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Book Review: Die Young by Hayley and Michael DiMarco

The Paradox of “Death to Self” Meaning “Abundant Life”

In this short book Hayley and Michael DiMarco offer seven chapters that cover seven paradoxes of the Christian life. Each chapter contains Bible verses, practical principles based on those verses, and short sidebars by both husband and wife as to how these principles have impacted their personal lives. This is essentially a handbook focusing on how Christianity teaches the opposite of what your flesh desires – which ironically leads to death – and how dying to self and living for Christ leads to an abundant life. Therefore, the younger you die the longer you will live. They carefully weave a model of robust Christ-like discipleship and articulate the importance of the gospel, justification by faith alone, and sanctification based on Christ alone. However, they also show that our faith does “work” itself out in the way Christ changes us from the inside out as we die to self and live for Him.

The seven chapters include these paradoxes:

1) “Death is the New Life” deals with what it means to die to self, learn contentment, and how suffering can be a very positive outworking of God’s working in our life. It also tackles what it means to be holy, and live a life of faith, hope, peace and love. One of the questions for reflection in this chapter was very thought provoking: “Will suffering destroy your hope and your faith, leaving you with nothing solid to stand on, alone and empty, or will your suffering destroy the parts of you that tie you to the things of this earth and keep your focus off the God of heaven?”

Some other gems from this chapter include:

“There is no fruit that grows from a seed that refuses to die.”

“When your life and all that it entails isn’t your portion, but God is your portion, then it will never diminish no matter what the world may bring.”

“There is a death that comes that isn’t meant to destroy you but to destroy that in you which was never meant to replace the hand of God in your life.”

“In the economy of Christ, love isn’t meant for self but for others.”

2) “Down is the New Up” is described perhaps best in the chapter as “the bottom isn’t such a bad place because it is only from the perspective of your own lowest point that you are able to see your sinfulness and need for a loving Savior and to be saved.” The chapter focuses on the importance of humility and contentment as opposed to pride. The perfect model of humility led to Christ becoming a man who died on a cross and procured our salvation.

3) “Less is the New More” is about how God gives more than anything we can get from the world. The less we have – the more we see how much we have in Christ. One of the key points of this chapter was, “The less there is that competes for our attention and favor in life, the more attention and favor we can give to God.”

4) “Weak is the New Strong” focuses on how waiting and depending upon God to work inspite of our weaknesses actually leads to great strength and a servants attitude that contributes to God’s working through us in a powerful way.

5)Slavery is the New Freedom because slavery to God gives those of us who embrace it freedom from all the other gods which express their hold on us in the form of struggles, addictions, fears, worries, and all other sins in our lives.” They also articulate how “our submission to God and to others proves our faith in God’s sovereignty.”

6) “Confession is the New Innocence” is all about the crucial importance of confession and ongoing repentance in the believer’s life. Here are some excellent quotes from this section:

“Without confession of guilt there is no innocence for the sinner…Confession precedes forgiveness…Our resistance to confession does two things: it keeps us from the forgiveness our sins need, and it also calls God a liar because to fail to confess is to say ‘I have not sinned.’…Confession of the biblical sort is the act of verbalizing not only error and remorse but also truth…So proper confession calls out the sins we committed and not just the pain we inflicted…Confession is best done instantly, and immediately…In the life of a Christian there are two kinds of confession. There is the confession that we make to God regarding our guilt and need for His forgiveness. This is the saving kind of confession that saves us from our guilt and makes us innocent. And there is the confession that we make to man regarding our guilt and our need of healing. Repentance is your changing your ways, determining what sin is in your life and how to avoid it from here on out…To refuse to be honest about our sin is to refuse to agree with God that there has never been and will never be a perfect person besides Jesus…Confession reveals not only our sinfulness but God’s righteousness.”

