Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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Three Books from R.C. Sproul That Were Foundational to My Spiritual Growth

In the 1980’s as a new believer there were three books by R.C. Sproul, my spiritual mentor, that were foundational to me – Holiness of God, Chosen by God and Pleasing God. Dr. Sproul died on December 14, 2017.  Since then I have gone back and re-read these three books and wanted to share my reviews of each book with you.

The Holiness of God by R. C. Sproul. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2nd Revised, Expanded Edition. 240 pages. 2000

The Holiness of God was the first book of R.C. Sproul’s that I read back in the mid-1980’s. I have since gone back and read it multiple times, and prior to his recent death heard him speak about this material several times. This book, and Sproul’s ministry, has had a profound impact on my spiritual growth. Here’s some of the most significant parts of the book.
He tells us that the one concept, the central idea he kept meeting in Scripture, was the idea that God is holy. He states that how we understand the person and character of God the Father affects every aspect of our lives.
The author tells us that only once in Scripture is an attribute of God elevated to the third degree, and mentioned three times in succession. The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy.
He uses Isaiah’s experience in Isaiah 6 to show that for the first time in his life Isaiah really understood who God was. At the same instant, for the first time Isaiah really understood who Isaiah was.
He waits awhile before defining what he means by the word holy. He tells us that when the Bible calls God holy, it means primarily that God is transcendentally separate. God is so far above and beyond us that He seems almost totally foreign to us. To be holy is to be “other,” to be different in a special way. He tells us that when we call things holy when they are not holy, we commit the sin of idolatry. To worship an idol involves calling something holy when it is not holy. What God does is always consistent with who God is. He always acts according to His holy character.
A famous quote of Sproul’s is that sin is cosmic treason. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself.
Many believe that there is an inconsistency between a harsh God in the Old Testament and a loving Jesus in the New Testament. But Sproul disagrees, indicating that far from being a history of a harsh God, the Old Testament is the record of a God who is extremely patient. He tells us that the most violent expression of God’s wrath and justice is actually seen in the New Testament, in the Cross.
The author writes that one of our basic problems is the confusion of justice and mercy. He states that it is impossible for anyone, anywhere, anytime to deserve grace. Grace by definition is undeserved. We will receive only justice or mercy from God. We never receive injustice from His hand. He tells us that the struggle we have with a holy God is rooted in the conflict between God’s righteousness and our unrighteousness. He states that God is just, and we are unjust. This tension creates fear, hostility, and anger within us toward God.
He writes that to be a saint means to be separated, but more than that. The saint also is to be involved in a vital process of sanctification. We are to be purified daily in the growing pursuit of holiness. Saints are people who are at one and the same time just, yet sinful. He tells us that God counts the believer as righteous even when in and of ourselves we are not righteous, and that this is the gospel.
He writes about the wrath of God, stating that a loving God who has no wrath is no God. Instead, he is an idol of our own making as much as if we carved Him out of stone.
He states that the failure of modern evangelicalism is the failure to understand the holiness of God. Helpless sinners can survive only by grace. We can love Him only because He first loved us.
Throughout, Sproul explains theological concepts in a way that is easy to understand. He also utilizes his gifts of story-telling and humor. This edition of the book includes helpful questions at the end of each chapter to help you reflect on what you have just learned.

Chosen by God by R. C. Sproul. Tyndale House Publishing. 196 pages. 2001 edition.

Chosen by God was the second book of R.C. Sproul’s that I read back in the mid-1980’s, following his classic The Holiness of God. This book has been used to convince many that the Reformed view of election is indeed the biblical view. The great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon famously stated that Reformed theology is just a nickname for biblical Christianity.
John Calvin did not invent the doctrine of predestination. The author states that predestination is a doctrine that is plainly set forth in the Bible (Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-11), and that virtually all Christian churches have some formal doctrine of predestination. The question is which view of predestination to embrace. This book asserts that the Reformed view of predestination is the biblical view.
The author writes “The Reformed view asserts that the ultimate decision for salvation rests with God and not with man. It teaches that from all eternity God has chosen to intervene in the lives of some people and bring them to saving faith and has chosen not to do that for other people. From all eternity, without any prior view of our human behavior, God has chosen some unto election and others unto reprobation. The ultimate destiny of the individual is decided by God before that individual is even born and without depending ultimately upon the human choice.”
When we speak of divine sovereignty we are speaking about God’s authority and about God’s power. Human freedom and evil are under God’s sovereignty.
Grace is undeserved. God always reserves the right to have mercy upon whom he will have mercy. God may owe people justice, but never mercy. The saved get mercy and the unsaved get justice. Nobody gets injustice.
The author states that in the Reformed view of predestination God’s choice precedes man’s choice. We choose him only because he has first chosen us. He encourages us to not merely assume that you are not elect, but to make your election a matter of certainty.
He states that no true believer ever loses his salvation. To be sure, Christians fall at times seriously and radically, but never fully and finally. We persevere, not because of our strength but because of God’s grace that preserves us.
The author covers such weighty topics as man’s free will, sin, evil, grace, original sin, the Fall, double predestination and TULIP (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and the Perseverance of the Saints), all in his characteristic easy to understand manner.
The final chapter of the book is comprised of questions about predestination. Each chapter ends with a concise summary of the main points from the chapter as well as scripture verses for further study.

Pleasing God: Discovering the Meaning and Importance of Sanctification by R. C. Sproul.  David C. Cook, 210 pages. 2012 edition

Pleasing God was the third book of R.C. Sproul’s that I read as a new believer back in the 1980’s, following his classic books The Holiness of God and Chosen by God. Pleasing God is intended as a practical guide for Christian living, an attempt to provide help for the struggle in which we are involved.
While regeneration, the act of grace by which our eyes are opened to the things of God is an act that only God can perform and is instantaneous, our sanctification is takes place in stages. Regeneration is the beginning of our Christian journey. Sanctification is a process, a gradual process. Rebirth is instantaneous. Justification is instantaneous. But sanctification is a lifelong process. This growth in pleasing God is called sanctification, and that is what this wonderful book is about.
The author states that for Christians to make progress in sanctification, in learning to please God, they must have a clear idea of their goal. The goal, as Jesus stated it is “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). Seeking the kingdom and righteousness are the priorities of the Christian life.  To be righteous is to do everything that God calls us to do.
The author covers a number of topics in this book. He first looks at Martin Luther’s threefold battle in the Christian life – the Christian’s battle with the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Other topics covered in this volume include forgiveness, guilt, assurance, repentance, fruit bearing, a discussion on “carnal Christians”, pride, dishonesty, slothfulness, the importance of sound doctrine, and the role of the Holy Spirit.
The author writes that regeneration is the beginning of a journey. That journey is filled with successes and failures, with growth amid stumbling. He tells us that at times, the progress seems painfully slow, but progress is there. All Christians make progress that is made by the indwelling Holy Spirit, who refuses to allow us to stand still.
I always appreciated how Dr. Sproul could take difficult theological topics and communicate them in a very clear and easy to understand manner. This is a very readable book about the doctrine of sanctification.

If you are not familiar with Dr. Sproul’s ministry, I would recommend starting with these three books that were foundational for me.


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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

Starting the New Year:

  • 4 Christian Principles for Making New Year’s Resolutions. Burk Parsons writes “We would therefore do well to consider (Jonathan) Edwards’ prefatory remarks as we seek to glorify God and enjoy Him forever in our churches, our homes, and our hearts.”
  • Bible Reading Plans for 2018. Nathan W. Bingham has compiled a list of helpful Bible reading plans for you to choose from.
  • Get a Basic Overview of the Bible. R.C. Sproul writes “Virtually every Christian at some point has resolved to read the entire Bible. If we believe the Bible is the Word of God, it’s natural not to want to miss a word of it.”
  • 7 New Year Resolutions That Could Change Our World. Ron Edmondson writes “Whether or not you do New Year resolutions, we could all stand to improve some things in our life. And, if we do, I’m confident we could also improve the life of others.”
  • Keep Technology in Its Proper Place in 2018. Andy Crouch writes “The proper place for technology won’t be exactly the same for every family, and it isn’t the same at every season of our lives. Figuring out the proper place for technology in our particular family and stage of life requires discernment rather than a simple formula.”
  • Ask God to Rebuild What is Broken. Marshall Segal writes “If God can rebuild a relationship with us ripped apart by sin, and replant and revive souls like ours dead in sin, what new thing could he do in your life this year — in your family, in your workplace, in your neighborhood, in our nation, in you?”
  • A Gospel-Shaped 2018. Scotty Smith prays “Heavenly Father, whether or not 2018 is going to be a “happy” New Year, remains to be seen. But as in 2017, there won’t be a day this year you’ll fail to send us new mercies and give us sufficient grace. You’ll steadfastly delight in us, and rejoice over us with singing, no matter the happenstance, circumstances, or providences. Because of Jesus’ finished work, your love for us is irrepressible, immeasurable, and inexhaustible. That will be the most predictable and reliable truth in 2018. Hallelujah!”
  • New Year, New Beginnings: The Importance of Considering Our Ways. Melissa Kruger writes “There’s something refreshing about beginning a new year. It’s a time to reflect on the past year and refocus our goals for the upcoming year. I find it helpful to get away for an hour or two and spend some time in prayer, asking the Lord to guide me as I consider the time he’s given.”
  • A New Year, A New Bible Reading Plan. In this episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, John Piper responds to the question Can you make a case for the discipline? Name the plan you use. Explain why you like it. Explain the pace of reading. And maybe what you’ve learned after doing this for so many years.”
  • Marry the Bible This Year. David Mathis writesMarrying the Bible is not a sequestering pursuit. As God fills us with the spiritual life and joy He imparts to us through His word, He will put a word in our mouth and make our meal all the more filling as we pass it around to others. The dominoes will begin falling as the word of God comes into its central, initiating, energizing place in our souls.”
  • Another New Year Knocks. Marshall Segal writes “The reason many of us feel so insecure and anxious at the end of another year is that we’ve taken gifts meant to lead us to God, and looked to them for the strength, hope, clarity, and purpose only God can give.”
  • On New Year’s Resolutions, Slow Progess, and the Grace of God. Scott Sauls writes “So, perhaps the first thing to do, then, is to begin doing what Jesus taught all of us to do—to ask our Father in heaven to give us the Spirit (Luke 11:13).”
  • Should Christians Make New Year’s Resolutions? In this four-minute video Hershael York believes it is right to make New Year’s Resolutions about the way that they intend to live.

Courtesy of World Magazine

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

R. C. Sproul

DR. R.C. SPROUL, known by many as simply “R.C.”, was my spiritual mentor for more than 30 years; he died on December 14. Here are a few helpful links.

  • Here is R.C.’s obituary in the Orlando Sentinel and in the Washington Post.
  • R.C.’s memorial service will be live streamed on R.C. on December 20 at 2:00 pm Eastern.
  • Chris Larson of Ligonier Ministries tells us that the Renewing Your Mind broadcast that aired December 15 (the day after R.C. died) was providentially planned several months ago. Listen to “The Believer’s Final Rest” here.
  • To read about the impact R.C. had on others, follow the hashtag #GodUsedRC
  • Tim Challies has done an excellent job compiling several tributes to R.C. here.
  • Here is my tribute to R.C., in appreciation for how the Lord used him in my life.
  • Nathan W. Bingham does a nice job compiling a number of tributes to R.C. here.
  • Here are more tributes from:
  • Here is a tribute from Todd Pruitt. Todd and Kevin DeYoung both recommend this sermon from R.C.
  • The last time I heard R.C. deliver a message was at the 2016 Ligonier National Conference. It was a very emotional time as he was given a standing ovation. I wondered at the time if it would be the last time I would hear him give a message, and as it turned out, it was. And what a message to finish with. Watch R.C. deliver his message entitled “The Transforming Power of the Gospel” here.
  • The last time I saw R.C. was at the 2017 Ligonier National Conference. Although his health did not allow him to deliver the final message of the conference as had been planned, he did participate in a few sessions earlier in the conference, including this “Question and Answer” session. Watch the beginning of this video in which he and dear friend John MacArthur debate a theological point. A great memory.
  • R.C. had many friends on the Reformed Baptist side of the aisle. Watch this brief video clip in which he makes a joke with Albert Mohler. Watch John MacArthur’s reaction.
  • Uncaging the Lion. Joel Belz of World Magazine with a recent interview with R.C.
  • Desiring God shared the video for this message from their 2010 National Conference. They write “In October of 2010, Sproul delivered a message at the Desiring God National Conference that was quintessentially “Sproulian.” He interacted with ancient and modern philosophy, science, and history in explaining, and defending, why the Bible provides the only reliable answers to our ultimate questions.
  • 40 Quotes from R. C. Sproul. Matt Smethurst shares these 40 quotes from R.C.


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In Appreciation of R.C. Sproul: How the Lord Used His Ministry in My Life

It’s hard to put into words the impact that R.C. Sproul, who died today, has had on my life. I was introduced to Dr. Sproul’s ministry more than 30 years ago when Dr. John Shively gave me one of Dr. Sproul’s teaching series on cassette tape. I believe it was titled Objections Answered, though I can’t be 100% sure. We listened to the messages on those tapes in the car on the way back from Lafayette, Indiana. I was amazed. Here was someone who took difficult theological concepts and communicated them in a way that I could understand them.  From cassette tapes to CD’s to digital podcasts, that was one of R.C.’s greatest gifts.

The first of R.C.’s books that I read was his 1985 classic The Holiness of God. That book had a profound impact on me. I was hooked. Since then, the Lord has used R.C.’s ministry in a powerful way in my life. We began subscribing to TABLETALK  magazine, and saw him speak many times in conferences, the first being in Wheaton, Illinois in the 1980’s. We attended Ligonier Ministries Regional conferences in St. Louis, Missouri, Lexington, Kentucky and Grand Rapids, Michigan and Detroit, Michigan. Since 1997, we rarely missed Ligonier’s National Conference in Orlando. Attending the National Conference always felt like experiencing a little taste of Heaven for me. I most enjoyed the “Question and Answer” sessions at those conferences. R.C. was gifted with an incredible mind and he used it to defend the Gospel from false teaching and the heresy of the hour. I also loved his stories, some of which I’ve heard dozens of times, as well as his laugh.

At almost every conference we attended, I would stand in line and have R.C. sign his latest book for me. A few times I mentioned how much I appreciated his ministry. It was clear that he was uncomfortable with what could be perceived as hero worship, and wanted all glory to go to God. And that’s how I will end this tribute, by giving all glory to God for equipping R.C. Sproul, and positively impacting me, my wife and hundreds of thousands of others who will miss him, his ministry and teaching deeply.  We are happy that he is now in the presence of his Savior, greeted with “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

Let’s remember Dr. Sproul by watching this two-minute video of him preaching the Gospel throughout the years.

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles


  • 4 Major Gripes Heard Around the Office. Dr. Alan Zimmerman writes “As a speaker in hundreds of companies, I’ve kept a record of the gripes I hear people utter. After all, it’s my job as a speaker/trainer/coach to turn those things around. These are the four most commonly heard gripes these days.”
  • What is Biblical Contentment? Dave Kraft writes “Contentment has less to do with the amount of, or intensity, of the activity you are involved in and more to do with your mind-set. Who are you truly trusting to see things happen in your life, relationships, work and ministry–yourself or God?”


  • “Job Crafting”: Cultivating Our Vocation at Work. Stevan Becker writes “Cultivating our vocation is a matter of listening to God in the particulars of our work situation and discovering the unique things we’ve been created to do. Cultivating our job may mean taking what we have to work with and recreating
  • How to Glorify God at Work. John Piper writes “The point is: Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink or work, do all to make God look as great as he really is.”
  • Your Calling Actually Isn’t About You. Sharon Hodde Miller writes “At some point, a self-centered calling conflicts with God-centered callings, because God-centered callings always lead to a cross. God-centered callings involve suffering, sacrifice, and looking like a fool, because this is the path of the Savior we follow. If your calling is about your image or your reputation or your comfort and convenience, it will eventually diverge from the path of Christ. At some point, God will ask you to do something that isn’t about you or doesn’t feel good or requires you to suffer, and you will have to make a choice.”
  • Help Me Teach the Bible on Work. The latest episode in Nancy Guthrie’s “Help Me Teach the Bible” is with Peter Orr on work.
  • Top Reasons Why a Long Commute May Be Worth It. Hugh Whelchel writes “Work is necessary for a meaningful life, but we must not make our work themeaning for our existence. As Christians, we must find our identity in Christ, not in our work. Yet, work is the major way we respond to God’s call on our lives. So, no matter the length of your commute, be encouraged that what you do today at work matters!”


  • God Works in Advertising, Too. Stevan Becker writes “God is intimately involved in our work. He cares about the details. He’s doing his work through the work of our hands—even in the “secular” sales and advertising space. No matter what you do for work, stop and pray through your projects, both the big ones and the small ones. Pray that he will be glorified as you serve him in all you do.”
  • Everybody Matters Podcast: Mark Sawyier of Bonfyre. This episode of the Everybody Matters Podcast features a discussion with Mark Sawyier of Bonfyre, a company who has created a workplace culture platform that is helping organizations engage, include and inspire their people.

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Music Reviews
Hard Cuts: Songs from the H A R D L O V E Sessions (EP) – NEEDTOBREATHE

NEEDTOBREATHE has stated that one of the hardest parts about finishing their chart-topping 2016 album H A R D L O V E was determining which songs had to be cut to get down to the twelve songs for the album. This new EP contains six songs, two of them alternate versions of “Hard Love”, along with four songs that were cut from the original album.
The EP contains two new versions of “Hard Love”, one featuring Serena Ryder and one featuring Andra Day. Along with the version featuring Lauren Daigle from The Shack: Music From and Inspired By, this makes three versions of the song released since the album was released last year, which seems to be a bit of an overkill.
Below are brief comments on the other four songs:
Waiting – This song was produced by Dave Tozer and NEEDTOBREATHE, and written by Bear and Bo Rinehart. It is a keyboard driven song with a strong drum beat, backing vocals and a good guitar solo. He is haunted by a woman, who keeps him waiting, shaking, trembling, and chasing mistakes that he made. It’s my least favorite of the new songs.
Count on Me – This song was produced by Dave Tozer and NEEDTOBREATHE, and written by Tozer, Bear and Bo Rinehart. This song features a strong drum beat, keys and some backing vocals. Thematically it is similar to “Brother” from their excellent Rivers in the Wasteland album. It features encouraging lyrics.
Everybody needs a pick me up
You can count on me
Walking on Water – The last two songs of the four new ones were my favorites, starting with “Walking on Water”. This song will appeal to the band’s Christian fan base as it will remind them of Peter walking on the water to Jesus in Matthew 14. It starts slowly and then builds powerfully and joyfully on the chorus with a with a strong drum beat and backing vocals. There’s no turning back.
Can’t see nothing at all
But Your outstretched arms
Help me believe it
Though I falter
You got me walking on water

Cages – This song was produced by Ed Cash and NEEDTOBREATHE and written by Bear and Bo Rinehart. It’s another song that the band’s Christian fan base will resonate with. It starts as a piano-driven song, with light drums. He was looking for attention, was needing redemption but all he got was cages. It then builds powerfully with drums and guitar. They reference their 2009 album The Outsiders, stating that they’re a band of outsiders.
I’m in a prison for a man gone wrong
But I’ve found a future, this is not my home     
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Book Reviews

The Legacy of Luther, edited by R. C. Sproul and Stephen J. Nichols. Reformation Trust Publishing. 303 pages. 2016

This is a wonderful volume to read as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of the Ninety-Five Theses (which are included in an appendix) to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, initiating the Protestant Reformation. This anthology of essays honoring Luther from some of the most respected Reformed theologians today looks at several aspects of the life, ministry and legacy of the great reformer.
This in-depth volume includes a Foreword by John MacArthur and chapters by respected pastors and theologians such as Sinclair Ferguson, Steven Lawson, David Calhoun (who I enjoyed two church history courses at Covenant Seminary with), Michael Horton, Robert Godfrey, Gene Veith, Derek Thomas and many others. These essays cover a wide variety of aspects of Luther’s life and ministry, including his life at home, his music, his doctrine of scripture, the doctrine of justification by faith alone, his doctrine of vocation, as a man of conflict, his later years, as a preacher, on the sacraments, and a final reflection from R.C. Sproul on Luther and the life of the pastor-theologian.
The legacy of Martin Luther is vast and varied, and this book offers an attempt to summarize that legacy. The book is written for, and can be enjoyed by, both those who have little knowledge of Luther, and also for those who know him well. The book is organized into three sections – Luther’s Life, Luther’s Thought and Luther’s Legacy.
I highly recommend this book as a way to get to know Luther – warts and all – as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Reading Romans with Luther by R.J. Grunewald. Concordia Publishing. 136 pages. 2017

I was interested in reading this short book for several reasons. First, I enjoy reading books about the great Protestant Reformer Martin Luther, especially during this 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Second, Romans is my favorite book of the Bible, and it is also where I was in my reading through the Bible at the time this book was published. Third, I have enjoyed the author’s blog and looked forward to reading a book by him.
The author, a Lutheran pastor, states that the book is meant to introduce the reader to the work of Martin Luther, to explain his words in a way that removes some of the intimidation. He realizes that Luther’s works can be intimidating, and this book is meant to take some of that intimidation away and guide the reader into Luther’s works. The author wants you to look at this book as Luther for everyday life.
The book does not contain Luther’s entire commentary on Romans, but only pertinent paragraphs that go along with the themes outlined in the table of contents. Rather than providing a linear exploration of Luther’s commentary, the author has divided and rearranged it according to thematic teachings in Romans. Continue reading