Book Review: The Truth of the Cross

The Truth of the Cross
R.C. Sproul
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There is no more recognizable icon than the cross. People from all religions in all different parts of the world recognize the cross. However, it would be safe to assume that the vast majority of people who could easily recognize a cross and associate it with Christianity would not be able to explain the significance of the cross in any substantive way. The bible teaches that the cross is significant, not as an icon, but as a means to salvation. People recognize the cross, but they do not understand the truth of the cross. People are in desperate need of the truth of the cross, and it is to this end that R.C. Sproul has written his latest book The Truth of the Cross. The Truth of the Cross is a small and simple book teeming with cosmic truths.

After establishing the necessity of the atonement, Sproul spends the majority of the book dealing with the doctrine of the atonement and its implications. In the next to last chapter Sproul concludes with a chapter on the intention of the atonement. If you are wondering why a book with the title The Truth of the Cross spends so much of its time dealing with atonement it is because atonement is exactly what Jesus accomplished on the cross. Remarkably the cross is not often spoken of in these terms. Terms like atonement and justification are looked at as antiquated terms in today’s theological circles. And the situation is not much better among non-theological circles. On this point Sproul makes the observation that,

The prevailing doctrine of justification today is not justification by faith alone. It’s not even justification by good works or by a combination of faith and works. The prevailing notion of justification in Western culture today is justification by death. It’s assumed that all one has to do to be received into the everlasting arms of God is to die. pg 10

Sproul is spot on in his assessment of the religious climate in our world. This is why his book is so important. After reading this book I am convinced that every Christian, or individual who wants to know what the bible says about salvation would profit from reading this book. This book is vintage Sproul! It is filled with vivid imagery and practical illustrations that  made high and lofty doctrines available to all ages and maturity levels. As a student minister I am excited about this book because it is another resource that I can recommend to parents as they seek to grow their children up in the way of the Lord.

One of my favorite paragraphs in this book speaks of Christ as the ultimate Kinsman-Redeemer,

Now these terms and customs are applied throughout the Scriptures to the work of the Messiah in His atonement. In the ransom that Christ pays, He works as a Kinsman-Redeemer for His people. As our elder brother, He pays the indebtedness that we have incurred before God. He buys us out of indentured servitude by paying the price for our freedom, thereby restoring to us our inheritance in the Father’s kingdom. pg. 64

As I read through this section in particular I was quite moved as I contemplated the work that Jesus had done in my own life. This, by the way, is one of Sproul’s strongest attributes as an author. Sproul has an innate ability to take abstract theological discussions and make them authentic in the lives of his readers.

The only objection that I have with this book is a quibble I have had with Sproul’s writing in the past. On page 143 Sproul lumps Dispensationalist together with Arminians. This is not the first time that I have observed Sproul make this generalization, and I often wonder what he thinks of men like John MacArthur and John Piper who are both Calvinists and Dispensationalist. That being said, this quibble is literally with only one line in the entire book. Sproul does not even elaborate on this issue.

The Truth of the Cross is a well written and important book for our day. I wish that more authors would take note of Sproul’s writing and emulate what he has done with this book. With this in mind I whole-heartily recommend this book to you.

Title: The Truth of the Cross
Author: R.C. Sproul
Publisher: Reformation Trust
Year: 2007
Price: $15.00 from Ligonier
ISBN: 1567690874
Pages: 178

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Thoughts on Ministry

My thoughts are a little bit scattered today. To say the least my mind is divided between several issues, and teaching responsibilities upcoming.  Today I want to share a small part of what me mind has been mulling around for some time which will dove tail into a book I have planned for Monday. 

