This month at Servants of Grace, we’ve been considering the topic of holiness. We live in a time where many teach that Christians are only to be passive in their Christian life. As Donald Whitney recently said, “Rest in grace; strive for holiness.” This reflects the twin truths of sanctification. On one hand, Christians are to depend on the finished work of Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and rest in those gospel truths. On the other hand, as a result of resting in Christ, Christians are fueled by the grace of God to press on — and press in — towards Christ. In other words, the indicative (what Christ has done in His death, burial, and resurrection) informs or fuels the Christian’s obedience. Through the gracious work of the Holy Spirit, Christians are united to Christ, convicted of sin, and empowered to live out gospel commands.
The following list of books reflects, in my view, the best teaching on holiness in the Christian life. Some are newer and some are older. This list is provided in no particular order. I trust that you will enjoy them much as I have.
The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. Buy the book at Amazon.
The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges. Buy the book at Amazon.
The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges. Buy the book at Amazon or WTS Books.
Spiritual Disciplines and the Christian Life by Donald Whitney. Buy the book at Amazon or WTS Books.
Tempted and Tried by Russell Moore. Buy the book at Amazon or at WTS Books.
The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung. Buy the book at Amazon or at WTS Books.
One of the most neglected ministries in the Church today is the Men’s Ministry. At my local church—Ustick Baptist Church in Boise, Idaho—this is changing by God’s grace. Very often, however, Men’s ministries are viewed as an add-on ministry in the church. While they (men’s ministries) are viewed as important ministries, the teaching therein is often shallow, sporadic, and typically focused more on “principles” men are supposed to be employing in their marriages, with very little emphasis on discipling one another intentionally from the Word of God. Alternatively, there is also a view out there (in the Church as a whole) that upholds the “Men’s Ministry” as a vessel for the catalyst required for revival in our country.
While revival may be an elusive idealism, I believe men are to be the leaders in the home and the church. After all, as Jonathan Edwards taught the home is to be a mini-church. To say, as some do, that men “waking up” and being the leaders (both within the Church and in the home) is the catalyst for revival is to use imprecise theological language, and though perhaps not intentionally misleading people, does teach them that revival is man’s work not God’s doing through His Word. To combat both the error of false revival and the over-emphasis of a principle-driven men’s ministry, what we require is a better model: open the Bible, teach from it (without adding to or distracting from its meaning), and help other men learn to do the same.
I have been entrusted with the great honor of leading the Men’s Evening Bible Study at my local church. I’ve been doing this now since last September. The emphasis of the Men’s Evening Bible Study is on caring for one another (through praying for one another’s needs), instruction from the Word of God (through a short message prepared by the evening speaker), and engaging one another in meaningful discussion regarding the topic of study that night. This may not be the best format for everyone, but I’ve found it works for our group at Ustick Baptist Church. Whether your Men’s ministry uses this model or another one for ministry, the focus of all Men’s ministry events should be the Word of God. At my church, we have a monthly Men’s event where we focus on fellowship. While we also have a time of sharing, it is not the focus during these events; our group intentionally decided to keep it open-ended. Often we will minister to one another, and/or just to get to know one another better through fellowship. While each church’s “Men’s ministry” goals may be different, we’ve found that men respond well to this and even had a few men who have become more involved in the church as a result. We’re also working hard at our church to make sure older men interact with younger men—an attempt to bridge the generation gap that can often cause great separation or exclusionism. The young adult ministry intersects with the Men’s Ministry by supporting the events that the Men’s Ministry sponsors. Even the Women’s Ministry has helped support the Men’s Ministry by encouraging the ladies to bring their husbands on Wednesday evenings, since both groups have a bible study during the same hour.