Hayley and Michael are very transparent about their struggles with sin throughout the book – Michael commenting on this fact writes: “That’s why the majority of our sidebars in this book are confessional; they destroy pride in us, create healing, and maybe even encourage the same action/reaction in you. Confession lets the confessor and the hearer (or reader) know that they’re not alone both in the pursuit of healing and the dismantling of a double life.”

7) “Red is the New White” – is on the necessity of Christ’s atoning blood to make us “white as snow.” The author’s write, “As red covers white so well and so permanently, so blood covers the sins of man…You must, in order to receive justification, believe that the blood is enough. You must die to the part of you that insists it do its part to participate in this salvation thing and help God out…If your heart has a hard time believing justification by the blood, then consider killing the part of you that would argue against God’s gracious and necessary gift.”

I highly recommend this book – especially for new Christians, young Christians – mature teens and college students. This book is loaded with good practical theology and will help you die to what’s killing you, and help you live a more abundant life in Christ by mortifying the flesh.

*Note: I was given an advanced copy of this book by Crossway and was not required to write a positive review.

 

 

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Book Review: Perspectives On Our Struggle With Sin: 3 Views Of Romans 7 edited by Terry L. Wilder (contributors: Stephen J. Chester, Grant R. Osborne, Mark A. Seifrid, and Chad O. Brand)

Intense Exegesis For Serious Students of The Bible

One of the most difficult passages to interpret in the New Testament is found in Romans chapter 7. Was Paul writing about the experience of all Jews and Gentiles in their struggle with sin? Was it descriptive of his battle of sin in the past as an unbelieving Jew from his current perspective as a Christian looking backward? Or was he simply describing his own current struggle with sin? The answer to these questions and many others are addressed in this helpful book.

D. S. Dockery has stated the importance of a correct interpretation of this passage of Scripture in this manner, “Since the passage is located at the heart of Paul’s explanation of the outworking of one’s salvation, the view which is adopted will have a tremendous impact upon one’s theology of the Christian life.” In other words, what this book grapples with is not just at the periphery of the Christian life, but at the center. A proper understanding of our struggle with sin entails our views of justification (the doctrine upon which Christianity stands or falls – according to Martin Luther) and sanctification – which cannot be properly understood and applied without understanding our justification rightly. Therefore, what the writers of this book tackle involve “high stakes.”

The strength of this book lies in the fact that it allows the reader to consider the various views that have been carefully articulated by the biblical scholars exegesis of the passage, and from these views evaluate which argument entails the most strengths/pros and least weaknesses/cons. Scholars who have each done advanced studies on the book of Romans present the three views.

Grant R. Osborne teaches at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He argues the point that in verses 7 to 13 Paul is describing himself as an unregenerate Jew and then in verses 14 to 25 as a regenerate follower of Christ. He holds that the believer in Christ wants to do what is right, but often fails due to the ongoing battle with the flesh in its war against sin.

Stephen J. Chester is a professor at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois. His view – seemed to me the most complicated of the three – is that Paul is writing in Romans 7 of his pre-conversion experiences with sin in retrospect now as a follower of Christ. He points out that Paul’s references in the passage are historical presents, which point to past experiences with sin.

Mark A. Seifrid is a professor at the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Mark expresses the view that Paul refers in the passage to both regenerate and the unregenerate and vacillates between these two as human beings that are being confronted with the reality of the law. Mark articulates the reality that Paul is focusing on how our failure to obey the law confronts us with our need of Christ’s righteousness to be imputed to us by faith in His fulfilling the just requirements of the law on our behalf.

In the final analysis I agree with Osborne who states in the introduction to his essay, “A general consensus never has been and never will be reached on its meaning, for simply too many viable options seem to fit the context of Romans 5-8. All of the options presented in this work fit the data, and it would be arrogant to try to claim that only my view can be correct. This text is another of the many biblical passages where we simply have to admit that we will not know the true meaning until we get to heaven—and then Paul can tell us what he meant!”

