SALE: What is the Gospel?

Westminster Bookstore has an awesome deal on Greg Gilbert’s “What is the Gospel?”—up to 65% OFF (case quantity), or get single copies for 50% OFF! This book is a great for evangelism and outreach, as a gift for new believers, or even for mature Christians who want to bask in the glory of the gospel. Click the image or links for more information.

For more on this subject, please visit 9Marks.

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Get R.C. Sproul’s “1–2 Peter: Be All the More Diligent to Make Your Calling and Election Sure” (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) for 60% OFF at Westminster Bookstore

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Ligonier Connect is offering FREE web courses on Worldview, Apologetics, and Philosophy

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Heath Lambert on the situations, seasons, and accountability in balancing family and ministry

William Boekestein on the means of grace and spiritual growth

Paul Tripp on walking with gentleness and tenderly restoring others

Evangelicals increasingly unwelcome on American university campuses

Check out the super bargain book deals at P&R Publishing

“Why should my heart be fixed where my home is not?” (Richard Baxter)

“Truth demands confrontation; loving confrontation, but confrontation nevertheless.” (Francis Schaeffer)

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Get William Edgar’s “Schaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural Spirituality” for 50% OFF at Westminster Bookstore

Get John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress” and Leland Ryken’s “A Christian Guide to Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress” for just $15 at Westminster Bookstore

Download R.C. Sproul’s “5 Things Every Christian Needs to Grow” for FREE from Reformation Trust and Ligonier Ministries

Get Timothy Witmer’s “The Shepherd Leader at Home: Knowing, Leading, Protecting, and Providing for Your Family” for only 99¢ for Amazon Kindle

Get Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert’s “Preach: Theology Meets Practice” for only $2.99 for Amazon Kindle

Get James Boice and Philip Ryken’s “14 Words from Jesus” for only $2.99 for Amazon Kindle

Enter to win an autographed copy of Brian Hedges’ “Active Spirituality”

Get Walter Brueggemann’s “Spirituality of the Psalms” for FREE for Logos Bible Software and enter to win the 24-volume collection

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Download a FREE copy of Iain Duguid’s “Is Jesus in the Old Testament?” from Westminster Bookstore

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William Schweitzer on the Insider Movement and evangelizing to Muslims

Trevin Wax with 36 notable Southern Baptists (the good, the bad, and the ugly)

Mark Jones offers a Trinitarian theology of assurance of salvation

Kevin DeYoung advises those in social networking to think before posting

“A right doctrine of providence results in a relentless devotion to prayer.” (David Platt)

“If Jesus Christ isn’t strong enough to motivate you to live biblically, you don’t know Him at all.” (Paul Washer)

Please take the time to browse the other pages on this site. You’ll find several articles, book reviews and recommendations, and even some FREE e-books. Check out the Systematic Theology page or Biblical Theology page first. Soli Deo Gloria!

SALE: The Pilgrim’s Progress

Crossway‘s 2009 edition of John Bunyan’s classic “The Pilgrim’s Progress” is now available for the excellent price of $15 at Westminster Bookstore. Even better, they’re throwing in a FREE copy of Leland Ryken’s “Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress” from the Christian Guides to the Classics series (valued at $5.99)!

For more on Bunyan and “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” please visit Chapel Library

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Review: Active Spirituality

There has been a lot of talk over the past several months about the role of works within the context of the gospel. Much confusion has come about by those who promote antinomianism (licentious inactivity disguised as “grace” that is accompanied by a blatant disregard for the Law) as well as legalism (salvation is not by grace alone, but justification is attained by effort). “Active Spirituality: Grace and Effort in the Christian Life” by Brian Hedges is a timely book that seeks to provide a biblical framework for Christians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). I’m thankful for my friends at Cross Focused Reviews for giving me the opportunity to review this book from Shepherd Press.

This is the first book by Hedges that I have read, though “Christ Formed in You: The Power of the Gospel for Personal Change” and “Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin” are on my ever-increasing “to-read” list (I have the Kindle version of the former). I am grateful for brother Hedges’ labors for the gospel and the practical resources he has provided for the Church.

