I got the idea for this post from The Gospel Coalition. If you’re anything like me, you enjoy finding out what books, sermons, and articles have made a lasting impression on the lives of pastors and theologians.
So, for what it’s worth, here are some of the books, sermons, and articles that have made a lasting impression on me. By “lasting impression,” I mean that they have shaped my theology and philosophy of ministry, as well as encouraged my heart in the Lord.
My hope is that you will listen to and read some of these for yourself.
Arthur W. Pink, The Attributes of God.
Augustine, Confessions (Make sure you purchase this translation).
Paul Miller, A Praying Life.
Jack Miller, The Heart of a Servant Leader.
Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2, God and Creation.
John Piper, “Boasting Only in the Cross”
Kevin Smith, “God’s Open Call”
J. R. Vassar, “What If or If God?”
Carl Trueman, “The Calvary Option?”
Jonathan Edwards, “Christ the Example of Ministers”
John Frame, “Inerrancy: A Place to Live”
Ligon Duncan, “The Ordinary Means of Growth”
Michael Brown, “Ordinary Means”
James K. A. Smith, “I’m a Philosopher. We Can’t Think Our Way Out of This Mess.”
Kevin DeYoung, “The Glory of Plodding.”
Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The LORD has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God (Psalm 98:1–3).
“GOD’S BLESSEDNESS is his essential property, on account of which he is per se [intrinsically, in and of himself] and by his nature always free from every evil and affluent in every good—which signifies him to be most perfectly knowing, self-sufficient and content in himself, such that he neither needs nor grasps at our goods” – Amandus Polanus (1561–1610)
The background to Psalm 98 is the exodus event—an extraordinary moment in redemptive history that trumpets a singular truth: God is the deliverer of his people. In this display of omnipotent power, Yahweh “worked out His salvation” (v. 1c), “made known his salvation” (v. 2a), and “revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations” (v. 2b). For this reason, God’s people praise him (vv. 4–6).
In verses 7–9, the inspired Psalmist conveys through poetry what the Apostle Paul teaches in Romans 8:20–23: God’s saving goodness extends to the created order. (There’s a reason Psalm 98 lies behind Isaac Watts’s hymn “Joy to the World”!)
The application practically writes itself: With all creation, we are to sing joyfully to God because of his marvelous deeds. We praise him for the vastness and intricacies of his creation; we stand in awe of his effortless governance of the world; we bow in humble adoration at the effusive grace he showers on us in his Son, Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3ff.); and we long for the day when we will behold the King in his beauty for all eternity (Isa. 33:17).
But we must go deeper.
I submit that we must trace these external works of God—creation, providence, redemption, and consummation—back into the inner life of God and uncover what they reveal about him and how they should affect our lives. When we do, here’s what we discover: God is life (John 5:26). And since God is life in and of himself, “God does not need us for his own perfection.” Hence, the God who gives life does not seek to grasp life from the creature or the created order.
Here’s why this is good news: God does not share his light, life, and love with you in order to get something from you. He shares his light, life, and love with you because he is love (1 John 4:8)—that is, he wills the good of his creatures. And he wills the good of his creatures because this loving God is good: “Goodness is the very essence of God’s Being, even if there were no creature to whom this could be manifested.”
But God has chosen to manifest his goodness by sharing the joy of his inner life with us through his Son in the Spirit: “God’s goodness is a communicative, spreading goodness. . . . The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were happy in themselves and enjoyed one another before the world was. But that God delights to communicate and spread his goodness, there had never been a creation nor a redemption.” Read: God created the world in order to spread his goodness to others by enfolding us into his reign of grace.
Practically, here’s what this means: Because God gives to creatures without needing creatures, “he relieves them of the false burden of completing [his] own identity,” which means “I can never be defined by the job of meeting God’s needs.”
This frees us to lift our eyes heavenward in astonishment. It is fitting for creatures to be astonished by their sheer existence. More than this, we are moved to praise God since he sustains us; we do not keep ourselves breathing; rather, we “breathe every day in his air and live upon his bounty.” Taking our astonishment into a higher key involves basking in the realization that the God who sustains us also sent his Son to secure our redemption. He delivered us.
This truth also liberates us for a life of gratitude. The fact that God needs nothing proves that all the blessings he bestows on us spring from his good pleasure (Acts 17:24–25; Eph. 1:11–12): “God’s will toward anything outside himself is not an expression of desire but of pure benevolence.” This means that we count our blessings, knowing that God gave them to us freely. They are occasions of pure charity. Truly, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:13).
Psalm 98 highlights God as the source of all blessing, the fountain and wellspring of all goodness, who acted to deliver his people from bondage. While our sin exiled us from God’s presence, God acted to restore us to a right relationship with himself through the Messiah—Jesus Christ. By virtue of his obedient life and curse-bearing death, redeemed sinners are able to share in his filial relationship to the Father.
Soli Deo Gloria!
 Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2, God and Creation, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 342.
 Wilhelmus á Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, Vol. 1, God, Man, and Christ, trans. Bartel Elshout, ed. Joel R. Beeke (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2017), 122.
 Richard Sibbes, “The Successful Seeker,” in Works of Richard Sibbes, ed. Alexander B. Grosart (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1983): 4:113.
 Donald Wood, “Maker of Heaven and Earth,” International Journal of Systematic Theology 14:4 (2012): 391.
 Scott R. Swain, “That Your Joy May Be Full: A Theology of Happiness,” That Your Joy May Be Full: A Theology of Happiness – Reformed Blogmatics (scottrswain.com) (accessed 8 September 2019).