Of all the views/perspective books I’ve read – so far, this was the most challenging. The discussions are very technical (especially in their usage of the Greek language – and theological depth). All the scholars have definitely done their homework and have given much food for thought. In my opinion I thought Seifrid’s argument was the most persuasive, followed by Osborne, and then Chester. I must say that I learned a lot from each of the contributors and they all did an excellent job on the passage. I will definitely be consulting this book again if I ever teach through Romans again (I preached through Romans for two years about a decade ago).

No matter which view you currently have on this passage, or even if you don’t have a view – you will learn much from this book and it will be well worth your effort. I highly recommend this book for serious students of the Bible, teaching and preaching pastors, and scholars who desire to have a better understanding of this difficult passage. It can’t help but equip you more in your understanding of the law, sin, justification, sanctification, and in elevating your view of what Christ has done for you in His life, death, and resurrection on our behalf. Chad Brand’s concluding chapter was excellent tying in the practical ramifications of this passage and the contributions in the book for practically dealing with sin, salvation, and sanctification in the new covenant community.

 

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Book Review: Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian

 Clearly Articulates the “Now-ness” of The Gospel

I was gripped by this book from the outset because it was in going through the hardest difficulty in my life a few years ago (similar to what Tullian describes in chapter one) that I realized the idolatry for what it was in my own life and learned to once again treasure the “now-ness” (not newness) of the gospel. It’s easy to take the gospel for granted when you have been a follower of Christ for many years, but I think having to personally live out or flesh out the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ makes one better appreciate the significance of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ – not only in the past and future – but especially in the now.

I am very grateful for this book because Tullian articulates the gospel with passion, clarity, and hones in on how the gospel makes a difference in the now. If you have already read a lot of Tim Keller or Paul Tripp this book will have a lot of new insights for you. However, if you have never read Keller or Tripp than you are really in for a treat. I think Tullian writes in a way that’s simpler, and more concise than Keller or Tripp. No matter how you slice it, this book has great information on the distinctions between justification and sanctification and how everything we long for can only be satisfied in Christ.

I highly recommend this book especially for people who are prone to legalism, or have come from a background where “works righteousness” has been emphasized. I think this book is MUST reading if you haven’t read any of Tim Keller or Paul Tripp’s stuff. If you like this book than you will really love Keller and Tripp. These three guys have really got a good grasp of the gospel and how it applies to all of life – past, present, and future – with a special emphasis on the present.

As Tullian writes and you read his illustrations, a plethora of Scripture, and a lot of great quotes – my hope is that you too will come to treasure and apply the gospel in your own life more than ever before. It is so exciting to see so many new writers, and pastors going into the depths of the gospel with passion and clarity. He must have a generational gift inherited from his grandfather for this ability (Billy Graham). Tullian has a great story and we all do, if we have repented of our sins and put our faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and seek to pursue Jesus + nothing – we will indeed get everything we have ever longed for here and beyond!

Note: I was provided a free copy of this book by the publisher and was not required to write a positive review. Thanks – Crossway – for continuing to put out the best books in Christian publishing (in my humble opinion).

 

*William Graham “Tullian Tchividjian” is a Florida native (born July 13, 1972 in Jacksonville) and is the grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham. He is named after third century theologian Tertullian.

A graduate of Columbia International University (philosophy) and Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando (M.Div.), Tchividjian is the author of The Kingdom of God: A Primer on the Christian Life (Banner of Truth), Do I Know God? Finding Certainty in Life’s Most Important Relationship (Multnomah), Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different  (Multnomah), Surprised by Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels (Crossway) and, most recently – from which the review above is based, Jesus + Nothing = Everything  (Crossway).

Before becoming senior pastor of Coral Ridge, Tchividjian was the founding pastor of New City Presbyterian Church, an Evangelical Presbyterian Church congregation which merged with Coral Ridge in April 2009.

After taking over as pastor, Tchividjian instituted sweeping changes. He made the services somewhat more contemporary than they had previously been. He canceled the church’s long-running television program, The Coral Ridge Hour. He also significantly deemphasized politics; Coral Ridge had long been reckoned as one of the most politically active churches in the country. Tchividjian’s opponents garnered enough support to force a congregational vote of confidence, but a solid majority voted to retain him as pastor. In response, more than 400 members–including a large part of the music ministry–broke off to form “The New Presbyterian Church.”