“Active Spirituality” is not written as a basic theology book, but as a series of letters to a young Christian. It was refreshing to see this format in a book that deals with a few challenging topics. As someone who spends much of his time reading systematic theology or biblical theology, it was nice to see a different approach to theology by utilizing this genre. In my opinion, the use of fictional correspondence helps capture the pastoral heart of the author and helps to emphasize the overall message of the book.

In these letters, Hedges interacts with a new convert who is pondering the Christian life. He covers topics like assurance of salvation, the necessity of the local church, the perseverance of the saints, repentance, self-examination, and spiritual weariness (amongst others). While offering pastoral insight into texts such as Philippians 2, Romans 7, and the warnings in the book of Hebrews, he pulls from a wide variety of sources like Augustine, Bunyan, Owen, Ryle, Edwards, and Lewis to assist him in shepherding this young Christian who is seeking to live for God’s glory.

Overall, any disagreements I have with the book are hair-splitting objections to how something was worded, or knee-jerk reactions to his interpretation of a passage (that he has undoubtedly spent more time studying). While I am not particularly fond of some of the sources he cited, he refers to Bunyan and Owen quite frequently (which I applaud), and does an excellent job synthesizing references. Hedges is also great at creating illustrations from a number of different stories and genres. Unfortunately, this book has no footnotes or Scripture index, but there is a helpful “Notes on Sources” appendix as well as a bibliography.

“Active Spirituality” is a useful little book for people who have recently embraced Christ as their Savior and King. Helping to navigate through the various challenges that await Christians in this life, the author provides pastoral care and concern throughout and offers wise biblical counsel to someone that needs guidance in their sojourn to the celestial city. This is a title that I would use in discipling new believers, and I’ll continue to dip into for it’s practicality and vast bibliography. Hedges has done the Church a service by giving us an easy-to-read and immensely practical book about the balance between grace and effort.

For more on this subject, please visit the Pastoral Theology page.

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Effective December 1, 2009, Federal Trade Commission guidelines state that bloggers receiving any kind of compensation should disclose that information clearly on their blog when posting a review of the product… that being said: I RECEIVED A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK.

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Enter to win a stack of books by Matthias Media from 20 Schemes and The Philip Center

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Nick Batzig on the third use of the law and the finished work of Christ

10 things older church leaders need to hear from young church leaders

R.C. Sproul Jr.’s list of 10 fiction books for home school teenagers

Preaching in order to whet peoples appetite for the Word of God

Jesus and His Church are the best help for the poor

Richard Barcellos on the Lord’s Supper as a means of grace

“It is far more important, and will do you far more good, to read a smaller number of Christian books which have been well-tried and have proved their value than to develop the Athenian spirit which is attracted to anything so long as it is new.” (Sinclair Ferguson)

“As the painter intermixes bright colors with dark shadows; so the wise God mixes mercy with judgment.” (Thomas Watson)

Please take the time to browse the rest of the site (see the tabs above). You’ll find FREE e-books, articles, and book recommendations to help you grow. Check out the Pastoral Theology page or Systematic Theology page first. Soli Deo Gloria!

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Get R.C. Sproul’s “Pleasing God: Discovering the Meaning and Importance of Sanctification” for just $3.03 for Amazon Kindle

Get R.C. Sproul’s “God’s Love: How the Infinite God Cares for His Children” for just $3.03 for Amazon Kindle

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Get J.I. Packer’s “Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging” for just $4.99 for Amazon Kindle

Check out Ligonier’s $5 Friday sale featuring Richard Phillips’ “What’s So Great About the Doctrines of Grace?”

Tim Keller and D.A. Carson on the recent shake-ups at The Gospel Coalition

John Murray on justification and good works

David Helm on the dangers of the lectio divina approach to biblical interpretation

David Murray on evangelism according to the book of Proverbs

The benefits of developing a robust Christology

Tim Keesee on the advance of the gospel around the world

“You can drift into sin, but not into righteousness.” (Leon Morris)

”The kingdom of heaven is worth infinitely more than the cost of discipleship.” (D.A. Carson)

Please visit some of the other pages on this site (located in the tabs). You’ll find some excellent articles, FREE e-books, and book recommendations. Check out the Pastoral Theology page or Systematic Theology page first. Thanks!

