Friday, August 28, 2015

Book Review: John

John: That You Might Believe (Preaching the Word) R. Kent Hughes. 1999/2014. Crossway Books. 528 pages. [Source: Bought]

This is the second book I've read in Crossway's oh-so-excellent PREACHING THE WORD commentary series. The first I read was Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr.'s Isaiah: God Saves Sinners. I loved, loved, LOVED it. Isaiah is among my favorite books in the Old Testament. (The only other book that might top it is Psalms. I also love Deuteronomy.) John is one of my favorite New Testament books. (I also love, love, love Revelation). I would definitely say that this expository commentary was well worth reading.

It did take me three months to read it all. (My goal was to complete it by the end of August.) I tried to read a chapter or two per week. But it wasn't a chore or a duty to keep on reading it. Far from it. It was a book I picked up with pleasure and joy. For each chapter is packed with information and insight and grace and hope. No matter the chapter, there was always something thought-provoking or engaging. So even if you don't typically read commentaries--consider this one! It isn't so much a commentary--though it does examine every verse and chapter of the book of John--as it is a collection of expository sermons preached from the book of John.
It has depth and substance, but it's oh-so-accessible. Yes, five hundred pages is a commitment. But taken a chapter or two at a time, it's well worth your time. And I do recommend reading it slowly, and, alongside the book of John. (It was my summer project to read the book of John thirty times over three months.)

I think the more of yourself you give to the reading, the more you'll learn. Engage with the text. Consider it. Be willing to ask hard questions and be honest with your answers.

I learned so much from each and every chapter. Here's a small taste of what to expect.
OUR SPIRITUAL GROWTH is inextricably bound up with the size of our vision of Christ. Once we get away from a one-dimensional or overly narrow picture of Christ, once we see the fullness and glory of Christ in the Scriptures, our lives will be enlarged. I believe most of us need a bigger vision of Christ.
We learn a great deal about sin in Genesis 3, and we learn much about grace in the first chapter of John. Grace, God reaching out to us in our sin, is best understood when we contrast it with the dark tableau of the garden. It is tremendously important to understand grace since it is the pipeline through which we receive all of God’s tremendous benefits—the greatness of Christ, the greatness of his love, the greatness of the gospel.
Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, is a concept that has been so overworked that many today preach and follow a Christ who has no resemblance to the Christ of the New Testament. That Jesus is an idol, drained of his deity—a weak, good-natured deity whose great aim is to let us off the hook. Do not get me wrong. Jesus is meek and mild. In fact, he describes himself in that way in Matthew 11:29 when he invites those who have burdens to come to him. Dozens of Scriptures in the New Testament testify to his gentleness. But we need to balance this with other descriptions of our Lord. For instance, in Mark 3:5, the passage describing the man with the paralyzed hand, Jesus looked around at all those who were questioning whether or not he would heal on the Sabbath, and “he looked around at them with anger.” Jesus’ anger was a swelling wrath. There was nothing gentle in the fierce message he sent to Herod either: “Go and tell that fox . . .” (Luke 13:32), or in his response to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23). I am sure the Pharisees in the temple saw nothing of his gentleness, meekness, and mildness when he said, “You are like whitewashed tombs” and “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” (Matthew 23:27, 33). The scene described in our text is a wild scene! Men were grasping at their moneybags and tables as Jesus applied the whip to those not moving. But the fact is, Jesus was as Godlike here as he was when he hung on the cross. He was revealing as much of God on this occasion as he did at Calvary. He was displaying a great underlying truth: Love presupposes hatred. A love for the downtrodden, the poor, and the oppressed also brings about a hatred for the conditions that caused their suffering.
The measure of someone’s love is how much he is willing to give. The measure of our Lord’s love is the cross!
Do we really know our own hearts? As we get to know ourselves, we find more and more that needs healing. But the question is, do we really want to be healed? I am speaking primarily of bitterness, unresolved conflicts, and things that lie hidden within us. Sometimes when we experienced these things, we were aware of them but didn’t deal with them. We cauterized them, layered them over. But they are realities within us, and they do affect our lives. Even though we cannot put a finger on them, they take their toll. As a result we do not feel God’s power; we do not feel the authenticity of grace we know we ought to feel. We know we should be joyful in all the things we confess and while we are doing the right things—reading the Word and praying—but we have little power or inner peace. The question remains, do we really want to be healed? Do we really want to have those things resolved? I believe with all my heart that if we do and if we take the time to ask God to do his work within us, he will reveal to us the things that must be washed away—the refuse, the filth, the sin.
Abiding begins with being students of the Word of God. If we were to compare the various ages of Protestant church history, we would have to say that today is an age of Biblical ignorance. People do not take the first step in abiding in the Word of God. Yet the importance of basing our lives on the Scriptures is urgent. We all need to know the Word of God. We must be students of the Word—not only the preachers, not just the educated, but all believers. And yet even if that takes place, we are not necessarily abiding. To abide in the Word we must obey it. And that is how freedom comes. We learn the Word of God, we obey it, and then we are free. The exhilaration of that freedom motivates us to study the Word of God more, and when we again obey it, more freedom comes. And on and on and on it goes—from freedom to freedom to freedom. The reason many Christians are not experiencing spiritual freedom today is that while they may be Biblically literate, they are not Biblically obedient.
Prayer is not a means by which we get God to do what we want. Rather, it is a means by which God does through us what he wants.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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