Category Archives: Book Reviews

Free Book Giveaway!

Over the last few months as by God’s grace I’ve been able to return to regular posts, the readership frequency here has nearly tripled and for that I am very, very thankful, to God first and foremost and then to you, the reader.  As a way of showing my appreciation, I’d like to offer a free book giveaway, Greg Gilbert’s book What is the Gospel.  This great little book provides a succinct explanation of the Gospel, highlights some common errors made in defining it, and ultimately details the Biblically balanced Gospel that tells not only of God’s love in sending His Son Jesus, but His justice, His mercy, His grace and His wrath on sin.  Here’s just one of many blurbs on the book:

“Greg Gilbert is one of the brightest and most faithful young men called to serve the church today. Here he offers us a penetrating, faithful, and fully biblical understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no greater need than to know the true gospel, to recognize the counterfeits, and to set loose a generation of gospel-centered Christians. This very important book arrives at just the right moment.”
R. Albert Mohler Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Below is a video from the author telling why he wrote the book:

To be entered in this book giveaway, all you need to do is drop me a comment on THIS POST just saying hello, or that you’d be interested in the giveaway.  Email submissions will also be counted.  From those, I’ll randomly choose someone for the book.  The deadline will be Wednesday 10/27/10 at midnight.  

Thanks again for your support.  I hope that you’ve learned along with me and have been challenged here as I have.

In Christ,

John

Book Review: The Truth War

In finishing up our series on discernment, a book review on John MacArthur’s The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception, fits well with what we’ve been discussing.  Published in 2007, The Truth War is essentially an exposition of the Epistle of Jude while examining several of the current dangers invading the modern Church, specifically that of the Emerging Church movement.  Jude provides the thesis for his epistle in verse 3, “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints.”  It’s upon this theme that MacArthur builds The Truth War

Beginning in the Introduction, MacArthur details his intended target of Emerging Church apostates by identifying Rob Bell, his wife Kristen, Brian McLaren, and Tony Campolo.  Despite naming names, MacArthur really spends little focus on them, instead choosing to identify general dangers within the modern day Church.  The first of which, postmodernism, he addresses in chapter 1.  Providing first a brief sketch of modernity, which included the scientific and rationalistic thoughts of Darwinism, fascism, socialism, communism, and theological liberalism, he then proceeds to postmodernism, which he defines as suggesting “that if objective truth exists, it cannot be known objectively or with any degree of certainty.  That is because (according to postmodernists), the subjectivity of the human mind makes knowledge of objective truth impossible.

From there, MacArthur addresses the crux behind apostate teachers and heretics, namely spiritual warfare and why we must engage in the battle (chs. 2 & 3).  Chapter 4 centers around Jude 4 NKJV, “For certain men have crept in” to which he points out that the great danger to the Church today lies not from atheists and agnostics from the outside, but spiritual terrorists and saboteurs from within.  This is an interesting chapter from a historic perspective as it examines the impact made by the Judaizers of the Apostle Paul’s day to the Gnostics who crept in even before the previous apostates were expelled.  The problems in today’s Church, according to MacArthur, are not all to different from those of yester years as we too face modern day Gnosticism, examples which exist in the form of pseudo-Christian documents such as The Gospel of Thomas and The Gospel of Judas, best-selling novel and movie The Da Vinci Code and I would add to this list the best-selling novel The Shack.

Chapter 5 highlights the subtlety of heresy and provides encouragement for why we must remain vigilant in this battle.  He states, “The more aggressively something is marketed to Christians as the latest, greatest novelty, the less likely most evangelicals are to examine it critically.  After all, who wants to be constantly derided as a gatekeeper for orthodoxy in a postmodern culture?  Defending the faith is a role very few seem to want anymore.”  In this chapter MacArthur again probes the historical heresies of the Church by examining Sabellianism and Arianism.  Sabellianism, also know as modalism, claims God as three different “modes” of expression, believing that God “transforms Himself from one of these manifestations to another consecutively, as if changing costumes.”  Arianism is best described as an assault on the deity of Christ.  The Arians flatly denied that Jesus is eternal God incarnate.

