Book Review: How to be a Christian: Reflections and Essays

How to Be a Christian: Reflections and EssaysHow to Be a Christian: Reflections and Essays by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a collection of Lewis’ essays from various works. The publisher has selected essays around the general theme of practical Christianity. So, this book is not what Lewis would have produced if he had set about the task of writing a book on the practical Christian life. Setting that disappointment aside, we find here a great collection of essays Lewis did write and a transcribed interview of what Lewis did say. So, maybe the next best thing.

Lewis was a great thinker and writer. He had a knack for putting things well. He had a way of taking something very familiar, changing the familiar perspective, and putting it across improvingly. Any mention of Lewis sends certain ones of the population running to fetch their aluminum foil caps to prevent any of Lewis’ alien waves from entering their brains. Lewis had his theological problems. He could write a brilliant and beautiful passage and sometimes follow it with a brilliantly ugly passage. Only advertising his shortcomings is to whip a straw horse.

Spurgeon had many critics in his day. They often complained about his girth, the hair on his face, and at least one old lady nearly fainted when she heard something akin to humor in one of his sermons. Those journalists and church marms could always have exercised their personal rights of locomotion and declined to attend Spurgeon’s preaching.

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Book Review: Charity and its Fruits

Charity & Its FruitsCharity & Its Fruits by Jonathan Edwards
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a thorough exposition of 1 Corinthians 13, which is an extensive description of Christian love. I had some quibbles here and there, but overall a very good book. Edwards did not make much of the overall context of the chapter being in the assembly of the local church in Corinth. Chapter 13 is written to a church and is about the corporate life of a church. Jesus said that the world would know his disciples by the Christ-like love they have for one another, and 1 Corinthians 13 is a thorough description of that one-another love. Edwards is well worth reading and this book is no exception.

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Book Review: When People Are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man

When People Are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of ManWhen People Are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man by Edward T. Welch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is encouraging, challenging, and deeply convicting. I appreciate how Welch brings the Gospel to bear on these issues and gets to the root sin in our fears. He distinguishes between needs and lusts, revealing the idolatry of the latter. I also greatly appreciated the emphasis on discipleship, or the role of the church body in discipling one another. I cannot imagine anyone reading this without having the author put a finger on some of their own root sins.

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Book Review: Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus

Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus (9marks: Building Healthy Churches)Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus by Mark Dever
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The core message in this book is simple. The logical deductions from Scripture are simple. The common-sense factor in this book is simple. You might say it’s mostly intuitive. Despite all that, few churches seem to be doing this well, or at all. Discipling a person is aptly explained by the subtitle: “How to Help Others Follow Jesus.” That’s it.

It is not about elaborate systems or programs. It is about following Jesus in your life and helping another to do the same. I think we can make it complicated, but consider jesus’ approach, as Dever writes: “The most famous discipler of all, of course, is Jesus Christ. Christianity did not start with a mass-market product rollout. There was no 24/7 media coverage surrounding his travels. It began with a series of personal engagements among a small group of men over a three-year period.” It’s not hard to understand, but we might say it’s hard to do.

I can’t think of a more accessible or concise place to point you than this book.

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Book Review: The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance–Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters

The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still MattersThe Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters by Sinclair B. Ferguson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had heard of the Marrow Controversy, though knew little about it before reading this book. Ferguson acknowledges that an eighteenth century controversy that arose among Scottish Presbyterians in an obscure village in rural Scotland hardly seems to arrest our attention today. He is right about that and he is also right about the fact this controversy should get our attention. He deals with some of the historical issues and persons involved, which was interesting and informative. However, he focus on the issues at stake in the controversy since the issues of legalism, antinomianism, and assurance of salvation are such issues as are common to all men.

Ferguson’s insights into the root of both legalism and antinomianism are keen. Both at root are a separating of Jesus Christ in the fullness of his person from the benefits received by faith in him. The point may seem subtle, but the issues are enormous. Failure to grasp them leads us into one or the other of the two errors mentioned, which ultimately obscure the person of Christ and, at best, hinder the Gospel of God’s free grace. We are often flippant in our thinking of both legalism and antinomianism, and consequently fail to grasp core issues and fail to see how they negatively affect the ministry of the word.

This book needs to be read carefully and thought through. Some of the history may fail to grip and there are also some issues of intramural Presbyterianism and covenant theology debates that weren’t unexpected. I think every Christian should read this book, though I know they won’t. I don’t say this often, but I believe every pastor, preacher, and teacher must read this book and grapple with the issues raised. If you are ministering the Word, then you have already dealt with these issues to some degree. Ferguson will help clarify and get to the root of the issues. I would also recommend reading The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur and God is the Gospel by John Piper. Those two books deal more explicitly with the Gospel issues of separating Christ from his benefits.

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