Thursday, June 21, 2018

Book Review: The Holiness of God

The Holiness of God. R.C. Sproul. 1985/2012. 226 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: I was compelled to leave the room. A deep, undeniable summons disturbed my sleep; something holy called me.

Holiness of God is a classic by R.C. Sproul that every Christian should read at least once. Emphasis on at least once. I think it happens to be one of those books where you might even want to reread it every other year or so.

So what is it about? It's about God, about who HE is, about his HOLINESS and righteousness. But it is also about who we are. It's about sin--what it is, how it divides us, how it damns us--about grace, about justice. It is about our holiness as well. Why are believers called saints? Why are we called to be holy and to live holy lives? Ultimately, the book is a refresher course on the gospel itself.

In the first chapter, Sproul writes: "Today I am still absorbed with the question of the holiness of God. I am convinced that it is one of the most important ideas that a Christian can ever grapple with...How we understand the person and character of God the Father affects every aspect of our lives. It affects far more than what we normally call the “religious” aspects of our lives." If you agree, then this book is a must read. And if you don't agree, well, then perhaps reading the book will change your mind.

I have read this one three times now. I think I love it more each time.

Here is the promise of God: We shall see Him as He is. Theologians call this future expectation the beatific vision. We will see God as He is.
Right now it is impossible for us to see God in His pure essence. Before that can ever happen, we must be purified. When Jesus taught the Beatitudes, He promised only a distinct group the vision of God: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matt. 5:8).
None of us in this world is pure in heart. It is our impurity that prevents us from seeing God. The problem is not with our eyes; it is with our hearts.
Only once in sacred Scripture is an attribute of God elevated to the third degree. Only once is a characteristic of God mentioned three times in succession. The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy.  Not that He is merely holy, or even holy, holy. He is holy, holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love; or mercy, mercy, mercy; or wrath, wrath, wrath; or justice, justice, justice. It does say that He is holy, holy, holy, that the whole earth is full of His glory.
In a very real sense, the word holy is a foreign word. The problem we face, however, is that the word holy is foreign to all languages. No dictionary is adequate to the task. 
Sinful people are not comfortable in the presence of the holy. The cliché is that misery loves company. Another is that there is fellowship among thieves. But thieves do not seek the consoling presence of the fellowship of police officers. Sinful misery does not love the company of purity.
If we fix our minds on the holiness of God, the result might be disturbing.
“Love God? Sometimes I hate Him.” This is a strange quote to hear from the lips of a man as respected for his religious zeal as Luther.
 Two things separated Luther from the rest of men: First, he knew who God was. Second, he understood the demands of God’s law. He had mastered the law. Unless he came to understand the gospel, he would die in torment.
“The just shall live by faith.” This was the battle cry of the Protestant Reformation. The idea that justification is by faith alone, by the merits of Christ alone, was so central to the gospel that Luther called it “the article upon which the church stands or falls.” Luther knew that it was the article by which he would stand or fall.
There is no such thing as evil justice in God. The justice of God is always and ever an expression of His holy character.
What God does is always consistent with who God is. He always acts according to His holy character. God’s internal righteousness is the moral excellence of His character.
God does not always act with justice. Sometimes He acts with mercy. Mercy is not justice, but it also is not injustice. Injustice violates righteousness. Mercy manifests kindness and grace and does no violence to righteousness. We may see nonjustice in God, which is mercy, but we never see injustice in God.
The false conflict between the two testaments may be seen in the most brutal act of divine vengeance ever recorded in Scripture. It is not found in the Old Testament but in the New Testament. The most violent expression of God’s wrath and justice is seen in the Cross. If ever a person had room to complain of injustice, it was Jesus. He was the only innocent man ever to be punished by God. If we stagger at the wrath of God, let us stagger at the Cross. Here is where our astonishment should be focused.
It is impossible for anyone, anywhere, anytime to deserve grace. Grace by definition is undeserved. As soon as we talk about deserving something, we are no longer talking about grace; we are talking about justice. Only justice can be deserved. God is never obligated to be merciful. Mercy and grace must be voluntary or they are no longer mercy and grace.
God never “owes” grace. He reminds us more than once: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” (Exod. 33:19). This is the divine prerogative. God reserves for Himself the supreme right of executive clemency.
The moment awareness of His divine presence begins, the deepest personal struggle a person can experience begins as well.
We may wrestle with the Holy One. Indeed, for the transforming power of God to change our lives, we must wrestle with Him. We must know what it means to fight with God all night if we are also to know what it means to experience the sweetness of the soul’s surrender.
One of the names by which God is revealed in the Old Testament is the name El Shaddai. The name means “the thunderer” or “the overpowerer.” It was by the name El Shaddai that God appeared to Job. What Job experienced was the awesome power of a sovereign God who overpowers all people and is Himself overpowered by no one.
How much time elapses before the sinner begins to become pure? The answer is none. There is no time lapse between our justification and the beginning of our sanctification. But there is a great time lapse between our justification and the completion of our sanctification.
Semi-Pelagianism is the majority report among evangelical Christians and probably represents the theology of the vast majority of people who read this book. But I am convinced that with all of its virtues, Semi-Pelagianism still represents a theology of compromise with our natural inclinations. Evangelicals today have unconverted sinners who are dead in trespasses and sin bringing themselves to life by choosing to be born again. Christ made it clear that dead people cannot choose anything, that the flesh counts for nothing, and that we must be born of the Spirit before we can even see the kingdom of God, let alone enter it. The failure of modern evangelicalism is the failure to understand the holiness of God. If that one point were grasped, there would be no more talk of mortal enemies of Christ coming to Jesus by their own power. The only kind of God we can love by our sinful nature is an unholy god, an idol made by our own hands. Unless we are born of the Spirit of God, unless God sheds His holy love in our hearts, unless He stoops in His grace to change our hearts, we will not love Him.
God is not at the edge of Christians’ lives but at the very center. God defines our entire life and worldview.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Week in Review: June 10-16

