Thursday, August 10, 2006

Book Recommendation-TRUST AND OBEY Obedience and the Christian Don Kistler General Editor

Reading "Trust and Obey" for the first time, all those years ago, was an eye-opener for me. It is a compilation edited by Don Kistler ofSoli Deo Gloria Publications. S.D.G. (now part of Ligonier Ministries) reprints many writings by the Puritans, and those who followed in their footsteps. They also publish books like Trust and Obey, featuring contemporary authors writing on the same theme. Here the theme is stated in the sub-title, “Obedience and the Christian.”

On the book’s back cover is this comment by John MacArthur, “The relationship between faith and works is one of the most puzzling questions every Christian must face. Here is where doctrine and theology get most intensely practical.” The book’s introduction states, “It is our intention as publishers of this work to remind the church of the propriety of good works...though our works of obedience are of no consideration in procuring justification, or in obtaining a title to eternal life, they are most important in offsetting those fatal and opposite extremes, legalism and antinomian licentiousness. The former infringes on the glory of grace, exalts self and wounds our peace. The latter turns the grace of God into wantonness, hardens our conscience, and renders us worse than unbelievers.” These statements summarize the book quite well.

“Oh How I Love Thy Law!”, by R.C. Sproul, starts off the book. He shows the connection between the Old and New Testaments. Both testaments speak about law and grace, and the difference between them. The gospel starts in the Old Testament and is fully developed in the New. He addresses those who would say, “Are you crazy? We live on this side of the cross. We don’t sit around and delight in the law of God.” He answers, “If you are a Christian, you do. (delight in God’s law). And if you do not delight in the law of God, don’t deceive yourself into thinking that you are a regenerate person. Don’t think that the gospel which frees you from the curse of the law is a license for you to despise the law or ignore the law.”

Michael Horton is up next with, “Filthy Rags or Perfect Righteousness?” He looks at metaphors Scripture uses to describe salvation. He focuses on the metaphor of wearing someone else’s clothes. Starting with Adam and Eve, he shows how we wear Christ’s righteousness. It is not our good works that save, but that we are wearing His righteousness. He goes on to show the relationship between truly wearing Christ’s righteousness and obedience. If you are truly saved you are being sanctified, and it shows. He comments, “Thus, the whole of our Christian life is a constant process of realizing God’s judgment and justification, moving from self-loathing to fixing ‘our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith’ (Hebrews 12:2)”

John MacArthur’s chapter, “Obedience: Love or Legalism?” is quite similar to his books “The Gospel According to Jesus” and “Faith Works”. Both of these books are also well worth reading. MacArthur writes about some of the reaction to “The Gospel According to Jesus,” and addresses whether we obey God out of love or out of duty. He writes, “I agree that it is possible to place so much stress on the duty of obedience that we lose sight of the joy of it. After all, the Christian’s obedience should be a delight...Nonetheless, the danger of overemphasis is very real on both sides of this truth. It is not quite right to say ‘We obey out of love for Christ...and not out of duty.’ Duty and love are not incompatible motives.” In dealing with how duty can become legalism he deals with what duty is and it is not. He wraps up by showing how Christian obedience is different from legalism.

In “The Obedience of Faith,” John Armstrong deals with obedience as a fruit of faith. He looks at what came out of the Reformation in regard to obedience. He also looks at various aspects of salvation. I do not agree completely with Armstrong in all of what he writes here, but I do agree that the various aspects of salvation can never be fully separated. True repentance will bear fruit. Even the thief on the cross in Luke’s gospel has fruit. He defends Christ.

“Legalism and Antinomianism: Two Deadly Paths off the Narrow Road,” by Jonathan Gerstner was the highlight of the book for me. Starting with the final judgment he quotes Jesus’ words from Matthew 7:23, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.” Gerstner sets up his look at the two sides by writing, “Christ does not warn those He knows of the danger of departing. He warns His disciples to see if they are truly His disciples. One can do remarkable, even miraculous deeds in Christ’s name, have a complete confidence that one is in a state of saving grace, be bold enough to greet Christ on Judgment Day, and never have a living relationship with Him.”

His chapter has descriptive titles for the sections including, “Legalism: The Ugly Bribe to the Holy Judge” and “Classical Antinomianism: The Heresy of the Justified Pig”. He also looks at the legalism Paul addresses in his letter to the Galatians, abuse of the term “legalism,” and modern twists on both legalism and antinomianism (including the unbiblical interpretation of the carnal Christian). He brings it back to Judgment Day, and gives us the flip side of “Depart from Me”-for believers-“Abide with Me, I always knew you.”

In “Glad Obedience”, Joel Beeke and Ray Lanning look at what they call the didactic (teaching) use of the Law in showing us how we ought to live. They include a look at the Sabbath. This can be a controversial topic. I do not agree with all of their conclusions, but agree with the spirit of what they are trying to do. They end by quoting John Calvin, “Let us therefore live for Him and die for Him. We are God’s: let His wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God’s: let all parts of our life accordingly strive toward Him as our only lawful goal.” (from “Institutes of the Christian Religion” 3.7.1.)

Overall this is a thought provoking and informative book I highly recommend. It needs to be read to be fully appreciated. I found the best chapters to be Gerstner’s and MacArthur’s, and the weakest to be Armstrong’s. With references to scripture and hymns, Don Kistler wraps up the book in a postscript. His concluding words are well worth repeating-“Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). “Do not be deceived. Judas heard all of Christ’s sermons, yet he is in hell today, tormented by that which he heard and to which he failed to respond. Those who will one day see Christ are those who obey Him from the heart-not to earn His favor, but evidence His favor. Soli Deo Gloria!”

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Anonymous David Richardson said...

A recommendation for anything that Soli Deo Gloria publishes is a good recommendation. Don Kistler has done a great job as founder and editor of SDG. The man doesn't deserve the evil that's come against him. May God deliver him. Ligonier Ministries Defrauds Soli Deo Gloria

2:16 PM  
Blogger pilgrim said...

I'd be interested in hearing both sides of this.

If the allegations are true it is indeed sad. (I'm not saying there are or are not--but the link is a little one sided. I have seen similar accusations made that appear open & shut cases until you hear the other side.)

I have benefited from both Sproul's & Kistler's ministries--but thankfully I have not set either one up as an idol. (Which actually can be very tempting at times.)

Things need to be set sorted out there.

9:03 PM  
Anonymous David Richardson said...

I agree. I hope that R.C. will come forward soon and make a public statement about this. He really needs to. Otherwise it's just going to look bad.

1:56 PM  

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