Recommended Reading

Our Church library has recently acquired a new collection of books by Dr. R. C. Sproul, and I thought I’d take the opportunity here to recommend some excellent reading material.

Sproul, who passed away in December of 2017, served the church as a seminary professor, pastor, and author of more than 90 books. He was the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, and was heard on the radio program Renewing Your Mind, as well as the contributing editor of TableTalk Magazine.

What is Reformed Theology – An accessible introduction to a set of beliefs and concepts that have been immensely influential in the evangelical church. In this insightful book, R. C. Sproul walks you through the foundations of the Reformed doctrine and explained how the Reformed belief is center on God, based on God’s Word, and committed to faith in Jesus Christ. Sproul explains the five points of Reformed theology and makes plain the reality of God’s amazing grace.

Willing to Believe – In Willing to Believe, R. C. Sproul uncovers issues that provoked the Reformation and revived the controversy between Pelagius and Augustine. He carefully explores the relationship between original sin and human free will, clarifies misconceptions about the work of God in a believer’s liberation from sin, illuminates the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation, and offers compelling reasons to believe the work of salvation is in God’s hands.

Faith Alone – What must you do to be right with God? The Reformers broke with the Roman Catholic Church when they insisted people are justified by faith alone. But today many Protestants fail to grasp that keystone of faith. In Faith Alone, a Gold Medallion finalist, R. C. Sproul explains why Protestantism and Roman Catholicism split over justification in the first place and why that division remains an uncrossed chasm. Protestants must understand the biblical, Reformation view of the doctrine of justification to grasp the power of the gospel and proclaim it far and wide today. This repacked edition of a classic offers a new generation of Christians a clear explanation of the vital doctrine of salvation.

Getting the Gospel Right – Unity in the gospel is essential to the witness of the church. Yet that unity was tested by the release of two documents, Evangelicals and Catholics Together and The Gift of Salvation, which appeared to surrender the historic doctrine of sola fide (faith alone). In response, Christian leaders released a statement called The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration.
Getting the Gospel Right, a companion to Sproul’s popular Faith Alone, contains the complete text of that statement along with thorough, point-by-point discussion and exposition, to make a strong declaration of the abiding unity of evangelicals regarding the gospel and justification by faith alone.

Enjoying God – In Enjoying God, readers journey with R. C. Sproul to discover the attributes of God through the questions many of us have asked: Where are you, God? Can I trust you, God? and more. In this warm, personal account, Dr. Sproul communicates deep truths in a fresh and easy-to-understand style as he shares his passion to know God and urges the reader to dig deep and seek the God who is alive, who is real, and who loves each one of us.

What we Believe – To be a Christian is to be one who believes. But believes in what? In an age of cafeteria-style religion–a little bit of this, a little bit of that–believers new and old may be overlooking the basic tenets of faith in favor of modern trends that have no biblical basis.
For millennia, Christians have affirmed the Apostles’ Creed because it summarizes the tenets of Christian belief, boldly declaring that there is uncompromising truth that is foundational to life. In this book, renowned theologian R. C. Sproul presents the creed statement by statement, unpacking what it means to believe in God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, and what Christians believe about the church, salvation, and eternal life.

Lifeviews – As Christians we are called to be witnesses of Christ’s Gospel, to be “the salt of the earth and the light of the world.” How can we make that kind of impact in a society filled with darkness and decay?

Dr. R. C. Sproul shows you how in Lifeviews, a layman’s guide to understanding the many non-Christian perspective that influence our culture. Lifeviews offers insight on confronting today’s moral and social issues with an effective Biblical response.

Not a Chance – Despite claiming unbelief in God or any higher power that may have designed or created the world and all that is in it, modern scientists often write and speak of chance as some kind of being or force that can cause things to happen. In one breath they push the evolution agenda and in the next they say that creatures were “designed” with specific traits. In this classic book, R. C. Sproul and Keith Mathison call the scientific world to employ logic and clarity in their discourse, to leave the word chance as an abstract concept to describe mathematical possibilities rather than an ontological being that can actually cause change.

The Last Days According to Jesus – Speculation and theories abound about what the last days have in store for us. But what did Jesus believe and teach about the end times and the timing of his return? R. C. Sproul points believers back to the words of Christ, offering them a solid footing amid ever-shifting opinion about the age to come.

