Wednesday, 13 December 2017 07:38

Books to Read

Written by  Tim Challies
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Sipping Saltwater

by Steve Hoppe


Is there any sin we commit more but admit less than the sin of idolatry? As people who have knowingly and willingly deserted the one true God, we turn our hearts this way and that to find the satisfaction we are meant to find in him alone. We try first one thing and then the other yet never find our thirst assuaged. It is not until we rest in Him that we find true rest. It is not until we are satisfied in him that we find true satisfaction. Idolatry is the curse of all mankind.

Idolatry is the subject of a new book by Steve Hoppe. All throughout the book, he uses saltwater as a metaphor for our idolatry. A shipwrecked sailor can float in an ocean filled with trillions of gallons of water but never quench his thirst because he is afloat in saltwater. In the same way, none of the pleasures in this world can ultimately satisfy us without God.


What is this saltwater? “This saltwater doesn’t come from the ocean. It comes in a variety of forms from the world around us and our hearts within. It comes in the form of money, sex, control, or comfort. It comes in the form of busyness, people, food, or works. It can come in the form of anything. … Even though we are thirsty for paradise lost, we drink saltwater instead — in a million different forms.”


The trick, of course, is that none of these things are evil in and of themselves. Just like saltwater is good for the purpose for which it was created, so, too, is each of these. Each of them is a good gift of God. Each of them is meant to be enjoyed. The problems begin when they are elevated too far. They become idols when they become ultimate matters. Hoppe describes what he calls the “saltwater cycle” which consists of three steps that repeat themselves endlessly. First, we listen to a lie; second, we take a drink; third, we suffer. We listen to the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil and believe that we can be satisfied with what they offer. Then we take a drink, we believe the lie, we look for satisfaction, we make gifts into gods. Then, inevitably, we suffer the consequences. We feel guilt and shame and sorrow and promise never to do it again. The cycle repeats.


The hope, of course, is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is his joy to deliver us from this endless cycle of discontentment so we can be contented in him. He lets us see that he himself is the living water that quenches our deepest thirst.


Yet as long as we live in this simple world, we will continue to struggle with idolatry. For that reason, most of the book is a look at the various idols we encounter in life, and how to overcome them. I highly recommend it.



A Little Book on the Christian Life

by John Calvin










There are far more Calvinists in the world than there are people who have actually read the works of John Calvin, or even dabbled in them, for that. Of course the latter is not a prerequisite to the former, but those who never read any of Calvin’s works are denying themselves a blessing and perhaps even a surprise. For while his name is attached to an expansive system of theology, he is a theologian who does not merely fill the head, but one who also warms the heart and informs the hands. Never do we see this more clearly than in A Little Book on the Christian Life.


What would become that Little Book first appeared in 1539, in the Latin second edition of Calvin’s magnum opus the Institutes of the Christian Religion. At that time it was a chapter titled De vita hominis Christiani (on the life of the Christian man). Readers quickly identified that it could stand apart from its context and be a powerful little booklet in its own right. Since then, it has been translated and published in many forms and under many names. Unfortunately, its English editions have often been truncated or of dubious quality.


That was the case until Aaron Denligner and Burk Parsons determined they would craft a new translation. “Our aim in completing this project has generally been to produce a translation that we believe Calvin himself would have been pleased with. We have, in other words, aimed at faithfulness not just to Calvin’s meaning but, so much as possible, to his words.” In doing so, they have produced a gem of a book. It maintains the strength and tone of the original content even while providing it in a new language.


A Little Book on the Christian Life is composed of just five short chapters. But each of these short chapters packs a punch. Though short in length, this little booklet is full of wisdom for guiding the Christian’s journey. It’s a book that will benefit any and every Christian. It is short enough to read quickly and full enough to re-read often.


I’m convinced we are living in a golden age of publishing. Readers are being served with new works written here in the twenty-first century and, perhaps even more importantly, with classics from days gone by. This little book is deservedly one of those classics and I’m grateful to Denligner and Parsons for allowing today’s Christians to rediscover it. I pray that it blesses us just as it blessed many of our forebears. I am confident it will.




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