Book Reviews From 2016

Book Reviews From 2014

12 Quotes From “Keeping The Ten Commandments”

Keeping The Ten CommandmentsJ.I. Packer wrote a very readable, but scholarly, book examining how 21st-century people should live out the biblical Ten Commandments. You can read my full book review by clicking here, but I’m sharing some of my favorite quotes below.

“God’s love gave us the law just as His love gave us the gospel, and as there is no spiritual life for us save through the gospel, which points us to Jesus Christ the Savior, so there is no spiritual health for us save as we seek in Christ’s strength to keep the law and practice the love of God and neighbor for which it calls.”

“Where the law’s moral absolutes are not respected, people cease to respect either themselves or each other; humanity is deformed, and society slides into the killing decadence of mutual exploitation and self-indulgence.”

“The negative form of the Commandments has positive implications. ‘Where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded’ (Westminster Larger Catechism, Question 99). The negative form was needed at Sinai (as in the West today) to curb current lawlessness that threatened both godliness and national life.” 

“Moral permissiveness, supposedly so liberating and fulfilling, is actually wounding and destructive: not only of society (which God’s law protects), but also of the lawless individual, who gets coarsened and reduced as a person every time.”

“Law-keeping is that life for which we were fitted by nature, unfitted by sin, and refitted by grace, the life God loves to see and reward; and for that life liberty is the proper name.”

“The Bible, however, takes promises very seriously; God demands full faithfulness of our vows. Why? Partly because trustworthiness is part of His image, which He wants to see in us; partly because without it society falls apart.”

“We honor God by respecting His image in each other, which means consistently preserving life and furthering each other’s welfare in all possible ways.”

“We have in us capacities for fury, fear, envy, greed, conceit, callousness, and hate that, given the right provocation, could make killers out of us all. … When the fathomless wells of rage and hatred in the normal human heart are tapped, the results are fearful.”

“When you lie to put someone down, it is malice; when you lie to impress, move, and use him, and to keep him from seeing you in a bad light, it is pride.”

“Reformed theologians said that God’s law has three uses or functions: first, to maintain order in society; second, to convince us of sin and drive us to Christ for life; third, to spur us on in obedience, by means of its standards and its sanctions, all of which express God’s own nature.”

“What is God’s ideal? A God-fearing community, marked by common worship (commandments 1, 2, 3) and an accepted rhythm of work and rest (commandment 4), plus an unqualified respect for marriage and the family (commandments 5, 7), for property and owner’s rights (commandments 8, 10), for human life and each man’s claim on our protection (commandment 6), and for truth and honesty in all relationships (commandment 9).”

“When God’s values are ignored, and the only community ideal is permissiveness, where will moral capital come from once the Christian legacy is spent? How can national policy ever rise above material self-interest, pragmatic and unprincipled? How can internal collapse be avoided as sectional interests, unrestrained by any sense of national responsibility, cut each other down? How can an overall reduction, indeed destruction, of happiness be avoided when the revealed way of happiness, the ‘God first, others next, self last’ of the Commandments, is rejected? The prospects are ominous. May God bring us back to Himself and to the social wisdom of His Commandments before it is too late.”

Keeping The Ten Commandments (book review)

Keeping The Ten CommandmentsI am just completing a series of messages at my church on the Ten Commandments. This was no small undertaking, and one that I undertook with great reverence. I knew I needed some scholarly resources to guide my study time, and there is none who fits the bill better than J.I. Packer and his work Keeping The Ten Commandments.

Packer is indeed a most-learned man, but he has a God-given gift to discuss doctrine and theology on a level that is accessible to even someone like me! He doesn’t water-down the biblical doctrines contained in the Ten Commandments, but he presents God’s intent in them in a way that the reader can immediately grasp and then put into action.

Before looking at each of the commandments individually, Packer opens the book with a couple of chapters giving us a bird’s-eye view of how the Ten Commandments fit in with the balance of Scripture. Then he walks us through the commandments one-by-one, and concludes with a couple of chapters that help us live out the commandments today. Each chapter includes a “for further study” list of questions and Bible verses, which I highly recommend.

For getting to know the Ten Commandments better, Keeping The Ten Commandments should definitely be on your reading list.

