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Brief Review of Bryan Chapell’s Holiness by Grace

Brief Review of Bryan Chapell’s Holiness by Grace

Bryan Chapell’s work is a tour de force. Pastorally and academically equipped, Dr. Chapel engineers his way through the topic of holiness. While he could easily fall into some of the theological traps along the way, he meticulously works through a myriad of texts and provides deep insight into the work of God in sinners. Holiness is not an impossible task, it is our calling. Holiness is not a legalistic demand of a holy God, but a holy God calls us to holiness because He is holy. But this holiness is not a joyless pursuit. It is a work of grace; the kind of grace that produces joy and promotes godliness.

Holiness is applied to everything we do from parenting to counseling. Filled with helpful insights and stories that engage the mind and the heart, Chapell equips the reader to see our status as saints, our journey as sinners and our destiny as recipients of glory. The book exalts the grace of God in our works by emphasizing that salvation is not by works, but salvation works. Or, as the Reformers stated, “Faith alone saves, but faith is not alone.” The antinomian tendency in certain groups derails our labors as Christians to obey and cherish God’s holy laws. Antinomian theology confuses the work of grace and fails to promote godliness. Our security in Christ is not an excuse to sin, but a call to grow in grace. On the other hand, individual calls to holiness rely too heavily on human ability to overcome sin. Both ideas—antinomianism, and neo-nomism—endanger the journey of holiness.

Ultimately, our holiness should lead us to repentance; a true life of confession. And this repentance should prompt us to doxologize (89). While we struggle with temptations and while God tests our faith, God daily provides the motivation and grace to delight us in our journey.

Brief Review of Marva Dawn’s “A Royal Waste of Time”

Brief Review of Marva Dawn’s “A Royal Waste of Time”


Marva Dawn says that worship is a “royal waste of time.” Of course, she is not referring to worship being purposeless, she is speaking of worship as a way of losing our lives (Mat. 10:39). Worship is royal because it invites us to the throne room of God. But worship is a waste of time because in the eyes of the world it is a trivial pursuit. Worship as a royal waste of time enables us to keep heavenly time and forget earthly concerns. A royal waste of time is what we need to do more not less. We need to spend our sense of self-righteousness and gain more from the heavenly clock which calls us promptly to see our unworthiness in the splendor of God’s holiness.

Throughout these many sermons, the writer speaks profoundly to the sense of loss in evangelical worship. Not only has the church over-hyped technology (85) but she has also lost her sense of wonder (118). Dawn addresses the central need of the church which is to restore the centrality of worship and a vision for the God of worship. She works through various components of church life and urges the church to restore what’s been lost with the church’s worldly infatuation. With deep personal care and pastoral tenderness, Marva Dawn addresses a series of letters to concerned parishioners and overwhelmed pastors. The reviewer strongly encourages distributing such letters to pastors.

Filled with a healthy dose of theological insight, Dawn presents a God that is beyond our reach and within our grasp; immanent and transcendent. The church’s loss of identity comes when she believes her time is better spent inventing new ways of worship.

This reviewer did not agree with all her exegesis (especially of Col. 3) but found Dawn to be a unique and necessary voice for our age. Further, there is no greater beauty than the beauty of God’s holiness. Each church needs to be aware that worldly perceptions of the church are not nearly as important and a royal waste of time in the things of God is our urgent cry. Another great addition to this masterful piece is that she speaks from a Lutheran perspective which means part of this royal waste is to see the church calendar as a fundamental way to keep time. Dawn urges the church to sing a new song, to catechize our imagination with wonder for the Triune God.   

Christ at the Movies

Christ at the Movies

Jason Lisle offers a basic Christian paradigm for movie-watching. Here are his closing paragraphs:

Since our God-given ability to create and enjoy stories stems from our nature as God’s image bearers, the kinds of stories we enjoy often parallel the Gospel – God’s true story of redemption. We can summarize the basic elements of the history of redemption as follows.

We start with perfection. Human beings enjoy life in a perfect world made by God. Then a problem occurs; a man commits evil, and life becomes difficult as a result. The evil spreads and many people suffer. A hero is born – the Christ. He is innocent, yet because of His great love, He willingly suffers pain for the sake of others. He sacrifices Himself in order to save His bride – the church. When all seems lost, the hero overcomes death itself and victoriously conquers His enemies. Paradise is restored and the people rejoice.

Just think of the many movies that follow this basic formula. Not all do, but most borrow at least significant elements. Most start in a good situation (either directly, or implied by backstory), but the “bad guy” acts wickedly and the innocent suffer as a result. A hero is raised up from among the people and confronts the evil. The hero often suffers through no fault of His own. There is a low point in which all seems lost; the hero is essentially dead. But the hero recovers and defeats the bad guy. The people are saved and rejoice. These kinds of stories are immensely satisfying because they are true to reality. They capture the basic theme of the Bible, and this honors the Lord.

