Saturday, May 11, 2013

Book Review: Gospel (2011)

Gospel: Recovering the Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary. J.D. Greear. Foreword by Timothy Keller. B&H Books. 266 pages.

From chapter one: Is the gospel really missing? If so, where did it go? Most Christians have the facts straight: Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, died on the cross in our place, and was raised from the dead. All those who place their faith in Him will be forgiven and have everlasting life. So, the gospel is not missing. Not so fast. I mentioned in the introduction that there is a difference in knowing that honey is sweet and having that sweetness burst alive in your mouth. Being able to articulate the gospel with accuracy is one thing; having its truth captivate your soul is quite another. The gospel is not just supposed to be our ticket into heaven; it is to be an entirely new basis for how we relate to God, ourselves, and others. It is to be the source from which everything else flows. 

Last weekend, I reviewed Bookends of the Christian Life by Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington mentioning that it was one of those rare books that is a true must read for every Christian. Not counting the books I've reread this year, Gospel by J.D. Greear has to be THE BEST book I've read this year. It is AMAZING and WONDERFUL and thought-provoking and so grounded in the Word of God. I would definitely say it is a must read!!! I absolutely loved, loved, loved it from start to finish!!! (The kindle edition is just $3.99; the paperback on Amazon is just over $11.)

The book is divided into three parts: the first section focuses on the gospel, and how the gospel message IS revolutionary; the second section focuses on the GOSPEL PRAYER, the suggested means for preaching the gospel to yourself every single day; the third section focuses on answering questions raised during the first two sections, focuses on the practical side of what this gospel transformation looks like in real life.

To give you some idea of the contents, I'll share the table of contents: "The Missing Gospel," "Why Religious Change Doesn't Work," "The Gospel as Gift-Righteousness," "Changed Without a Command," "God is Better," "Changed by Sight," "Gospel-Centered Relationships," "Extravagant Generosity," "Urgent Mission," "Expect Great Things," "But if Not...", "Why Are There Commands in Scripture?" "What is the Right Way to Work for God?" "What Does a Gospel-Centered Church Look Like," and "You'll Never Find the Bottom."

