Tag: crossway books

Tolle Lege: John Calvin- For a New Reformation

John Calvin

Just in time for Christmas!  I’ve been waiting to say that ever since I read how much Calvin hated this holiday :). Maybe hate is a strong word but he certainly wasn’t the fan Luther was.  Consider the following excerpt from Calvin’s 1551 Christmas Day sermon:

Now, I see here today more people that I am accustomed to having at the sermon. Why is that? It is Christmas day. And who told you this? You poor beasts. That is a fitting euphemism for all of you who have come here today to honor Noel. Did you think you would be honoring God? Consider what sort of obedience to God your coming displays. In your mind, you are celebrating a holiday for God, or turning today into one but so much for that. In truth, as you have often been admonished, it is good to set aside one day out of the year in which we are reminded of all the good that has occurred because of Christ’s birth in the world, and in which we hear the story of his birth retold, which will be done Sunday. But if you think that Jesus Christ was born today, you are as crazed as wild beasts. For when you elevate one day alone for the purpose of worshiping God, you have just turned it into an idol. True, you insist that you have done so for the honor of God, but it is more for the honor of the devil.

Let us consider what our Lord has to say on the matter. Was it not Saul’s intention to worship God when he spared Agag, the king of the Amalekites, along with the best spoils and cattle? He says as much: ‘I want to worship God.’ Saul’s tongue was full of devotion and good intention. but what was the response he received? ‘You soothsayer! You heretic! You apostate! You claim to be honoring God, but God rejects you and disavows all that you have done.’ Consequently, the same is true of our actions. For no day is superior to another. It matters not whether we recall our Lord’s nativity on a Wednesday, Thursday, or some other day. But when we insist on establishing a service of worship based on our whim, we blaspheme God, and create an idol, though we have done it all in the name of God. And when you worship God in the idleness of a holiday spirit, that is a heavy sin to bear, and one which attracts others about it, until we reach the height of iniquity. Therefore, let us pay attention to what Micah is saying here, that God must not only strip away things that are bad in themselves, but must also eliminate anything that might foster superstition. Once we have understood that, we will no longer find it strange that Noel is not being observed today, but that on Sunday we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper and recite the story of the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. But all those who barely know Jesus Christ, or that we must be subject to him, and that God removes all those impediments that prevent us from coming to him, these folk, I say, will at best grit their teeth. They came here in anticipation of celebrating a wrong intention, but will leave with it wholly unfulfilled.

—From Calvin’s sermon preached on Christmas day 1551 in John Calvin, Sermons on the Book of Micah, trans. Benjamin Wirt Farley (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2003), 302–04

Even though the above quote isn’t from the new book from Crossway, “John Calvin: For a New Reformation,” it’s timely topic gives us a glimpse of this polarizing figure whose life and works have become so recognizably relevant to the church today.  Now, to be honest, as relevant as Calvin may be, it was the other names on this volume that first drew my attention.  I mean to see the late R.C. Sproul’s name right on top as author of the afterward almost made me cry.  Editors Derek Thomas and John Tweeddale explain in the preface,

In this book, leading Reformed pastors and scholars reflect on the significance of the ministry and teaching of John Calvin for the church today (9).” 

The pastors and teachers–Stephen Nichols, Robert Godfrey, Steven Lawson, Burk Parsons, Joel Beeke, and Keith Mathison, just to name a few–who author this book weren’t just what drew me to it, they prove to be its greatest strength.  You know what it’s like listening in to a bunch of friends and family members all sharing about the same loved one and starting to feel like you know that person so much better just from hearing others’ anecdotes?  This book is like that.  Only all the friends and family members are actually scholars on the subject.   But their genuine love and respect for the man shine through on every page.

What sets this biography apart from others is the format. Each chapter is written by a different author bringing a fresh perspective, a new voice and angle on Calvin’s life, works, and teachings.  That said, it also might be it’s greatest weakness, which honestly doesn’t detract much from the quality of this work.  Because you have so many authors contributing, sometimes they repeat facets of Calvins life and influence.  There is often a sense of being reintroduced to the subject matter each time you start a new chapter.  But this is a small price to say for the diversity and depth of perspective.

The last time I dove deep into a biography of this magnitude was with Ian Murray’s “Jonathan Edwards” and I have to say, the multi-author format made this tome far more digestible than would seem possible at first glance of its 600 pages.  My rating for this gem is definitely “Share It.”  And if you’re feeling particularly mischievous, wrap it up as Christmas present when you do so.  Calvin would just love that.

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Even though I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher I am not obligated in any way to submit a favorable review.

Tolle Lege: “Even Better Than Eden” AND “The City of God and the Goal of Creation”

As long as I can remember, Genesis has been my favorite book in the Bible.  I love starting each home-school year off with “In the beginning God…”  No matter what we’re studying, that’s where we start.  That’s where the foundation for each subject is laid.  Science, history, math, language arts—it all must build on that solid rock of scripture if it is to maintain any integrity within the Christian faith.  And yet, so often Genesis is left out of the building of the most important subject of all, theology.    

This past year I have fallen in love with Genesis even more.  Once your eyes are opened to the glories of Christ as revealed on every page of scripture it’s impossible to look away.  The book of Genesis from its very first words, sets the stage for the cosmic drama of redemption designed to put on display to all rulers and authorities in the heavenly places, the manifold wisdom of God (Eph.3:10).  Two books that I have read recently highlight major redemptive themes found in the book of Genesis and trace them throughout Scripture toward their ultimate consummation realized in Jesus Christ and the kingdom in which He reigns.  

