“Sex is Not the Problem (Lust Is)”: A Brief Book Review

 

This past Sunday I preached a sermon on the topic of lust and found Joshua Harris’ book, Sex is Not the Problem (Lust Is): Sexual Purity in a Lust-Saturated World, VERY helpful in my preparations. At this point I would say it’s the best contemporary treatment of the topic (check out the table of contents at Amazon). Here are a few quotes and what I appreciated about this book.

Harris addresses a couple misconceptions in one part. He writes,

“When it comes to lust, the greatest misconception about women is that they only deal with lust on an emotional level. Over the years many Christian books. . .have emphasized that men struggle with physical desire and guarding their eyes, while women deal with their emotions. But if these generalizations aren’t qualified, people might get the impression that women never struggle with lust as raw physical desire, or that their struggle against lust is less real. This just isn’t accurate. “Women have sex drives too!” a woman named Katie wrote me. “Believe me, as a twenty-two-year-old virgin, I know.” . . .

Another misconception that he addresses is that all men are monsters compared to women. Harris asks:

“Is a guys’ lust, which is blatant and obvious worse than a girl’s lust, which is more refined and subtle? [One girl who wrote Joshua Harris, thought otherwise when she described her so-called “harmless” female expressions of lust] “In the past year or so, I have realized just how much my mind is trained to lust over guys’ looks. Guys can be just as much objects of lust as women. if I could count how many movies my friends and I have gone to see simply because there was some cute celebrity in it, I’d be ashamed at the number. And then there are TV shows and magazine covers. Our whole culture thinks it’s perfectly normal for girls to drool over hot guys–in fact, it encourages it. I spent three years in high school being a fanatic of a certain boy band member who will remain nameless. I went to countless concerts, screaming and running up, trying anything to get closer to the stage. If that’s not lusting, I don’t know what is. I was reducing a guy’s worth down to only how physically attractive he was.” It’s not helpful to think that a girl who lusts as she watches romantic comedy is less disobedient than a guy who thrills over an R-rated movie that contains nudity. Both are indulging in lust. My point is that none of us should feel safe because our expressions of lust are culturally acceptable or civilized. I’m not saying this to excuse any man’s sin or let anyone off the hook. The point is not that guys aren’t so bad. The point is that all lust is bad. Apart from God’s grace working in us and changing us, we’re all monsters. Regardless of how lust is expressed, it’s motivated by a sinful desire for the forbidden. Lust is always based on the same lie–that satisfaction will be found apart from God.” (emphasis mine)

That said, we do in general (not as a hard and fast rule) tend to struggle with lust in different ways as men and women. Harris points out:

  • “A man’s sexual desire is often more physical, while a woman’s desire is more often rooted in emotional longings.”
  • A man is generally wired to be the sexual initiator and is stimulated visually; a woman is generally wired to be the sexual responder and is stimulated by touch.
  • A man is created to pursue and finds even the pursuit stimulating; a woman is made to want to be pursued and finds even being pursued stimulated.”

So you see, we tend to struggle with lust in complementary ways which is why it’s such a struggle for us all. Harris points out how we can both help each other in this fight.

He points out how lust is never satisfied and is a dead end street: “There is no such thing as “all the way” with lust. Ultimately, lust doesn’t want sex. It wants the forbidden, and it’s willing to take you deeper and deeper into perversion if you’ll indulge its latest request.”

He points out that the reason we are so unsuccessful in this battle against lust is because we’ve had the wrong standard, the wrong motive and the wrong source of power. We often lower God’s standard of holiness when God’s standard is “not even a hint” (cf. Eph. 5:3). When we have the right standard it rightly drives us outside of ourselves to look to Christ our Savior and to press on with the right motive (gratitude). It also drives us to our knees in dependence upon the Holy Spirit and to fight this battle in the strength of the Lord.

