Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Christ Precious - Book Review (Part III)

The final part of our review, reviewing the final major section of the book: The HI What Respects is Christ Precious to Them That Believe. It's almost needless for me to say that this was as good as the rest, again a mixture of inspiration, challenge and encouragement. In this section, Fawcett discusses over fifteen reasons that the believer finds Christ precious. Indeed, beginning the section, he writes: “He is not only precious to you, but preciousness itself. He is your jewel, tour treasure; and should you be robbed of all besides, you are superlatively and everlastingly rich.” (p 97) Christ is precious above all things, and so Fawcett continues his theme...

First, the history of Christ is precious. A friend of mine heard one of the pastors of one of the megachurches that have decided to close over Christmas speaking about it on the news. The substance of his answer was that it was a message people had heard over and over, and it would be best for people to spend Christmas Day with their families. That amazes me. For Fawcett, the Christmas story, the record of Christ’s ministry, His death and resurrection – they are precious, and bear repeating again and again. To those who believe, there is a wonder in the pages of the four Gospels, reading some of the wonderful reality of the Saviour. The ten pages in which Fawcett outlines the life of Christ are some of the more moving I’ve read, perhaps helped by the slightly more reverent language of a century or two ago…each line forces thought upon his beauty.

The person of Christ is precious. The Gospels are precious because they tell us of the Man, Christ Jesus, a Person infinitely above all others. The knowledge of this Man, writes Fawcett, is “more valuable than any other kind of knowledge whatever.” (104) After several pages detailing the wonders of the Person of Christ, Fawcett comes to a place all who love Christ known well – “I freely own, that I am lost when I meditate on the glory of Immanuel,” humbled and awed by His “incomparable and transcendent excellency.” (p 110)

The names of Christ are precious. Again, apt for the season, Fawcett begins with the passage that first popped into my mind when I saw this section heading: Isaiah 6:9 – “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders; and His name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” What’s in a name indeed!, and Christ’s name, to those that believe, is truly as ointment poured forth. Just as to hear the name Jesus used as a curse makes me feel sickened, to hear His name used reverently, worshipfully, lovingly, fills us with warmth and joy above almost everything else. As well as the name Jesus, Fawcett writes on other names of Christ: Messiah, Prince of Peace, Lord of Glory, Strength, the Consolation of Israel, and yet so many more names there are, each one beautiful, and each one precious as they speak of the character and person of the Christ we adore.

The offices and characters of Christ are precious (while I am outling very briefly, again I would emphasize just how encouraging and beneficial reading this book has been…to read Fawcett’s discussion of the person, the work and the beauties of the Saviour is inspiring and challenging – the best of both worlds. Even if this review does nothing for you, his pen is far sweeter than mine, and his thoughts of Christ far more exalted – get the book if you can). Fawcett writes of the Christ Who is a Priest after the order of Melchizedek – Who Himself bought our redemption; the King of Zion, who reigns in majesty, with all power in heaven and earth; the Prophet of the church, Who teaches, guides, illuminates, and proclaims the glory of God. But there is far more to Jesus than the fulfillment of the Old Testament offices. He is the Shepherd of His flock, from Whose hand none shall be plucked; the Redeemer of our souls, having paid a perfect sacrifice; the Everlasting Father (that’s always confused me to – read what Fawcett has to say!); The bridegroom, beloved of His bride;, Who loves her unto death.

The blood and the righteousness of Christ are precious – and oh how much so!! Without that perfect life lived to fulfill the law, without that blood shed on Calvary, without that agonizing death, and without that perfect righteousness to clothe us, we are without hope, destined to a life, bath here and thereafter, apart from God.

His love is precious – the love that caused Him to spill His blood for you and me. This, writes Fawcett, “is the most powerful inducement that can be proposed to us, to excite our ardent affections towards the gracious Redeemer” (p. 148) – or as John put it, we love Him because He first loved us. With Fawcett, the one who loves Christ can pray “To thy love I ascribe my full salvation; and through all the ages of blissful eternity, I humbly hope and trust, I shall proclaim the wonders of redeeming love, and tell to listening angels what this love has done for my soul.” (p.152)

His throne is precious. It is before this throne of grace that we bring our prayers, not only of love and adoration, but of petition and pleading prayer that is “not only a duty but an inestimable privilege.” (p.153) (I wish I would remember that more often – as Fawcett rightly continues, not holding anything back, “the condescension of God is wonderful in lending His gracious ear to sinful worms.”)

