Book Review: “Loving Jesus More”

In his book Loving Jesus More, Phil Ryken tackles a topic that is of utmost importance for every Christian: how can I love Jesus more? Instead of prescribing ways to conjure up loving feelings towards Jesus, Ryken invites readers to delve into the depths of God’s love. I have read Ryken’s writings before so I am familiar with his easygoing style and wide use of applicable illustrations throughout. The chapters are short and the main themes are concise so readers will not have a hard time following Ryken’s arguments. At the end of the book, there are short chapter summaries and study questions which is useful for both individuals and groups.

The book is a compilation of sermons that Ryken delivered but the content has been edited to allow chapters to flow well with each other. In nine chapters, the author takes time to examine and illustrate the extravagance of the love that God has for us and how we should respond to it. I will highlight a few of the themes that struck me most. Firstly, Ryken points out that evidence of God’s love can be seen from His creation, His Word, and most importantly through Christ’s sacrifice for us. Being able to love Christ is not a skill that can be gained. Rather, our love for Jesus is from the overflow of His love for us. Furthermore, through Christ’s death, we have the Holy Spirit who is in us to transform our hearts to a greater love for Jesus. Ryken does not stop at the vertical relationship we have with God but also the horizontal relationships we have with those around us. He points out that as receivers of divine forgiveness, we should also dispense mercy and grace abundantly to others. In addition, Ryken rightly states that obedience to God and His commands is how we can show our love to Christ in our everyday lives. We are always utterly dependent on God and by learning to depend on Him and His Word, we delight Him. Lastly, Ryken provides encouragement in that our love for Christ in this world will find its consummation when we meet Him face to face. Our love for God may be flawed now but as we progress in sanctification and arrive at heaven’s gates, we will be able to love Him perfectly.

I appreciate Loving Jesus More as it caused me to rethink my own flawed attempts at loving Christ more. Even loving my family and friends is hard enough let alone trying to love Jesus with the feeble love that I can offer. However, I am encouraged by Ryken’s reminder that our love is not measured by our ability but by the abundant love that God has for us. The Gospel message of God’s boundless grace does not stop at our conversion but continues to inform our daily lives. We can only love God and others well if we always rely on the grace that is found at the cross. When we savour the sweetness that comes from the love that God has poured upon us, we cannot help put respond in kind to Christ and those around us.

I would recommend this book to all believers who have been disappointed and discouraged in their attempts to love Jesus. I surmise that this feeling would be especially poignant for those who have been Christians for many years but have given up hope. Through the grace of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, our love for Jesus will be renewed each and every day.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a free review copy of this book from Crossway.

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Book Review – “Tough Topics: Biblical Answers to 25 Challenging Questions”

Sam Storms’ Tough Topics: Biblical Answers to 25 Challenging Questions is a very accessible book with topics ranging from the inerrancy of God’s Word to the practice of tithing. Although the twenty-five questions are far from comprehensive, Storms raises many intriguing questions that Christians may have asked from time to time. Instead of randomly picking the topics, Storms has attempted to focus on some specific areas so that related chapters can build upon each other’s arguments. For example, chapters 11-14 are about Satan and demons while chapters 18-20 are related to miraculous gifts and Spirit baptism. One of the strengths of this book is how Storms is upfront about his own view on the topics. Most authors that I have read try to steer clear of providing any insight on how he or she personally views the issue. Perhaps this could be attributed to Storms’ motivation to make this book accessible to the layperson and his own pastoral background. Nevertheless, the author always provides a brief overview of the major perspectives that have been offered throughout church history. Acknowledging the short length of the book, Storms also offers helpful footnotes and suggestions for further reading on the topic.

The book is not hard to read and the topics discussed do pop up once in a while during my conversations with Christians and unbelievers. Storms’ writing style is concise and avoids using technical terms beyond the knowledge of most Christians. My main motivation for reading this book was not only to find out the final answer that Storms puts forward but to also learn how to approach these issues biblically. Storms uses numerous Scriptural references to build his arguments and allows the reader to see how he arrives at his own viewpoint. The chapter that I found most intriguing was Chapter 18 “Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?” which is interesting for me as I come from a cessationist background. Being a continuationist, Storms argues that there is no concrete evidence in the Bible for the cessation of miraculous gifts. His arguments were convincing and provoked me to investigate this subject more. I also appreciate the fact that Storms always ends on a pastoral note in each chapter by linking the answer he gives to the Christian life. Instead of merely analyzing facts, Storms invites readers to delve deeper into understanding the character of God and His Word which should inform our answers to any questions that we may have. I recommend this book for Christians in all walks of life as the answers that Storms provides are sound and biblical. Even if one does not agree with his conclusions, this book is a great entry point to understanding more on these complex issues.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a free review copy of this book from Crossway.

Knowing God – Chapter 16

In this chapter, Packer balances the attributes of God’s goodness and severity. I found it interesting how Packer suggests that the problem of evil was a non-issue until the proliferation of liberal theology. Even today, a quick glance on YouTube or online forums will show many people questioning how a good God can allow so much evil in the world. Throughout the Bible, God has always showed Himself as being both merciful and just at the same time. Packer implies that to deny these two qualities would be to reject God for who He is and declare Christ’s death to pointless. Looking at our own salvation, we can attest to the fact that it is God’s grace (His mercy) that has saved us from His wrath (His justice).