He writes:

“I’ve learned that I can only fight lust in the confidence of my total forgiveness before God because of Jesus’ death for me. My guilt and shame, even self-inflicted punishment, can never cleanse me. Even my good works can’t buy my forgiveness. I need a Savior. I need grace. Author Jerry Bridges says it best: “Every day of our Christian experience should be a day of relating to God on the basis of His grace alone,” he writes. “Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”

Another important thing he points out:

“If you ever expect to find victory over lust, you must believe with your whole heart that God is against your lust not because He is opposed to pleasure, but because He is so committed to it. In his book Future Grace, John Piper writes: We must fight fire with fire. The fire of lust’s pleasures must be fought with the fire of God’s pleasures. If we try to fight the fire of lust with prohibitions and threats alone— even the terrible warnings of Jesus— we will fail. We must fight it with the massive promise of superior happiness. We must swallow up the little flicker of lust’s pleasure in the conflagration of holy satisfaction.”

He also has a proper view of strategies in fighting against lust. As I said in my sermon strategies are important but we must always remember that they aren’t sacraments. They aren’t the means of grace. Strategies are how we live out the gospel in thankfulness and wisdom. A lot of contemporary books, sermons and conferences miss this today. I was thankful that Harris understands the proper place of strategies and keeps the Gospel and our union with Christ by the Spirit as central in this fight and holds out the superior satisfaction that we have in God through Christ.

So that’s what I really like about this book (and I still have to finish it!). But from what I have read so far it is definitely worth recommending for these reasons.

The Secret of Marriage

Recently I began, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God, by Timothy Keller, with Kathy Keller. So far it is really good. In the first chapter, “The Secret of Marriage,” after a thorough survey of the cultural landscape with regard to the institution of marriage in our day, here is what Keller has to say with regard to the secret of marriage (I quote at length because almost every paragraph in the last few pages was worthy of a highlight):

“If our views of marriage are too romantic and idealistic, we underestimate the influence of sin on human life. If they are too pessimistic and cynical, we misunderstand marriage’s divine origin. If we somehow manage, as our modern culture has, to do both at once, we are doubly burdened by a distorted vision. Yet the trouble is not within the institution of marriage but within ourselves. . .

In short, the “secret” is not simply the fact of marriage per se. It is the message that what husbands should do for their wives is what Jesus did to bring us into union with himself. And what was that? Jesus gave himself up for us. Jesus the Son, though equal with the Father, gave up his glory and took on human nature (Phil. 2:5ff). But further, he willingly went to the cross and paid the penalty for our sins, removing our guilt and condemnation, so that we could be united with him (Rom. 6:5) and take on his nature (2 Pet. 1:4). He gave up his glory and power and became a servant. He died to his own interests and looked to our needs and interests instead (Romans 15:1-3). Jesus’s sacrificial service to us has brought us into a deep union with him and he with us. And that, Paul says, is the key not only to understanding marriage but to living it. . .

If God had the gospel of Jesus’s salvation in mind when he established marriage [cf. Eph. 5:31-32], then marriage only “works” to the degree that approximates the pattern of God’s self-giving love in Christ. . .this is the secret–that the gospel of Jesus and marriage explain one another. That when God invented marriage, he already had the saving work of Jesus in mind. . .

The Christian teaching does not offer a choice between fulfillment and sacrifice but rather mutual fulfillment through mutual sacrifice. Jesus gave himself up; he died to himself to save us and make us his. Now we give ourselves up, we die to ourselves, first when we repent and believe the gospel, and later as we submit to his will day by day. Subordinating ourselves to him, however, is radically safe, because he has already shown that he was willing to go to hell and back for us. This banishes fears that loving surrender means loss of oneself. . .

On the one hand, the experience of marriage will unveil the beauty and depths of the gospel to you. It will drive you further into reliance on it. On the other hand, a greater understanding of the gospel will help you experience deeper and deeper union with each other as the years go on. . .

The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the kind of relationship that will really transform us. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.

The hard times of marriage drive us to experience more of this transforming love of God. But a good marriage will also be a place where we experience more of this kind of transforming love at a human level. The gospel can fill our hearts with God’s love so that you can handle it when your spouse fails to love you as he or she should. That frees us to see our spouse’s sins and flaws to the bottom–and speak of them–and yet still love and accept our spouse fullly. And when, by the power of the gospel, our spouse experiences that same kind of truthful yet committed love, it enables our spouses to show us that same kind of transforming love when the time comes for it.

