Why Read the Puritans?

Why Read the Puritans?

As a pastor I am often asked for recommendations on books and specific authors to read. Often, I point people to the Puritans. In fact, I lead a men’s group in our church and we meet for bagels and coffee on Tuesday mornings, and the book we’re currently reading is The Works of George Swinnock Vo. 1. Sometimes people will respond to me by stating that the Puritans are a bit of a challenge to read with their long sentence structures or choice of vocabulary. Reading the Puritans is a spiritual investment into your soul that you will learn to love and cherish the more you read and spend time in the library of the Puritans.

The Puritan View of Scripture

When you read the writings of the Puritans, in the majority of the works, you are reading transcripts or essays taken from sermons that were preached to their churches. They were consistently in the Scripture as they were known to be constantly preaching the Word. It was Charles Spurgeon who said the following about John Bunyan:

Read anything of his, and you will see that it is almost like reading the Bible itself. He had read it till his very soul was saturated with Scripture; and, though his writings are charmingly full of poetry, yet he cannot give us his Pilgrim’s Progress—that sweetest of all prose poems — without continually making us feel and say, “Why, this man is a living Bible!” Prick him anywhere—his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God. I commend his example to you, beloved. [1]

If you want a prime example of what it means to embrace the full sufficiency of Scripture for all of life and godliness—examine the life and worship of the Puritans. They held to a firm grasp of the Bible’s inerrancy while consistently reading and saturating their minds with the Scriptures for both devotional and ministry. We would do well to emulate their view of Scripture.

The Puritan Pursuit of Holiness

The Puritans grew out of a time period of great trials and church life that emphasized ecclesiastical hierarchy that often promoted Phariseeism—the heart of hypocrisy. The Puritans despised such an approach to religion, which they felt should be experiential (or experimental). The warm devotional life of the Puritans led to a genuine submission to God, through his Word, which promoted a life of holiness rather than hypocrisy.

The Puritan approach to preaching confronted the consciences of people, warning them of sin, and pointing them to the cross of Jesus. As one Puritan wrote, “We must go with the stick of divine truth and beat every bush behind which a sinner hides, until like Adam who hid, he stands before God in his nakedness.” Thomas Boston once wrote:

In vain will ye fast, and pretend to be humbled for our sins, and make confession of them if our love of sin be not turned into hatred; our liking of it into loathing; and our cleaving to it, into a longing to be rid of it; with full purpose to resist the motions of it in our heart, and the outbreakings thereof in our life; and if we turn not unto God as our rightful Lord and Master, and return to our duty again. [2]

The Puritans and Perseverance

Who are the Puritans? Joel Beeke writes, “They were not only the two thousand ministers who were ejected from the Church of England by the Act of Uniformity in 1662, but also those ministers in England and North America, from the sixteenth century through the early eighteenth century, who worked to reform and purify the church and to lead people toward godly living consistent with the Reformed doctrines of grace.” [3]

Needless to say, they understood trials and how to walk through the fire in order to live for the glory of God. Thomas Boston wrote, “Affliction doth not rise out of the dust or come to men by chance; but it is the Lord that sends it, and we should own and reverence His hand in it.” [4] George Whitefield once said the following of the Puritans:

The Puritans [were] burning and shining lights. When cast out by the black Bartholomew Act, and driven from their respective charges to preach in barns and fields, in the highways and hedges, they in a special manner wrote and preached as men having authority. Though dead, by their writings they yet speak: a peculiar unction attends them to this very hour (Works, 4:306-307).

As we consider the Puritans’ boldness in their reform attempts of the Church of England and their unwillingness to compromise in their worship of God—such a boldness requires faithfulness under trial. John Flavel once said, “The Scriptures teach us the best way of living, the noblest way of suffering, and the most comfortable way of dying.”

I would encourage you to make it a point to read the Puritans. You will find that their use of poetry and imagery elevates the beauty of Christ. As you read the Puritans, at times you will smell the jail and at other times you will smell the fragrance of grace and see the light of the gospel. They were aquainted with grief and yet pointed faithfully to Christ.