“Apostate false teachers who remain in the Church and undermine true faith are often extremely subtle, but they are never harmless.  Heresy always breeds more evil, and the closer any lie comes to the heart of the Gospel, the more diabolical is the fruit it bears.”  With this statement, MacArthur cements the direction of chapter 6 as a discussion on how “error turns grace into licentiousness.”  In doing so, he states biblical evidence for God’s “zero tolerance” on false teachers, but also points out that as believers contending for the faith there is “a time to be tough; a time to be tender.”  I found it extremely helpful that in this chapter MacArthur points out, “the error Jude has in mind does not stem from some slight misunderstanding about a difficult text.  He is talking about heresy that is ultimately rooted in willful unbelief – a denial of ‘the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Jude 4).  He has in mind an error that corrupts the essential character of the Gospel.  He is talking about damnable error.  He stresses that fact when he says the purveyors of such heresies are destined for condemnation.”  He concludes this chapter by highlighting Jude’s outline of 3 main characteristics of apostates, 1)Their character, in being ungodly 2)Their conduct, lewdness and turning the kindness of God into license for immoral conduct 3)Their creed, “denying the only Lord and God and our Lord Jesus Christ” though not open or blatantly.

Chapter 7 expounds on this third characteristics mentioned above, namely an Assault on Divine Authority: Christ’s Lordship Denied.  This chapter examines the transformation of evangelism into its current “mess.”  Here MacArthur highlights the PR-driven Church, namely marketing the church such as Rick Warren, runaway pragmatism and trivial pursuit specifically the evangelical obsession with pop culture, evangelical fad surfing in following whatever is the latest popular trend or current best seller, which included the Prayer of Jabez, The Purpose-Driven Life, and The Da Vinci Code.  Additionally “seeker-sensitive” methodologies have been employed using less emphasis on edification and more on entertainment (drama, music, comedy, and even forms of vaudeville).  Rounding out the list is the “no-lordship theology” which states that submission to Christ’s  lordship is an optional matter reducing all believers call to discipleship and hard demands of cross-bearing and self denial (Matthew 16:24, Mark 10:21, et. al) lending itself to the doctrine of “carnal Christians” which became popular in the mid-twentieth century and completely eliminated Church discipline.  Finally, accommodations to political correctness has contributed greatly to the transformation of evangelicalism.  Here “evangelicals willing to bend biblical truth to make Christianity seem more politically correct [but] are in effect denying Christ as true head of the Church.”

Finally in Chapter 8 John MacArthur describes how to survive in an age of apostasy by learning from history.  He states, “The Church today is quite possibly more susceptible to false teachers, doctrinal saboteurs, and spiritual terrorism than any other generation in Church history.  Biblical ignorance within the Church may well be deeper and more widespread than at any other time since the Protestant Reformation.”  MacArthur’s exposition of Jude concludes that our reaction and response to this apostasy should be to 1) Remember what was prophesied [about apostasy], i.e. God is sovereign 2) Remain faithful, committed to the truth 3) Reach out, to not only oppose false teachers but rescue those who have been led astray by them.  Worthy of reading too is the Appendix which is an adaptation from a previous book entitled Reckless Faith.

This is the first book I’ve read of MacArthur’s and it’s pretty solid.  I enjoy his preaching and this book follows suit.  He is not afraid to speak on his convictions and is relentless in his pursuit for truth.  The Truth War, like his sermons, is rich in Biblical quotations and was actually a derivative of his sermon series.  I appreciate that he is able to expound on Jude to the level of a Bible commentary yet weave into it some historical apostasy and even more modern attacks from the Emerging Church.  As I am now reading another of his books, I have began to discover that while MacArthur’s books have different titles, they maintain central themes in expositing Biblical truth while confronting harmful errors.  If you’re interested in understanding the heresies within evangelicalism from a historical perspective as they have transitioned into the postmodern Church, then The Truth War is a worthwhile read.

A purchase of The Truth War through the Amazon link below donates 4% of the total purchase to help support this ministry.

