Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book Review: Here Is Our God (2014)

Here Is Our God. Kathleen Buswell Nielson and D.A. Carson, editors. 2014. Crossway. 221 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I really loved this collection of essays. These essays or speeches were originally given at the Gospel Coalition 2012 National Women's Conference. The theme of the conference was "Here Is Our God." Speakers were "looking into passages where God reveals himself in spectacular ways to his people."
The overall goal for these talks was to gain from God’s Word a renewed vision of God and his sweeping purposes of redemption, as he shows himself to us through his revelation.
Table of contents:
  • On the Mountain: The Terrifying and Beckoning God (Exodus 19) Tim Keller
  • In the Temple: The Glorious and Forgiving God (1 Kings 8) Paige Brown
  • In the Throne Room: The God of Holiness and Hope (Isaiah 6) John Piper
  • From a Miry Swamp: The God Who Comes and Delivers (Psalm 40) Carrie Sandom
  • On Another Mountain: The God Who Points To His Son (Matthew 17:1-15) Nancy Leigh DeMoss
  • In the Third Heaven: The God Who Can't by Talked About (2 Corinthians 12) Jenny Salt
  • Through the Open Door: The Transcendent and Redeeming God (Revelation 4-5) Kathleen Nielson
  • Home at Last: The Spectacular God at the Center (Revelation 21-22) D.A. Carson
I loved the theme of this book! I did! I loved the focus being on God and God's Revelation of Himself in His Word. I loved how each chapter focused on one particular passage of Scripture. I loved the expository nature of each chapter. I loved the layout of each chapter. For example, in the first chapter, the sermon is broken down into three sections: 1) The history and order of grace Exodus 19:1-8, 2) The terrifying and beckoning God Exodus 19:9-19, and 3) The going down of Moses 19:20-25. All chapters are written with clarity. I also loved how all the chapters seem to come together to create a big picture. That wasn't surprising, but, it was wonderful all the same.

From "On The Mountain"
John Newton, the great hymn writer, wrote in a letter, “Nobody ever learned they were a sinner by being told. They have to be shown.”
John Newton said, “Everything is needful that he sends. Nothing can be needful that he withholds.”
An Israelite could have said this: I was in bondage under penalty of death. I was a slave in a foreign land. But I took shelter under the blood of the lamb. And I was led out and saved by the mighty arm of God. I did nothing at all to accomplish it. The Lord did it all for us his people. He saved us by his sheer grace. Then we came to the place where God showed us how to begin to live out our salvation. He gave us the law. And now we haven’t reached the Promised Land yet, and we often fail and fall; we certainly aren’t perfect. But we even have a way of constantly dealing with our sins through the atoning sacrifice, through the blood. And we’ll eventually get to the Promised Land. That’s what an Israelite could have said during this period of time. And a Christian can say every one of those things, too.
You’ll never understand the whole Bible unless you understand the order: (1) grace, (2) obedience, (3) blessing. It’s not (1) grace, (2) blessing, (3) obedience. Nor is it (1) obedience, (2) grace, (3) blessing. If it was law then deliverance, we would say, “You obey; therefore God accepts you.” But since it’s deliverance (the exodus) and then law (the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai), the gospel is this: “God accepts you; therefore, you obey.” A Christian says, “I’m accepted because of the blood of Jesus Christ; therefore, I obey.” There is nothing more important to understand.
The gospel shuts up your ego and gets it all sorted out so that you’re not constantly whiplashing between (a) thinking too much of yourself and (b) being down on yourself. The gospel does this by (a) humbling your ego into the dust with knowledge that you’re a sinner and (b) affirming it to the sky by telling you rightly that you’re now a son or daughter of the king and that you can’t lose that status. As C. S. Lewis taught, you don’t think less of yourself or more of yourself; you just think of yourself less.
When we hear the Bible as it is, it’s terrifying. I think it was Dr. Lloyd-Jones who said, “If anyone has ever read the Sermon on the Mount with an open mind, they would fall down and cry out, ‘God, save me from the Sermon on the Mount.’” Because what they are experiencing in a little way without the thunder and lightning and special effects is the holiness of God.
From "In The Temple"
Jesus was not taken to the cross. Jesus went to the cross. His life was not stolen from him. He laid down his life. The glory of the God who was willing to ordain and institute atonement became the glory of the God who will provide atonement. The glory of the God who is the atonement. John Stott says that we should never ever wonder why forgiveness is so difficult but rather how is it possible! God does not forgive sin. I hope you know that. He can’t. He forgives sinners. But sin has to be paid for. Who knew that this is what our sin costs? Jesus knew. He knew it, even as he echoed Solomon’s prayer and said, “Father, forgive them.” And he knew, because he himself was the answer to that prayer, that the Father would turn away from the next prayer in abandonment, which was required for that forgiveness. The unthinkable extravagance of Jesus the temple! The unimaginable cost to the heart of the Father! This is the temple dedication. It is his dedication, not ours. Glory and forgiveness can be combined only because here they are exchanged. The essence of sin is that I put myself in the place of God, so God put his Son in the place of me. Even as I have taken glory that is not mine, he has taken sin that is not his. Because we have put ourselves where only God deserves to be, he has put himself where only we deserve to be. How in is he? He left his rightful throne to take my rightful cross. His is the abandonment, and ours is the embrace. His is the price, and ours is the wealth. “Where is God?” He is on that cross. And, oh, the tear-down! Curtain temple torn from top to bottom. In this culmination there is full cancellation.
We love to camp out on the wonderful truth that we have the fullness of him. But we need to move the campsite to the truth that he is therefore to have the fullness of us.
From "In The Throne Room"
We do not give God authority over our lives. He has it, whether we like it or not. What utter folly to act as though we had any rights to call God into question! Few things are more humbling, few things give us that sense of raw majesty, as does the truth that God is utterly authoritative. He is the Supreme Court, the Legislature, and the Chief Executive. After him, there is no appeal.
From "On Another Mountain"
Through the course of the Christian life, there will be seasons of glory and seasons of gore. Our souls will be strengthened as we remember that Christ has been through both and that he goes with us through both of those seasons.
From "In The Third Heaven"
With gospel eyes we will delight in weakness, not because it’s a comfortable place to be but because it is the showcase of God’s power.
From "Through the Open Door"
The book of Revelation lets us see God in a way that’s meant to light up our whole lives to the end. It’s not a new seeing; Revelation is the culmination of all the other visions of God throughout Scripture. But it’s a big vision— a vision that encompasses the panorama of human history.
We call Revelation the consummation of the Bible’s story line: it’s the coming together of all the threads that wind around one another from Genesis on, in this big story of God’s redeeming a people for himself through his Son. Maybe one reason Revelation is such a hard book for us is that we don’t know well enough the whole rest of the Bible.
From "Home At Last"
The book of Revelation rarely quotes the Old Testament, but almost every verse alludes to it and nowhere more abundantly than in Revelation 21– 22. The biblical allusions are so rich and intricate that they almost trip over themselves. These chapters serve as a kind of review of the whole Bible. But these chapters provide a review in another sense: inevitably, I will allude to many things that others have already introduced in earlier chapters of this book. When we survey some of the great texts that tell us how God disclosed himself in spectacular theophanies in the past, we quickly discover that these ideas and revelations culminate here. Do you want to hear the Bible’s final word about the holiness of God or the temple or the Lamb or the throne? It is all here. Those trajectories culminate here.
One reason that Scripture uses so much symbolism in its disclosures of God is that we are so dead to God, so blind, so unable to understand, so without categories, so without vocabulary, that when someone like Paul is caught up into the third heaven, the things he sees he is not allowed to describe, but in addition these things are also properly inexpressible because we haven’t been there.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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