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

Graciousness: Tempering Truth With Love – John Crotts (2018)

graceJohn Crotts, Graciousness: Tempering Truth With Love Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2018, 137 pp. $14.00

The matter of truth is of utmost importance for the follower of Jesus Christ. However, sometimes a person with a passion for the truth has a tendency to “steamroll” the unsuspecting – the one who has either never learned the truth or the one who has chosen to reject “unreasonable aspects” of the truth. Loving the truth is both necessary and commendable. However, when the truth is eclipsed by arrogance or pride, the beautiful truth ends up looking ugly and fails to serve people well.

John Crotts has observed this problem directly and addresses the matter in his book, Graciousness: Tempering Truth With Love. While truth is never minimized or marginalized in the book, the author challenges readers to tell the truth with grace and urges them to “temper truth with love.”

Description

The book begins with some basic biblical instruction concerning the art of graciousness. “God cares about more than just the words you say,” writes Crotts. “He also cares about how you say those words. It is not enough always to say the truth; you must also say the truth in love.”

Crotts surveys the subject of graciousness in Scripture. The depth and breadth of graciousness is explored and practical suggestions are offered. Specific examples of graciousness from the life of Jesus and Paul are commended. And biblical examples are cited that point out the propensity for people in the church to be ungracious. Of course, the subject matter is practical in our generation as much as it was in the first-century church.

With a solid biblical foundation in place, the author moves forward with a biblical prescription for cultivating habits of graciousness.

Prescription

Three specific angles are broached including the cultivation of graciousness in the heart, through actions, and in the community. Once again, the Bible guides the thoughts of the author as he presents practical ways to build graciousness as a habit into the fabric of one’s life.

The final chapter, The Gospel and Graciousness is a powerful closing word that will push readers in the right direction as they submit to the Holy Spirit and surrender to his promptings. “A gracious church will impact a community,” writes Crotts. So tempering truth with love is the proper balance that believers should strive for. John Crotts’ excellent work is a first step in the right direction.

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

BOOK REVIEWS

Favor: Finding Life at the Center of God’s Affection

favorGreg Gilbert, Favor: Finding Life at the Center of God’s Affection Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017, 172 pp. $9.47

The prosperity gospel has been an influential force within the ranks of evangelicalism for some time. This God-dishonoring approach to the Christian life misinterprets Scripture and misrepresents the gospel. Tragically, many people are led astray by the idea that God’s gifts may be earned and that financial remuneration is at the center of God’s kingdom.

Greg Gilbert’s book, Favor: Finding Life at the Center of God’s Affection takes a different approach, one that is steeped in Scripture and offers people an eternal hope.

Part One: The Favor of God and How to Get It

Part one lays the theological foundation. The author defines his terms clearly by describing the essence of favor which means that you please someone or bring them joy or gladness. Therefore, “to be favored by God,” writes Gilbert, “is to be pleasing to him, to bring him joy … This is not a question of whether you’ll live your best life now; it’s a matter of whether you’ll live at all.”

The author wrestles with the idea of “earned favor.” In other words, humans have a built-in propensity to earn what they receive. For example, a worker receives wages for his hard work. A student receives a diploma for diligent study.

At the core of this study is the reality that most people are unwilling to admit: They do not deserve the favor of God. “You deserve to be condemned, to die, and to spend eternity under God’s wrath …” Gilbert writes. When creatures fail to glorify the living God, they commit cosmic treason against the throne of heaven. Gilbert adds, “It is rebellion and insurrection against the throne and crown and authority of God.”

Simply put, God’s favor must be earned. Yet it is not earned in the way that most people imagine. God’s favor must be earned for us and the only Person qualified to carry this out is the Lord Jesus Christ. He perfectly fulfilled the law of God and thus earned his favor. But then he died. The author explains,

But the fact that Jesus died, the fact that the One who actually earned life submitted to death, tells us that something more was happening. And that something more is the whole glory and joy of the Christian gospel. When Jesus won the favor of God and all its rewards, he wasn’t doing it just for himself. He was doing it for others too. He was acting as a representative, a substitute, a champion.

Gilbert’s winsome presentation of penal substitutionary atonement is stunning, to say the least. This breathtaking portrayal of the atonement leads to an important discussion that concerns union with Christ, a doctrine that is underemphasized in many churches. Gilbert goes so far to say, “Union with Christ … is the most under-appreciated, underemphasized, and overlooked doctrine in all of Christian theology.” Gilbert does his part to put a proper biblical emphasis on this crucial doctrine.

Part Two: The Blessings of God’s Favor

Part two focuses on the blessings of God’s favor by alerting readers to four important topics, namely, the blessing of contentment, peace with God, new life, and fighting as favored sons and daughters in the kingdom. These blessings are obviously practical and multi-faceted. Gilbert does a good job linking these blessings to real-life examples. But more importantly, he shows where these blessings appear in the Bible.

Favor: Finding Life at the Center of God’s Affection is perfect for new believers but will also benefit seasoned Christians as well. It wonderfully articulates the gospel and causes readers to rejoice in the blessings which are theirs in Christ!

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

BOOK REVIEWS · Discipleship

RED LIKE BLOOD: Confrontations with Grace – Joe Coffee and Bob Bevington (2011)

I got more than I bargained for when I set out to read Red Like Blood.  And I got less than what I bargained for.  I anticipated atonement themes; cross-centered reflections on the person and work of Christ. I looked forward to warm-hearted, theologically informed writing that gloried in blood of Christ that cleanses people from their sin.

But I was in for a big surprise.  This is not high-brow theology.  This is not a Martyn Lloyd-Jones exposition.  Rather, Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington write in a simple, earthy fashion – perhaps a bit too earthy for some.  But they tell it like it is and they’re quick to reveal the gory details.

Red Like Blood is about real life; life that is painful and filled with disappointment.  Coffey and Bevington write from different perspectives,  however both men are familiar with pain.  Both men understand loss.  Most important, they both understand grace.  Bevington adds, “… We’ve both learned that the brokenness God allows is always merciful and purposeful – because it’s designed to move our soul to a destination where we become more dependent on God alone.”  So God’s grace not only proves to be purposeful – it is powerful and effective.

Red Like Blood is a powerful book that highlights the grace of God in sinful creatures.  It should not be confused with a deep theological treatise – however it is a much-needed reminder to sinners; it is a vivid reminder that sinners are in desperate need of grace.  I guess I got more than I bargained for after all!

4 stars