Book Review: Be Obedient

Be Obedient (Genesis 12-25): Learning the Secret of Living by Faith by Warren W. Wiersbe is the second in his three-part commentary on Genesis. These chapters cover the life of Abraham.

Humanity had not had a good track record so far In Genesis: sinning in paradise, murder, drunkenness, immorality, and rebellion. But in His longsuffering, God continued working with man.

In this section, God called Abraham to leave his family, his country, and his idols and go to the land where God sent him. God promised Abraham He would bless him, make his name great, make of him a great nation, and through him bless “all the families of the earth” (Genesis 12:1-3).

Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were not sinless examples of living by faith. While I am not happy when anyone makes wrong choices, I am encouraged that even towering figures like Abraham were not perfect, and we can confess our sin, be forgiven, pick up, and go one. Abraham and Sarah are both listed in what is sometimes called the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11.

Ultimately, Abraham’s story is about God showing grace and faithfulness and setting aside a line of people through whom the promised Messiah would eventually be born.

In the last chapter, Wiersbe lists several ways “all the nations of the earth” are blessed through Abraham.

  • “Abraham left us a clear witness of salvation through faith.” Romans 15:3: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
  • “Abraham also leaves us the example of a faithful life. James used Abraham to illustrate the importance of proving our faith by our works (James 2:14-26). Wherever Abraham went, he pitched his tent and built his altar, and he let the people of the land know that he was a worshiper of the true and living God.”
  • “From Abraham, we learn how to walk by faith.”
  • “Abraham gave the world the gift of the Jewish nation; and it is through the Jews that we have the knowledge of the true God plus the Word of God and the salvation of God (John 4: 22).”
  • “Finally, because of Abraham, we have a Savior.” Matthew 1:1 begins, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

Here are a few of the other quotes that stood out to me in this book:

Living by faith means obeying God’s Word in spite of feelings, circumstances, or consequences. It means holding on to God’s truth no matter how heavy the burden or how dark the day, knowing that He is working out His perfect plan. It means living by promises and not by expectations.

“The victorious Christian life,” said George Morrison, “is a series of new beginnings.”

God alone is in control of circumstances. You are safer in a famine in His will than in a palace out of His will.

When you disobey the will of God, the only right thing to do is to go back to the place where you left Him and make a new beginning (1 John 1: 9).

God’s remedy for Abraham’s fear was to remind him who He was: “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Gen. 15: 1). God’s I AM is perfectly adequate for man’s “I am not.”

The Hebrew word translated “believed” means “to lean your whole weight upon.” Abraham leaned wholly on the promise of God and the God of the promise. We are not saved by making promises to God but by believing the promises of God.

In times of testing, it is easy to think only about our needs and our burdens; instead, we should be focusing on bringing glory to Jesus Christ. We find ourselves asking “How can I get out of this?” instead of “What can I get out of this that will honor the Lord?” We sometimes waste our sufferings by neglecting or ignoring opportunities to reveal Jesus Christ to others who are watching us go through the furnace.

Once again, I am indebted to Dr. Wiersbe for his helpful insights.

(Sharing with Worth Beyond Rubies, Grace and Truth)

Book Review: Be Basic

The book of Genesis is 50 chapters long and covers a lot of ground. So Warren Wiersbe divided his commentary on Genesis into three volumes. The first is Be Basic (Genesis 1-11): Believing the Simple Truth of God’s Word.

The first eleven chapters of Genesis cover creation, the fall, Cain and Abel, Noah and the flood, and the tower of Babel. The next section begins with Abraham’s life.

Be Basic is probably a good title, because Genesis sets up foundational truths for the rest of the Bible.

Genesis is quoted or referred to more than two hundred times in the New Testament, which means it’s important for the New Testament Christian to understand its message.

Here are a few other passages I have marked:

God didn’t create a world because He needed anything but that He might share His love with creatures who, unlike the angels, are made in the image of God and can respond willingly to His love.

Work isn’t a curse; it’s an opportunity to use our abilities and opportunities in cooperating with God and being faithful stewards of His creation. After man sinned, work became toil (Gen. 3: 17–19), but that wasn’t God’s original intention.

We’re commanded to worship God, love people, and use things for the glory of God and the good of others. When this divine order becomes confused, then God’s creation suffers. When in our greed we start lusting after things, we soon begin to ignore God, abuse people, and destroy creation.

