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Hard to Believe

He’s done it again. John MacArthur’s Hard to Believe: the High Cost and Infinite Value of Following Jesus (Nelson, 2003) is a must-read — especially in the wake of the “Passion” mania.

With unflinching conviction, MacArthur says it in many ways throughout the book: “True saving faith is repentant faith in Jesus Christ, and that produces good works” (p. 104). He deals with decisionism, invitationalism, and many other kinds of feel-goodisms that are corrupting the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s an easy read (as most of his books are). I read it through in one sitting, and I felt like I had just sat under some good preaching.

I want the people in my church to read this, and I think you should too. I have to point out one human error because it jumped out at me. In his chapter on the “Hallmarks of Discipleship,” John MacArthur illustrated his point with the life of Henry Martyn. He refers to him on page 121 as an “old man.” Henry Martyn went to Persia, writes MacArthur “after a long and difficult life of service in India” (121). The only problem with this illustration is that Martyn wasn’t blessed with a long life. It was difficult, but not long. He died when he was 31 years old. If 31 is old, then I am very old at 34 years of age.

Now, the reason I point this out is because those of us who appreciate MacArthur and his stand for essential truths often celebrate his achievements and promote his literature. If we are to have any credibility with the enemies of the truth, we need to demonstrate fair-mindedness by acknowledging the human errors among our champions. To point out small (and basically insignificant errors) in the literature we promote for the cause of truth is a way to preemptively disarm the critics who will want to make a mountain out of a mole-hill with the mistake.

So, buy MacArthur’s book. Read it. He’s dead-on theologically. It is a wake-up call. It is sometimes brutal — like cold water being splashed on your warm, cozy, and sleeping body. But if “warm, cozy, and sleeping” doesn’t define American Christianity, I don’t know what does. And when you get a chance, read The Life and Letters of Henry Martyn by John Sargent. When you see how much Martyn accomplished in his 31 years, you will probably forgive MacArthur for saying he lived a long life! I do.

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