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My Review of Bryan Chapell’s book UNLIMITED GRACE

unlimited grace by bryan chapellUnlimited Grace: The Heart Chemistry That Frees from Sin and Fuels the Christian Life by Bryan Chapell. Crossway. 192 pages. 2016
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Bryan Chapell, was the President of Covenant Theological Seminary for most of the time I attended the school. He served there for three decades in teaching and administration. He is now the Senior Pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois, where Tammy and I were married years ago. Unlimited Grace is his latest book and it’s a gem, perhaps my top book of the year, right up there with The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson.

Chapell writes of how he has been on a journey together with the people of Grace Presbyterian Church to discern how the grace of the gospel can transform a church by freeing people from sin and fueling their lives with new hope and joy. He states that this book is an effort both to reflect what they have learned together and to teach the values that he hopes will guide those who join on this gospel endeavor.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part takes the reader on a journey to discover how grace not only frees us from the guilt and shame of sinful lives but also provides daily fuel for the joy that is the strength of Christian living. The second part explains how preachers, teachers, counselors, mentors, parents, and all others who share God’s Word can find grace in every portion of Scripture. And the final part attempts to answer the common questions people ask about how to find grace, and how to keep from abusing its blessings. The author states that the aim of the book is to identify not only how these truths of grace affect our understanding of God’s acceptance at the end of our lives, but also how they empower our efforts to honor God every day of our lives.

Dr. Chapell states that the essence of grace is that God provides for us what we could not provide for ourselves. In this book he addresses many helpful concepts such as legalism, our identity, performance, behavior, holiness and motivation towards obedience, God’s acceptance of us, sin and repentance, the distinction between justification and sanctification, biblical fear of God and His judgement.

It took me longer than usual to read this book because of the number of passages I highlighted. I highly recommend this book. Read it and share the wonderful message of God’s grace with others.

