Baxter on Idolatry

“Every man is naturally an idolater. Our hearts turned from God in our first fall; and, ever since, the creature hath been our god. This is the grand sin of our nature. Every unregenerate man ascribes to the creature divine prerogatives, and allows it the highest room in his soul; or, if he is convinced of misery, he flies to it as his savior. Indeed, God and His Christ shall be called Lord and Savior; but the real expectation is from the creature, and the work of God is laid upon it. Pleasure, profit and honor, are the natural man’s trinity and his carnal self is these in unity. It was our first sin to aspire to be as gods and it is the greatest sin that is propagated in our nature from generation to generation. When God should guide us, we guide ourselves; when he should be our Sovereign, we rule ourselves: the laws which he gives us, we find fault with, and would correct and, if we had the making of them, we would have made them otherwise: when he should take care of us, (and must, or we perish,) we will take care for ourselves: when we should depend on him in daily receiving, we had rather have our portion in our own hands: when we should submit to his providence, we usually quarrel with it, and think we could make a better disposal than God hath made. When we should study and love, trust and honor God, we study and love, trust and honor our carnal selves. Instead of God, we would have all men’s eyes and dependence on us, and all men’s thanks returned to us, and
would gladly be the only men on earth extolled and admired by all. Thus we are naturally our own idols.”

Richard Baxter in The Saints’ Everlasting Rest

Baxter on Temptations of This Life

“Oh the hourly dangers that we here walk in! Every sense and member is a snare; every creature, every mercy, and
every duty is a snare to us. We can scarce open our eyes but we are in danger of envying those above us, or despising those below us; of coveting the honors and riches of some, or beholding the rags and beggary of others with pride and unmercifulness. If we see beauty, it is a bait to lust; if deformity, to loathing and disdain. How soon do slanderous reports,
vain jests, wanton speeches, creep into the heart! How constant and strong a watch does our appetite require! Have we comeliness and beauty? What fuel for pride! Are we deformed? What an occasion of repining! Have we strength of reason and gifts of learning? O how prone to be puffed up, hunt after applause, and despise our brethren! Are we unlearned?
How apt then to despise what we have not! Are we in places of authority? How strong is the temptation to abuse our trust, make our will our law, and mould all the enjoyments of others by the rules and model of our own interest and policy! Are we inferiors? How prone to envy others’ pre-eminence, and bring their actions to the bar of our judgment! Are we rich, and
not too much exalted? Are we poor and not discontented? Are we not lazy in our duties, or make a Christ of them? Not that God hath made these things our snares; but through our own corruption they become so to us. Ourselves are the greatest snares to ourselves. This is our comfort: our rest will free us from all these.”

Richard Baxter in The Saints’ Everlasting Rest

Book Review: Kept for Jesus

In Kept for Jesus, Sam Storms tackles the critical topic of the saints’ assurance and perseverance in a readable way. The book focuses on exploring the passages of Scripture that are most often attributed to this important doctrine. While discussing the different perspectives of perseverance, Storms unapologetically argues for the Reformed tradition throughout the book. In the first half, Storms lays the groundwork by explaining how God’s love and grace keep all those that are His till the very end. Drawing from different texts and contemporary illustrations, the author makes a convincing argument that there is no reason a genuine believer should ever worry that he or she will lose their salvation as God is the One who emboldens and empowers the Christian to believe and persevere in their faith. Through a pastoral approach, Storms offers comforting words to those who doubt their assurance while staunchly warning readers against the dangers of antinomianism. In the second half of the book, Storms investigates the challenging portions of Scripture where the eternal status of Christians seems to be questionable. In each passage, Storms gathers the wisdom of different scholars in considering the various positions that could be considered in each passage. I appreciate how Storms attempts to remain objective and provide perspectives that lead me to think more deeply on these passages. Despite not being able to prove the Reformed viewpoint conclusively on all the passages, Storms appeals the reader to consider God’s character and the entire counsel of God in thinking through the doctrine of assurance and perseverance. Given His faithful nature and everlasting love for His elect, Storms asserts that those who are genuine believers have no fear that they will ever be cast away from God.

I would recommend this book for those who are unfamiliar with this important topic that Christians need to wrestle with. Storms’ writing style is accessible and the tone of the book is pastoral allowing lay people to easily follow the arguments. The fact that Storms insists on working through tough passages of Scripture is admirable and will allow readers to gain a birds-eye view on the key arguments of the text. After reading this book, I cannot help but praise God for His loving kindness and amazing grace in saving and keeping His sheep safe in His arms.

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

Storms on The Logic of Love

“Therefore—pause and saturate your soul with the glorious logic of love—therefore God will do what is by comparison infinitely easier. He will give us all things we need for spiritual success. Whatever is necessary for you to make it to the end of life still faithful and trusting Christ, God will give you. Whatever is necessary for you to be conformed to the image of his Son and to resist temptation, he will give you.”

Sam Storms in Kept for Jesus

Book Review: “The Things of Earth”

In The Things of Earth, Joe Rigney attempts to provide Christians with a more robust understanding of what John Piper has called “Christian Hedonism.” As Piper’s pupil, Rigney’s thought process is very much akin to Piper and his understanding of fully enjoying God in all things. Rigney’s book aim to show that enjoying the things of earth is both God-ordained and God-glorifying. He points out that many Christians tend to either uphold a wartime-like behavior thereby casting off all pleasures or end up embracing pleasures so much that the view of the Creator is vastly dimmed. In the first half of the book, Rigney asserts that God, out of the perfect love in the Trinity, has created all things to communicate His love and glory to mankind. Thus by learning to steward and enjoy all the intricacies of life, we draw closer and comprehend more of the vastness and majesty of the Triune God. Utilizing the insights of C.S. Lewis, Jonathan Edwards, and Douglas Wilson, Rigney aims to illustrate that God delights in the fact that we treasure His gifts and in turn praise the great Giver of all things. In the second half of the book, Rigney leans heavily on personal reflections, observations, and Scripture to display the practical implications of living a God-ward life in the midst of God’s gifts.

I enjoyed this book very much because Rigney’s style is easy to follow and replete with thought-provoking examples. He does well in not getting bogged down by the many different trajectories that tackling such a broad subject can bring. In confronting a topic that is so integral to everyday Christian living, it is tempting to either dig deep and end up losing the reader or not go deep enough and leave the reader unsatisfied. However, Rigney is careful to maintain a proper balance and never strays from his premise throughout the book. Furthermore, I appreciate Rigney’s humility and pastoral wisdom in not trying to provide detailed instructions on how to use God’s gifts but instead draw the reader’s attention to God as the ultimate Giver. I would recommend this book to Christians in all walks of life as Rigney’s advice on stewarding and enjoying God’s creation is much needed today.

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

Rigney on Idolatry

“Idolatry begins with a false separation of gift and giver. Rather than a momentary comparison for the sake of testing our affections, idolatry is a permanent separation for the sake of false worship. God divides things in order to gloriously reunite them. Heaven and earth, male and female, Trinitarian glory and its created beams—all of these are separated in order to bring about a more perfect and glorious union.”

Joe Rigney in The Things of Earth

Book Review: “The Presence of God”

In The Presence of God, J. Ryan Lister brings readers on a journey through the Bible to show how God’s presence is the centerpiece of God’s story. Instead of simply viewing God’s presence as a matter of fact, Lister urges readers to see how God’s presence is actually the entire focal point of the biblical narrative. This work takes great lengths to link the various storylines in the Bible and puts them in perspective of how God continually and still continues to reveal Himself to the human race. Starting from the Garden of Eden and ending at the heavenly city, Lister illustrates how God never gives up gathering His people in whom He bestows all the goodness and mercy found in Him alone. The author asserts that God’s primary purpose in all His interactions with His creatures is to have them enjoy His presence in eternity. Throughout the book, Lister uses large amounts of biblical references and research to support his findings enabling the reader to gain a comprehensive understanding of the Bible as a grand story. The last few chapters provide readers with practical applications on how God’s presence transforms our lives presently and in the future.

I found this book to be helpful in its reminder to us that God is so gracious and awesome. Despite disobeying Him throughout the generations, God has never forsaken the fallen human race but has mapped out a grand scheme to bring His chosen back to Himself. Indeed this is the central message of the Gospel. Lister encourages Christians to immerse themselves in God’s story and participate in making God’s presence known to all the peoples of the earth; a much needed message for those of us who have languished in our gospel efforts. I would definitely recommend this book to those hoping to get a taste of biblical theology as the material is well-researched and provides a good primer to delve in this topic further. At the same time, I would caution readers as the references are quite weighty and the extensive footnotes may become a distraction to readers unfamiliar with the topic. In any case, I am very appreciative of Lister’s work and the important topic of God’s presence.

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