For this week’s Crossroads Connection, I’d like to direct your attention to a section in Thomas Watson’s (1620–1686) sermon, “The Loveliness of Christ.” In this portion of this message, Watson is placing before his congregation the loveliness of Christ in his sufferings. May it warm your heart and lift you to the heights of praise!
“Christ is lovely in His sufferings when He makes expiation for our sins. But how can He be lovely in His sufferings? Lovely when He was buffeted, spat upon, and smeared with blood? Oh, yes! He was most lovely upon the cross—because then He showed most love to us. He bled love from every vein! His drops of blood were love-drops. The more bloody, the more lovely. The more Christ endured for us, the more dear He ought to be to us. . . . Nor did Christ only endure pain in His body, but agony of soul. He conflicted with the wrath of God, which He could never have done if He had not been more than a man.
We read that the altar of wood was overlaid with brass so that the fire on the altar might not consume the wood (Exodus 27:1, 2). This altar was a type of Jesus Christ. The human nature of Christ, which was the wood, was covered with the divine nature, which was like brass, else the fire of God’s wrath would have consumed it.
All that Christ suffered was in our stead (Isaiah 53:5). We ate the sour grapes, and His teeth were set on edge. We climbed the tree, we stole the forbidden fruit—and Christ goes up the ladder of the cross and dies! Oh, how lovely ought a bleeding Savior to be in our eyes! Let us wear this blessed crucifix always in our heart. “The cross of Christ,” said Damascen [John of Damascus], “is the golden key that opens paradise to us.”
How beautiful Christ is upon the cross! The ruddiness of His blood took away the redness of our guilt. How lovely are those wounds which wounded the red dragon! When this blessed Rock was smitten, water came out of it to cleanse us and blood to cheer us (1 John 5:6). “When Christ was on the cross,” said Bernard [of Clairvaux], “then the vine was cut—and salvation came to us in the blood of the vine.” Oh, how lovely is this bleeding vine! Christ’s crucifixion is our coronation!
I loved this outburst of praise in Spurgeon’s evening devotion today:
O for a throne of ivory for our King. Let Him be set on high forever, and let my soul sit at His footstool and kiss His feet and wash them with my tears. How precious is Christ! How can it be that I have thought so little of Him? How is it I can go anywhere else for joy or comfort when He is so full, so rich, so satisfying? Fellow believer, make a covenant with your heart that you will never depart from Him, and ask the Lord to ratify it. Bid Him set you as a ring on His finger and as a bracelet on His arm. . . . The sparrow has made a house, and the swallow a nest for herself where she may lay her young, even your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. And in the same way I would make my nest, my home, in You, and may this soul never leave again, but let me nestle close to You, Lord Jesus, my true and only rest.
These reflections from Michael Allen’s essay, “Divine Fullness: A Dogmatic Sketch,” moved me to praise God for his all-surpassing excellencies:
His [God’s] riches are owned by he who is without beginning or end and thus who is characterized by aseity. Yet his bounteous bliss goes beyond mere self-existence or self-sufficiency to also require that we attest his excess, wealth, and fullness. All that he has, he is, and he has all and more. . . Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have shared perfect charity with one another for all eternity, such that their actions toward us do not begin their life of love but only express the public overflow of what has marked their own unity from everlasting unto everlasting.
How can we hold back praising this awesome God!
Finally, I loved this prayer from The Valley of Vision: “Thy never-failing providence . . . makes unsatisfactory what I set my heart upon, to show me what a short-sighted creature I am, and to teach me to live by faith upon thy blessed self” (185).
Psalm 7 finds David in a tsunami of false accusations and slander. Though the specifics elude us, the words, “if there is wrong in my hands (v. 3), suggest allegations of bribery (2 Sam. 15:1–16).
It’s this smear campaign that sheds light on David’s seemingly self-righteous plea: “judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me” (v. 8). But David entertains no notion that he’s sinless; just read Psalms 32 and 51. Rather, his petition is specifically linked to the accusations leveled against him.
Further proof of David’s sincerity are the three if-clauses in verses 3–4 that culminate in his willingness to die if he’s guilty of sinning in the way his enemies charge. Instead of taking matters into his own hands, David foreshadows the behavior of his greater Son, Jesus Christ—the One who entrusted “himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:23).
But what enables David to respond this way? Two things:
First, God’s character. Engraved on David’s soul is the truth that God is not lukewarm about justice. Indeed, God “feels indignation every day” (v. 11)—that is, his zeal for justice never fluctuates or changes; it doesn’t rise and fall depending on the day. In theological terms, God’s indignation is an impassible indignation.
Second, David has entrusted himself to this God—the just God. Tim Keller perceptively observes that David does not say, “I will take refuge in the LORD,” but “I take refuge,” indicating that he has placed his life in God’s hands. This trust in God frees David to rest in his wisdom and timing. Divine retribution will come; God will judge from his exalted throne (v. 11).
Here’s why Psalm 7 is good news: The one who will judge from his throne on high is also the one who was lifted high on the cross, promising that all who trust in him will escape judgment (John 3:14–18). For Christians, our judgment day has already come and gone.
Prayer: O Good God, the only searcher of men’s hearts, who preservest us that put our confidence in thee from danger of our enemies, lift up thy mighty arm, and put back all those that persecute us; and gather thy church dispersed by the tyranny of godless tyrants; and keep us continually under thy mighty defence, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Prayer based on Psalm 7 from Prayers on the Psalms from the Scottish Psalter of 1595, 44).
 Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller, The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms (New York: Viking, 2015), 9.