Favorite quotes:
I want you to see the gospel not only as the means by which you get into heaven, but as the driving force behind every single moment of your life. (5)
A Christianity that does not have as its primary focus the deepening of passions for God is a false Christianity, no matter how zealously it seeks conversions or how forcefully it advocates righteous behavior. (10)
Being converted to Jesus is learning to so adore God that we would gladly renounce everything we have to follow Him. (10)
Love for God is commanded in Scripture, but the command can only truly be fulfilled as our eyes are opened to see God's beauty revealed in the gospel. The Spirit of God uses the beauty of the gospel to awaken in our hearts a desire for God. "We love Him," the apostle John would say, "because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). Love for God grows out of an experience of the love of God. (11)
Abiding in Jesus means understanding that His acceptance of us is the same regardless of the amount of spiritual fruit we have produced. (14)
As Tim Keller says, the gospel is not just the ABCs of Christianity, it is the A-Z; it is not the first step in a stairway of truths, it is more like the hub of God's wheel of truth. (21)
Whatever spiritual dysfunction you have in your life, the cure is the gospel. Do we want to be filled with passion for God? We should drink from the gospel. Do we want to get control of our bodies? We must be captivated by the gospel. Do we want to be content with what we have? We need to feast on the gospel. (22)
Always "begin again" with the gospel. Abide in it; swim in it; make your home in it. See more and more of your life through it. Be absolutely convinced at every moment of every day of the goodness of God in your life. That's the only way you'll ever really grow. (22-3)
You worship whatever it is you deem most essential for life and happiness. (27)
At its root, our sins are driven by the fact that we desire something more than we desire God. Religious change targets the acts of sin without addressing the idolatry that prompted that sin in the first place. (30)
True worship is obedience to God for no other reason than that you delight in God. There is a fundamental difference in serving God to get something from Him and serving Him to get more of Him. (31)
True religion is when you serve God to get nothing else but more of God. (32)
True love for God cannot grow when we are unsure about His feelings for us. (35)
The gospel prayer
1. In Christ, there is nothing I can do that would make You love me more, and nothing I have done that makes You love me less.
2. Your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy.
3. As You have been to me, so I will be to others.
4. As I pray, I'll measure Your compassion by the cross and Your power by the resurrection. (40-1)
Right now, if you are in Christ, when God looks at you--regardless of your situation--He sees the righteousness of Christ. If we really believed that--not only with our heads but also with our hearts--it would change everything in our lives. (47)
Christ's obedience is so spectacular there is nothing we could do to add to it; His death so final that nothing could take  away from it. (48)
Do you know who loves to push us to evaluate ourselves according to how well we've done? Our enemy, Satan. Satan, believe it or not, loves to convict us of our sins. That's one of his names--the "accuser of our brethren" (Rev. 12:10). One of Satan's most effective weapons, I believe, is making us forget the identity the Father has declared over us in Christ and basing our sense of approval on how well we've done.  (49)
Each day Jesus says to us, "You are my beloved child. I am well pleased in you. Now live that way." Satan, on the other hand, says, "Look at you. Look at the condition of your circumstances. Look at how poorly you're living. There is no way you are God's beloved child." Which voice are you going to believe? There's an eternity of difference between them. (52)
Our sin and our failures have not, and can never again, separate us from Him. He has put them away forever, as far, as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). (56)
We are changed not by being told what we need to do for God, but by hearing the news about what God has done for us. (64)
The goal of preaching, then, is neither the conveyance of information nor instruction in application. The goal of preaching is worship. (90)
Doctrine helps describe the God we must see; application helps us see how to love the God we have seen. But both are useless if the eyes of the heart have not been opened to see and savor the beauty of God. (90)
Awe combined with intimacy is the essence of Christian worship. (91)
The intimate God staggers the mind. When we try to reduce God to someone we can explain and control, we actually cripple people's ability to believe in Him. (92)
Perhaps one of the reasons we fail to treasure God is we have such a limited view of Him. God is a God of such massive size that our minds cease questioning when we see Him. We tremble and believe. (93)
We often think we have done God a favor by downplaying the whole idea of His judgment. Our user-friendly God does not punish sin. He certainly doesn't send people to hell. But hell gives us a picture of the absolute perfection and beauty of God. Hell is what hell is because God is who God is. Hell is what hell is because that's what sin against an infinitely beautiful and glorious God deserves. Hell is not one degree hotter than our sin demands that it be. Hell should make our mouths stand agape at the righteous, just, holiness of God (94)
A God that can satisfy our souls is a God that is so infinitely beautiful that sin against Him requires severe and infinite punishment. Do you realize how completely pure and perfect God is? Do you realize what danger the presence of sin in your heart places you in? (95)
As we see the beauty of God and feel His weightiness in our hearts, our hearts begin to desire Him more than we desire sin. Before the Bible says, "Stop sinning," it says, "Behold your God." (97)
The reason we can't say no to temptation is not that our desires for those things is too large; it's because our desire for God is too small. (98)
As the early church father Ignatius said, "It is impossible for a man (truly) to be freed from the habit of sin before he hates it." You will only hate sin when you start to love God. You learn to love God by seeing His beauty and love for you revealed in the gospel. (100)
Believing the gospel is not only the way we become Christians, it is the power that enables us to do, every moment of every day, the very things Jesus commands us to do. (103)
The gospel does not tell us to be passive toward others in their faults. It tells us to be aggressively graceful. We overcome evil with good. (118)
People who die without Christ go to hell forever. The only way they can hear about the gospel is through us. We are in battle, and the casualties are real. (144)
Picking and choosing what you want to believe from the Bible is called "liberalism." You conform the Bible to fit your personal preferences. But the Bible is not a buffet where you take what you want and leave what you don't. You and I don't judge the Bible, it should judge us. The path of liberalism is a dead end...Ignoring truth doesn't change it. Sadly, I believe, this is what the vast majority of the evangelical church is doing with their knowledge about heaven and hell. We go on about our lives as if hell were not real...we play while people perish. (148)
Martin Luther said that it wouldn't matter if Jesus had died a thousand times if no one ever heard about it. We are the only way they hear about it. (150)
What would your prayers look like if you believed that the cross really was the measure of God's compassion for someone? (171)
There is no shortage of compassion in God. The shortage is in our willingness to believe in that compassion. (172)
Nonbelievers need to hear the gospel to believe it and be saved. Believers need to be reminded of the gospel so they can grow deeper in Christ. There is really no distinction, you see, between what believers need to hear and what unbelievers need to hear. (240

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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