This is the great secret! Through the gospel, we get both the power and the pattern for the journey of marriage!”

Great stuff! Can’t wait to read the rest of the book.

NOW ON KINDLE! “Planting, Watering, Growing: Planting Confessionally Reformed Churches in the 21st Century”

A great book on church planting is now on Kindle: Planting, Watering, Growing: Planting Confessionally Reformed Churches in the 21st Centuryedited by Shane Lems and Daniel R. Hyde.

Here is the publishers description:

“As a response to the unique challenges facing the twenty-first-century American church, church planting has become a popular topic. But at a time when churches that spread the seed of the Word through preaching, the sacraments, and prayer are greatly needed, much of the focus has been on planting churches that adapt pop culture to meet “consumer demand.”  In Planting, Watering,Growing, the authors of this collection of essays weave together theological wisdom, personal experiences, and practical suggestions, guiding readers through the foundations and methods of planting confessional churches that uphold the Word of God.”

Table of Contents:

Foreword: Was the Reformation Missions-Minded?—Michael S. Horton

Introduction—Daniel R. Hyde and Shane Lems

Part 1: The Foundation of Planting Churches

1     The Fruitful Grain of Wheat—Brian Vos

2     The Sovereign Spirit of Missions: Thoughts on Acts 16:6–10 and Church Planting—Daniel R. Hyde

3     The Reformed Confessions and Missions—Wes Bredenhof

4     No Church, No Problem?—Michael S. Horton

Part 2: The Methods of Planting Churches

5     Church Planting Principles from the Book of Acts—Daniel R. Hyde

6     Heart Preparation in Church Planting—Paul T. Murphy

7     Church Planting: A Covenantal and Organic Approach—Paul T. Murphy

8     Planning the Plant: Some Thoughts on Preparing to Plant a New Church—Kim Riddlebarger

Part 3: The Work of Planting Churches

9     On Being a Church Planter—Daniel R. Hyde

10     Being a Welcoming Church Plant—Kevin Efflandt

11     Flock and Family: A Biblical Balance—Shane Lems

12     Declare His Praise among the Nations: Public Worship as the Heart of Evangelism—Daniel R. Hyde

13     “How’s the Food?” The Church Plant’s Most Important Ingredient—Michael G. Brown

14     Church Membership and the Church Plant—Michael G. Brown

15     Shepherding Toward Maturity, Part 1: The Authority in Church Planting— Spencer Aalsburg

16     Shepherding Toward Maturity, Part 2: Identifying a Mature Church Plant— Spencer Aalsburg

17     Motivation: The Planting Church and the Planted Church—Eric Tuininga

Part 4: The Context of Planting Churches

18     Church Planting in a Melting Pot—Shane Lems

19     The Cultural Factor in Church Planting—Mitchell Persaud

20     Growing Contextually Reformed Churches: Oxymoron or Opportunity?—Phil Grotenhuis

21     Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?—Michael S. Horton

Epilogue—Daniel R. Hyde and Shane Lems

Appendix A Church-Plant Timeline: A Big and Brief Picture of a Plant—Daniel R.    Hyde and Shane Lems

Appendix B The Steering Committee—Spencer Aalsburg

Appendix C Guidelines for the Steering Committee—Spencer Aalsburg

Selected Bibliography

Contributors

Scripture Index

Confessions Index

About the Editors:

Daniel R. Hyde and Shane Lems are the church planters and pastors of the Oceanside United Reformed Church in Carlsbad/Oceanside, California, and United Reformed Church of Sunnyside in Sunnyside, Washington.

Contributors:

Michael S. Horton, Brian Vos, Wes Bredenhof, Paul T. Murphy, Kim Riddlebarger, Kevin Efflandt, Michael G. Brown, Spencer Aalsburg, Eric Tuininga, Mitchell Persaud, Phil Grotenhuis

Dealing With Unfulfilled Prayer

Here is a beautiful meditation on unfulfilled prayer from James and Joel Beeke in their book, Developing a Healthy Prayer Life: 31 Meditations on Communing With God. There are 31 chapters/meditations and each one is so short that it is a great daily devotional to read through in one month. This particular mediation on “Unfulfilled Prayer” is so good that I just have to quote the whole thing for your encouragement. It will also give you an idea for about how long each mediation is:

I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan. . .and the Lord said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter. . .Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold it with thine eyes: for thou shalt not go over this Jordan. (Deuteronomy 3:25a, 26b, 27)

For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)

Moses’ prayer was legitimate. After forty years of leading the children of Israel through all the trials, difficulties, and setbacks they encountered in the wilderness, he now longed to rejoice in God’s fulfillment; he desired to actually enter and see the land of Canaan. But the Lord denied his request because of his own act of anger and unbelief in smiting the rock twice. Though God forgave Moses, He said to him, “Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter.”

Paul’s request was also legitimate. He experienced a constant thorn in the flesh, a handicap or impediment, and he asked God to remove it. Perhaps Paul thought he could serve the Lord more effectively if it was gone. But God’s answer was, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness,” In Paul’s case, we read of no sin connected to God’s lack of response.

These are biblical examples that legitimate prayers, proper requests, and fitting petitions can remain unfulfilled. It is possible that our prayers for wayward sons of daughters, for more effective gifts to serve, or for the healing of a loved one remain unfulfilled. Legitimate prayers may remain unfulfilled prayers. Such experiences can hand as a cloud over our spiritual lives. Everything begins to look darker and feel colder. We can become depressed, coming to wrong conclusions like, “All my prayers are fruitless,” or “I must not be a child of God because my prayer is not answered.” Both of these conclusions are mistaken. Remember that despite these examples of unfulfilled prayers, Moses and Paul were true children of God and many of their prayers were answered.

If our prayers do not obtain the benefits we desire, this does not necessarily mean that they are fruitless. Unfulfilled prayer can serve as a means to produce far deeper and more valuable benefits than those we originally requested. Unfulfilled prayer can teach us patience and contentment, surrendering and bowing before God. Moses did not rebelliously ascend Mount Nebo to look despairingly at the land and resentfully to die there. No, God was glorified more by Moses’ response to his unfulfilled prayer than if it had been answered in the way he desired. Unfulfilled prayer can serve to exercise the soul and produce greater reliance upon God. Paul confessed, “When I am weak (in self), then am I strong (in the Lord)” (2 Cor. 12:10b). Whatever his thorn was, it kept him humble and dependent upon the Lord. Do you see how God provided richer experiences to Paul by not granting his request? The Lord can use unfulfilled prayer to work deeper fulfillment, rest, and trust in God. “My grace is sufficient for thee.” A craftsman will be more glorified when he produces beautiful art with imperfect tools. Unfulfilled prayer can serve to teach us humility and dependency, to trust more in God and less in self. Unfulfilled prayer can loosen our attachment to man and temporal things.

Do you understand how unfulfilled prayer can produce rich, fulfilling purposes? And how fruitless prayer can serve a fruitful purpose? The difficulty lies with our vision. We often have our eyes on more shallow, temporary results and fruits. God’s vision is deeper; he aims for eternal results and fruits. Moses’ eye and prayer were focused upon earthly Canaan, which God denied; from Mt. Nebo, however, God took him into the heavenly Canaan. Paul desired that his temporary thorn be removed, but God gave him grace to bear it, and in the end Paul entered God’s rest where all thorns are removed.

When considering unfulfilled prayers, let us remember that God’s “no’s” are often deeper “yes’s.” We may view unfulfilled prayer as receiving a no answer from God, but He may be providing deeper answers. The Lord can fulfill much through unfulfilled prayer, to His glory and to our amazement.” (pp. 70-72).

