Saturday, February 7, 2015

Romans 8 - 16 For You

Romans 8-16 for YouRomans 8-16 for You by Timothy Keller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Curiously, the "For You" series split its two volumes on Romans at the end chapter 7 instead of Romans 8. Undoubtedly it did so in the interest of sharing space rather than trying to follow Paul’s literary structure. However, as Tim Keller shows in one of his introductory paragraphs, it is fruitful to consider Romans 8 with the rest of the letter:

"I have always believed that at the heart of Romans 8 you have the secret to really using the gospel in your heart to change yourself in a profound way; and that the rest of Romans will show you what that change will look like in a practical way. My prayer is that as you read the second half of this wonderful letter, you will find your heart thrilled by the gospel, your mind shaped by the gospel, and your life changed by the gospel.” (loc 67)

And as helpful as Keller’s treatment of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility in Romans 9 to 11 is, and a host of other subjects in 12 to 16, I doubt I’ll be the only reader to find his three chapters on Romans 8 the most stimulating to mind and heart. Keller shows how setting one’s mind “on the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5) relates to the rest of the chapter. It means to be preoccupied with what the Spirit is preoccupied with: "how in Christ we are adopted, loved and welcomed” (193). Yes, “to 'mind…the things of the Spirit’...means never to forget our privileged standing or the fact that we are loved, and to let this dominate our thinking, our perspectives, and therefore our words and actions” (202).

The strength of this book is its succinctness. It will help you understand the last half of this magnificent epistle without bogging you down. Indeed, it will do the very opposite: it will stir you up.

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Final Days of Jesus

The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever LivedThe Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived by Andreas J. Kostenberger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A excerpt from the book's commentary on Peter after he denied Jesus:

Everything he thought he knew about himself, all his self-confidence and belief in his undying loyalty to his Master, has been shattered and lies in utter ruins. He sees himself as a failure, a liar, a traitor, and one who has just invoked God’s wrath upon himself in denying the Messiah just to save his own skin. Perhaps he recalled Jesus’s earlier words: “Whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” Not only has he betrayed and denied the man he had trusted and followed for the past three years, leaving him to face his accusers and die alone, but also he has incriminated himself before God’s judgment seat by uttering his curse and oath…Peter knew that his actions had placed him irrevocably (or so he thought) under God’s wrath, while Jesus knew that he must soon experience the full outpouring of God’s wrath so that Peter, and all others who placed their faith in Jesus, would not have to do the same. (118-119)

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with GodPrayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Perhaps the best book I read in 2014. It’s a one-stop-shop on prayer in contrast to those that deal primarily with theology, or methodology, but not both.

The book is not novel, but rich, drawing from Scripture and the Masters like Luther, Owen, Calvin, Augustine, Edwards, etc.

A lot of the material I’ve previously read on prayer has emphasized the petitionary aspect of prayer. Keller’s book was striking to me in that apart from one chapter (chp 14), prayer was primarily about conversing with God and encountering him. Indeed, this came through even in that one chapter on intercession (chp 14).

In this regard, I noticed that more than one of these Masters associated 1 Peter 1:8 (which talks about rejoicing with joy that in inexpressible) with prayer.

Keller also does a great job showing how prayer must (and gets to!) be tethered to God’s Word, and it is because of that connection that prayer can indeed be a conversing with God. In this context Keller critiques some ancient and modern approaches to prayer that marginalize the place of Scripture, truth, the mind, or the heart.

In short, this is the kind of book that literally changes my life.

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