The doctrine of Christ is precious. In saying this, Fawcett sums up so much of what He has already written, but at this point, we can stop and think, by the measure of what we have read, just how precious is Christ to us? But there is more to come…

The promises of Christ are precious. The one Who loves Christ delights in the promise of the Spirit to empower us for the lives we should lead, and in the promise of His return (crying “even so, come Lord Jesus”)

The commands of Christ are precious. This would sound strange to one who does not know and love Christ – commands precious? And yet it’s true – as Fawcett comments: “the laws of His mouth are better than thousands of gold and silver. To be under divine restraints is sweeter than liberty.” (p. 160)The lover of Christ realizes that it is slavery to sin or to Christ, and the only true freedom is yielding to Him.

Following this, His ways are precious. Pursuing Christ, and walking with Him, is the path to true joy. Fawcett quaintly writes that this supreme love that attaches itself to Christ “governs all the active train of human passions, and leads them, in sweet captivity, to cheerful obedience. And as the inward affections will thus be engaged towards the Redeemer, the outward powers will be employed in corresponding exercises.” (p.162) To those Who love Christ, it is the way without Him that is hard.

His people are precious. I recall when I write my dissertation on Moody and Sankey’s Scottish revival in the 1870s that there was a lot of opposition and in one of the local newspapers at the time (the Glasgow Herald), the comment was made by one cynic: “look at these Christian’s; see how they love one another.” Ouch! By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, Christ said, and how often we fall short as a Church on this one. Sure, we will have genuine differences with brothers and sisters in Christ, but if we find Christ precious, writes Fawcett (and He is only following the Scripture) we will find each other precious. As Fawcett concludes after a few pages discussing this, “How careful we should be to cultivate brotherly love both in ourselves and others!” How indeed.

His interest is precious. I like Fawcett’s opening paragraph here: It is not enough for a man to talk in high strains of melting affection and moving of his affections to the Redeemer, to tell of the inward experiences he has had, at certain periods, of love to Him, how His hearty was drawn out to Him at this time or the other time, when in the general course of his life, he is indifferent to the cause of Christ, and unwilling to lay out Himself for the promoting of His Kingdom among men. We are to make manifest that Christ is precious to us, by constant endeavors to advance His cause and interest in the world.” (p.170) Simply stated, those who love Christ, walk the walk as well as talk the talk. It is their delight to see Him exalted and His kingdom extended.

His day and house are precious. I don’t know why I am thinking about all those megachurches which are closing again. Perhaps Christians of old went over the top in the extremes in which they limited what could be done on the Lord’s day, but we certainly have not improved things with the license we reveal today, and the take it or leave it church attitude even among Christians today is not the sign of those who love Christ. The one who finds Christ precious loves the house of God, to gather with other believers and the day of His rising, and celebrate the person and glory of Christ with other who love Him too.

Hi benefits are precious. The one who loves Christ finds His gifts, not unnaturally, precious – but that means they show thankfulness.

His chastisements are precious. Perhaps not so obvious! But precious are the wounds of a friend, and Christ chastises, not out of some vindictive pleasure, but out of a desire for our good and for His glory, seeking to guide us back to the right path (i.e. the best path).

His example is precious. Again, as we read the Gospels, and see the life of Christ in action, we are thrilled, by his tenderness dealing with the woman caught in adultery, to his righteous anger in dealing with the moneychangers at the temple. In all He did, He attracts the believers admiration and awe. As Fawcett states, “the more I contemplate His amiable character, while He sojourned on earth, the more I am delighted with it.” (p. 185)

I had intended to finish the review by recapping these points and challenging us to reread the points above, and measure our own love of Christ by them. But no need – Fawcett finishes with a dozen or so pages as “An Improvement on the Subject”!, and here he suggests the thoughts with which we should leave this book.

First, we should be convinced the evangelical system is righteous and equitable, and second, we should be convinced of our need for Christ. Beyond this, he gets very challenging. First, from considering what we have read, and from observation of the world, we must conclude the number of those who find Christ precious is small. In light of this, we should examine ourselves, and not take for granted our salvation on light grounds. This is the most important thing we will ever deal with in our lives, as it means the difference between eternal bliss and eternal torment. It should be obvious that we should and must love Christ, and we should forget comfort in this world below, through which we are simply passing, and rather aspire after more knowledge of Christ. Then, having seen just how precious Christ is, we should be ashamed we don’t love Him more (I know I am from my reading of this book). In building our love for Him, we should allow our faith, love and knowledge of Christ to pervade all we do, and in the end, we should realize that the life of the true lover of Christ is a happy lot.