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Get John Stott’s “The Cross of Christ” for 50% OFF from Westminster Bookstore

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Enter to win Philip Graham Ryken’s “Salvation by Crucifixion” from Reformation21

Read books or get out of the ministry

Itchy trigger warnings, academic freedom, and college education

Richard Phillips on assurance of salvation through obedience to God’s commands

FREE D.A. Carson lectures on the book of Hebrews

Denny Burk on the New Testament as normative basis for sexual ethics

Thailand declares martial law amidst political unrest

“If you are bored with the gospel, you need to take a deep look at the sin of your heart. More seriously, if the gospel does not resonate in your heart, check and see that you are truly converted.” (J. Mack Stiles)

“Perhaps you complain the tool is dull, the minister is dead and cold. You should have whetted and sharpened him with your prayer.” (Thomas Watson)

Please take some time to browse the rest of the site (the other pages are located in the tabs above). There are a number of articles, FREE e-books, and book recommendations to help you grow. Check out the Systematic Theology page or Pastoral Theology page first… enjoy!

Review: Gospel Assurance and Warnings

The latest volume in the Recovering the Gospel series, “Gospel Assurance and Warnings,” has been published and follows “The Gospel’s Power and Message” and “The Gospel Call and True Conversion” (read my review here) in the attempt to clear up misconceptions and boldly proclaim some of the essentials of the Christian faith. Paul Washer aims to present Biblical truth as taught by faithful men throughout the historic Protestant tradition while unraveling many of the popular, but erroneous teachings that have crept into American evangelicalism. Thanks to Cross Focused Reviews for providing me with the opportunity to review Washer’s newest book.

“Gospel Assurance and Warnings” is a decent sized book (around 250 pages) that is composed of two sections. The first section is on Biblical Assurance and part two is on Gospel Warnings.

In the first two chapters, Washer writes about the false assurance of empty professors and the necessity of self-examination in the life of a Christian. The remaining chapters of the first section are essentially an exposition of the apostle John’s first epistle and covers the biblical evidence of conversion such as confession and repentance of sin (pp. 29–39), keeping God’s commandments (pp. 41–50), purification (pp. 105–114), and practicing righteousness (pp. 115–125).

The second half starts off with the claim that the modern “gospel” has been reduced to a shell of redemptive truth and provides the sobering truth that many professing Christians in the West are self-deceived due to false assurance. Whether they have prayed “the sinner’s prayer” or walked an aisle or received some kind of pastoral confirmation of conversion, Washer points out that these relatively recent inventions are not biblical representations or the doctrines of regeneration and conversion. The last three chapters of the book are an exposition of Jesus’ strong words in Matthew 7; Washer elaborates on the small gate (pp. 167–188), the narrow way (pp. 189–211), the evidence of gospel transformation (pp. 213–225), and the dangers of a false profession (pp. 228–252).

The book closes with an incredible quote by Charles Spurgeon urging us to be about our Father’s business: “If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.” (p. 252)

I enjoyed much of this book, and as someone who is familiar with the pulpit ministry of Brother Washer, I have benefited from a lot of the content within by listening to his sermons. Anyone who has been blessed by the preaching of Paul Washer will be encouraged by “Gospel Assurance and Warnings,” and they will inevitably note familiarity and similarities between his sermons and the book. His bold stance against “decisional” regeneration, the “sinner’s prayer”, and “easy-believism” is to be commended in an era of theological compromise and downgrade. There are many people who would benefit greatly from the counsel and correction in this book.

While I agree with pretty much everything said by the author and applaud him for his thoroughly Scriptural exposé of American Evangelicalism, there are a few things that bothered me about the book. First of all, it is somewhat repetitive. To be fair, there is a lot of repetition in the apostle’s letter, and while it is a good way to drive things home and secure them in the memory banks of the reader, the author’s thoughts sound more like echoes of lament rather than didactic reinforcement. As true and important as his sentiments may be, I believe Brother Paul’s points came across loud and clear, and his book could have been shorter without sacrificing essential content.

