Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Beauty of God's Holiness, by Thomas L. Trevethan

It was the title of this book that caught my eye, as I see few books about holiness today. That holds true, whether this applies to religious sections in libraries or bookstores, or Christian bookstores. The cover of this book has a lovely picture of trees, reflecting God's image as Creator. The author, Thomas Trevethan, was an author I have never heard of until I purchased this book used at a used general bookstore. He is an area Director for the Southeastern Michigan region of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. He has also written another book I have never heard of, OUR JOYFUL CONFIDENCE. This book, THE BEAUTY OF GOD'S HOLINESS, begins with a preface preparing the reader for much of the strong material that is much of the book. Part 1 establishes the reality of God's holiness and provides an exposition on it, based on the Bible. Part 2 outlines the reality of our sin, our need for Jesus, what He actually did for us, and what our response to this holy, gracious, majestic God should be. The book contains headings within the text and frequent Bible quotations. The author closes with four pages of notes to cite his sources.

This book lives up to the title and is solidly God-focused. I did not come to this book expecting any of the watered-down gospel that I so often hear preached and taught in local church fellowships. I knew that this book would not affirm me or even tell me that Jesus died for me because "I was worth it to Him." The author's sole purpose is to exalt and glorify the Person of God. This is not light or entertaining reading but is for serious Christians who want a fresh vision of God in a Western culture that is, frankly, worldly and self-absorbed. This book fully explains what God's holiness is and it explains many hard-to-understand or hard-to-accept passages. For example, the author debunked the idea that the prophet Elisha was an "ill-tempered boor" when he was angry at some young people who were mocking his bald head of hair. The author also debunks any thought of God's meanness of spirit when He struck these youths dead (p129). According to the author, this prophet had to have respect or else He could not effectively serve God as His mouthpiece. The author's explanations often are not what we would like but his goal is not to please readers, but to please God. The author also expands, in more detail than we would like, about how serious is our sin, how an affront to God's holiness we are, why we so desperately need Jesus, and why His death on the cross fully satisfies God's wrath. While much in this book is not what we may want to hear, it is what we badly need to hear. As the book is so grounded in Scripture and continually points to it, I could do little to mentally rebut much of anything in this book even though the author obviously takes a dim view of human nature. This is the kind of book that I will want to read over and over, not to be entertained but to appreciate God for all He is, and to fulfill the command to consider God's goodness and severity together. This author admits that this book is not the "whole counsel of God," as it emphasizes the holiness, justice and judgment of God, rather than His love and His grace. As the love and grace of God are typically over-emphasized at the expense of His holiness and justice, this book seeks to provide a much-needed balance.

I recommend this book for every Pastor in the land. I recommend it especially for pastors who have caved into the relativism, humanism, consumerism, and secularism of this Western culture and have watered down the strong Gospel. This book will provide abundant motivation and perspective for fleeing from the temptation to "tickle ears" to avoid offending hearers and losing members and their contributions. I also recommend this book for every Christian though I fear that many will have the patience to plod through this deep book, or to handle the blatantly God-centered thrust of the text. But we cannot focus on the traits of God we like and ignore all the others. Even a casual reading of Scripture will make it very clear that God is an infinitely holy God Who cannot tolerate the slightest sin, Who cannot and will not accept us apart from His Son's perfect and bloody sacrifice of His life, and is the Judge before Who you and I will have to stand before on Judgment Day and give account for how we have lived our lives. I think a youth version of this book needs to be written.

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