KJV Daily Chronological Bible

  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy
  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ruth 
  • 1 Samuel 1-16
  • Psalms 90, 95

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, June 16, 2018

My Victorian Year #24

This week I'll be sharing quotes from Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening and J.C. Ryle's Old Paths.

From Morning and Evening:
Beloved, no sin of a believer can now be an arrow mortally to wound him, no condemnation can now be a sword to kill him, for the punishment of our sin was borne by Christ, a full atonement was made for all our iniquities, by our blessed Substitute and Surety. Who now accuses? Who now condemns? Christ has died, yes rather, has risen again. Jesus has emptied the quivers of hell, has quenched every fiery dart, and broken off the head of every arrow of wrath! 
Salvation is not a blessing to be enjoyed upon the dying bed, and to be sung of in a future state above—but a matter to be obtained, received, promised, and enjoyed now.
The Christian is perfectly saved in God’s purpose; God has ordained him unto salvation, and that purpose is complete. He is saved also as to the price which has been paid for him, “It is finished” was the cry of the Savior before He died.
This complete salvation is accompanied by a holy calling. Those whom the Savior saved upon the cross—are in due time effectually called by the power of God the Holy Spirit unto holiness. God neither chose them nor called them because they were holy—but He called them that they would be holy; and holiness is the beauty produced by His workmanship in them.
 The happiest state of a Christian is the holiest state. As there is the most heat nearest to the sun—so there is the most happiness nearest to Christ. No Christian enjoys comfort when his eyes are fixed on vanity—he finds no satisfaction unless his soul is quickened in the ways of God.
Admire the grace which saves you—the mercy which spares you—the love which pardons you!
Jesus is the keeper of the gates of paradise, and before every believing soul He sets an open door, which no man or devil shall be able to close against it. What joy it will be to find that faith in Him is the golden key to the everlasting doors.
After conversion our God is our joy, comfort, guide, teacher, and in every sense our light—He is light within, light around, light reflected from us, and light to be revealed to us.
Note, it is not said merely that the Lord gives light—but that He is light; nor that He gives salvation—but that He is salvation. He, then, who by faith has laid hold upon God, has all covenant blessings in his possession.

