Friday, 07 July 2017 07:22

Books to Read

Written by  Tim Challies
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Seven Leaders

by Iain Murray

 

You know the rule with Iain Murray’s books, right? If he writes it, you read it! You can simply never go wrong. The rule proves itself true once again with his newest work, Seven Leaders.

 

The thirteenth chapter of Hebrews exhorts us, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” This book is designed to help us meet, understand, and remember seven leaders, seven pastors who faithfully served their God. Several of them may be familiar to most readers: Andrew Bonar, Archibald Brown, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and John MacArthur; several may be familiar to only a few: John Elias, Kenneth MacRae, and W.J. Grier. Yet whether they labored in the public eye or in obscurity, each of them has valuable lessons to teach us.

 

The format of the book is simple and effective. Each of the seven men gets his own chapter. It contains a brief account of his life and ministry and a number of lessons we can draw from it. From John Elias we learn about the nature of true revival, from Andrew Bonar we learn of the importance of maintaining and deepening our fellowship with Jesus Christ, and from Archibald Brown we learn of the centrality of the gospel in all faithful preaching. Kenneth MacRae teaches us that effective preaching depends upon effective ministry within the local church, Martyn Lloyd-Jones shows that all ministry must be undergirded by sound doctrine, and W.J. Grier teaches us the peril of frittering life away and the importance of faithfully passing on the “sacred deposit” of the gospel. Finally, in the life and ministry of John MacArthur, we see the importance of a strong doctrine of Scripture to support a powerful preaching ministry.

 

Because Murray’s knowledge of church history is both deep and wide, he is able to set these men in their context and provide interesting glimpses of what was happening in the wider world and in the Christian world while these men carried out their ministries. And, because he knew several of them and has written biographies of three of them, he is able to give personal touches and details that help bring them to life.

 

Seven Leaders is exactly the kind of book we’ve come to expect from Iain Murray. While its primary audience is pastors and church leaders, there isn’t a Christian alive who wouldn’t benefit from reading it.

 

 

How Does Sanctification Work?

by David Powlison

 

Some great books hit your life like a sledgehammer. They wreck your preconceptions and disrupt what you were sure you knew. We need these books from time to time. Other books come like a cool drink of water on a hot afternoon. They reaffirm what you thought you knew, and shore up your pre-existing convictions. We need these ones, too. David Powlison’s new book was decidedly in the second group for me.

 

Sanctification is a topic that has received a lot of attention over the past few years. We have grown accustomed to hearing of the centrality of the gospel in sanctification. And, of course, it is exactly the case that the gospel goes far beyond our justification, and is, indeed, essential to our sanctification. Yet, as is so often the case, people may have taken this a bit too far. Suddenly the cure for every ill was “look to the gospel” or “be gospel-centered.” Some went so far as to promote a kind of “hypergrace” that insists sanctification can be had in no other way than meditating upon the gospel and applying its promises. It said something like, “You are sanctified by remembering and believing afresh that you are justified by what Jesus did on the cross for you.” Everything else was given the ugly label of “legalism.” And it is in just this context that Powlison prepared his book.

 

What Powlison wants and promotes is a well-balanced understanding of sanctification that accounts for the many and varied means God uses to make his people holy. Faith in the gospel is the foundation for all sanctification and meditation upon the gospel is one means of gaining it. But it is not the only one. Rather, God has given us many and varied means and different ones will apply to different people at different times in their lives. The means God uses for me today, may be very different from what he uses for you tomorrow.

 

This emphasis makes How Does Sanctification Work? a book perfectly suited to this point in church history. It addresses and resolves one of the key points of confusion in the church today. Yet its principles are timeless, making it a book well-suited to any other point in church history. I enthusiastically recommend it.

 

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