bryan-chapell65 Wonderful Quotes from
Unlimited Grace by Bryan Chapell

  1. New obedience and daily living in harmony with Christ’s standards may enable us to experience God’s forgiveness, but we never earn it.
  2. God’s great grace toward us fosters such love for him that we want to please and honor him. His mercy toward us stirs such overwhelming thanksgiving in us that we desire to live for him. Love compels us.
  3. A Christian for whom love of God is the highest priority is also the person most motivated and enabled to serve the purposes of God.
  4. We will inevitably focus our resources of heart, soul, mind, and strength on what or whom we love the most.
  5. Grace draws the one to whom it is extended closer to the One expressing it.
  6. We are ultimately controlled by whatever we love the most.
  7. Real change—real power over seemingly intractable patterns of sin and selfishness—comes when Christ becomes our preeminent love. When that happens, all that pleases and honors him becomes the source of our deepest pleasure, highest aim, and greatest effort.
  8. When his delight is our greatest joy, we give our lives in fullest measure to his purposes.
  9. Since God is entirely holy, we cannot earn his approval based upon our efforts.
  10. Those who try to make themselves acceptable to God by their own efforts are comparable to someone trying to clean a white shirt with muddy hands.
  11. Because he is just, there’s no double jeopardy or double punishment with God. Once the penalty has been paid, it doesn’t have to be paid again. And because he is gracious, God determined that all who confess that they need and want Jesus’s punishment to serve as a substitute for their own will have no more penalty to pay—now or ever (Heb. 9:22–26).
  12. What happens if we ignore Christ’s provision? Then we will face a judgment day on which people will have to explain why they didn’t believe they needed Jesus. They will have to prove that they are as holy as God requires for an eternity with him.
  13. Grace not only promotes grateful devotion but also derails self-serving pride.
  14. While everyone should be concerned about whether his or her behavior pleases God, the Bible makes it clear that our behavior does not determine his acceptance. His mercy does (Titus 3:4–5).
  15. The reason our good works or intentions are inadequate is not that there is no good in them, but that they are not sufficiently good.
  16. Good behavior doesn’t get you into heaven or out of hell. That’s game changing for people banking on their goodness to get God’s acceptance. But does that mean what we do doesn’t matter to God? No. It means that good behavior has to be motivated by something other than a presumed payment or feared penalty for our performance.
  17. But what else is there to motivate us to good deeds if our relationship with God cannot be purchased by them? The answer is the relationship itself.
  18. Who we are in loving relationship with God is not determined by what we do; rather, what we do is determined by who we are.
  19. God’s grace motivates our behavior; our behavior does not manufacture his grace.
  20. God’s gracious claim on us is our greatest cause for serving him.
  21. What we do must not determine who we are, but who we are by God’s grace should determine what we do.
  22. Grace justifies guilty sinners so that they have Jesus’s guiltless status before God.
  23. Though our sin pollutes us, we are sanctified by God’s grace so that he can use us for his holy purposes.
  24. Because we know that God expects us to make progress in our sanctification—to grow in personal holiness—we can begin to think that our status is determined by our progress. We begin to base our justification (being okay with God) on our progress in sanctification (how we are doing with regard to personal holiness). This line of thought basically leaves us evaluating whether God loves us based on whether we are being good enough to satisfy him.
  25. We must remember that our justification (being okay with God) and applied sanctification (being a pure child of God) are never determined by what we do but, rather, by faith in what Christ has done.
  26. God expects personal works of holiness as a loving response to his grace, but not as a way of gaining it. If we had to earn grace at any time in our Christian lives, it would not be grace.
  27. The heart stirred by God’s justifying and sanctifying grace will long to serve him. In contrast, one who believes that God will love us only when we are good enough may serve him with vigor but will struggle, and almost inevitably fail to love him.
  28. Holy identity comes before holy imperatives. This order never varies in Scripture: imperatives are based on our identity.
  29. Obedience is always a response to God’s grace, and not a way of gaining it.
  30. Our identity determines what we do; what we do does not determine our identity. The imperatives we honor are based on the identity we have, and the order is not reversible. The practical implications of this simple truth will change every relationship of those who determine to live in patterns consistent with the gospel.
  31. Jesus does not love any child (young or old) because the child is good. Jesus loves his children because he is good.
  32. The message that Jesus loves us because we are good denies that the cross was either necessary or sufficient.
  33. Our obedience does not determine who we are. His grace does.
