Newton on the Christian Life: To Live Is Christ
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Newton is perhaps the greatest pastoral letter writer in the history of the church. He took up his pen day after day to help others fix their eyes on Christ, which, he writes, is the underlying battle of the Christian life. Through a careful study of scores of letters, Tony Reinke brings together Newton's brilliant vision of the Christian life in one accessible place.
Number of Pages: 288
Publication Date: 2015
|Dimensions: 9.00 X 6.00 (inches)|
Series: Theologians on the Christian Life
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Exploring the life of a slave trader turned hymn writer, this book looks to the pastoral legacy of John Newton, whose hundreds of extant letters offer modern Christians valuable insights into the Christian life. Part of the Theologians on the Christian Life series.
Tony Reinke is a staff writer and researcher for desiringGod.org. He is the author of Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books and Newton on the Christian Life.
Stephen J. Nichols (PhD, Westminster Theological Seminary) serves as the president of Reformation Bible College and chief academic officer of Ligonier Ministries. He is an editor of the Theologians on the Christian Life series and also hosts the weekly podcast 5 Minutes in Church History.
Justin Taylor (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher at Crossway. He has edited and contributed to several books including A God-Entranced Vision of All Things and Reclaiming the Center, and he blogs at Between Two Worldshosted by the Gospel Coalition.
John Piper (DTheol, University of Munich) is the founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and the chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He served for 33 years as the senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is the author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God, Dont Waste Your Life, This Momentary Marriage, Bloodlines, and Does God Desire All to Be Saved?
Founder, desiringGod.org; Chancellor, Bethlehem College and Seminary
Here is mastery! As the Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and reigning, was the life-giving focus of the Evangelical Revival, and as George Whitefield was its supreme awakener, and John Wesley its brilliant discipler, so exslave trader John Newton was its peerless pastoral counselor and perhaps the greatest Christian letter writer of all time. In his 768- footnote digest of the spiritual wisdom in Newton's thousand-plus published letters, along with his published sermons and hymns, Reinke distills a vast flow of pure honey for the Christian heart. This is a book to read over and over again.
-J. I. Packer,
Board of Governors' Professor of Theology, Regent College
Newton on the Christian Life is a magnum opus (though Tony still has plenty of time to surpass it). A bold project, beautifully done. You know about John Newton; now you can be pastored by him. You will feel known by him. You will be encouraged that your struggles are like his and his congregants. And you will discover again that huge helpings of the beauty and love of Jesus are the perfect antidote for our self-consumed lives.
counselor and faculty, The Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation
The Christian life is Christ, as John Newton clarified so helpfully. If you are still treating Christianity as a strategy for your own self-improvement, this book will not satisfy you. But if you have despaired of yourself and are now clinging only to Christ, this book will refresh you. Newton's practical counsel, brought vividly to life again by Tony Reinke, will lead you into the green pastures and beside the still waters that are, at this moment, awaiting you in your all-sufficient Savior. For some readers, this book may just become the most important book, outside the Bible, they will ever read.
-Raymond C. Ortlund Jr.,
Lead Pastor, Immanuel Church, Nashville, Tennessee
Best known for the iconic hymn 'Amazing Grace,' John Newton deserves to be equally known for his tremendous corpus of spiritual letters. In them, Newton's gifting as a pastoral cardiologist with few peers is on full display. Many of the main struggles and joys of the human heart have not changed. And, as Reinke ably shows, Newton's advice, given in a world somewhat different from ours, is still potent and relevant. Very highly recommended.
-Michael A. G. Haykin,
Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Newton's pastoral letters are a unique and rich resource for Christians today, and both of us owe them a debt too great to describe. However, they constitute a notoriously difficult body of work in which to navigate. Many a time you can remember some gem you have read in these letters but now can't locate. Here we have a guide to Newton's main themes and topics, as well as considered treatments of many of his most valuable letters. This is a welcome tool for Christian growth and discipleship.
-Tim and Kathy Keller,
Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City
This book is worth every minute of your time, whether or not you have any interest in John Newton. Reinke brings out Newton in all his cheer to minister to readers. The result is a Christ-exalting manual for growth into Christian joy, freedom, and fruitfulness. No, more than a manual, this is a work of beauty to be read again and again.
Director of Union and Senior Lecturer, Wales Evangelical School of Theology
Reinke takes us well beyond the hymn 'Amazing Grace' to explore John Newton's stirring pastoral ministry and soaring vision of the believer's life in Christ. I am delighted to recommend this book.
Professor of History, Baylor University
This book, by one of the brightest writers in contemporary evangelicalism, examines the life lessons of a hymn writer, a freedom fighter, and a gospel preacher. Even if you don't think you like church history, you will love this book. Reinke ties Newton's life and thought to practical applications for every believer. I encourage you to read and savor anew the grace that saved wretches like us.