I would like to recommend a couple of resources for you if you’re new to the Puritans:

  1. Mr. Spurgeon as a Literary Man,” in The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon, Compiled from His Letters, Diaries, and Records by His Wife and Private Secretary, vol. 4, 1878-1892 (Curtis & Jennings, 1900), p. 268.
  2. The Works of Thomas Boston, reprint Richard Owen Roberts, 1980, v. 11, p. 347.
  3. Joel Beeke, “Why You Should Read the Puritans” [accessed 3/3/20]
  4. Thomas Boston, “Of the Decrees of God,” Commentary on the Shorter Catechism.
Graciousness — John Crotts

Graciousness — John Crotts

It has been a joy to read a book by my friend John Crotts titled, Graciousness: Tempering Truth with Love. Not only does Pastor John Crotts have a love for the truth, but he is a very gracious man at the same time. Therefore, I felt that the book was in many ways what he has learned and employed in his own life and ministry approach. One of the things I appreciated about the book was that John Crotts never once promoted the idea of capitulating on truth in order to be gracious to people. This is one of the greatest traps of our day. He keeps a good balance for the love and bold stand of the truth while delivering the message with love.

In the opening chapter, he writes, “God cares about more than just the words you say. He also cares about how you say those words” (2). As Pastor John begins the book he provides a good illustration about a golf expert who had the greatest experience and knowledge to help with your swing, but his breath was terrible. In fact, he describes him as one who had apparently digested a skunk. He writes, “No matter how good and necessary the content of his conversation, you no longer want to hear it. You need space. You need oxygen. The message may be clear and good for your ears to hear, but your nose wants nothing to do with it” (1). This is a good way of beginning the book to point out that truth zealots can often be full of really good information, but if it’s communicated without love it will often not be received well.

John Crotts does a good job of driving home the point that people who love the truth (and that should be all Christians) should not be using their “newfound knowledge of the truth like a club to assault those around them who have different understandings of the Bible” (4). The Bible is not a club to hit people with, it’s God’s Word that communicates the truth of his sufficient revelation and the hope of sinners in Christ Jesus.

Furthermore, one of the excuses that I’ve heard through the years is that some people are just born with a certain mean streak and a lack of tactfulness. Therefore, they walk around cutting people with their sharp tongue that has no filter and no sheath to protect the person from harming themselves or others in the process. John Crotts does a good job of driving home the point that all Christians need graciousness and should employ it in relationships and ministry. Regarding pastoral ministry, he writes, “An elder, according to Paul, must know God’s truth well enough to positively exhort God’s people in sound doctrine, and to negatively rebuke those who contradict that truth (Titus 1:9)” (21).

One of the best chapters and most helpful for the local church was the fifth chapter — devoted to “The Truth about an Ungracious Church.” At the beginning, John Crotts does a good job of explaining the good qualities of the church at Ephesus. It was a truth-loving church and devoted to guarding, preaching, and spreading truth. They were committed to training and developing elders for preaching and teaching the truth, but as John Crotts makes clear—they were an ungracious people. John Crotts writes:

The Ephesian believers were truth lovers who were harsh. Their love for the truth brought out an edge in the way they dealt with others, probably without and especially within the church. The sharp sword of God was rightly being used to cut the truth from error, but it seems that they were using it to cut each other up as well. Jesus charges them to return to the works they had done at first, which refers to loving, good works toward those around them. That is an important reason why this charge seems to refer to their first love for other people and not just their love for the Lord (55).

This is a short book, only ten chapters consisting of 137 pages. It’s well worth the time and investment as a church leader, but it would really be good for the whole church to read. It’s non-technical and intended for the average Christian in the local church. I commend this book to you and believe it will benefit your congregation as you read and consider the importance of permeating the spirit of love and graciousness throughout your church family.

You can purchase the book at Amazon.

The Moment of Truth — Steven Lawson

The Moment of Truth — Steven Lawson

In his book, The Moment of Truth,  Steven Lawson makes the clear argument that truth exists, it’s reliable, and it reigns supreme. He clearly establishes his points from the pages and authority of holy Scripture. The book is a published collection of sermons that reads more like a book than a sermon—and has a clear developmental flow throughout the entire book. There are three clear divisions, “The Reality of Truth,” “The Rejection of Truth,” and finally “The Reign of Truth.”

As our culture celebrates lies and rejects absolute truth, Lawson does an excellent job of demonstrating the failure and folly of such a position. While his point is established by the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word—Lawson does a great job of weaving into the chapters relevant cultural examples from creation, popular atheists, and other culturally relevant examples to illustrate his point. In demonstrating the foolishness of rejecting divine truth, Lawson writes:

One astute philosopher has said that we are raising a generation of “moral stutterers.” Others call it “moral illiteracy.” Yet another observer says, “There is a hole in our moral ozone.” This has produced an imploding world in which abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, pornography, transgender identity, and all manner of lewd behavior are practiced and approved of. This abandonment of moral values can be traced back to the rejection of the truth. When absolute truth departs, everything is up for grabs. Tragically, modern man now has feet firmly planted in midair. [1]

The excuses of modern man is planted deep in the moral decay of the depraved mind and conscience. The natural man cannot discern the things of the Spirit of God. The depraved mind refuses to receive truth. Lawson points to believable truth as he appeals to Jesus’ position of Scripture as he quotes from Luke 16:17 and Matthew 4:4. He quotes James Montgomery Boice as stating, “the most important reason for believing the Bible to be the written Word of God is the unmistakable teaching of Jesus Christ Himself, who held the Bible in highest regard.” [2]

In defense of reliable truth, based on evidence of a divine Creator, Lawson writes, “There is only one reasonable, rational explanation for the creation of the universe, and it is the existence of a Creator. Everyone should know that out of nothing, nothing comes. There is no impersonal force or random explosion in outer space that could have created everything out of nothing, much less with the perfect design it all possesses.” [3]

As Lawson brings the book to a close, he demonstrates that the reign of truth results in two clear developments—people who worship God and those who will forever reject God and be judged by truth at the judgment. The final two chapters contrast one another well and make a clear point that we want to be worshipper of God rather than those who are judged by God. When truth is received it results in worship but when rejected it results in judgment. Lawson quotes R.C. Sproul as stating, “Modern man is betting his eternal destiny that there is no final judgment.” [4]

In conclusion, Lawson does a good job of appealing to people to point people to Jesus Christ. He writes:

What responsibility we have to go to our families, friends, classmates, and colleagues with a sense of urgency to share the love of God in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. How shall they escape if they neglect so great a salvation? How compulsory it is for us to go into all the world and to preach repentance before God and faith in Jesus Christ. how we must be used by God to reach others so that they may embrace the reality of truth in the word of the cross, rather than one day having to face the final retribution of truth in the final judgment. [5]

Final Assessment

I believe this book is worthy of your attention in our age of cultural relativism and our age of confusion. People today are more likely to embrace a lie than they are the truth about God. This book establishes the truth based on God’s Word and then points people to their hope in Christ. This book is about the reality of truth, but Lawson doesn’t divorce truth from the good news of Jesus Christ.

I find this book easy to read and extremely relevant. I would recommend it to anyone in the church and it would be vitally important for high school students, college students, parents, and pastors. You can order the book at the following locations:

Ligonier Ministries

I was not asked to provide a positive review of this book, so the opinion expressed in this review is simply my opinion based on my reading of the book.

  1. Steven J. Lawson, The Moment of Truth, (Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust, 2018), 6.
  2. Ibid., 57.
  3. Ibid., 109.
  4. Ibid., 213.
  5. Ibid., 230.
From Creation to Salvation

From Creation to Salvation

In recent years, it has been my joy to serve as pastor to a wonderful and gifted young lady named Lita Cosner.  It has also been my joy to read her new book—From Creation to Salvation: What Jesus and the New Testament authors believed about Genesis.  I must admit that her dedication line caused me to get a bit choked up when I first opened her book.  She writes, “Dedicated in memory of my great-grandmother Lois Brown (1916-2011) in the hope of the resurrection which will reunite us in the presence of Christ.

The foreword is written by Dr. Kenneth Gentry and in his opening words, he writes the following:

Christian once cleverly complained: “If God through that creation was so important, why didn’t he put it closer to the front of the Bible?”  This amusing query speaks powerfully to the significance of creation in Scripture: the Bible actually opens with this doctrine…In this insightful, practical, and compelling book, Lita Cosner demonstrates why it is impossible for the truly Bible-believing Christian to deny recent, six-day creation (7).

The book itself is arranged into two main sections.  The first section is centered on the doctrine of creation in the New Testament and the second section is focused upon Adam in the New Testament, which as you can imagine, begins with the historic Adam and ends with the Last Adam—Jesus Christ.

All through the book, Lita connects the dots from creation to salvation.  In her opening line, she writes, “If you don’t understand the doctrine of creation, you can’t properly understand the doctrine of salvation” (11).  Interestingly enough, Lita begins with an emphasis upon the Son’s role in the work of creation as revealed to us in the pages of the New Testament.  This is a theme she picks back up in full in the fourth chapter.  What was somewhat veiled in the Old Testament has become unveiled in the New Testament.

This book also begins with a focus on the connection of other key doctrines to the doctrine of creation.  Lita writes, “Creation was also used to ground practical doctrines as well.  Question so marriage (Matthew 19:1-9) and order within the church (1 Corinthians 11:2-12; 1 Timothy 2:8-14) were decided based on details of creation” (20).   This is a critical point of consideration, especially for those who minimize or seek to deny the doctrine of creation.

In the second section, Lita begins with an important focus on the historical Adam.  Unfortunately, over the years many liberal interpretations have been accepted which denigrate the authenticity of the progenitor of the human race.  Not only does this view do violence to the real human named Adam—it does violence to the Word of God.  Lita writes:

This is transparently an attempt to salvage Christianity in the face of what they view as the ‘fact’ of evolution and its obvious discord with the book of Genesis.  But Christianity, unlike many other religions, is built on events which are claimed to be historical (115).

In her final section, she covers a great deal of ground in a short number of pages.  However, without being rushed, she deals with important themes such as Jesus as the promised offspring who would contend with the serpent’s offspring, the ability or inability of Jesus to sin, the defeat of the serpent at the cross, Jesus as the Last Adam, and how the last enemy—death itself is defeated by Christ.

As a form of conclusion, Lita writes the following:

There are many views of Genesis that are considered to be within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy today; some take Genesis to be almost entirely mythical, while biblical (‘young earth’) creationists take it as entirely historical, and there are many views in between.  But the ‘gold standard’ for a Christian view on anything should begin with the question, ‘What did Jesus believe?” We have seen that Jesus believed Adam and Eve were created in the image of God at the beginning of history, and they were the first married couple.  Jesus believed righteous Abel was the first martyr, and He believed Noah’s Flood was a global catastrophe that killed all outside the Ark.

Not only do I believe this is a good book for the local church, I believe it’s a great resource for the home.  Is your group looking for a good book to read over coffee on Saturday mornings?  You need to consider Lita Cosner’s book.  It’s not academic and non-practical.  In fact, she does a great job of condensing rich biblical truths into a theologically accurate and practical book.  The church needs more ladies like Lita who have a passion for truth.

Buy it (and review it) on Amazon


“The Shack” and What It Says about Evangelicalism

“The Shack” and What It Says about Evangelicalism

In 2008, William Paul Young wrote a book titled The Shack that was instantly a best-seller.  It ascended to the top of the best-selling lists (including the New York Times and Amazon), and like many successful books often do, it has now morphed into a movie.  The book originally written as a Christmas gift for a family has sold over 20-million copies and become one of the top 70 books in the history of printed books.

Recently the trailer for the movie based on Young’s book was released.  The movie itself is set to be released in 2017, but the hype and anticipation has already started to build.  That’s to be expected when you have people like Eugene Peterson making statements such as, “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” did for his. It’s that good!” [1]  To be honest, the trailer for the movie was greatly appealing and demonstrated a high quality that will likely be very successful.  Why should Christians be concerned?  What lessons can be learned from the success of The Shack that might help us all moving forward?

A Word About the Book—The Shack

The book itself demonstrates the fact that William Young is a good writer.  Through the use of written language, Young captivates the reader with masterful descriptions of mysterious theological subjects and doctrines.  This is always a wonderful way to teach the Bible and has long been employed by men like John Bunyan and C. S. Lewis, but in the case of The Shack, the teaching is sub-par, or to use the language of Albert Mohler in his review of the book back in 2010—”sub-biblical.” [2]

The book is based on the story of a man named Mackenzie (goes by Mack) and his encounter with the godhead following a horrible tragedy where his daughter (Missy) was brutally murdered in an old shack after being abducted during a family vacation.  Although Young tackles some very difficult subjects related to human tragedy, in his attempt to point people to God, he instead points people to an African-American woman named Papa (who transformed at one point into a gray-haired man), a middle-aged man named Jesus who was of a Middle-Eastern descent, and a small woman of Asian descent named Sarayu.  This is where things derail from the biblical theology tracks in an epic train wreck.

Like many books that become popular in evangelicalism (such as Heaven is for Real), when people are captivated by the emotion of hardship or tragedy, they’re often willing to accept the false teaching that walks through the open gates of their heart like a Trojan horse.  Although William Young is a gifted communicator, what he communicates about God in his book The Shack is simply not true and it’s heresy.  Therefore, no matter how his skill is with the English language and his ability to captivate his audience, if what he speaks isn’t true and if it violates the God of holy Scripture, we must avoid it.  Although the movie can’t be reviewed, what can be accurately predicted is that no matter how well the acting and production of the movie is—the stench of heresy is already detectable from a distance.

A Call for Christian Discernment

Heavenly tourism books have become widely popular within the evangelical community in recent years.  It seems that if one wants to be successful in the area of fiction and non-fiction, if a story can be captured about a person’s trip to heaven (or in this case – to a shack) where he or she interacts with God and returns to tell the vivid story with eye-popping details, it’s a sure recipe for success.  This is a lamentable fact, and one that the evangelical church must come face-to-face with (Prov. 15:21).

As the psalmist declared in Psalm 119:66, we as God’s children should long for clear, controlled, and robust discernment.  Since the Scriptures are God’s Word and the church is “a pillar and buttress of truth,” we must be able to “guard the good deposit” that has been entrusted to us (1 Tim 3:15; 2 Tim. 1:14).  Therefore, laziness when it comes to biblical truth has no place in the church of Jesus Christ.  There’s no reason a book like The Shack should find its way to the top of best-selling lists by the help of the Christian community.

Lessons to be Learned

Early in 2016 I was preaching in a conference held on the campus of a large Southern Baptist Church.  Between sessions, I was given access to their library and coffee shop area where I could read and pray.  As I browsed around the bookshelves, the paradox of evangelicalism was apparent on the shelves of this church’s library.  On the same shelf separated by just a few books were two very different books by two very different authors—Sara Young’s Jesus Calling and Paul Washer’s The Gospel’s Power and Message.  This is where we are as evangelicals, so long as Jesus’ names is used or the title contains Christian vocabulary, it’s readily received and granted access to the local church’s library.

Lessons to be learned from The Shack and other heavenly tourism books that fall into this same category are numerous.  There are far too many lessons to learn than I have time and space to mention, but one noteworthy lesson is—doctrine matters.  If we attempt to teach the Bible with stories, illustrations, anthropomorphism, and humor, that’s wonderful, but those stories, illustrations, anthropomorphisms, and humor must be communicated with theological precision.  We don’t want a surgeon operating on us who has been guilty of medical malpractice, and that same principle is true when it comes to those who teach us the Bible.

This successful book that boasts of Christian theology presents an inaccurate view of the Trinity, reverses the masculinity of God into a feminine goddess, denies Jesus of His sovereignty as a member of the godhead, and maligns the proper understanding of the Holy Spirit.  One of the core errors of the book is the improper understanding of submission and a rejection of Trinitarian hierarchy.  It seems that there is a constant imbalance and misunderstanding of the roles and relationships between the members of the Trinity throughout the book and certainly will be played out in the movie.  Tim Challies concludes in his thorough review of The Shack back in 2008, “Overall, I had to conclude that Young has an inadequate and often-unbiblical understanding of the Trinity.” [3]

In one scene, Jesus poked his head into the dining area to inform Papa that he had put the tools they would need just outside the door.  Papa thanked Jesus, who kissed him on the lips and left out the back door.  Where do we ever see Jesus informing the Father of anything in the Bible?  In another scene, Jesus communicates the following to Mack:

Papa is as much submitted to me as I am to him, or Sarayu to me, or Papa to her. Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect. In fact, we are submitted to you in the same way.

