Grace. Amazing Grace. It is a theme richly woven within every fiber of the tapestry of the Christian faith. Yet, it has become so much a banal staple of the parlance of Christian discourse that the term has lost its luster. It no longer excites the passions of believers beleaguered by indifference. But, Oh! How glorious is that grace that set the captives free—the fountainhead of God’s love for a world trapped in its own destructive melee.
God’s grace in its simplest expression is unmerited favor. It speaks of a particular kind of love largely unrecognized in even the most compassionate enclaves of human kindness expressed in this world we inhabit. It is reserved for those who embrace it and thus become privileged to be named as His children. It is a moving display of affectionate passion that forms the very ground of God’s redemptive actions toward rebel souls. This grace is a gratuitous, ill-deserved reward; a prize conferred for no achievement. It issues forth from the incalculable benevolence of its heavenly source. God’s grace is unfettered and free, bounding forward into the hearts of receptive sinners like you and me.
This is to say no one is able by the strength of moral will to gain God’s favor. Virtually every religious system conceived by mankind is rooted in the ability accorded to ourselves. Religious man is transparently focused on the self. He thinks he is fully capable of appeasing what ever powers he imagines through his own self-inflated perception of success. However, God’s grace only extends toward those who recognize their utter failure in meeting the terms necessary to attain salvation. Ironically, the force of grace is only apparent when such individuals recognize how unworthy they are of its benefits. Continue reading
Counterfeit Gospels by Trevin Wax is one of a plethora of so-called “gospel centered” books that have become popular over the last several years. Wax has hit upon popular conceptions of the gospel in American Christianity that fall short of the real gospel and thus become manifestations of a counterfeit gospel. They have many of the trappings, language and features that mark the real gospel, but when examined more carefully they fall short.
The book is well organized around a threefold definition of the gospel and how two counterfeit versions distort or deny each of these key components. Thus, the book is divided into three sections of three chapters each (9 chapters altogether). The first chapter of each section explains one of the the principal components of the gospel while the remaining two chapters of the section expose counterfeits that focus on that particular component. What is useful here is how Wax summarizes how each counterfeit actually distorts or denies all three of the components using memorable graphs. The whole book is clearly written and well illustrated. Wax is also careful to make practical application of the principles he conveys throughout the book. Continue reading
Stepping Out in Faith: Former Catholics Tell Their Stories is a short book edited by Mark Gilbert and published by Mathias Media, a Christian publisher located in Australia. It is an excellent book for Roman Catholics who are questioning their faith, perhaps disillusioned and wondering whether Protestantism represent the truth about life, God and salvation. It contains 11 testimonies of people who left their Catholic upbringing and came to understand and embrace the gospel message as revealed in the Bible.
There are several features about these testimonies that were common refrains.
1) Roman Catholics are not bashed as sometimes can happen among Bible believing Christians. Most of these people had strong ties to their Catholic upbringing and it was difficult for them to leave it.
2) Most of these testimonies uniformly affirmed that their Catholic upbringing led them to believe that their salvation depended on themselves instead of the finished work of Christ on their behalf. Salvation was achieved by good deeds and adherence to religious rituals and dogmas. Many were shocked to discover that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
3) Many report that their Catholic upbringing left a strong pall of guilt over them. As Angelo Porcu noted, the Catholic Church emphasized guilt instead of forgiveness. There was an oppressive spirit about many of their experiences in the church of Rome. Continue reading
Anthony Carter’s book, Blood Work: How the Blood of Christ Accomplishes Our Salvation, is a simple and straightforward exposition of the principal passages of the New Testament that mention the blood of Christ in connection to the believer’s salvation. The 13 chapters are short, clearly written and chock full of Scriptural supports for the themes he covers. While the title and the principal passages focused on might seem to suggest a narrowly focused study, in reality the book is a wide ranging survey of key doctrines of salvation. As such, the book would serve as an good primer for new believers who would like to understand the gospel better.
I was surprised at how many passages in the New Testament treat the death of Christ by appealing to the image of the shed blood of the cross. Carter points out that the word “blood” is used 3 times as much as the word “cross” and 5 times as much as the word “death” in the New Testament. Clearly it is a powerful term employed to speak of the work of Christ – the blood work if you will. These passages connect the shedding of Christ’s blood to themes such as purchase, propitiation, justification, redemption, drawing near, peace, cleansed consciences, sanctification, ransom, and freedom. Of course these represent the main chapters of Carter’s book. Carter writes from a solidly Reformed perspective as you would expect from the Reformation Trust (i.e. the publishing arm of R. C. Sproul’s ministry). Subsequently, from my perspective, Carter’s soteriology is dead on and sorely needed in a day when the gospel has been watered down so much. Continue reading