  34. The greatest blessing of the indwelling Christ is our new identity. We are as good as dead in terms of being able to satisfy God by our human efforts. But Jesus is alive in us by his Holy Spirit. So we have his identity.
  35. God will not love me more because I do better. He will not love me less because I stumble. His love is based not on my behavior but on my union with his Son—a union built on trust in his grace, not my goodness. Through that union, I have the identity of Christ and cannot be loved more, because I am already loved as infinitely as he. And because of that union, I will not be loved less, since Christ’s life, not mine, is the basis of God’s love.
  36. The power to obey our Lord requires that we know what honors him. We cannot do our Savior’s will if we do not know what he wants.
  37. The kind of teaching that puts God’s law and his grace in opposition to one another doesn’t actually understand how the Bible’s heart chemistry works. While it is true that our obedience to God’s law is not the basis of his love for us, that does not mean that God’s standards are bad, irrelevant, or to be ignored.
  38. Even if there are no tangible benefits in this life, we obey God because his standards reflect his own righteous and holy character. By living for God in situations where there is no apparent gain for us, we demonstrate our devotion to him.
  39. Our eternal relationship with God is a consequence of trusting in Christ’s death and resurrection—plus nothing.
  40. Duty and doctrine dispensed without grace can create only two possible human responses: pride and despair.
  41. We sin not because we don’t love Christ at all but because we don’t love him above all.
  42. Since the life source of sin is our love for it, we defeat sin when we deprive it of our affection—or displace it with a greater affection.
  43. When our love for Christ is preeminent (first above all things), it drives out love for sin and spurs our devotion to him (Col. 1:18).
  44. If our reason for reading the Bible is so God won’t get mad at us, or will be nice to us, then we are implicitly trying to buy his goodness with ours.
  45. The ultimate purpose of the Christian disciplines is to fill our hearts with love for Christ so that all other loves are displaced and diminished in power.
  46. If we truly love Jesus, we love what and whom he loves.
  47. His grace gets us into his kingdom, maintains us in the kingdom, and secures us for the kingdom.
  48. Every text relates some aspect of God’s redeeming grace that finds its fullest expression in Christ.
  49. The Bible actually seems intent on tarnishing the reputations of almost all its heroes. That’s because we are supposed to recognize there is only one true hero. His name is Jesus.
  50. Teaching people to be like a noble person in the Bible without dependence upon the grace that person needed to be noble only creates pride (in those who think they can) and despair (in those who know they can’t).
  51. Jesus loves us not because we are good but because he is.
  52. To teach that our goodness will get us to God apart from his grace is not simply sub-Christian (saying less than needs to be said); it is actually anti-Christian (teaching what is contrary to the Christian faith).
  53. Striving for godliness in response to God’s grace pleases our Savior. Trying to be good enough for his acceptance apart from his grace insults him.
  54. In its essence, legalism teaches that we are made right with God by what we do. The essential message is that good behavior gets us to God.
  55. The gospel is not a balance between law and grace. It is the good news of grace that results in grateful lives of godliness.
  56. While teaching (or implying) that obedience can merit grace is certainly unbiblical and damaging, not teaching what God commands is equally unbiblical and uncaring.
  57. True obedience is always a loving response to God’s grace, rather than a vain attempt to earn it.
  58. When we love God above all, fulfillment of his purposes is our greatest reward.
  59. Punishment intends to inflict harm on the guilty in order to impose a deserved penalty for wrongdoing. Discipline intends to turn a person from harm, to restore, and to mature.
  60. Biblical fear is not simply cowering before God’s power and majesty or bowing before his love and mercy. It is a proper regard for all that we know about God’s character and care.
  61. To motivate genuine holiness, hell must first be perceived as the just destiny of those who have broken the righteous standards of God. Those standards must also be seen as rooted in the holiness of God, and their transgression as deserving an eternal penalty. When all this is understood, then the mercy of God that saves us from the just penalty of hell, more than hell itself, is what generates love for him.
  62. The more we repent, the more we remove barriers from our fellowship with Christ, and the more we experience the joy of the forgiveness he has already secured for us.
  63. Forgiveness is not the same thing as pardon. Forgiveness is the provision of grace that obliterates relational barriers between us and God. Pardon is the removal of the consequences of sin.
  64. All believers will experience eternal pardon for their sin, but grace now requires that consequences sometimes be allowed in this life to turn us from greater sin and harm
  65. Our repentance does not earn his favor; it expresses our sickness over our own sin and our desire to turn from it into a closer walk with him.
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15 Quotes on Faith from “The Gospel According to Daniel: A Christ-Centered Approach” by Bryan Chapell

The Gospel According to DanielI read Bryan Chapell’s excellent book The Gospel According to Daniel and listened to his corresponding sermons on the book of Daniel at Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria. You can listen to the sermons here or on the church’s podcast available in iTunes. Dr. Chapell also wrote the notes for Daniel in the Gospel Transformation Bible.

Here are 15 wonderful quotes about faith from chapter 3 of the book:

  • Faith is not confidence in our belief but confidence in our God. Any other perspective will ultimately harm our faith.
  • Faith is not trusting in how much confidence we have about things we would like to happen.
  • Because we know his loving nature, we can have faith that there is a plan and a purpose for whatever we face.
  • Real faith is not faith in the quantity of our confidence; it is faith in our God.
  • Good things do not always happen according to our plans, wisdom, or desires—and that does not mean our faith is at fault.
  • Real faith trusts God’s plan and purpose.
  • One such error is the idea that God will do as we desire if our desire is righteous enough. We trust that God will fulfill our desires because of the quality of our belief.
  • Confidence based on assurances that have no scriptural support damage faith more than they accomplish good.
  • God does not intend for us to predict outcomes as much as he intends for us to trust him in all circumstances.
  • We do not have faith because all is going well; we do not lose faith because something goes poorly. Our faith is not in what circumstances might indicate but in God’s greater purposes.
  • Circumstances can never be trusted to indicate with certainty what our actions should be or what God’s purposes are.
  • By their example, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego lay out a simple plan of action to help us faithfully confront the trials we face: (1) we acknowledge our needs without stipulating how God should or will respond; (2) we humbly acknowledge the ability of God either to meet our needs in the way we desire or in a way that he knows is better; and (3) we commit ourselves to uncompromising obedience whatever comes. We simply obey God and trust him to take care of the circumstances.
  • Biblical faith is not merely the confidence that our God is able; it also requires the confidence that our God is good.
  • We trust him because, through his Son, God has shown how much he loves us. Faith rests in this love.
  • True biblical faith trusts that God knows and is doing what is right, because he gave us Jesus.

This is one of my favorite books of the year. I highly recommend it to you.


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews
The Gospel According to DanielThe Gospel According to Daniel by Bryan Chapell. Baker Books 226 pages. 2014
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Dr. Bryan Chapell was the President of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis during most of my time there. He wrote the notes for the book of Daniel in the Gospel Transformation Bible, and recently completed a preaching series on Daniel at Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois, where he is senior pastor. You can download the sermons from their website. Usually, a book based on a sermon series is published after the sermons are preached. In this instance, over a period of months, I enjoyed listening to the sermon of each chapter in Daniel, and then reading the corresponding chapter of this theologically rich book, which includes helpful, practical illustrations.

The author writes that he desires to help others see the presence of the gospel throughout all of Scripture. Some may not feel that Christ is present in the Old Testament. Dr. Chapell aims to show where every text stands in relation to the ultimate revelation of the person and/or work of Christ.

He tells us that in the first half of the book of Daniel (largely biographical), we are tempted to make Daniel the object of our worship (“be like Daniel”). But by doing so, we neglect Daniel’s own message that God is the hero. The second half of the book which contains prophetic content can also lead to error if we make Daniel primarily the subject of our debates of end-times issues. Again, the author tells us, that if we do that we neglect Daniel’s message that God will rescue his people from the miseries of their sin by the work of the Messiah.

The author skillfully leads the reader through both the well-known biographical first half of the book and also the sometimes hard to understand prophetic second half. I thoroughly enjoyed studying the wonderful book of Daniel with Dr. Chapell and highly recommend his book to you.

OnwardOnward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore. B&H Books. 240 pages. 2015.
****

Russell Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He is one of the leading young voices in evangelicalism today. In this important book, one of my favorites for 2015, he writes that the shaking of American culture isn’t a sign that God has given up on American Christianity. Rather, it may be a sign that God is rescuing American Christianity from itself. Moore is optimistic, indicating that pessimism is for losers. He admits that the American church faces difficulties, but also unprecedented opportunities. He writes that the message of the Kingdom is to “Make way for the coming of the Lord”. He states that now is the time for the church to reclaim its mission.

He writes that our culture was at one time more closely aligned with Christian values, if not necessarily the Christian Gospel. We are no longer the “Moral Majority”, if we ever really were. Our beliefs (sexual ethics, for example), are now very strange to our culture. He admits that in the short term we have lost the culture war on sexual and family issues. He states that we were never given a mission by Christ to promote values (as in “family values”), but to speak instead of sin, righteousness and the judgment of Christ and His Kingdom.

He writes that we must put our priorities where Jesus put them. He states that increasingly, the American culture doesn’t see Christianity as the real America. But the church needs to be salt and light to the culture. A worldly church, or an “almost gospel” is no good for this world. He states that the Kingdom of God should shape our vision of what and who matters, indicating that both left and right wing Christians can equally distort the Gospel. He writes of balancing evangelism and discipleship with justice, indicating that human dignity is about the Kingdom of God.

