Sunday, August 23, 2009

Book Review: Five Things Every Christian Needs To Grow by Dr. R.C. Sproul

Five Things Every Christian Needs To Grow is a simple, practical book by Dr. R.C. Sproul, that, as the book titled, every Christian needs to read, apply and grow in. Sandwiched within the six chapters, the author injects some very challenging, thought-provoking and Biblical exhortations throughout the entire text. The five things that the author speaks about are bible study, prayer, worship, service and stewardship.

In the chapter on bible study, the author started off with some very encouraging testimonies both of himself (including one on how he was so "infatuated" with the Scripture) as well as the testimonies of those close around him. He then proceeded to talk about the conversion of Augustine and Martin Luther through the Word of God.

The Bible should serve as a mirror for us to reflect on the conditions of our soul. To quote the author: "If I don’t like something I read in Scripture, perhaps I simply don’t understand it. If so, studying it again may help. If, in fact, I do understand the passage and still don’t like it, this is not an indication there is something wrong with the Bible. It’s an indication that something is wrong with me, something that needs to change. Often, before we can get something right, we need to first discover what we’re doing wrong."

I was also particularly challenged in the part where the author said that:

"As helpful as these study aids (e.g. study bibles, commentaries, etc) can be, it is important to remember the purpose behind our study. We must read the Bible existentially; that is, we must become involved in Bible Study what we’re reading. We must not just sit back as spectators, learning facts while remaining untouched and unmoved by the text of Scripture. We must ask ourselves what the Word is saying to us as we read. Only by considering this question will be come to the completeness Paul longed to see in Timothy."

Often if we are not careful, we can treat bible studies and bible readings as a form of academic exercise, a form of chore and routine that we need to complete as part of our daily life. We may have a lot of head knowledge, but little heart conversion.

The last section on the first chapter contains some helpful practical tips on how to study the bible as well as a list of recommended tools.

The second chapter of the book delves with the subject of prayer. In that chapter, the author elaborated on the practical aspects on praying the Lord's Prayer. The author compared prayer to the love letters written by two people who are in love. They write the letters not because they have to, but because they want to. They are passionate, affectionate and take delight in each other.

In the chapter on worship, the author reminds the readers that we need to come to God on His terms, not our terms. He gave us a grim reminder in the story of the sudden death of Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, as recorded in Leviticus 10:1-3. Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to His command. So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.

The author then reminded us that often we are prone to select the attributes of God that we love like mercy, grace, kindness, blessings but we conveniently put aside other biblical attributes of God that we find distasteful, such as His sovereignty, holiness, justice, and wrath, and toss them aside. In other words, we create and worship a god who is not God; and that is idolism!

In the fourth chapter on service, the author stated that service is not an optional aspect of the Christian life. All believers are called to be servants of God.

However, as the author has elucidated, we need to be clear of our motives for serving. Service is not a means to earn God's favor and merit for our salvation. Rather, the motivation for Christian service is love for God. We serve not to earn salvation, but because Christ already has purchased salvation for us. And it should be our delight to obey God. We should be motivated to serve Him out of joy for what He has done for us.

The author admitted that the greatest weakness in the church today is that many pastors keep looking for approval of men. As the author said, "But as soon as pastors become slaves to human opinion, trying to please human beings instead of God, the message of Christ is compromised. No man-pleaser preaches the whole counsel of God."

The final chapter deals on stewardship. In this chapter, the author exhorted the readers on the importance of giving. Nevertheless, I personally find that the contents in this chapter are rather simplistic than what I have expected. Although the author did say that giving should be an act of worship, yet he should have delved more on this aspect of the motive of giving. For example, I find it rather disturbing in some churches where tithing is exhorted as if like a form of investment with the promise of financial blessings as returns for the "investment" they have put in. Pay the tithe, and God will bless you with more money in return. Refuse to tithe, and God will punish you.

Giving ten percent of income probably is not hard for the very rich ones, for to them, that could simply be a paltry sum. It may also give them a false sense of assurance that they are obeying God and that God is now under the obligation to bless them back in abundance! But how about the very poor, where they are really struggling to make ends need, where they are living from paycheck to paycheck? For someone where every penny counts, does that mean that this person is living under the curse of God? Shall we squeeze out that 10% from him too, or shall we, as a church, bless him by helping him out of his financial rut?

This conclusion chapter on Questions and Answers also contains a point which I find it hard to agree with the author. In that chapter, the author said:

"So I always assume that there are people in worship services who are unconverted, who have never really come to Christ. For that reason, in my sermons I often direct my comments specifically to unconverted people, admonishing, warning, exhorting, and so on, calling them to faith in Jesus Christ. However, I never use the term invitation because I think it is utterly unbiblical. I don’t see where God invites people to come to Christ. Rather, God commands people to come. When you get an invitation to an event, you usually can decline it with impunity. But you can’t decline the call of the gospel with impunity. If you decline that call, you seal your eternal damnation."

Although man is totally helpless and depraved when it comes to eternal salvation, how else would they know that God's salvation is available to them if they are not "invited"? And although that they may have "declined" the invitation at the current stage, the gospel seed has been sown and they may accept Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior at the later part of their life. Nevertheless, I agree with the author that in our zeal to get converts, we may end up having a lot of evangelistic statistics which are not very accurate.

In summary, this book is a great resource to have; it is practical as well as challenging, not just to young believers, but also as a good reminder to matured believers of what it means to be a Christ's disciple.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am really impressed by book, Five Things Every Christian Needs To Grow, I am waiting for another book to come in market like this..........


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