Friday, May 18, 2018

Book Review: Made For His Pleasure

Made For His Pleasure: Ten Benchmarks of a Vital Faith. Alistair Begg. 1995/2018. Moody Publishers. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I remember the occasion vividly. The afternoon sun cast shadows over the small gathering of parents clustered at the center line of the high school soccer field...If I, an earthly father, can know such a sensation of pleasure in the well-being of my son, surely that gives an inkling of how our heavenly Father feels when we please Him. If we could only grasp and be grasped by this, our lives would be revolutionized.

The Christian faith has content and Alistair Begg reminds believers of ten benchmarks of the Christian faith in Made For His Pleasure. These doctrines if believed, if embraced, will transform how we live our lives. We are to live out our theology in other words.

How can we live lives that please God? That is the question Begg asks and answers in Made for His Pleasure. It should be noted that it is a question that can be answered. God has revealed in His Word how we can please him and how we should live. The problem is not that we have been left with the silence of God, left to wonder and puzzle out the answer for ourselves. The problem is that many of us--most of us, perhaps even all of us--understand all too well that the Bible has authority to speak over us. We don't want to relinquish that authority to another. We get uncomfortable with the idea of holiness, uncomfortable with the idea of living holy lives, of being pious. And what do we do with this discomfort? I fear most of us are like Scarlett O'Hara and put off until tomorrow thinking about anything that makes us uncomfortable or anxious.

I think there's also some misconception going on. We are not called to live holy lives on our own apart from the Spirit, apart from the grace of God, the strength of God. We are not called to power our own living. We are not called to independence but dependence. We are not called to be self-reliant but Spirit-reliant. If we are terrified at the idea of holy living, perhaps it's because we're trying to do it on our own. Or perhaps our PRIDE, our arrogance, our ego starts tripping us up. Or need to compete with others for God's attention. (A completely ridiculous idea when you think about it.)

Begg gives real answers and explores foundational doctrines of the faith.  He also shares some personal stories within each chapter.

I would recommend this one. It is a great read.

Spiritual Fitness in a Flabby Generation
One of the key reasons for the flabbiness of our spiritual lives is that a generation of Christians is growing up with little awareness of the necessity of dealing with sin. There are sins to be rejected. These are the things that “so easily entangle” us. We will not all be tripped up by the same things; the source of our temptations differs according to our personalities and circumstances. We must learn where our personal weaknesses lie—and once they are identified, we must be ruthless in dealing with them.
The power we need is the power that comes from the Lord, who works in our lives to enable us to do His good pleasure. Then we are responsible to work out what God by His Spirit is working.
We should not assume we are spiritually fit simply because we feel we are.
The Christian faith is like a muscle: the more we exercise it, the more we build it, but when we neglect it, it atrophies. It is in recognizing our weakness that we discover the strength that God provides. It is God who keeps us strong to the end.
Prayer That Is Larger Than Ourselves
How the devil loves to hear us talk about tomorrow!
Sacrifice: Wholehearted Commitment to God's Kingdom:
It is both dangerous and wrong to substitute personal preference for biblical principle, to place pleasing self above pleasing God. 
Relationships: A Marriage That Pleases God:
For those who are not married, the moments they share with friends, family members, neighbors, and coworkers provide ample opportunity to serve and demonstrate the joys of unwavering devotion to Christ. 
Vocation: Finding the Ideal Place to Serve God:
We need to view our daily round and common task as the realm in which we fulfill God’s call upon our lives and not rush to be done with these secular pursuits so that we might turn to spiritual activities.
Suffering: Pleasing God When the Wheels Fall Off:
The truth is that more spiritual progress is made through failure and tears than success and laughter. If we are to be honest, we have all faced, and continue to face, events in our lives which we assume will mar us—and yet, in God’s providence, we discover them to be incidents that make us more sensitive and faithful and useful. If this is true of individuals, it is equally true of church families.
We tend to run away from the things that make us. We should neither court suffering nor complain about it. Instead, we should see it as one of the means God chooses to employ to make us increasingly useful to the Master.
We need to remember this when talking with our friends who are in the eye of the storm. At that moment, our presence is more important than our pronouncements, and our silences more eloquent than our speech.
The Narrow Way: Never Did a Heedless Person Lead a Holy Life
To allow that everyone and everything is right is to destroy the notion of truth itself. This challenge is not unique to our time.
Twentieth-century British evangelist Alan Redpath used to talk to young people about the vital importance of what he called “blanket victory.” He was referring not to some strategy for overall success, but to the necessity of getting out of bed at a reasonable time in the morning to pursue the business of the day. If a young person could not get victory over his blankets, it was unlikely that he would be self-controlled in many other areas. 
Sow a thought, reap an action. Sow an action, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny.
Putting on the Garment of Humility:
We should not rely on only one good meal or two a week. Many of us, though, neglect the Scriptures on a daily basis. 
Evangelism: The Necessity of Bringing Others To Christ:
One doesn’t need to be a Christian to embrace an emphasis on the family and virtue, but only a Christian will be prepared to challenge the world with the claims of Jesus Christ. The unique danger at this point in history is that we will fail to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 3), but instead succeed in passing on to the coming generation an agenda and not a theology. Without the fixed building blocks of biblical theology, our flimsy constructions will fall flat.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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