Monday, April 15, 2019

Assured: A Book Review

Am I truly saved?

Assured: Discover Grace, Let Go of Guilt, and Rest in Your SalvationWhen I was a child, I prayed "the sinner's prayer" many times wondering if it had really "worked". Truth be told, "Am I saved?" is a good question to ask. After all, Paul encourages his readers to:

"Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" (2 Corinthians 13:5, ESV)

The author of Hebrews also warns his readers about falling away from the faith. It was this author who put the fear of God into me a little more than a decade ago as our pastors preached through that book. I was sure that I currently believed that Jesus Christ died for my sins and that I wanted to follow him, but I wondered how I could be sure that I would continue to believe. How could I be sure I would never fall away like some of my other friends had over the years? The thought still brings tears to my eyes, but I have far greater assurance these days than I did when these questions first plagued me. Thankfully, my pastors wisely worked through my questions alongside me, directing me to the Word of God where I would find a rock solid foundation for my faith and for assurance of my salvation, but what about those who don't have this luxury?

Greg Gilbert's book, Assured: Discover Grace, Let Go of Guilt, and Rest in Your Salvation, addresses some of the same questions that troubled me years ago and then some. Again and again, Gilbert demonstrates how the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the promises of God provide a firm foundation for Christian assurance, "fountainheads from which our sense of certainty of our salvation erupts" (20). Gilbert faithfully unpacks Scripture passages that reveal the role of good works with regard to assurance (including ways we might misuse this tool) and speaks of the witness of the Holy Spirit as the seal of a believer's salvation. Further, Gilbert discusses ways to strengthen assurance or regain it if it's been lost (19).

Truth be told, much of this ground has been covered in previously published titles, but Gilbert also includes a helpful chapter on lies we tend to believe that undermine assurance and another especially encouraging chapter on besetting sins which make this title a unique and valuable contribution to the discussion. Gilbert's writing is accessible, edifying, and utilizes memorable illustrations. I'm happy to commend it to any who find themselves wrestling with this subject or seeking to minister to others who are.

*Many thanks to Baker Books for sending me a complimentary copy of Assured! These are my honest thoughts. I'm praying Assured brings fresh warning and conviction where needed and lead to the peace the surpasses all understanding for those who are trusting in the finished work of Jesus Christ for their salvation!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

None Greater: A Book Review

None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God
"God is someone than whom none greater can be conceived...What must be true of God if he is the most perfect being?" (10) This is the central question explored by Matthew Barrett in his recent book, None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God.

Throughout church history, men like Aquinas, Anselm, Augustine, John Calvin, Stephen Charnock, Herman Bavinck, as well as others, have written rich, Scripture saturated volumes on the character of God. Barrett has done the Church a great service by bringing his readers to this stream and bidding us drink from this classic teaching concerning God, making it all the more accessible to our generation. Far from being abstract, intellectual theology fit primarily for academia, this book is richly devotional and leads its readers to worship. Granted, there are times when such a grand topic exercises the mind a good deal, but Barrett has written with the lay person in mind, and those who climb to the summit with him will be rewarded with breathtaking views of our glorious God. I am pleased to give None Greater my highest commendation!

"...if we think about God, we should say to ourselves: 'This is not God; God is more than this: if I could conceive him, he were not God; for God is incomprehensibly above whatever I can say, whatsoever I can think and conceive of him' " (Stephen Charnock as quoted by Matthew Barrett, 40).

*Many thanks to Baker Books for providing me with a complimentary copy of None Greater! These are my honest thoughts.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Broken Pieces - A Book Review

Broken Pieces and the God Who Mends Them
When we walk through the valleys and storms of life, where can we find an anchor for our souls? What is our true comfort? How can we care for others who are suffering? In Broken Pieces and the God Who Mends Them, Simonetta Carr shares her painful journey through the unknown waters of schizophrenia and offers support and encouragement for others who are going through similar trials. Again and again, she turns her eyes and directs ours to: "...the triune God--not only as a helper and comforter of sorrows, but in all his greatness and the perfection of his attributes" (pg. 106) demonstrating that God's unchanging character (Ex. 34:6-7) is the anchor for our souls in any and every aspect of life. She writes:

"Ultimately, Christ is my only true comfort and my only anchor in this sea of uncertainty" (155).

The struggle of faith is to see God the Father rightly and then act in light of what we know to be true, rightly imaging Him. This "Faith is not defined by our feelings. What we feel doesn't change what's objective" (190). One of Simonetta's pastors, Michael Horton, encouraged her with the words of John Calvin:
"All things around us are in opposition to the promises of God: He promises immortality; we are  surrounded with mortality and corruption: He declares that he counts us just; we are covered with  sins: He testifies that he is propitious and kind to us; outward judgments threaten his wrath. What then is to be done? We must with closed eyes pass by ourselves and all things connected with us, that nothing may hinder or prevent us from believing that God is true" (191).
In response, Simonetta writes: "And so I continue, day after day, to divert my mind from all the many things that pull me away from God’s promises" (191).

Simonetta Carr
And this is exactly what Simonetta seeks to do for her readers as well. While Broken Pieces shares the Carr family story, ultimately, this book isn't centered on Simonetta and her family but on the good God who faithfully carries all believers through life's trials and the promises of the gospel that sustain us in these struggles. She shows us what it looks like for one mom to " 'to the rock that is higher than' us (Ps. 61:2) and point our loved ones in that direction" (213). Simonetta is honest and transparent about the wrestlings of her heart and illustrates how one family's relentless love of a sufferer speaks of Christ's relentless love for us when we were in no condition to love him back (83).

Broken Pieces is full of wisdom and offers lots of practical advice to support caregivers including resource recommendations. It seeks to fuel compassion and empathy, allowing us to enter someone's pain, feel deeply, and weep with those who weep. Simonetta teaches us the importance of guarding our speech and judgments as Christians and how to be a friend to sufferers. She also highlights the primacy of the gospel and the ministry of the Word in the life of the church revealing the intricate inter-relationship between what we believe about God and how we live and walk through trials. I'm very grateful that Simonetta and others have reopened their tender wounds to build up the Body of Christ and help all of us image God more closely as we care for sufferers!
"It’s only when we realize who God is in Christ that we can not only accept his sovereignty over all but welcome it with joy and relief. And this realization comes when we understand the Bible as the unified story of a loving God who is redeeming a rebellious human race. God is not just an abstract sum of his attributes. He’s a God who acts in history, and his acts constitute an integral part of his revelation of himself as an omnipotent, omniscient, all-just, all-loving, all-good, and all-wise God. No one will ever know our loved ones like he does, and no one will ever love them more than Christ, who has died on the cross for them" (272).
*Many thanks to P & R  Publishing for a complimentary digital copy of Broken Pieces! These are my honest thoughts.