Book review: The Plight of Man and the Power of God

Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones was born in Wales in 1899 and at the age of 27 he gave up a promising medical career to become a preacher.  From 1938 to 1968 he was minister of the Westminster Chapel in London.  Admittedly prior to this book I’ve had very limited exposure to the work of Lloyd-Jones, except for the occasional quotes mentioned in sermons.  While I may not agree with some of his more charismatic views, this is a commendable book.  Just 5 chapters totaling 120 pages, The Plight of Man and the Power of God offer’s Jones’ expositional insight into the latter half of Romans chapter 1, Paul’s introductory thesis on the sinful nature and depravity of man.  This is a powerful little book that is bold in its description of: man’s attempts at “religion”, morality, the depth of our sinful nature, the wrath of God on sin, and the only solution, namely Jesus Christ.

Lloyd-Jones sets the tone early with his exposition on Romans 1:21, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  In this chapter he states:

“Men resent the very idea of God and feel that it means and implies their liberty is somehow curtailed.  They believe that they are fit to be masters of their fate and captains of their souls, and believing that, they demand the right to manage themselves in their own way and to live their own lives.  They refuse to worship and to glorify God.  They disown Him and turn their backs upon Him and say that they do not need Him.  They renounce His way of life and shake off what regard as the bondage and serfdom of religion and a life controlled by God.  That is why man has always turned from God.  He confuses lawlessness and license with freedom; he is a rebel against God and refuses to glorify God.”

If ever there was a statement that summarizes the nature of religion in this country, it is this powerful quote from Lloyd-Jones. 

In chapter 2 the focus shifts to Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” as Lloyd-Jones addresses the morality of man, an appropriate read given the modern day attempts at “moralistic therapeutic deism” that has become so prevalent in the Church today.  He summarizes as follows, “It [morality] provides us with no power to restrain ourselves from sin, for its arguments can easily be brushed aside.  It provides no power to restore us when we have fallen into sin.  It leaves us as condemned failures and, indeed, makes us feel hopeless.  It reminds us that we have failed, that we have been defeated, that we have not maintained the standard.  And even if it appeals to us to try again it really condemns us while so doing and dooms us to failure.  For it still leaves the problem to us.  It cannot help us.  It has no power to give us.  And having failed once, we argue, we are likely to fail again.  Why try, therefore?  Let us give in and give up and abandon ourselves to our fate.”  Precisely the problem that every person faces who attempts to use morality to gain righteousness.

Chapter 3 summarizes “The Nature of Sin” as detailed in Romans 1:18, 28, 32, “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” Romans 1:28 “Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” Romans 1:32  Here he states that the Apostle Paul’s “first great principle is that sin is deliberate.  At once he levels against sin the charge of deliberateness.”  This is a point that often gets overlooked today as many are willing to view sin as something they just do and simply cannot help themselves, which in turn leads to a life of licentiousness.  

In Chapter 4 Lloyd-Jones addresses the very topic that seeker-sensitive, easy believism churches so quickly dismiss, namely the nature of the wrath of God.  He affirms this is the case even in his day as he states, “I content myself with saying that as men have ceased to believe in the wrath of God, and have discarded the idea of law and righteousness, so their moral standards have gradually deteriorated and conduct has become lax and loose.”  Finally, as he concludes his exposition, Lloyd-Jones settles in on Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  This verse provides the solution for each of the previous problems he identifies by stating Jesus Christ is the only way and that we must “believe on Him…yield ourselves to Him…and begin to make of Him our only boast here and now.”

In summary this book by Jones hits home with several of the major issues facing the Church today, primarily with the attempts to replace Christ with morality, the avoidance and lack of sin recognition, and a lack of understanding for the wrath of God.  This is a worthwhile book that is written in a straightforward tone with language that draws in the reader and doesn’t leave them trying to decipher what the author is saying.  Though some of his views later in life may have diverged more from reformed tradition, nevertheless Martyn Lloyd-Jones is a solid expositional preacher and The Plight of Man and the Power of God is a commendable effort.

4% of the purchase price from this link helps support this ministry.