Again, I encourage the purchase of this book (you can get it here). In fact, if you can, get copies for friends!! It’s an investment, for you will read it more than once! But it is a far greater investment in your own spiritual walk with Christ. All in all, if you are serious about your faith, and want to be challenged in your pursuit of Him, John Fawcett’s Christ Precious is a worthy place to begin.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

My New Resource Blogs

I've started a couple more (and am working on getting a fourth going), just to let the few people who read this blog know!! The original is

Christian Scholars Directory

The new ones are:

Christian Journals Directory , and
Christian MP3s Directory

The first will give a range of theology Journals from from differing perspectives (so far there are the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Trinity Journal and FOunders Journal, for example, which I agree pretty much with on a lot, and on the other side there is Theology, News and Notes, from Fuller, which I haven't read a lot of, but probably disagree a lot with! The MP3 directory will list MP3 lectures (not music) that I come across from folks who do generally agree with me (i.e. tend towards conservative evangelicalism), though we may disagree on a few details here and there. I won't include people who deny the fundamentals of the Christian faith on that one (it was inspired by the fact I got a Dell DJ, and can now listen to MP3s at my leisure, so I wanted a list online I could refer to - there is a ton of great stuff out there. As with my original blog, I only link to free resources.


Christ Precious - Book Review (Part II)

Part 2 of Fawcett’s work is entitled “The Evidence Believers Give That Christ Is Precious To Them”, and continues the exceptionally challenging nature of the book. “God has magnified His love, and set forth His grace towards us, in a manner which should effectually allure our hearts to Him,” Fawcett begins, outlining in beautiful language the ways in which God has show this love (I would emphasise again that the devotional quality of this book is far beyond the vast majority of what you would read today, and it is far more edifying than most modern Christian literature I have come across). In the next 50+ pages, Fawcett goes into detail on what the life of someone truly besotted with Christ, who truly finds Him precious (and remember from the review of the first section that such people are to Fawcett the only ones with true claims to a real Christian faith, for real Christianity is transformational).

First, Fawcett states the one who find’s Christ precious shall trust their everlasting concerns into his hands. Here he is contrasting the type of faith that trusts in itself and it’s own might to bring redemption, and the faith that rests wholly on Christ, realizing that we are incapable of adding in even the smallest way to our own salvation. “When the sinner understands and realizes what God says of the evil of sin, of the misery of fallen man, and of the appointed way of salvation by a glorious and all–sufficient Mediator, he, in consequence, flies for refuge to the hope set before him, and ventures the whole weight of his everlasting interests in His hands.” (p. 43) Christ, writes Fawcett, “is precious on account of all those glorious qualifications which render Him the fittest object of a sinner’s hope and trust,” (p.46) and the true believer recognizes this.

Next, Fawcett comments that true believers, those who find Christ precious, delight to hear, think and speak of Him. As every one is “best pleased with that intelligence, and that conversation in which the object of His dearest affections is the principal theme,” (p. 51), Fawcett clearly sees the one Who finds Christ precious should naturally find all discussion and meditation of Him sweet to the believer. A challenging thought is one that is almost a throwaway statement: “No sermons are so precious and so animating to him, as those in which the Redeemer’s Excellencies are most fully displayed.” (p. 51) I recall sometimes, when I lived in Scotland and used to have the breaking of bread every week (an hour long service), that on the odd occasion it seemed to drag (I was tired, or not in the mood) – that’s shameful, and this is very challenging. The true believer is also grateful for the benefits they receive from Christ. Fawcett points out the all too evident truth that “we are far more frequently more ready to ask favours at the hand of God, than to return thanks for those we receive from Him.” (p.52) At point I should perhaps say that while Fawcett is outlining the ways in which the true believer does act, He is not saying it is 100% always like that, for he also clearly acknowledges the reality of sin and failure in the Christian life, but this should in no way lessen the truth that the inclination of the believer’s heart is now Christward, and should be moving ever more in that direction. I like what he goes on to write in regard to our thankfulness: “The religion we profess is far from requiring us perpetually to put on a mournful countenance. On the other hand, it enjoins upon is cheerfulness, gratitude of heart, and joy in the Lord.” (p. 53) Amen!!

