Laboring after Assurance > pt. 1

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I like to think, inquire and pursue answers to pressing questions. Theologically, there is no end to the potential questions and so inquiries begin compiling. On occasion I need to take a few days to search after specific answers. This is my intention over the next week.

For the past several months I’ve had a number of questions floating around that I thought were disconnected. But the more I have thought about these questions, the most closely related they have become. The questions include: What assurances do we have and pursue to give us confidence that we are truly children of God? How does this laboring after assurance intrude or enhance the Cross-centered life? Are the trials and triumphs of the Psalmist a reflection of the normative Christian life, or an ancient pre-Cross lifestyle that we can avoid? Why is the intense internal life of the Puritans foreign to my own personal experience? Were they overly introspective and legalistic, or do they leave a discernable pattern for the Christian life today?

Like I said, these questions appear on the surface to all be unrelated. However, I’ve come to see them all overlapping into one large question that I want to explore in a short series called “Laboring after Assurance” (words of Puritan John Owen). It is impossible to understand the Puritans until we understand what it meant for them to “labor after assurance.” In fact, if we are to understand the Puritans at all we must understand how they understood assurance of salvation. As Joel Beeke puts it, “assurance was the most critical issue of the post-Reformation” (Quest, 275).

To begin formulating an answer to these questions I turn to several passages in the Psalms, 1 John, and Peter, along with some excerpts I’ve come across in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology, John Owen’s long exposition of Psalm 130 (Works, 6:323-648), The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification by Puritan Walter Marshall (RHB: 1999 ed.), Joel Beeke’s Ph.D. dissertation, The Quest for Full Assurance: The legacy of Calvin and his successors (Banner of Truth: 1999) along with Derek Thomas’ final message at the Banner of Truth Conference.

Tomorrow we will begin a journey of sorts to see what Owen meant when he wrote, “It is the duty of every believer to labor after an assurance of a personal interest in forgiveness, and to be diligent in the cherishing and preservation of it when it is attained” (6:413). To find out what Owen means here, I think, will help us make sense of the Psalmist and the reflective lives of the Puritans.

Book: Sweet Communion by Arie de Reuver

Book Announcement
Sweet Communion by Arie de Reuver

So I was all ready to wind down a bit this weekend, and not push to get another post up. That was all disrupted Saturday when a bubble mailer arrived in my mailbox from Baker Academic. I simply could not wait until next week to announce their new release. The book is Sweet Communion: Trajectories of Spirituality from the Middle Ages through the Further Reformation by Arie de Reuver. The book was published in Dutch in 2002 and translated into English by James A. De Jong.

To explain the importance of this book, I need to give some background.

We are familiar with the English Puritans (men like John Owen, Richard Sibbes, John Bunyan, Thomas Brooks, etc.) primarily because their original works were written in English, and easily reprinted over the centuries with little editing necessary. However, in the Netherlands another “Puritan” movement was taking place. Like their English counterparts, men like Willem Teellinck, Herman Witsius and Thodorus and Wilhelmus à Brakel were producing valuable theological and spiritual works in Dutch. But until only recently has the work of Dr. Joel R. Beeke and the Dutch Reformed Translation Committee made these works more accessible. In fact, one of the great highlights of Beeke’s Meet the Puritans is a section entirely devoted to the Dutchmen of the “Further Reformation” (see pages 739-824). Books of the Dutch “Further Reformation” authors (like the recently translated The Path of True Godliness by Willem Teellinck) bear all the marks of brilliance we see in the English Puritans.

One of the most noticeable strengths of these “Dutch Puritans” (as I call them) is their emphasis on Reformed spirituality and their enjoyment of sweet communion with Christ. Theirs was a deep and sincere devotion to Christ where their union with Christ was the means of experiencing vibrant communion with Christ. They defended the doctrines of grace and simultaneously enjoyed a joyful and warm spirituality.

This beautiful Reformed spirituality can be seen in the works of Wilhelmus à Brakel (1635-1711).

Wilhelmus à Brakel is most noted for his four-volume work, The Christian’s Reasonable Service (Reformation Heritage Books; 1993; 4 vols.). While it looks like another Reformed systematic theology it is actually more practical in nature and intended to provide content for small group discussions as Christians gather to encourage one another in the Christian life. It is one of the beautiful works of the “Dutch Puritans.”