Bible history begins with a beautiful garden in which man sinned, but the story ends with a glorious “garden city” (Rev. 21—22) in which there will be no sin. What brought about the change? A third garden, Gethsemane, where Jesus surrendered to the Father’s will and then went forth to die on a cross for the sins of the world.

As always, I appreciate Dr. Wiersbe’s helpful insights.

(Sharing with Booknificent Thursday, Carole’s Books You Loved)

Book Review: Be Amazed

Be Amazed (Minor Prophets): Restoring an Attitude of Wonder and Worship is Warren W. Wiersbe’s commentary on Hosea, Joel, Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Malachi. He covers the rest of the twelve minor prophets in two other books. As I said in an earlier review of Be Concerned, these books are considered “minor” only because they are much shorter than the “major” prophets.

And, as with the previous book, Wiersbe gives a little background of each of these prophets, the times they lived, the kings who were in power at the time, and the prophets’ major messages and concerns, a suggested outline of the books, and his commentary.

There are commentaries much longer and more detailed than Wiersbe’s “Be” series, but these are a nice size, easy to use with one’s Bible study.

Wiersbe says in his introduction:

We should be amazed as Hosea describes God’s jealous love and Joel pictures God’s glorious kingdom. Jonah and Nahum both deal with the wicked city of Nineveh and amaze us with God’s gracious long-suffering. Habakkuk watches the enemy approaching and invites us to be amazed at God’s righteous judgment. Malachi amazes us with his revelation of God’s contemptuous people, weary of serving the Lord.

Too many sleepy saints have lost their sense of wonder. The Minor Prophets shout at us to awaken us and invite us to open our eyes and be amazed at what God is doing in this world.

The Lord Jesus admonishes us “to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24: 25), and that includes the Minor Prophets. May we be faithful to receive and believe their messages and to obey what God tells us to do.

I won’t get into any more of the individual books than that, since there are six of them. But here are a few of the many quotes I highlighted:

One of the greatest judgments God can inflict on any people is to let them have their own way.

The essence of idolatry is enjoying the gifts but not honoring the Giver.

Until people experience the guilt of conviction, they can’t enjoy the glory of conversion.

In their trials, they turned to God for help, but in their prosperity, they became proud and turned away from God to idols.

Idols are dead substitutes for the living God (Ps. 115). Whatever people delight in other than God, whatever they are devoted to and sacrifice for, whatever they couldn’t bear to be without, is an idol and therefore under the condemnation of God.

But wrestling with these challenges is the only way for our “faith muscles” to grow. To avoid tough questions, or to settle for half-truths and superficial pat answers it to remain immature, but to face questions honestly and talk them through with the Lord is to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3: 18).

When God’s people deliberately disobey Him, they sin against a flood of light and an ocean of love.

The one thing that encourages us to repent and return to the Lord is the character of God. Knowing that He is indeed “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Joel 2:13 NIV) ought to motivate us to seek His face.

This sounds eerily like our times:

Their concern was for healing and not for cleansing. They saw their nation in difficulty and wanted God to “make things right,” but they did not come with broken hearts and surrendered wills. They wanted happiness, not holiness, a change of circumstances, but not a change in character.

I’m thankful once again for Dr. Wiersbe’s insights into these books.

(Sharing with Booknificent Thursday, Carole’s Books You Loved)

Book Review: Be Concerned

Be Concerned commentary on minor prophetsThere are twelve minor prophetical books in the Bible. They are not called minor because they are any less important than the major prophets: they are just shorter books. Warren Wierbe divides his “Be” commentaries on the minor prophets into three different books. He didn’t group them in the order in which they are listed in the Old Testament. Be Concerned (Minor Prophets): Making a Difference in Your Lifetime covers Amos, Obadiah, Micah, and Zephaniah.

Wiersbe gives a little background of each of these prophets, the times they lived, the kings who were in power at the time, and the prophets’ major messages and concerns. Then he offers a suggested outline of the books and his commentary.

A few words about each of these prophets:

Amos was a shepherd and caretaker of sycamore trees. He was a layman, not a member of the religious establishment. For those reasons, he would not have been respected or easily accepted. At this time, Israel and Judah were abounding in luxury, but also in sin and injustice. They performed religious rituals that did not touch their heart. Amos had to warn them that judgment was coming if they didn’t turn from their ways.

Obadiah’s book is short, just one chapter of 21 verses. He prophecies mostly to Edom, the nation that descended from Esau, Jacob’s brother. God deals with them about their treatment of Israel (Jacob’s descendants).

Micah’s preaching helped lead to a reformation under Hezekiah (Jeremiah 26:18-19). But at this time, some of the wealthy of the land were buying up the smaller lands of the poor in defiance of Jewish law. Micah rebuked them, foretold the coming judgment under Assyria, and called the Israelites back to true worship of their God. But they didn’t repent. Micah 7 is one of my favorite chapters in the OT, especially verses 8-10 and 18-20. Micah’s name means “Who is like the LORD,” and that’s echoed in 7:18: “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love.”

Zephaniah mainly preaches about the day of the Lord, a time of coming judgment. Many of the prophets do, but this day is a major theme in Zephaniah and Joel. Zephaniah 3:17 is another favorite passage.

One advantage of a commentary like this is the background information it provides that you wouldn’t pick up just from reading the text. For instance:

Eight times Amos used the phrase “for three transgressions and for four,” a Jewish idiom that means “an indefinite number that has finally come to the end” (Location 135).

Micah used a series of puns based on the names of the cities similar in sound to familiar Hebrew words. For example, “Gath” is similar to the Hebrew word for “tell.” Thus he wrote, “Tell it not in Gath.” Beth Ophrah means “house of dust.” Thus he wrote, “Roll in the dust.” The people of Shaphir (“ pleasant, beautiful”) would look neither beautiful nor pleasant as they were herded off as naked prisoners of war (Location 1438).

The prophets call people to repentance from their oppression, hypocrisy, idolatry:

To seek the Lord doesn’t mean simply to run to God for help when our sins get us into trouble, although God will receive us if we’re sincere. It means to loathe and despise the sin in our lives, turn from it, and seek the fellowship of God and His cleansing. “A broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise” (Ps. 51: 17 NKJV) (Location 679).

Wiersbe warns, “Whenever a prophet foretold the future, it was to awaken the people to their responsibilities in the present. Bible prophecy isn’t entertainment for the curious; it’s encouragement for the serious (Location 1672).

It’s true in our day as well as theirs that “It’s indeed a great privilege to have God speak to us, but it’s also a great responsibility. If we don’t open our hearts to hear His Word and obey Him, we’re in grave danger of hardening our hearts and incurring the wrath of God. ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’ (Heb. 3: 7–8 NKJV; see Ps. 95: 7–11)(Location 321).

The way we treat God’s Word is the way we treat God, and the way we treat God’s messengers is the way we treat the Lord Himself (John 15: 18–21). “God … has in these last days spoken to us by His Son. … See that you do not refuse Him who speaks” (Heb. 1: 1–2; 12: 25 NKJV) (Location 642, emphasis mine).

Most of the prophets say that, despite fierce and righteous judgment coming on God’s people, He will leave a faithful remnant. Wiersbe concludes with a chapter titled “The Company of the Concerned,” with advice for the faithful in our day.

Malachi 3: 16 is a good description of the kind of “company” God is looking for: “Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name” (NKJV) (Location 2341).

I’m not talking about people motivated by anger so much as by anguish. Certainly there’s a place for righteous anger in the Christian life (Eph. 4: 26), but anger alone may do more harm than good. “For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1: 20 NKJV). When righteous anger is mingled with compassion, you have anguish; and anguish is what the “company of the concerned” feel as they behold the moral and spiritual decline of the nation. “Rivers of water run down from my eyes, because men do not keep Your law” (Ps. 119: 136 NKJV). “Trouble and anguish have overtaken me, yet Your commandments are my delights” (v. 143 NKJV) (Location 2311).

As always, I appreciate Wiersbe’s help in understanding these books.

(Sharing with Books You Loved, Booknificent Thursday)

Book Review: Be Resolute

Warren Wiersbe’s “Be Series” commentary on Daniel is Be Resolute: Determining to Go God’s Direction.

