Ten Books Every Christian Should Read

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I was recently asked to compile a list of the 10 books every Christian should read. It was tough to pick only ten, but I boiled it down to these books that have been the books I believe have influenced me the most.

1. Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

2. Desiring God by John Piper

3. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

4. Knowing God by J.I. Packer

5. The Glory of Christ by John Owen

6. The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

7. The Hidden Life of Prayer by David McIntyre

8. The Letters of Samuel Rutherford

9. The Prodigal God by Tim Keller

10. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

What books would you add to this list?

Prophecies Christ Fulfilled Through His Suffering, Death, and Resurrection

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Consider what the prophets foretold about the person and work of Christ.

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
(Genesis 3:15)

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
(Psalm 22:14-18)

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
(Psalm 34:19-20)

My heart throbs; my strength fails me,
and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.
My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague,
and my nearest kin stand far off.
(Psalm 38:10-11)

Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me. (Psalm 41:9)

They gave me poison for food,
and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.
(Psalm 69:21)

I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
when they see me, they wag their heads.
(Psalm 109:25)

I gave my back to those who strike,
and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
from disgrace and spitting.
(Isaiah 50:6)

As many were astonished at you—
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
(Isaiah 52:14)

For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
(Isaiah 53:2-12)

Then I said to them, ‘If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.’ And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver.
(Zechariah 11:12)

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.
(Zechariah 12:10)

“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,
against the man who stands next to me,”
declares the LORD of hosts.
“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered;
I will turn my hand against the little ones.
(Zechariah 13:7)

Mohler’s Recommendations for Pastors

Preaching magazine recently released Al Mohler’s (President of Southern Seminary) annual list of recommended books for pastors. A great list for all those who lead others.

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle

Christian Apologetics: Past and Present, Vol. 2 by William Edgar & K. Scott Oliphant

The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way by Michael Horton

Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine by Gregg R. Allison

Lost in Translation: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood by Christian Smith, Kari Christofferson, Hilary Davidson, Patricia Snell Herzog

A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New by G.K. Beale

The Next Decade: Empire and Republic in a Changing World by George Friedman

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs

Reading Scripture with the Reformers by Timothy George

The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion by Rodney Stark

A Lifelong Habit

thanksgiving(1)Perhaps one of my least favorite stories in all the Scriptures is found in Luke 17. It’s the story of Jesus cleansing the 10 lepers. Jesus, on His way to Jerusalem, entered a village with His disciples and was met by 10 lepers. Seeing Jesus, they cried out to Him for mercy. Jesus compassionately instructed them to go show themselves to the priests. While on their way, they were cleansed of their leprosy. The story continues:

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:15-18, ESV).

I don’t know why this story bugs me so much. Maybe it’s the fact I was raised to always be thankful and write thank you notes from a very young age (thanks, Mom!). Or maybe it’s the troubling image of spoiled, ungrateful children at Christmas, tearing open gifts and never thanking their parents. Whatever it is, I never want to identify with these nine lepers. I want to be like the one who returned to worship and thank Jesus.

I recently came across an article in The Wall Street Journal suggesting that there are psychological, emotional and physical benefits to maintaining a thankful heart. Gotta love it when secular researchers find the Bible has had it right all along. No kidding!

Researchers have found that those who feel grateful have “more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not” and “they’re less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy, or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections.” Man, if there were a drug that did all that, just imagine what people would pay.

I don’t pass along this research as your new motivation to live a thankful life, but I do find it interesting researchers are discovering just how beneficial gratitude can be.

One of the challenges of cultivating thankfulness is that it often can get shuffled to the back shelves of our prayer lives. If you’re like me, you tend to pray about those fires you need God to put out first and then about the things you need and want. If there happens to be time left, you might turn to what you’re thankful for. This is not what the Bible prescribes. I wonder, Have you ever made a list of things you’re thankful for? Have you ever literally counted your blessings?

