Thursday, February 14, 2019

Finding Your True Identity

Classic Christianity
by Bob George
187 pages / 2010

Vivid
by Syd Hielema and Aaron Baart
130 pages / 2013

The communion of saints is a wonderful thing. First a brother-in-law, then my wife brought me two really good reads about who we are in Christ... and the difference that makes.

Bob George's Classic Christianity reminds Reformed Christians of what we already know, doctrinally - that our salvation is all of grace - but also of something we stress much less - that our relationship with God is about much more than salvation. George tells us that salvation (being saved from God's just judgment) is only the beginning of the story. We are not only given eternal life in the future, but are made alive in Christ's resurrection power right now. Our very identity has changed, because we know ourselves to be not only loved by God, but also unconditionally accepted as His adopted children, freed from slavery to the law, growing in grace.

Vivid makes many of the same points, but puts them in a more specific context - that of who we are not only in our personal relationship with God, but also in our role as workers in His kingdom. Here are some of the more thought-provoking insights:

  • Knowing God through His Son takes us from the counterfeit kingdom of Satan to the blessed kingdom of Christ.
  • Life in the kingdom, at various times in our lives (sometimes on the same day), is like a playground, a workshop, a battlefield, and an intensive care unit.
  • Even as we move through these aspects of kingdom life, God reveals our new identity by changing our desires, our character, our emotions, and our imaginations.
  • Changing our imaginations releases us from the foolishness of the American dream.
  • We can further the work of the Spirit in our transformation by cultivating spiritual disciplines, (which do not come in a one-size-fits-all form).
  • As we continue to be transformed by God, our calling becomes clearer - a calling which is more than a job, a calling which glories in the small things.
  • Like Jesus' original disciples, we are the "sent ones," so let us just go!
The only false note in the book is the use of "Pastor Rita" as one of the examples of life in the kingdom - an example consistent with the denominational background of one of the authors - but not consistent with Biblical revelation on the role of women in the church.

If you think that knowing more about who you are in Christ will make a difference now, and for your future, you can get Classic Christianity here (and here in Canada), and Vivid you can get from the Dordt College library.


Thursday, February 7, 2019

Jonathan Edwards

by Simonetta Carr

64 pages / 2014

With Jonathan Edwards Simonetta Carr continues her series of picturebook "Christian biographies for young readers." This is one of 13 so far.

Two hundred years after Luther and Calvin, God used the Connecticut-born Jonathan Edwards to bring a Reformation of sorts to churches on this side of the ocean too. At the time there were many who professed to be believers, but who had no hatred of their own sins, and saw no real need to fight them. Then here came Edwards, preaching about the coming wrath of God against sin. Now, he preached on much more than this, but it was his fire and brimstone sermons that God used to spark a revival and shake people out of their ambivalence.

Edwards' "Sinners in the hands of an angry God" sermon is famous, as is his story about a spider dangling over a fire, which illustrates our own precarious state when we haven't yet reconciled with God. But the rest of his life isn't well known. People think, based on his "angry God" sermon that Edwards was all hell and damnation but as Carr shows, that wasn't at all true. She presents Edwards as a nature-loving young man as curious about science as he was about God's Word. The two, to him, seemed a natural fit.

Carr commissioned a dozen full-page color paintings to illustrate the book and makes use of a couple dozen other pictures to make this a true picture book – every two-page spread has a picture or two. It is also an attractively bound book, making this something that can be passed from one generation to the next. And she has summarized Edwards' life in a clear and compelling fashion.

That said, this is not a book that most children will readily pull off the shelf. It is beautiful, but it's not about cute cartoon mice, and it doesn't have bright garish colors so it will have a hard time competing with everything else out to grab children's attention. But while this one might not be the right choice for a present from grandma and grandpa, it is a book that every Christian school should own and every Church history teacher will be able to put to good use – it is a fantastic educational resource that makes learning about Edwards easy.