Charles Hodge: His Insecurities, His Zeal for the Lost, His Love for His Family

I have really been enjoying learning more about Charles Hodge (1797-1878) these days. I am reading Charles Hodge: The Pride of Princeton, by W. Andrew Hoffecker. I am about a third of the way through the book and so far I love it. I have learned about his family background, his childhood, his days in college and seminary and the beginnings of his professorship at Princeton. Right now in the book he is on a two year leave from Princeton to further his education in France and Germany. In his first year of teaching he felt insecure about his abilities. He felt like he was barely ahead of his students in his knowledge of Hebrew and Greek. He also felt like he needed to learn French and German so that he could keep up with the theological scholars in France and Germany (who were increasingly liberal) and teach his students how to respond to liberal attacks on the Christian Faith. One of the things I love about reading Christian biographies is seeing a different side of some of the great heroes of the faith with which God has blessed the church. As towering as these figures can be in their accomplishments, we can easily forget that they are still very much like you and me. They are real people with families of their own and they all struggle with insecurities, doubts, depression, sin, persecution, and many other enemies within and without. Being only a third of the way through the book, three things have stood out to me in this regard so far.

1. His Insecurities

As I have already mentioned he had insecurities as a professor, especially when he first began. He once wrote “I look forward to a pretty severe term, I must keep before my students or they will find it [i.e., his inadequacies] out” (p. 74). He also wrote to his brother that he was at “a very serious disadvantage” and “incompetent” in his teaching (p. 75). As students we often have great respect for and stand in awe of our professors. We often complain to them about the work load they give us and say things like, “but you don’t understand what I’m going through.” We also have our own insecurities. But just because they don’t share their struggles with us doesn’t mean they don’t have hardships in their life and insecurities of their own. We must remember that they are real people too and pray for and be patient with them.

In addition to his insecurities about his abilities compared to the students he was teaching, he also struggled to win his mom’s approval. His father died when he was an infant so he was raised only by his mother with the help of the local church. His mother gave him a good Christian upbringing, taking him to church every Sunday and carefully drilling him and his brother in the Westminster Catechism. She also worked hard to make ends meet. Hoffecker lists all the things she did for her boys in this regard, a pretty impressive list. And Hodge summarized his debt to his mother as “beyond all estimate.” But Hodge struggled to earn his mom’s approval. Hoffecker writes, “Hodge rose to the demands of graduate study by adopting a rigorous schedule. Perhaps in response to his mother’s low estimation of his work ethic, Hodge opened a letter of January 11, 1817 with the defensive comment “I am not quite so lazy here as I am when at home.” He mentioned that he had awakened with the prayer bell and been up an hour before beginning his letter at 8 a.m.” (p. 48). Also, when he was thinking about going to Europe to further his studies he wrote to his brother, “I shall as usual have a great deal to say for myself and satisfy Mother if I can’t you” (p. 76).

What I want to point out from this is that we can easily look at our pastors and other mentors in the faith and think that they “have it all together,” and that they don’t struggle like we do. But Hodge himself struggled with acceptance, approval, validation, etc. I recently preached on why justification is a universal desire that we all long for and that our justification before God, our Creator, which is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone, is the only justification/approval/acceptance/validation that will ultimately satisfy us and free us from making an idol of the praise of men. I struggle with this, you struggle with this and Hodge struggled with this as well. The doctrine of justification was no doubt a comforting doctrine for him, just as much as it is for you and me.

2. His Zeal for the Lost

A common caricature of Calvinism is that Calvinists don’t care about evangelism. But this is just that, a caricature. It’s true of Hyper-Calvinism, but not genuine Calvinism. The Canons of Dort (1619), which is the historic confessional document of the Reformed churches in response to the Arminian Remonstrants, says this, “Moreover, the promise of the gospel is that whosoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel” (Canons of Dort, 2.5).

Hodge believed this and demonstrated it in his life. Hoffecker writes, “Following licensing to preach by the presbytery, Hodge sermonized twice each Sunday for thirty weeks from October 24, 1819 until May 20, 1820” (p. 58). In a footnote explaining this point he says, “Hodge preached in the mornings first at the Falls of Schuylkill and later at Cohocksink, a mission station, and at the United States Arsenal at Frankford in the afternoons.” Also, on his voyage to Europe for rigorous theological training and language studies, Hoffecker writes,”On the first Sunday in the voyage, he preached to all English-speaking passengers, though he lamented that the majority did not give “the slightest indication that it was the day of God.” Shades of his earlier missionary work!” (p. 84). Although Hodge was a staunch Calvinist and Old School Presbyterian, he also had a burden for the lost and declared the gospel “promiscuously and without distinction” to all.