I was blessed to have a mentor years ago who encouraged me to develop a lifelong habit of gratitude. He taught me to keep a thankfulness journal, a record designated solely for listing things I’m thankful for. I’m not really a “journaler” per se, but for years I’ve been writing down my blessings. Now, years later, it still stirs my faith to read back through and see the faithfulness of God throughout the past decade. I read and remember lessons God has taught me, challenges He’s walked me through and the ways that He’s met my needs.

I read and recall the time a friend helped fix my car, the summer God provided a job working at camp, tests and projects I never thought I’d finish, and the time a family invited me to live with them rent-free while I finished seminary. I read and can’t believe I ever dare complain about anything. God’s provision is most obvious when we stop and look for it. And nothing helps me stop and look like my thankfulness journal.

I believe that keeping this chronicle is slowly convincing my heart that I depend on God every single moment, that every gift and opportunity has come from His hand. Remembering my blessings is growing me into the type of person who doesn’t have to conjure up gratitude, but who, alongside the grateful leper of Luke 17, is prone to praise God with a loud voice, face to the ground. It’s a habit that has become precious to me, one I now commend to you. Perhaps the Puritan preacher John Boys put it best: “As the Lord loveth a cheerful giver, so likewise a cheerful thanksgiver.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Precious Promises of Christ

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There are times in life when we have to fight to believe what we know to be true. We may become bogged down by the disappointments and trials of life and slip into seasons of doubting and questioning our hope. If you’re discouraged and downcast in spirit, this post is for you.

Thomas Brooks once wrote, “Three things are called precious in the Scripture: the blood of Christ is called ‘precious blood,’ 1 Peter 1:19; and faith is called ‘precious faith’ 2 Peter 1:1; and the promises are called ‘precious promises,’ 2 Peter 1:4.”  Are the promises of Christ precious to you today?

I recently compiled a list of all Christ’s promises (Download the PDF). I highlighted conditions of the promises in red and the actual promise in yellow. This has become a sweet document to me. I regularly come and let the promises of Christ wash over me. Christ’s people are a blessed people. When I read through the promises I quickly become overwhelmed. There is so much the Lord has promised to do for us in his Word.

Here are a few of the the precious promises of Christ I’ve been savoring recently:

Matthew 5:8  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Matthew 6:3-4 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Matthew 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

John 8:31-32 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 10:9-10 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 14:12-14 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Revelation 22:12-13 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

Revelation 22:20  He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!


“Furnish thyself with arguments from the promises to enforce thy prayers, and make them prevalent with God. The promises are the ground of faith, and faith, when strengthened, will make thee fervent, and such fervency ever speeds and returns with victory out of the field of prayer… The mightier any is in the Word, the more mighty he will be in prayer.” ~William Gurnall

What are some of your favorite promises?

When Hard Times Come

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The Christian is not immune from difficulties in this life. But we are not without help both from God and the community of believers who come around us in times of trouble.

One place I turn for help is The Loveliness of Christ by Samuel Rutherford. I cannot recommend him enough. He brings the perspective of one who has been through his own storms and is a better man for having endured them.

Here are a few excerpts:

“You may not know what the Lord is doing in a particular circumstance, but you will know hereafter. Let Christ know of your heavy cares. Let him bear all. Dear brother, do not become weary of your Master’s chains. We are closer to Christ when we suffer. Keep close by Christ, and let the wind blow. Rejoice in his cross. Your deliverance does not sleep and his promise is not slack. Wait for God’s appointed time of deliverance. You shall lose nothing in the furnace but dross. Not one ounce too much is laid on you. The devil is just a whetstone to sharpen the faith and patience of the saints. The Lord is cutting and polishing stones for the New Jerusalem. Be content to wade through the waters holding his hand, for he knows all the fords. You may be dunked, yet you cannot drown. Those who went before you went through blood, suffering, and many afflictions. Christ has borne the whole cross, and his saints bear only chips.”

“There is no sweeter fellowship with Christ than to bring our wounds and our sores to him.”

“The floods may swell and roar, but our ark shall swim above the waters; it cannot sink, because a Saviour is in it.”