From Old Paths, chapter 15, Faith

“God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”--John 3:16
Questions about things necessary to salvation, questions which probe the conscience, and bring men face to face with God, such questions often bring life and health to souls. I know few questions more important than the one which arises out of this text:-DO WE BELIEVE?
There are four things which I wish to consider, and to impress upon the minds of all who read this volume.
These four things are as follows:-- 1. God’s mind towards the world:--He “loved” it. 2. God’s gift to the world.--“He gave His only begotten Son.” 3. The only way to obtain the benefit of God’s gift:--“Whosoever believeth on Him shall not perish.” 4. The marks by which true belief may be known.
Let us consider, in the first place, God’s mind towards the world:--He “loved” it. But what kind of love is this with which the Father regards all mankind? It cannot be a love of complacency, or else He would cease to be a perfect God. 
The world-wide love of which Jesus speaks, is a love of kindness, pity, and compassion. Fallen as man is, and provoking as man’s ways are, the heart of God is full of kindness towards him.
While as a righteous Judge He hates sin, He is yet able in a certain sense to love sinners! The length and breadth of His compassion are not to be measured by our feeble measures. Righteous, and holy, and pure as God is, it is yet possible for God to love all mankind.
There lives not the man or woman on earth whom God regards with absolute hatred or complete indifference. His mercy is like all His other attributes. It passes knowledge. God loves the world.
Beware of the common idea that God the Father is an angry Being, whom sinful man can only regard with fear, and from whom he must flee to Christ for safety. Contend earnestly for all the attributes of God,--for His holiness and His justice, as well as for His love. But never allow for one moment that there is any want of love towards sinners in any Person in the Blessed Trinity. 
The Father loves, and the Son loves, and the Holy Ghost loves. When Christ came on earth, the kindness and love of God toward man appeared. (Titus 3:4.).
The cross is the effect of the Father’s love, and not the cause.
Let us resist to the death the unscriptural doctrine of universal salvation. It is not true that all mankind will be finally saved. But let us not fly into the extreme of denying God’s universal compassion.
The next thing I want to consider is God’s gift to the world. “He gave His only begotten Son.” 
The love of God towards the world is not a vague, abstract idea of mercy, which we are obliged to take on trust, without any proof that it is true. It is a love which has been manifested by a mighty gift.

His love is not displayed at the expense of His holiness and justice. It flows down from heaven to earth through one particular channel. It is set before men in one special way.
It is only through Christ, by Christ, on account of Christ, and in inseparable connection with the work of Christ. Let us glory in God’s love by all means.
Let us proclaim to all the world that God is love. But let us carefully remember that we know little or nothing of God’s love which can give us comfort, excepting in Jesus Christ.
It is not written that God so loved the world that He will take all the world to heaven, but that He so loved it, that He has given His only begotten Son.
He that ventures on God’s love without reference to Christ, is building on a foundation of sand.
He that thinks lightly of man’s need and man’s sin, would do well to consider man’s Saviour. Sin must indeed be exceeding sinful, when the Father must needs give His only Son to be the sinner’s Friend! 
The way to heaven is narrow enough already, by reason of man’s pride, hardness, sloth, listlessness, and unbelief. But take heed that you do not make that way more narrow than it really is.
The third thing I propose to consider, is the way in which man obtains the benefit of God’s love and Christ’s salvation. It is written that “whosoever believeth shall not perish.”
Without believing there is no salvation. It is vain to suppose that any will be saved, merely because Christ was incarnate, not because Christ is in heaven, or because they belong to Christ’s Church, or because they are baptized, or because they have received the Lord’s supper. All this is entirely useless to any man except he believes.
We must have personal faith in Christ, personal dealings with Christ, personal transactions with Christ, or we are lost for evermore.
He dwells only in those hearts which have faith; and all, unhappily, have not faith. He that believeth not in the Son of God is yet in his sins, “the wrath of God abideth on him.” “He that believeth not,” says our Lord Jesus Christ in words of fearful distinctness,--“he that believeth not shall be damned.”
True belief in Christ is the unreserved trust of a heart convinced of sin, in Christ, as an all-sufficient Saviour. It is the combined act of the whole man’s head, conscience, heart, and will. It is often so weak and feeble at first, that he who has it cannot be persuaded that he has. 
(1) Believing is the soul’s coming to Christ. (2) Believing is the soul’s receiving Christ. (3) Believing is the soul’s building on Christ. (4) Believing is the soul’s putting on Christ. (5) Believing is the soul’s laying hold on Christ. (6) Believing is the soul’s eating Christ. (7) Believing is the soul’s drinking Christ. (8) Believing is the soul’s committal of itself to Christ. (9) Last, but not least, believing is the soul’s look to Christ.
No doubt belief is not the only grace to be found in the heart of a true Christian. But only belief gives him an interest in Christ. Prize that doctrine as the peculiar treasure of Christianity. Once let it go, or add anything to it, and there is an end of inward peace.
The fourth and last thing which I propose to consider is a point of great practical importance. I wish to show you the marks by which true belief in Christ may be discerned and known. (1) He that believeth in Christ has inward peace and hope. (2) He that believes in Christ has a new heart. (3) He that believes in Christ is a holy person in heart and life. (4) He that believes on Christ works godly works. (5) He that believes on Christ overcomes the world. (6) He that believes on Christ, has an inward testimony of his belief. (7) Last, but not least, he that believes on Christ, has a special regard in all his religion, to the person of Christ Himself.
Salvation is never made to turn on the question, whether Christ died for a man or not. The turning-point which is always set before us is believing. DO YOU BELIEVE?
Life is short and uncertain. Death is sure. Judgment is inevitable. Sin is exceeding sinful. Hell is an awful reality. Christ alone can save you. There is no other name given under heaven, whereby you can be saved.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Book Review: Expository Exultation

Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship. John Piper. 2018. Crossway. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: This is a book about preaching in worship.

In the introduction, John Piper writes:
"This book is an organic outgrowth of two previous books. Together they form a kind of trilogy. The first volume, A Peculiar Glory (2016), focuses on how we can know that the Bible is God’s word and is completely true. The second volume, Reading the Bible Supernaturally (2017), focuses on how to read the Bible—specifically, how to read it in the pursuit of its own ultimate goal that God be worshiped with white-hot affection by all the peoples of the world. This third volume, Expository Exultation, now asks, If the Bible is completely true and is to be read supernaturally in the pursuit of worship, what does it mean to preach this word, and how should we do it? On what basis does the congregation gather for worship, and why is preaching part of it?"
What is preaching? What is worship? Why is preaching an essential part of worship? Why is corporate worship important? And is preaching an essential part of corporate worship? What kind of preaching is best? What is expository exultation? Why is this the best way to preach? How does one go about preaching? What is involved in preparing the sermon? What is involved in the actual preaching? What should be the minister's goals? What guidelines for preaching does the Bible give us? What does a good sermon look like? A bad one?

Expository Exultation answers these questions...and more. In the hands of another author perhaps this one would not be accessible or readable. In the hands of another author perhaps this one would be a dense academic read: fine for those with years of training behind them but not for the rest of us. But Piper writes with passion AND clarity. God is a God who wants to be known. Piper is a preacher who wants God to be known. For it is only when God is known that he can be worshiped. The absolute best response to knowledge--to understanding--IS worship. The minister's job, Piper argues, is to clearly, logically, passionately show God to their congregations. The job is to connect the Bible--the words on the page--with reality. It is not their job to share their thoughts, opinions, experiences. It is their job to deal with specific texts from the Bible and clearly present God.

The primary audience is pastors or ministers. But. I think it can be read and enjoyed by all believers regardless of their profession. One reason why is that it is focused on worship, focused on the glory of God, focused on the act of glorifying God.