All of these works are available through Ligonier Ministries, Baker Books, Amazon, or Christian Book Distributors.  I highly recommend them to you for your continued growth in faith and understanding.

Savior and Lord

“Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word…
Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.”
(John 14:23–24)

There has been a bit of a brew-ha-ha percolating on the web among many of the “popular” reformed theologians lately, and while I will spare you the “he said – he said” trivium, I will give you the nutshell version:

Essentially, all the excitement comes down to the very old argument on the relationship between faith and works.  The writer at the eye of the storm has written a study on 1 John 5:3 arguing that the reason the commandments of God are not burdensome is that those in Christ don’t have to do them. When you are in Christ, you are free of the commands.

There have been countless responses to this teaching, pointing out that it cannot stand, especially in light of the rest of 1 John 5:3-4, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome.  For everyone who has been born of God has overcome the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.”

I doubt that many of you who are reading this would go so far as to say that faith negates works, that being in Christ cancels all obligations to the call to obedience and righteousness.  We know that we are saved by grace through faith, and not by works (Eph 2:8-9).  But we also know that we are saved by grace through faith so that we may be set free for the good works God has given us to do (Eph. 2:10).

Still, I wonder how many of us, though confessing the truth, live the lie?  We know we are saved by grace through faith and set free for faithful service, but are we slow to obedience?  We are quick to claim Jesus as our Savior, and will even call Him Lord, but how ready are we to bend our knee and bow our head before Him?  Is He Lord, Sovereign over your life, the final authority on how you live and what you believe?

Sadly, many own a divided Christ.

And this is nothing new.

In the 1930’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes.”  Let me unpack that a bit – Faith produces obedience.  When you know and trust the one giving the command, you will obey.  Peter wouldn’t have gotten out of the boat had Jesus not already been standing on the water calling him to His side.  Faith in Christ produces obedience.  At the same time, if there is no obedience, there is no faith.  Disobedience stems from disbelief; if you are having trouble trusting Jesus it is because there is some point in which you are also disobedient to Jesus.

In the 50’s, A.W. Tozer wrote of this in his book, The Root of the Righteous:

It is altogether doubtful whether any man can be saved who comes to Christ for His help but with no intention to obey Him.  Christ’s savior-hood is forever united to His lordship.  Look at the Scriptures: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9).  There the Lord is the object of faith for salvation.  And when the Philippian jailer asked the way to be saved, Paul replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).  He did not tell him to believe on the Savior with the thought that he could later take up the matter of His lordship and settle it at his own convenience.  To Paul there could be not division of offices.  Christ must be Lord or He will not be savior.

Even more recently, R.C. Sproul, in his book, Essential Truth of the Christian Faith, wrote:

Antinomianism… asserts that once a person makes a decision for Christ or prays to receive Jesus as Savior, it is not necessary to embrace Him as Lord.  There are no requirements of law that bind the Christian.  There are a few Christian teachers, if any, who declare that one who embraces Christ as Savior shouldn’t also embrace Him as Lord.  Rather, they encourage the “carnal Christian” to become more spiritual and obedient.  But they shrink from declaring that embracing Christ as Lord is necessary for salvation.  Indeed, they insist that it is not necessary for attaining salvation.

Jesus Christ must be your Lord and Savior.  If you trust in Him for salvation, you will listen to His word.  If you believe in Him, you will obey His commandments.  If you love Him, you will obey Him.  This is not to say that our obedience is perfect.  Were that possible, the cross would have been unnecessary.  Each day we see anew our imperfection, our disobedience, our need for a perfect savior.  The beginning of obedience is the acknowledgment of our reality, the confession of the truth, that we are sinners in need of grace, rebels in need of restoration.  Those who do not obey, those who will not submit to Him, prove that they do not love Him, nor do they truly believe in Him.

If you will have Jesus as your savior, you must also have him as Lord.  He will not be divided, piecemeal, like so many offerings at a buffet.  We cannot take Jesus a la carte – picking and choosing what we think we like and need from Him and leaving the rest behind.  We are not given that choice.  He will be Savior and Lord to you, or He will be nothing to you at all.