Made for His Pleasure: Ten Benchmarks of a Vital Faith by Alistair Begg. Moody Publishers. 192 pages 2018
This is a revised and updated edition of the author’s 1996 book, which I read and enjoyed when it was originally published. In this book he looks at the subject of pleasing God in light of putting God first, spiritual fitness, prayer, sacrifice, relationships, vocation, suffering, the heedful life, intellectualism and materialism, humility, and evangelism. He writes that the list is not exhaustive, but selective, and represents something of his own spiritual pilgrimage. He tells us that we could think of the chapters of the book as signposts for the journey of life.
The author writes that we want to learn to be able to say with Paul, “We make it our goal to please him” (2 Cor. 5:9). All of our desires, decisions, aspirations, and affections should be governed by our prior determination to please God.
I highlighted a number of passages as I read this wonderful book, more in some chapters than in others, which you might expect. Below are a few of those passages I would like to share with you:
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BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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Spiritual Fitness in a Flabby Generation
- Many things that are perfectly fine in and of themselves may hold us back from achieving spiritual fitness. We must be prepared to deal regularly with these hindrances.
- One of the key reasons for the flabbiness of our spiritual lives is that a generation of Christians is growing up with little awareness of the necessity of dealing with sin.
- We must learn where our personal weaknesses lie—and once they are identified, we must be ruthless in dealing with them.
- As a result of grace, we have been saved from sin’s penalty; one day we will be saved from sin’s presence; in the meantime, we are being saved from sin’s power.
Prayer That Is Larger Than Ourselves
- Why is it that we understand and accept the concept of consistency in matters of physical discipline (witness the runner or the aerobic exerciser who declares, “I never miss”), and yet balk at it when we hear it applied to establishing holy habits? It is because we have succumbed to the unbiblical notion that to do things out of a sense of duty is less than best.
- The simple acronym “ACTS” may prove to be as helpful as any. “A” stands for adoration, “C” for confession, “T” for thanksgiving, and “S” for supplication. We may choose to order our personal prayers around that.
Sacrifice: Wholehearted Commitment to God’s Kingdom
- It is both dangerous and wrong to substitute personal preference for biblical principle, to place pleasing self above pleasing God.
- Not everyone is called to foreign missions, but all are called to sacrifice. What else does it mean for Jesus to say, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23)?
- For the church to impact our generation for Christ, we need to have a sense of mission in the routine activities of our lives. In parking cars, writing term papers, pumping gas, folding laundry, selling bonds, playing sports—in whatever we are doing—we are to be living sacrifices.
- All of life can be a sacrifice to God: the ways in which we listen in class, treat our colleagues at work, respect our employers, and serve our spouses.
Relationships: A Marriage That Pleases God
- Learning to trust God and wait upon the Lord is rarely easy, but it is always in our best interest, and it is pleasing to God.
- There is probably no more practical area of life that reveals the challenges of pleasing God than relationships. They are where we learn to say “no” to pleasing ourselves and “yes” to pleasing others and pleasing God first.
Vocation: Finding the Ideal Place to Serve God
- We need to view our daily round and common task as the realm in which we fulfill God’s call upon our lives and not rush to be done with these secular pursuits so that we might turn to spiritual activities.
Suffering: Pleasing God When the Wheels Fall Off
- The truth is that more spiritual progress is made through failure and tears than success and laughter.
- We should neither court suffering nor complain about it. Instead, we should see it as one of the means God chooses to employ to make us increasingly useful to the Master.
- It would be wrong to suggest that we know God’s presence in suffering exclusively, but we do know it in suffering especially.
The Narrow Way: Never Did a Heedless Person Lead a Holy Life
- There is never a time (until heaven) when we are exempt from temptation. Recognizing this ought to help us prepare for the battle.
- How are we to deal with temptation so as to avoid the failure of David and follow Joseph’s example? Three words provide a useful answer: immediately, ruthlessly and consistently.
Intellectualism and Materialism: Chasing After the Wind
- Whenever we place our trust in anyone or anything other than God, we sin.
Putting on the Garment of Humility
- If we instill the characteristics of work, courage, and perseverance in our children but do not instill in them the grace of humility, they will be marked by the spirit of the Pharisee: virtuous in many ways but too proud to see their need for God.
- It is easy for us to talk about what we have accomplished rather than what God in His goodness has chosen to bless.
- Many of us, though, neglect the Scriptures on a daily basis. We have the best of intentions on a Sunday, but our follow-through is lacking. It is important that we develop a system of Bible study that takes us through the whole of Scripture and keeps us faithful in our reading.
Evangelism: The Necessity of Bringing Others to Christ
- If I want to be approved at the last, nothing can take the place of my making an honest, sincere, and prayerful effort to bring others to the Savior.
- To be a witness for Christ is both a duty and a privilege.
- If evangelism is not a passion for the pastor, it most likely will not be a priority for the people.
Listen to this interview with Alistair Begg about the book.
- Ten Effects of Seeing and Savoring the Providence of God. On this episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast, John Piper reads the “Conclusion” of his forthcoming book Providence, to be published January 12. Providence will be the book we work through here after we complete John MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus.
- Gospel Coalition 2020 Book Awards. Here are the winners of the Gospel Coalition’s 2020 Book Awards. I would in particular like to highlight Dane Ortlund’s book Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers (my favorite book of 2020) and Paul Tripp’s Lead: 12 Gospel Principles for Leadership in the Church (my number two book of 2020). Here are other 2020 favorite book lists from Kevin DeYoung, Tim Challies, and Trevin Wax.
- How a Former Radical Sparked the New Calvinist Movement. Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra writes about David Wells and his important book No Place for Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?
- 40 Books Releasing in 2021 to Keep on Your Radar. Kevin Halloran shares this helpful list of upcoming books by authors including John Piper, Tim Keller, Alistair Begg, Michael Reeves as well as Stephen Nichols’ biography of R.C. Sproul.
- My Book Reviews on Goodreads. Check out more than 330 of my book reviews that are posted on Goodreads.
- On A Bunch of Fun Biographies. On this episode of the Pastors Talk podcast, Jonathan Leeman visits with Mark Dever about a bunch of fun biographies.
BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?
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 23: The Lordship of Christ. Here are a few takeaways from the chapter:
- When we invite people to receive Christ as Savior, we ask them to embrace One who is Lord and was declared to be so by God the Father, who also demands that every knee bow to His sovereignty.
- The signature of saving faith is surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ. The definitive test of whether a person belongs to Christ is a willingness to bow to His divine authority.
- When we come to Jesus for salvation, we come to the One who is Lord over all. Any message that omits this truth cannot be called the gospel.
- Any message that presents a savior who is less than Lord of all cannot claim to be the gospel according to Jesus.
- He is Lord, and those who refuse Him as Lord cannot use Him as Savior.