CULTURE · Theology

The Eclipse of the Gospel and the School of Hard Knox

A Powerful Man

I stood in the shadow of St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland. Clouds gathered overhead and people walked curiously through the front doors. Here, the famous reformer, John Knox faithfully tended the flock until his death in 1572.

Once inside this massive cathedral, I was transfixed by the sheer beauty of this place. I was overwhelmed by the architecture – the awe-inspiring flying buttresses that point worshippers to the transcendence of God. A single elevated pulpit is located in the center of the sanctuary. It stands strategically above the worshippers, which symbolically places God’s Word above sinful creatures.

John Knox brought reform to Scotland and re-energized a nation that had all but forgotten God. Knox helped awaken a nation that neglected God’s truth which led to a virtual eclipse of the gospel. Martyn Lloyd-Jones describes Knox as a man who preached “with the fire of God in his bones and in his belly!  He preached as they all preached, with fire and power, alarming sermons, convicting sermons, humbling sermons, converting sermons, and the face of Scotland was changed …” Simply put, the faithful preaching of Knox brought much needed reform to the Scottish landscape and renewed evangelical fervor to the church.

John Knox courageously raised the banner of the gospel and defended the truths of the Protestant Reformation. He was unashamed of the gospel (Rom. 1:16) and fearlessly proclaimed the Word of God. He stood boldly and with Peter and the apostles, obeyed God rather then men (Acts 5:29). Indeed, Knox is a true exemplar of faithfulness in the face of adversity.

A Personal Lesson

As I made my way out of St. Giles, my mind was filled with stories surrounding the life and ministry of John Knox. As I turned to gaze again at the rising fortress where Knox served the Lord, a thought occurred to me. It was not a new thought. Rather, it was a lesson that has moved me for many years now but in this moment, the lesson was magnified as I scanned the edifice of St. Giles. The lesson is this: church history matters.

It seems like such a simple lesson. But it is a lesson that many contemporary Christians are unfamiliar with. Even as a young Bible College student, I failed to understand the importance of church history. The buildings seemed so old and the names were so hard to pronounce. It is a sentiment that is not unique to me. I hear it all the time. I hear the cruel remarks about John Calvin and the caricatures that biased people have cooked up about Jonathan Edwards. But when we move past all the petty talk and face reality, we realize that church history truly does matter.

A Pivotal Mindset

First, Church history matters because when we forget the past, we fail to learn valuable lessons that impact our lives. George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” So Christians who minimize the importance of church history are vulnerable to the theological error that plagued the church in the past. Additionally, they repeat the sins committed by our forefathers.

For example, Arius committed a fatal theological error by teaching that Christ was the first created being. This theological controversy which erupted in 318 A.D. led to a series of erroneous Arian propositions:

  1. The Son was created by the Father.
  2. The Son owed his existence to the will of the Father.
  3. The Son was not eternal, that is, there was a time when he was not.

Such teaching stood diametrically opposed to Scripture and was outside the bounds of orthodoxy. In the end, Arius rejected the full deity of the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Second, Church history matters because it strengthens our faith. Scripture instructs, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” (Heb. 13:7, ESV) The term remember is a present imperative verb that means, “keep thinking about,” or “call to mind.”

Remembering godly leaders in church history is not optional; it is a command in sacred Scripture. The author of Hebrews does not limit the scope of these “leaders” to men like Moses, Abraham, Paul or Peter. He instructs us to remember leaders “who spoke to you the word of God.” So remembering leaders like Augustine, Calvin, Edwards, Luther, and Spurgeon is an important part of the Christian pilgrimage. We do well to follow in their paths by boldly proclaiming the truth and living faithfully before the Lord, even when our detractors heap insults on us for faithfully remembering these heroes of the faith.

Third, Church history matters because God ordained specific events that lead to the worldwide spread of his glory. Church history truly is “his story.” Whenever we discount history, we subtly stand in judgment over God and claim to know a better way. Whenever we disparage church history and subtly place ourselves in a position that was never ours to enjoy. Indeed, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3, ESV).

The School of Hard Knox

John Knox was a faithful man who led a gospel-centered life, according to the grace that was given him by his Savior. His relentless preaching helped drive away the darkness and restore the light of the gospel to his land. Almost five hundred years later, St. Giles still stands but the truth has fallen on hard times. Once again, the gospel is being eclipsed by man-made philosophy and foolishness.

