperfections and blemishes, but underneath all the surface problems, everyone is righteous. But the Bible simply does not teach that man is basically good. In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes: “As it is written, ‘None is righteous, no, not one’” (Rom. 3:10). The author tells us that this idea runs contrary to everything that our culture teaches. There are people who think they have enough goodness to satisfy the demands of God—but they have no goodness that meets the requirements God has set forth.
The author addresses the subject of original sin, which refers to our sinful condition. He tells us that we sin because we are sinners, not that we are sinners because we sin. Since the fall of mankind, it is the nature of human beings to be inclined and drawn toward sinfulness. We are born with a disposition and an inclination to sin.
The only way we can possibly be obedient to the commandments of God is if He helps us in the process by extending grace to us and enabling us to do what He calls us to do. The Bible says that the desires of man’s heart are wicked continuously (Gen. 6:5).
The author tells us that we always act according to the strongest inclination that we have at a given moment, which is the essence of making choices. That’s what freedom is: the ability to choose according to what you want.
If he is left to himself, the desires of man’s heart are only wicked continuously. His heart and soul are dead to the things of God. But the author states that there is one thing that Christianity has that no other religion has, and that is an atonement. Christianity addresses is the problem of guilt. It takes guilt seriously, because it takes man seriously, and it provides a Savior. In His mercy, God has made a way to be reconciled to Him.
- What Makes a Really Good Study Bible? Tim Challies writes about what distinguishes a really good study Bible from the ones that are mediocre or just plain bad, by offering several characteristics of a really good study Bible. You may also want to see my article “4 Study Bible Recommendations”.
- Masterclass in Evangelistic Apologetics from a Dead Presbyterian. This review of Things Unseen: A Systematic Introduction to Reformed Theology by J. Gresham Machen is adapted from Sinclair Ferguson’s “Foreword” for the book.
- Book Review: A Way With Words. Mark Redfern reviews Daniel Darling’s latest book A Way With Words: Using Our Online Conversations for Good. He writes “In ten succinct chapters, A Way With Words shows us how to engage online in a way that honors Christ and builds up the church. More than just tips and tricks, Darling brings Scripture to bear on the subject and allows it to shape our lives on the internet. He wonderfully combines both encouragement and warning.”
BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?
The Gospel According to Jesus: What is Authentic Faith? by John MacArthur
We are reading through John MacArthur’s classic book The Gospel According to Jesus. What did Jesus mean when He said, “Follow me”? MacArthur tackled that seemingly simple question and provided the evangelical world with the biblical answer. For many, the reality of Jesus’ demands has proved thoroughly searching, profoundly disturbing, and uncomfortably invasive; and yet, heeding His words is eternally rewarding. The 20th anniversary edition of the book has revised and expanded the original version to handle contemporary challenges. The debate over what some have called “lordship salvation” hasn’t ended—every generation must face the demands Christ’s lordship. Will you read along with us?
This week we look at Chapter 20: The Way of Salvation. Here are a few takeaways from the chapter:
- What to do with Jesus Christ is a choice each person must make, but it is not just a momentary decision. It is a once-for-all verdict with ongoing implications and eternal consequences — the ultimate decision.
- All this world’s religions are based on human achievement. Biblical Christianity alone recognizes divine accomplishment — the work of Christ on humankind’s behalf — as the sole basis of salvation.
- The choice is between divine accomplishment and human achievement. Both systems claim to be the way to God.
- The gate admits only one at a time, for salvation is intensely personal. It is not enough to be born in a Christian family or to ride the coattails of a believing spouse. Believing is an individual act.
- The kingdom is not for people who want Jesus without any change in their lives. It is only for those who seek it with all their hearts.
- “The gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.” How could Jesus be any clearer? This is the only path His gospel points to. It is not an easy road or a popular one. But it is the only one that leads to eternal glory.