I have been here are Grace Bible Church of Brandon on staff for 2 1/2 years, and before that another 2 years as the volunteer youth leader.  Over that time we have seen kids come and go, we have seen changes in format, and hopefully we have gotten better at “doing youth ministry.”  One of the things that has stayed consistent over the last 4 1/2 years is a commitment to teaching the youth verse-by-verse from the bible (expository).  I cannot tell you how important this commitment has been as we seek to grow up the next generation of church leaders.  I have grown immensely by constantly being in God’s word, and I believe that our study of God’s word has changed many of these students.  However, one of the dangers of a church, and youth ministry, that focuses on expository teaching is that the expository nature of teaching can overshadow all other aspects of the teaching. In others words, a new believer will come into a church and one of the first things they will learn is that expository teaching is very important. Consequently, when they hear a sermon they may not understand it or know how to apply to their lives but as long as it was “expository” they will feel satisfied with the sermon. This is what I am trying to guard against in our youth ministry.  One of the pastors here at our church made the comment that as a church we must guard against this same thing in such a way that there is “no member left behind.”  (that is funny on several levels) 

I know that these thoughts are somewhat random, and certainly they are not well developed, but I hope to pick up on this strain of thought on Monday so that I can tell you about a book I just got done reading. 

Jude 16 (pt. 2)

II. These individuals are big talkers
 a. They speak arrogantly
In addition to being grumblers these individuals were also “big talkers.” Jude writes, “they speak arrogantly…” The word arrogantly (ὑπέρογκα) could very well be translated “fat-headed.” It describes a person who is boastful and always exaggerates the details of their own lives. This is a very tempting sin; it is so easy to exaggerate the details of a story to make ourselves look better. We always want to have the best stories, and we want everyone to think that we are cool. The individuals we read about in Jude were definitely big talkers; they took it to another level. In v. 8 we learned that they claimed to have dreams that gave them special revelation, and they even slandered the angels. Jude tells us that by their “big talking” these individuals spoke against God.
Scripture gives us some very vivid examples of men who were “big talkers” and spoke against God. Maybe the best example of this is found in the story of King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel 4:28-33 records what happen to King Nebuchadnezzar when he did his big talking:

“All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king. “Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. “The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’ “While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.’ “Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.

By claiming to great glory and majesty Nebuchadnezzar was speaking against God. Utimately God punished Nebuchadnezzar for his foolish “big talking.”

b. They flatter others for their own gain
In addition to big talking these individuals were also sweat talkers. Jude writes, “they are… flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.” These people were fakers. The term “flattering people” (θαυμάζοντες πρόσωπα) literally means marvel at someone’s face. The idea is that these individuals told people whatever they wanted to hear. Remember, they were teaching a false gospel. In order to fool people they had to say what people wanted to hear. They were “Eddy Hascals.” They flattered people for their own advantage.

Conclusion:
 After looking at how these individuals spoke harsh words against God I think we would all have to admit that at one point or another we have done these same things. This should be frightening to us because Jude makes it clear that Jesus is coming back to judge the world. The rebellious will be thrown away into eternal punishment, and the righteous will receive eternal life. This is not good for us since in Matthew 15:18 Jesus said that “the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.” In other words, our words reveal what is in our heart. By being grumblers, who complain and follow our own lusts; and big talkers who speak arrogantly and flatter other for our own gain we reveal that we have hearts that are rebellious to God. As Jesus said we are defiled. But thankfully “by grace, through faith” our sinful defiled souls can be covered with the righteousness of Christ.

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, And whose sins have been covered.” Romans 4:7

The Westminster Confession of Faith: Of Effectual Calling

1. All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, he is pleased, in his appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by his Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ: enlightening their minds, spiritually and savingly, to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good; and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by his grace.

>This effectual calling is described in essence as a calling out of sin, enlightening of the mind, and a changing of the heart. All of which is used, and necessary, to draw a sinner unto Jesus.

2. This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.

>It is all the work of God!

3. Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth. So also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.

>Many, including Charles Spurgeon (who made it even clearer in the language of the London Baptist Confessional), believe that all infants who die are elect. But at the very least historic Reformed Theology holds that a portion of infants who die are elect and thus will go to heaven.

4. Others, not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come to Christ, and therefore cannot be saved: much less can men, not professing the Christian religion, be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the law of that religion they do profess; and to assert and maintain that they may is without warrant of the Word of God.

>The Gospel of Christ, revealed in Scripture, is the sole means by which God accomplishes His electing purpose.

Jude 16

These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.

Jude 16 is really just a part of Jude 14-15. In vv. 14-15 Jude used the prophecy of Enoch to point out that Jesus is coming back and he will judge all. The rebellious will be thrown away into eternal punishment, and the righteous will receive eternal life. Jude also makes it clear that the “certain persons” he has been writing about will face eternal punishment. Specifically about these rebellious fake Christian, Jude explains that Jesus is coming back “to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” Up to this point we have clearly seen what Jude meant we he spoke of “ungodly deeds.” Today, as we look at v. 16, we will see what Jude meant when he spoke of “all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

I. These individuals are grumblers
 a. They grumble
The first thing that we see about these ungodly sinners and their harsh words is that they were grumblers. This is the only time in the NT that this word occurs, however it occurs numerous times in the LXX. This is the same word that was used to describe Israel’s murmurings against God. In v. 5 Jude compared these “certain persons” with the Israelite who did not believe God even after God rescued them from Egypt. In Numbers 14:2 we see the visible manifestation of their unbelief:

All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness!

They showed their unbelief by grumbling. This is exactly what Jude is talking about here in v. 16. Like all grumblers, these individuals were not happy with their circumstances and they voiced their displeasure with grumbling. We can all relate to this tendency. When your mom tells you to do something that you don’t want to do you are not happy with your circumstances. So what do you do? Usually, you grumble and roll your eyes as you are walking away. This is what a grumbler does.

b. They constantly complain, and proceed after their own lust
Jude tells us a little more about grumblers when he writes, “These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts…” So not only do grumblers grumble, but they also “find fault” and “follow after their own lusts.” The word that is translated “finding fault” (μεμψίμοιροι) is a description of someone who is always complaining and causing trouble (Some translations use the “malcontent.”). They are never satisfied with their situation, no matter what, and they are constantly complaining. In their complaining these individuals are also throwing blame on other people. This is just as common as the grumbling. Whenever something bad happens what do we always want to do? We want to blame someone else for our situation.
There is a reason why individuals like this are never satisfied and constantly grumble and complain; it is because they are following after their own lusts. They want to gratify their own desires and always get their way. It never occurs to them to compromise, or to sacrifice their own desires for someone else. This is a huge problem in sibling relationships. John Calvin, commenting on this verse, said “They who indulge their depraved lust, are hard to please, and morose, so that they are never satisfied. Hence it is, that they always murmur and complain, however kindly good men may treat them.”
Whether you have realized it or not these are the attitudes that are in your heart when you grumble and complain. You are grumbling and complaining because you are not satisfied with the situation that God has put you in. Think back to the Israelites. God saved them out of Egypt, he was providing for them in the desert, and he was going to give them the promise land. Yet they were not satisfied with their situation. God is in control of everything in the Universe. So, whenever you grumble at your parents, complain, or throw blame on other people you are doing so because you think that your way would have been better than God’s way. This is why Jude said that these “ungodly sinners have spoken against [God].” By grumbling and complaining they proved that they were more interested in their own lustful desires, than the will of God.

Camp Video

As you might have noticed things have been quite slow around here for the last couple of weeks.  This slow down can be traced back to this year’s youth camp.  As always this is an incredibly busy time for me as the Student Minister, however as you can see from this video it is always worth the effort that is put into it.  I want to  thank everyone who worked so hard to make camp happen this year.  To my awesome wife who carried a 9 month old up to the mountains to minister to the students (and to me).  To my brother Steve who drove the marathon trip, blew a tire, and did an amazing job working with the students.  To Carmen, who toughed out an entire week with no electricity (because she loves Jesus).  And finally, to all the students who had great attitudes and let the word of God minister in their lives.  Thanks to all of you.  

We Made It Back

camp-logo-4.jpgWe made it back from camp, and all went well. The Lord was gracious and provided myself and our other leaders with many opportunities to minister to our students.  Additionally we were all blessed by the preaching of David Meade.  The theme for camp this year was Total Commitment.   We wanted to emphasize to our youth that being a Christian is about total commitment to Jesus.    

I want to thank everyone who prayed for our trip this year.  God used this concentrated time in His word, and with His people to work in the lives of our students.  Look for things to get back to normal around here by the beginning of next week.