4 “Must Have” Books
Here are four books I recommend on a regular basis. They are all books about the high-octane, undomesticated grace of God and each is deeply practical as they deal with addiction, abuse, parenting, assurance, the Christian life, and preaching and teaching the Bible.
We need this book. God’s grace is on full display in it as it begins and ends with the good news of God’s story of redemption throughout all of Scripture, which culminates in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Redemption proclaims the faith, hope, and love we need and can offer to others. It is a gift to all who are suffering because of their sin and the sins done against them.
How can sin be overcome and shalom restored? To answer that question is to define redemption. And no Christian should be surprised by the biblical answer: Jesus himself is our redemption (1 Cor. 1:30; see also Rom. 3:23–24; Gal. 4:4–5; Eph. 1:7; Heb. 9:12). Redemption is not a series of steps we practice or rules we follow. It is not the forced motions of religious practice. No human effort can accomplish redemption for oneself or anyone else. We need a Redeemer. Just as God’s story is not ultimately about you but about God, so also redemption comes not from you but from God. God’s story is about redemption. But more specifically it is about a Redeemer. Jesus is the main character of the story, and his life and work are the center of the plot.
This book is a “must have” if you want to understand the implications of being a theologian of the cross. It is a brilliant theological and pastoral reflection on the Heidelberg Catechism.
The cross is itself in the first instance the attack of God on the old sinner and the sinner’s theology. The cross is the doing of God to us. But that same cross itself, and only the cross, at the same time opens a new and unheard-of possibility over against the sinner’s old self and its theology. That means that a theology of the cross is inevitably quite polemical. It constantly seeks to uncover and expose the ways in which sinners hide their perfidy behind pious facades. The delicate thing about it is that it attacks the best we have to offer, not the worst. This explains why the theology of the cross is generally spoken of in contrast to a theology of glory. The two theologies are always locked in mortal combat. Wherever there is mention of a theology of the cross without indication of this combat, it is not truly the theology of the cross that is being expressed.
Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson
The one thing children need is the gospel of grace. Many probably agree with this as an idea, but what does it look like in practice? It also deals with the concern that grace will produce rebellious kids without a conscience.
Living and parenting in grace is not the easy road. In fact, it is much harder to rest in his promise of grace than it is to make a list and try to live by it. Some parents may think that giving grace to their children equates to giving themselves a pass. Just the opposite is true. Giving grace to children is an exercise of faith, and faith is always more difficult than works. It flows out of humility, a character trait that none of us comes by naturally. That’s why most people miss it and why works, not faith, is the stumbling block of the cross. You are not slacking off when you tell them of his dazzling love. You are doing the hardest thing.
Law & Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible by C. F. W. Walther
Law is everything in the Scriptures that commands, and gospel is everything in the Scriptures that promises God’s favor in Christ. If we confuse these, we’ll lower the law to some standard that we can actually clear, and we’ll make the gospel anything but good news. The Law is a cruel taskmaster that doesn’t lead to freedom but instead to either despair or self-righteousness. The gospel is the good news that Jesus’ burden is light and that his righteousness is ours as a gift, that the power of law is fulfilled and thus broken in our life. As Calvin writes, “Consequently, this Gospel does not impose any commands, but rather reveals God’s goodness, his mercy and his benefits” (Calvin, Institutes 2.7.5).
Only he is an orthodox teacher who not only presents all articles of faith in accordance with Scripture, but also rightly distinguishes from each other the Law and the Gospel. Rightly distinguishing the Law and the Gospel is the most difficult and the highest art of Christians in general and of theologians in particular. It is taught only by the Holy Spirit in the school of experience.