As Christ-followers, we must learn well the lessons that church history teaches us. When we forget the past we falter in our faith and fail to exalt the sovereign purposes of our Savior. When we forget the past, we become comfortable stumbling around in the dark and begin to glory in our ignorance.

Let us become educated in the School of Hard Knox. And may the gospel shine brightly again. “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14, ESV). And may we recover our love of truth and our passion for the gospel.

BOOK REVIEWS · Counseling · Discipleship

When I Am Afraid – Edward T. Welch (2010)

When I Am Afraid by Edward T. Welch is a short book.  It is also a very powerful book.  The author sets forth his intended goals at the beginning of the book.

  • You want to hone your spiritual instincts so that you turn to  Christ when anxious thoughts arise.
  • You want to know what Jesus says because when you turn to him in this way his words go deep.
  • You want to be less fearful and anxious and more content and hopeful.
  • You want to be more confident that God’s communication to you in the Bible speaks meaningfully to all the struggles of life.

Welch tackles fear and anxiety at the outset.  He admits, “to be human is to be afraid.”  Therefore, the responsibility of the reader is to recognize and isolate fear and anxiety.  He affirms, “So sometimes you will see that your fears mean you are trusting yourself rather than the Lord.  But you will always find that fear and worry are opportunities to hear God, to either turn toward him or to keep facing him and grow in trusting him.”

In chapter two, the author continues to focus on the need to trust God.  He sets forth some practical principles that point to God’s promise to deliver his people:

  • We trust in God not because he delivers us from every fearful situation, but because he alone is King.
  • He will always be with us in fearful situations.
  • He will deliver his people, but at times his deliverance will be more sophisticated than we can understand.
  • God will give you grace when you need it.

Chapter three discusses the relationship between fear and money.  Welch writes, “When you turn away from securing your own kingdom, which teeters on bankruptcy anyway, you get the true kingdom.”

Chapter four summarizes the fear many people have concerning death.  Chapter five contains practical counsel for dealing with the fear of man: “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe” (Prov. 29:25).

Welch goes to the core of the matter in chapter six with a good discussion regarding the promises of God: “God is not passive in his nearness.  When God says he is present, it means he is doing something on your behalf.  He is giving you manna.  He is keeping promises and giving grace when you need it.  God is never passive, and certainly, he is never powerless.”

Chapter seven makes an appeal to Psalm 46 and leads the reader to the redemptive work of Christ: “With the Cross of Jesus proclaiming that your sins have been paid for, and with his resurrection assuring you that he is now the reigning King, you can trust him for the future and focus on today.”

When I Am Afraid is both practical and powerful.  Edward Welch steers readers away from the precipice of selfishness and directs them toward the work of Christ.  He clearly articulates the biblical reality that “love expels fear.”  Built into the book are a series of thought-provoking questions and space for biblical meditation and response.  When I Am Afraid would be best utilized in a small group Bible study or a one on one discipleship.

BOOK REVIEWS

The Whole Counsel of God: Why and How to Preach the Whole Bible – Tim Patrick and Gary Millar

Tim Patrick and Andrew Reid, The Whole Counsel of God: Why and How to Preach the Entire Bible (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2020), 242 pp.

It is always beneficial for a preacher at every stage of ministry to explore the finer points of his preaching craft. Preachers always have new things to learn and growth should be occurring throughout the ministry of a given pastor.

The Whole Counsel of God by Tim Patrick and Andrew Reid is a book that every pastor should have in his library. But it is unique in its purpose and scope. The authors do not intend to discuss homiletical methods. Rather, their aim is to establish long-term convictions in preachers that primarily involve preaching the whole corpus of Scripture.

Patrick and Reid challenge pastors to make it a goal to preach through each book of the Bible in thirty-five years. They admit that this number is arbitrary but at least it helps secure a workable goal in the heart and mind of the one who is called to proclaim the truth of Scripture.

The Whole Counsel of God makes a biblical case for preaching the whole Bible and includes suggestions for how to carry the challenge out. It is filled with practical suggestions that pastors should consider as they set out to achieve this lofty goal.

I urge pastors to carefully weigh the arguments that Patrick and Reid present and find deep encouragement in a book that is aimed at the heart of the shepherd. Pastors who consider these challenges will be served well and their congregations will reap a lasting benefit.

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

Apologetics and Worldview · BOOK REVIEWS · Calvinism · CHRISTIAN LIFE · Theology

Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering – Timothy Keller

kellerI have yet to meet a person who enjoys pain and suffering.  Yet suffering is a part of the warp and woof of life.  It is not a part of God’s original intent for creation.  Since Adam’s first sin, pain and suffering have been an abnormal part of the cosmos.  Suffering is an unwelcome guest who bullies his way to the table and makes demands – much like a  soldier on a bloody battlefield.

Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller addresses this topic with candor and clarity.  Keller leaves no stone unturned here.  The book is organized into three sections:

Understanding the Furnace

Keller introduces the problem of pain and suffering and explores some of the philosophical challenges that Christ-followers must understand and address.

“Nothing is more important than to learn how to maintain a life of purpose in the midst of painful adversity,” writes Keller.  Yet our culture has a tendency to respond to suffering in ways that are helpful and wrongheaded.  The moralist response to suffering is to “do good.”  The fatalist’s response to suffering is to “hang in there” and “endure.”  The dualist response to suffering is “purified faithfulness.”  And the secular response to suffering is focussed on “technique.”  A combination of these erroneous responses to suffering litter the current milieu and produce a generation of confused and discouraged people.

Keller rightly alerts readers to the importance of worldviews and their relation to the subject of pain and suffering.  Ultimately, the matter of pain and suffering is a matter of faith.  “Faith,” writes Keller “is the promise of God.”  He adds, “We can be fully accepted and counted legally righteous in God’s sight through faith in Christ, solely by free grace … It means freedom from fear of the future, from any anxiety about your eternal destiny.  It is the most liberating idea possible and it ultimately enables you to face all suffering, knowing that because of the cross, God is absolutely for you and that because of the resurrection, everything will be all right in the end.”

Facing the Furnace

Part two provides readers with the theological muscle – a crucial part of the battle.  Keller unpacks the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and provides a painful but biblical rationale for the role of suffering the lives of people.

At the heart of this discussion is an important look at the suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The author summarizes, “That is, in order to satisfy justice, in order to punish sin so that in love he could forgive and receive us, God had to bear the penalty for sin within himself.  God the Son took the punishment we deserved, including being cut off from the Father.  And so God took into his own self, his own heart, an infinite agony – out of love for us.”

Keller’s treatment in part two travels great distances to help resolve the problem of evil – the so-called “Achilles heal” of the Christian faith: “So while Christianity never claims to be able to offer a full explanation of all God’s reasons behind every instance of evil and suffering – it does have a final answer to it.  The answer will be given at the end of history and all who hear it and see its fulfillment will find it completely satisfying, infinitely sufficient.”

While Keller never attempts to provide a comprehensive answer to the problem of evil, his treatment of this thorny subject is some of the best in print.  He may not satisfy the disciples of David Hume, Voltaire, or Sam Harris – but he does give ample ammunition for believers who are looking for honest answers.

Walking With God in the Furnace

Parts one and two explore the philosophical and theological angles of pain and suffering.  Part three helps readers with practical application.  They are given practical tools for “walking with God in the furnace.”  The very notion of walking with God in the furnace assumes pain – pain that some are unwilling to admit.  But practical experience reveals that we live in a broken world; a world which has been torn to shreds by the consequences of sin.

Keller urges readers to walk with God in suffering: “If you go into the furnace without the gospel, it will not be possible to find God in there.  You will be sure he has done terrible wrong or you have and you will feel all alone.  Going into the fire without the gospel is the most dangerous thing anyone can do.”  So the gospel is the first and last defense of every Christ-follower; indeed it is the hope of the watching world.

Second, the author stresses the importance of weeping during seasons of adversity.  Elijah serves as an example of a man who cried out in great agony.  He was a man unafraid of weeping.  Such an approach is not only honest – it is a sign of emotional health.

Third, Keller demonstrates the need for trusting in God during days of pain and adversity.    Joseph is portrayed as an example of a man who trusted: If the story of Joseph and the whole of the Bible is true, then anything that comes into your life is something that, as painful as it is, you need in some way.”  Jesus too demonstrated trust in his Father and points believers in the identical direction.  Keller continues to alert readers to other tools that they should utilize during their dark days.

Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering is a watershed book that deserves to be read.  Christ-followers will no doubt be encouraged by this Christ-exalting book; a book which drives readers to the cross of the suffering Savior.

Highly recommended!

BOOK REVIEWS

Reformed Systematic Theology – Volume 1: God and Revelation – Joel Beeke and Paul Smalley

beekJoel R. Beeke & Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology – Volume 1: God and Revelation (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 1213 pp.

