2019 Hope Awards Southeast winner Scarlet Hope | Rachelle Starr and her friends help women emerge from the sex industry
Christian Dean Inserra
A comment from a friend in seminary shaped Inserra’s framework for ministry and evangelism as a pastor in the Bible Belt: “You have to get them lost before they can actually be saved.” The problem of cultural Christianity reaches beyond the South, and Inserra offers ideas for talking about the gospel with people who claim to be Christians because they believe they are good people. He also challenges churches to think about their own methods, with chapters on “How Lax Church Membership Fosters Cultural Christianity” and “Making Decisions vs. Making Disciples.”
Gilbert writes a Bible-saturated balm for Christians who have trusted in Christ but struggle with doubts about their salvation. It’s also a salve for Christians burdened by guilt over their sins and frustration over their progress in Christian living. Gilbert distinguishes between driving and confirming sources of assurance. The gospel of Christ is the driving source. Good works help confirm our union with Christ, but they aren’t the source of our salvation: “The blood of Jesus doesn’t barely sneak us into the presence of God; it actually gives us every right in the universe to be there.”
Our Ancient Foe
Ronald Kohl, ed.
The Christian life remains a battle against sin and Satan, but Satan sometimes gets less attention in our approach to Christian living. Kohl edits nine essays about Satan originally delivered as conference addresses by pastors and scholars, including Kent Hughes and Sinclair Ferguson. A chapter by Joel Beeke on Satan sifting Peter is a highlight. Jesus prayed Peter’s faith wouldn’t fail, and He preserves our faith too: “When Christ does a work, he does a full work.”
Alistair Begg reminds readers it’s good and Biblical to pray for our pressing physical and material needs. But he also encourages Christians to think about how to “pray big” by imitating the prayers of the Apostle Paul in the book of Ephesians. Paul tells the believers what’s on his prayer list for them: resurrection hope, the power of the Holy Spirit, and a deeper knowledge of the love of Christ. Begg encourages readers to prioritize praying for these bigger, spiritual blessings for themselves and others.
For Christians battling doubts or doldrums, one of the most refreshing antidotes is to think less about self and more about God. Matthew Barrett’s None Greater (Baker Books, 2019) offers an accessible treatise on a subject that isn’t fully comprehensible: the glory and grandeur of God.
Barrett writes about the attributes of God, showing how they flow together in harmony: “God is not made up of parts, but he is his attributes.” The author leans on the insights of a set of ancient Christian thinkers he calls the A-team: Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas. (Anselm famously described God as “something-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought.”)
It’s not light reading, but it’s also not too technical to follow. And it’s worth the effort to climb the mountain of God’s attributes and enjoy the vistas along the way. Doctrine leads to doxology, and Barrett reminds us that “God may be incomprehensible, but he is not unknowable.” —J.D.