It’s easy to see why the author chose that title. If you’re not familiar with the book of Daniel except for the lion’s den, Daniel and his three friends (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) were teenagers when Babylon conquered Israel. Most of the population was exiled to Babylon in three waves. Daniel and other young men were selected for a training period to be assimilated in the Babylonian government. But Daniel and his friends stood firm in their faith while still being gracious and kind to their captors.

God had multiple reasons for Israel’s captivity, the main one being their longstanding stubborn rebellion and disobedience to God. But one of the good things He brought out of it was the testimony of these four young men (and hopefully others as well) of the one true God.

The first few chapters contain some of the most familiar stories in the Bible: Daniel and his friends kindly asking for a diet in keeping with their convictions, and ending up in better health; Daniel’s interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams when no one else could; the three others in the fiery furnace, Nebuchadnezzar’s humbling transformation, the “handwriting on the wall” at Belshazzar’s feast, and Daniel in the lion’s den. In every case, the men gave glory to God and trusted Him for the outcome. The three who faced the furnace for not bowing to the king’s idol said something that rings down through the ages: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (3:17-18). God doesn’t always answer prayer as we’d like. Loved ones aren’t always cured. Crises aren’t always averted. But God is faithful and has His reasons for what He allows. And God used he testimony of these four young men not only in their own timeline, but in all the years since.

I say young men—though the book opens with them as teens, Daniel is in his 80s by the time he was thrown in the lion’s den. He spent his whole adult life in captivity. But he never complained.

Prayer is another big theme in the book, as Daniel seeks God throughout. His prayer of confession for the nation in chapter 9 is a model for us. In Daniel 10, He is told about spiritual warfare going on behind the scenes. Wiersbe says:

The prophet Daniel realized the great significance of God’s plans for Israel, and once again he fainted and was unable to speak. Here he had been involved in a cosmic spiritual conflict and didn’t even know it, and the Lord was using some of His highest angels to answer his prayers! This certainly lifts prayer out of the level of a humdrum religious exercise and shows it to be one of our strongest and most important spiritual weapons. The neglect of prayer is the reason why many churches and individual believers are so weak and defeated. The late Peter Deyneka, missionary to the Slavic peoples, often reminded us, “Much prayer, much power; no prayer, no power!” Jesus taught His disciples that the demonic forces could not be defeated except by prayer and fasting, the very activities that Daniel had been involved in for three weeks (Matt. 17: 14–21).

The last few chapters of Daniel are markedly different. Instead of interpreting dreams and vision for other people, Daniel receives a few himself that throw him for a loop. The angel Gabriel is sent to help him understand.

Honestly, without the ESV Study Bible notes and this book of Wiersbe’s I would have been pretty lost in these sections. I have read Daniel several times over the years, but I don’t remember what I did when I came to this part. Complicating matters is the fact that there are several schools on interpretation about some of it.

The part that covers the history of the next four dynasties is so accurate that people have attacked Daniel, saying it had to have been written after the fact. As Wiersbe says, “Prophecy is history written beforehand.”

The ESV Study Bible’s notes go into great detail about the various prophecies and schools of interpretation. Most of it refers to the history immediately after Daniel’s time, but there are differences of opinion as to what might be figurative and what might refer to end times. I appreciated this reminder:

There are many difficulties in deciding between these interpretations, which all involve questions of the proper approach to interpreting biblical prophecy. In all of this it is crucial not to miss Daniel’s message for his audience, namely, that God has allotted the amount of time for these events, and therefore his people should trust and endure (p. 1607).

I don’t think these different views are anything to fight or disfellowship over. But they can make for some interesting conversations.

The book ends with Daniel himself not understanding everything he’s been told: “I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, ‘O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?’ He said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end.'” Why tell him these things, then? Many reasons. For future readers and students of the Word of God through the ages. But for all of us, what the Bible tells us about future events reminds us He is in control (a major theme in Daniel). Also, as Wiersbe says, “Knowing God’s future plan and obeying God’s present will should go together. ‘And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.’ (1 John 3: 3 NKJV).”

A few other quotes from Wiersbe:

A heart that loves the Lord, trusts the Lord, and therefore obeys the Lord has no difficulty making the right choices and trusting God to take care of the consequences. It has well been said that faith is not believing in spite of evidence—that’s superstition—but obeying in spite of consequences.

Faith means obeying God regardless of the feelings within us, the circumstances around us, or the consequences before us.