Our generation is fraught with challenges that militate against the Christian faith. We are constantly battling heresy, both inside and outside the church. The propagation of lies is commonplace and the repudiation of truth is part of the fabric of contemporary culture.

Thankfully, we are blessed with many resources that help encourage and equip us for living the Christian life, even in the midst of the rising tide of apostasy. The past twenty years, we have been blessed with an impressive array of systematic theology texts, which include the likes of John Frame, John MacArthur, Wayne Grudem, and Michael Horton.

The latest work is a labor of love from Joel Beeke and Paul Smalley. Reformed Systematic Theology: Revelation and God is the first volume and includes an extended prolegomena, the doctrine of revelation, and the doctrine of God. Each major section introduces readers to the biblical fundamentals and critical areas of concern.

What makes this work special is the emphasis on what key thinkers in church history have said about a given doctrinal reality. The authors have done their homework and have done the “heavy lifting,” which enable students to focus in on the subject at hand. But make no mistake: While the authors lean on writers from another generation, it is never done in a way that overshadows the authority of Scripture. Sacred Scripture has the first and last word on every subject.

Frankly, I found this volume enthralling. While it weighs in at over 1,200 pages, I found the reading to be engaging, illuminating, and educational. But more than anything, Reformed Systematic Theology points readers to the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ and his life, death, resurrection, ascension, and exaltation. This work succeeds in leading readers to the cross of Christ. It is here that we are humbled and challenged to worship before his majesty.

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

BOOK REVIEWS · Theology

THE FLIP THAT FLOPPED: The Consequences of Doctrinal Compromise

flip

In Doug Pagitt’s book, Flipped, the author sets out to fundamentally transform the classical view of God.   This transformation is creative and innovative.  It is intuitive and will attract the attention of many readers.

Pagitt sets forth three goals at the beginning of the book:

  1. To see that changing your mind, drawing new conclusions, and engaging new ideas all lie at the heart of Jesus’s message and life.
  2. To behold the big, beautiful story of God as you find new ways to live in it.
  3. To invite readers to a full and vibrant life in God.

The basic idea that runs through this book is what the author refers to as a “flip” – which is nothing short of revising one’s views about God, Scripture, and the Christian life in general.  Pagitt adds, “The Flip at the center of this book is one that turned me around as a pastor and a Christian writer as well as my personal life and faith.”

The Flip That Flopped

Several “flips” are addressed in this work.  But the one that keeps surfacing concerns a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of God.  At the heart of this book is a commitment to panentheism.  This worldview, also known as process theology is a radical departure from the traditional understanding of God, yet is receiving a hearing in the emergent church and some liberal churches.  One might consider such a view a halfway house between theism and pantheism.  But make no mistake – panentheism is outside the scope of historical orthodoxy.

All is in God?

To be fair, the author never uses the word, panentheism.  Yet this panentheistic theme runs throughout the book.  Pagitt argues, “God is not a separate single subject … If God were not a separate being from all things in the cosmos, then we need not simply say God exists.  We can say that God is existence.  All is in God.”  Such language is the classic lingo of panentheism.

My initial impression: Surely this is a typo!  The author can’t possibly mean what he is saying.  But as I continued to read, my suspicions were confirmed.  “… All that exists is In God,” writes Pagitt.  He tries to justify this “flip” by appealing to the rationale from Acts 17:28 where Paul quotes Epimenides of Crete: “In him, we live and move and have our being.

In addition to promoting panentheism, the author posits the notion of universalism: “Beyond that, the power of God that was alive in Jesus is alive in us.  In short, the fullness of God is active in humanity without assistance from any religious system.”  He continues, “Instead, we can recognize that all people live, move, and exist In God.”

Evaluation

Flipped is a radical departure from the biblical understanding of God.  The notion that all people “exist In God” simply fails to match the biblical data.  Much to the contrary, we find a distinction between the Creator and the creature.  Whenever one denies such a distinction he makes a dangerous theological move with several critical implications.  What are the implications of denying the Creator-creature distinction?

  • Misreads and misinterprets Scripture.
  • Compromises God’s character.
  • Compromises biblical authority.
  • Minimizes the transcendence of God and emphasizes the immanence of God in biblically inappropriate ways.

Readers should recall how God is truly presented in Scripture.  He is never presented in a panentheistic scheme – ever!  Rather, he is presented as the absolute personal God.  This absolute God is transcendent; that is to say, he is over and above the scope of the universe.  He is distinct and independent of his creation (Isa. 57:15; Isa. 40:10).  He is preeminent  (Isa. 40:25-28; 44:6-8).  Jonathan Edwards adds, “His power is infinite, and none can resist him.  His riches are immense and inexhaustible.  His majesty is infinitely awful.”  And God carries supreme authority over all.  Nothing rivals the supreme authority of God (Job 41:10; 37:9-14).

The Triune God holds all things together.  In a few words, St. Paul demonstrates both the transcendence and the imminence of God: “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible; whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him, all things hold together” (Col. 1:16-17, ESV).  God is sovereign (Dan. 4:34-35).  Nothing can thwart his sovereign decrees!  He is distinct from the created order (Acts 17:24-29).  And the Bible tells us that God is wholly other (Isa. 46:9).  This is a far cry from people who “exist In God.”

God is not only absolute; he is personal.  He cares for his creation.  He is intimately involved with his creation and he delights to meet the needs of his creatures.

God is the Sustainer (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3).  He is the Healer (2 Chron. 7:14).  He is the Protector (2 Sam. 22:2).  He is the Shepherd (Ps. 23:1-6).  He is the Forgiver (Rom. 5:1).  And Scripture demonstrates the ultimate love that God expressed on the Cross when Jesus died for sinners (Rom. 5:8).

Flipped will likely attract many readers; especially readers who are committed to theological liberalism.  The author seeks to fundamentally transform the vision of God by convincing readers that  “… All that exists is In God.”  The only problem: The view presented here is dead wrong.

A.W. Tozer understood the importance of getting God right.  He rightly noted in his best-selling book, The Knowledge of God:

The gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most [awe-inspiring] fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his heart conceives God to be like … So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards decline along with it.  The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.

May followers of Christ heed Tozer’s advice.  We certainly do not need to flip our views of God.  Any deviation from the biblical vision of God will have tragic consequences in the church and the culture in which she seeks to minister.  Any flip will become a flop that ignores the clear teaching of Scripture.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Sharp Eyes, Soft Hearts, and Sanctified Minds: Evaluating Christian Books

Sharp Eyes, Soft Hearts, And Sanctified Minds: Evaluating Christian Books

I review books – a lot of books. Some people have expressed an interest in how I evaluate them. A few specific criteria govern the way I evaluate the overall effectiveness of Christian books, in particular.

First and most important, is the book biblical? That is, does the content reflect the teaching of the infallible, authoritative, inerrant Word of God? The label “Christian” does not automatically mean that a given book is a faithful representation of orthodoxy. Does it accurately unpack doctrines that are in step with the Reformed faith and exalts the Lord Jesus Christ? Any deviation from from the truth results in a sharp critique and swift relegation to the “heresy shelf.” Tragically, my heresy shelf has steadily grown over the years.

Second, is the writing clear and compelling? Does the book address important questions? And does it offer answers that genuinely help readers? Does it posit suggestions that encourage their Christian growth? Is the book coherent or does it violate the laws of logic? Is the writing organized and systematic? Tragically, logic and a systematic approach to theology is viewed with suspicion and even disdain in some Christian circles. The very act of repudiating the laws of logic that God has established is a foolish act and is by definition, illogical!

Third, does the book impact lives and promote progressive sanctification? Many Christian books (or books that are at least categorized as “Christian”) offer little in the area of practical help. Instead of helping readers become conformed to the image of Christ, they foster pride and build upon on edifice of shifting sand. A worthy Christian book should alert readers to the problem of sin and reveal the remedy, which is found exclusively in Jesus Christ.

A good Christian book should guide the reader to the Celestial City. It should lead them in a Godward direction and inspire them to live hopeful lives and holy lives.

Finally, does the book magnify the gospel of Jesus Christ? Is the gospel at the heart of the book or is it a mere tack on? Is the gospel the primary fuel that drives the arguments in the book or is the gospel more like “fumes” that emerge from the tailpipe of worldliness or pragmatism? Such an approach may be appealing in the short run, but will lead readers to a path of destruction.

These are only a few of the special areas of concern that I consider when I place a Christian book under the microscope. Such a pursuit involves having a sharp eye, a soft heart, and a sanctified mind. Having a sharp eye involves God-centered discipline to read everything through the lens of a Christian worldview. A sharp eye will not only pinpoint doctrinal error; it will pay tribute to doctrinal purity. A soft heart avoids the extremes of a hyper-critical spirit and a pietistic free-for-all. And a sanctified mind requires complete submission to Scripture and surrender to the Spirit of God. This approach is undergirded by a commitment to be transformed by the renewal of our minds (Rom. 12:2).

May the Lord grant much discernment as you dig deeper and grow stronger in the Christian faith. May you echo the prayer of Solomon who cried out to God, “So give your servant a receptive heart to judge your people and to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of yours?”” (1 Kings 3:9, CSB)

Tolle lege!

BOOK REVIEWS

Faithful Theology: An Introduction – Graham A. Cole (2020)

Graham A. Cole, Faithful Theology: An Introduction (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020), 118 pp.

“The case can be made that every Christian is a theologian because every Christian has a theology, whether well thought out or not.” That is the first sentence in Graham Cole,’s book, Faithful Theology: An Introduction. Dr. Cole’s aim is to present a workable method, a way of doing theology.

Five important components help shape the author’s theological method. 1) The Word of Revelation, 2) The Witness of Christian Thought and Practice, 3) The World of Human Brokenness, 4) The Work of Wisdom, and 5) The Way of Worship.

Each area makes up a short chapter and guides readers on a path that ultimately leads to a theological methods that is biblical and practical. Faithful Theology: An Introduction truly is an entry point for aspiring theologians. But it is also a stunning reminder for those who have given their lives to the study of theology. Readers will be impressed with the brevity and the number of theological jewels that surface in this little book.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

4 Chair Discipling – Dann Spader

Dann Spader, 4 Chair Discipling: What Jesus Calls Us to Do (Chicago: Moody Press, 2014), 154 pp.

In the summer of 1991, I was introduced to Dann Spader and Sonlife Ministries. Spader’s philosophy of ministry would have a profound impact on my life and ministry that extends to this day. His most recent book, 4 Chair Discipling: What Jesus Calls Us To Do explores Jesus’s pattern for disciple-making and is a summary of what I learned almost thirty years ago in my introduction to Sonlife.

The four chairs represent four seasons in a person’s life. Each chair includes a challenge and an ultimate aim. Acknowledging these seasons help disciple makers reach out to the needs of people and respond to them appropriately.

Chair one represents an unconverted person. The challenge is “Come and see” (John 1:39). The ultimate aim is to see this person turn from his sin and trust Christ for his salvation.

Chair two represents a new believer. The challenge is “Follow me” (John 1:43). Such a person learns the basics of the Christian life in the second chair.

Chair three represents a worker, a growing believer. The challenge is “Follow me and fish for people” (Matt. 4:19). This person learns about ministry opportunities and is equipped to minister to the needs of other people.

Chair four represents a disciple-maker. The challenge is “Go and bear fruit” (John 15:16). The respective chairs combine to form a philosophical framework for disciple-making that includes the categories of win (chair 1), build (chair 2), equip (chair 3), and multiply (chair 4). The author notes, “The growth from Chair 1 to Chair 4 is God’s great design for disciples of Jesus. This development can only be accomplished in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Spader’s philosophy of ministry has been great boon to my ministry and has provided a biblical framework for disciple-making. 4 Chair Disciplining is a worthy explanation of the philosophy that made Sonlife so successful and breathed life into the heart of countless youth ministries around the world.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Why I Love the Apostle Paul – John Piper (2019)

John Piper, Why I Love the Apostle Paul (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019), 204 pp.

The aim of John Piper’s most recent book is to help readers get to know Paul the apostle. Piper’s motive is that Paul’s “God-entranced soul and his unparalleled vision of Jesus Christ and the authenticity of his life would move you to admire him and believe his message and embrace his Lord.”

The name of the book is Why I Love the Apostle Paul. Thirty reasons are supplied in short, readable chapters as Dr. Piper unpacks the heart and soul of one of the greatest thinkers and theologians of all time.

This book reveals the underbelly or the foundations of Piper’s well-known Christian hedonism. Many have fought against the very notion of such a worldview. Some have cast it aside as heretical; others have discounted it or marginalized its value. The arguments for Christian hedonism that Piper presents are not only biblical; they are robust, logical, mind-shaping, and heart-warming. The central thought of Piper’s Christian hedonism is this:

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”

Piper’s latest offering, while not necessarily an apologetic for Christian hedonism, is a worthy defensive and brilliant articulation of the philosophy which has undergirded the author’s life and ministry.

Quite frankly, Why I Love the Apostle Paul is an enthralling book. It is certain to open many eyes to the depth, breadth, majesty, and beauty of the gospel. The deep biblical realities that Dr. Piper unfolds are powerful and encouraging. This is a book that deserves to be read over and over again!

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