In Christ Alone – Book Review

Recommended Reading: “In Christ Alone – Living the Gospel Centered Life” presents a collection of short articles written by Sinclair B. Ferguson over the last 20 years or so. Although you can find most of the work in back issues of Eternity Magazine and Tabletalk, having the 50 chapter 256 page volume of Ferguson’s work provides theologically sound rich devotional material in a nice hardback Reformation Trust binding.

Sinclair Ferguson serves as pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina.

What’s So Great About the Doctrines of Grace?

 What's So Great About the Doctrines of Grace? by Rev. Richard D. Phillips

Last year I reviewed Richard Philips’ book, “Jesus the Evangelist. I just read his latest work, “What’s So Great About the Doctrines of Grace.” I highly recommend the book, even though I don’t particularly care for the unfortunate title. Usually the line, “What’s so great about…” expresses cynicism and Philips endeavors to do the exact opposite. A better title would have been “The Great Doctrines of Grace,” or “The Thrilling Doctrines of Grace” or some other fitting adjective.

Philips explains and exalts over the doctrines of grace, commonly referred to as “the five points of Calvinism.” He opens the book with his main theme:

I LOVE THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE. I love them as doctrines, that is, as biblical teachings that are sublime and wonderful beyond all human expectation. There can hardly be thrills greater to the mind than those produced by the central doctrines of the Reformed faith. But I especially love these doctrines because of their marvelous theme: the sovereign grace of God for unworthy sinners. For even greater than their enlightening effect on the mind, the doctrines of God are utterly transforming to the believing heart. To love the doctrines of grace is to love God as He has revealed Himself in His Word. He is “the God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10), and unless we anchor our faith in the fullness of grace taught in Scripture, we will never glorify God for our salvation as He so richly deserves.

Later, in speaking of the purpose of the book, he adds:

This purpose is to help believers feel the power of these precious truths in their lives. In other words, I aim not merely to teach the doctrines of grace, but to show what is so great about them. And how great they are! If we really believe the Bible’s teaching on the sovereign, mighty, and effectual grace of God, these doctrines not only will be dearly beloved, they will exercise a radical influence on our entire attitude toward God, ourselves, the present life, and the life to come.

Philips accomplishes his goal by spending one chapter for each of the five points and begins with an overarching treatment of the sovereignty of God. These six chapters explain theological truth in a manner that communicates practical application to the life of the believer. Non-Calvinists often criticize discussions of the doctrines of grace as being cold calculated systematic theology irrelevant in the day-to-day life of the believer. Philips explodes this erroneous notion by boldly drawing the lines between deep theology, high worship, and wide expansive application to Christian discipleship.

Disciplines of a Godly Man

 Disciplines of a Godly Man

With Father’s Day this Sunday, let me highly recommend the book, “Disciplines of a Godly Man” by R. Kent Hughes. Saturated with biblical wisdom, Hughes calls men to godliness in their relationships, soul, character, and ministry. He overviews 17 areas of a mans life, purity, marriage, fatherhood, friendship, mind, devotion, prayer, worship, integrity, tongue, work, perseverance, church, leadership, giving, witness, and ministry. Each chapter stands alone and serves as a great introduction to the particular discipline. Its a field guide to practical Christian living from a masculine perspective. Every Christian man would benefit from the book. It would also work great to facilitate small group discussion.

Young, Restless, Reformed

Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists -

This week I enjoyed reading Collin Hansen’s book, Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalists’ Journey with the New Calvinists.” As one of the editors at Christianity Today, Hanson chronicles the new movement among young evangelicals who recoil from the superficiality of the postmodern church and run to the depth of authentic theological grounding they find in the God-rich soil of reformation thought.

Hanson’s seven chapters cover the Passion Conference, John Piper, Jonathan Edwards, Southern Seminary and the SBC Founders, Sovereign Grace, the New Attitude Conference, and Mark Driscoll. He peppers in conversations with every-day guys influenced by the resurgence. He closes the work with:

For nearly two years, I traveled across the country and talked with the leading pastors and theologians of the growing Reformed movement. I sat’ in John Piper’s den, Al Mohler’s office, C. J. Mahaney’s church, and Jonathan Edwards’s college. But the backbone of the Reformed resurgence comprises ordinary churches like those I saw in South Dakota — churches used by God to do extraordinary things. Armed with God’s Word and transformed by the Holy Spirit, these churches’ leaders faithfully proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ week after week, through tragedy and triumph. Culture has conspired to give their message a wider audience. Desire for transcendence and tradition among young evangelicals has contributed to a Reformed resurgence.

Contrary to the rumors, I’m not quite as young as the focus group of the book, so I’ve never attended a Passion or New Attitude conference, but I resonate with the revival of the doctrines of grace in my own life. I read hints of my own autobiography in the book, but I’ll save my story for another day. If you are young, restless, or reformed, and particularly if you are all three, you will probably enjoy this book.

btw, Mike Corley interviewed Collin Hansen last week. Great show.

The Truth of the Cross – R. C. Sproul

The Truth of the Cross

R. C. Sproul’s latest book, “The Truth of the Cross” provides an in depth overview of Christ’s atoning work for sinners. He explains, in his characteristic clarity, why the atonement is necessary for sinners, how Christ stands as the only suitable and sufficient substitute willing and able to take in the curse for guilty humans who lay estranged from a holy God.

I love the way Sproul can communicate rich and complex theological truths in unclouded and concise language that, as Bruce Walkie notes, even a seventh-grader can grasp. For example, consider his treatment of the sometimes confusing understanding of the ransom motif, that I posted yesterday.