Secondly, there seemed to be more “warning” than “assurance” in the first section of the book. Sure, topics like “false assurance” and “self-examination” require cautionary measures and must be discussed in a book like this, but even Washer’s exposition of John’s first epistle reads more like a way to tell if someone is a false convert. While this information is undoubtedly helpful, and while John’s epistle has it’s share of warnings, the purpose of his letter was to assure believers that they were recipients of eternal life. With that in mind, I thought this first section of the book did more to reinforce my thoughts about problems in evangelicalism and the rampant theological errors (and possible empty professions) perpetrated by many who claim faith in Christ. This section does focus on assurance, but it seemed to be eclipsed by the exposure of error in contemporary evangelicalism. I understand that the purpose of this book as a whole is different than that of 1 John, but I felt Washer could have been more pastoral in the “assurance” section.

Lastly, I was not impressed with the way it was ordered. I think the publisher could have done a better job with the layout. It seems that if the book sections were reversed, it would have been a better book. I know that sounds like a petty complaint, and it certainly is a minor detail that does not affect the content (definitely a matter of preference that would not cause me to demerit the book), but it is my opinion that the book would have greater efficacy in driving home the main point.

While my review may sound overly critical (which is quite possible), I am thankful for this book and would recommend it to a number of people. It would be rather difficult to recommend it to the self-deceived false converts that the book exposes, but they would surely be the people who need it the most. I would surely recommend this to pastors and preachers. Those who are already laboring to make the truths in this book known will be encouraged and those who need to apply these truths in their ministry will be challenged and hopefully convicted. The author does an excellent job of addressing downgrade in contemporary evangelicalism and puts his finger on those areas of greatest concern with the hope of revival in the churches and recovery of the biblical gospel.

For more on this subject, please visit Monergism.

Recommended reading:

Effective December 1, 2009, Federal Trade Commission guidelines state that bloggers receiving any kind of compensation should disclose that information clearly on their blog when posting a review of the product… that being said: I RECEIVED A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK.

Review: “Spiritual Warfare”

The latest book review from Cross Focused Reviews is the new title from Brian Borgman and Rob Ventura, “Spiritual Warfare: A Biblical & Balanced Perspective” (Reformation Heritage). As always, I appreciate the opportunity given to me by Cross Focused Media to review books… it is especially nice when they are titles I am looking forward to reading. There was a lot of momentum building up with the release of “Spiritual Warfare,” and by the grace of God, I’ve had the pleasure of reading it in order to provide my thoughts to prospective readers.

“Spiritual Warfare” is a short book (124 pages) that covers the biblical teaching of “The Armor of God” in Ephesians 6. The foreword is written by Steven Lawson, who, in my opinion, is one of the best expositors of our time. He rightly points out: “There are three  formidable foes with which we contend—the world, the flesh, and the devil.” (p. vii) This is the basic theme of the book, which authors Borgman and Ventura seek to unpack.

The introduction is a call for balance. The authors contend that the biblical approach to spiritual warfare is to avoid naturalism and over-spiritualizing. We are right to recognize the “supernatural” reality of things unseen, but this is an area of much theological confusion, fantasy, and even false teaching. But, as Christians, “have been delivered from Satan’s dominion through the finished work of Christ, yet we still battle.” (p. 5) The importance of biblical literacy and discernment cannot be stressed enough.

Through the next four chapters, Borgman and Ventura lay the foundational context for comprehending the “whole armor of God.” We must have explanation prior to application. In order for us to employ this text in our lives, we need to know something of the historical background of the epistle to the Ephesians. The authors give us a guided tour of the “spiritual city” of Ephesus (pp. 7–10) and help us understand the apostle’s exhortation in the midst of spiritual warfare. We are called to “be strong in the Lord” (chapter 1), and to “put on the whole armor of God” (chapter 2), so we can “stand against the wiles of the Devil” (chapter 3), because we “wrestle against principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this age, and spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (chapter 4).

