Monday, November 14, 2016

Book Review: John Bunyan and the Grace of Fearing God

John Bunyan and the Grace of Fearing God. Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley. 2016. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Do you want to read John Bunyan, but find him intimidating? (Or perhaps you think you'll find him intimidating, but, honestly you've never really tried reading him?!) I would recommend reading John Bunyan and The Grace of Fearing God as an introduction to his life and work.

The book gives a good, solid overview of his life. But it isn't just a reader-friendly biography. (The book also gives a good, basic introduction to PURITANS in general.) It also serves as a GREAT overview of his theology--his doctrinal positions, his written works, his dedication to preaching and teaching. The emphasis of this one is on the fear of God, and how the fear of God is intimately connected to God's GRACE.

I'm going to guess that many Christians don't really think about the fear of God all that often. Many may have been taught that fear of God is unnecessary. After all, GOD IS LOVE. And who would fear a God that is all love, all the time?! But the Bible teaches--and Bunyan preaches--that God is a God to be feared. Why? Was Bunyan opposed to grace? Was he a legalist? Did he teach that fear of God could be overcome--should be overcome--by our ongoing obedience? These questions and more are answered within the book.

One of the things I enjoyed most about the book was how thought-provoking it was. You do not have to convince me that the Bible is relevant. I believe that heart-and-soul. But I am convinced that Bunyan remains relevant as well. I think Bunyan could teach us modern-day Christians a LOT.

But what I really LOVED, LOVED, LOVED about this one was all the Bible-talk. Bunyan apparently LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the Bible too.

John Bunyan was one of the most Bible-saturated Puritans of this period. The Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, aptly called Bunyan “a living Bible,” describing him as one who bled out of every pore of his being “Bibline.”
Few themes are as neglected today as the fear of God. Such fear is often viewed as psychologically harmful instead of as a delightful and energizing force for obedience. Bunyan stands as a preeminent example of the Puritan quest to find release from the guilty fear of God’s wrath through the saving righteousness of Jesus Christ and to bow joyfully before God with a childlike fear. In their exposition of fear in Bunyan’s life and doctrine, Beeke and Smalley open a window into the soul of true godliness—that reverent love for God’s glory that is fed by the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace.
We need lions for the Lord today—not men and women who bite and devour each other in self-righteous hatred, but people humbled by God’s law and made strong by Christ’s righteousness.
Before you can serve the Lord, you must be saved by the Lord.
The fear of the Lord cannot leave us indifferent to the Word of God; when we fear Him, we sense the infinite weightiness of His Word.
Bunyan’s life is an amazing paradox. On the one hand, his sermons and writings were powerful and widely disseminated. On the other hand, he was weak and long confined in the darkness of his prison. At times, that darkness seemed to overwhelm his soul. Yet his reverence and faith toward the Lord sustained him because he knew his God. Isaiah 50:10 says, “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.” Those who fear the Lord may pass through valleys of deep darkness, even through the shadow of death, but the Lord sustains them with such power that their very struggles to believe become mighty victories over the powers of darkness, and they become shining beacons to guide others toward heaven.
To know the Lord is to fear Him. God’s name—that is, the revelation of His nature—is inherently awe inspiring.
Do you believe that you deserve to be condemned to hell? If you do not, then you can hardly look to Jesus Christ to save you from sin and damnation. Do not rest in a mere belief in Christ without a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Pray that God would show you who He is and what you are, and expose yourself to the heartsearching preaching of the Word.
Godly fear produces tenderhearted compassion to saints who are in need and distress.
The Holy Scriptures should always be before our eyes, always sounding in our ears, and always stirring thoughts and affections in our hearts.
The world mocks at the fear of God, thinking it a weakness, a symptom of an unhealthy mind. Christians, however, should not be ashamed of the fear of the Lord. Bunyan called the believer to “devote” himself to the fear of the Lord, even to “addict yourself to it” with habitual dedication. Find your peace and joy in meditating on God and showing reverence to His name and Word and worship. “Then,” Bunyan said, “will you fear, and grow in this grace of fear.”
A person’s attitude toward the Bible says much about his attitude toward God.
Bunyan believed that a lack of reverence for the Word of God is the cause of “all disorders” of heart, life, conduct, and church. All sin begins with “wandering from the Word of God.” He quoted Proverbs 13:13: “Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded.” The Word is our life and safety (see Ps. 17:4; Prov. 4:20–22). In every age, the wicked reject the Word and follow their lusts and pride, but they will perish and be counted as fools (see Jer. 8:9; 44:16).42 They do not believe that the Bible is the Word of God, in part because they do not see themselves as such bad sinners that they by nature deserve God’s wrath and vengeance as the Bible says, and in part because worldly religious teachers tickle their ears with empty philosophy and deception (see Col. 2:8). By their rejection of God’s Word, they provoke Him to anger (see Zech. 7:11–12).

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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