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On occasion I stumble across a title that catches my attention. Counterfeit Gospels is one of those titles. It reminds me of such passages as 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 in which Paul tells the Corinthians that he is concerned they will “been led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” by accepting “a different gospel” (i.e. a counterfeit gospel). Therefore, I am grateful for Trevin Wax’s desire to help his brothers and sisters in Christ see where they might be being led astray.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found it to be both convicting and encouraging. Before I discuss the many things that I agreed with, I would like to address one point that I found issue with. The book is organized by viewing the gospel as a three-legged stool, dividing “the gospel” into three main sections: “The Gospel Story,” “The Gospel Announcement,” and “The Gospel Community.” By defining the gospel in this way, the author seems to blur the lines on what “the gospel” really is. Biblically, and as Wax acknowledges, the gospel is what he refers to as “the gospel announcement” – the good news about what Jesus has done through his life, death, resurrection, and exaltation. Therefore, to say that “the gospel” is also comprised of the story and the community is a little confusing.

I do, however, believe I understand where Wax is coming from. On one hand, he wants us to understand that the background into which the gospel is set (the gospel story) affects our understanding of the gospel announcement. Likewise, the gospel announcement is supposed to lead to something, namely the formation and building up of the body of Christ (the gospel community). These are valid points. I only wish that he would have communicated them in a different way.

This book is meant to help us “be ready to spot the counterfeits that creep into our own heart and lead you away from the glorious message of Christianity” (18). Wax wants us to consider how we may have distorted “the glorious message of Christianity” by changing the storyline of the bible (Gospel Story), tweaking the gospel message (Gospel Announcement), and/or misunderstanding the role and purpose of the church (Gospel Community). In each section, Wax first defines the aspect of the gospel he is considering before looking at two counterfeits. For example, he attempts to help us see how a Therapeutic Gospel or a Judgmentless Gospel reflects a misunderstanding part of the Gospel Story.

As the author examines each counterfeit, he explains what it is and presents some common “evangelical versions” of that counterfeit. He then helps us to see why the counterfeit is attractive and provides some helpful suggestions for countering the counterfeit. Each chapter concludes with “Scripture Truths” for the reader to consider to reinforce the content covered in each chapter.

I echo Wax’s closing prayer: “I pray this book will not be seen as the last word on the gospel or on the counterfeits that vie for our devotion, but that it will be a helpful addition to the ongoing reflection on the gospel and its power to change our lives. May the God who has acted so graciously on our behalf fill us with his grace as we spread his gospel to a lost world!” (218)

 

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I am just finishing up A Call to Spiritual Reformation by D. A. Carson. It has been a convicting an yet insightful book. Being a person who often struggles to make time for intentional prayer, this book was a great reminder of the importance of prayer in the believers life.

Carson seeks to show from the writings of the apostle Paul, particular those passages in which he is found to be laying out his heart before God on behalf of those whom he is ministering to. Among the priorities in prayer that he draws out from these various passages I might mention only a few here.

  1. Paul’s prayers are constantly concerned with the growth and personal holiness of others.
  2. Paul’s prayers are constantly full of thanksgiving to God.
  3. Paul’s prayers are constantly linked with the purposes of God in redemption.

Another helpful chapter in this book was the section were he highlights the sovereignty of God and our responsibility to pray. In it defends the complete sovereignty of God over all things, and yet shows that God does respond to our prayers. “You do not have because you do not ask.” (Jam. 4:2) Yet it is not as though God is compelled to do simply because we ask. Carson reminds us that God is not a genie that we simply approach to get what we want, but the sovereign God of the universe.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has a desire to learn how to pray, especially if you want your prayers to be crafted by the word of God. And if we desire to do all things according to the will of God, how could we not learn how to pray better? And maybe more importantly learn to pray more and more intentionally.

Review of Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

As I continue to read, I have begun to realize that it is very easy for me to read a book and then set it on the self. The problem is that when I set the book on the shelf, I tend to set its content there as well and not give it the continued consideration that it often deserves. So in an effort to help myself remember better the truths presented, I have decided to write reviews of each book I read from here on out. I will post them here on this blog as well for those who are interested in such matters.

In today’s society it is not uncommon for people to be depressed. In fast, any one with common sense will realize that being depressed or being down is a normal part of life. But what about people that always seem to be depressed, who cannot seem to find any form of happiness. Modern society has come to the point that rather than deal with the issues that underlie depression, people seek to deal with it by medicating themselves. In Spiritual Depression, Lloyd-Jones attempts to highlight a variety of causes that may cause depression. Ironically, they are all traced back to lack of faith or a lack of understanding about what God has revealed about us or about Himself. As Lloyd-Jones express it:

“The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to say to your soul; ‘Why are thou cast down’ — what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’ — instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having donethat, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God'” (21)

However, if you are anything like me you realize that sometimes you are blinded to what is causing the depression in the first place. While it is easy to say that depression is ultimately the result of us thinking we deserve something that we don’t, of having unmet expectations, and of being unwilling to submit our wills to God, it is sometimes hard to pin point the exact area in which we are doubting God.