Don’t Misuse God’s Name

Representing God's nameYou’ve heard the old nursery rhyme: Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. We all know this isn’t true: words do hurt, and names that people call us may leave lasting wounds.

Words and names are important to God. God used His word to create the universe (God said, “Let there by light”); Jesus was called The Word (see John 1:1); God has named people and even renamed them to reflect their character or destiny.

The most important name of all is God’s own name, so the Third Commandment says, “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God…” (Exodus 20:7). How can we misuse God’s name? There are five ways—

(1) As emptiness or nothingness

  • Are our words empty? Do we use filler phrases like “Oh my God!” that neither talk to Jehovah or about Jehovah? We shouldn’t use God’s name unless we’re talking to Him or about Him in a respectful way.

(2) In vanity

  • In reality this means calling ourselves a Christian, but speaking in an un-Christlike way.
  • “Giving God a ‘bad name’ might diminish or demolish people’s belief, respect, and awe for God, a tragedy for a world that needs holiness. … It is a major responsibility to represent God; one which should not be taken lightly.” —Dr. Laura Schlessinger

(3) Being insincere

  • Are our promises empty, or is our word our bond? If we have to use phrases like “I swear to God that I will…” then that means we cannot be trusted on our own merits. When we claim to be Christians but cannot be trusted, we undermine the trustworthiness of God in the minds of other people.
  • “The godly man, therefore, will make promises cautiously but keep them conscientiously once they are made, knowing that irresponsibility and unreliability here are great and grievous sins.” —J.I. Packer

(4) Having an unholy vocabulary

  • Holy means something set apart for a special use. Perhaps there are words we use to describe God that we are also using for lesser things. It might be good to listen to how the Holy Spirit would challenge us to have a unique vocabulary to talk to or about our unique God.

(5) Worthlessness of conduct

  • As the cliche goes, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you are saying.” So we need to make sure that we both talk like Jesus talked and live like Jesus lived.

Anything less than these standards just may be misusing God’s holy name and character by misrepresenting Him or giving Him a “bad name.” What do you think?

I am continuing our look at the Ten Commandments in our series The Love In The Law next Sunday. I would absolutely love it if you could join us!

12 Quotes From “Pouring Holy Water On Strange Fire”

Pouring Holy Water On Strange FireIn Pouring Holy Water On Strange Fire, Frank Viola uses an extensive array of sources, both ancient and contemporary, in his critique of John MacArthur’s book Strange Fire. You can read my full book review by clicking here. I hope you will enjoy these quotes as much as I did.

“For some do certainly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe, and join themselves to the church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come: they see visions, and utter prophetic utterances. Others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole. Yea, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years. And what shall I more say? It is not possible to name the number of the gifts which the church throughout the whole world has received from God, in the name of the Jesus Christ (2.32.4) … For this reason does the apostle declare, who speak wisdom among them that are perfect, terming those persons perfect who have received the Spirit of God, and who through the Spirit of God do speak in all tongues, as he used himself also to speak. In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of tongues, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of God, whom also the apostle terms spiritual, they being spiritual because they partake of the Spirit (5.6.1).” —Irenaeus, Against Heresies

“Now was absolutely fulfilled that promise of the Spirit which was given by the word of Joel: ‘In the last days will I pour out My Spirit upon all flesh, and their sons and their daughters shall prophesy; and upon My servants and upon My handmaids will I pour out of my Spirit.’ Since then the Creator promised the gifts of His Spirit in the latter days; and since Christ has in these last days appeared as the dispenser of spiritual gifts … it evidently follows in connection with this prediction of the last days, that this gift of the Spirit belongs to Him who is the Christ of the predictors … Let Marcion then exhibit, as gifts of his god, some prophets, such as have not spoken by human sense, but with the Spirit of God, such as have both predicted things to come, and have made manifest the secrets of the heart; let him produce a psalm, a vision, a prayer—only let it be by the Spirit, in an ecstasy, that is, in a rapture, whenever an interpretation of tongues has occurred to him; let him show to me also, that any woman of boastful tongue in his community has ever prophesied from amongst those specially holy sisters of his. Now all these signs of spiritual gifts are forthcoming from my side without any difficulty, and they agree, too, with the rules, and the dispensations, and the instructions of the Creator; therefore without doubt the Christ, and the Spirit, and the apostle, belong severally to my God. Here, then, is my frank avowal for any one who cares to require it (Bk. 5, Ch. 8).” —Tertullian, Against Marcion

“Anyone who cuts out portions of Scripture is guilty of very grievous sin … I say once more, there, that to hold such a view [cessationism] is simply to quench the Spirit.” —D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

“Therefore to say that because we now have all the writings of Scripture complete we no longer need the miraculous inspiration of the Spirit among men as in former days is a degree of blindness as great as any that can be charged upon the scribes and the Pharisees. … There is no degree of delusion higher than that which is evidenced by those who profess to teach from the divinely inspired Scriptures that the immediate, continual illumination and working of the Spirit in men’s hearts ceased when the canon of Scripture was complete. To deny the present prophetic gift in the church is to deny also that very manifestation of Christ today to His own which the Scriptures teach is the only means to the reality of Gospel Christianity.” —William Law

“But He has left to us the same power He possess. This [the indwelling Holy Spirit to continue Jesus’s life and ministry and to perpetuate miracles] is the mighty gift of our ascended Lord. This is the supreme need of the church today … the constitution of the church is identical with the twelfth chapter of First Corinthians. … We cannot leave out any part of the gospel without weakening the rest; and if there ever was an age when the world needed the witness of God’s supernatural working, it is the day of unbelief and satanic power.” —A.B. Simpson

“The devil only bothers to counterfeit that which is real and a threat to his kingdom.” —Frank Viola

“A Bible-based sermon can be equal in truth if rooted in Scripture, but not equal in authority to the Bible.” —Frank Viola

“Spirit can embrace intellect, but human intellect won’t comprehend Spirit.” —A.W. Tozer

“We need to learn that truth consists not in correct doctrine, but correct doctrine plus the inward enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.” —A.W. Tozer 

“We cannot make too much of this matter of revelation, illumination, seeing. It is basic in salvation (Acts 26:18). It is essential to effective ministry (2 Corinthians 4:6) and it is indispensable to full knowledge and full growth (Ephesians 1:17)…. The kind of seeing to which we refer is an epoch, an encounter, a revelation, a crisis. There is no power on this earth which could have changed that rabid, fanatical, bigoted Saul of Tarsus, a ‘Pharisee of the Pharisees,’ into ‘the apostle of the Gentiles’ (Romans 11:13)…. Argument would not have done it. Neither persuasion nor persecution nor martyrdom would have effected it. But it was done! That ‘conversion’ stood the test of all persecutions, sufferings, and adversities possible to man for the rest of his life…. Indeed, a fundamental and preeminent work of the Holy Spirit has to do with spiritual enlightenment and supremely as to the significance of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. It is all in the Scriptures, but still our eyes may be holden…. We can be governed by objective truth. It can be ‘the truth’—orthodox, sound, Bible truth. We can be governed by that simply because it is taught; we do it objectively. But there is something more than that. There is such a thing as the Holy Spirit taking hold of the truth of God and making it something that lives in us…. Many Christians are just Christians: that is, after they are saved, their Christian life consists in doing as they are told by the minister because it is presented to them as the thing they should do. But there is a much higher level of life than that. The thing is right, but it is altogether transformed when the Holy Spirit brings it home to us in an inward way, and adjusts us to it. We no longer do it because it has got to be done: we do it because the Lord has done something in us, and shown us that that is the thing that He wants done… it is no more mechanical, it is vital!” —T. Austin Sparks

“To downplay and criticize a genuine desire to know our Lord in greater capacity and to receive clear direction from God’s Spirit in greater measure is contrary to the exhortation and examples found in Scripture. Certainly, spiritual contentment and complacency would have drawn from Paul the strongest reproof. And it did so from Jesus in the book of Revelation.” —Frank Viola

“One thing the charismatic movement has been sent to do, I believe, is to alert us all to the fact that God, when trusted, will show His hand in many thrilling ways, and we should be expecting Him to do that, though without dictating to Him what He must do in particular situations.” —J.I. Packer

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