Love’s Redeeming Work

I’ve hinted that I am working on a new book, and the time has come to reveal a working title, the theme, and little bit of cover art.

Once again, I am compelled to write on theology. My passion is to study God’s Word, to live it out as best I can, and to teach it to others (Ezra 7:10).

In that vein, I have taken to writing a theological treatise on salvation, the so-called ordo salutis in particular. The ordo salutis is the “order of salvation” as described by theologians. How is salvation applied to an individual, and is there an “order” (chronological or logical) by which we may understand the application of redemption? This is the topic covered in the “Applied” half of John Murray’s 1955 work, Redemption Accomplished and Applied.

My working title is Love’s Redeeming Work, and the subtitle is Treasuring Our Savior and His Great Salvation. There’s also a sub-sub-title: The Ordo Salutis for Everyone. My goal is to make the various elements of our salvation understandable to the everyday reader.

The ordo salutis (order of salvation) is a recounting of the steps by which God saves a sinner. In the classic Reformed sense, the order follows this sequence: Election, Calling, Regeneration, Conversion (Faith and Repentance), Justification, Adoption, Sanctification, Perseverance, Glorification. These topics are massive and weighty and worthy of our study.

My purpose is not merely the didactic, the teaching of doctrine. Beyond that, a deeper understanding of the doctrines ought to ignite a fire within us. A fire that causes us to treasure and savor all that God has done to apply redemption to our lives. The deeper we go into these waters, the more precious his grace is to us. My purpose is to be a catalyst for your treasuring of his great gift.

I have been prompted by the warning question of Hebrews 2:3 – “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” Planned by God the Father, purchased by Jesus Christ, declared to us by holy prophets and apostles, and applied to us by the Holy Spirit, this salvation is of such weight that we dare not miss it. To our peril we neglect it. How might we neglect this great salvation? John Piper has penned these words in answer to this question:

Don’t neglect being loved by God. Don’t neglect being forgiven and accepted and protected and strengthened and guided by Almighty God. Don’t neglect the sacrifice of the Christ’s life on the cross. Don’t neglect the free gift of righteousness imputed by faith. Don’t neglect the removal of God’s wrath and the reconciled smile of God. Don’t neglect the indwelling Holy Spirit and the fellowship and friendship of the living Christ. Don’t neglect the radiance of God’s glory in the face of Jesus. Don’t neglect the free access to the throne of grace. Don’t neglect the inexhaustible treasure of God’s promises.

John Piper

Even those who have been redeemed by God’s great salvation need reminders of the preciousness of what God has done and is doing in our lives. The mundane crowds out the sacred. The sense of wonder is lost, even among those who serve God well. This book is being written to call us to the quiet, to call us to savor, to call us to love.

Would you be in prayer as I complete the composition of this work? I am hoping to be able to publish in the first quarter of 2022. Pray that my research and study will bear fruit. Pray that I don’t get “stuck” in the writing process. Pray as I consider publishing options. Above all, pray that believers are strengthened and God is glorified.

Writing for laypersons?

Meme by Dennis Bills,

As I begin the research and writing on my next book (Title TBD), I am struck by how much research is required in order to do justice to the topic (to be announced at a later date).

My first book, Take Root Bear Fruit, involved a modicum of inquiry into commentaries and tomes of theology, but I was largely writing from heart and mind things that had been simmering for some time. Perhaps that is the way of many first books. Certainly I felt that I was writing for myself even as I wrote to influence and persuade others.

Writing for a blog is a whole ‘nother thing. In blog writing, you are trying to be succinct. There’s a rule of thumb of “500 words or less” (I fail often). But in pursuing concision, I often am constrained from fully developing and defending a line of thought.

I recently found this meme created by Presbyterian pastor and author Dennis Bills. It literally made me LOL. Even in its humor, it pulls me away from the tendency to be pithy (and lazy) and pushes me to delving into the depths of the topic at hand.

Yes, this new work is not meant to be overly scholastic. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be scholarly. I may be writing for the layperson, but my passion for church people is that they engage their Bibles with their minds. This will necessarily involve some academic pursuit into deeper waters.

So, where before, I may have finished a paragraph ready to move on to another sub-heading, I now find myself realizing that I just opened a can of worms, and I need to explain it more fully. Back to research. I don’t want to short-change my explanation.

Far too much writing in the Christian market today is aimed at the lowest common denominator. It moves too quickly from doctrinal content (if any) to life lessons and morality instruction. If it quotes Scripture at all, it does so in a proof-text fashion with no systematic instruction. Lord willing, I will not do that.

May I not be academically lazy in my writing in the name of “writing for the layperson.”

How my book came to be

Many years ago, thinking about the question of biblical literacy, I asked myself, What would I think the 100 most important Scripture passages are? This resulted in the beginning of a list (which I still have somewhere). There was also some dialog with a friend on this question.

Fast-forward several years, and I began to think about writing a book. Eventually I thought I could pick up my old idea and modify it. 25 Bible Passages You Should Know was born. I even worked up a mock-up cover and selected passages for consideration.

I began to write and wrote the chapter on John 1:1-18. For the most part, the structure of that first effort became the format for all the chapters to follow, with some editing later on.

It was at this point I discovered two things: one, my first chapter was much longer than I’d envisioned when I was thinking of writing about 25. Two, I realized that some of my selected passages would form a theological framework of understanding the Bible, while others would form a historical framework. The two different frameworks would necessitate different writing styles.

So I decided to turn my focus to theological passages only, and my Table of Contents was now reduced to 13 passages. Since I’d been thinking of the term “framework,” I began to play with that as the title. Again, a cover mock-up followed, this time following a blueprint motif.

Let me add that the idea of doing mock-ups of cover art might seem premature at the early stages of writing, but creating them allowed me to engage in some right-brain activity, which was a break from the very analytical left-brain act of composing the chapters. Plus, I would print and display these art pieces as a way to visualize the end product which was highly motivating for me.

After writing about 5 chapters, I really began to question the product I was creating. Should I continue to write as I had been, or should I turn this book into something else? A friend gave me some great feedback that could possibly change the focus of the end product. Should I make a Bible study guide? A picture book? This could have paralyzed me but instead, I decided to soldier on in the form in which I had begun. Once I finished I could then choose how I would ultimately package my content.

As the result of some discussion with another friend, I made the decision to cut my content to 9 main chapters, organized loosely into 3 sections. I also went back and added some focus on the methodology of studying passages of the Bible. But it remains a book more about doctrines than about methods.

Finally, as I wrote the Introduction last, the concept of “organic” understanding of Bible passages came to me. I wrote of the difference between systematic theology and the expository theology I was writing about. Once the term “organic” surfaced, it changed the whole motif of the artwork from a blueprint to a growing plant. Even the color scheme on the artwork morphed into earth tones.

Isaiah 37:31 – And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward – has long been a mantra for me as I learn and teach the Bible. This verse dove-tailed right into what I was doing with writing this book, and so the title – Take Root, Bear Fruitcame to be.

It is my passion to see God’s people transformed by God’s Word. This book is written out of that passion, and I pray that you will be helped by it.