My thanks to Jared Wilson, not only for another thoughtful book, but for expressing many of the very things I would like to express. In his 2015 book, Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto Against the Status Quo, Wilson has written a book I wish I had written.
More than 200 names for God are recorded in the Bible. All of them are important. Each of them reveals and affirms certain characteristics of God. While God is incomprehensible – we will never exhaust what there is to know about Him – He is nevertheless knowable. He has revealed himself to us. To know God is to recognize what He is like – and what He is not like. As J.I. Packer once said:
“Those who know God have great thoughts of God.”
So what is God like?
This is not an academic question. Though certainly there are some Academics in the news recently who may have been well served to have given a little more thought to the question before holding a press conference only to display syncretistic ignorance. But even in that instance the question is not merely academic. It is personal.
When asked: “What is the greatest commandment?”, Jesus unhesitatingly declared: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22.36-40; Deuteronomy 6.1-7) So let me ask a somewhat rhetorical question: “How can one love God if little to nothing is known about God? Further, even if it is possible to love a god one knows little about, (and I suspect that it may be possible,) how can we claim to be keeping the command to “Love God with all your mind” if we do not engage our minds to learn more and more about him?
Now let me be clear about something: If you are reading this post, and you feel you are less knowledgeable theologically than you think you ought to be, I am not trying to shame you. Truth is this: I am fairly theologically educated. If you have any knowledge of God at all, the difference between your little knowledge and my educated knowledge is so minimal when compared to what knowledge there is to be known about God, that any sense of haughtiness I might be inclined to project would be laughable, if such pomposity would not be so pathetic. My concern is not who knows more than who, but rather whether we know God, and whether, in keeping with the greatest command, we are engaging our minds to be continually growing in our knowledge of God.
If you have a desire to love the Lord with all your mind, let me offer a handful of suggested books about God with which to feed your mind. None of these are technical, but all are excellent. (To my mind, these are actually better than most of the technical theological books I have read.)
- Knowledge of the Holy by A.W.Tozer
- Attributes of God by A.W. Tozer
- Pleasures of God by John Piper
- The God I Don’t Understand by Christopher Wright
- Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God by Paul Copan
- The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul (Free Video Series)
- Singing God by Sam Storms (Watch Intro Video)
This list is far from exhaustive. There are many excellent books on this subject, and I welcome anyone who would like to add to this list to do so in the comment section. Sadly, there are many, many, bad books under this heading as well. Some of the better books I left off this list are Knowing God by J.I. Packer and Reason for God by Timothy Keller. While I enjoyed and highly commend both of these, the list above reflects a thorough introduction and/or reflection, yet easy reads. Keller’s is excellent for those asking the question: Is There a God? Packer’s would be on my list for next steps.
I will end with this: Earlier this year I heard a statement, attributed to John Piper (though I have been unable to confirm it is his), that stuck with me, resonates, and is appropriate to ponder:
“The mind provides kindling for the heart.”
There should be little debate that the most influential group of people in the world are Moms. While not necessarily true in every individual situation, collectively it is difficult to image any group running even a close second. With this in mind, John Piper plugs a new book, Mom Enough, written by a collection of godly women who are also gifted writers:
- Carolyn McCulley
- Rachel Jankovic
- Gloria Furman
- Rachel Pieh Jones
- Christine Hoover
- Trillia Newbell
- Christina Fox
On a personal note, Christina Fox, and her now husband George, were members of the church I had the privilege to pastor in Chattanooga while they were both attending Covenant College. It has been exciting to see how God has worked in Christina, and how he is now working through her writing and her speaking. Check out Christina’s blog: To Show Them Jesus
If you are a Mom, know a mom, or have a mom, this book is written for you.
In the present sermon series in our church I am working through Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Rather I should say “we” are working through the book of Galatians, as while I am preaching the bulk of the messages I am sharing the teaching with my Associate, Camper Mundy, and a couple of other pastors who are part of our church. But in my preparations for each message there are a few non-technical resources I am uising that would also be beneficial for anyone who is studying Galatians – whether a seminary graduate or a typical church member wanting simply to deepen his/her understanding of this letter.
One of these resources is Tim Keller’s Galatians For You. In the video above Tim introduces his intent in developing this book, and offers some suggestions of how it might be used beneficailly. And though perhaps to those hearing my message may assume seeming little of Keller’s words may be overtly expressed my messages, without question the depth of Keller’s insights has helped shaped my understanding of this book and how the message applies to us today.
Below is a short list of some of the non-technical resources I am reading (or re-reading) during this series, Freedom: A Study of Galatians.
After learning I would be beginning a new sermon series this week, a study of the book of Galatians, a friend and colleague who is an Army Chaplain asked me if I had read the relatively new book, No Other Gospel. Though I had seen it, I admitted I was not really familiar with it. He suggested it would be a good parallel book to coincide with the series of messages we will be offering at Grace Covenant between now and Easter.
I picked it up, skimmed it this afternoon, and expect to commend it to our congregation – at least to those who want to do a little digging of their own over the next few months. (I’ll read it more thoroughly as well.)
The Holy Spirit has garnered a few nicknames through the ages. Among the more appropriate and familiar:
- The Shy member of the Trinity
- The Forgotten member of the Trinity
When considering the person of the Holy Spirit, there are few things that are vital to remember:
- The Holy Spirit is a person, a “He” not an “It”.
- As the Third Person if the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is fully God, and equal with God the Father and God the Son (Jesus) in glory, honor, and power; and equally worthy to receive worship.
The Holy Spirit functions in specific ways:
- Regeneration – giving life to those who are spiritually dead.
- Salvation (Justification) – the Holy Spirit grants both faith and repentance as gifts of grace. Through these, and these alone, is man justified.
- Sanctification – “For those whom God justifies he also sanctifies. ” In other words, there is no one who is “saved” who is not also “sanctified”. Sanctification is both definite and an ongoing process. In work of sanctification Believers are expected to “cooperate” with the Holy Spirit, employing the means of grace. These actions we engage in are not magical, nor automatic, as if anyone who does them will automatically grow in grace. But they are effective. The Holy Spirit works grace in us through these means. We normally see a corresponding maturity in those who regularly and rightly make use of the means of grace, while we see little to no change in those who are lax. But the one constant dynamic is that the Holy Spirit grants both faith and repentance to the believer for sanctification just as he does for justification. In other words, the Christian life consists of continual repentance and renewed belief in the gospel.
- The Holy Spirit cultivates the Fruit of the Spirit in believers.
- The Holy Spirit bestows Spiritual Gifts upon all who believe, for the use in participating and the building up of the local body – The Church – which together advances the Kingdom of God.
Here are some suggested readings to grow in our understanding of the Person & Work of the Holy Spirit: