Curiously, the "For You" series split its two volumes on Romans at the end chapter 7 instead of Romans 8. Undoubtedly it did so in the interest of shaCuriously, the "For You" series split its two volumes on Romans at the end chapter 7 instead of Romans 8. Undoubtedly it did so in the interest of sharing space rather than trying to follow Paul’s literary structure. However, as Tim Keller shows in one of his introductory paragraphs, it is fruitful to consider Romans 8 with the rest of the letter:
"I have always believed that at the heart of Romans 8 you have the secret to really using the gospel in your heart to change yourself in a profound way; and that the rest of Romans will show you what that change will look like in a practical way. My prayer is that as you read the second half of this wonderful letter, you will find your heart thrilled by the gospel, your mind shaped by the gospel, and your life changed by the gospel.” (loc 67)
And as helpful as Keller’s treatment of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility in Romans 9 to 11 is, and a host of other subjects in 12 to 16, I doubt I’ll be the only reader to find his three chapters on Romans 8 the most stimulating to mind and heart. Keller shows how setting one’s mind “on the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5) relates to the rest of the chapter. It means to be preoccupied with what the Spirit is preoccupied with: "how in Christ we are adopted, loved and welcomed” (193). Yes, “to 'mind…the things of the Spirit’...means never to forget our privileged standing or the fact that we are loved, and to let this dominate our thinking, our perspectives, and therefore our words and actions” (202).
The strength of this book is its succinctness. It will help you understand the last half of this magnificent epistle without bogging you down. Indeed, it will do the very opposite: it will stir you up....more
A excerpt from the book's commentary on Peter after he denied Jesus:
Everything he thought he knew about himself, all his self-confidence and belief in
A excerpt from the book's commentary on Peter after he denied Jesus:
Everything he thought he knew about himself, all his self-confidence and belief in his undying loyalty to his Master, has been shattered and lies in utter ruins. He sees himself as a failure, a liar, a traitor, and one who has just invoked God’s wrath upon himself in denying the Messiah just to save his own skin. Perhaps he recalled Jesus’s earlier words: “Whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” Not only has he betrayed and denied the man he had trusted and followed for the past three years, leaving him to face his accusers and die alone, but also he has incriminated himself before God’s judgment seat by uttering his curse and oath…Peter knew that his actions had placed him irrevocably (or so he thought) under God’s wrath, while Jesus knew that he must soon experience the full outpouring of God’s wrath so that Peter, and all others who placed their faith in Jesus, would not have to do the same. (118-119)
This appears to be the third book written in the author’s Recovering the Gospel series. The book is divided into two parts, the first on biblSummary
This appears to be the third book written in the author’s Recovering the Gospel series. The book is divided into two parts, the first on biblical assurance, and the second on gospel warnings.
The author situates his topic as matter of heaven or hell. He is concerned about a doctrine of easy believism that “opens the door for carnal and unregenerate people to find assurance of salvation by looking to the apparent sincerity of their past decision to accept Christ, even though their manner of living contradicts such a profession,” (loc 219). “Contemporary evangelicalism,” he states, “has been grossly affected by a ‘once saved always saved’ teaching that argues for the possibility of salvation apart from sanctification,” (loc 1793).
In the first part he goes through the numerous tests given in 1 John to examine ourselves to see if our profession in genuine. Tests such as whether we walk in the light, confess sin, keep God’s commandments, etc (there is a helpful summary list given at the end of Part One [locs 2911-2]).
If Part One primarily focuses on 1 John, Part Two goes through the conclusion to Jesus’s famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:13-27. Here we learn that today’s preacher, like the Lord Jesus himself, must give his listeners gospel warnings as well as gospel promises, and that “the idea that it is easy to be saved is totally foreign to the Scriptures,” (loc 3281). “It seems that the evangelical community no longer views conversion primarily as a supernatural work of God wrought through the miracle of the new birth” (loc 4277).
I agree with Washer’s overall message in the book. A changing life and submission the Lordship of Christ are not optional for the true Christian.
I also agree with him on interpretation of specific texts. He rightly interprets the distinction in 1 John 1:5-7 as being between those who are converted and those who are not. And in Matthew 25.31-46 the hungry, homeless, and naked are indeed “believers who are suffering for the sake of a good conscience before God and their loyalty to Christ,” (loc 1268).
But I do have some criticisms of the book. While I can appreciate that the author is dealing with somber truths, the book’s style does come across as repetitious (perhaps because it’s based on a collection of sermons [loc 51]) and a trifle pedantic.
Moreover there is repeated mention of the ills and shortcomings of evangelicalism. I completely agree with Washer’s assessment, but that didn’t stop me from wondering if he could have achieved the same effect with less recourse to the familiar “modern evangelicalism” refrain. This plus a few more positive and energetic appeals to the transforming power of the gospel would have gone a long way to fulfilling the author’s hope: that in his book readers would “rediscover the gospel in all its beauty, scandal, and saving power” (loc 111)....more
“This book is a plea to embrace serious thinking as a means of loving God and people. It is a plea to reject either-or thinking when it comes to head“This book is a plea to embrace serious thinking as a means of loving God and people. It is a plea to reject either-or thinking when it comes to head and heart, thinking and feeling, reason and faith, theology and doxology, mental labor and the ministry of love."
Purpose of mind “The main reason God has given us minds is that we might seek out and find all the reasons that exist for treasuring him in all things and above all things.” (15)
Definition of loving God with mind: "our thinking should be wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things.” (83)
Quote on relativism:
Relativism enables pride to put on humble clothes and parade through the street. But don’t be mistaken. Relativism chooses every turn, ever pace, every street, according to its autonomous preferences, and submits to no truth. We will serve our generation well by exposing the prideful flesh under these humble clothes. (113)
Also cites Chesterton in fn 6 “We are on the road to producing a race of man too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.”
What if we were to realize that every sunset viewed, every sexual intimacy enjoyed, every favorite food savored, every song sung or listened to, every
What if we were to realize that every sunset viewed, every sexual intimacy enjoyed, every favorite food savored, every song sung or listened to, every home decorated, and every rich moment enjoyed in this life isn’t ultimately about itself but is an expression and reflection of God’s essential character? Wouldn’t such beautiful and desirable reflections mean that their Source must be even more beautiful—and, ultimately, most desirable? (8)
“Alice must grow small if she is to be Alice in Wonderland” (57, G. K. Chesterton)
Good stuff on how all art is sacred. Key question is whether it is true. However, as cross is source and standard of beauty, he could have shown how we evaluate all art and culture from the cross, as in Php 4.8-9.
Clarifies relationship between God’s sovereignty, man’s responsibility, and Christian’s evangelistic duty. Aim is to dispel notion that belief in God’Clarifies relationship between God’s sovereignty, man’s responsibility, and Christian’s evangelistic duty. Aim is to dispel notion that belief in God’s sovereignty will hinder evangelism (7-8)
Charles Simeon’s conversation with John Wesley (13-14): following is an excerpt
“Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance…and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things wherein we agree.”
And therefore the indiscriminate buttonholing, the intrusive barging in to the privacy of other people’s souls, the thick-skinned insistence on expounding the things of God to reluctant strangers who are longing to get away—these modes of behavour, in which strong and loquacious personalities have sometimes indulged in the name of personal evangelism, should be written off as a travesty of personal evangelism. Impersonal evangelism would be a better name for them! 81-2
What, then, are we to say about the suggestion that a hearty faith in the absolute sovereignty of God is inimical to evangelism? We are bound to say that anyone who makes this suggestion thereby shows that he has simply failed to understand what the doctrine of divine sovereignty means. Not only does it undergird our evangelism, and uphold the evangelist, by creating a hope of success that could not otherwise be entertained; it also teaches us to bind together preaching and prayer; and as it makes us bold and confident before men, so it makes us humble and importunate before God. Is not this as it should be? We would not wish to say that man cannot evangelize at all without coming to terms with this doctrine; but we venture to think that, other things being equal, he will be able to evangelize better for believing it. (125-6)
Written in the God’s Word For You series, whose aims for each book is that it be Bible centered, Christ glorifying, relevantly applied, and easily reaWritten in the God’s Word For You series, whose aims for each book is that it be Bible centered, Christ glorifying, relevantly applied, and easily readable, Keller’s Judges For You achieves each admirably.
But seriously. Judges for you? Judges for me? Judges for anyone? This Old Testament book is out of control! Is there anyone it can speak to today? “Judges is not an easy read,” acknowledges Keller, but “living in the times we do, it is an essential one.” It shows us that the Bible is not a ‘Book of Virtues.’ It shows us the gospel.
And here is where Keller can help. I want to say that Keller does three things very well (in keeping with the aims of the series): (1) Clearly unpacks the narrative; (2) Makes penetrating applications into our world today; (3) finds rich connections from Judges into the NT, especially to the person of Christ.
Let me give some examples of all of these.
Keller shows how the deliverers in Judges often achieve victory through weakness. Ehud destroys Eglon because, not in spite of, his handicap and being left-handed. Jesus is our left-handed Savior who saves a left-handed people (1 Cor 1.26-27). The story of Deborah and Jael lead him to talk sex roles in the church (he takes a soft complementarian stance).
In failing to purge the land of idols fully, they have left Canaan a minefield: “Like buried mines, these idols lie dormant in Judges 1, ready to explode in the spiritual lives of God’s people.” Idolatry leads to slavery as Israel becomes enslaved to the very people whose gods they serve.
Gideon’s famous fleece is not grounds to discern God’s will through tests. What Gideon was actually doing was “seeking to understand the nature of God.” To imitate Gideon in our day is “to ask God to give us a big picture of who he is” to which God responds by showing us the fullest expression of his character—Jesus Christ.
The phrase “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” is contrasted with Israel doing “evil in the eyes of the Lord”. Contemporary notions of morality are wrong. It is not true that “only you can define what’s right and wrong for you.” Rather, right and wrong are defined by God himself.
The Samson cycle gives Keller the platform to discuss unequal yokes, and to include a heading entitled “A Lion, a Bet, and a Woman” which from Keller is surely a nod to Narnia!
In chapter 13 he takes up the disturbing way in which Judges ends. The wicked men rape the concubine all night long; her Levite master looks upon her with cold indifference the following morning. After noting that the narrator is showing that the Levite is just as evil as the wicked rapists, Keller asks
Are there ways in which we listen to our culture about how we should view (either treat, or look at) women? In what ways are we in danger of treating women as property, as things?
…we may not have committed such things, but (like the Levite) have failed to prevent them, enabling them through our inaction. We will have all told ourselves and others a better story about ourselves and our conduct than the whole truth would reveal.
By the time this rape crime has descended to full civil war in the nation, and Israel is self-destructing, and the solutions they are coming up with are actually intensifying their problems and darkness, the narrator of Judges has made his point clearly: Israel’s worst enemy was Israel. And today, the Church’s worst enemy is herself. We need a King, a deliverer who can save us from ourselves. We need God himself to be the King, but we need him to deliver us through weakness, through his Son become flesh, through Jesus.
This book is a helpful guide for the person reading through Judges for themselves, and for those seeking to lead others through it the reflection questions interspersed throughout will help facilitate discussion and growth.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher but was not required to write a positive review. ...more
Awesome book. The following is my summary of the concluding chapter:
Exodus is about God’s mission in making himself known, making Jesus’ commission juAwesome book. The following is my summary of the concluding chapter:
Exodus is about God’s mission in making himself known, making Jesus’ commission just as much an OT thing as a NT thing. Exodus contributes much to our mission theology: (1) It’s done through / in community (“endeavours that may be considered evangelistic are best rooted in community”, 211, cf Chester); (2) It’s costly to us as God puts us through trials to make us into a priestly nation, conformed to him; (3) In mission we make God known as he is; (4) which includes especially making him known as Redeemer!...more
According to Don Carson, this book is “the best one on the subject” (p.9)!
Blomberg’s book is intended to fill a gap in the Christian written responseAccording to Don Carson, this book is “the best one on the subject” (p.9)!
Blomberg’s book is intended to fill a gap in the Christian written response to widespread poverty in the world by being an evangelical biblical theology of possession, surveying both Testaments with sensitivity to the backgrounds of Scripture and to the issues throughout the world. “Ironically, this is a book by the rich for the rich” (11).
Reverse discrimination may be as immoral as the initial discrimination it seeks to rectify (49, this is softened in following sentence).
Inspired by Nehemiah’s example, Blomberg writes: “Christian leaders today need to model generosity in their giving, so that the average church-goer, whose offerings prove paltry in comparison, can see that greater sacrifice is both possible and necessary” (55).
It is better, therefore, to see these [verses in Ecclesiastes] as genuine commands to enjoy the material world…from within an eternal framework that keeps life’s transience in perspective…One can enjoy creation without worshipping it, especially by keeping the life to come in clear focus (3:21; 12:7). (62)
Thus it is clear that [The Rich Fool - Luke 12.16-21] is condemned not just for being rich. Still, it is important for professing Christians today to ask themselves how many unused surplus goods, property or investments they accumulate without any thought for the needy of our world. If the parallels become too close, presumably Jesus would say that their professions of faith are vacuous. (119)
But this discipleship will inevitably produce a tangible impact in the area of stewardship of material possessions. Indeed, this area is often the most important test-case of one’s profession of discipleship. (126-7)
It is arguable that materialism is the single biggest competitor with authentic Christianity for the hearts and souls of millions in our world today, including many in the visible church. (132)
There is no repentance in Luke that does not practice sympathy toward the poor and outcast, no welcoming the saving act of God in Jesus Christ that does not do justice and kindness, no waiting for his return that does not expect and anticipate God’s vindication of the humble poor, no participation in his community that does not give alms or share one’s goods or practice hospitality. (239, quoting Verhey 1984: 95)
5 conclusions (243-6)
1) Material possessions are a good gift from God meant for his people to enjoy
2) Material possessions are simultaneously one of the primary means of turning human hearts away from God.
3) A necessary sign of a life in the process of being redeemed is that of transformation in the area of stewardship.
4) There are certain extremes of wealth and poverty which are in and of themselves intolerable.
5) Above all, the Bible’s teaching about material possessions is inextricably intertwined with more ‘spiritual’ matters.
5 corresponding applications (247)
1) If wealth is an inherent good, Christians should try to gain it.
2) If wealth is seductive, giving away some of our surplus is a good strategy for resisting the temptation to overvalue it.
3) If stewardship is a sign of a redeemed life, then Christians will, by their new natures, want to give.
4) If certain extremes of wealth and poverty are inherently intolerable, those of us with excess income…will work hard to help at least a few of the desperately needy in our world.
5) If holistic salvation represents the ultimate good God wants all to receive, then our charitable giving should be directed to individuals, churches or organizations who minister holistically, caring for people’s bodies as well as their souls, addressing their physical as well as their spiritual circumstances....more
This is a remarkable book on racism. Piper has read the popular, academic, and biblical literature with his usual care and insight, and in this book hThis is a remarkable book on racism. Piper has read the popular, academic, and biblical literature with his usual care and insight, and in this book he provides much help to the rest of us Christians who “have not trained [our] powers of discernment in matters of racial and ethnic issues” (45).
Part One (Our World: The Need for the Gospel) opened my eyes to the black-white racial tensions to the south. Here Piper talks about structural versus personal strategies for making racial progress before concluding that a third strategy is needed—the gospel itself. The gospel is able to overcome nine destructive forces (Satan, guilt, pride, hopelessness, feelings of inferiority and self-doubt, greed, hatred, fear, and apathy) in ways that personal and structural strategies can’t touch (87).
Part Two is all about the power of that gospel. Jesus is the end of ethnocentrism. God provided one way to himself through Christ’s blood. This one sacrifice is for everyone. In reconciling all to God it reconciles peoples to each other, as all who believe become one new entity.
Revelation 5.9 teaches us that God intends to have people from every ethnic group (chp 9). Romans 3 teaches us that every people is justified the same way (chp 10). In chp 11 irresistible grace means that no one is too racist to be out of reach of God’s grace. All of these chapters, along with the subsequent ones, show the gospel’s relevance and power to such a large problem as racism.
Piper also has wise words to say about interracial marriage (chp 15), persuasively showing that the Bible blesses, not prohibits, it. Another thorny issue is dealt with in chp 16: the issue of prejudice and generalizing about others based on their ethnicity. Piper suggests that generalizations are unavoidable, and they can be made without falling into racial sin provided that one has a good heart. He offers eight penetrating questions with which to test our hearts in this matter.
Appendix Four usefully takes up the question: “What are the implications of Noah’s curse?”
I’ll let Piper summarize the book for himself:
The aim of this book has been to encourage you to pursue Christ-exalting, gospel-driven racial and ethnic diversity and harmony—especially in the family of God, the church of Jesus Christ. I have tried to argue from Scripture that the blood of Christ was shed for this. It is not first a social issue, but a blood issue. The bloodline of Christ is deeper than the bloodlines of race. (227)
My favourite quotes:
The bloodline of Jesus Christ is deeper than the bloodlines of race. The death and resurrection of the Son of God for sinners is the only sufficient power to bring the bloodlines of race into the single bloodline of the cross. (13-14)
To be a Christian is to move toward need, not comfort. (110)
Jesus’s behavior is like a US Marine caring for a Taliban freedom fighter. (117)
Jesus is the point in redemptive history where the true Israel becomes the church of Christ and the church (Jew and Gentile) emerges as the true Israel. This is the mystery of Christ, now revealed, and it is possible because of the cross. (125)
The ethnic diversity of hell is a crucial doctrine. (135)...more
Punchy and well-written. Good methodology. I agree with what he affirms but not what he denies. Dickson teaches us that gospel is story. In Gilbert’sPunchy and well-written. Good methodology. I agree with what he affirms but not what he denies. Dickson teaches us that gospel is story. In Gilbert’s treatment, gospel is more a body of doctrine. Can it be that both are true. That first and foremost gospel is story, but a body of truths emerge from the story that the NT also calls gospel? I think so, but need to test against Scripture. ...more
I read this book a long time ago (early summer maybe?) and I won’t be taking time to review it. Except to say that John Piper has gone to great painsI read this book a long time ago (early summer maybe?) and I won’t be taking time to review it. Except to say that John Piper has gone to great pains to hear Wright out and understand him. This book is a model for how to disagree with someone....more
In the introduction, Jacob notes that of all religious beliefs, none provokes more criticism and repulsion than the doctrine of original sin. OriginalIn the introduction, Jacob notes that of all religious beliefs, none provokes more criticism and repulsion than the doctrine of original sin. Original sin is irreparable, irreversible, and unpredictable (x-xi). It is the belief that every human being is born with sin already in them. That we all inherit sin, and are culpable. The history of original sin is a history of resistance to it. So why, over the centuries, have so many stubbornly believed it? Well, as Chesterton noted, original sin has enormous empirical evidence (“it is the only doctrine of the Christian faith that is empirically provable” [x])! But the main reason it has been adopted by some of the greatest thinkers in the history of the world is its vast explanatory power. All other explanations for human evil and selfishness fall short.
Original Sin is, in Jacob’s words, “an exemplary history” (as opposed to an exhaustive one), and “a specifically cultural history” (as opposed to a theological history). Thus Jacobs mines the literature of centuries and turns up story after story of people who either fought or defended the doctrine of original sin. The stories range from the ancient past (King David and Bathsheba) to the more recent dawn of eugenics and genetics. Those who are resistant to belief in “a divided self” will need to overcome a barrage of fire to maintain their skepticism by the final page.
One thing that stands out in Jacob’s brilliant treatment is the theme of original sin’s positive contributions to history and life. He introduces us to Pascal, who realized that only the fear of God that comes from being corrupt sinners in the sight of God enables us to have proper wonder at God’s love (116). The power of original sin to bind humans together in a “confraternity” is seen throughout the book, but especially in the chapter on American slavery. Original sin is a brake that can slow and restrain the course of evil (209-10).
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a Soviet prisoner who was brought to faith by being persuaded of the truthfulness of original sin. How he was persuaded of original sin is most interesting. As he watched a habitually-brutal prison guard, he realized over time that
given the same power in the same circumstances, he himself would surely have behaved with equal cruelty. “In the intoxication of youthful successes” he had believed himself “infallible”; it was the Gulag that taught him that he was “a murderer, and an oppressor.” It was the Gulag that taught him that everyone has the capacity to become a Stalin and that therefore “the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but through every human heart.” (224)
Jacobs mines Rebecca West’s work, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (which he believes to be “the greatest book of the twentieth century” ), to provide us a vivid illustration of the human heart. West visited a biological museum and sees a two-headed calf. One head was lovely, the other hideous. The owners had fed the beautiful head milk, but the ugly head would spit the milk out, preventing the food from reaching the calf’s stomach. According to the custodian, the calf would have been “alive today had it not been for its nature” (223).
I found the stories where original sin intersected with science to be very interesting. The final chapter features this intersection the most because it deals with genetics. But it also appears in the chapter on American slavery. Interestingly, it is science, not the religious belief of original sin, which gets the bad rap. Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz was
a progenitor of “scientific racism”—the view that, setting aside any biblical narratives or doctrines that support the unity and common origin of human beings, there is no such thing as the human race; rather, there are several races that, carelessly and unscientifically, have been lumped in a single category. It was the task of science to disentangle the confused strands, to establish clear distinctions among races, to rank them according to intellectual capacity, and to insist that those rankings be reflected in law and public policy. And so the superstitions of biblical literalism would be set aside in the name of scientific progress, which is also, of course, social progress. (203)
Few questions can be more important than what is wrong with us. An incredible journey awaits anyone willing to pick up this book. I highly recommend it....more