He speaks at conferences throughout the United States and his sermons are broadcast daily on the radio program Godward Living. He is the new chaplain for the Texas Rangers and the Dallas Cowboys.

He married his wife Kim in 1994 and they have three children – Gabe, Nate, and Genna.

 

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Book Review – Found: God’s Will by John MacArthur

Good Biblical Foundation For Understanding the Topic of God’s Will For Your Life

I am currently reading a handful of books on decision making. I figured I would start out with the shortest of them, and work my way to the longest (from the simple to the complex). John Macarthur’s greatest strength is that you can count on him staying close to what the Bible says and not giving any speculation as to what it doesn’t say. He doesn’t delve into the emotional or philosophical realm, but sticks like glue to what the Bible clearly articulates concerning what God’s will is for humanity.

In the first chapter John clearly spells out what he wants to do in this little booklet: “Let’s begin with a simple assumption. Since God has a will for us, He must want us to know it. If so, then we could expect Him to communicate it to us in the most obvious way. How would that be? Through the Bible, His revelation. Therefore, I believe that what one needs to know about the will of God is clearly revealed in the pages of the Word of God. God’s will is, in fact, very explicit in Scripture.”

Therefore, MacArthur proceeds to deal only with what the Bible states explicitly about the Word of God. He gleans six principles from six (actually more – but for the purposes of this review I will only give the key texts he uses) key passages of Scripture.

1)    The first thing about God’s will is that He wants all kinds of people (economic classes, high positions, low positions and all ethnicities) to be saved based on 1 Timothy 2:3,4 – “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (Referencing verses1 & 2 where Paul says “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way”).

2)    It is God’s will that we are Spirit-filled (numerous verses). The key verses used in the chapter is Ephesians 5:15-18 where the Apostle Paul says, “Look carefully how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” According to MacArthur the Spirit-filled life is “being saturated with the things of Christ with His Word, His Person.”

3)    It is God’s will for us to be sanctified. The key verses here are in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in passionate lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”

4)    It is God’s will that we be a submissive and obedient people. Colossians 3; Ephesians 5 & 6; and 1 Peter 2:3-15 all talk about the roles of submission that every believer has with ultimate submission to the Lordship of Jesus over our lives.

5)    It is God’s will that we mature in Christ through suffering. 1 Peter 4:19 & 5:10 specify, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good…And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

6)    It is God’s will that in all things we give thanks and delight in Him. In Psalm 37:4 David reminds us to “delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” And the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

In the final analysis if you are saved through the righteousness of Christ imputed to your account in exchange for your sin, and thus Spirit-filled, seeking to be sanctified, are submissive to Christ’s leadership in your life, endure suffering, and are continually giving thanks in all things – then according to MacArthur, and I agree – it doesn’t matter what you do. The foundation for all your decisions has already been established, and now you have great freedom within the parameters of God’s protective boundaries delineated in the Bible.

This book is by no means exhaustive, but is recommended because it lays a solid foundation for what the Bible does say about “finding God’s will for your life.”

 

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Book Review on Ben Patterson’s “Muscular Faith”

The premise of this book (written by an ex-pastor/college chaplain with a lot of life, and ministry experience – he is now in his sixties) is that the Christian life is NOT easy, is extremely difficult, and that the more you train and prepare for the inevitable hardships – the better.

The book is written in Four distinct sections: Part 1 makes a case for the call to be a Christian Warrior (using God as a model of this motif); Part 2 make a case for the vigorous requirements of the war that the Christian is continually engaged in; Part 3 explains three primary obstacles to our being effective in the battle; and Part 4 discusses 7 essential habits to develop to be successful in the Christian life and how to ultimately finish well and live a life pleasing to God.

