Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Book Review: Good News

Good News: The Gospel of Jesus Christ. John MacArthur. 2018. Reformation Trust. 148 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Who is Jesus? It’s a very basic question, but one that many struggle to answer. Virtually all the world’s religions and philosophies attempt to identify Him: as a gentle prophet, a faithful wise man, a spiritual teacher, or a social revolutionary ahead of His time. Others position Him as a sorcerer or a demigod, with access to supernatural power but subordinate to a greater divine overseer. Still others skirt the biblical accounts, treating Jesus as a great man whose legend has grown through myth and folklore—almost like a first-century Paul Bunyan.

Does the world need another book about the gospel of Jesus Christ? The good news never loses relevancy; it is ever-true. The lost of the world need to hear the good news just as much as they ever did. The truth is, however, that the lost of the church need to hear the good news too. And that is, in part, what this one is about: Recovering the good news for the church itself, or, distinguishing the true good news from various false gospels that are abundant.

This one has six chapters: "Jesus is the Messiah," "Jesus is Holy," "Jesus is the Only Way," "Jesus is the Redeemer," "Jesus is Righteous," and "Jesus is the Head of the Church." All the chapters address the question first asked: Who is Jesus? Answering that question correctly is a matter of life and death, and that is no exaggeration.

The book is concise and clear, though not without potential to offend. The truth is the good news of Jesus Christ is by its very nature offensive to the soul(s) that are perishing. The truth should be proclaimed, but proclaimed with love and in love. Those that have received the good news--been transformed by the good news--should be eager--zealous--to share the good news. MacArthur argues that there is no such thing as private faith.

I would also say the book is thought-provoking. The gospel should make you think, reflect, consider, reconsider. The gospel should not be taken for granted, put aside, seen as simple or childish.

Favorite quotes:
We will never deal honestly with our sins until we have seen a vision of the holiness of God and Christ. And on this side of Christ’s redeeming work, we live in the joyful assurance that the One who is so frightening is the same One who has paid the price for our sins in full, and whose holy justice has been satisfied. And amazingly, He still can use us to bring the light of His gospel to a world blinded by sin. 
May we always be stunned by this calling to represent the holy Christ, of whom we are not worthy, but in whom we shall eternally rejoice. 
Historically, the message of Christianity has always been the message of faith in Christ. The objective content of that message is found in Scripture. Since the New Testament era, true Christians have always believed that the only way sinners can be rescued from hell and be reconciled to God is through the gospel of Jesus Christ. For centuries, Christians have given their lives and shed their blood to make that message known. They have spent their fortunes to send missionaries to the farthest corners of the world. In many cases, those missionaries gave their lives to spread that exclusive and unique message. Throughout church history, the core message of Christianity has always been that salvation comes only to those who believe the truth about the person and work of Jesus Christ and receive it by faith alone. 
If you’re ashamed of the gospel, it’s a strong indication that you have yet to believe it. True, saving faith must not be hidden away. It ought to be the most public thing about you.
That’s what I do—I tell people how to be reconciled to God. It’s my job; it’s my life. And it’s yours, too, if you’ve been reconciled to God through Christ. That’s what Christians do—it’s our primary function. We preach the forgiveness of sins and redemption by God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
From the human side, hell is inevitable. Damnation will occur. As hopeless sinners, we are dead—unable to awaken ourselves, shed our blindness, or bend the knee to God. There’s nothing we can do to shift the affections of the heart away from sin and toward the Lord. As sinners, our destination is eternal punishment. 
The only reason God has kept us in the world is for the work of evangelism. Yes, we’re saved to worship, but God tolerates our imperfect worship on this side of eternity for the sake of adding to His kingdom. We’re also saved to be sanctified, but God tolerates our inadequate, incomplete sanctification to keep us here to evangelize. He endures all our consistent errors and failures because He has work for us here that we cannot accomplish in heaven. 
God doesn’t just ignore our past offenses—He obliterates them. He forgives perfectly, completely, and eternally. That’s what it means to be reconciled to Him—He has dealt with our sins once and for all. Through His gracious forgiveness, our sins are gone for good. 
All the judgment, all the torment, all the excruciating punishment was poured out on Christ as He died in our place. That’s a breathtaking reality, especially when you consider that Jesus was only on the cross for about three hours. In that brief window of time, Christ paid for all the sins of all those whom God would one day reconcile to Himself. In the span of a scant few hours, He was “offered once to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:28). “He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). 
Salvation isn’t merely addition. God’s work of salvation is not simply stacking a new nature on top of our old nature. Our old selves have died, and through God’s power, we are entirely new creatures. In fact, the transformation that takes place in salvation is more dramatic and radical than the change we will undergo when we pass from this life into eternity. 
Like justification, sanctification originates in the free grace of God. In fact, our sanctification begins simultaneously with our justification—in the moment God declares us righteous, He also begins to refine us through the process of sanctification. Both are also tied to the work of Christ—He is the source of our pardon and our purification. In sanctification, we break the sinful patterns of our former selves and grow in conformity to the likeness of Christ. The two realities are always linked—you can’t be sanctified without being justified, and if you aren’t being sanctified, there’s no reason to believe you’ve truly been justified. 
In justification, the sinner is counted righteous because Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to him. In sanctification, the sinner is actually being made righteous, though to a limited degree, through the work of the Spirit. Furthermore, our works play no part in justification, while they do play an important part in our sanctification. God commands us to “work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). Finally, justification is an instantaneous and finished work—it doesn’t grow, deepen, or improve in any way. On the other hand, sanctification is the progressive process by which God’s people are always growing in godliness and spiritual maturity. It’s an imperfect work, lasting for the rest of our lives, always incomplete until our glorification.  
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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