Friday, May 8, 2009

A Comprehensive Challenge

Though I've never been able to attend the Together For the Gospel conference, I listened to audio of all the messages from last year's edition and found them extremely challenging, convicting, and encouraging. I'd heard a couple of the messages from the 2006 conference, but not all of them, so I was excited recently to begin reading Preaching the Cross, a book written by the conference speakers that encapsulates the content of their messages. The book is not an exact transcript or reproduction of the sermons, but the content is very similar.

Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, Al Mohler, C.J. Mahaney, John MacArthur, John Piper, and R.C Sproul each contribute a chapter, and all of them are quite helpful in their own right. The book is, as the title suggests, built around the centrality of Christ's atonement in preaching. Each writer's work is related to that theme, but each is very different in its focus - a fact that keeps the book fresh throughout and makes it a valuable tool in many different areas. My favorite chapters were likely Sproul's refelctions on the centrality of justification by faith, Duncan's insights on preaching Christ from the Old Testament, and Mahaney's hard-hitting call to a careful watch on one's own life. Content-wise, the book was excellent. My only complaint is that at times it reads like a book of sermons, with the unshakable feeling that to hear these messages preached would be far more engaging than simply reading them. I wouldn't call the writing flat, but the whole endeavor did at times betray itself as a book that is a byproduct of another medium. If you attended T4G 2006, you may want to take a pass on this one, since it will be largely summary and retread. However, if you're like me and did not attend, you'll find a lot of benefit in this book. The subject of the cross in preaching is covered from nearly every conceivable angle, a great help for the pastor who seeks to leave no stone unturned is his proclamation of Christ crucified - the only hope for our people and for us.

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