As Lloyd-Jones delves into various texts of scriptures, he shows from them various causes of depression and how the Christian is to deal with them. Some of the basic issues that he deals with in the course of the book include:

  • Confusing justification and sanctification

  • Dwelling on the past sins

  • Listening to feelings instead of listening to God

  • Failing to recognize discipline or trials in their proper light

  • Needing to learn contentment

  • The effects of bad/false teaching

While this list is not exhaustive, it hopefully gives you a quick glimpse of things to consider if you are struggling with depression. I hope that you and I can have the same kind of concern that Lloyd-Jones does about the testimony of our churches when they are seem to filled with joyless Christians.

“So often we give the impression that we are dejected and depressed; indeed, some would almost give the impression that to become a Christian means that you face many problems that never worried you before. So, looking superfically the man of the world comes to the conclusion that you find happier people outside the Church than inside the church. He is quite wrong, of course, but we must recognize that some of us at any rate have to plead guilty to the charge, that far too often because we suffer from spiritural depression, and are more or less miserable Christians, we grossly and grievously misrepresent the gospel of Redeeming Grace.’ (79)

So let us all take ourselves in hand and learn how to deal with our hearts in such a way that our testimonies and the testimonies of our churches makes known to those outside the church, that they are missing out on what really matters. That true and lasting happiness, true and lasting joy, can only be found by delighting ourselves in the Lord.

“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Tim. 1:17)

A Review of John Piper’s God is the Gospel

It is fitting that in the course of providence, this book happens to be the topic of review as we approach the Christmas season. At time when most people in America will be so wrapped up in preparing meals and buying presents, they will likely forget all about Jesus Christ. It is important to be reminded about the significance of a passage like Isaiah 9:6, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be Wonderful Counselor, Might God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Yet when was the last time that we stopped to remember what the greatest gift of the gospel really is?
God is the Gospel serves to remind to all of us that the greatest gift of the gospel is being able to see and savor “the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 6:6). As Piper writes,

    Justification is not an end in itself. Neither is forgiveness of sins or the imputation of righteousness. Neither is escape from hell or entrance into heaven or freedom from disease or liberation from bondage or eternal life or justice or mercy or the beauties of a pain free world. None of these facets of the gospel-diamond is the chief good or highest goal of the gospel. Only one thing is: seeing and savoring God Himself, being changed into the image of his Son so that more and more we delight in and display God’s beauty and worth. (pg. 44)

Piper then devotes the rest of the book to showing how “seeing and savoring God Himself” relates to various aspects of the gospel including: salvation, sanctification, evangelism, contrition, suffering, and even the enjoyment of the many blessing that are ours in Christ. The presentation of each topic is done a simple straight forward manner and is fueled by scripture and the wisdom of such men as Jonathan Edwards and John Owen.
So if you are looking for a book that will stimulate a greater appreciation for the gospel and cultivate a greater affection for your Redeemer, I would definitely recommend that you read this book. Or if you are simply looking for a gift for someone this Christmas, I would encourage you to consider getting them this book

So many Christians, in America especially, have developed what I call a “Lone Ranger” complex. They are convinced that all that really matters is how their personal spiritual life is going. As long as they are engaged in private spiritual disciplines, such as prayer and personal devotions, that their spiritual life is good. In his book, Spiritual Disciplines Within the Church, Donald Whitney answers the following questions about the importance of public worship:

  1. Why Go to Church?
  2. Why Seek Baptism in the Church?
  3. Why Join a Church?
  4. Why Listen to Preaching in the Church?
  5. Why Worship with the Church?
  6. Why Witness with the Church?
  7. Why Serve in the Church?
  8. Why Give to the Church?
  9. Why Attend the Ordinances of the Church?
  10. Why Fellowship with the Church?
  11. Why Pray with the Church?
  12. Why Learn in the Church?

In each chapter, Whitney gives a biblical basis for why Christians should participate in each activity. Address not only the scriptural instructions concerning each, but also the benefit that it can have in the individuals personal spiritual life. He also does a good job of addressing the most common objects that you might hear from others. One thing that impressed me the most was his attempt to guard against a legalistic understanding. He endeavor to show how each activity should have a place in a believers life, while making clear that just doing the activity did not make one a believer. At the end of each chapter he also offered challenges for the reader to consider in terms of applying what they had just learned.

Personally, the part I found the most inciteful was the consideration of why Christians should attend other peoples baptisms. I had never consider the implications of showing up for a baptism service as a testimony to not only the person being baptized, but to the outside world as well.

Not only do I think the book is useful for personal growth and appreciation of public worship, but it could be used as an evangelistic tool or as a resource for considering what you should look for in a church (which he devotes the last chapter to).