“Christ and his cross together are sweet company, and a blessed couple. My poison is my palace, my losses are rich losses, my pain easy pain, my heavy days are holy and happy days. I may tell a new tale of Christ to my friends.”

“His cross is the sweetest burden that ever I bare: it is such a burden as wings are to a bird, or sails to a ship, to carry me forward to my harbour.”

“When I am in the cellar of affliction, I look for the Lord’s choicest wines.”

“As we look back to our pains and sufferings, we shall see that suffering is not worthy to be compared to our first night’s welcome home in heaven.”

“Our fair morning is at hand, the day star is near the rising, and we are not many miles from home; what does it matter if we are ill-treated in the smoky inns of this miserable life?”

I don’t know how much I’ll be called to suffer during the rest of my days, but I’m going to definitely stay close to Christ and keep guys like Rutherford around too. I look forward to meeting and befriending him in glory.

Why Buy a Bible with No Study Notes?

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Are you in the market for a new Bible? If so, you might want to sit down. There are a lot of options out there. You could go with the popular ESV Study Bible or the Reformation Study Bible or the Literary Study Bible or the MacArthur Study Bible (although, I think he just wrote the notes) or the Apologetics Study Bible or the Woman’s Bible or the One Year Bible or Amplified Bible or the classic Ryrie Study Bible or the Journaling Bible or the Oswald Chambers Devotional Bible or the Outreach Bible or the Life Discovery Bible or the Life Application Study Bible or the Key Word Study Bible. And that’s just some of the adult Bibles out there. I didn’t even list the ones they make for students and kids.

It’s amazing the variety of Bibles available for purchase. I recently purchased a plain old ESV Classic Reference Bible. No frills, no study notes, just the biblical text. My choice was more than a mere avoidance of the seemingly impossible choices created by the above. It was strategic.

One of the goals of my life is to immerse myself in the Bible as much as possible. I want to read it, study it, meditate on it, memorize it, live it and teach it to others. I’ve been using Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System for a couple years now. I love that the Horner’s plan balances my daily intake of the Bible. It’s forgiving if you miss a couple days (or weeks) and it let’s you read some sections more frequently.

For example, I read through Proverbs and Acts once every month, the Gospels and the rest of the NT about four times a year, the wisdom literature and Psalms twice and the historical/prophetic books at least once. In each of these sections, I read just a chapter a day. I agree all Scripture is beneficial, but there are some sections I want to read more frequently. Horner’s plan let’s me customize what I really want to focus on at given times throughout my life.

That being said, I’ve noticed my study bibles are not good for this plan. They are big and bulky. They take up lots of space with introductions, articles, illustrations and notes. These are all great for study but slow me down when I’m reading. I just want the text when I’m reading. The ESV Classic Reference Bible is perfect for this.

I’ve also decided this will be a kinda legacy Bible for me. I’m going to track how many times I read through it over the next years and, Lord willing, one day pass it on to a child or grandchild. I want them to know that I loved God’s Word and read it a lot. I want to show it to them and tell them this book has been God’s regular communication into my life. I want it to lay open on my desk in the hour of my death, worn out from years and years of use, but dust free.

I admit if felt weird buying a Bible without all the bells and whistles, but sometimes to see the Bible’s bells and whistles, you have to ignore some other bells and whistles. For my daily reading, just give me the text!

10 Things Jesus Really Said About His Return

Another false teacher recently joined the historic cohort who arrogantly thought they had figured out when Christ will return. This is tragic on two levels. First, there are many who were duped. Tons of people believed his prediction and invested time, energy, and money spreading it.  Secondly, it’s tragic that many will now move toward the opposite extreme. They suspected Jesus wouldn’t return anytime soon and now see this false prediction as confirmation he really isn’t. This is an equally tragic mistake. Jesus said a lot about his return and one of the overarching messages was His followers should keep themselves ready and waiting.

Here are 10 things Jesus really said about his return.

1.  No one knows the day or the hour of my return.

In Mark 13:32, Jesus had been teaching his disciples about his return and says, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Luke records it this way, “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Lk 12:40).

Jesus told his disciples even He didn’t know exactly when He would return.  At this point in history, God the Father knew the exact number of years, months, days and seconds until Christ would return and Jesus didn’t. We need not speculate about future details Christ himself didn’t know.

Also, Jesus applied this truth to their lives, “Be ready.” Jesus didn’t know if he would return in their lifetimes, but his command to them is his command to us almost 2,000 years later. Keep watch. Stay awake.

2.  There will be several signs, increasing in intensity, as my return draws near.

Christ’s followers should pay attention to the signs of his return. They should speculate about the exact day or hour but should pay attention to natural events and recognize the potential fulfillment of Christ’s words as they happen.

Jesus promised there would be wars and rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes in various places (Matt 24:6-7). And also, “signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Lk 21:25-27).

Additionally, Jesus used the term “birth pains” to describe these signs. Like the pain of childbirth, these signs will get more intense and frequent as the day draws close. When we see increasing numbers of earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and other natural disasters, Jesus instructs, “straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk 21:28). Once again, Jesus instructs us to pay attention to the signs of His return in order to be ready when He comes.

3.  Pray for the strength to escape the things that are going to take place.

In Luke 21:36, Jesus taught his followers, “But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” From the context, the “escaping” Jesus refers to is escaping from the judgment and wrath God will bring upon those who have rejected Christ.  Jesus teaches his disciples to pray for the strength to escape. Too many believe Christians will escape by default, but Jesus told his disciples to pray for strength to escape, and so we must.

4.  It will seem like a normal day.

In Luke 17:26-30, Jesus compared the day the Son of Man will be revealed to God’s judgment in the days of both Noah and Lot. In both these times, people were going about the normal business of life: eating, drinking, marrying, buying, selling, planting, and building. In the midst of this apparent normalcy, God’s judgment and wrath fell. Jesus said this is what it will be like when He comes. It will be a great cosmic interruption that will be like lightning which “lights up the sky from one side to the other” (Lk 17:24).

5.  I will repay everyone for what he has done.

In the last chapter of Revelation, Jesus told his followers He is coming and “bringing his recompense…to repay everyone for what he has done” (22:12). Matthew 25 describes the scene when Jesus will sit on his glorious throne and all nations will be gathered before him to be judged (31-33). All people will stand before Jesus and give account for what they did in life. How glorious it will be to stand confidently in the imputed righteousness of Christ in that day.

6.  Not everyone who expects to make it into Christ’s kingdom will.

Some of the most sobering words of Jesus are about those who will not be allowed to enter the kingdom of heaven. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” What could be worse than hearing these words from Jesus?

At the end, there will be many people who will think they are in because of their ministry credentials. And Jesus will say, “I never knew you” and call them “workers of lawlessness.” Their repentance was in word only. They acted like followers but didn’t have a saving relationship with Christ based on faith and repentance as the foundation of their lives. Jesus said there will be many people in this terrifying condition, living their lives thinking they were in and finding out in the final analysis they weren’t.

7.  There will be great persecution and many will fall away.

Jesus promised great persecution would break out against his followers and would cause many to fall away (Matt 24:9-10). It’s relatively easy to follow Christ when things are going well, but when times get tough we find out what we’re made of. Is our faith in Christ only as strong as the comfort we enjoy? If God’s enemies come and take everything will we cling to Christ or fall away? Jesus promised many would make the incomprehensible choice to fall away.

8.  Because of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold.

Jesus promised that sin would lure many away from Him (Matt 24:12). These are people who once loved Christ warmly who have cooled in their affections for Him. They’ve traded in their desires for Christ for worthless idols. Sex, money, power and other false gods have replaced the love of Christ in their hearts. Their love grows cold as they lose the war against temptations to sin. Stoking the heart’s fiery love for Christ must include destroying the wet buckets of sin that can so quickly quench it. True Christ followers must repent often and much.

9.  Be on guard, keep awake.

Jesus continually told his followers to stay awake, to watch their lives, and to be ready for his return. In Matthew, Jesus gave four parables to explain how and why his followers should be prepared for his coming: the homeowner and the thief (24:42-44); the good and wicked servants (24:45-51); the 10 virgins (25:1-13); and the talents (25:14-30). In each of these parables, Christ described readiness with working to complete the work Christ gave us, namely fulfilling the Great Commission. Every Christian is to diligently use the gifts and opportunities God provides to reach the world for Christ.

To be awake is to be ready and willing to do Christ’s will. In Gethsemane, Jesus’ disciples slept instead of joining Him in prayer. They weren’t doing what Christ asked but slept. In the same way, many Christians today are asleep to Christ’s will. They don’t seek him or ask for his direction. Instead, like the disciples in the garden, they sleep. Hear the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Awake, awake, put on strength” (51:9).

Peter says it well, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:7-8).

10.  I am coming soon!

Four times in the book of Revelation, Jesus said to the churches, “I am coming soon!” (Rev 16:15; 22:7,12,20). It was originally meant as an encouraging word to 1st century Christians suffering by the hands of Rome and has continued to encourage Christ’s followers throughout the ages. Christians in every generation are to hold tightly to the promise that Christ will return soon.

As the writer of Hebrews reminds, “Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb 9:28). Like young children eagerly longing for Christmas morning, Christians eagerly wait for Christ to return. In doing so, we live out Paul’s wonderful promise to the church in Thessalonica, “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thess 4:17). Nothing is greater than to be with Jesus Christ always and forever.

John Owen: The Pathway to Spiritual Recovery

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One of my favorite books is a small one by English Puritan John Owen, The Glory of Christ. I love it because it is both simple and profound.

In it, Owen argues that the root cause of all our problems in the Christian life is our inability to meditate on the glory of Christ.

He concludes the solution to sin in the Christian’s life is found through learning to satisfy our souls on the greatness of Jesus.

Here’s one of my favorite excerpts from the book (taken from the Banner of Truth version abridged by R.J.K. Law)

When God purposes graciously to heal the backsliding of his people he not only calls them to repentance, but also enables them to repent and gives them the desire to use the means of healing. This is what he does here. ‘Take words with you, and return to the Lord’ (Hosea 14:2). And this is what ministers must do when pressing on their congregations the duty of repentance. Tell them what they have to pray for.

The pathway to spiritual recovery is renewed repentance seen in the following:

Renewed repentance is seen in fervent prayer. ‘Take words with you. Say to him…’ We must know what we are to pray for. We are to pray for pardon of all iniquity. ‘Take away all iniquity.’ Not one sin must be left to be indulged. We are to pray that God will graciously receive us. ‘Receive us graciously.’ Confession must be made of the sins that caused our backslidings. ‘Assyria will not save us. Nor will we say any more to the work of our hands, “You are our gods.” Fleshly confidence and false worship were the two sins that ruined the people, and of these sins God expects a full and free confession so that we may be healed.

Believers must renew their covenant with God, renouncing all other hopes and expectations, and put their trust and confidence only and wholly in him, for only in God do the fatherless find mercy (14:3). The result of such repentance is praise and thanksgiving: ‘We will offer the sacrifice or our lips’ (14:2). When God heals our backslidings he will communicate his grace to us, to the praise of his own glory…

It only remains to show the unique way by which, through faith, we may obtain this promise, namely, of being flourishing and fruitful even in old age.

(i) The first thing we need to know is that all our supplies of grace are from Jesus Christ. Grace is declared in the promises of the Old Testament, but how it is communicated to us and how we receive it is revealed to us in the New: all grace is from Christ. He has told us that ‘without him, we can do nothing’. We can no more bear fruit than a branch separated from the vine (John 15:3-5). He is our head and all divine communications of grace are from him alone. He is our life and lives in us, so that all our strength for holiness and obedience comes from him (Gal. 2:20, Col. 3:1-4). So if we are in a low spiritual state and desire to be revived, we must look to Christ alone. Without Christ, everything else we do is nothing and will produce nothing.

(ii) The only way to receive supplies of spiritual strength and grace from Jesus Christ is by faith. We come to him, are grafted into him, and must abide in him by faith to bring forth fruit. He dwells in our hearts by faith. He works in us by faith and we live by faith in the Son of God. So if we receive anything from Christ we must receive it by faith. Scripture gives us not warrant to believe that we can receive anything from him except by faith.

(iii) The third thing we need to know is that this faith concerns the person of Christ, his grace, his whole mediatory work, with all its results, and his glory in them all. Therefore the one thing most needed in our recovery and revival is a steady view of the glory of Christ, in his person, grace and office through faith, or a constant, lively exercise of faith in him as his is revealed to us in Scripture. This is the only way to be revived and to receive such grace as will keep us fresh and flourishing even in old age. He that lives by faith in Christ shall, by his spiritual thriving and growth, ‘declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.’

Scripture says, ‘They look to him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed’ (Ps. 34:5). ‘Look to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth’ (Isa. 45:22). On this look to Christ, on this view of his glory, depends all our salvation. Therefore everything we need for our complete salvation is also communicated to us as we look to him. ‘Therefore I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation’ (see also Zech. 12:10, Heb. 12:2).

(iv) A constant view of the glory of Christ will revive our souls and cause our spiritual lives to flourish and thrive. Our souls will be revived by the transforming power with which beholding Christ is always accompanied. This is what transforms us daily into the likeness of Christ. So let us live in constant contemplation of the glory of Christ, and power will then flow from him to us, healing all our declensions, renewing a right spirit in us and enabling us to abound in all the duties that God requires of us.

Faith will fix our souls in Christ who will fill us with delight and satisfaction. This, in heaven, is perfect blessedness, for it is caused by the eternal vision of the glory of God in Christ. So the more we behold the glory of Christ by faith now, the more spiritual and the more heavenly will be the state of our souls.

The reason why the spiritual life in our souls decays and withers is because we fill our minds full of other things, and these things weaken the power of grace. But when the mind is filled with thoughts of Christ and his glory, these things will be expelled (see Col. 3:1-5, Eph. 5:8).

When we behold the glory of Christ by faith every grace in us will be stirred up. This is how our spiritual life is revived (see Rom. 5:3-5, 2 Pet. 1:5-8).

All these thriving, flourishing graces in us will them make us more watchful against the deceitful workings of sin, temptations, foolish attitudes of mind and the vain thoughts which are the vain thought which are the causes of our spiritual decays. Thus we will be able to behold the glory of Christ more clearly by faith in this world, and so prepare to behold the glory of Christ by sight in the next.

Thus our Lord’s prayer for us will be fully answered:

‘Father, I desire that they also whom you gave me may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which you have given me; for you loved me before the foundation of the world’ (John 17:24).

The Secret Key to Heaven (Thomas Brooks)

Last week, I bought a copy of Thomas Brooks’ The Secret Key To Heaven.

 

I admit I do have an affinity for the Puritans. If people are looking for me in heaven, I ‘ll probably have slipped into some Puritan family reunion somewhere.  I used to try to write entire seminary papers, citing only the Puritan writers, which might be why my contemporary worship paper didn’t make any sense…

I’ve been devouring this book on prayer! Brooks basically writes on one verse Matthew 6:6, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

He argues meticulously that secret prayer (or closet prayer) is one of the most important habits a Christian can cultivate. I’ve been greatly challenged and thankful that Thomas Brooks could walk me through how and why to increase in this “duty”.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“…nothing glorifies Christ more, nor exalts him more, than secret prayer”

“there is not a great hindrance to closet prayer than sloth and idleness”

“If there be any way or means on earth to bring us upon our knees before God in secret, it is the serious and solemn thoughts of eternity.”

“In all the ages of the world, the saints have kept up secret prayer. In spite of all opposers and persecutors, in prisons, in dungeons, in dens, in chains, on racks, in banishments, and in the very flames – the saints have still kept up this secret prayer. A Christian can as well…hear without ears, and live without food, and fight without hands, and walk without feet – as he is able to live without secret prayer!”

I highly recommend this Puritan classic. Like most Puritan works, it’s hours of chewing that leads to years and years of growth.