Daniel was respectful to the king but he was not afraid to tell him the truth. Even if we don’t respect the officer and the way he or she lives, we must respect the office, for “the powers that be are ordained of God” (Rom. 13: 1).

All of these people and events may not be interesting to you, but the prophecies Daniel recorded tally with the record of history, thus proving that God’s Word can be trusted.

May the Lord help us to leave something behind in the journey of life so that those who come after us will be encouraged and helped!

Wiersbe ends his commentary with an extra chapter of summary of the themes in the book and Daniel’s character. He hasn’t done this in any of the other “Be” series that I’ve read. But it was helpful here, after our brains were stretched and heads were spinning over the last few chapters of prophecy, to go back over the book as a whole.

Once again I appreciated Wiersbe’s thoughts and insights.

(Sharing with Welcome Heart, Carole’s Books You Loved, Booknificent Thursday)

Book Review: Be Rich (Ephesians) Gaining the Things That Money Can’t Buy

Warren Wiersbe’s Be Rich commentary on the book of Ephesians does not a promote the “prosperity gospel”—insert prayers and gifts to televangelists and receive health and wealth. No, as the subtitle goes on to say. “Gaining the Things That Money Can’t Buy.”

Ephesians 1:3 says God “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” Just some of those blessings:

  • Chosen in Him (verse 4)
  • Adopted as sons (verse 5)
  • Redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses (verse 7)
  • An inheritance (verse 11)
  • Believers are “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (verses 13-14).

Wiersbe says, “‘In Christ’ is the most frequently used phrase in the book of Ephesians, and the point is clear: If you’re in Christ, you have everything.”

Another theme in the book is unity. Not a unity that ignores truth, but unity based on truth. Paul, the author of the letter to the Ephesians, says God’s plan was “to unite all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth” (1:10). The first half of chapter 2 tells how we can be reconciled with God; the second half says that God, through Christ, broke down the barriers between Jew and Gentile. “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God … ” (2:18-19). Chapters 4-6 share practical ways that unity in Christ is worked out in the church community, in the home, and in the workplace.

I’ve got dozens of quotes marked, but here are a few:

The Bible is our guidebook; the Holy Spirit is our Teacher. As we search the Word of God, we discover more and more of the riches we have in Christ.

Salvation is a gift, not a reward. Salvation cannot be “of works” because the work of salvation has already been completed on the cross. This is the work that God does for us, and it is a finished work (John 17: 1–4; 19: 30). We can add nothing to it (Heb. 10: 1–14); we dare take nothing from it.

By His death and resurrection, Christ overcame the world (John 16: 33; Gal. 6: 14), and the flesh (Rom. 6: 1–6; Gal. 2: 20), and the Devil (Eph. 1: 19–23). In other words, as believers, we do not fight for victory—we fight from victory! The Spirit of God enables us, by faith, to appropriate Christ’s victory for ourselves.

The Christian life is not based on ignorance but knowledge, and the better we understand Bible doctrine, the easier it is to obey Bible duties. When people say, “Don’t talk to me about doctrine—just let me live my Christian life!” they are revealing their ignorance of the way the Holy Spirit works in the life of the believer. “It makes no difference what you believe, just as long as you live right” is a similar confession of ignorance. It does make a difference what you believe, because what you believe determines how you behave!

Of course, there’s much more to Ephesians and Wiersbe’s book.

Ephesians contains two of my favorite Biblical prayers that I sometimes pray for myself and others. I’ll leave you with those

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places (1:15-20).

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (3:14-19).

(Sharing with Worth Beyond Rubies, Carole’s Books You Loved, Booknificent Thursday)

Book Review: Be Free (Galatians): Exchange Legalism for True Spirituality

 Be Free (Galatians): Exchange Legalism for True Spirituality by Warren Wiersbe is a commentary or study guide to read alongside the New Testament book of Galatians.

Paul wrote a rather strongly-worded letter to the Galatians with none of his usual thanksgiving and commendation for his readers. That’s because the Galatians were confusing law and grace.

The first Christians were Jewish and were quite stunned when Gentiles became believers. There was a lot of confusion at first about whether Gentile believers had to follow the same practices as the Jews (see Acts 10, 11, and 15).

The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will. (Acts 15:6-11, emphasis added).

The initial confusion was understandable. But some, called Judaizers, persisted in teaching that Gentile believers must keep the OT law, especially the Jewish rite of circumcision. Paul insisted this was trusting in works, not grace, and we’re not saved by works.

It wasn’t that circumcision was good or bad in itself. Paul mentions bringing Titus, a Gentile believer to Jerusalem with no thought of having him circumcised (Galatians 2:1-5). But later in Acts 16:1-3, Paul had Timothy circumcised. Was Paul being inconsistent? No, Timothy was half Jewish, half Greek, and Paul wanted to bring him along on his missionary journeys. As a part Jewish man, Timothy would never have been accepted or listened to by the Jews without being circumcised. So in his case, circumcision was a matter of not being a stumblingblock to those he wanted to minister to. (John Piper goes into this more here.) The difference was that neither Paul nor Timothy were trusting in circumcision as a means to salvation or to earn favor with God. The Judaizers were.

So Paul argues against law and for grace, appealing to the Galatians personally, doctrinally, and practically. They were in danger of teaching false doctrine, of forsaking and perverting the gospel. It was serious enough for Paul to write as he did.

I won’t go into all the details or Wiersbe’s outline here. But Wiersbe makes application to our day. Probably few of us are tempted to observe Jewish law for salvation as the Judaizers were. But we can easily lapse into trusting in the rules or standards of whatever faith group we’re a part of instead of trusting Christ alone for salvation.

Millions of believers think they are “spiritual” because of what they don’t do—or because of the leader they follow—or because of the group they belong to. The Lord shows us in Galatians how wrong we are—and how right we can be if only we would let the Holy Spirit take over.

When the Holy Spirit does take over, there will be liberty, not bondage—cooperation, not competition—glory to God, not praise to man. The world will see true Christianity, and sinners will come to know the Savior. There is an old-fashioned word for this: revival.

Here are a few other quotes.

We must never forget that the Christian life is a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ. A man does not become a Christian merely by agreeing to a set of doctrines; he becomes a Christian by submitting to Christ and trusting Him (Rom. 11: 6).

We not only are saved by grace, but we are to also live by grace (1 Cor. 15: 10). We stand in grace; it is the foundation for the Christian life (Rom. 5: 1–2). Grace gives us the strength we need to be victorious soldiers (2 Tim. 2: 1–4). Grace enables us to suffer without complaining, and even to use that suffering for God’s glory (2 Cor. 12: 1–10). When a Christian turns away from living by God’s grace, he must depend on his own power. This leads to failure and disappointment. This is what Paul meant by “fallen from grace” (Gal. 5: 4)—moving out of the sphere of grace and into the sphere of law, ceasing to depend on God’s resources and depending on our own resources.

God revealed Christ to Paul, in Paul, and through Paul. The “Jews’ religion” (Gal. 1: 14) had been an experience of outward rituals and practices, but faith in Christ brought about an inward experience of reality with the Lord. This “inwardness” of Christ was a major truth with Paul (2: 20; 4: 19).

Ever since Paul’s time, the enemies of grace have been trying to add something to the simple gospel of the grace of God. They tell us that a man is saved by faith in Christ plus something—good works, the Ten Commandments, baptism, church membership, religious ritual—and Paul made it clear that these teachers are wrong. In fact, Paul pronounced a curse on any person (man or angel) who preaches any other gospel than the gospel of the grace of God, centered in Jesus Christ (Gal. 1: 6–9; see 1 Cor. 15: 1–7 for a definition of the gospel). It is a serious thing to tamper with the gospel.

Justification is an act of God; it is not the result of man’s character or works. “It is God that justifieth” (Rom. 8: 33). It is not by doing the “works of the law” that the sinner gets a right standing before God, but by putting his faith in Jesus Christ.

Reading this book was a little different from reading the author’s Be Reverent on Ezekiel. Ezekiel has 48 chapters, so Wiersbe’s commentary covered broader sections in his chapters. But Galatians only has six chapters, so Wiersbe took two chapters to discuss each chapter of Galatians. If I had been reading this on my own, I would have just read one chapter of Wiersbe’s commentary on half a chapter of Galatians a day. But because I was reading one chapter a day of Galatians for our church Bible study, I had to read two chapters of Wiersbe to keep on track. It had my head spinning a couple of days, especially in the more doctrinal parts of the book. But Wiersbe in generally pretty easy to follow and comprehend.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved, Booknificent Thursday)

Book Review: Be Reverent

Warren Wiersbe has written a “Be” series commenting on almost every book of the Bible. The individual books cover more than a study Bible would, but they are not as in-depth as some commentaries. They are good study aides. Wiersbe gives background information, word meanings, different interpretations for passages as well as his reasons for the interpretation he chooses, and applications for modern-day believers. His style is easy to read.

The books are available in paperback, but I often see a few at a time on Kindle app sales for 99 cents to $1.99. I’ve collected most of them, but, I’m sorry to say, they stayed tucked away and forgotten in my app.

Our church has been reading trough Ezekiel for the last several weeks. Ezekiel is known for having some of the toughest passages in all of Scripture to understand and interpret, so I figured perhaps a bit more help than my study Bible might be needed.

Wiersbe sets the theme for Ezekiel right in the title: Be Reverent (Ezekiel): Bowing Before Our Awesome God. Judah had been taken over by the Babylonians, and most of the nation was sent to Babylon in three different deportations. God had called Jeremiah to warn the people before the kingdom fell to Babylon. He called Ezekiel to preach to the people in Babylon.

Many prophets would act out object lessons for the people. But Ezekiel seems to have been given not only the most of what the ESV Study Bible calls “street theater” messages, but also the most unusual. Wiersbe calls them “actions sermons.”

One of our former pastors taught that many of the prophets prophesied during the same era, and one reason was that different people responded to different personalities. Some may have thought Ezekiel a little weird or might have been uncomfortable watching him, but others would have been drawn especially because he was different.

Wiersbe points out several repeated phrases in the book:

  • God is called “Lord God” (“ Sovereign Lord” NIV) over four hundred times.
  • “I am the Lord” occurs fifty-nine times.
  • “You will know that I am the LORD” (6:7 NIV) . . . is found seventy times.
  • Ezekiel is called “son of man” ninety-three times.
  • “The phrase ‘the word of the Lord came’ is used fifty times in his prophecy and speaks of the authority of his message, and ‘the hand of the LORD’ is found also in Ezekiel 3: 14, 22; 8: 1; 33: 22; 37: 1; and 40: 1. The word of the Lord brings enlightenment and the hand of the Lord enablement (see Eph. 1: 15–23).”

Wiersbe notes that “The Jews were sinning against a flood of light” in that they had the books of Moses, “knew the terms of the covenant,” had heard the messages of several prophets, “yet persisted in disobeying God’s will.” “The attitude of the people wasn’t that of militant opposition but rather passive indifference.” “In their pride, they had cultivated a false confidence that the Lord would never allow His people to be exiled or His temple destroyed, but their sin had now ‘matured’ and both were now about to happen.”

We must correctly distinguish regret, remorse, and true repentance. Regret is an activity of the mind; whenever we remember what we’ve done, we ask ourselves, “Why did I do that?” Remorse includes both the heart and the mind, and we feel disgust and pain, but we don’t change our ways. But true repentance includes the mind, the heart, and the will. We change our minds about our sins and agree with what God says about them; we abhor ourselves because of what we have done; and we deliberately turn from our sin and turn to the Lord for His mercy.

Ezekiel assured the people that “Though His people were in exile and their nation was about to be destroyed, God was still on the throne and able to handle every situation. In His marvelous providence, He moves in the affairs of nations and works out His hidden plan.”

Ezekiel had to deal with the people about their sin and idolatry, but he also held out hope that one day God would set up a future shepherd (34:22-24), a covenant of peace (34:25-31), and His presence with them (34:30; 48:35).

One of the applications Wiersbe says Ezekiel brings out for us is “Too much so-called worship is only a demonstration of man-centered religious activity that fails to bring glory to the Lord.” He warns against falling into the trap Judah did in keeping outward forms of worship and religious activity without engaging the heart.

There is a lot of controversy in Ezekiel, too, especially over what the details of the new temple mean in the last few chapters.

There’s so much more, both to Ezekiel and Wiersbe’s comments. But perhaps this gives you taste of both. I’m looking forward to exploring more of the “Be series” in the future.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved, Booknificent)