While I understand why many emphasize that revival may be caused by men rising up and leading in the home/church/society, and believe this is vital for biblical manhood, I disagree. I disagree with the verbiage used to describe this, because the reason men desire to lead their families and the church is because of God’s grace; it’s not something they desire to accomplish on their own accord (no matter how many Bible studies they attend). God moves on men’s hearts causing them to want to lead. It is God’s work in men’s hearts and not men “rising up” that causes true revival. The imprecision of language used when talking about Men’s ministry is often “man-driven”. We need to repent of this imprecision of language for two reasons: a) it matters how we say things, and b) we will be held accountable for what we say. God alone can cause a revival—He only asks us to do as He has instructed; which is the sole reason any men’s ministry exists.
My encouragement to those of you who are pastors and or ministry leaders in the local church is to teach the men the Word of God, even if you don’t believe in (or agree with) everything I’ve written here. Find other trustworthy men to teach in the Men’s ministry at your church. Be intentional about being intergenerational with the men in the church—encourage young adults to come to the Men’s events, and engage older men on the topic of mentoring younger men. There is such a need when it comes to Men’s ministries in the Church. At our church, we’ve only started to improve the Men’s Ministry, but I’m very thankful for what God is doing in our midst. I’m encouraged by how the Lord is bringing men to our times of fellowship and Bible studies; God is certainly doing a work of His grace in our midst!
With all of that said, as the Church we need to change the way we approach Men’s ministry. Rather than being principle and/or topic oriented, we need to be Bible-saturated/Bible-oriented. We need to open the Bible together, hear it taught, engage our minds in what it says, and respond, by His grace, in obedience to the truth therein. The gospel calls us to this kind of obedience—it calls us to obey because of the grace of God. This is the reason why Men’s ministry (as an entity) needs to change. If we really want to see revival happen, it will happen as it did in Ezra 7-10, as men and women heard the Word of God and responded to what it says. That is the true cause of revival—being doers of the Word via the outworking of the Holy Spirit.
The next time you talk about revival, don’t make yourself or what you’re doing the focus; instead, make Jesus the focus of your Men’s ministry gatherings. Jesus is the only One who can bring revival. Yes, we are the means by which He chooses to do this—ordinary people like you and me. He primarily uses the preaching and teaching of His Word. Revival occurs when the Holy Spirit enflames the message of the Bible within men’s and women’s hearts, bringing about true change. This is why we should commit the teaching of the Word to trustworthy (godly) men in our midst. The Spirit uses godly, qualified men to bring forth the teaching and preaching of His Word. Revival is ultimately up to God; none of it can be planned—it will happen in God’s timing and for His glory. Let us therefore be faithful as men to teach others in our churches, both young and old. Let us rise up and teach the Word of God, praying that the Holy Spirit will blow a mighty wind of revival through the teaching of His Word, so that our land may repent and turn to Him and be healed, in His time and for His glory.
When you hear the word “happiness” what do you think of? Do you think about people with a white picket fence with a house full of kids and happiness? Or do you think of something else? For most of us we would naturally tend to think of the first example, namely that of a happy family celebrating together around a fireplace and perhaps enjoying a movie or just time together. Whether it’s the examples I’ve just described or others, we need to radical refocus our understanding of happiness around the Word of God. This is especially so, since we are inundated by a 24/7 news cycle that promotes nothing but the bad news of our world. Yes, we need to know what is going in our world, but even more, as Dr. David Murray shows in The Happy Christian Ten Ways To Be A Joyful Believer In a Gloomy World, we need to refocus our lives on God and His Word. Only there will we find true happiness.
The Happy Christian is a game changing book. First, The Happy Christian is a call to realign our lives on God and His Word. We live in a world that promotes the bad news going on in our world to the neglect often times of the good that people are doing by God’s grace. Second, Dr. Murray’s book is a worldview changer. Since Dr. Murray’s book reorients our lives around the Word it will help renew our minds by the power of the Word. Very few books that you read combine excellence in engagement with the Word with focusing on how to apply what they’re saying to our lives. The Happy Christian is such a book. This book is grounded in the Word and will help every Christian at every stage of their growth in Christ to grow in their knowledge, understanding, and application of the work of God’s sovereign grace. Finally, this book is easy to digest. One could ready through this book very quickly. I encourage you to read it slowly and digest it. Let this book affect you deeply. Let the truths Dr. Murray explains pour into your pores and affect every area of your life. In doing so, I assure you—you won’t be the same and that is the point. Dr. Murray has written a life-transforming book that is fueled by the truth of the Word that will help you to reorient your life around the Word. While this book is not the Bible, it does explain the truth of the Bible. Therefore, the message of this book I pray will be pleasing in the sight of the Lord, that He might use it powerfully and wonderfully, all for the praise of His name.
Dr. Murray’s ten points are easy to understand. Each point is structured around the overarching idea of happiness. To this end he explores happy facts, media, salvation, church, future, world, praise, giving, work, and differences. This is why I said earlier this is a book that seeks to change our lives by first renewing our minds in the Word. The outgrowth of this is that it will change our outlook and thus our worldview. I especially enjoyed chapter two on media, chapter seven on praise, and chapter nine on work. Chapter two was helpful because many people often give themselves whole heartedly to watching the news and or the latest TV shows. One thing that stood out in this chapter was Dr. Murray’s discussion about viewing the news all the time. His point is that we need to be careful how much we watch the news since so much of it is negative and promotes violence. Chapter seven includes very helpful points about the purpose of our praising God as does chapter nine on how and why we work.
Wherever you’re at in your Christian life, The Happy Christian has something for you. First, this book will help you to focus more on God and less on yourselves. Second, this book will help you to think on what is true, noble, and good from God in His Word and less on your circumstances and problems. Finally, this excellent book will help readers to grow to be not only happy in Christ but healthy in Christ. Many of us have an overwhelming sense of guilt, and shame and carry it around like it’s a badge of honor. It’s time to throw that type of Christianity off and embrace New Testament Christianity that emphasizes what Christ had done to win so great a salvation for us. That truth alone should lead us to live happy and productive lives in Christ to the glory of Christ.
This book would be excellent for the new Christian on up to the most seasoned scholar of God’s Word. At every stage Dr. Murray explains helpful points the reader to the finished work of Christ. This book will help those struggling with depression, shame, guilt, and more to reorient their lives around the Word of God. As Christians we’re called to be Bereans. Dr. Murray takes readers into the Word and points to its author—God! As he does, he unfolds the Scriptural truths on happiness and life in Christ. I highly recommend this book and pray the Lord will powerfully use it in reader’s lives to change the way they think so that their lives will be transformed and renewed in and by Christ.
I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Few issues related to the doctrine of the Bible are as confusing to people as the issue of meditation. With the rise of New Age thinking combined with the popular practice of secular meditation, we should not be surprised by confusion on biblical meditation. The Church has a long history of teaching on meditation from the Word of God. Understanding this teaching is critical since every Christian is to read and study the Word. Every Christian is to delight in the Word of the Lord in the Word of God. David Sexton’s new book God’s Battle Plan For The Mind The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation is a very helpful new book that will help readers to understand from the Word of God and church history what the Church has taught about meditation.
This book is an extended look at the meditation—what it is and what it isn’t. As the author sweeps away the secular ideas of meditation, he replaces them with a biblical view on meditation that is splendid and glorious. Also along the way are a plethora of Reformation and Puritan quotes that will help readers to grasp the biblical teaching on meditation.
God’s Battle Plan For The Mind would be a good book for new or seasoned Christians to learn from on biblical meditation. Even though I’ve read and studied the spiritual disciplines several times there was much in this book, especially from the Puritans that I’ve never read before. This is a truly excellent book, one when combined with its focus on the Bible, teaching from the history of the Church, and practical theology will help new and mature Christians to grow in their knowledge and understanding of biblical meditation.
I highly recommend God’s Battle Plan For The Mind and believe every Christian will benefit from reading this book. My prayer is that as you read this book you’ll linger long not only over the text of this book, but also over the Scriptures about which Sexton writes about.
I received this book for free from RHB for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”