  • The Bible exists for the glory of God, now and forever. Reading it and preaching it share that goal.
  • A single ultimate purpose has given rise to the existence, the reading, and the preaching of Christian Scripture. The purpose is that God’s infinite worth and beauty be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation.
  • God has ordained that until his ultimate purpose of white-hot worship is achieved in the regular gatherings of his people, the everyday sacrifices of love, and the everlasting pleasures of the age to come, reading the Bible supernaturally and preaching its reality by the Spirit will not cease from the earth.
  • God’s purpose on the earth will advance through Bible-saturated, Christ-exalting, God-centered churches, where the gravity and gladness of eternal worship is awakened and rehearsed each week in the presence and power of expository exultation.
  • When the heart is far from God, worship is vain, empty, and nonexistent, no matter how proper the forms are. The experience of the heart is the defining, vital, indispensable essence of worship.
  • This is worship: to act in a way that shows the heart’s valuing of the glory of God and the name of the Lord Jesus. Or, as we said in the introduction, worship means consciously knowing and treasuring and showing the supreme worth and beauty of God.
  • I love to sum up what I call “Christian hedonism” with the phrase “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” If you wonder where I got that phrase, the answer is, right here in Philippians 1:20–21. Christ is magnified in my death, when in my death I am satisfied with him—when I experience death as gain because I gain him. Or another way to say it is that the essence of praising Christ is prizing Christ. Christ will be praised in my death, if in my death he is prized above life.
  • The inner essence of worship is prizing Christ—cherishing him, treasuring him, being satisfied with him.
  • Authentic, truth-based, heartfelt, corporate expressions of praise and thanks to God will have an edifying effect on others—it will stir them up to see the truth and feel the value that other believers see and feel. But it will have this effect precisely because God is the focus, not man.
  • There are 168 hours in the week. Most of those hours are spent focusing on horizontal pursuits. Therefore, most people are unaccustomed to the kind of joyful seriousness that makes a focus on God spiritually possible and deeply thrilling. Gladness mingled with gravity—the weight of glory—is foreign to most modern people, unless they have suffered much. But I think this is our goal—to know, to treasure, and to show the worth and beauty of God and his ways. And to do it together. To do it corporately. Because, given the greatness of God and the wonder of his ways, the nature of his chosen people, and the possibilities of fathomless joy in his presence, it is beautifully fitting that we do so.
  • Here’s the heart of it from John Stott, and it is what I mean by exposition: It is my contention that all true Christian preaching is expository preaching. Of course, if by an “expository” sermon is meant a verseby-verse explanation of a lengthy passage of Scripture, then indeed it is only one possible way of preaching, but this would be a misuse of the word. Properly speaking, “exposition” has a much broader meaning. It refers to the content of the sermon (biblical truth) rather than its style (a running commentary). To expound Scripture is to bring out of the text what is there and expose it to view. The expositor pries open what appears to be closed, makes plain what is obscure, unravels what is knotted and unfolds what is tightly packed. The opposite of exposition is “imposition,” which is to impose on the text what is not there. But the “text” in question could be a verse, or a sentence, or even a single word. It could equally be a paragraph, or a chapter, or a whole book. The size of the text is immaterial, so long as it is biblical. What matters is what we do with it. Whether it is long or short, our responsibility as expositors is to open it up in such a way that it speaks its message clearly, plainly, accurately, relevantly, without addition, subtraction or falsification.
  • When Stott says the content of the sermon is “biblical truth,” I want to make sure that the word “truth” refers not just to grammatical and historical propositions but to the reality that is being referred to—its nature, its value, and its implications for real life now.
  • The Devil can do biblical exposition—even speaking true propositions about the text’s meaning. But the Devil cannot exult over the divine glory of the meaning of Scripture. He hates it. So he cannot preach—not the way I am defining it.
  • Of course, mindless enthusiasts who totally ignore the meaning of texts can exult as they preach, but not in the true meaning of the text and the reality behind it. So exultation per se is not the defining mark of preaching. But together—exposition, as making clear what the Scripture really means, and exultation, as openly treasuring the divine glories of that meaning—they combine to make preaching what it is.
  • Scripture is inspired by God in order to awaken, nurture, and bring to final consummation the white-hot worship of the bloodbought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation. Preaching is intended by God to herald these Scriptures and advance their purpose. Therefore, preaching aims at worship—that is, it aims to bring into being and sustain a people who know and enjoy and show the glory and worth of God.
  • Preaching does not contradict its own aim by being indifferent to the glories of Scripture. It aims at worship by being an act of worship. As it clarifies truth, it cherishes the worth of truth. As it explains, it exults.
  • Faith sees, and at once savors—perceives and at once values—the supreme truth and beauty of Christ in the gospel.