Next, we will prefer Christ to every other object, and give Him chief place in their affections: the love of the Christian for Christ “penetrates and possesses the heart.” (p.56) I like that a lot. Yes, says Fawcett, we should have a deep love for others, for friends, family and the people of God, but none should compare with that we have for Christ. If Christ is truly precious to us, “the bent of our souls will be towards Him…we shall choose Him above and beyond every other object.” (p. 61) Echoing Augustine, he writes, “the heart of a believer is restless till it finds its Saviour; till it obtain a solid hope and persuasion of his love, a growing conformity to Him, and sincere delight in Him.” (p.61) It is foolish in the extreme to run after other things. Further, the one to whom Christ is precious sincerely desires his presence, and longs to enjoy inner communion with Him. This is simply obvious, as it is “well known this is the tendency of a sincere attachment, whoever be the object of it.” (p.64)

One who has true faith is further concerned that others may know and love Christ. Calling heavily on Paul, and his repeated refrains that he desired the salvation of the lost (even to the point for his own brethren that he would wish himself accursed if it may save some), Fawcett outlines that real Christian faith desires other’s to know the preciousness of Christ. The one to Whom Christ is precious longs that others may likewise taste and see that the Lord is good. Such people are also grieved when Christ is dishonoured. Here (p. 71-73), Fawcett reveals something of himself, more so than in other places, discussing how he is personally grieved by the sin around him in his day, of the world, and of others professing to know Christ, but evidencing otherwise. The true Christian is hurt when others diminish, demean, reject and mock their Christ.

The true believer is ready to deny themselves for Christ. Here’s a challenging one for us in the comfortable West, and our often sanitized Christianity. This denial is something considered, after a “deliberate counting of the cost, [choosing] the religion of Jesus, with all that appertains to is; [choosing] it as attended with all its difficulties.” (p.74) Again, Fawcett is no fan of easy-believism…Christianity when embraced should be done so with a true realization not only of the benefits, but the trials that will follow. Christians are distressed by their want of conformity to His Blessed Image and Holy Will: “In proportion as He is precious to us, will be our aversion to sin and all unholiness.” (p.77) Again, all I can say is that this is exceptionally challenging. Fawcett realizes that believers are in different stages of their walk with Christ, that we do battle with sin, but no true believer (and I say that, with Fawcett, unapologetically) does not feel some measure of discontent and dis-ease with their lack of purity and holiness. God has changed our hearts, and we cannot be content in the grips of sin. “From love to Jesus Christ will arise, hatred of those things which are contrary to His will, and which oppose and hinder us in our endeavours after conformity to Him.” (p. 78) The one who finds Christ precious will fail, but will hate it, and will strive to grow more like the Saviour they love.

The believer shall adhere to Christ in all conditions: when the hard times come, those who find Christ precious keep walking with Him anyway. And they shall also seek to glorify Christ in all they do. With Paul in Philippi, we will magnify God whether in life or in death. The purpose of God in redemption was His own glory, and while this “will be our delightful employ through the revolutions of a blissful eternity.” (p. 88, I like that too!), it will equally be our goal here in our lives on earth. And finally, the one who finds Christ precious will long to be with Him. It is simply common sense, but perhaps harder in our day when there is so much here that battles to keep our hearts tied to things below. Yet with saints of old, we will cry, “Even so, Lord, com quickly” – “we shall not only entertain joyful hopes of a future felicity, but we shall live, in expectation of the promised inheritance. We shall feel, at certain seasons, ardent desires of seeing Him upon the throne of glory, to whose humiliation, agonies and death, we are indebted for all our salvation” (p.89) Every true believer has experienced those seasons. Life here, lived as a Christian, has its hardships, and is a battle, and the one who finds Christ precious understands the desire of Fawcett, longing “with increasing desire, that indulgent Heaven would sign [our] release, and speedily dismiss [us] from this scene of combat.” (p.95)

So Fawcett’s work continues to be encouraging, edifying and challenging. It is a welcome antidote to much of the light and all to often trite writing that comes out of Christian publishing houses today, and I wonder how easily modern ears and eyes will take to this book, devoid of the accompanying stories and feel-good emphases of a great deal of modern Christian literature. But the reality is that we need to read things like this. We need to be challenged. “Christ Precious” is a welcome antidote to much of what labels itself Christianity today. For me personally, the twelve evidences of one who finds Christ precious have been exceptionally challenging, and have spurred me on to walk more consistently and closely with my Saviour. I hope that many other find the same.

A review of the third section will arrive in a week or so…