John MacArthur on Turning from Family

•March 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Again, in his book Hard to Believe, MacArthur writes that a disciple of Jesus will turn from the family, if he is forced to make a decision. Coming from a congregation that highly values the family, his statement, based from Matthew 10:34-37, was really a shock to me. Here is the excerpt:

Your commitment goes against the harmony with which you desire to live. Being a Christian and following Jesus Christ may mean you create a division in your own home. But that’s a mark of a true disciple. Clinging to Christ often means letting go of family members who reject you because you won’t reject the gospel…People will not take a stand for Christ, because they want to maintain that family harmony. But Jesus said the true disciple will turn from his family, if he is forced to make a decision. This is part of self-denial, accepting gladly the high cost of following Jesus to receive His infinite blessings for time and eternity….Family love is strong, surely the tightest human blond. But it doesn’t have the power that love for Christ has. It is so strong that it sometimes cuts the family bond.”1


1John MacArthur, Hard to Believe (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 131-132.

John MacArthur on Authentic Faith

•March 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

In his book Hard to Believe, MacArthur writes on faith and its fruit. Here is the quote:

Don’t believe anyone who says it’s easy to become a Christian. Salvation for sinners cost God His own Son; it cost God’s Son His life, and it’ll cost you the same thing. Salvation isn’t gained by reciting mere words. Saving faith transforms the heart, and that in turn transforms behavior. Faith’s fruit is seen in actions, not intentions. There’s no room for passive spectators: words without actions are empty and futile. Remember that what John saw in his vision of judgment was a Book of Life, not a Book of Words or Book of Intellectual Musings. The life we live, not the words we speak, reveals where our faith is authentic.1


1John MacArthur, Hard to Believe (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 93.

Hard to Believe by John MacArthur

•March 25, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I missed John MacArthur. Well, not really him, but his writings. So I finally bought a copy of Hard to Believe, MacArthur’s book that I’ve been longing to have. The book is about the truths of Christianity that are hard to believe. These include discipleship, the cross, exclusivity, evangelism, etc. Again, MacArthur does what he does best: Exposition of the Bible.


Okay. I have to admit it as early as now. In the book, MacArthur is as not as expository as he does in A Tale of Two Sons (which is a rich exposition of Luke 15) and The Truth War (exposition of portions of Jude). Except for his unbelievable courage in the face of conflict, what else would I expect of MacArthur? I often find him doing paraphrases than exposition. I guess I just put my expectations too high. Oh well. But let’s set aside this reservation and move on.

As usual, MacArthur is confrontational. As early as page 3, he bashes on prosperity theology, the seeker-sensitive movement, and Robert Schuller’s self-esteem gospel. He even coined the term Christianity Lite, “the Christianity for consumers,” “the redirection, watering down, and misinterpretation of the biblical gospel in an attempt to make it more palatable and popular.”1 I think Christianity Lite have already intruded churches and ministries. Just observe how some Christian live their lives and how leaders conduct their ministries, and you will inevitably find yourself face-to-face with Chrisitanity Lite.

In the book, MacArthur often employs transliterated Greek words when explaining passages. I find this very helpful, since it gives the reader additional information and it further reinforces the point of the passage.

In chapter 1, which is one of my favorite chapters of the book, MacArthur makes a compelling case on the necessity of following Jesus (discipleship), in which I believe is badly needed in churches these days. Using passages such as Mark 10:32-39; Luke 9:23-26, 57-62, 14:28-33, he discusses on the costliness of discipleship. Self-denial is a theme of this chapter, and the same theme is constantly repeated throughout the book.

In chapter 8, I came across shocking statements. “Your commitment goes against the harmony with which you desire to live. Being a Christian and following Jesus Christ may mean you create a division in your own home. But that’s a mark of a true disciple. Clinging to Christ often means letting go of family members who reject you because you won’t reject the gospel,” he  writes, basing it on Matthew 10:34-37. “People will not take a stand for Christ, because they want to maintain that family harmony. But Jesus said the true disciple will turn from his family, if he is forced to make a decision. This is part of self-denial, accepting gladly the high cost of following Jesus to receive His infinite blessings for time and eternity.”2 Finally he says, “Family love is strong, surely the tightest human blond. But it doesn’t have the power that love for Christ has. It is so strong that it sometimes cuts the family bond.”3 These statements are truly shocking. I believe that family love, together with self-love (that’s why we are to deny ourselves if we are to follow Christ), will be the ultimate test of our allegiance to Christ. Who will reign supreme?

Hard to Believe is not a book for the faint-hearted. It is powerfully convicting from start to finish, and I was deeply convicted by it. Unless you are ready to face hard-to-believe truths, don’t read this. Nevertheless, the book is worth reading; I highly recommend it to you.


1John MacArthur, Hard to Believe (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 2.
2John MacArthur, Hard to Believe, 131-132
3John MacArthur, Hard to Believe, 132

R.C. Sproul on Preachers and Faithfulness to the Word

•March 16, 2011 • Leave a Comment

In his book, The Holiness of God, R.C. Sproul makes a statement on preachers and their faithfulness to the Word of God. It’s humbling and frightening. Here’s the quote:

Ministers are noteworthy of their calling. All preachers are vulnerable to the charge of hypocrisy. In fact, the more faithful preachers are to the Word of God in their preaching, the more liable they are to the charge of hypocrisy. Why? Because the more faithful people are to the Word of God, the higher the message is that they will preach. The higher the message, the further they will be from obeying it themselves.1


1R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 1998), 41.

The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul

•March 16, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Finally, my first book from R.C. Sproul. The Holiness of God is one of Sproul’s classics. After reading the book, I began to have a profound understanding and a high view of God’s holiness and justice.


The book has 11 chapters that span in 250+ pages, all loaded with expositions, illustrations, and sometimes personal stories from Sproul’s life. At every end of the chapter, there is a section called Allowing God’s Holiness to Affect Our Lives. It has a set of questions that encourage reflection, application, and discussion. I find this feature helpful to readers.

What I like most about this book is that I often find Sproul doing expositions of various passages from the Bible. In Chapter 2, entitled Holy, Holy, Holy, he does a weighty exposition of Isaiah 6:1-8. From the word “Lord” printed in the text to the seraphim’s two pairs of wings that cover their faces and feet, from the seraphim’s chant “Holy, Holy, Holy” to Isaiah’s woe to himself, he does careful explanations.

In chapter 3, Sproul finally defines the word “holy” (but he wishes to postpone it further). I initially thought that it means pure or separate. True, but Sproul goes further. He uses the word transcendent, meaning “exceeding usual limits.” Then he writes, “When the Bible calls God holy, it means primarily that God is transcendentally separate. He is so far above and beyond us that He seems almost totally foreign to us. To be holy is to be the “other,” to be different in a special way.”1

In chapter 6, Sproul makes a compelling case for God’s justice. He looks at some Old Testament passages and explains the swift, sudden, and seemingly unjust punishment on Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, and Uzzah. By the end of the chapter, I was convinced about the reality of God’s justice.

Since he is dealing with the holiness of God, I know that Sproul will inevitably find himself discussing the doctrine of sanctification. And I’m right. In chapter 8, which is rightly titled Be Holy Because I Am Holy, he does this. In relating justification with sanctification, he writes, “True faith always produces real conformity to Christ. If justification happens to us, then sanctification will surely follow. If there is no sanctification, it means that there never was any justification.”2

Sproul is known for teaching reformed theology, and so I waited for this to show. And in one chapter, his reformed theology is seen when he quotes from the Westminster Catechism.3

I’m afraid that most Christians, even the sincere ones, have an inaccurate or inadequate knowledge of God’s holiness. And this will ultimately show in their lives. Sproul notes, “How we understand the person and character of God the Father affects every aspect of our lives. It affects far more than what we normally call the “religious” aspect of our lives…His holy character has something to say about economics, politics, athletics, romance—everything with which we are involved.”4

The Holiness of God is a must-read for every Christian. This will give readers a Bible-informed view of the God’s holiness. I highly recommend the book to you.


1R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 1998), 46-47.
2Sproul, The Holiness of God, 202.
3Sproul, The Holiness of God, 192.
4Sproul, The Holiness of God, 16.

The Relationship Principles of Jesus by Tom Holladay

•February 28, 2011 • Leave a Comment

My church is going through a 6-week series on the topic of love. As a supplementary reading, my pastor suggested Tom Holladay’s The Relationship Principles of Jesus. Even long before the church campaign began, I already learned about this book through Zondervan’s Web site. I eyed this book since I needed help in building relationships with people. Finally, I grabbed a copy so I can make a review of it.


Holladay shares six relationship principles that we can learn from Jesus. He expounds on these principles throughout the book. These principles are: Place the highest value on relationships; love as Jesus loves you; communicate from the heart; as you judge, you will be judged; the greatest are the servants; and treat others as you want them to treat you.

At the end of the book, sets of questions are provided. These can be used for discussions.

The book is obviously and largely influenced by Rick Warren and his book The Purpose-Driven Life. Warren happens to be Holladay’s pastor and brother-in-law. He also writes the foreword of the book. You will notice many similarities of Holladay’s and Warren’s books, including the 40 chapters in 40 days format, the chapter endings, the use of several Bible translations, and the writing style.

I find the Thinking about My Relationship section helpful, which is found at every ending of a chapter. It includes at a point to ponder, a sentence that summarizes the chapter ; a verse to remember, a verse for the day’s Scripture memory; and a question to consider, which will help the reader reflect and apply the point of the chapter.

Another feature of the book is the Experience the Truth sections, which can be found in selected chapters. These are adaptations (or retelling) of Scripture passages. Holladay uses these sections to include explanations about the cultural practices of Jesus’ time, which is helpful. Though I personally prefer direct quotations from Scripture, these sections are nonetheless appealing to readers.

I have some reservations towards the book. First, I wished Holladay was more expository. There is a wealth of passages that he can dig that is related to the principles he teaches. He could’ve expounded more on several texts from the Gospels, on “one another” verses, on judgment and humility, and so on. Holladay had the chance to open the Bible to the readers of his book. I see it was a wasted opportunity. I do not mean to sound demanding towards Holladay. I understand that the book is designed to be read one chapter a day and is devotional in format.

Second, the use of Bible translations were overwhelming. Holladay could’ve settled for 2-4 translations. This is to avoid the impression that he uses several translations to get his point across, and not the Bible’s.

Overall, I find this book practical and easy-to-read. Actually, I read more or less 40 pages a day. I just hoped that my neglect of the a-chapter-a-day format didn’t diminish my experience of the book.

Though I don’t find The Relationship Principles of Jesus a great book, I can’t deny that I learned from it. It will be a helpful tool in building relationships. So I can recommend the book to you.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Costly Grace

•February 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes on costly grace. Here is an excerpt:

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘ye were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the incarnation of God.1


1Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (London: SCM Press, 1964), 37.