The Truth of the Cross” would serve as an excellent resource for believers at any level. For new believers, it gives a rich introduction to the core Christian doctrine of the atonement. For mature believers, it serves as a wonderful reminder of Christ accomplishment on their behalf. As I read it, I also caught myself thinking that the book would serve as an excellent evangelistic tool. Too often we relegate evangelism to small little snippet tracts that seek to present the gospel in the fewest number of words possible. While those resources prove helpful, we should also add to our arsenal fuller treatments of the gospel for individuals bombarded with anemic Christianity.

The gospel saturated “Truth of the Cross” provides a rich presentation of Christ’s work. At only 166 pages, its not too long to intimidate casual readers, but long enough to pack in a wealth of gospel content. buy and read a copy for yourself, and several more to pass along to friends – believers and unbelievers alike.

Vintage Jesus

Vintage Gesus

Last week I received my signed hard copy of Vintage Jesus in the mail. I had preordered the book and received a pdf from Crossway, so I’ve already read it, but I wanted to spend a second today writing a quick review. Bottom line – I like Mark Driscoll. He has become one of my favorite preachers to listen to. I know that makes me a target for criticism, because Driscoll stirs up a bit of controversy whenever his name drops into a conversation. Whatever folks may say about his Seattle style, he holds to a rock solid theology, demonstrates a passion for the gospel, and possesses an ability to communicate it in grass roots gritty language that makes sense.

The book, Vintage Jesus, serves as a Christology 101 to an American Idol culture. Here is a taste from the opening pages:

Roughly two thousand years ago Jesus was born in a dumpy, rural, hick town, not unlike those today where guys change their own oil, think pro wrestling is real, find women who chew tobacco sexy, and eat a lot of Hot Pockets with their uncle-daddy. Jesus’ mom was a poor, unwed teenage girl who was mocked for claiming she conceived via the Holy Spirit. Most people thought she concocted a crazy story to cover the “fact” she was knocking boots with some guy in the backseat of a car at the prom. Jesus was adopted by a simple carpenter named Joseph and spent the first thirty years of his life in obscurity, swinging a hammer with his dad.

Around the age of thirty, Jesus began a public ministry that included preaching, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and befriending social misfits such as perverts, drunks, and thieves. Jesus’ ministry spanned only three short years before he was put to death for declaring himself to be God. He died by shameful crucifixion like tens of thousands of people before and after him.

At first glance, Jesus’ resume is rather simple. He never traveled more than a few hundred miles from his home. He never held a political office, never wrote a book, never married, never had sex, never attended college, never visited a big city, and never won a poker tournament. He died both homeless and poor.

Nonetheless, Jesus is the most famous person in all of human history. More songs have been sung to him, artwork created of him, and books written about him than anyone who has ever lived. In fact, Jesus looms so large over human history that we actually measure time by him; our calendar is divided into the years before and after his birth, noted as B.C. (“before Christ”) and a.d. (anno Domini, meaning “in the year of the Lord”), respectively.

No army, nation, or person has changed human history to the degree that Jesus, the homeless man, has. Some two thousand years after he walked the earth, Jesus remains as hot as ever. In fact, as Paul promised in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, the opinions about Jesus are countless in seemingly every area of culture.

On television, Jesus often appears on the long-running animation hits The Simpsons and South Park. Jesus also appears in the comedic sketches of vulgar comic Carlos Mencia’s hit show Mind of Mencia, which explores everything from what it would have been like for Jesus to be married to his involvement in a royal religious wrestling rumble with the founders of other major world religions. Dog the Bounty Hunter, the famous Christian bail bondsman, prays to Jesus on almost every episode of his hit television show, gathering his wife in her clear heels and the rest of their chain-smoking, mace-shooting, criminal-pursuing, mullet-wearing posse to ask Jesus to bless each manhunt.

In the world of fashion, Jesus appears on numerous T-shirts, including the popular “Jesus is my homeboy” shirt, worn by everyone from Madonna to Ashton Kutcher, Ben Affleck, Brad Pitt, and Pamela Anderson.

Driscoll goes on from there walking through pop-culture and the various views of Jesus from the orthodox to the outlandish; but then he shifts gears to give a solid Biblical
picture of the person and work of Jesus. I did not do a comparative point by point analysis, but he covers pretty much everything you will find in chapters 26-29 of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. He outlines the work under a dozen questions:

  1. Is Jesus the Only God?
  2. How Human Was Jesus?
  3. How Did People Know Jesus Was Coming?
  4. Why Did Jesus Come to Earth?
  5. Why Did Jesus’ Mom Need to Be a Virgin?
  6. What Did Jesus Accomplish on the Cross?
  7. Did Jesus Rise from Death?
  8. Where Is Jesus Today?
  9. Why Should We Worship Jesus?
  10. What Makes Jesus Superior to Other Saviors?
  11. What Difference Has Jesus Made in History?
  12. What Will Jesus Do upon His Return?

Driscoll hits these questions from a biblical perspective with loads of scripture references in his trade-mark edgy style. Easily offended Christians who believe the seven deadly sins include getting a tattoo, reading from a Bible translation other than the KJV, riding a motorcycle, laughing out loud, downloading classic rock to your ipod, or wearing blue jeans to church, will probably not enjoy this book. For everyone else, the book offers a fresh look at the biblical historical human divine real Jesus from an angle you may not have considered before. I’ve been recommending this book to many of my friends, especially those born during the Reagan administration.

Check out the Vintage Jesus web site for more info about the book and authors, desktop backgrounds, sound clips, endorsements, and to order your copy.