If that’s not bad enough, Jesus goes on to communicate another ancient heresy to Mack by saying, “Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions.” Jesus continues by saying, “I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, my Beloved.”

Mack responds to Jesus, “Do all roads lead to Christ?” Jesus then provides an answer that points to universalism—“Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.”  The answer to Mack’s question is an obvious rejection of verses such as John 14:6 and Acts 4:12 that teach the absolute exclusivity of Christ.  Jesus doesn’t travel down the road of Mormonism to find people.  Sure, Jesus can find lost sinners anywhere, but to suggest that “those who love” Jesus come from every system that exists is a tragic error. To communicate that Jesus doesn’t want to make anyone a Christian is a tragic mistake, and to teach people that Jesus wants to “join us” in our transformation into sons of Papa is a reversal of roles.  Jesus is sovereign and we respond to Him.  We love because He first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19).  This book, although celebrated by many Christians is an anti-Christian book and will subsequently become an anti-Christian movie.

One final take-away that we must learn from such books and movies is that God has one primary method of delivering His revelation to us and it’s through holy Scripture.  To bypass the Bible and learn about the Trinity through The Shack is to do yourself a great injustice and the results will be catastrophic.  God has a proper and fitting revelation of Himself, and He has unveiled that glorious revelation in the pages of sacred Scripture—not The Shack or any other book like it.  Ancient mysticism has crept back into the church in our day, and unfortunately it’s widely popular.  Why not just come to know God, true Christian theology, and a proper response to the deepest human suffering by reading God’s book—the Bible?

Indictments to be Received

The success of The Shack is a true indictment on the shallowness of mainstream evangelicalism.  The church is not only called to evangelize the world with the gospel, she is also called to have biblical discernment.  That lack of concern when it comes to understanding the Bible and the core essential teachings of Scripture among many evangelical Christians should bring about great concern.  When bookstores, even Christian bookstores, are willing to peddle books like The Shack and other sub-Christian titles, we should be greatly concerned. Albert Mohler writes:

The Shack is a wake-up call for evangelical Christianity…The popularity of this book among evangelicals can only be explained by a lack of basic theological knowledge among us — a failure even to understand the Gospel of Christ. The tragedy that evangelicals have lost the art of biblical discernment must be traced to a disastrous loss of biblical knowledge. Discernment cannot survive without doctrine. [4]

A further indictment must be centered on the pulpit in the evangelical church today.  Christians, if taught properly each Lord’s Day from the pulpit, would detest such books as The Shack.  If robust teaching was the common diet, books like The Shack would be so unsuccessful that a movie producer wouldn’t give it a second thought—because in his mind he needs the evangelical church to buy tickets to watch it.  Therefore, when the pulpit is shallow, dysfunctional, and sub-Christian—you can expect the people to crave that same type of entertainment.

Pastors guard your people by telling them the truth.  Brothers and sisters in Christ, please make the movie version of this heretical book far less successful by staying home.

  1. Statement by Eugene Peterson can be found as a glaring endorsement written on the front bottom of the paperback version in most cases.
  2. Albert Mohler, “The Shack — The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment” [accessed 12-4-16]
  3. Tim Challies, “The Shack” by William P. Young [accessed 12-5-16]
  4. Mohler, “The Shack — The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment” [accessed 12-4-16]
Perseverance in the Spiritual Disciplines

Perseverance in the Spiritual Disciplines

This summer, we have been reading Don Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life together. With certain goals for us as individuals, we all desire to grow in grace and personal holiness. The purpose of this study is to help us make necessary adjustments in our spiritual lives that will enable us to achieve such goals by incorporating the use of spiritual disciplines.  Today marks the end of this study and I trust it has been profitable to your soul.  If you would like to add to the discussion, as always, post your comments below.