  • We see and simultaneously savor. We know and we love. We behold and we embrace. That’s the way Jesus described faith in John 6:35: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Notice the parallel between coming to satisfy hunger, and believing to satisfy thirst. Hungering and thirsting refer to the same soul-emptiness. And believing and coming are the same soulact.
  • Knowing and delighting are essential to who God is. Human beings have these same capacities: knowing and delighting. God’s ultimate purposes in giving them to us is that we might reflect and magnify his beauty and worth by knowing and delighting in him. That is what worship is: truly knowing, duly enjoying, and thus showing the worth and beauty of God.
  • We are not designed to live on yesterday’s mercies.
  • What makes preaching unique is that it is a miracle aiming to be the agent of miracles. And the main miracle it aims to experience and bring about is the spiritual sight and spiritual savoring of the glory of God revealed in Scripture.
  • Preaching is worship seeking worship. And neither of these acts of worship is less than the miraculous seeing and savoring of the beauty of Christ, which the natural man regards as foolishness. He cannot see Christ for who he really is—supremely beautiful and valuable.
  • Worship is seeing, savoring, and showing the supreme beauty and worth of the triune God. Preaching is one act of that worship. But human beings cannot see or savor or show this God as their supreme treasure apart from the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who reveals his glory (2 Cor. 4:6), enlightens the eyes of the heart (Eph. 1:18), opens the darkened mind (Luke 24:45), and gives a glimpse of the glory of Christ that the “natural person” cannot perceive (Matt. 16:17).
  • The Christian preacher has nothing to hide. The Devil is in the business of hiding. The preacher reveals. The Devil obscures. The preacher clarifies. The Devil dulls the mind and heart. The preacher shines and burns. He is ashamed of nothing in his message.
  • C. S. Lewis once wrote a letter to a child who had asked for advice on how to write well.23 Lewis’s answer is so relevant for how preaching gains a sympathetic hearing that I am going to include his five suggestions here: 1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else. 2. Always prefer the clean, direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them. 3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.” 4. In writing, don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the things you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us the thing is “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers “Please, will you do my job for me.” 5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.
  • Preaching and Scripture have the same goal. What the Scriptures aim to do, preaching aims to do. What the Scriptures aim to reveal, preaching aims to reveal. The assumption is that Scripture is inspired by God and therefore aims to communicate what human beings need, in order for God’s purposes through Scripture to be realized. Preaching that brings out from Scripture what is really there joins God in bringing about his ultimate purposes.
  • The reality we are meant to perceive and experience does not hover over the text like a cloud to be divined somehow separately from what the authors wrote. The pathway to it is the right handling of the very words of the text. This is true of the preacher’s private discovery in study, and it is true of his public explanation in preaching. The preacher unveils reality for his people by pointing to the very words of Scripture and helping the people see how those words fit together to reveal that reality.
  • My plea here is that all of us pray for a greater gifting in our ability to help people see what we see through biblical texts. Many preachers assume people are following them when, in fact, the people are quite muddled in what they are hearing. The preacher proclaims an insight that he found in the text, and he assumes the people hear the insight and see where it comes from in the text. Perhaps he assumes this because the text was read at the beginning of the message ten or fifteen or thirty minutes earlier. But I can assure those preachers that the people do not remember the text well enough to know how you are getting your insights from it.
  • The people must see how the text communicates the reality. Otherwise, the opinion of the preacher replaces the authority of the text. The authority of preaching lies in the manifest correspondence between sermon and Scripture. Again, the key word is manifest.
  • The words of God are the best means of displaying the glory of God.
  • Every revelation of his character and ways, every description of Christ, every word he spoke, every rebuke of our sin, every promise of his grace, every practical command to walk in love and holiness, every warning against unrighteousness—all of these are blood-bought means of walking in joyful fellowship with God. This is what Jesus died for. Therefore, to preach Christ crucified, as Paul implied in 1 Corinthians 2:2 and Galatians 6:14, is not to turn every sermon into a message that climaxes with a rehearsal of the atonement. Rather, it is to treat seriously and carefully every word and every clause and every logical connection in the text in order to show how Christ—crucified, and risen, and present by the Spirit—empowers and shapes the new way of life described in the text.
  • Preaching is not everything, but it affects everything. It is the trumpet of truth in the church. And it echoes in every ministry and every household, for joy and strength and love and perseverance—or not. If every part of the engine is in working order but the sparkplug fails to fire in its appointed rhythm, the whole car lurches or stops.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Book Review: Journeys with Jesus

Journeys with Jesus: Every Path in the Bible Leads Us to Christ. Dennis E. Johnson. Abridged by Richard B. Ramsey. 2018. P&R Publishing. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: THE TITLE OF this book implies an audacious claim: all sixty-six books in the Bible, which were written by many people over many centuries, are united by one central theme, a single plotline, and a unique Hero, Jesus the Messiah.

Journeys with Jesus: Every Path in the Bible Leads Us To Christ is an abridgment of Walking with Jesus Through His Word: Discovering Christ in All the Scriptures by Dennis E. Johnson.

I loved, loved, loved the longer book and I loved the abridged version as well. The premise of both is great.

The premise is simple: Christ can be found in all of Scripture--not just the New Testament. Believers can benefit greatly by understanding HOW Christ can be found in each and every book of the Bible. Sometimes, Johnson argues, Christ can clearly be seen. For example, when New Testament writers under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, clearly connect Old Testament passages with Jesus Christ the Savior. He can be seen as the Seed, the Branch, the Passover Lamb, the Son of David, etc. Other times Christ's presence is more subtle and takes a little effort. For example, he can be seen in the covenants, with a covenantal understanding of the Bible. He can be seen in the roles of priest, prophet, and king. Johnson guides his readers into a proper understanding of how to read the Bible. He covers all types and genres of the Bible.

One of the things I appreciate most about the book is how natural it is, how he believes that believers should learn how to read the bible by reading the bible. In other words, he argues that the New Testament writers show us how to read the Bible, how to approach it, how to interpret it. Also by letting bible texts shed light on other bible texts.

I also loved how substantive it is. It isn't intimidating or super-academic yet there is a weightiness to it that is needed.

What does it mean to journey with Jesus through his Word? It means letting him teach us how to interpret the Bible. So it also means learning to see him in the Word. In other words, to combine the two ideas, it means asking Jesus to show us himself in the Bible.
We need Jesus to open the Bible to us, and to open us up to the Bible. When we fail to see how the whole Bible focuses on Christ at its center, part of our problem—not the whole problem, but part of it—may be that our hearts are sluggish, slow, and unbelieving. Maybe we are not coming to our Bibles with the anticipation that everything between their covers is given to us by our loving Creator and Redeemer to draw our hearts more firmly to himself in confident trust, humble repentance, and grateful love. When we have trouble seeing how the whole Bible centers on Christ, the problem may well be not in the Bible or even in our Bible-study strategies, but in ourselves.
Why is it important to learn to journey with Jesus through his Word? First, Jesus taught his apostles to read the Word at a pivotal historical moment, between his sufferings on earth and his glories in heaven. Like them and through their writings, we must learn to read the Bible as Christ taught them to read it. Second, when Jesus opens the Scriptures and opens our minds and hearts, we discover the rich beauty, the varied dimensions, of his manifold grace. Third, seeing Jesus’ glory in the Bible transforms us from the inside out, to reflect his own truth and love (2 Cor. 3:18).

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Observations on the Early Chapters of Job

1) If Job was in charge of writing his own story, in charge of his own destiny, so to speak, then Job would only have five verses.
There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.  And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.
But he wasn't--neither are we. God is sovereign. God wrote Job's story as he is writing ours today. We can take comfort and hope in God's sovereignty because God is good, faithful, and just. God is a promise maker and a promise keeper.

Romans 8:18-38

2) Job's faith in God was rock-solid as evident by his initial response to adversity. I'm not sure that Job's response would be the response of the typical believer. It's food for thought, isn't it?

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21
3) How blessed we are as believers to have the Word of God--the full Word of God. I can only imagine how much comfort, strength, and hope Job would have gotten from having the book of Psalms for example. Scripture is not mere words on a page--they contain words of life, food for our soul.
Oh that my vexation were weighed,    and all my calamity laid in the balances! Job 6:2
You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Psalm 56:8 
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! Psalm 126:5
cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. Psalm 57:2 
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. Psalm 34:22
The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD's throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man. Psalm 11:4
My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long,  “Where is your God?” These things I remember,  as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng  and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise,  a multitude keeping festival. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 42:3-5
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;  his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him,  to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:21-26
Do we treasure the Word of God? Is the Bible your wonderful foundation?
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?
In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.
Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
4) Job's wife endured nearly as much as Job himself--minus the physical afflictions--and yet we know very little of her. We know her response did not match her husband's. Her first response was not worship. I'm not sure her response was ever one of worship. But we know so little of her and her story: everything is speculation. Would it have been easy to care for Job and to host Job's friends?! Probably not. Was she glad his friends were there to support her husband in his grief? Did she wish they'd all shut up? Who was there to support her?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: June 3-9


  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Numbers
  • James

KJV Daily Chronological Bible

  • Genesis 
  • Job 
  • Psalms 8, 12, 19, 29, 104, 
  • John 1:1-3

KJV Audio Bible
Matthew 25-28

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible