Is Sin Really All That Bad?

One would expect any Christian to answer the question posed in the title with an affirmative and immediate, “Yes!” However, the daily decisions we make often tell another story.

We’re quick to recoil when we hear of horrific acts committed against children, marital infidelity, cold-blooded murder, or, you know, other really bad sins–especially, the sins of others. Yet, it’s our own day-to-day living, in both the major and the mundane, that we are often slow to consider. At times, we fail to measure the words we speak, the attitudes we choose, or the media we consume against the standard of God’s Word. It’s often in the name of cultural engagement that we capitulate to content that has no place in the life of a follower of Christ. After all, it’s much easier to row with the current of our culture than paddle upstream.

While preparing to teach at our church’s young adult community, I was reading through Ralph Venning’s The Sinfulness of Sin. Venning, a Puritan and English non-conformist, had a steadfast desire that Christ be exalted and that any measure of sin be–as it should–abhorred. Here are a few of his remarks that struck me as I read:

“One may suffer and not sin, but it is impossible to sin and not to suffer.”

“Sin can do, without the Devil, that which the Devil cannot do without sin, and that is, undo men [and women].”

“Sin is an evil beyond the skill and power of all creation to cure and to cleanse.”

It is clearly evident that Venning has considered carefully what divine Scripture reveals in no casual terms–that sin, in any measure, is utterly and totally evil.

Contemplate the words of Christ in Matthew 5:29-30

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

Jesus makes it clear that sin is not be tolerated (see esp., Eph. 5:3, 11). Sin must be dealt with swiftly and severely. Think of it…if I were to deal with sin as seriously as Christ commands above, others would surely take notice and likely consider me both foolish and fanatical. The question is, are we willing to be obedient, or is our greater concern what others will think?

Friend, every decision you make either serves to edify or erode your heart, and must be made with the utmost care (see Prov. 4:23-27). There is no such thing as the “neutral” Christian life. You’re either, by grace, pursuing “the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Or, because any measure of sin is being tolerated, grievously, you’re moving backward.

Believer, in all of this, remember that you stand securely before the throne of grace solely on the merits of Christ by faith. Indeed, it’s in recognizing the putrid nature of our sin that allows us to view Christ in all his glorious sweetness. Therefore, in view of God’s rich grace toward us in Christ Jesus, let us make it our daily practice to make choices that will stir our affection for Christ, making no room for sin. Or, as John Owen has said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

Venning’s The Sinfulness of Sin is available for free, in PDF format, here.

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REVIEW: Songs of a Suffering King, by J.V. Fesko

9781601783103I became acquainted with J.V. Fesko through his work on baptism from a Reformed perspective (Word, Water, & Spirit, Reformation Heritage Books, 2010). As I began working through that monograph, I could tell I had come across a man who was a rigorous theologian, careful biblical exegete, and a pastor at heart. Since then, I have read several of Dr. Fesko’s books and have never failed to come away edified and challenged to dig more deeply into the Holy Scriptures.

Dr. Fesko’s most recent offering is a short book on the first 8 psalms entitled, Songs of a Suffering King: The Grand Christ Hymn of Psalms 1-8 (Reformation Heritage Books, 2014). As one would expect, from the outset, the book is characterized by careful biblical exposition, a steady focus on the centrality of the person and work of Christ in biblical interpretation, and a pastoral emphasis on sanctification through savoring Christ Jesus.

After a brief introduction which covers the ordering and overall structure of the Psalter as well as a brief rationale for the Christ-centered interpretation of the Psalms, the book is divided into 8 brief chapters addressing each psalm respectively. While the chapters are brief, and read quite devotionally, they don’t fail to provide a good deal of information pertaining to historical and literary context, a clear explanation of how the Psalm relates to the person and work of Christ, and a brief, yet powerful application for the reader. The chapters also end with a metrical version of the psalm for signing and questions for further study. Given the style, structure, and substance of the book it would be an excellent resource for personal or group study (high school through adult).

As I read through Dr. Fesko’s devotional commentary on Psalms 1-8, I quickly realized that—really—I was reading a book about Jesus. The Christ-connections that Dr. Fesko made, especially in chapter 1, identifying Christ at the true Righteous Man of Psalm 1, brought a significant amount of insight and perspective to my reading of the Psalms that I had not seen before. It certainly minimized the tendency I had developed to read Psalm 1 (and others for that matter) as a mere moral imperative. In doing so, I was able to see that, just as Jesus taught in John 15:4-5, apart from resting in him as the true Righteous Man, I am hopeless to fruitfully grow in the instruction of Psalm 1.

As Dr. Fesko worked through these Psalms, I got the sense that he was not forcing a Christ-centered hermeneutic as will inevitably be the critique of some. Rather, he demonstrated that the Psalms “provide a divinely inspired window into the heart of Christ” (8). It is clear that Psalms 1-8, while echoing many of the emotions King David felt during his earthly reign, certainly fore-signify the life and ministry of Messiah.

While I could critique the book in several places, simply because I desired thoroughness a bit more, those critiques would be unfair due to the very nature of the book. As stated, this book is largely an expanded devotional study of Psalms 1-8. Yet, don’t let that dissuade you from including it on your bookshelf as a valuable pastoral commentary on Psalms 1-8. As with all of Dr. Fesko’s work, you will greatly benefit in heart and mind from his devoted study and gift of writing. I sincerely recommend it.

*A copy of the book was provided by the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review. I was under no obligation to offer a positive review.

Book Details

123 Pages
Publisher: Reformation Heritage Books
Publication Date: April 2014
ISBN 10: 1601783108
ISBN 13: 9781601783103

BUY NOW at WTSBooks.com – $9.00

PDF Sample

OTHER RESOURCES FROM J.V. FESKO

The Necessity of a Lofty Conception

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“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” –so said A.W. Tozer in the first line of his classic book, The Knowledge of the Holy.

Let that sink in…

The way in which we think about God is truly of immense importance. For ever since Eden, Satan, with great cunning, has been seeking to distort the truth about who God is within the minds of those whom God has created in his image and likeness. This distortion is no small matter. Scripture teaches us that all sorts of trouble flows out of an improper and impotent conception of the greatness, majesty, and holiness of God (see Exodus 32:1-6; Romans 1:18-32).

Perhaps you’re familiar with the modern hymn, “O God of Our Salvation”? The three verses and chorus tell of the Trinitarian nature of God and of our salvation. In sum, the hymn glorifies God by recounting how God the Father graciously sent God the Son to accomplish the salvation of his people; the results of God’s saving acts are then revealed and applied by the Spirit of God. In response to the glory of the gospel, drawing on 1 Chronicles 16:29, the bridge declares:

     Ascribe, O Church, the greatness and the glory due His name!

One of the primary purposes of the church on earth is to continually declare, in the power of the Spirit, the redemption that God has accomplished for unworthy sinners through the person and work of his Son, Messiah Jesus. Yet, the church must be carrying out this task with diligence for, as he has been doing from the beginning, Satan will continually be working, with deplorable craft and serpent-like subtlety, to detract from a lofty conception of God within the church and from her commitment to proclaiming the gospel. How will Satan do this? Often by deceiving God’s people into focusing on non-gospel issues and making them matters of discouragement or division.

Satan will distract through the promotion of sinful gossip cloaked as “sharing a concern”, convincing saints to be more committed to nostalgia than considering how they may reach their surrounding culture for Christ, and elevating personal preference above gospel priority. All of these deceptions will eventually destroy our devotion to a lofty conception of God and an unwavering commitment to gospel proclamation, and replace them with a sinful devotion to self.

Tozer went on to say, “So necessary to the Church is a lofty conception of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.”

By God’s grace, let us fight to think rightly about God and allow nothing to distract us from proclaiming the great and glorious gospel of God for the sake of his Name and the joy of our neighbors.

The Immovable Foundation

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My job. My ministry. My children. My salary. My clothes. My friends. My extensive resume. My theological prowess. My good behavior. My acquaintances. My family name. My position of leadership. My years of experience. My health. My car(s). My talents. And the list could go on…

What do you look to in order to determine your identity? In life, what gives you a sense of significance and security? Unless we are carefully diligent we can succumb to the the world’s mode of determining our self-worth based upon personal achievement. Before we know it, our sense of meaning becomes wrapped up in our own accomplishments. And, the truth is, when we are striving to stand upon our own works, we are sinfully striving to stand upon a foundation that can crumble at any moment.

As Edward Mote was travelling to work one morning, around 1834, he desired to write a hymn on “The Gracious Experience of a Christian”. By the day’s end he had completed four verses. The very first line of that hymn reads

     “My hope is built on nothing less,

          Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness”

Mote was touching upon what the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:4-9:

     “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more…But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—“

You see, the Scriptures declare that it is not what you have done that determines your ultimate identity, but what Christ has done for you. Who God the Father declares you to be in Christ Jesus is the most important thing about you! The reality of your gracious position in Christ is an immovable foundation upon which you can stand secure.

Thus, when my health wanes, when plans fail, when I lose my job, when finances are tight, when my abilities are criticized, or in the light of gracious success—whatever the case may be—I can still joyfully sing, “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.”

The Double Cure of the Cross

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Photo Credit: Kellie Weeks

About 2 months ago I began serving as Associate Pastor of Worship and Discipleship at Faith Bible Church. In the very first song of the first service I was leading, I made a fairly bold decision. Unannounced and somewhat unplanned, I stopped everything. I could see the startled faces, the looks of confusion. It had dawned on me the possibility existed that we may be singing lyrics we did not completely understand. How can we be worshiping the Lord in spirit and in truth if we do not understand the truth we are singing? A brief teaching moment in the course of the service served to clarify, in the minds of some, what they were singing to the Lord.

A quick survey of some of the most beloved hymns of the faith reveals they are replete with somewhat enigmatic phrases. For example,

  • “Here, I raise my Ebenezer…”
  • “A bulwark never failing” or “Lord Sabaoth His name”
  • “Eternal Thy goodness for naught changeth Thee”
  • “How does that visage languish”

We could go on, of course, but for our purposes here the above examples will suffice.

For a moment, I want to explore the theology behind the lyrics of a fairly well known hymn. I hope that in doing so, some of the most profound and precious truths of the gospel will rise to the surface, in turn compelling us to worship with hearts and minds that are more fully engaged and exult more deeply in the person and work of Christ.

In 1776, Augustus Toplady published the hymn “Rock of Ages”. Writing in response to the crisis of national debt in that day, Toplady hoped to encourage believers in the truth that their debt of sin before God the Father had been paid in full by Christ (cf., Col. 2:13-14).[1] The end of the first stanza reads:

Let the water and the blood

From Thy wounded side which flowed

Be of sin the double cure

Save from wrath and make me pure.

Here, Toplady was highlighting two realities secured by the sacrifice of Christ for those to trust in him by faith.

First, in light Christ’s cross work, Toplady notes that believers have been saved from God’s righteous wrath against their sin (cf., Eph. 2:1-10). On the cross, Jesus absorbed that cup of wrath to the very last drop (cf., Matt. 26:39-42). The theological term for this aspect of Christ’s saving work is “propitiation” (pron. “pro-pitch-ee-ay-shun”). Having been crucified as a substitute, Jesus fully absorbed God’s wrath for those who are in him, thereby securing the believer’s peace with God (cf., Isa. 53:4-6; 2 Cor. 5:21). As believers in union with Christ, we no longer need to fear facing God’s wrath because of our sin.

Second, Jesus has purified those who believe in him by taking away their sin. Theologians refer to this act of taking sins away as “expiation” (pron. “ex-pee-ay-shun”). Harkening back to the Old Testament Day of Atonement (cf., Lev. 16, see esp. 16:21-22) the high priest laid his hands on the scapegoat and, after confessing the sins of the people, released it into the wilderness signifying the taking away of sin. This act in the Old Testament pointed to the work that Jesus would ultimately do. Jesus is the true and better scapegoat, for his blood truly purifies us from all sin (cf., Heb. 9:11-14).

Propitiation and expiation are two glorious aspects of the gospel! Remember, because of what Jesus has done, we now stand before God the Father with the very purity of Christ (cf., 2 Cor. 5:21). He has saved the believer from the wrath of God by bearing that holy wrath in our place.

It is my hope that an increased understanding will move you to sing with joyful confidence and savor the reality of what Christ has accomplished for unworthy sinners like you and me.

Obedience…Not “Victory”

Jerry Bridges, in his classic The Pursuit of Holiness, offers some convicting and clarifying words relating to the process of Christian growth:

“It is time for us Christians to face up to our responsibility for holiness. Too often we say we are “defeated” by this or that sin. No, we are not defeated; we are simply disobedient! It might be well if we stopped using the terms “victory” and “defeat” to describe our progress in holiness. Rather we should use the terms “obedience” and “disobedience.” When I say I am defeated by some sin, I am unconsciously slipping out from under my responsibility. I am saying something outside of me has defeated me. But when I say I am disobedient, that places the responsibility for my sin squarely on me. We may, in fact, be defeated, but the reason we are defeated is because we have chosen to disobey. We have chosen to entertain lustful thoughts, or to harbor resentment, or to shade the truth a little. We need to brace ourselves up, and to realize that we are responsible for our thoughts, attitudes, and actions. We need to reckon on the fact that we died to sin’s reign, that it no longer has any dominion over us, that God has united us with the risen Christ in all His power, and has given us the Holy Spirit to work in us. Only as we accept our responsibility and appropriate God’s provisions will we make any progress in our pursuit of holiness.”

(From The Pursuit of Holiness – Chapter 8)

Old Story New Exclusive Preview: Week 1

Last week we featured Marty Machowski’s new family devotional, Old Story New: Ten Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God (New Testament).  This devotional is the next offering in Machowski’s Gospel Story for Kids series…a series that I wholeheartedly recommend for its superb ability of explaining and applying the grand story of the Bible to your children.  You can read my interview with Marty here, and my full review here.

This week, I’d like to offer you a preview of the first week’s devotions.  I hope that you’ll use these posts as a test run of sorts with your family, and that it will encourage you to begin to incorporate the entire series in your home.  The kind folks at New Growth Press have provided the unformatted text for use here on my blog.  My many thanks to them for their generosity!

Week 1: The Birth of Jesus Foretold(Coordinates with Story 79 – The Gospel Story Bible)

Introductory Note to Parents:

Prior to Bible study, find a photograph of some people (in a magazine or online) that has a lot of detail. Make a list of questions to ask your children that will test their skills of observation. The children will look closely at the photo and then answer questions to see how well they remember the details. Questions like, “What color shirt was the man wearing?” or “What was sitting on the table?” will work well to test the skill of your eyewitnesses. During Bible study, give everyone one minute to study the photograph taking in as much detail as they can. Then ask the questions from your list to see how observant they are. Explain to your children that this week you will be reading from Luke’s Gospel, which was written from eyewitness accounts.

DAY ONE

Picture It: Can you remember a time when you were startled? Perhaps someone walked up behind you in a quiet room, and you didn’t know anyone was there until you felt a hand on your shoulder. If something like that can scare us, imagine what it would be like to be alone in your room and suddenly see an angel appear out of nowhere. Probably you would either scream in fright or be scared into silence. Let’s see what happened to Zechariah and Mary in our story today when angels suddenly appeared to them.

Read Luke 1:1–38

Think About It Some More: When we read the story it can seem like seeing angels was a normal part of life, but it wasn’t. Zechariah had been a priest all his life but he’d never seen an angel before. Serving in the temple was scary enough, for God’s presence lived inside the temple. Even before he saw the angel, Zechariah would have walked very cautiously into the temple’s inner room. He knew God was holy and that he was a sinner. If he made a mistake, he could die—like Uzzah, who had touched the holy ark with his hand and been killed (2 Samuel 6:6–7). So when the angel suddenly appeared, fear must’ve shot through him like a lightning bolt. Similarly, when the angel appeared to Mary, she also was afraid. Angels had to calm people’s fears before speaking their messages.

 Talk about It

  • Why did Zechariah lose his voice? (Zechariah lost his voice because he didn’t believe the angel’s words to him.)
  • How was Mary’s answer to the angel different from Zechariah’s answer? (Mary trusted that what the angel said to her was true. She had faith and did not doubt.)
  • Whose throne was Jesus going to sit on? (Verse 32 tells us that Jesus would sit upon David’s throne. If you have smaller children, you can read verse 32 and ask them to raise their hands when they hear whose throne Jesus would be sitting upon.)

Pray about It: Thank God for sending his Son, Jesus, to the earth to die on the cross for our sins.

From Old Story New: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God by Martin Machowski. Copyright © 2012 by Covenant Fellowship Church. Used by permission of New Growth Press, www.newgrowthpress.com

REVIEW: Old Story New, by Marty Machowski

Family devotions…  Followers of Christ, whose families are growing, likely have the desire to do devotions as a family, but often are at a standstill when it comes to actually setting out to do so.  Whether it is time, organization, lack of content, or a bit of anxiety, the reasons abound for not getting into the rhythm of regular family devotions.

As a husband and a parent (of a quickly growing 10-month old), with both a full-time job and a part-time position in vocational ministry, I often struggle to establish regular, substantive times of devotions with my wife.  I know that what my wife and I establish now will be the foundation upon which we build our times of family devotions when our children are at an age of understanding.  In light of that, it is important to me that I find resources that will assist our family in establishing quality times of family devotion and worship.  And these cannot be  resources that merely market themselves as a “family devotional”.  They must be doctrinally sound, gospel-centered, graciously honest, accessible and applicable to a range of ages, and those that we can utilize well within our busy schedules yet remains substantive.  Though that may sound like quite the list of criteria to meet for a family devotional, I am excited to say that one in particular thoroughly passes this test!

In Old Story New: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God (New Testament) (New Growth Press, 2012), family pastor Marty Machowski provides a guide to lead your family through the New Testament in 78 weeks.  As the next offering in Machowski’s Gospel Story for Kids series, Old Story New remains true to the distinctives which set this series apart.  Here we have a resource that is keenly aware of the Bible’s grand story, rich in biblical theology, hermeneutically sound, and responsible in application that connects the reader’s point of need with the grace of the gospel at every pass.

Machowski begins with an altogether helpful introduction that sets families up to utilize the devotional to its fullest extent.  Beginning with a note on the sovereignty of God in salvation, Machowski explains what responsibility the parents have in training their children while trusting God for their child’s salvation in Christ.  He moves forward to explain the benefit of using the devotional in cooperation with its Old Testament/Hebrew Bible counterpart Long Story Short and the Gospel Story Bible.  As one acquainted with both of the aforementioned resources, I can honestly say I know of no other family devotional series that handles the entirety of Scripture so well.  If you choose to work through the Scriptures with the complete series, your family will be well equipped with a thoroughly Christ-centered understanding of the Bible’s grand story of the redemptive work of God from Genesis to Revelation.

For parents struggling to connect with children who may vary quite significantly in age, Machowski concludes the introductory chapter with extremely practical suggestions and insights as to how to connect each study with your children at various stages in their development.  Far from quick generalities, these suggestions are evidence of the years of experience Machowski has as a parent and pastor.

Moving into the devotional, each week’s devotional is clearly connected to a specific story in the Gospel Story Bible.  Though you do not need to own the Gospel Story Bible to benefit from or follow the week’s devotions, it does provide a helpful rendering of each story for a wide range of children.  The text of Scripture to be read with each devotional is clearly listed.  Each week’s story is then divided up into five days:

Day 1 – “Picture It” – This section helps your family understand the context, setting, and subject of the story.  It is then followed by a reading of the text, questions concerning the interpretation and application of the text, and a time of family prayer.

Day 2 – “Remember It” – This section helps your family recall and retain what they encountered on Day 1.  It is a time of open discussion as your family reviews the story and its significance.  Again, It is then followed by a reading of the text, questions concerning the interpretation and application of the text, and a time of family singing/prayer.

Day 3 – “Connect It to the Gospel” – Perhaps my favorite feature of Machowski’s devotional series, this section encourages your family to think about how the story either points forward to or back at the gospel.  A wonderfully helpful section that helps your family steer away from mere moralism and move toward an understanding of the Scriptures insofar as they tell the grand story of God’s redemptive work in Messiah Jesus.

Day 4 – “Remember It” – Having discussed a particular story for 3 days, this section helps get your family talking about the impact the story has had on their lives this week.

Day 5 – “Discover It” – Yet another unique feature of Old Story New, Machowski helps your family connect the New Testament story with its Old Testament roots (specifically the Psalms and Prophets).  This will give your family an increased awareness of the unity of the Scriptures and the grand story they tell.  Additionally, it may serve to awaken an interest in the Old Testament Scriptures among your children, as much of the OT, in some churches, is often left aside while a majority of time is focused on the NT.

Overall, I cannot say strongly enough how effective the structure and substance of this series is for developing quality times of worshipful, devotional study as a family.  God has given families a gracious gift in the resources and ministry of Marty Machowski, and I recommend Old Story New and the entire Gospel Story for Kids series with enthusiastic acclaim.

*As a part of the Old Story New Blog Tour, the publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review, provided a copy of this book.  I was under no obligation to write a favorable review.

Old Story New Giveaway & Interview

Want to win a copy of Old Story New for your family?! CLICK HERE to check out the giveaway and my interview with Marty Machowski.

Old Story New: Feature and Giveaway

As a parent, one of the things I must do when selecting biblical resources for my son/family is sift through the myriads of unhelpful material that makes up so much of Christian literature today.  Simply because something sits on the shelf in a Christian bookstore doesn’t mean that someone has already done the work of discerning the soundness of theology within.  In reality, there are excellent, Bible-saturated, doctrinally sound, and substantial resources available, but many times you just need to be a little more pro-active in your search.  In an effort to point you in the right direction, I’d like to make you aware of an exciting children’s series and its latest family devotional.

The series is Marty Machowski’s Gospel Story for Kids collection of children’s resources, published by New Growth Press.  Susan, Gresham, and I have enjoyed reading from The Gospel Story Bible.  It is truly a joy to read a children’s Bible that is thoroughly Christ-centered, redemptive-historical, and one that responsibly condenses and applies each story.  Alongside The Gospel Story Bible, Machowski has written a children’s curriculum that focuses on understanding how the Old Testament points to Christ.

Additionally, Marty has written two family devotionals.  The devotionals are designed around a 10-minute, discussion-based format.  In 2010, New Growth Press released Long Story Short, which worked its way through the Old Testament with the intent of working through the text in order to draw families closer to Christ.  This month (October, 2012) marks the release of Machowski’s New Testament devotional, Old Story New: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God (New Testament).

In partnership with the generous folks at New Growth Press, over the next week-and-a-half I will be posting the first week of devotions from Old Story New, an interview with Marty, giving away 2 copies of the book, and posting my review as a part of the Old Story New Blog TourBe sure to check back tomorrow for the first excerpt and instructions as to how you can enter to win a copy of Old Story New.  You may want to subscribe via RSS or email to receive the updates automatically in your inbox or reader of choice.

In the meantime, here is a brief bio of Marty as well as some of the advance endorsements Old Story New…

BIO

Marty Machowski is a Family Life Pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church, a Sovereign Grace Ministries church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, where he has served on the pastoral staff for more than twenty years. As leader of their children’s ministry, Promise Kingdom, he has worked for many years to develop curriculum and devotional material that connect church and home. His passion is equipping families to understand the Bible as one gospel story and help them share that with their children. He is the author of The Gospel Story for Kids series including Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God (OT)The Gospel Story Bible; and the Gospel Story Curriculum: Finding Jesus in the Old Testament and the forthcoming Old Story New (NT): Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God and Gospel Story Curriculum: Following Jesus in the New Testament. He and his wife Lois and their six children reside in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

ENDORSEMENTS

“Marty Machowski has done it again! This book, along with the earlier Old Testament devotional book, Long Story Short, is another masterful devotional book for families. It is simple without being shallow. It is theologically robust without being pedantic. It is comprehensive without being overwhelming. Best of all, it is doable for busy parents with children.”
Dr. Tedd Tripp, Pastor; conference speaker; best-selling author of Shepherding a Child’s Heart
“So much of the family devotional material available today does little more than use the Bible to teach half-truths and full-out moralism. The reason my wife and I love Marty Machowski’s books and the reason they have become important resources as we seek to raise our children in ‘the discipline and instruction of the Lord,’ is their consistent focus on the big picture of the Bible’s big story. Old Story New is yet another wonderful resource that we gladly commend and look forward to reading with our children.”
Tim Challies, Author; pastor; blogger
“Marty Machowski ‘gets’ families. Even more importantly, he knows how to connect them to the Bible with simple, relatable New Testament studies that make much of Jesus in every lesson. If you want your kids to see the Savior through his Word, spend some time in this exciting new devotional.”
Dave Harvey, Church Planting and Church Care, Sovereign Grace Ministries; author of When Sinners Say I Do: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage

The Root and Fruit of Spiritual Fellowship

One of the most disappointing things for a reader is cracking the cover of a book that has received great amounts of praise from credible voices only to be disappointed with the content the book actually delivers.  I can assure you; this is definitely NOT the case with Thabiti Anyabwile’s new book, The Life of God in the Soul of the Church: The Root and Fruit of Spiritual Fellowship.  Within the first 5 minutes of reading, my soul was already deeply encouraged by the simple, straightforward, and substantive manner of Thabiti’s presentation of truth about which, on a number of occasions, made me internally (and sometimes externally) exclaim, “YES!”

In the quote below, Anyabwile draws on the opening chapter of 1 John to explain the goals of spiritual fellowship with Christ and among saints in the church.  He writes:

The goals of…fellowship are joy and holiness.  ‘We write this to make our joy complete’ (v. 4).  Or, as some manuscripts and translations render the verse: ‘We are writing these things so that your joy may be complete.’  John clarifies the message of the gospel for his readers and for us.  He proclaims his message so that our joy would be filled out, swelled to fullness, complete, overflowing, bursting forth—so that nothing would be lacking in our experience of joy!

What an incredible thing.  Have you thought about this lately?  That the Son of God took on flesh.  That Life itself entered the world to be horribly abused, slaughtered, pierced, hung on a cross, buried, and then raised from death—for the sinner’s joy!  Christ endured the agony of the cross for the joy set before Him—for His joy in redeeming us and for our joy in knowing Him!  This is what the end of the gospel brings—joy for the sinner who now looks to His Savior face-to-face.

This is why fellowship cannot fundamentally be reduced to activities, a set of programs, or a set of dos and don’ts.  In essence, through fellowship the Lord’s life pushes us, propels us, and draws us to joy—great joy—built through relationships, not structure. (pp. 21-22, emphasis mine)

Check back next week for a review of The Life of God in the Soul of the Church, posted in partnership with a blog tour sponsored by Christian Focus Publishers.  I will tell you, in advance, that this is the best book I have encountered on the subject and practice of fellowship in the local church.  Whether you’re a pastor or layperson, you’ll want to pick this one up!

FYI: WTSbooks.com has it for $8.99…that’s 40% off the retail price of $14.99.  CLICK HERE for more info.