I have read all of Patterson’s books and as a result I found that there was a lot of repetition from things he has said in previous books. As a matter of fact, if you read very much (especially C.S. Lewis) – there is precious little new information here. As a matter of fact – each principle, or illustration used with only a few exceptions I have heard or read elsewhere.

Therefore, I would not recommend this book to Christians who read a lot of Christian authors – simply because, you will feel like I did in reading this book – I kept reading things that I’ve read or heard before, so it actually got annoying. However, if you are new to Patterson, and have not read C.S. Lewis or very many Christian authors, then I would highly recommend this book.

 

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Book Review: Enemies of the Heart by Andy Stanley

Vintage Stanley: Biblical Reflections On The Four Greatest Enemies of Our Soul

I think Andy Stanley has hit it out of the park with this book. He is so good at bringing God’s truth from the Scriptures to bear on the big issues of the day. I think that along with Pete Scazzero’s books Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and the Emotionally Healthy Church – that this book is must reading for pastors, leaders, and anyone who is a part of the body of Christ. Most Bible teachers, often neglect the soulish matters of the heart, – but Stanley calls a spade a spade and writes a convicting, challenging, and much needed corrective for us to address our blind spots.

In Part 1 he addresses the fact that sin comes from the heart as Jeremiah says and is incredibly deceptive. He talks about the damage that sin does, and how to identify it, and the importance of correcting it.

In Part 2 he addresses the dynamics of the debts that result from our sin. The four biggies are: Guilt – “I owe you”; Anger – “You owe me”; Greed – “I owe me”; and Jealousy – “God owes me.” Andy handles each of these brilliantly and gives excellent examples that we can all relate to, so that we can confess them and start working in a positive direction to overcome them with the help of God the Holy Spirit.

In Part 3 he focuses in on how to confront each of these sins, with their righteous (happy) counterparts: from anger to forgiveness; from greed to generosity; and reasons to celebrate the joy that we have in receiving Christ’s blessing and the Holy Spirit’s power at work in our lives.

In Part 4 he helps us focus on what we are modeling and the legacy we are leaving behind (especially parents for their children) and how to deal with lust.

The book includes a helpful discussion guide, which is excellent for personal application, and small group discussion. This book is vintage Stanley: full of Scripture, great examples and illustrations, and motivates you toward wanting to live the abundant life that Jesus came to give us. I can’t recommend it highly enough – life transforming!

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2011 in Book Reviews, Spiritual Life

 

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Book Review: More Than Ordinary by Doug Sherman

Motivating You to Become God Enthralled

 What a fantastic book! The whole time I was reading it – I was thinking to myself “Why didn’t I write this book?” As a pastor and life coach everything the author talks about in this book is exactly in a nutshell what I want followers of Jesus  to know. I will definitely be buying this book and giving it away, and recommending it to others. As a matter of fact, I am preaching through the book of Colossians right now on Sunday’s but was so impacted by this book – that with Father’s Day coming up this Sunday – I’m going to use some of the Scripture passages in this book and the principles and suggestions that the author brings out to share with my flock – to remind them of what an Awesome Heavenly Father we have.

This book essentially has it all – excellent theology, wonderful Bible passages, great stories, personal and authentic, excellent applications, and flows very well. I read it in about three hours – and I’m not a fast reader, but I simply couldn’t put the book down!

The essence of this book is that God created us to know Him intimately and that He is our ultimate satisfaction in life. Doug does a fantastic job of weaving the Biblical story of the creation, fall, redemption, and restoration throughout the book. He weaves the Biblical story with his story and our story – making practical connections throughout the book. If you are having a dry spell in your walk with God, or He seems distant to you – or even if you think you are very close to Him – this book will motivate you and give you great practical ways to enjoy Him even more.

I especially recommend it for those who didn’t have a good relationship (or currently) with their earthly father – as the author relays his own testimony in regard to this. Also, as a father myself, it really motivated me to become a better father and reflect God practically to my children and grandchildren. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

 

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