Monday, September 14, 2015

Book Review: Exalting Jesus in Galatians

Exalting Jesus in Galatians (Christ-Centered Exposition) David Platt and Tony Merida. 2014. B&H. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]

This is the second commentary I've read in the Christ-Centered Exposition series published by Holman. I've also read and reviewed Exalting Jesus in Matthew. I am enjoying this series, and I do plan to seek out other titles and read and review them in the future. It's hard for me to imagine that just a few years ago, I was too intimidated by commentaries to give them a try. Now commentaries are one of my favorite things to read! Do you read commentaries? Do you have a favorite series or a favorite author? Share in the comments!

So this September, I am attempting to read Galatians thirty times. I like using the 'John MacArthur' approach to reading the Bible though I admit that if I tried to do it every single month, I wouldn't get much other Bible reading done. So it's something I do a few times a year instead of once a month. Because I am reading and studying Galatians, I wanted to read a commentary. And I chose Exalting Jesus in Galatians. I am so glad I did. It is a WONDERFUL book.

Each chapter focuses on a section of text and begins with a main idea and an outline. Each chapter concludes with discussion/reflection questions. I admit I do like books with structure! It does make it easier to digest the information.

I don't know about you, but, to me Galatians has always been something of an intimidating read. It's not that I find it impossible to understand start-to-finish, more that there are sections within it that take some work to process and absorb. And that's something I'm not always willing to do when I read it. So at times I'm guilty of rushing through it. This commentary on Galatians was quite helpful and reader-friendly. The writers acknowledging that the book isn't always easy and obvious and presenting the material in a way that is packed with insight. I loved the passionate writing emphasizing WHY Galatians is such a great book and WHY it's important to take the time to understand it. And HOW it is ever-relevant today. (All the talk of circumcision and Jews and Gentiles, well, it isn't always obvious how it is relevant to me today. But when the author(s) stress that the book is about legalism and hypocrisy and the importance of avoiding both extremes in the Christian life, that is when I saw the book's relevance in a whole new way. I saw that Galatians was all about answering the question: HOW AM I MADE RIGHT WITH GOD? Paul's answer: JESUS, ONLY JESUS, ALWAYS AND FOREVER ONLY JESUS.

To distort the gospel is to destroy the church because the church is created and lives by the gospel. The greatest troublemakers in the church are those who wish to distort the gospel message. I believe Satan operates more effectively through false gospels than through any other avenue. He twists, confuses, and changes the gospel, using philosophy and rule-keeping to put people in mental manacles that blind their eyes to the truth.
The gospel of grace is like water: people did not invent it, and people cannot live without it. We are spiritually thirsty creatures in need of the living water of the gospel. As believers, we need to keep drinking from this well of grace. Many Christians think they should move on from the gospel—as if there is something more important that Christ’s work. No, keep drinking more of grace; keep working the gospel into your heart. You will be prepared to tell unbelievers that what they desperately need is not good advice or moral improvement, but the good news from God about new life in Jesus.
Despite how we normally think about Christianity, we are not in debt to Christ. We typically reflect on what He did in the past on the cross, which is obviously a good thing to do, but if we’re not careful, we will leave it there and start to think, Jesus has done this for me, so what can I now do for Him? The reason we must be careful here is because Jesus hasn’t stopped doing for you. You’re not paying Him back, because He’s still paying you. We are indwelt by Christ! Christ is in us. And the Christian life is not so much about you and I living for Christ as it is trusting Christ to live for us and through us and in us. This is faith. By faith we are accepted before God, and by faith we are alive to God because we are attached to Christ.
We live by faith when we believe Christ every moment of every day. We believe Him to be our sustenance and our strength. We believe Him to be our love and joy and peace. We believe Him to be our satisfaction—more than money and houses and cars and stuff. We believe Christ to be our purity and our holiness and our power over sin. This is Christianity: believing Christ to be everything you need for every moment you live. You live by faith in the Son of God.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks: “What does every sin deserve?” Answer: “Every sin deserves God’s wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come.” That answer may not be popular, but it’s true that each of us stands guilty before God’s law. And the more you try to obey it—the more you go to church, the more you try to pray, the more you try to be good, the more you try to lead your family the right way—the more the law says, “Guilty.”
Praise God that though there was nothing in us to draw Him to us, God determined to redeem us. And lest that sound like an exaggeration of our evil and sinfulness, look at the cross. Look at the picture of God’s wrath against sin. It was no minor offense for which Jesus died.
Let me put this into contemporary language: if you go to church, sing songs, and study the Word, thinking this is how you’re going to work to earn God’s favor, then you are no different from the over one billion Hindus in the world today who are bowing down to their gods. If your Christianity is a check-off box in order to make you feel good about yourself before God, in order to save your skin on the day of judgment, then your Christianity is no different from every other religion in the world, and ultimately it will condemn you. What if Satan actually wants you to come to church, lead a small group, teach, and lead your home in an upright way? What if he’s in favor of you doing all those things, just so long as you think that by doing those things you’re working your way to God?
Do not be a Christian ninja, just sliding in and out of worship services without anyone seeing you! The Lord saved us so we could love and serve others.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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