3. His Love for His Family

I don’t admire revered pastors, theologians and missionaries of the past who neglected their family in the process. Paul says that one of the qualifications of an elder in Christ’s church is that he must care for his own family first (1 Tim. 3:4-5). Even though Hodge ended up having to go to Europe for two years alone, he and his wife considered all the options and tried to make it so that they could be with him. But in the end he went alone. However, Hodge was a family man and maintained intimate ties with his family through regular correspondence through letters (too bad they didn’t have Skype back then!). Hoffecker writes, “The contents of Charles and Sarah’s correspondence reveal their ardent affection for each other and the preeminent place of family in their lives” (p. 84). His correspondence with his wife through letters substantiate this claim. I quote Hoffecker at length here because this is so good. In his first letter, Hoffecker records for us,

“Hodge commented that no women or children were on board to remind him of his wife: “if you  were with me my heavy heart would be light.” Expressing his affection and piety but forgetting the difference in time zones that would separate them in days ahead, he proposed a means of maintaing connection with each other: “Dearest we can meet at the throne of God–meet me there at 10, at 1 and 9 o’clock if only for a few minutes or only in heart, every day.” A few days later he wrote, “My eye is not always dry when it turns westward. Keep youself occupied and keep your heart my dear Sarah in the work of God and you will be happy. Tho your husband be thousands of miles from you, I hope you remember our appointments.” Hodge’s love for details led him to urge Sarah to be more specific in her letters to him: “I wish my dear that you would be more particular in telling me your feelings, whether you are happy and contended, you may suppose that this is a subject on which I feel deeply anxious and upon which you may not enter too much into detail. . .A record of every work and look and action I could read and read again and again with ceaseless pleasure.

Both Charles and Sarah devoted extended paragraphs to their children. In his first letter, Hodge commented on the value of keepsakes in his possession: “I have a lock of your hair and one of dear Alexander’s but none of sweet Mary. I would be exceedingly gratified to be able to receive one of her little curls.” Sarah habitually commented on details of the children’s lives that would endear them to their father. On October 12 she penned, “AA  is a very good child, as amiable as he can be and today mastered some of the sounds. ‘Don’t you want me to write now, Mother, to dear Father?'” Two weeks later she wrote, “I wish I could share with you the comfort of our sweet dear children that I could waft to you some of the silver sounds that so constantly salute my ears and some of the cherub kisses that so frequently find their way to my lips. AAH [their son] has just sent you a kiss on the spot on which his name is written.” A circle on the page marked the spot where Alexander had kissed the paper. The pages of some letters separated at the seams where they were folded because Hodge opened and closed them so many times after he received them. The affection with which Sarah expressed herself portrayed the children and their home life in his absence led Charles to fulfill his promise to submerge himself in her letters” (pp. 84-85)

Hoffecker goes on to write another touching glimpse into Hodge’s family life:

“Hodge’s intense interest in and attention to his children not only emerged in this early correspondence but resurfaced in later sections of LCH [A.A. Hodge’s biography of his father]. His son describes how his father facilitated contacts with his children on an everyday basis in the construction of the study in his home. One door opened to the outside where seminary students could enter. But another interior door to the rest of the home had no latch but only springs. Thus even the smallest members of the family always had easy access to their father. Children remembered hearing their father sing hymns as he paced in his study and family worship in which everyone gathered about their father” (p. 85).

Like I said, I am loving this biography so far! I can’t wait to read the rest of it and I highly recommend it.