The Role of the Holy Spirit

In this section, Don Whitney reminds us that the Holy Spirit makes us more like Jesus through the Disciplines. It’s not our effort in the Disciplines that produces the change.  Don Whitney quotes D. A. Carson in a needful warning regarding the pursuit of godliness.

D. A. Carson warns, “What is universally presupposed by the expression ‘spiritual discipline’ is that such disciplines are intended to increase our spirituality From a Christian perspective, however, it is simply not possible to increase one’s spirituality without possessing the Holy Spirit and submitting to his transforming instruction and power.”

The point is clearly made in this final chapter that no matter how dedicated a person is in practicing the Spiritual Disciplines, without the Holy Spirit the effort will be in vain.  However, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the child of God will have a desire for godly pursuits.  Don Whitney writes, “Wherever the Holy Spirit dwells, His holy presence creates a hunger for holiness” (290).

The Role of Fellowship

One of the most important statements in this book is found on page 293 as Don Whitney writes, “No one should read of these Disciplines and imagine that by practicing them in isolation from other believers he or she can be as Christlike—perhaps even more so—than Christians who are active members of a local body of Christ” (293).  He goes on to write, “One obvious reason we can’t take the Spiritual Disciplines and become spiritual recluses is that many biblical Disciplines—public worship, united prayer, participation in the lord’s Supper, serving other disciplines, and more—cannot be practiced without other Christians” (293).

No matter how dedicated a person is regarding the Spiritual Disciplines, they will never reach true godliness apart from the local church.  The point is, we need one another for fellowship and we need the corporate worship and service as a means of Spiritual Discipline in our lives.  What a critical mistake it is when people pursue godliness apart from the local church.  Consider Acts 2 and the fellowship of the early church.  Consider 1 John 1:3-4 and the mention of fellowship.  Consider Hebrews 10:25 and the necessity of assembling with the church.  Consider the model put forth in Titus 2 for the older people to train the younger people within the church.  You can’t pursue spiritual maturity while remaining disconnected from the local church.  It’s an impossible and fruitless pursuit.

The Role of Struggle

Don Whitney reminds his readers, and appropriately so, that the Christian life is not an easy life. He seeks to encourage us all by warning us of the struggle that accompanies the Christian life.  Paul makes this point clear as he writes in 1 Timothy.

1 Timothy 4:7-8 – Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; [8] for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

1 Timothy 4:10 – For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

When we hear sermons and read books where people suggest that the Christian life is easy if you follow a certain rules or steps along the way – they’ve missed true Christianity.  Read the New Testament. Look at the struggle. Look at the hardships. Look at the challenges. Look at the tears. Look at the death. Look at the persecution. Look at the discouragement. Look at the pain.  Christianity – real Christianity – is not an easy journey. We must discipline ourselves for the race of life.

Chapter 17 of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith is on Perseverance. In paragraph three, the statement reads:

In various ways-the temptations of Satan and of the world, the striving of indwelling sin to get the upper hand, the neglect of the means appointed for their preservation-saints may fall into fearful sins, and may even continue in them for a time.  In this way they incur God’s displeasure, grieve His Holy Spirit, do injury to their graces, diminish their comforts, experience hardness of heart and accusations of conscience, hurt and scandalize others, and bring God’s chastisements on themselves.  Yet being saints their repentance will be renewed, and through faith they will be preserved in Christ Jesus to the end.

Catch up in this series:

Opening Article
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12

Questions to Consider:

  1. Would you be godly? Then practice the Spiritual Disciplines in light of eternity.
  2. Would you be godly? There’s no other way by through the Spiritual Disciplines.

This is the final post in this study of Don Whitney’s book.  I trust that you have found it profitable to your soul and challenging at the same time.  If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can do so through the following:

Where to Buy the Book

Spiritual-DisciplinesIt’s quite possible to find the book in your local bookstore, but you can likewise find it online.

I look forward to reading this book with you this summer.  All that’s required of you is to purchase the book and read chapter 1 before June 2nd when the first article will appear here on the blog.

Ephesians 4:11-14 – And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Discussion: Post your comments, thoughts, and questions in the comments section. I will engage with you at times, but the purpose is to allow everyone to have a conversation regarding what we are learning and considering through this book. I do hope you will be encouraged.