Can it be? A Simple, Challenging, and Comforting Read

Thursday, January 24, 2008

In an era in which false conversions are common and truth is obfuscated or denied, John Blanchard has provided an amazingly clear text to help you examine if you are truly a regenerate Christian. The Bible is often seen as an antiquated text of checklists of to-do’s. In Blessed: The Beatitudes for Today, Blanchard expounds the opening section (called the Beatitudes) of the Sermon on the Mount, showing that the character of a Christian flows from a relationship with the Sovereign Lord. He notes that the Beatitudes as a whole is an evidence (singular) of one’s right relationship with God and not a checklist of things to do to get right with God. I have been challenged by Blanchard to lean upon Christ, to desire to look more like Him, and to herald the glory of the gospel. May God grant me more books to read like this one! I doubt that I have read such a simple, yet deep, text.

One of the blurbs on the back of the book states, “John Blanchard’s fertile mined, wide reading and clarity of style are all apparent in this excellent volume.” I agree whole-heartedly. After you finishing this text, you feel as though you have spent time in conversation with some of the greatest minds of Christian thought over the last two millennia. You realize that you are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.

Page after page, the reader is presented with the gospel. There are no formulas; there is no exaltation of pragmatism. The weary sheep will be comforted and encouraged by such an exposition! They will not be pushed to-and-fro by speculation but shown rich theology in the clearest way I have ever seen!

One of the most telling paragraphs is:

This is why the critical questions for anyone to ask are not ‘Do I have enough religion?’, ‘Do I belong to the right church?’ or even ‘Am I doing the right kind of things?’, but ‘Has God changed my heart?’ Has he radically changed my motives and affections?’ ‘Do I love what I once loathed, and loathe what I once loved?’ ‘Are my moral and spiritual endeavours driven by a passionate love for God and his ways, or by a lingering belief that they contribute something to my salvation?’ Do I have a genuine longing to be obedient to God in every area of my life?’ Can I truthfully say with David, “I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart”?’ (Psalm 40:8). Christian conversion is not an external rearrangement of certain actions, but a radical transformation of the heart which inevitably results in an equally radical transformation of life.

The chapters are:

  1. Setting the Scene (Matthew 5:1-2)
  2. The Congregation (Matthew 5:1-2)
  3. Nothing to Do With Us? (Matthew 5:1-2)
  4. The King’s Favour (Matthew 5:3)
  5. Concepts of the Kingdom (Matthew 5:3)
  6. The Wealthy Poor (Matthew 5:3)
  7. The Joyful Mourners (Matthew 5:4)
  8. Gentle Giants (Matthew 5:5)
  9. Unsatisfied Satisfaction (Matthew 5:6)
  10. God’s Overflow (Matthew 5:7)
  11. Seeing In the Dark (Matthew 5:8)
  12. God’s Peace Corps (Matthew 5:9)
  13. Blessings Out of Buffetings (Matthew 5:10)