BOOK REVIEWS

Talk the Walk – Steve Brown (2019)

talkSteve Brown, Talk the Walk (Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2019), 152 pp.

Whenever I read the work of Steve Brown, I am challenged, encouraged, and forced to think deeply. And sometimes, he is downright irritating! Dr. Brown’s newest book, Talk the Walk is no exception. Longtime readers will recognize Brown’s witty way with words, self-effacing personality, love for the gospel, and his uncanny ability to back you into a corner.

Talk the Walk is a book about evangelism. But it’s not a typical book about sharing one’s faith. Rather, it is a book about effective evangelistic influence. Tragically, the influence of some Christians has been found wanting, to put it mildly. Brown laments this sobering reality and urges his readers to pursue is different path, one that is filled with both grace and truth.

The subtitle of the book, How To Be Right Without Being Insufferable is an accurate description of the content and the heart of the author. Brown acknowledges up front that Christians are a people of the truth. In short, they are right. Christians are beneficiaries of a meta narrative (a big story that unveils ultimate reality) – the correct meta narrative. But the theme of the book is more about conveying the truth in a way that is compelling and winsome. Instead of focusing on theological minutiae, Brown challenges readers to look outward in order to make an impact on the lives of hurting people. People need the truth but they also need to see the truth modeled before their eyes.

The author reveals several ways that Christians can put the truth to good use in the marketplace of ideas. Instead of merely “being right,” Brown encourages his brothers and sisters to “live right” and to live in light of the truth.

Careful readers will notice that Steve Brown loves the Word of God. He loves the gospel. And he loves the truth. But he is unwilling to abandon a strong Christian testimony. This is unacceptable and is fittingly mocked along the way.

I personally benefitted from Talk the Walk and trust that many more will be prompted to move beyond the church walls to make a difference for the sake of the gospel. Then and only then, will they talk the walk.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS

God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel – Costi Hinn (2019

hinnCosti W. Hinn, God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2019), 223 pp.

The so-called prosperity gospel has been a virtual “wrecking ball,” inflicting damage on the unsuspecting, infiltrating local churches with a diabolical message of health and wealth, and inviting the wrath of a holy God. The prosperity gospel is not another version of the gospel. It is “a different gospel,” one that not only devastates and deceives – this gospel damns.

The apostle Paul addressed the church in Galatia and confronted the false gospel of his day:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:6-9, ESV).

False gospels must be confronted, as Paul addressed the Galatians who turned to the “gospel” of the Judaizers in the first-century. Costi W. Hinn confronts the prosperity gospel in his latest book, God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel. Hinn clearly defines the poisonous effects of this pernicious movement: “The prosperity gospel is here to stay and is spanning the globe, doing damage to the true gospel of Jesus Christ. It is an evil that poses as a blessing but is truly a curse. It appears to be a loving extension of God’s goodness but is arguably the most hateful and abusive kind of false teaching plaguing the church today.”

Hinn describes how he grew up and was groomed to serve alongside his famous uncle, Benny Hinn and how God revealed the diabolical underpinnings of the prosperity gospel, which led to his repentance, conversion, and departure from the movement.

The author describes the origins of the prosperity gospel and the core elements with all of its trappings. He demonstrates from Scripture why prosperity teaching is abominable and warns readers to flee from its deadly influence. Hinn reveals ten reasons that the prosperity gospel is antithetical to Scripture:

  1. It distorts the biblical gospel.
  2. It insults God’s nature.
  3. It confuses the atonement.
  4. It demeans Jesus Christ.
  5. It twists Scripture.
  6. It is motivated by love for money.
  7. It produces false converts.
  8. It overcomplicates faith.
  9. It ruins Christianity’s witness.
  10. It abuses vulnerable people.

Thoughtful and discerning readers will take these principles to heart and be careful to guard the biblical gospel.

Costi Hinn does not shy away from controversy. But he also speaks the truth in love and his arguments are grounded in grace. God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel is sure to raise eyebrows. Hinn’s work is a labor of love that will serve the church well. And it will surely draw some people out of this false system and lead them to the truth.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS

Untangling Emotions – J. Alasdair Groves and Winston T. Smith (2019)

emotionsJ. Alasdair Groves & Winston T. Smith, Untangling Emotions (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 225 pp.

Most people have experienced the frustration of trying to untangle the laces on a pair of tennis shoes. Frustration only escalates as the knot tightens which leads to a sense of heightened angst. This normal occurrence vividly depicts how many people approach their emotional lives. People approach emotions in different ways: Some deny their emotions; others allow their emotions to dictate their lives.

Untangling Emotions by J. Alasdair Groves and Winston T. Smith helps clear the fog about this confusing matter. The authors seek to nurture the emotional lives of their readers and ultimately point them to the Savior.

The book is arranged in three sections. The first section, understanding emotions, is a candid look at the way we live our lives. One of the most helpful aspects of this section is that emotions turn us Godward: “Every emotion you ever feel reflects your loves, or what you worship.” The authors examine the emotional life of Jesus and reveal how he lived to God’s glory. Real change is found in submitting our emotional lives to God.

Section two, engaging emotions, explores how we engage with God. “Engaging emotions” according to the authors, “without engaging God is a recipe for disaster.” The authors stress the importance of evaluating our hearts (which is a summary of our emotional lives): “Changing your feelings is not your biggest goal. Instead, we want to let our evaluation of our emotions drive us to act in ways that will actually have an impact on the deep loves and treasures of hour hearts.”

The final section, engaging the hardest emotions, tackles some common issues that people battle, namely – fear, anger, grief, guilt, and shame. I found the third section very helpful and touched a nerve in me. The above emotions are discussed candidly and subjected to the light of biblical revelation.

The truly encouraging aspect of this book is wrapped up in the reality and hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ: “The end of the story really is radical, complete comfort. No more tears. Every earthly pain a ‘light momentary affliction’ compared with the glory of heaven. And yet the trials we’ve been through and the sins we’ve committed are exactly the things that now make our souls hunger and thirst for redemption and God’s restoring all things. Our tears whet our appetite for heaven.”

Untangling Emotions is a deeply meaningful book. The writing is plain, but also penetrating. It carries the full weight of biblical authority but never comes across in judgmental tones. There is much wisdom to be gleaned here – so much that I will certainly revisit these pages in the days to come.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS

Maturity: Growing Up and Going on in the Christian Life – Sinclair Ferguson

matSinclair B. Ferguson, Maturity: Growing Up and Going On in the Christian Life (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2019), 231 pp.

In a style that Christians have grown fond of, Sinclair Ferguson gifts the church with Maturity: Growing Up and Going On in the Christian Life. Originally penned in 1980 and distributed with the title, Add to Your Faith, and in 1981 as Taking the Christian Life Seriously in the United States. To refer to this short work as a treasure would be an understatement as Dr. Ferguson presents the high points of the Christian life.

The high points are set forth in five sections, namely, growing up, standing firm, facing difficulties, pressing on, and maturity. At the heart of Ferguson’s work is the Pauline mandate for Christ-followers to be mature in Christ: “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28). Ferguson adds, “The mature Christian has been finely shaped by the Holy Spirit and has been ‘filled out’ in a character which showed the fruit of the Spirit. Mature Christians possess the qualities which only Jesus Christ can produce, because he alone has exhibited them perfectly. This is maturity.” As such, we are not only “bound to the example of Christ, we are under the lordship of Christ.”

Each of the five sections assumes that readers desire to grow in Christian maturity. With the divine standard in place, the author carefully explains how maturity develops throughout the course of our lives. The various themes that emerge in these sections are deeply biblical and profoundly practical. Christians at all stages of maturity will benefit from Ferguson’s sound exegesis and practical application.

Maturity: Growing Up and Going On in the Christian Life truly lives up to its calling and invites readers to press and continue the sanctification process that was initiated at the point of conversion.

Highly recommended.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

For more information in Banner of Truth titles, please visit https://banneroftruth.org/us/

BOOK REVIEWS

The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls – Matthew Barrett , Ed.

docMatthew Barrett, Ed. The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 912 pp.

Martin Luther boldly declared, “Justification is the article upon which the church stands or falls.” John Calvin argued that justification is the “hinge on which religion turns.” In the sixteenth century, scores of people found these arguments both biblical and compelling. The Roman Catholic Church deemed Luther and Calvin as heretics.

Fast forward to the current generation. While much has changed over the past five hundred years, the biblical wisdom of Luther and Calvin still stands. Many in the church trumpet the grand reality of justification by faith alone. But some continue to deny or discount this critical doctrine. Tragically, some of the dissenters are preaching in Protestant churches. At stake is more than a mere doctrine, important as that is – what is at stake is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls is edited by Matthew Barrett. Dr. Barrett comes with impeccable academic credentials and is supported by a cast of world-class scholars and theologians. This book both a theological tome and a treasure chest. It is not for the faint-hearted. And it is certainly not designed for the armchair theologian.

The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls is arranged in four parts:

  1. Justification in Biblical Perspective
  2. Justification in Theological Perspective
  3. Justification in Church History
  4. Justification in Pastoral Practice

This book leaves no stone unturned. The team that Barrett has assembled has examined every theological, biblical, and historical angle that pertains to the doctrine of justification. The fundamental standing of position before a holy God is addressed with depth, breadth, integrity, and God-centered wisdom. The combined efforts have yielded a work that should be used for generations to come and will be of great service to pastors, professors, and followers of Christ.

Those who discounted Luther and Calvin in the sixteenth-century did so at their own peril. Of greater importance is the repudiation of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. To discount this cardinal doctrine is not only dangerous; it is tantamount to theological treason.

I commend The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls and trust that it will receive a wide readership.

Highly recommended

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS

Before the Throne: Reflections on God’s Holiness – Allen Nelson IV

allenA.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” While he uttered those words almost sixty years ago, Tozer could sense the rapid decline and deterioration in the church. He sensed a lack of reverence; almost an antipathy for God. Tragically, things have not improved. The decline only continues.

Allen Nelson IV, picking up where Tozer left off, writes with the same sense of resolve and urgency in his recent book, Before the Throne: Reflections on God’s Holiness. These reflections are firmly anchored to Isaiah 6:1-7 and Revelation 4:10-11. Nelson argues that there is a great need to recover the biblical view of God – a transcendent and majestic vision of the triune God.

The author’s focus, however, is on the holiness of God. He makes a three-fold argument for gaining a clear understanding and appreciation of God’s holiness:

  • If we get God wrong, we get everything wrong.
  • God’s holiness is misunderstood, misapplied, and underemphasized.
  • We are commanded to be holy as God is holy.

The book is comprised of twelve chapters, all of which are designed to alert, guide, instruct, challenge, and admonish followers of Christ. These chapters are like different facets of a stunning diamond. They draw the attention of readers and lead them to worship God in his resplendent holiness.

Many churches have succumbed to the spirit of the age. Some have subtly softened the attributes of God; others have brazenly sought to remove Him from His throne. Open theism, Pelagianism, and Pluralism are not only accepted; they are celebrated. Large numbers of people who profess to be Christians are failing to exercise biblical discernment. The warnings in Scripture to steer clear from false teachers is either neglected or ignored. It is in this context that Before the Throne is a much-needed breath of fresh air. Indeed, this book is a bold challenge and a biblical antidote to the apostasy that engulfs us the postmodern generation.

Allen Nelson’s Before the Throne is a labor of love that should be read and digested by Christians everywhere. The result will be hearts and minds which are consumed with knowing and worshiping the LORD, who is holy, holy, holy. May worshipers find themselves before the throne in the proper posture of humility, with hearts of contrition, and trembling at His Word (Isa. 66:2).

Dr. David Steele is senior pastor at Christ Fellowship in Everson, Washington. He is the author of Bold Reformer: Celebrating the Gospel-Centered Convictions of Martin Luther and A Godward Gaze: The Holy Pursuit of John Calvin

BOOK REVIEWS

Faithful Endurance: The Joy of Shepherding People for a Lifetime – Jeff Robinson, Ed.

faithfulCollin Hansen & Jeff Robinson Sr. Ed, Faithful Endurance: The Joy of Shepherding People for a Lifetime (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 146 pp.

Faithful Endurance: The Joy of Shepherding People for a Lifetime is a call to pastors to remain true to their call and cross the finish line with God-centered resolve.

Faithful Endurance is edited by Collin Hansen and Jeff Robison. The editors gathered a group of seasoned pastors; men who have served for decades in the church. These men not only understand the essence of faithful endurance; they have endured battles and have the scars to prove it.

Each chapter contains a letter from a fictional pastor who seeks advice from one of the veteran leaders mentioned above. While the letters are not real, the scenarios that the letters convey are realities that pastors around the world face on a regular basis. Each letter receives a response that offers godly counsel and wisdom. Such counsel is desperately needed for pastors who face various “minefields” on the battlefield of ministry.

Topics include suffering, dealing with criticism, doubt, depression, finances, Sabbath rest, and many more.

The chapter on Sabbath rest caught me completely off-guard. Instead of the usual, legalistic handwringing that is accompanied by essays on the Sabbath, Mark McCullough reminded me that such a day is a “remembrance of the garden, where we feasted with God in the cool of the day, and a rehearsal of new creation, where we will feast with him in the new world.”

As one who has endured a bitter season of Providence in pastoral ministry, Faithful Endurance was deeply moving and a deep encouragement to me personally. This little book is soul-warming, heart-convicting, and life-changing. My hope is that many pastors will be greatly served as a result of reading these fine essays. May each man who studies these pages endure and be found faithful.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS

Grace Defined and Defended – Kevin DeYoung

calKevin DeYoung, Grace Defined and Defended (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 130.

Whenever Kevin DeYoung pens a book, I devour it – quickly. DeYoung writes with biblical precision. He writes with clarity. And his writing exalts the Lord Jesus Christ. His latest book, Grace Defined & Defended is no exception.

This short book is a summary and exposition of the Canons of Dort. The Synod convened from 1618-1619 and crystallized the Reformed position concerning soteriology.

DeYoung reproduces the historical Canon of Dort and provides a short commentary that explains and defends the content. Misconceptions are erased and the doctrinal ore is successfully mined and served up in a readable and devotional manner.

The selling-point of Grace Defined & Defended is its ability to drive readers to the Canons of Dort – a document that most contemporary believers have never heard about, let alone read.

DeYoung’s ability to unpack and explain this 400-year old confession is unparalleled and should be devoured by followers of Jesus. Readers who affirm historic Calvinistic orthodoxy will be edified and encouraged. Fence-sitters and Arminians will be challenged and convinced. And all readers, in the final analysis, will exalt the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Soli Deo gloria!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS

An Introduction to the Greek New Testament – Dirk Jongkind

greekDirk Jongkind, An Introduction to the Greek New Testament (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 115 pp.

An Introduction to the Greek New Testament by Dirk Jongkind paints a vivid portrait of the work and scholarship behind The Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House. “The aim of this book,” writes the author, “is to help you read Tyndale’s House Edition without any nagging and distracting questions about the text or the edition.”

Jongkind accomplishes his objective in this short book as he unpacks how interpretive decisions are made and also includes a helpful section on the Byzantine Text and the Texts Receptus.

Greek students and Seminarians will be fascinated by this introductory work and will give them the necessary details behind The Greek New Testament Produced at Tyndale House. A disclaimer: The material is designed for people who have a background in Koine Greek.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS

Our Ancient Foe: The History, Activity, and Demise of the Devil – Ronald L. Kohl, Ed

foeRonald L. Kohl, Our Ancient Foe: Satan’s History, Activity, and Ultimate Demise (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2019), 151 pp.

Our Ancient Foe is edited by Ronald L. Kohl. The subtitle of the book is a fitting description of the contents, namely – Satan’s History, Activity, and Ultimate Demise. Kohl has assembled a team of scholars and expository preachers to unveil the diabolical devices of the devil. The likes of Tom Nettles, Derek Thomas, Joel Beeke, Kent Hughes, and Sinclair Ferguson make solid contributions that help readers understand how the enemy of our souls operates.

Each essay is deeply grounded in Scripture as the activity of the evil one is explored. The contributors explore Satan’s character, his schemes, and how believers are delivered from him.

The final chapter proves especially helpful. Sinclair Ferguson writes about the consummation of all things in a chapter entitled, All Things New. The writing is basic enough for new believers but also challenges readers who have been walking with Christ for some time.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.