I have noticed in the past the “sweet communion” of the believer with Christ is a theme that sparkles from this work. After emphasizing the marriage union between the Groom (Christ) and His Bride (the Church), à Brakel explains the believer’s communion with Christ within this marital union. Once this union between the sinner and his Savior has taken place in conversion “Jesus Himself delights in having communion with you” (2:93). Read that incredible sentence again! This communion produces a “sweetness and overflowing delight … Here they (Christians) find balm for their sick souls, light to clear up their darkness, life for their deadness, food and drink for their hunger and thirst, peace for their troubled heart, blood to atone for their sins, the Spirit for their sanctification, counsel when they are at their wit’s end, strength for their weakness, and a fullness of all for their manifold deficiencies” (2:93,94).

Of this marital union and the communion that follows, à Brakel writes,

“A temporal believer concerns himself only with the benefits and has no interest in Christ Himself. Believers, however, have communion with the Person of Jesus Christ, but many neither meditate upon nor closely heed their exercises concerning Christ Himself. They err in this, which is detrimental to the strength of their faith and impedes its growth. Therefore we wish to exhort them to be more exercised concerning the truth of belonging to each other, and the union and communion with Jesus Himself. They will then better perceive the unsearchable grace and goodness of God that such wretched and sinful men may be so intimately united with the Son of God. Such reflection will most wondrously set the heart aflame with love. It will strengthen their resolve to put their trust in Jesus without fear. It will give them strength and liberty to obtain everything from Him to fulfill the desires of their soul, causing them to grow in Him, which in turn will generate more light and joy. Therefore, faith, hope, and love are mentioned in reference to the Person of Christ. Scripture speaks of receiving Him, believing in Him, trusting in Him, living in Him, loving Him, and hoping in Him” (2:91).

This beautiful passage points the believer back to the Person of Christ to find her joy and strength in the beauty of Jesus Christ. This light and joy is the byproduct of communion with Him and this communion goes back to the believer’s union with Christ in justification.

Later, à Brakel explains that since our union with Christ is absolute, our communion with Christ does not shift with circumstances or emotions. “By faith, hold fast to the fact that you are reconciled to and are a partaker of Him and His benefits, even if you do not perceive and feel this. This belonging to Him is not based on feeling. If the souls may truly believe this and be exercised therewith, this will lead the soul toward communion with Him” (2:96). Communion can never be separated from our union and our union is described by our justification by faith alone and in our election in the Son. So à Brakel and the “Dutch Puritans” remind us that our sweet communion with Christ is inseparably bound to our understanding of our union with Christ in the gospel!

In his conclusion on the teachings of Wilhelmus à Brakel, de Reuver writes that his “spirituality is one that is rooted in Christ through the word believed, even in its most intimate and mystical moments. This foundation protects his mysticism from spiritualism” (258).

Many today are drawn towards Roman Catholic mysticism or a non-theological spirituality by thinking a deep spiritual experience of Christ can be separated from a genuine understanding of the gospel. This, as à Brakel displays, is not the case. Neither does Reformed theology favor a cold orthodoxy. Following the best intentions of the Medieval theologians, the Reformed “Dutch Puritans” always believed that rich biblical doctrine is the vein for the warm blood of spiritual experience of the Son in communion.

So here is the importance of Sweet Communion by de Reuver: The rich spirituality we have received from the “Dutch Puritans” is a spiritual legacy following the spiritual traditions of Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) and Thomas à Kempis (1379-1471) but is firmly rooted in the precious theology of the Reformation. The final conclusion of de Reuver is that the all-controlling center of the Dutch Further Reformation spirituality rested in the Reformed theology. This is a beautiful and timely book to further dismantle the idea that Reformed theology is cold and stiff intellectualism. Our rich theology actually leads us deeper into true “mysticism” of direct communion with Christ.

Title: Sweet Communion: Trajectories of Spirituality from the Middle Ages through the Further Reformation.
Series: Texts and Studies in Reformation and Post-Reformation Thought
Author: Arie de Reuver (Dutch)
Translator: James A. De Jong (English)
Reading level: 4.5/5.0 > academic and some untranslated Dutch quotations
Boards: paper
Pages: 303
Volumes: 1
Dust jacket: no
Binding: glue
Paper: normal
Topical index: no
Scriptural index: no
Text: perfect type
Publisher: Baker Academic
Year: 2007
Price USD: $29.99/23.99 from Baker
ISBNs: 0801031222, 9780801031229

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Related: Communion with God by Kelly Kapic. Another gem from Baker this year on communion with God. Kapic studies English Puritan John Owen’s understanding that communion with God takes place within a balanced Triunity of the Father, Son and Spirit. Highly recommended.

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Communion with God by Kelly Kapic

Book announcement:
Communion with God: The Divine and the Human in the Theology of John Owen
Kelly Kapic

“I remember a time when a stereotype of the English Puritans as crude religious bigots held sway, and academic analysis and appreciation of their thought was virtually nonexistent. Accurate understanding of the magisterial Reformers was similarly at a discount, and the English translation of Calvin’s Institutes was out of print. But pendulums swing, and today the study of Reformation theology and of Lutheran and Calvinist scholasticism and of early European pietism and of the many-sided Puritan legacy has become a sizable cottage industry in academia’s larger world. Lecture courses, doctoral theses, journal articles, and printed books on the Puritans now abound, and the flow increases. Reissues of Puritan material constantly appear, and it is clear that more and more
Christians are coming to value this heritage. Some of us find that a very hopeful sign.

A cultural development in the West that has triggered some of this renewed interest in Puritan Christianity is our latter-day focus on experience, our longing for good experiences, and our awareness that experiences spawned by our sophisticated hedonism are mostly unsatisfying, not to say bad. Out of this has blossomed a fixation on personal spirituality, meaning a quest for self-discovery and self-transcendence, and this has led some to a fresh exploration of Christian spirituality―the theological, pastoral, communal, ethical, ascetic, doxological reality of communion with God in and through Jesus Christ in faith and hope and love. As a result, there is dawning a new appreciation of the supreme excellence in this field of Puritans such as John Bunyan, Richard Baxter, Jonathan Edwards, and John Owen.

Long regarded as Puritanism’s theological Everest, Owen was forgotten in the twentieth century until about twenty years ago. As Dr. Kapic’s bibliography shows, there have been some voyages around him, and some soundings of his thought on specifics, in recent years. None of these, however, come as close to Owen’s heart as Dr. Kapic himself does. For understanding, enjoying, and communicating communion with God was what Owen understood his life and ministry to be all about. His writings reveal him as not only an evangelical confessor and controversialist in the Reformed mainstream, but also as a Calvinist catechist, weaving in applicatory pastoral rhetoric at every point. Dr. Kapic coins the word anthroposensitive to characterize this aspect of his expository
method. It fits.

This is a landmark book in modern Puritan study, and it is a joy to commend it.”

J.I. Packer, Forward to Kelly M. Kapic, Communion with God: The Divine and the Human in the Theology of John Owen (©2007 Baker Academic, a division of Baker Publishing Group).

Terminating the Gospel on God

Terminating the Gospel on God
by Tony Reinke

Lord willing, if the 16-inches of snow expected in the Twin Cities holds off until tonight, I’ll be headed to the North Woods with some dear Christian brothers. It will be a weekend of fires, food, hiking, snowmobiles and (hopefully) millions of stars and the Northern lights. So a short post before I pack my hatchet, matches and camera.

Even coming into 2007, I eagerly anticipated that God would teach me many new things about communion with Himself. I cannot wait to finally get a copy of Kelly Kapic’s soon-to-be released, Communion with God: The Divine and the Human in the Theology of John Owen (Baker). And later this Winter Justin Taylor and Kapic will release Owen’s Communion with God in the same format as Overcoming Sin and Temptation last year (Crossway). Folks like myself are being stretched to capture the Puritan idea that our union with God drives our communion with Him. Discovering many contours of communion with God is my anticipation for 2007.

In The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer explained the danger of terminating on justification and thinking that union with God is the end of all things. Tozer writes, “We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him, we need no more seek Him” (16). And earlier, “To have found God and still to pursue Him is the Soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too easily satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart” (14).

Recently another very helpful contour in this discovery came a quote from John Piper last Sunday at the Resolved conference in California. Here is the excerpt that grabbed my attention:

“I want God. Forgiveness just gets stuff out of the way between me and God. Forgiveness has value for one reason – it brings me to God reconciled. That’s what I want pastors to get to. I don’t want you to stop at justification. I don’t want you to stop at forgiveness. I don’t want you to stop at eternal life. I want you to push though all of those because the Bible does … ‘We rejoice in God through Jesus Christ, through whom we have received reconciliation’ (Rom. 5:11). But the point is we finally have gotten to the end and ‘we rejoice in God.’ Reconciliation is a means to the end of making God the Gospel! … We get out of the way everything that is an obstacle to enjoying God when we are forgiven. Take justification: ‘Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God’ (Rom. 5:1-2). That’s the point of justification. Who cares if we’re righteous? Do you want to be God? Is that why you want to be righteous? You want to boast in your righteousness? Why do you want to be righteous? … Because when you get righteousness you get God! You don’t get put in hell — you get God! … All the things we usually terminate on when we preach the Gospel we terminate one step early. We need in America a great awakening of radical God-centeredness … We need millions and millions of believers that are so oriented on ‘God as the Gospel’ they break through forgiveness to God, and through justification to God, and through reconciliation to God, and through eternal life to God.”

– John Piper, “God is the Gospel”, sermon (2007.02.18) 39:53-43:25

The warning that Piper and Tozer sound is a warning not to be a “too easily satisfied religionist.” We need to see that God, not justification, is the heart of the Gospel. I love books, and I love doctrine, and I love Calvinism, and I love the message of a God who covers sinners with His Own righteousness. I love these things! But all doctrines are intended to push us deeper into a relationship with Himself. Tozer was right when he wrote, “God waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain” (17).

But reading books, biographies and diaries of men who followed hard after God is not communion. Spurgeon’s words challenge me here:

“My soul – never be satisfied with a shadowy Christ. … I cannot know Christ through another person’s brains. I cannot love him with another man’s heart, and I cannot see him with another man’s eyes. … I am so afraid of living in a second-hand religion. God forbid that I should get a biographical experience. Lord save us from having borrowed communion. No, I must know him myself. O God, let me not be deceived in this. I must know him without fancy or proxy; I must know him on my own account.”

To personally rejoice in God is the goal of the Gospel. Owen, Tozer, Piper and Spurgeon remind us that our spiritual vision is too small. We seek 15-minutes of prayer time when we should be asking to see more of God’s glory (Ex. 33:18), panting for more of Him (Ps. 42:1-2) and clinging tightly to Him (Ps. 63:8). That is communion.

So let the Gospel and Calvinism and all bible study and theology terminate in personal communion with Him. If we do, we’ll begin to understand what the Gospel is really all about.

The Puritan Study (Part 11) Concluding Thoughts, part 2

Part 11: Concluding Thoughts, part 2

Finally, the conclusion of the Puritan Study comes today. I wish I could continue on in this study but I must move on. Thank you for all the very kind emails and helpful suggestions throughout this series. Seeing others come to a deeper appreciation of the Puritan literature has been an incredible encouragement to me.

Here is a collection of final thoughts …

Expositional Puritans

I think it’s worth noting again that in this series of blog posts I have emphasized the most important Puritan resources for expositional research. Other Puritans are useful on a number of issues.

I like Baxter, Burgess, Watson and other Puritans. But these and other Puritans simply have not helped me when I’m under pressure to preach and write expositionally on a certain text. Spurgeon, Bunyan, Owen, Boston, Manton and the men I have promoted, however, have proven faithful in these situations.

If you are more interested in systematic theology, or apologetics, or church history, you will find other Puritans to be of great help. Here, we were concerned with the most effective Puritans for expositional sermon preparation and ranked these authors in order of availability and usefulness.

Dutch ‘Puritans’

I was hoping to use this series to begin introducing you to the Dutch ‘Puritans’ (they are not really called ‘Puritans,’ but ‘the Dutch Second Reformation Divines’). These authors ministered during the same period of time as the English Puritans we know well, but their works were originally published in Dutch. Thanks to the recent work of the Dutch Reformed Translation Society, these works are now being made available in updated English. After some time reading these Dutch works, it’s clear these authors were as mature and experiential as their English counterparts.

Among others, the Dutch ‘Puritans’ include Wilhelmus à Brakel, Willem Teellinck and Herman Witsius (whose works have been in English for a few years now). Teellinck’s book on living a holy life (The Path of True Godliness) is very valuable and will be the subject of an upcoming book review.

These Dutch authors are very powerful and, although many of them will not be indexed and easily accessed, an introduction to their works was warranted at the end of this Puritan study. More information this winter …

Tough and Tender

John Piper once said, “one of my great desires is to see Christian pastors be as strong and durable as redwood trees, and as tender and fragrant as a field of clover.” This ideal finds its origin in the words and works of Jesus Himself. He knew when to be tough and when to be tender. He was strong and resolute but loving, kind, and compassionate, too. Many Puritans remind me of men who were uncompromising and stable in their convictions. They were a forest of redwood trees. But these preachers often displayed a compassionate tenderness like a fragrant field of clovers, too. An excellent pattern for preachers today.

The Presence of God

Many things draw me to the Puritans, but one of the most important is their pursuit of God. They see the Psalms as a blueprint for the Christian life – striving and praying for the presence of God to draw near (see Pss. 16, 42, 73). You can spot authors who read much of the Puritans because they, too, have a healthy and well-developed desire to pursue the presence of God (see A.W. Tozer, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John Piper, etc.).

Personal change

I did not realize what was happening, but for several years as I have used the Puritan literature, I thought I was just borrowing a few quotes and thoughts along the way. Now it is obvious that over those years I was being changed.

What I love most about the Puritans is how they have been used in changing me. I treat the Word with more sobriety and seriousness now. My application of the text is much more mature. I am more articulate in pointing my hearer’s affections towards the things God sees as precious (like His Son, His holiness, His justice, love and grace).

Specifically, three areas of my life have been changed due to my Puritan Study …

(i) In catching the Puritan hermeneutic. The Puritans interpret every passage in light of the big picture of God’s glory in the Cross of Christ. Everything comes back to this. As expositors we are apt to get wrapped up in our four verses and lazily forget this big picture. The Puritans, especially in their application, make it clear that every text must be brought back to this big picture. Sadly, very few expositors today do this consistently (Piper and a few others, however, excel here). I pray that we would all catch this Puritan hermeneutic. Spurgeon reminded preachers that every sermon must find a way back to the Cross. This was the Apostle Paul’s point exactly (Gal. 6:14, 1 Cor. 1:22-25; 2:2; Phil. 3:8).

(ii) In catching the Puritan experiential style.
When publishers want a good definition of ‘experiential preaching’ they turn to Puritan scholars. In the book, Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching (Soli Deo Gloria, 1573581445), Dr. Joel Beeke writes: “Experiential or experimental preaching addresses the vital matter of how a Christian experiences the truth of Christian doctrine in his life … Experimental preaching seeks to explain in terms of biblical truth how matters ought to go, how they do go, and what is the goal of the Christian life … Experimental preaching is discriminatory preaching. It clearly defines the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian, opening the kingdom of heaven to one and shutting it against the other” (pp. 95-96). The Puritans understood that a sermon lacking powerful application is an incomplete sermon. The Puritans are unparalleled here.

(iii) In catching the Puritan earnestness. The Christian life is a struggle of balance. The same is true in the pulpit. It is easy to focus on strengthening marriages, helping others raise children, and overall improvements in godliness while lacking earnestness. We can get the idea that the purpose of the pulpit is only for long-term sanctified changes. We need the Puritan earnestness to remind those who have never experienced the grace of God in their own hearts (the ‘almost Christian’ sitting in the pew), that they teeter on the brink of God’s judgment. There may not be a tomorrow. Each of us will be in heaven or hell very shortly. Nothing guarantees the sinner one more day to repent. Now is the time. Today is the day of salvation. Plead with sinners. The Puritans balanced these two sides of preaching and teach us to use the same sermon to both strengthen Christian marriages (long term) and to plead with sinners earnestly (now).

Conclusion

In the end, the ultimate benefit of a (well-used) Puritan library is how it changes you. Because of the Puritans, I view the bible differently, more seriously. They have taught me deep thoughts so I am not easily distracted with the empty and hollow ‘Christian’ thoughts today. They have taught me to treasure Christ. They have pointed out the sin in my heart. They have encouraged me in the task of preaching. And they have been faithful friends pointing me back to the scriptures when I begin to wander around. ‘Be serious because God’s thoughts are weighty,’ is the Puritan message I hear every time I use their works.

So keep at it. Work hard. Study diligently. Learn new terms. Don’t be intimidated by 200-word sentences. Grasp the concepts. Learn from the Puritan big-picture. And one day you will realize that God’s Spirit has taken the Puritan Study from your shelves and into your heart and changed you forever. All for His eternal glory.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Favorite books

I am often asked to list my favorite books. So this week I’m going to give you my top 20 and reviews of my top 5. Drum roll, please. Here are my (ever changing) top 20 favorites …

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1. Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Newer translation that is excellent in many ways.

2. The Precious Things of God, by Octavius Winslow. No book more relishes in the preciousness of the eternal things. I’ll give a fuller recommendation later in the week.

3. The Everlasting Righteousness, by Horatius Bonar. Many great books have been written on justification (how sinners are made right with God). But this one, written over a century ago, is my favorite, the most passionate and the most quotable.

4. The Knowledge of the Holy, by A.W. Tozer. “Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them.” Fabulous book for those who want a grand view of God. A tiny book with a heavy message.

5. The Glory of Christ (Vol. 1 of Works), by John Owen. Few things are better than to look at the depth of Christ’s beauty. Though Owen is not easy to read he is very valuable.

6. George Whitefield, 2 vols., by Arnold Dallimore. This is my favorite biography ever. Very readable. This set of books will inflame a desire to be extinguished for Christ.

7. The New Park Street Pulpit (1855-1860), 6 vols., by C.H. Spurgeon. The early sermons of the greatest preacher in church history. All of his books and sermons are recommended but these volumes are especially precious. There is a youthful zeal to the early sermons.

8. The Works of John Bunyan, 3 vols., by John Bunyan. Bunyan was an uneducated man who was imprisoned for his non-conformist preaching of the gospel. Few have plumbed the depths of the human heart deeper than him. He remains one of the greatest preachers and maybe the most famous writer (The Pilgrims Progress) in church history. These three volumes contain all of his works and require diligence and patience. To the patient these volumes contain a lifetime of treasures!

9. The Letters of Samuel Rutherford, by Samuel Rutherford. Rutherford, in my opinion, is one of the most overlooked Puritan authors. He wrote so many beautiful books and preached so many Christ-exalting sermons yet few are in print. This collection of beautiful letters was written with great spiritual insight. The Banner of Truth just released an unabridged version unavailable for many years. It will be of great use for pastors wondering how to address the Cross to specific pastoral situations.

10. Spurgeon by Arnold Dallimore. My favorite biographer (Dallimore) + my Christian “hero” (Spurgeon) = a classic! Spurgeon focused on preaching, caring for widows and orphans, training pastors for the future, etc. A man who extinguished himself for the gospel!

11. Communion with God (Vol. 2 of Works), by John Owen. Deep scholarship with a burning affection for Christ. How do we relate and respond to God personally? This is the question that he answers thoroughly.

12. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 2 vols., by Jonathan Edwards. The greatest American theologian. These two works contain many of his best sermons and books. A lifetime of eternal gems are here contained for the patient reader. Though I also recommend preachers purchase a few of the Yale edition volumes (Donald Whitney especially suggests vol. 14).

13. Jonathan Edwards: A Life by George M. Marsden. A fabulous biography whose author shows tremendous spiritual sensitivity while looking at the life of America’s great theologian/preacher.

14. God’s Passion for His Glory by John Piper and Jonathan Edwards. Not one of Edward’s easiest books to work through but a very powerful one. God does everything for Himself. Gets to the heart of the most important reality we can ever comprehend – that God loves nothing more than Himself. (A special thanks to my friend Rick Gamache for his editing of the book).

15. The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. A classic book that allows the heaviness of God to come down upon the reader.

16. Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges. A transforming book.

17. The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made by Mark Dever. A new book of Dever’s sermon manuscripts covering a broad and sweeping overview of the Old Testament. This book has drawn the Old Testament together for me in great ways. I now see the cohesive big picture like never before!

18. The Confessions by Augustine (Maria Boulding translation). Great classic and from what I am told this is the first true autobiography in history. In this book a sinner’s soul is honestly opened for all to see.

19. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. I like Reymond, Erickson and others, but this is my favorite systematic. I also really like what Jeff Purswell did in editing it into the book Bible Doctrine.

20. Lectures to My Students by C.H. Spurgeon. No pastor should be allowed to lead a church who has not read it at least 10 times.

Now you tell me. What are your top 5 favorite books ???