The next time you watch a movie, don’t let it be simply mindless entertainment. Look for Christian themes. See if you can identify the Christ-figure. It is truly amazing how many movies parallel biblical history. This is further confirmation that we all know in our heart-of-hearts the biblical God.


We need more sheltering of our children

At one time we talked about protecting our children from the dangers of the world. We saw “sheltering” as a word to be treasured in its proper context; a synonym for protection. I understand certain exposure is inevitable, but have we sped up the process? Some parents overreacted to the concept and opened the gates to their children and at the earliest stages, they were exposed to big ideas and innuendos on sexuality. Such parents while fleeing the excessive protection of their own parents–perhaps–took it even a step further and allowed technology to rule the daily routine of children (think under 12). The nine-year-old girl with an iPod and Instagram account is just a common feature of modern evangelical parenting. Well, these children have grown and as teenagers, they now have knowledge of things too deep for them to handle, too nuanced for them to parse and too intimate for them to carefully apply. The warning here is to be cautious not to overreact. Let children be children. God shelters us and gives us what we can handle (Milk, then Meat). Just as biblical history grows into wisdom, let’s raise our children into wisdom first before we expose them to the world in the name of “advancement,” “coolness” or “worldview training.”

My Regrets

My Regrets

Piper’s words on the professionalization of the pastor are striking. In his revised edition of Brothers we are not Professionals, he details his pastoral regrets. He wrote these convicting words:

When I look back, my regret is not that I wasn’t more professional but that I wasn’t more prayerful, more passionate for souls, more consistent in personal witness, more emotionally engaged with my children, more tender with my wife, more spontaneously affirming of the good in others. These are my regrets.

Keep Wasting Your Time

Keep Wasting Your Time

There is a marvelous phrase used by the inimitable Marva Dawn. She says that worship is a “royal waste of time.” Of course, she is not referring to worship being purposeless, she is speaking of worship as something we do as a way of losing our lives (Mat. 10:39). Worship is royal because it invites us to the throne room of God. But worship is a waste of time because in the eyes of the world a) it is a worthless pursuit, but it b) causes us to keep heavenly time and forget earthly concerns.

A royal waste of time is what we need to do more not less. We need to keep wasting our sense of worthiness and gain more from the heavenly clock which calls us promptly to see God in the splendor of holiness.

Repent of your Preferences

Worship is not a matter of personal taste, convenience and comfort. This is one reason parishioners stay in a church on average of 3.3 years. When we gather on Sunday, we need a God who challenges our taste and comfort. We need God to shake us out of this societal sloth and sleep walking and summon us to behold His splendor and respond with adoration and service and sacrifice. We need to seek the greater good of our local bodies by repenting of our preferences. We need Church to be the very tool that confronts our sinful desires and replaces them with holy submission.

5 Questions to Ask our Children

I believe the heart of our children is conquered by continual exploration of their thinking. For this reason, I think it’s crucial to ask them an eclectic set of questions. Here are five that I have used when I take my children out for a walk or ice cream:
a) What do you most enjoy about our family/church?
b) Is there something daddy/mommy can do to be a better parent to you (this is always very revealing and humbling)?
c) What things make you happy/sad?
d) What are you learning that makes you excited?
e) What kinds of things do you talk about with your friends?

Male Headship for Dummies

I believe in male headship. I believe that the Church’s historical position and the abundant biblical record make clear that the clergy is a calling for male leadership alone. I believe women ought to submit to their husbands. I believe feminism pre-1960 and post-2017 are absurdly wrong-headed. But I also believe a man should listen to his wife often and continually. I believe he should cherish her through every part of the day. I believe a wife’s opinion is to be treasured more than mom’s or grandma’s or sister Suzy’s (no offense, whoever you are). I believe women are to be respected at home, made to feel like queens, encouraged to think well, empowered to communicate authority to her children and disagree with their husbands.

Brothers, headship means humility. Humility means sacrifice. Sacrifice means presenting your wife to Jesus as a radiant bride.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” -Paul

Little Replicas of Parish Life

Little Replicas of Parish Life

Our children tend to become little replicas of our parish life. When we speak poorly of fellow Christians in the Church, they tend to do the same as they get older. When we attend church irregularly, they will follow suit. When we act with inconsistent hearts towards the Gospel, they rarely get a taste of grace. When we live out a Gospel that is privatized, they will happily hide it under a bushel in their own homes one day. When we look at the world through the eyes of the worldly, they too will crave the world one day.
Parents: set examples for your offspring in the Church. Worship boldly. Reconsider your parish life. Participate fiercely. Honor your fellow parishioner. Serve your children by being examples of faithfulness in your local church.