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In “Even Better Than Eden”, (Crossway, 2018). Nancy Guthrie traces the themes of Wilderness, the Tree, God’s Image, Clothing, the Bridegroom, Sabbath, Offspring, Dwelling Place, and the City from the Garden of Eden through the Old Testament and into the New Kingdom established by Christ.  She argues that even though Eden was unsullied, it was incomplete.  “From the very beginning Eden was not meant to be static; it was headed somewhere (12).”  That somewhere is what both the Old and New Testament saints were looking forward to.

“You and I were meant to enjoy an environment, a sense of purpose and satisfaction, and an intimacy with God and each other that is even better than Adam and Eve enjoyed in Eden.  Eden had the seeds of the new creation, but all those seeds will burst into glorious bloom in the new heaven and the new earth.  When we enter the new Eden, our Sabbath rest, the final temple, the New Jerusalem, we’ll begin to experience all that God has intended for his people all along (159).”

The second book I read picks up on just one of those themes, the City, and fleshes it out in extraordinary detail.  T. Desmond Alexander is the author of “The City of God and the Goal of Creation” (Crossway, 2018).  This book is extremely helpful in understanding Jerusalem as the Temple-City, the Holy Mountain City, AND the Royal City as well as its archetype city, Babylon.  But the book really gets exciting in its last two chapters where it delves into the future City of God, the New Jerusalem.  Alexander argues that against the background of pre-fall Eden to post-fall Babel and beyond, 

“The biblical story recounts how God takes the initiative to redeem people from the grip of the Evil One, gradually establishing his kingdom on the earth… The Old Testament story of Israel’s redemption from slavery in Egypt begins a process that climaxes with God coming to dwell on Mount Zion.  This process provides a paradigm for understanding divine salvation, as God takes the initiative to create a holy temple-city.  The events that lead to the construction of the temple in Jerusalem illustrate something of what entails salvation and how it is achieved.  These events also anticipate a greater salvation that will come through a future Davidic king (164).” 

That may sound just a bit heady but Alexander follows through with a beautiful application on the very next page.

“For those who are united to Jesus Christ, eternal life begins here and now, as does citizenship of the city that will one day be created by God on a renewed earth.  Jesus challenges his followers to look forward in faith, to pray and work for the spread of God’s rule here and now (165).”

He concludes, 

“Jesus Christ calls his followers to be kingdom builders here and now, but they are to do this with the confident assurance that Christ will return to address every injustice as universal judge, vindicating and punishing as appropriate.  Only then with the defeat of evil will God establish New Jerusalem on a renewed earth (165).”

Tolle Lege: “The Prayers of Jesus” by Mark Jones

My husband and I both lost our mothers within the past couple years.  They were praying women.  And they were daughters of praying women.  Their home-going left an intercessory void in our extended families that I have been struggling to fill.  Mark Jones’s book, “The Prayers of Jesus (Crossway, 2019),” couldn’t have come at a better time.  I picked it up hoping for an exposition on the what, when, and wheres of Jesus’ prayers, a how-to-manual for bowed head and bended knee.  Jones delivered on none of that.  

What he DOES deliver is so much more valuable than a treatise on how or even why we should pray.  This book is all about the who.  Jones invites the reader to view The Prayers of Jesus as a portal into the divine and human nature of our Lord.  It is a deeply Christological confession of the One who made it possible for us TO pray.  If you want to get to know Christ, the man, the Messiah, and the eternal Mediator of a better covenant, what better place to tune your ears than into His most intimate conversations, the Son’s own words to God the Father?

I turned to page one wanting to know how to pray better.  I finished the book loving Christ more for how He made it possible for me to pray at all.  I wanted to know exactly what Jesus prayed about so that I could pray for the same things.  Instead I’m praising God that EVERYTHING Jesus prayed for has and will be eternally fulfilled through His own person and for His own glory!  I came to this book with a long list of people to pray for and left in utter gratitude that Jesus, the perfect High Priest is interceding for me, now and forever!  

This last theme runs throughout the book but Jones does an especially beautiful job in chapter 13 fleshing out the details of Christ’s intercessory work on our behalf.  He gets a little help from a few other theologians (D.A. Carson and John Owen among them), in this section worth quoting here.  Referring to the two aspects of Christ’s priesthood, sacrifice and intercession, Stephen Charnock said, “The oblation provides the intercession, and the intercession could not be without the oblation (115).”  These two aspects are joined together in Thomas Manton’s comparison with the Old Testament high priest’s yearly entrance into the Holy of Holy’s bearing the names of the 12 tribes of Israel upon himself. “So Christ is entered on behalf of us all, bearing the particular memorial of every saint graven on his heart (116).”  Jones continues, “In heaven, our Lord applies the benefits of his life and death to the church that he purchased with his blood (116).” 

In John 17:9-10 Jesus prays for all those who bring him glory. After describing what the marks of those whom Christ prays for will be, Jones makes this observation:

“Christ possesses a natural glory as very God of very God.   He also possesses a peculiar glory as the God-man, the visible image of the invisible God.  But besides those two glories, he possesses a third glory:  the glory that comes to him from his bride.  This depends not upon us (part of his creation), in the final analysis.  The glory certainly comes to him through us because he prayed for us to bring glory to him (117)… God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit —all one God—will make sure that the church glorifies Christ (118).”

Wow!  If I am Christ’s it is only to bring Him glory.  And if I bring Him glory it is only because Christ’s sacrifice and intercession make it possible.  I am Christ’s and He is glorified in me BECAUSE He prayed and continues to pray that it will be so!

Jones concludes with these words and I will as well,

“The King of glory prayed on his way to glory, where he ever lives to pray for the saints.   We can be so thankful for the prayer life of Jesus.  There is no hope without it, but every hope because of it (203).”

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Even though I was provided with a free copy of this book from the publisher, I am not required to write a favorable review.