He writes about Jesus being a “gentle steamroller” as he called people to repentance. He discusses a manner of culture engagement that involves convictional kindness. He states that kindness should not be confused with niceness. Kindness doesn’t avoid conflict. Rather, it engages conflict with a goal of reconciliation.

The book lays out a plan for engaging a culture that is not only indifferent to Christianity, but at times openly hostile to it. It is written with convictional kindness and with a pastor’s heart. Highly recommended.

book news

  • Why We Should Read Books. Aimee Byrd writes “For anyone who doesn’t read many books anymore or who thinks we have all we need on the Internet, I wanted to share a few reasons why we should still read books.”
  • Unashamed. Pre-order Lecrae’s first book, Unashamed, which will be released May 3.
  • Alistair Begg’s Endorsement of Child in the Manger. Watch this short video of Alistair Begg’s endorsement of this excellent book by Sinclair Ferguson.

Ian Hamilton Quote

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

Studies 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 21: Thou Shalt Not Kill

  • Verses 2I-26 we have the first of this series of six examples which our Lord gives of His interpretation of the law of God over and against that of the scribes and Pharisees.
  • The contrast, therefore, is not between the law given through Moses and the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ; it is a contrast, rather, between the false interpretation of the law of Moses, and the true presentation of the law given by our Lord Himself.
  • He presents us with six contrasts, each of which is introduced by the formula: `Ye have heard it was said by them of old time… but I say unto you.’
  • The Pharisees, by putting these two things together in juxtaposition, had reduced the import of this commandment `Thou shalt not kill’ to just a question of committing actual murder. By immediately adding the second to the first they had weakened the whole injunction.
  • The second thing they did was to reduce and confine the sanctions with which this prohibition was associated, to mere punishment at the hands of the civil magistrates.
  • That was their full and complete interpretation of the great commandment which says: Thou shalt not kill. In other words they had evacuated it of its truly great content and had reduced it merely to a question of murder. Furthermore, they did not mention the judgment of God at all. It is only the judgment of the local court that seems to matter.
  • It is possible for us to face the law of God as we find it in the Bible, but so to interpret and define it, as to make it something which we can keep very easily because we only keep it negatively. So we may persuade ourselves that all is well.
  • The first principle is that what matters is not merely the letter of the law but the spirit.
  • The true way of understanding `Thou shalt not kill’ is this: `Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.’
  • Anger in the heart towards any human being, and especially to those who belong to the household of faith, is, according to our Lord, something that is as reprehensible in the sight of God as murder.
  • Not only must we not feel this causeless anger; we must never even be guilty of expressions of contempt.
  • Contempt, a feeling of scorn and derision, is the very spirit that ultimately leads to murder.
  • Killing does not only mean destroying life physically, it means still more trying to destroy the spirit and the soul, destroying the person in any shape or form.
  • Our anger must only be against sin; we must never feel angry with the sinner, but only full of sorrow and compassion for him.
  • Our Lord’s anger was always a righteous indignation, it was a holy anger, an expression of the wrath of God Himself.
  • God hates evil. God’s anger is displayed against it, and His wrath will be poured out upon it.
  • The holier we become, the more anger we shall feel against sin.
  • We must never feel angry with a person as such; we must draw a distinction between the person himself and what he does.
  • Let us now go on to the second statement. Our attitude is meant to be not negative, but positive. Not only are we not to harbor murder and evil thoughts in our heart against another; but the commandment not to kill really means we should take positive steps to put ourselves right with our brother.
  • We have to reach the stage in which there shall be nothing wrong even in spirit between our brother and ourselves.
  • In the sight of God there is no value whatsoever in an act of worship if we harbor a known sin.
  • We must not only think in terms of our brother whom we are offending, or with whom there is something wrong, we must always think of ourselves before God.
  • His terms are very easy. They are just this, that I face and acknowledge this sin and confess it utterly and absolutely, that I stop any self-defense or self-justification, though there was provocation from this other person. I must just confess and admit it without any reservation to God. If there is something in actual practice that I can do about it I must do it at once. Then He will tell me that all is right.

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