Best Intro to Covenant Theology: Biblical, Concise, Comforting, Practical

Yesterday I wrote my first review for a book at Amazon. The book is Sacred Bond: Covenant Theology Explored, by Michael G. Brown and Zach Keele. Here is what I wrote:

As a pastor of a church, and a lifelong student of the Bible, I am always looking for books that summarize the message of the Bible well and apply it to everyday life. This book does just that! In the words of Brown and Keele, “covenant is the very fabric of Scripture. It is God’s chosen framework for the Bible.” If you don’t understand what a covenant is and how the word is used in the Bible you will have a hard time understanding the Bible and how God creates and redeems people. In “Sacred Bond: Covenant Theology Explored,” pastors Michael Brown and Zach Keele offer, in my opinion, the best introduction to covenant theology that is out there today. They write as pastors in a way that is fresh, contemporary, practical, and yet is faithful to what the Bible teaches. Even though I went to seminary and have studied this issue quite a bit, I learned a few new things, and especially how to better articulate covenant theology (i.e. the Bible) in a way that people will understand today.

After a very thoughtful and well researched introduction on what a covenant is and why you should care, they walk through the following covenants in each chapter: the covenant of redemption, the covenant of works, the covenant of grace, the covenant of common grace, the Abrahamic covenant, the Mosaic covenant, the Davidic covenant, and the new covenant. In each chapter they have a brief introduction that connects each covenant with things in today’s world (e.g. movies about cataclysmic disasters, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Royal Weddings), then they develop a definition of that covenant (taking into consideration its use in the history of theology), give the Biblical support for the covenant and then conclude each chapter with practical applications for today. I believe that almost anyone would be able to understand each chapter and how comforting and practical each of these covenants are for the Christian life. Furthermore, if you read this book you will better understand the overall message of the Bible and you will be better equipped to share the Christian faith with others. At just 150 pages it took me only about 1-2 weeks to read it. It also has discussion questions at the end of each chapter which are great for personal reflection and/or a small group study or a Sunday school class. I plan to purchase multiple copies for my church and I highly recommend this book to all!

“Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault”

I have been reading this book on sexual assault and am about half way through it. But from what I have read so far it is a must read book for those who have been victims of sexual assault and for all Christians (especially pastors and those who counsel). It is Gospel-centered, Christ-centered, written from a Reformed perspective, well researched, gives testimonies from victims, describes the pain that they go through with genuine compassion, and is filled with hope of healing and restoration in Christ. I have learned a lot from reading it. You can order it here. (By the way, the quote from John Calvin in the post below and this one from Geerhardus Vos I got from the book.)

Also, here is some more info on the book:

A book review in the most recent issue of the Journal of Biblical Counseling.

A shorter book review at the Mockingbird blog.

Various blog posts by the authors of the book on the same topic.

“The Freudom of the Christian”

I’m enjoying reading Dr. Carl Trueman’s latest book Fool’s Rush In Where Monkey’s Fear to Tread: Taking Aim at Everyone. It’s really just a “pithy collection of the best of Carl Trueman’s articles on culture and the church” taken from previous blog posts at Reformation 21. So far each chapter/article has been very insightful, entertaining, and humorous. The two chapters I just read were really supberb. Here are links and samples to each:

Pro-Choice not Pro-Options

“In short, it should be a matter of concern that we live in a world where the very values which seem increasingly to dominate our society – extended adolescence and the love of choice combined with the dislike of the responsibility of actually making choices – are those which will erode the very qualities that make good leaders: maturity and a willingness to make the hard decisions.”

The Freudom of the Christian

His conclusion: “This is where real Christian freedom lies: in the realization that we can do nothing to effect our own salvation; that Christ has done it all for us; and that we are therefore able to give ourselves freely and unconditionally in sacrificial service of others. The same thing, the life, death and resurrection of Christ, is what makes it possible for me to drink beer and without endangering my soul; but that is a collateral bonus of spiritual freedom and not a significant function of my spiritual maturity. It is also the same thing which motivates me not to make Christianity a laughing stock and an embarrassment through the use of foul language. Real Christian freedom is rather more to do with service of others than self-indulgence in any area of my life. The church needs more Christian freedom and much, much less Christian Freudom.”

I highly recommend this book and/or reading Carl Trueman’s blog (just look for the posts by him). I’ll try to post more links and summaries in the future.