Chapter 5 marks the beginning of the exposition on the armor passage (Ephesians 6:14–17) and continues through to chapter 11. We learn what it is to stand and survive in the fight of our lives. Below are some highlights:

The Belt of Truth:

“As the soldier’s belt was placed at the center of his body, so truth must be central in our lives, encompassing all that we do if we are to be prepared for the fight with Satan, our crafty foe.” (p. 44)

The Breastplate of Righteousness:

“The breastplate was a chief piece of defensive armor for a soldier because it protected his vital organs during battle, and it serves the same function for us spiritually in our battle with Satan.” (p. 50)

The Gospel of Peace Footwear:

“Under enemy attack, we can dig firmly into the soil of the good news. The gospel is an indispensable part of our spiritual military equipment. It makes us immovable in the day of trouble.” (p. 63)

The Shield of Faith:

“As the shield protected a soldier in combat, so also faith spiritually protects us in every situation from whatever the devil might launch at us.” (p. 66)

The Helmet of Salvation:

“As the soldier’s helmet protected his head in battle against enemy fire, so the helmet of salvation spiritually protects our minds against Satan’s attacks.” (p. 74)

The Sword of the Spirit:

“The sword of the Spirit comes from the Spirit. Certainly, the sword belongs to the Spirit, but the emphasis falls on the Spirit as the source of this sword… When the Word is in our heart and mind, when we apply it and use it, it is the sword of the Spirit…” (pp. 80–81)

In chapter 11, the authors explain the centrality of prayer in spiritual warfare. As the apostle Paul concludes his section with an exhortation for constant prayer and watchfulness, Borgman and Ventura rightly emphasize the importance of prayer. “Prayer is not a seventh piece of armor,” they write, “but the means by which each piece is effectively employed… We can only appropriate the armor through prayer. The armor of God does not consist of literal pieces we can put on; rather, it consists of spiritual truths that the Christian appropriates through prayer.” (p. 88) The theme of prayer carries over into chapter 12. As the apostle’s teaching on prayer moves from combat supplication (Ephesians 6:18) to wartime proclamation (Ephesians 6:19), so does the book in this section. Borgman and Ventura explain the components of warfare proclamation: The Word must be given (pp. 101–102), the mystery of the gospel must be made known boldly (p. 102), and the Spirit must empower the preacher in his holy obligation. (pp. 102–103)

The book closes out with a “Spiritual Warfare Debriefing,” in which the authors help the reader understand the nature of the Christian life. It is a struggle that must be lived in God’s strength, so that we may stand and resist in order to advance the gospel. This is done by way of union with Christ—we must utilize the spiritual blessings that we have in Him. (pp. 106–110).

There are also a few appendices that the reader may find helpful as well. Appendix 1 is a pastoral approach to explaining God’s sovereignty over Satan, featuring case studies of Job and Paul. The second appendix considers the question, “Can a Christian Be Demon-Possessed?” and exposes some false teaching on the issue. The final appendix is a plea for people to pray for their elders. The authors’ hope is for the reader to consider the reality of the enemy’s strategy—Satan seeks to attack leaders in order to inflict the most possible damage upon Christ’s flock. Our pastors and elders desperately need our prayer so that they may lead effectively in the war against sin, the flesh, and the devil.

This book was a fairly easy read and I would recommend it as a good introduction to the topic of Spiritual warfare. It may also be a useful teaching or preaching resource for this section of the Bible. I found some of the information to be very helpful, but I was expecting a little more from this book. While I was hoping for it to be an in-depth teaching on the subject akin to Thomas Brooks’ “Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices” or William Gurnall’s “The Christian in Complete Armour,” it read more like a beginner’s guide to “the whole armor of God.” Be that as it may, my preconceived notions should not take away from the importance and potency of this small book. With so much sensationalism and false teaching going around on the topic of spiritual warfare, this is a solid presentation of the biblical teaching on the subject and is a valuable resource for the Church militant.

For more on the subject, please visit the Pastoral Theology page.

See also:

Rob Ventura interviewed on The Janet Mefford Show

Borgman and Ventura interviewed at The Confessing Baptist

Recommended reading:

Effective December 1, 2009, Federal Trade Commission guidelines state that bloggers receiving any kind of compensation should disclose that information clearly on their blog when posting a review of the product… that being said: I RECEIVED A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK.