Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Book of the Year: Devoted to God by Sinclair Ferguson

Devoted to GodDevoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification by Sinclair Ferguson. Banner of Truth. 296 pages. 2016
****

Every once in a while, a book comes along that is truly special. Hearing that Sinclair Ferguson whom R.C. Sproul calls his favorite theologian was writing a book on sanctification, I knew this book had the potential to be special. As I read the book, which is my top book of the year, I knew that it had delivered on that promise.

Dr. Ferguson writes in the “Introduction” that the book has a goal of providing a manual of biblical teaching on holiness developed on the basis of extended expositions of ten foundational passages in the New Testament that serve as biblical blueprints for building an entire life of holiness. These passages (which are printed in Appendix 5), create the possibility for exponential growth in our understanding of what sanctification is, and how it is nurtured.  Each chapter in the main portion of the book focuses on one of these passages, which the author recommends we meditate on, and even memorize them.

The passages focus on teaching that is given in the indicative, rather than the imperative mood – passages that describe sanctification, rather than passages that command it. As such, this is not so much a “how to” book but a “how God does it” book. It is not dominated by techniques for growing in holiness.  He states that the book is a manual written to encourage those who read it to “strive….for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord”. (Hebrews 13:14).

The author writes that holiness is unreserved devotion to the Lord. He tells us that the biblical teaching on holiness, a life devoted to God, is simply an extended exposition of 1 Corinthians 6: 1-20.

Holiness means belonging entirely to him. He tells us that from beginning to end being a Christian and being holy are virtually synonymous. Sanctification is the fruit of the Spirit’s ministry and likeness to Christ is the ultimate goal of sanctification. Sanctification is holiness, and therefore the ultimate fruit of being devoted to God.

As there has been some controversy regarding justification and sanctification in recent years, he writes that justification (God counting us as righteous in Christ) and sanctification (God making us more and more righteous in ourselves) should never be confused. Nor is the former dependent on the latter.  He states that we are not justified on the basis of our sanctification; yet justification never takes place without sanctification beginning.

Themes covered in this wonderful book include union with Christ, sin, God’s grace, election, the Trinity, flesh and Spirit, putting to death the old and putting on the new, and the Christian and the Law.

The 5 appendices included in the book nicely supplement the main text, which is bathed in Scripture. And as with all of his books, the author often quotes from old hymns of the faith.

I cannot recommend this book too highly.

30 Wonderful Quotes from Devoted to God:
Blueprints for Sanctification
by Sinclair Ferguson

This year I’ve read many excellent books but this is my favorite book of the year. Here are 30 quotes from the book that I wanted to share with you:

  1. Sanctification is God setting us apart for himself. As saints we have already been sanctified by him. Then he gradually transforms us so that we begin to reflect his attributes and attractiveness. Jesus Christ’s life begins to be mirrored in our lives and personalities.
  2. Divine election is the foundation of sanctification – not the other way around. Everything depends upon God taking the initiative.
  3. If God has committed himself to changing our lives, to sanctifying us, then wisdom – not to mention amazed gratitude – dictates that we should be committed to that too. Otherwise God’s will and my will are in competition with each other.
  4. The whole Trinity cooperates in bringing me to the goal. The Father, the Son and the Spirit co-operate with one another, but they also co-operate with me in order to make me more like Christ.
  5. Holiness is not only the desire of the Trinity, it is a specific command.
  6. Those who are becoming holy will always have a two-fold impact on those around them. On the one hand there will be the irresistible attraction of the beauty of holy-love showing what life in the presence of God really is – life as it was meant to be lived. On the other hand, this holy-love, so attractive in itself, also involves loving-holiness that will offend those who are repelled by God’s holiness and live in rebellion against him. It cannot be otherwise.
  7. Sanctification is the fruit of the Spirit’s ministry.
  8. If we are to understand the nature of sanctification and successfully pursue it, we must immerse ourselves in appreciating the grace of God expressed to us in Jesus Christ and applied in us by the Holy Spirit.
  9. Sanctification – being devoted to God – is always the fruit of his setting us apart in and through Christ.
  10. God’s grace transforms us through our union and communion with Jesus Christ.
  11. Believers are so united to Christ that all he is and has done for us becomes our possession too.
  12. Our lives are transformed only when our minds are renewed.
  13. For Paul, the “big idea” of the gospel is that the believer is “in Christ”.
  14. Romans 6: 1-14 are among the most important verses of the New Testament. It is not claiming too much to say that the church is still trying to fully understand some of the details of his teaching in Romans 6. So there is room here for a lifetime of reflection.
  15. Exhortations to be holy are always derived from an exposition of what God has done and provided for us in Christ and through the gift of the Spirit. Indicatives are always the foundation for imperatives even if they appear in the reverse order. God has been or done this – therefore you should be or do that. Or, be this, or become that – because this is who God is and what he has done.
  16. The Christian life involves us in an ongoing, lifelong conflict. The gospel therefore calls us to live under the reign of the Spirit in a world dominated by the flesh.
  17. Living in the Spirit therefore means a daily commitment to please Christ and not to please self.
  18. There can be no other way to live the Christian life than by (1) Putting to death the old, and (2) Putting on the new.
  19. Many young believers are shocked to discover that indwelling sin seems to be like an onion in the soul; the unraveling of one layer simply reveals the next – on and on continue the painful revelations of our sinfulness.
  20. The key test of any formula for sanctification is: Does this enable me to overcome the influence of sin, not simply in my outward actions but in my inner motivations? And, in particular: Does it increase my trust in and love for the Lord Jesus Christ?
  21. Success in the Christian life never means that we live for ourselves or see ourselves as superior to others. No, the real success the gospel effects releases us from our self-obsessions and self-interests, so that at last we are free in Christ to love and serve others.
  22. Growing in holiness, enjoying closer fellowship with God, brings with it an ongoing and very painful revelation of layers of sin that have been subtly hidden in our hearts but rarely if ever exposed.
  23. The Christian life has both seed-time and harvest. We therefore need to take a long-term view. If I sow to the flesh I will always reap from the flesh corruption; sow to the Spirit and I will enjoy a spiritual harvest in eternal life. That is an unchanging law in the kingdom of God.
  24. For what we think about and love will have a determinative influence on our character. What fills our minds will shape our lives. We become what we think!
  25. The law-maker became the law-keeper, but then took our place and condemnation as though he were the law-breaker. Now the requirements of the law have been fulfilled in him, its prescriptions fully obeyed, its penalties finally paid. All that remains is for this to be imputed to us in justification and imparted in us in sanctification through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
  26. Sin has a way of knitting itself into the very fabric of our being, into our character and personality, into our propensities and our weaknesses and, yes, even into our strengths – sometimes especially into our strengths. It becomes my distinctive sin.
  27. It is always a shock to our pride when we discover that we are sinners – and not merely people who occasionally sin.
  28. Those who experience the grace of God in justification want to experience his grace in sanctification too. That involves strenuous activity on our part.
  29. Jesus himself is the litmus test for all of our attitudes. His example is to be the driving force in our devotion. He never sought to please himself. If we are his we too are called to live in the same way.
  30. Union with Christ means that we come to participate not only in his death but also in his weakness. This weakness is not something from which union with Christ delivers us, but into which union with Christ brings us.


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Prepare to Celebrate the Christ of Christmas with these Three Wonderful New Books

Over the past year three of my favorite authors – Tim Keller, Sinclair Ferguson and Alistair Begg – have written wonderful books about the true meaning of Christmas. Enjoy my reviews of these books below – better yet read these books! – as you prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Hidden Christmas, The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ by Tim KellerHidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ by Timothy Keller. Viking. 154 pages. 2016
****

Tim Keller states that the ideas expressed in this short book were forged not in writing but in preaching. Each chapter represents at least 10 or so meditations and sermons on each biblical text that he delivered in Christmas services across the decades.

He tells us that Christmas is a Christian holy day that is also a major secular holiday, resulting in two different celebrations, each observed by millions of people, which brings some discomfort on both sides. His fear is that the true roots of Christmas will become more and more hidden to most of the population. In this book he aims to make the truths of Christmas less hidden. He looks at some passages of the Bible that are popular because they are read each Christmas.

In the first chapters of the book, looking at the Gospel of Matthew, we learn about the gifts God gave us at Christmas. In the following chapters, looking at the Gospel of Luke, we consider how we can welcome and receive those gifts.

Through the Christmas story, Keller tells us about the Gospel. This is a book that I recommend you read and discuss with others, which I am doing with friends in a book club at work. Keller says many things about Christmas and the Gospel that I appreciated. A few of them are:

  • To accept the true Christmas gift, you have to admit you’re a sinner. You need to be saved by grace.
  • Christmas is not simply about a birth but about a coming.
  • Christmas shows us that Christianity is not good advice. It is good news.
  • Christmas means that God is working out his purposes. He will fulfill his promises.
  • Christmas tells us that despite appearances to the contrary, God is in control of history, and that someday he will put everything right.
  • Christmas means that for those that are believers in Christ, there is all the hope in the world.
  • The doctrine of Christmas, of the incarnation, is that Jesus was truly and fully God and truly and fully human.
  • No one is really neutral about whether Christmas is true. If the Son of God was really born in a manger, then we have lost the right to be in charge of our lives.
  • Christmas means that the King has come into the world. But the Bible tells us that Jesus comes as King twice, not once.
  • Christmas means that race, pedigree, wealth, and status do not ultimately matter.
  • Christmas means illumination and spiritual light from God; it means reconciliation and peace with God by grace; it means God taking on a human nature.
  • Christmas means the increase of peace, both with God and between people.
  • The manger at Christmas means that, if you live like Jesus, there won’t be room for you in a lot of inns.
  • Christmas means that salvation is by grace.
  • Christmas means you can have fellowship with God.
  • Christmas and the incarnation mean that God went to infinite lengths to make himself one whom we can know personally.
  • The incarnation, Christmas, means that God is not content to be a concept or just someone you know from a distance.
  • The joy that Christmas brings, the assurance of God’s love and care will always reinvigorate you no matter the circumstances of your life.

Child in the MangerChild in the Manger: The True Meaning of Christmas by Sinclair B. Ferguson. Banner of Truth. 216 pages. 2015 
****

This book was published just before Christmas 2015. Sinclair Ferguson is one of our day’s best Reformed theologians. I have read many of his books and heard him speak many times at the Ligonier National Conference. He has been a pastor and seminary professor in numerous churches and seminaries throughout the world, and is also a Ligonier Teaching Fellow. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed and was blessed by this new book.
Dr. Ferguson writes that this book sets out to explore the question of the real meaning of Christmas. He tells us that when we find the answer we realize that it isn’t only for the Christmas season. He states that at the center of history stands the person of Jesus Christ. He does so because he is at the center of God’s story. Christ who is the creator of all things has entered his own creation in order to become our Savior. That is what gives Christmas meaning. It is what gives history and our lives meaning too.
He writes that the heart of the Christmas message is a baby bound in swaddling bands and lying in a wooden manger, who is destined to be bound again later in life and laid upon wood on the cross of Calvary. He tells us that the meaning of Christmas is this: the Light of the world has come into the darkness of the world, in order to bring light into the darkness of our hearts, and to illuminate them with the grace of forgiveness. He tells us that Christmas is not coming, but it has already come. The Word already has been made flesh. He already has lived, bled, died, and risen again for us. Now all that remains is to receive him. For Jesus is the meaning of Christmas.
He tells us that Philippians 2:5-11, which he calls a bold, even a daring passage, tells the inside story of Christmas. As we mature as Christians, we begin to count others as more significant than ourselves. This is what the Christmas gospel does. Or to state it differently, this is what the Christ of Christmas does. But he does so only when we discover the true meaning of Christmas.
The author tells us that the New Testament does not obligate Christians to celebrate Christmas. However, he writes, the wisdom of the church throughout the ages suggests that if we do not celebrate the incarnation of Christ deliberately at some point in the year we may be in danger of doing it all too rarely, perhaps not at all.
In his writing and speaking, Dr. Ferguson has a wonderful way with words. Here is an example as he writes of the birth narrative: “The one who populated the forests with trees lies within the bark of one. The one who has always been face to face with his Father now stares into the face of his teenage mother. The one whom the heavens cannot contain is contained within a stable. He who cradles the universe is himself cradled in an animal’s feeding trough.”
Today, most people in the United States celebrate Christmas. The author states that they love to hear Christmas music, even to sing the familiar Christmas carols. But, he tells us, their hearts seem to go cold when they hear about the true meaning of Christmas, that Jesus came into the world to save sinners. The response is then, whether they say it or not, “Let’s sings the songs, but don’t talk to us about being saved from sin!” Let us enjoy Christmas without Christ!”
Finally, Dr. Ferguson tells us that the true meaning of Christmas is seeking, finding, trusting, and worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ.
I so enjoyed reading this book just a few weeks before we celebrate the birth of the One who came to save us from our sins. Ferguson writes about Jesus, “The heart of the Christmas message is a baby bound in swaddling bands and lying in a wooden manger who is destined to be bound again in later life and laid upon wood on the cross of Calvary.”

Christmas Playlist, Four Songs That Bring You to the Heart of Christmas – Alistair BeggChristmas Playlist: Four Songs That Bring You to the Heart of Christmas by Alistair Begg. The Good Book Company. 80 pages. 2016
****

This new book is about Christmas songs, but not necessarily Christmas songs you might have anticipated. Alistair Begg, Senior Pastor for 33 years at Parkside Church in Cleveland, looks at four songs of the first Christmas, which were heard before, during and after the birth of the baby who lies at the heart of the real Christmas.  This is a “playlist” that helps us to prepare for Christmas properly, and to celebrate Christmas joyfully.

In this short book which reads like an extended sermon, he looks at the following four songs:

  • Mary’s Song. This is a song inspired by her role in the events of the first Christmas, but in which she doesn’t sing about herself, but about God. The author writes that it is the first Christmas song in history.
  • Zechariah’s Song. The author writes that Zechariah is singing about the truth that God has turned up. And he has turned up to redeem us—to pay the price, bear the cost of freeing us and restoring us so that we can know him and live with him again, forever.
  • The Angel’s Song. The angel’s choir declares what this baby will achieve: “On earth peace.” The peace of God that invades a life is based on the discovery of peace with God.
  • Simeon’s Song. Simeon was a devout believer in God who was patiently waiting for the promises God had made to be fulfilled. The Holy Spirit had told him that he wouldn’t die until he saw these promises begin to unfold. About his song the author writes “And this is why the wooden food trough led to the wooden cross, and why you will never get to the heart of Christmas if you don’t grasp the meaning of Easter. Christianity is not good advice about what we should do. It is the good news of what Christ has done. Christianity does not proclaim that you are worth saving or able to save yourself. It announces that God is mighty to save.” He goes on to write that between the events of the first Christmas Eve and the first Easter Sunday, Simeon’s words had come true.

This is a book about four songs that tell about the gift of redemption through faith in Jesus, the Son of God. The author writes that Christmas provokes a decision. At that first Christmas, Jesus came to you. Now you must decide whether you will come to him.  This would be an excellent book to give a non-believer to read and discuss together.


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

book reviews

Core ChristianityCore Christianity: Finding Yourself in God’s Story by Michael Horton. Zondervan. 192 pages. 2016
****

The purpose of this new book by Westminster Seminary California professor and theologian Michael Horton is to help the reader understand the reason for their hope as a Christian so that they can invite others into the conversation.  He wants believers to know what they believe and why, a phrase those familiar with Horton will have heard often on his long-running radio program The White Horse Inn. 

Horton, who has also written larger works of theology (The Christian Faith and Pilgrim Theology), offers an apologetic or defense, for the Christian faith, covering the essential and basic beliefs that all Christians share. It is written in an easily understandable manner, and as such, could be read by a relatively new believer. It is theologically spot-on, as you would expect from Horton.

Horton begins by asking the question why is doctrine important? Why can’t we just love Jesus? For the framework for the book, he uses the following “four “D’s”:

  • Drama
  • Doctrine
  • Doxology
  • Discipleship

He writes that oftentimes we hear Christians tell their story and how God is a part of it. But that’s an incorrect way of looking at things. It‘s not so much that He is a part of our stories, but that we are a part of His.

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MY BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

book reviews

There have been several wonderful articles about Jerry Bridges since his death on March 6. Here are a few of them from Tim Challies, Bob Bevington, Justin Taylor, Robert Brady, Randy Alcorn and Tony Reinke. Justin Taylor also shared the entire memorial service for Bridges.

God Took Me by the Hand: A Story of God’s Unusual Providence by Jerry Bridgesjerry bridges. NavPress. 192 pages. 2014.
****

Jerry Bridges, who passed away on March 6, was one of my favorite authors. A few years back, my pastor asked if we could bring him to our church to speak. Unfortunately, by that time, he had made the decision only to accept speaking engagements with those he had already had a relationship with. I was blessed to see him speak at a Ligonier National Conference some years back however.

In this, his last book released while he was alive, written at age 84, he tells his life story in light of the doctrine of the providence of God. Bridges originally intended to have this become a published book explaining and exalting the providence of God. But the more he worked on it, the more he sensed it was too personal to become a book, so he changed his mental audience to family and close friends. However, some people at NavPress read the story and thought it could be useful to a larger audience. Bridges’ prayer is that this book will be helpful to his readers to see how the providence of God can work in the life of a very ordinary individual.

Bridges states that the purpose of the story is to explain, illustrate, and exalt God’s providence. Bridges intends his life story is meant to be only a backdrop and a series of illustrations of specific acts of the invisible hand of God so that many believers will come to recognize and appreciate more of God’s work in their own lives.

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50 Helpful Quotes from The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson

The Whole ChristI recently read Sinclair Ferguson’s excellent new book The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance – Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters. Here are 50 helpful quotes from that book:

  • The first and inarguable conclusion is that legalism and antinomianism are much more than doctrinal positions.
  • The second thing I learned was that the root of both legalism and antinomianism is the same. My guess is that most readers will find this the best new insight for them, one that could even trigger a proverbial paradigm shift.
  • Therefore, the third thing I learned was that to think the main problem out there is one particular error is to virtually put one foot into the other error.
  • The Marrow Men were suspected of antinomianism. What they most deeply feared was that many of the condemners of the Marrow doctrine were themselves guilty of a subtle form of legalism. At the root of the matter lay the nature of the grace of God in the gospel and how it should be preached.
  • The Marrow Controversy raised a major question about how the gospel is to be preached. The issue was the heart of the gospel itself.
  • Boston stressed that this emphasis of the Marrow preserved two of the great keynotes of the New Testament’s message. First, that in Jesus Christ there is a fullness of grace for all who will come to him. Second, it preserved the New Testament’s emphasis not only on the fullness of the grace of Christ but also on the freeness of that grace in Christ.
  • The offer of the gospel is to be made not to the righteous or even the repentant, but to all. There are no conditions that need to be met in order for the gospel offer to be made.
  • Perhaps the most significant underlying issue was that the gospel was being preached in a way that implied a separation between Christ and the benefits of the gospel. The benefits of the gospel (justification, reconciliation, redemption, adoption) were being separated from Christ, who is himself the gospel. A major indication that such a separation has taken place is that one of the most prominent emphases in the New Testament becomes marginalized, namely, union with Christ.
  • There was no doubt about the focus of the Marrow Brethren. They wanted their preaching to be full of Christ himself.
  • For whenever we make the warrant to believe in Christ to any degree dependent upon our subjective condition, we distort it. Repentance, turning from sin, and degrees of conviction of sin do not constitute the grounds on which Christ is offered to us. They may constitute ways in which the Spirit works as the gospel makes its impact on us. But they never form the warrant for repentance and faith.
  • What conditions were met in us in order for God to send his only Son into the world to die for sinners? None. Indeed there can be none.
  • Confessional orthodoxy coupled with a view of a heavenly Father whose love is conditioned on his Son’s suffering, and further conditioned by our repentance, leads inevitably to a restriction in the preaching of the gospel.
  • What is a godly pastor, after all, but one who is like God, with a heart of grace; someone who sees God bringing prodigals home and runs to embrace them, weeps for joy that they have been brought home, and kisses them—asking no questions—no qualifications or conditions required?
  • In seeking to bring freedom from legalism, we are engaged in undoing the ancient work of Satan.
  • It bears repeating: in Eve’s case antinomianism (her opposition to and rejection of God’s law) was itself an expression of her legalism!
  • Legalism is simply separating the law of God from the person of God.
  • Thus the essence of legalism is rooted not merely in our view of law as such but in a distorted view of God as the giver of his law.
  • Legalism and antinomianism are, in fact, nonidentical twins that emerge from the same womb.
  • Legalism is, therefore, not merely a matter of the intellect. Clearly it is that, for how we think determines how we live.
  • And legalism is also related to the heart and the affections—how we feel about God.
  • But the essence of legalism, as we have seen, is a heart distortion of the graciousness of God and of the God of grace. For that reason, as now becomes clear, legalism is, necessarily, not only a distortion of the gospel, but in its fundamental character it is also a distortion of the law.
  • The gospel never overthrows God’s law for the simple reason that both the law and the gospel are expressions of God’s grace.
  • The Bible is an extended narrative of God’s grace from start to finish.
  • The proclamation of the gospel is a repudiation of doctrinal legalism.
  • Repentance does not precede faith in an individual’s coming to Christ. At the end of the day we cannot divide faith and repentance chronologically.
  • Grace highlights legalism’s bankruptcy and shows that it is not only useless; it is pointless;
  • The ongoing function of God’s law is not to serve as a standard to be met for justification but as a guide for Christian living.
  • Legalism begins to manifest itself when we view God’s law as a contract with conditions to be fulfilled and not as the implications of a covenant graciously given to us.
  • Conditions are written into a contract following negotiations; a covenant is made unconditionally. God’s covenants carry implications, but none of them is the result of divine-human negotiations.
  • If we come to think of God as one whose total focus is on exposing our sin, we will become too shortsighted to see his grace. We will be plagued by a spirit of doubting and mistrusting the Father of lights, who gives his good gifts to us. We will find that we have become incapable of responding to him (and his law) within the father-child bond of love.
  • The danger of legalism is that it builds up again what Christ has torn down. It distorts and may actually destroy the gospel.
  • What, then, is the remedy for legalism? It is grace. But it is not “grace” as commodity, grace as substance. It is grace in Christ. For God’s grace to us is Christ.
  • For our purposes the simplest way to think of antinomianism is that it denies the role of the law in the Christian life.
  • Practical antinomianism has many forms today. One of them is the secular gospel of self-acceptance masquerading as Christianity.
  • This has very concrete expressions in what are euphemistically described as “lifestyle choices”: “This is how I am, God is gracious, and [implied: unlike you, if you disagree with me] he accepts me as I am, and therefore I will remain as I am.” But it is misleading to say that God accepts us the way we are. Rather he accepts us despite the way we are. He receives us only in Christ and for Christ’s sake. Nor does he mean to leave us the way he found us, but to transform us into the likeness of his Son.
  • At root then antinomianism separates God’s law from God’s person, and grace from the union with Christ in which the law is written in the heart.
  • Antinomianism and legalism are not so much antithetical to each other as they are both antithetical to grace. This is why Scripture never prescribes one as the antidote for the other. Rather grace, God’s grace in Christ in our union with Christ, is the antidote to both.
  • There is only one genuine cure for legalism. It is the same medicine the gospel prescribes for antinomianism: understanding and tasting union with Jesus Christ himself.
  • Antinomianism then, like legalism, is not only a matter of having a wrong view of the law. It is a matter, ultimately, of a wrong view of grace, revealed in both law and gospel—and behind that, a wrong view of God himself.
  • Neither the Old Testament believer nor the Savior severed the law of God from his gracious person. It was not legalism for Jesus to do everything his Father commanded him. Nor is it for us.
  • Full assurance is therefore a complex spiritual and psychological process by which confessing, “Christ died for sinners, and I rest on him,” becomes, “I am sure that nothing in all creation can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus my Lord.”
  • Assurance is nourished on a clear understanding of grace and especially of union with Christ and the justification, adoption, and regeneration that are ours freely in him.
  • There is a strong link in the New Testament between faithfulness in the Christian walk and the enjoyment of assurance. Inconsistent Christian living leads to lack of assurance. Where there is no actual obedience to Christ, there will be no evidence of present love for him as Savior. The Christian who has developed a pattern of disobedience in his or her life will lose assurance.
  • Lack of assurance can also be related to misunderstanding the role of affliction in the Christian life.
  • The fatal mistake here is to base our assurance of grace and salvation on the fact that “God is blessing my life.” When we do so, we have no anchor if life turns sour. No, God anchors us to himself in Christ.
  • But what are the implications of union with Christ? In essence this: through our union with him in his death we are set free from the penalty of our guilt, which he has paid for us; in union with him in his resurrection a complete, final, and irreversible righteousness is ours; in union with him in his death and resurrection we have been set free from the reign of sin. Yet we remain sinners in ourselves. Sin continues to indwell us; only when our regeneration comes to further flowering beyond this life will we be free from sin’s presence.
  • A melancholic disposition de facto creates obstacles to the enjoyment of assurance—partly because it creates obstacles to the enjoyment of everything. Those who are of a melancholic spirit and are prone to doubt need to have their minds steeped in the assurances of divine grace that are to be found in such a Savior fully clothed in the garments of his gospel. Such believers often feel Christ to be distant, so what Hebrews does is bring him near.
  • Attacks of the Devil are also hindrances to assurance and often have this as their specific aim. Satan knows he cannot ultimately destroy those whom Christ saves. He is therefore determined to destroy our enjoyment of our new relationship to the Lord.
  • It is one of the wiles of the Devil to discourage the doubting believer from seeking fellowship, sitting under the Word, and coming to enjoy the gifts Christ has given to reassure us of his love for us. At such a time it is vital to remember that this, inter alia, is what the ministry of the Word and of baptism and the Supper are for. We ignore them to the peril of genuine assurance.
  • Christian assurance is not self-assurance and self-confidence. It is the reverse: confidence in our Father, trust in Christ as our Savior, and joy in the Spirit as the Spirit of sonship, seal of grace, and earnest of our inheritance as sons and daughters of God.


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

The Whole ChristThe Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance – Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters by Sinclair Ferguson. Crossway. 256 pages. 2016
****

Sinclair Ferguson is one of the most respected Reformed theologians of our day. In the past few months he has released three new books, with this one being the latest and arguably the most important. It is a challenging read, theologically deep and heavily footnoted. However, if you persevere, you will be highly rewarded. It is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time and although early in the year, will be a strong candidate for my book of the year. While many of Ferguson’s books are written for the church as a whole, I believe this book will most benefit pastors.

Tim Keller writes the Foreword for the book, and his contribution may well be worth the cost of the book. He writes that “One of the striking features of the Marrow Dispute is that supporters of the Marrow were accused of defending antinomianism, and at least some of its critics were, in turn, suspected of legalism—even though all parties had subscribed to what the Westminster Confession says about justification and works.”

The Marrow Controversy is an event that not many will be familiar with. It occurred nearly 300 years ago in a small Scottish town and centered on Edward Fisher’s book The Marrow of Modern Divinity. The core issue was whether or not a person must first repent of his sins before coming to Christ. The Marrow Men agreed with Fisher’s book, while their opponents did not.

Ferguson starts with the Marrow Controversy and then applies it to our present day. Keller writes “Against the background and features of that older dispute, he wants to help us understand the character of this perpetual problem—one that bedevils the church today.”

The books tells us that legalism and antinomianism are much more than doctrinal positions and that the root of both legalism and antinomianism is the same. It also tells us that the cure for both legalism and antinomianism is the gospel, and a “fuller, biblical, and profound understanding of grace and of the character of God.”

Ferguson tells of a speaking request that came to him in Scotland in 1980 asking him to speak about the Marrow Controversy at a pastors’ conference in the United States. He states that since that time many have told him that they have listened to those messages. That speaking engagement was the genesis of this book.

He tells us that on the surface the “Marrow Controversy was about how we preach the gospel; what role, if any, God’s law and our obedience play in the Christian life; and what it means to have assurance of salvation.”

Ferguson tells us that the book is not a study of The Marrow of Modern Divinity, although reference is made to it. It is not a historical analysis of the Marrow Controversy, although that serves as the background to it. It is also not a study of the theology of Thomas Boston, although he is mentioned and quoted often in the book. Rather, it is “an extended reflection on theological and pastoral issues that arose in the early eighteenth century, viewed from the framework of the present day.” He writes that central elements in the Marrow Controversy remain some of the most important pastoral issues of today.

The book includes themes such as gospel grace, legalism, antinomianism, assurance, and union with Christ. The book concludes with an appendix “Thomas Boston on Faith”. There is much that we can learn in these pages. I read the book rather quickly (given all of the footnotes). It is certainly worth repeated readings.

Calvin's Sermons on JobSermons on Job: Chapters 1-14 by John Calvin. A New Translation by Rob Roy McGregor. Banner of Truth. 2015
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In 1554-1554, John Calvin used the book of Job for his daily sermons at St. Pierre Cathedral in Geneva, Switzerland. Last May, we were able to visit that church while on vacation. In all, Calvin preached 159 sermons on the book. Each of these weekday sermons averaged just under an hour’s exposition of Scripture.

This new, and very readable translation of those sermons by Rob Roy McGregor, includes the first 59 of the 159 sermons. Having read some other translations of Calvin’s sermons, I was very pleased with the readability of this new translation and would commend this volume to you.

Book News:Lead Like Jesus Revisited

  •  Lead Like Jesus Revisited. I’m looking forward to this updated and revised edition of Ken Blanchard’s and Phil Hodges’ classic book Lead Like Jesus, which I used years ago as the basis for an adult Sunday School class. The new edition will be released April 19.
  • 5 Books You Should Read This Election Year. Trevin Wax shares these book recommendations. I’ve read Onward by Russell Moore and highly recommend it.
  • The Whole Christ. Read Tim Challies review of Sinclair Ferguson’s excellent new book. It’s a challenging, but fulfilling read.
  • The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-JonesGod’s Plan for Us Includes Happiness in Him.  Randy Alcorn recently did an interview with Facts and Trend about his acclaimed new book Happiness. 
  • The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I’m looking forward to reading Steven Lawson’s new book on Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, to be published February 15.
  •  The Story Behind the Jesus Storybook Bible.  Bronwyn Lea interviews Sally Lloyd-Jones, author of the Jesus Storybook Bible, which has sold in excess of 2 million copies.Ashamed by Lecrae
  • Unashamed Audiobook. I’ve pre-ordered my copy of the audiobook of Lecrae’s upcoming book Unashamed, read by Lecrae through Christianaudio.

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 23: The Mortification of Sin

  • Our Lord was anxious to teach at one and the same time the real and horrible nature of sin, the terrible danger in which sin involves us, and the importance of dealing with sin and getting rid of it.
  • What He says in effect is this: `If the most precious thing you have, in a sense, is the cause of sin, get rid of it.’ He is saying that, however valuable a thing may be to you in and of itself, if it is going to trap you and cause you to stumble, get rid of it, throw it away. Such is His way of emphasizing the importance of holiness, and the terrible danger which confronts us as the result of sin.
  • It is not merely a question of not committing certain acts; it is a question of dealing with the pollution of sin in the heart, this force that is within us, these powers which are resident in our very natures as the result of the fall. These are the problems, and merely to deal with them in a negative manner is not enough. We are concerned about the state of our hearts.
  • Our Lord indicates a number of points, which we must observe and grasp. The first, obviously, is that we must realize the nature of sin, and also its consequences.
  • There is no doubt whatever that an inadequate view of sin is the chief cause of a lack of holiness and sanctification, and indeed of most of the false teaching with respect to sanctification.
  • We must grasp the idea of `sin’ as distinct from `sins’. We must see it as something that leads to the actions and that exists apart from them.
  • The second thing we must realize is the importance of the soul and its destiny.
  • If my faculties, propensities and abilities do lead me to sin, then I must forsake them and get rid of them.
  • Our Lord here shows us that the importance of the soul and its destiny is such that everything must be subservient to it. Everything else must be secondary where this is concerned, and we must examine the whole of our life and see to it that this is ever in the forefront of our considerations. Nothing must be allowed to come between you and your soul’s eternal destiny.
  • Do we all realize that the most important thing we have to do in this world is to prepare ourselves for eternity?
  • We are all so very concerned about this life. But are we equally concerned about our soul and spirit and our eternal destiny? That is the question our Lord is asking us.
  • The third principle is that we must hate sin, and do all we can to destroy it at all costs within ourselves.
  • We must train ourselves to hate sin. In other words we must study it and understand its working. I think we have been very negligent in this respect.
  • The next principle is that we must realize that the ideal in this matter is to have a clean and pure heart, a heart that is free from lusts. The idea is not simply that we be free from certain actions, but that our hearts should become pure.
  • Our standard must always be a positive one. We must never think of holiness merely in terms of not doing certain things.
  • The last principle is the importance of the mortification of sin.
  • Any teaching that makes us live an unnatural life is not New Testament holiness.
  • These are things which we must do. What does it mean? Again, I am merely going to give some indication of the principles. First, we must never feed the flesh’.
  • We must avoid everything that tends to tarnish and hinder our holiness. Anything that I know does me harm, anything that arouses, and disturbs, and shakes my composure, no matter what it is, I must avoid it.
  • Morbid scrupulosity is always concerned about itself, its state and condition, and its own achievements. True holiness, on the other hand, is always concerned about pleasing God, glorifying Him and ministering to the glory of Jesus Christ. If you and I keep that ever in the foreground of our minds we need not be very worried about becoming morbid.
  • The next principle I would lay down would he this, that the must deliberately restrain the flesh and deal with every suggestion and insinuation of evil.
  • That, in turn, leads me to the last great principle, which I put in this form: We must realize once more the price that had to be paid to deliver us from sin. To the true Christian there is no greater stimulus and incentive in the fight to `mortify the deeds of the body’ than this.
  • If we realize the power and the true nature of sin; if we realize the awful grip it has on man, and its polluting effect; then we shall realize that we are poor in spirit and utterly feeble, and we shall plead constantly for that power which the Holy Spirit alone can give us. And with this power we shall proceed to `pluck out the eye’ and `cut off the hand’, `mortify the flesh’, and thus deal with the problem.

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

book reviews
Child in the Manger Child in the Manger: The True Meaning of Christmas by Sinclair Ferguson. The Banner of Truth Trust. 203 Pages. 2015.
****

Sinclair Ferguson is one of today’s best Reformed theologians. I have read many of his books and heard him speak many times at the Ligonier National Conference. He has been a pastor and seminary professor in numerous churches and seminaries throughout the world, and is also a Ligonier Teaching Fellow. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed and was blessed by this new book.

Dr. Ferguson writes that this book sets out to explore the question of the real meaning of Christmas. He tells us that when we find the answer we realize that it isn’t only for the Christmas season. He states that at the center of history stands the person of Jesus Christ. He does so because he is at the center of God’s story. Christ who is the creator of all things has entered his own creation in order to become our Savior. That is what gives Christmas meaning. It is what gives history and our lives meaning too.

He tells us that the meaning of Christmas is this: the Light of the world has come into the darkness of the world, in order to bring light into the darkness of our hearts, and to illuminate them with the grace of forgiveness. He tells us that Christmas is not coming, but it has already come. The Word already has been made flesh. He already has lived, bled, died, and risen again for us. Now all that remains is to receive him. For Jesus is the meaning of Christmas.

He tells us that Philippians 2:5-11, which he calls a bold, even a daring passage, tells the inside story of Christmas. As we mature as Christians, we begin to count others as more significant than ourselves. This is what the Christmas gospel does. Or to state it differently, this is what the Christ of Christmas does. But he does so only when we discover the true meaning of Christmas.

The author tells us that the New Testament does not obligate Christians to celebrate Christmas. However, he writes, the wisdom of the church throughout the ages suggests that if we do not celebrate the incarnation of Christ deliberately at some point in the year we may be in danger of doing it all too rarely, perhaps not at all.

In his writing and speaking, Dr. Ferguson has a wonderful way with words. Here is an example as he writes of the birth narrative: “The one who populated the forests with trees lies within the bark of one. The one who has always been face to face with his Father now stares into the face of his teenage mother. The one whom the heavens cannot contain is contained within a stable. He who cradles the universe is himself cradled in an animal’s feeding trough.”

Today, most people in the United States celebrate Christmas. The author states that they love to hear Christmas music, even to sing the familiar Christmas carols. But, he tells us, their hearts seem to go cold when they hear about the true meaning of Christmas, that Jesus came into the world to save sinners. The response is then, whether they say it or not, “Let’s sings the songs, but don’t talk to us about being saved from sin!” Let us enjoy Christmas without Christ!”

Finally, Dr. Ferguson tells us that the true meaning of Christmas is seeking, finding, trusting, and worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ.

I so enjoyed reading this book just a few weeks before we celebrate the birth of the One who came to save our sins. Ferguson writes about Jesus “The heart of the Christmas message is a baby bound in swaddling bands and lying in a wooden manger who is destined to be bound again in later life and laid upon wood on the cross of Calvary.”

Reformation Study BibleReformation Study Bible (ESV)
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The Reformation Study Bible first appeared in 1995 as the New Geneva Study Bible. It was initially released in the New King James Version (NKJV), and later in the English Standard Version (ESV). Earlier this year a significantly updated and revised edition of the Reformation Study Bible (ESV) was released. The updated and revised edition in the NKJV is due to be released in February, 2016.

The updated version includes more than 20,000 new, revised, or expanded study notes from 75 distinguished scholars. There are new theological notes from R.C. Sproul, the General Editor, new topical articles and expanded introductions to each book. In addition, historical creeds and confessions, new maps, concordance, etc. are included.

I read nearly all of my books on my Kindle device. The e-book edition of The Reformation Study Bible was recently released. It includes user-friendly navigation, which allows the reader to easily move between the text and the study notes. Like any other e-book on your Kindle, you can adjust your font size, add highlights and notes. This is the Bible I will use for my daily reading.

book news

  • 10 Christian Books to Give (or Ask for) This Christmas Season. I enjoyed this helpful list of books from our friend Kevin Halloran.
  • Top 25 Christian Classics. Gene Veith shares this list of Christian classics originally published by Christian History magazine. What others would you add to the list?
  • Reflections on the Top 25 Christian Classics. Keith Mathison writes about Christian History’s recent list of the top 25 Christian classic books “There are several titles that I would add to the Top 25 list. My inclusion of these is based on the meaning of the word “influential.” These are all works that, in one way or another, profoundly influenced the thinking of subsequent generations of Christians. I should also note that influence can be either good or bad, so my inclusion of the following titles does not necessarily mean that I endorse the theology.”
  • Top Ten Books of 2015. I love reading people’s top books of the year lists. Here’s one from one of my favorite bloggers/authors Kevin DeYoung.
  • Top Ten Books I Read in 2015. Sean Lucas gives us his list of top books for the year, including two of his own (in the “Honorable Mention” section).
  • Tim Challies’ Top Books of 2015. I love reading “Best Books” lists. Here’s one from my favorite blogger Tim Challies.
  • Top 10 Books in 21 Categories. David Murray shares a very helpful list of books in 21 different categories.
  • Two New Christian Books on Productivity. Jason Dollar writes “Joining in the voices calling for better time management and higher levels of productivity are two Christian leaders with new books. Matt Perman and Tim Challies are not interested in ways to increase earnings or respect through disciplined time management; rather, they are concerned with instructing Christians on how to be more productive for the sake of serving others and the glory of God.”
  • Do More BetterDo More Better Review. Eric Davis reviews Tim Challies’ new book on productivity Do More Better.
  • Another Do More Better Review. David Murray reviews Tim Challies’ new book on productivity Do More Better. I’m currently reading the book and have signed up for Tim Challies’ “10 Days of Productivity”. Why don’t you as well?
  • The Truth About Employee Engagement. Patrick Lencioni has re-titled and re-released one of his books, The Three Signs of A Miserable Job. The new title is The Truth About Employee Engagement, and other than the title, the content is exactly the same. He writes “The reason we decided to re-title is because we learned that a book with the words “miserable job” in the title might have been perceived as more negative than it is.”
  • Best Leadership Books of 2015. Paul Sohn offers this infographic. Interestingly, I haven’t read any of these books.
  • On My Shelf: Life and Books with Trevin Wax. Matt Smethurst interviews Trevin Wax about the books he is reading.
  • Female Brains and the Bestsellers List. Aimee Byrd reviews Beth Moore’s bestselling book Audacious.
  • The 2016 Reading Challenge. Tim Challies writes “Do you love to read? Do you want to learn to love to read? Do you enjoy reading books that cross the whole spectrum of topics and genres? Then have I got something for you! Whether you are a light reader or completely obsessed, this 2016 Reading Challenge is designed to help you read more and to broaden the scope of your reading.”
  • Plan Your 2016 Devotions with a Bible-Reading Calendar. Tim Challies has prepared a selection of Bible-reading calendars that may help you. The wall calendars display the entire year and show every day’s reading. There are 3 versions available, each of which will guide you through the entire Bible over the course of the year.

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 16, Let Your Light So Shine

    • The first thing to consider is why we as Christians should be like salt and light, and why we should desire to be so. It seems to me that our Lord has three main arguments there. The first is that, by definition, we were meant to be such.
    • But let us come to the second argument, which seems to me to be that our position becomes not only contradictory but even ridiculous if we do not act in this way. We are to be like `a city that is set on a hill’, and `a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid’. In other words, if we are truly Christian we cannot be hid.
    • They are more outside, in a sense, than the man who is entirely worldly and makes no claim or profession, because he at least has his own society. Of all people, then, these are the most pathetic and the most tragic, and the solemn warning which we have in this verse is the warning of our Lord against getting into such a state and condition.
    • God give us grace to take this solemn warning unto ourselves. A mere formal profession of Christianity is something that will ultimately always suffer that fate.
    • Perhaps we can sum it all up in this way. The true Christian cannot be hid, he cannot escape notice. A man truly living and functioning as a Christian will stand out. He will be like salt; he will be like a city set upon a hill, a candle set upon a candlestick.
    • The true Christian does not even desire to hide his light. He sees how ridiculous it is to claim to be a Christian and yet deliberately to try to hide the fact.
    • These comparisons and illustrations, then, are meant by our Lord to show us that any desire which we may find in ourselves to hide the fact that we are Christian is not only to be regarded as ridiculous and contradictory, it is, if we indulge it and persist in it, something which (though I do not understand the doctrine at this point) may lead to a final casting out.
    • That is the first statement. Let us now come to the second, which is a very practical one. How are we to ensure that we really do function as salt and as light?
    • Am I sure that I have the oil, the life that which the Holy Spirit of God alone can give to me? The first exhortation, then, must be that we must seek this constantly.
    • We so often tend to think that these gracious invitations of our Lord are something which are given once and for ever. He says, `Come unto me’ if you want the water of life, `Come unto me’ if you want the bread of life. But we tend to think that once and for ever we come to Christ and thereafter we have this permanent supply. Not at all. It is a supply that we have to renew; we have to go back and receive it constantly. We are to live in contact with Him, and it is only as we constantly receive this life from Him that we shall function as salt and as light.
    • But, of course, it not only means constant prayer, it means what our Lord Himself describes as `hungering and thirsting after righteousness’.
    • The second essential is the wick. We must attend to this also. To keep that lamp burning brightly the oil is not enough, you must keep on trimming the wick. That is our Lord’s illustration.
    • What does this mean in practice for us? I think it means that we constantly have to remind ourselves of the Beatitudes. We should read them every day. I ought to remind myself daily that I am to be poor in spirit, merciful, meek, a peacemaker, pure in heart, and so on. There is nothing that is better calculated to keep the wick in order and trimmed than just to remind myself of what I am by the grace of God, and of what I am meant to be. That, I suggest, is something for us to do in the morning before we start our day.
    • But not only are we to remind ourselves of the Beatitudes, we are to live accordingly. What does this mean? It means that we are to avoid everything that is opposed to this character, we are to be entirely unlike the world.
    • We are to be humble, peaceable, peacemaking in all our talk and behavior, and especially in our reactions to the behavior of other persons.
    • The last principle is the supreme importance of doing all this in the right way.
    • In other words, we are to do everything for God’s sake, and for His glory. Self is to be absent, and must be utterly crushed in all its subtlety, for His sake, for His glory.
    • It follows from this that we are to do these things in such a way as to lead other men to glorify Him, and glory in Him, and give themselves to Him.
    • In other words, in all our work and Christian living these three things should always be uppermost. We shall always do it for His sake and His glory. We shall lead men to Him and to glorify Him. And all will be based upon a love for them and a compassion for them in their lost condition.
    • We are to live in such a way that, as men and women look at us, we shall become a problem to them. They will ask, `What is it? Why are these people so different in every way, different in their conduct and behavior, different in their reactions? There is something about them which we do not understand; we cannot explain it.’ And they will be driven to the only real explanation, which is that we are the people of God, children of God, `heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ’. We have become reflectors of Christ, re-producers of Christ. As He is `the light of the world’ so we have become `the light of the world’.

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

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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BOOK REVIEWS

Book Reviews

A Well Ordered ChurchA Well-Ordered Church: Laying a Foundation for a Vibrant Church by William Boekestein and Daniel R Hyde. Evangelical Press. 190 pages. 2015
***

This book is written by two pastors about organizing and running a Reformed church based on principles from Scripture and Reformed Confessions. It is well-written, and will be most helpful to pastors and elders as they read and discuss how to be a “well-ordered church”.

The authors state that the goal of the book is to bring us back to the basics of ecclesiology, or, the biblical doctrine of the church. They include helpful discussion questions and resources for further reading at the end of each chapter. The discussion questions will aid in applying the information included in the chapter, and will be helpful as church leadership teams discuss the book.

As an elder in a Presbyterian Church in American (PCA) church, I read this book with particular interest. The authors organized the book into four categories:

  1. Identity. What is the church in general? Who are we as a church in particular?
  2. Authority. On a practical level, from whom do we as a church receive our marching orders? How does a church make decisions?
  3. Ecumenicity. How should one church relate to other churches?
  4. Activity. What is our mission? What should we as a church be doing?

As I read the book I was mentally comparing how we organize and run our church with what the authors were saying. A few thoughts that I found particularly helpful or challenging were the following:

  • Do the pastors, elders, and deacons regularly visit their members to check up on their spiritual and physical well-being?
  • A well-ordered church is a teaching church, a worshiping church, a witnessing church, and a repenting church.
  • Worship is the goal of the church’s mission.
  • A current trend is to allow contemporary culture rather than Scripture to determine the manner of the church’s worship. Ironically, God specifically warns against this.
  • The practice of removing children from the worship service is a relatively new invention reflective of our consumer-driven culture with its desire for choice and specialization.
  • Missionaries should not be accountable to a board or network but to the leaders of an organized church of Christ.
  • The priority of the mission of the church over that of para-church organizations should also impact the way congregants and congregations tithe. Honest para-church organizations tell their audience that their first responsibility is to give to the local church.
  • Unfortunately, for many churches and Christians, evangelism and missions is an appendix rather than a core component of their task.
  • Non-witnessing churches are definitely not well-ordered.
  • There are a million and one causes that your local church could be supporting; but our priority should be to fund ordained ministers planting churches. This means that our congregations need to be allocating a sizeable portion of our spending to foreign missions.
  • Many of us don’t witness because we lack a method.
  • The church is a reflection of God. When rebellion is permitted in the church of God, his reputation suffers.

The authors include an Appendix on Foundational Principles of Reformed Church Government.

I found this book to be helpful. As Michael Horton writes, all readers may not agree with everything presented in the book. However, where you don’t, you will be challenged from Scripture and historic Reformed Confessions as to why you might disagree.

 Discovering God's Will by Sinclair FergusonDiscovering God’s Will by Sinclair Ferguson. Banner of Truth. 128 pages. 1982.
****

A few months ago Banner of Truth finally announced that they would begin offering some of their excellent books in an e-book format. That was great news for me as I almost exclusively read e-books on Kindle, while also listening to audiobooks. Sinclair Ferguson is one of my favorite authors/preachers, and I’ve seen him at Ligonier Ministries National Conferences since 1997 and read several of his books. This one is well worth reading in any format.

This books is about guidance. Ferguson states:

“There are three particular areas in which we form patterns of life which largely determine the whole course of life. We form patterns of behaviour—a life-style. We decide which occupation and career we will pursue. We decide to marry or not to marry. To each of these areas of vital concern, I have devoted a chapter. You will find principles which, when conscientiously applied to your own circumstances, will keep you in the pathway along which God’s will may be discovered. To that extent I have tried to deal with practical issues.”

Ferguson writes that he has tried to convey that we learn about guidance primarily by learning about the Guide. It is the knowledge of God and His ways with men which ultimately gives us stability in doing his will. His prayer is that the book will provide the reader some help and clarification about how God will guide us and perhaps be granted illumination on the very areas of our lives which perplex us at the moment.

For a short book, I highlighted a significant number of passages. I would like to share some of them with you below:

  • The very idea that God guides us implies that we live according to the path which he has laid down, that our lives have a purpose in the present, as well as a destiny for the future.
  • There is, in fact, no more basic question for us to ask than this: Will this course of action tend to further the glory of God? Is the glory of God the driving principle of our actions? If we do not seek his glory, we cannot be walking in the way of his blessing. If we seek his glory, then we can be sure that we shall discover his light shed on our paths.
  • What does it mean that our lives should reflect his glory? It means likeness to Jesus. To live for the glory of God means to imitate Jesus. It means to live in dependence on the Holy Spirit who has been given to us with the specific function of bringing glory to Jesus in our lives (John 16:14). It means to live in dependence on the Holy Spirit who has been given to us with the specific function of bringing glory to Jesus in our lives (John 16:14). According to Ephesians 4:20-24, it means to live in righteousness and holiness.
  • If there is one critical issue we must face about divine guidance it is this one. Is Scripture our guide? Is Scripture ultimately ‘the only rule to direct us how we may glorify’ God?
  • How then does God make his will known to us? Primarily by teaching us about himself and our relationship to him. As we come to know the character of God, and his ways with men, we shall increasingly discover this wisdom—that is, the practical knowledge of his will and the ways in which it is to be put into action.
  • The chief need we have, therefore, is that of increased familiarity with and sensitivity to the wisdom of his Word.
  • Very often when young people say they are having problems about guidance, what they are really faced with is a problem about obedience. The issue at stake is whether we will walk along the paths of righteousness in which God will lead us.
  • The experience of discovering the will of God has two aspects to it. We have been considering some of the objective guidelines which Scripture provides. But there is also a subjective element in coming to know God’s will. After all, it is my life, not another’s, and my obedience, not another’s, which are involved in my coming to the conviction that one specific course of action is the Lord’s will for my life.
  • The point of contact between God’s revealed will and my personal obedience and walk in his will for my own life lies in the heart.
  • Before God, as we seek his guidance, there must be a developing harmony between our motivations to serve him, and a true condition of the heart. There must be fear and humility, and also obedience and trust.
  • How are we to walk worthy of God? Paul indicates that it is by living in a way that is consistent with his revealed character. To live in the will of God is to walk in love, to walk in light and to walk in wisdom.
  • The first characteristic of walking in the light is separation. The child of God will not become a partner in sin, nor with men in the pursuit of sin. The second characteristic—his life is identified by contrast. He was once darkness, but now he is light in the Lord!
  • There is no sincerity in our profession to want the will of God in our lives if we are not in tune with his will for personal holiness.
  • Few things are more common among those who complain that guidance has become a very frustrating thing for them than the failure to use the present opportunities God has given to them!
  • Guidance is the way in which God leads us as we think through the implications of his truth, and seek to find practical application of it in our lives. It involves using our minds to think through the path which God wants us to take in his service. It requires familiarity with Scripture, and fellowship with the Spirit, who alone knows the mind of God (1 Cor. 2:11-13).
  • Wherever we search in Scripture for teaching on the guidance of God, we invariably meet this combination. Guidance is supernatural; the will of God is made known to us spiritually. That is why we need to walk in the Spirit. But it is also made known to us through the Word. That is why we must walk intelligently in the Spirit.
  • No action which is contrary to the plain Word of God can ever be legitimate for the Christian. No appeal to spiritual freedom or to providential circumstances can ever make what is ethically wrong anything else but sinful. For the Christian is free only to love and obey the law of God. Therein lies his true freedom.
  • The question I must learn to ask is: Will it bring benefits, as far as I am able to judge, so that my relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ is strengthened? Will it draw me nearer to him? We are no longer speaking about whether a course of action is lawful for the Christian. We are considering only actions which are. But something which has a neutral influence on one person may be detrimental to another.
  • So the real question is: Can I take Christ there and look him in the face without shame? Is this course of action, this decision I am taking, totally consistent with my personal confession that ‘Jesus Christ is my Lord’?
  • We must not rest content with asking whether a course of action will be personally helpful. Will it have a like beneficial effect on others? Indeed, do I engage in it with a view to serving and helping them?
  • ‘What would Paul have done?’ ‘What would Christ himself have done?’. These are the questions we can now ask. Are there incidents, or is there teaching in Scripture, which can be applied to the situation in which I find myself?
  • Is it lawful? Is it helpful? Is it enslaving? Is it consistent with the Lordship of Christ? Is it helpful to others? Is it consistent with the example of Christ and the apostles? Is it for the glory of God? For that matter, am I living for the glory of God?
  • For the Christian the choice of a life-calling will be seen as one of the most important decisions he ever makes. It will determine many aspects of his life. It is essential therefore to be assured that we are doing the will of God.
  • There is no text in the Bible which tells you: This is what you are to do with your life. There are texts which say: These are things which you must not do. How then are we to arrive at the personal knowledge of God’s will?
  • We will never come to know and enjoy the will of the Lord, and find it good, perfect and acceptable until we first gain a true view of God and his fatherly character towards us.
  • If we are to marry, only God can bring us to the person we are to marry. There are principles enshrined in Scripture which will give stability, safety and wisdom to you as you contemplate the prospect, or possibility, of marriage.
  • For such people, there is a final word of biblical counsel. It has a wide application and is relevant to every Christian who longs to know the will of God. It is the one word: WAIT! Wait for the Lord!
  • We are sometimes unwilling to bow to the sovereign providences of God in our lives. We become bitter against him, and consequently refuse to wait for his leading. We become frustrated with God.
  • All impatience can be traced back to a disbelief in God’s ultimate goodness. That is why, if we are to appreciate the wisdom of God’s guidance, it is important for us to understand not only the nature of his guidance, but the character of the Guide himself. Trust him for his goodness, and we will trust him for his guidance!
  • God has his own place and time to act. He has his purposes to fulfil in us as well as his will to reveal to us.
  • The fact that we cannot see what God is doing does not mean that he is doing nothing. The Lord has his own timetable. It is we who must learn to adjust to it, not vice versa.
  • Do you not see that only in his will can you ever find the glory of God and the joy for which he created you? Will you not respond, and begin again to walk.

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Book Reviews and News

Discovering God's Will by Sinclair FergusonDiscovering God’s Will by Sinclair Ferguson. Banner of Truth. 128 pages. 1982.
****

This book is about guidance. Ferguson states: “There are three particular areas in which we form patterns of life which largely determine the whole course of life. We form patterns of behaviour—a life-style. We decide which occupation and career we will pursue. We decide to marry or not to marry. To each of these areas of vital concern, I have devoted a chapter. You will find principles which, when conscientiously applied to your own circumstances, will keep you in the pathway along which God’s will may be discovered. To that extent I have tried to deal with practical issues.”

Ferguson writes that he has tried to convey that we learn about guidance primarily by learning about the Guide. It is the knowledge of God and His ways with men which ultimately gives us stability in doing his will. His prayer is that the book will provide the reader some help and clarification about how God will guide us and perhaps be granted illumination on the very areas of our lives which perplex us at the moment.

For a short book, I highlighted a significant number of passages. I would like to share some of them with you below:

  • The very idea that God guides us implies that we live according to the path which he has laid down, that our lives have a purpose in the present, as well as a destiny for the future.
  • There is, in fact, no more basic question for us to ask than this: Will this course of action tend to further the glory of God? Is the glory of God the driving principle of our actions? If we do not seek his glory, we cannot be walking in the way of his blessing. If we seek his glory, then we can be sure that we shall discover his light shed on our paths.
  • What does it mean that our lives should reflect his glory? It means likeness to Jesus. To live for the glory of God means to imitate Jesus. It means to live in dependence on the Holy Spirit who has been given to us with the specific function of bringing glory to Jesus in our lives (John 16:14). It means to live in dependence on the Holy Spirit who has been given to us with the specific function of bringing glory to Jesus in our lives (John 16:14). According to Ephesians 4:20-24, it means to live in righteousness and holiness.
  • If there is one critical issue we must face about divine guidance it is this one. Is Scripture our guide? Is Scripture ultimately ‘the only rule to direct us how we may glorify’ God?
  • How then does God make his will known to us? Primarily by teaching us about himself and our relationship to him. As we come to know the character of God, and his ways with men, we shall increasingly discover this wisdom—that is, the practical knowledge of his will and the ways in which it is to be put into action.
  • The chief need we have, therefore, is that of increased familiarity with and sensitivity to the wisdom of his Word.
  • Very often when young people say they are having problems about guidance, what they are really faced with is a problem about obedience. The issue at stake is whether we will walk along the paths of righteousness in which God will lead us.
  • The experience of discovering the will of God has two aspects to it. We have been considering some of the objective guidelines which Scripture provides. But there is also a subjective element in coming to know God’s will. After all, it is my life, not another’s, and my obedience, not another’s, which are involved in my coming to the conviction that one specific course of action is the Lord’s will for my life.
  • The point of contact between God’s revealed will and my personal obedience and walk in his will for my own life lies in the heart.
  • Before God, as we seek his guidance, there must be a developing harmony between our motivations to serve him, and a true condition of the heart. There must be fear and humility, and also obedience and trust.
  • How are we to walk worthy of God? Paul indicates that it is by living in a way that is consistent with his revealed character. To live in the will of God is to walk in love, to walk in light and to walk in wisdom.
  • The first characteristic of walking in the light is separation. The child of God will not become a partner in sin, nor with men in the pursuit of sin. The second characteristic—his life is identified by contrast. He was once darkness, but now he is light in the Lord!
  • There is no sincerity in our profession to want the will of God in our lives if we are not in tune with his will for personal holiness.
  • Few things are more common among those who complain that guidance has become a very frustrating thing for them than the failure to use the present opportunities God has given to them!
  • Guidance is the way in which God leads us as we think through the implications of his truth, and seek to find practical application of it in our lives. It involves using our minds to think through the path which God wants us to take in his service. It requires familiarity with Scripture, and fellowship with the Spirit, who alone knows the mind of God (1 Cor. 2:11-13).
  • Wherever we search in Scripture for teaching on the guidance of God, we invariably meet this combination. Guidance is supernatural; the will of God is made known to us spiritually. That is why we need to walk in the Spirit. But it is also made known to us through the Word. That is why we must walk intelligently in the Spirit.
  • No action which is contrary to the plain Word of God can ever be legitimate for the Christian. No appeal to spiritual freedom or to providential circumstances can ever make what is ethically wrong anything else but sinful. For the Christian is free only to love and obey the law of God. Therein lies his true freedom.
  • The question I must learn to ask is: Will it bring benefits, as far as I am able to judge, so that my relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ is strengthened? Will it draw me nearer to him? We are no longer speaking about whether a course of action is lawful for the Christian. We are considering only actions which are. But something which has a neutral influence on one person may be detrimental to another.
  • So the real question is: Can I take Christ there and look him in the face without shame? Is this course of action, this decision I am taking, totally consistent with my personal confession that ‘Jesus Christ is my Lord’?
  • We must not rest content with asking whether a course of action will be personally helpful. Will it have a like beneficial effect on others? Indeed, do I engage in it with a view to serving and helping them?
  • ‘What would Paul have done?’ ‘What would Christ himself have done?’. These are the questions we can now ask. Are there incidents, or is there teaching in Scripture, which can be applied to the situation in which I find myself?
  • Is it lawful? Is it helpful? Is it enslaving? Is it consistent with the Lordship of Christ? Is it helpful to others? Is it consistent with the example of Christ and the apostles? Is it for the glory of God? For that matter, am I living for the glory of God?
  • For the Christian the choice of a life-calling will be seen as one of the most important decisions he ever makes. It will determine many aspects of his life. It is essential therefore to be assured that we are doing the will of God.
  • There is no text in the Bible which tells you: This is what you are to do with your life. There are texts which say: These are things which you must not do. How then are we to arrive at the personal knowledge of God’s will?
  • We will never come to know and enjoy the will of the Lord, and find it good, perfect and acceptable until we first gain a true view of God and his fatherly character towards us.
  • If we are to marry, only God can bring us to the person we are to marry. There are principles enshrined in Scripture which will give stability, safety and wisdom to you as you contemplate the prospect, or possibility, of marriage.
  • For such people, there is a final word of biblical counsel. It has a wide application and is relevant to every Christian who longs to know the will of God. It is the one word: WAIT! Wait for the Lord!
  • We are sometimes unwilling to bow to the sovereign providences of God in our lives. We become bitter against him, and consequently refuse to wait for his leading. We become frustrated with God.
  • All impatience can be traced back to a disbelief in God’s ultimate goodness. That is why, if we are to appreciate the wisdom of God’s guidance, it is important for us to understand not only the nature of his guidance, but the character of the Guide himself. Trust him for his goodness, and we will trust him for his guidance!
  • God has his own place and time to act. He has his purposes to fulfil in us as well as his will to reveal to us.
  • The fact that we cannot see what God is doing does not mean that he is doing nothing. The Lord has his own timetable. It is we who must learn to adjust to it, not vice versa.
  • Do you not see that only in his will can you ever find the glory of God and the joy for which he created you? Will you not respond, and begin again to walk.

A few months ago Banner of Truth finally announced that they would begin offering some of their excellent books in an e-book format. That was great news for me as I almost exclusively read e-books on Kindle, while also listening to audiobooks. Sinclair Ferguson is one of my favorite authors/preachers, and I’ve seen him at Ligonier Ministries National Conferences since 1997 and read several of his books. This one is well worth reading in any format.

Ulrich ZwingliUlrich Zwingli (Bitesize Biographies) by William Boekestein. Evangelical Press. 164 pages. 2015.
*** ½

I didn’t know too much about the Swiss Reformer Ulrich Zwingli’s life before reading this book, learning most of what I did know in a church history class with Dr. David Calhoun at Covenant Seminary several years ago. This entry in the Bitesize Biographies series from William Boekestein, an author and pastor in Pennsylvania, is a fast moving account of Zwingli’s important life and accomplishments.

The author writes that Zwingli’s battle was against the abuses of the Catholic Church, never against the church itself. Zwingli’s two sisters would become nuns and they would all eventually renounce the vows they had taken.

The author writes that in a certain sense the Swiss Reformation began in the University of Basel. As higher learning flourished, the abuses of the Catholic Church came under greater scrutiny.

Zwingli was ordained as a priest and read his first mass at Wildhaus in 1506. He added Greek and Hebrew to his knowledge of Latin and the Vulgate, a fourth century Latin translation of the Bible. He would become closely acquainted with Erasmus of Rotterdam.

He became pastor at Einsiedeln in 1516. Here he read the Church Fathers and hand-copied the Scriptures.   He also started preaching against the sale of indulgences, the worship of Mary and other papal abuses. Many scholars date the start of the Reformation in Switzerland in 1516, a year ahead of the German Reformation.

Zwingli was not only a religious leader, but a political one as well. He strongly opposed the concept of Swiss men serving as mercenary soldiers abroad.

Personally, Zwingli was suspected of having inappropriate intimate relationships with several women. He would unsuccessfully petition the bishop of Constance for permission to marry. He would eventually live in a secret marriage. Such secret marriages were sanctioned by the Catholic Church until they were outlawed by the Council of Trent (1545-1563).

He would then become pastor to the leading church in Zurich, one of the chief cities of the confederation, where he would begin verse-by-verse preaching. Eventually, the sermon would replace the mass in Zurich.   His preaching included denouncements of the monks, of the veneration of saints and of feast days. He raised questions about purgatory, the damnation of unbaptized children and excommunication. He would provide the Zurich City Council with advice about religious images used as objects of worship. He would work to reform the liturgy, removing the organs and Latin choirs. In 1525, a new Lord’s Supper liturgy would replace the mass. Later a new liturgy would replace the Catholic baptismal ceremony. By the middle of 1525 the Zurich church was no longer Catholic. The Zurich Protestants were now considered heretics.

The author details the Anabaptist controversy. The Anabaptists believed that Zwingli was failing to take his principles to their logical conclusion. Zwingli was now considered the conservative, while the Anabaptists were the revolutionaries.

He would be relieved of many of the routine duties of a priest so that he could devote himself to preaching and instructing the city in the evangelical faith.

The author reviews three Disputations in Zurich. Although Zwingli considered himself to be a conservative reformer, to his opponents he was a revolutionary. He would have threats on his life.

Zwingli did much writing (80 books and tracts in German and 59 in Latin), but the author states that he tended to write quickly and thus they are not as well done as Calvin, for instance. As an example, his Commentary on the True and False Religion was not revised over the years as Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion was.

I found the Lord’s Supper debate between Luther and Zwingli to be particularly interesting. I was familiar with the debate, but not that Luther considered Zwingli to be a notorious heretic. Boekestein writes “The conflict between Luther and Zwingli on the subject of the Lord’s Supper is one of the great disappointments of the Protestant Reformation”.

From 1530 until his death, Zwingli participated in more purely political affairs than he had previously. He was a trained fighter and had no misgivings about employing force to defend the gospel. The author states that he occasionally resorted to unbiblical use of force. Zwingli was killed in the second Kappel War. Zwingli’s successor would be Heinrich Bullinger, who would serve in Zurich for more than forty years.

The book includes no footnotes, which would have been helpful considering all of the information that the author presents. Zwingli’s Sixty-Seven Articles from 1523 are included as an appendix.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to learn more about the leaders of the Reformation.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a free review.

Book NewsWhy Not Gay Marriage? In this adaption of an appendix from his new book What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?, Kevin DeYoung challenges Christians to “Look past the talking points. Read up on the issues. Don’t buy every slogan and don’t own every insult. The challenge before the church is to convince ourselves as much as anyone that believing the Bible does not make us bigots, just as reflecting the times does not make us relevant.”

  • Daniel For You. In the latest book in the “For You” series from the Good Book Company, David Helm opens up the Old Testament book of Daniel showing how it is a book for all times, and particularly for times when our King and His kingdom feel so far away.
  • Free ESV Global Study Bible. Crossway is offering the new ESV Global Study Bible free of charge, accessible via a variety of digital platforms. In providing free access to the Global Study Bible, Crossway wants to equip the global church with theologically rich, gospel-centered content aimed at helping God’s people better understand the Bible and apply it to their own lives. This goal stands at the heart of Crossway’s mission as a not-for-profit ministry and reflects one of our ongoing global ministry initiatives.
  • John Piper on How John Owen Can Help Us Battle Sin and Temptation. Read John Piper’s foreword to John Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Temptationan unabridged modern scholarly edition of Owen’s trilogy with introductions, outlines, glossary, etc.