-Russell D. Moore,
President, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
Although he authored what would become America's best-loved hymn, John Newton's contemporaries thought his best gift was letter writing. Rarely, if ever, has so much wisdom, love, sanity, balance, genuine affection, and wonderfully down-to-earth-because-full-of-heaven practical counsel been expressed in letters written in the English language. Underneath them all runs knowledge of the Word of God, a devotion to the Son of God, and a love for the people of God. Newton makes us feel, even two centuries later, that he was writing for us, and that he knew us well. Reinke has done the whole church a service by recovering Newton's letters from obscurity. Newton on the Christian Life is a taste of spiritual manna that will make us want to read the letters of Newton for ourselves.
-Sinclair B. Ferguson,
Professor of Systematic Theology, Redeemer Seminary, Dallas, Texas
This book presents valuable lessons from the ministry of John Newton. His perception of grace permeated his theology, his thinking, his experience, his hopes, his ministry, and even his dying. As Reinke writes, grace was 'the air he breathed.' Here we catch glimpses into the workings of Newton's heart as he focused unreservedly on living for and through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Director, The John Newton Project
ChrisSingaporeAge: 25-34Gender: male5 Stars Out Of 5Superb book on Newton the PastorDecember 23, 2015ChrisSingaporeAge: 25-34Gender: maleQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5If I had a choice on one pastor I would have in my life, I would definitely choose John Newton. At first glance you might be wondering why I would choose the author of Amazing Grace as the pastor of my choice. Most Christians only know his dramatic life testimony, but you might not know how pastoral Newton became as he served his congregation in St Mary Woolnoth.
Tony Reinke first starts with a brief introduction to John Newton, highlights the major milestone in the life of Newton. This sets the picture and context to people who are new to the life of Newton. After the quick overview into the life of Newton, Reinke wants christians to see the importance of looking to Christ. I like the fact that Newton helped christians see the importance of looking to Jesus, with an emphasis on the word looking, keeping a continuous focused graze on Jesus throughout the christian life. This keeps christians focus on what Christ has done when were dealing with our indwelling sin or with our insecurity.
Having laid this foundation, Reinke then moves on to the topic of christian living, he helps us see the advice that Newton gave to his correspondences and how his advice is still good pastoral advice to us today. Newton gave very sensible and sensitive advice to those suffering from trials or those struggling with indwelling sins. Newton often helps his readers see the benefits that such trials or indwelling sins brings to our christian life. For example, in dealing with trials Newton writes, When these serious trials interrupt our lives, we run simply and immediately to our all-sufficient Friend, feel our dependence, and cry in good earnest for help. But when all is well, when life seems peaceful and prosperous, and when the difficulties in life are small, then we are too apt secretly to lean to our own wisdom and strength, as if in such slight matters we could make shift without him.. Living in a day and age where suffering seems strange, undesirable and quickly avoided or alleviated, this advice comes like a fresh breeze and encouragement to endure through our trials patiently.
Ive also found Newtons advice to young and old christian extremely helpful. In a series of 3 letters, Newton addresses the young and new born christian, those who are in adolescence and those who have been a christian for a long time. I have found Newton to be a master of the human heart and of the christian life. He highlights points that readers will identify with in their lives and he also points out the dangers they will face and areas that they should be especially watchful for. At all times, Newton gives the slight nudge of encouragement to the christian to keep their focus on Christ and to live evermore so in dependence on the love of God, the compassion of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit.
If you are a pastor, or if you are thinking of going into the pastoral ministry, I cannot recommend this book highly enough for you. You will first be cared for pastorally and then learn to care for your congregation pastorally. For those who are doing any form of mentoring or counselling or even if youre going dry in your christian life, read this book and let Pastor Newton give you some of his counsel. Personally Ive been helped by the advice of this seasoned pastor and hope one day to be as pastoral in the way I interact with my congregation in future.
Rating: 5 / 5
Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Michele MorinWarren, MaineAge: 45-54Gender: female5 Stars Out Of 5An Ocean of Theology in a ThimbleJuly 20, 2015Michele MorinWarren, MaineAge: 45-54Gender: femaleQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5There is a way of speaking and writing that travels well, that finds its way into the small spaces of full days and busy brains so that truth, like a clinging burdock seed, gets caught and carried along for the ride. Tony Reinke has portrayed this aspect of John Newtons theology in Newton on the Christian Life, conveying the essence of Newtons understanding and communication of what it means to live a life that is distinctly Christian. With remarkable self-control, Tony limits himself to the details of Newtons biography that bear directly on his topic. Clearly, the spotlight is on Newtons writing, and Tony has ransacked multiple libraries and historical collections of rare books to access primary resources, and anyone who fails to read the footnotes is missing out on the full impact of the authors deep and wide research.
Although John Newtons name is mainly associated with the phrase Amazing Grace, his teaching actually centered around the phrase sufficient grace, based on Pauls message from God regarding his thorn in the flesh, (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). In Newtons experience and in his teaching, grace is far more than the warm and fuzzy notion tied to his famous hymn by our modern culture. For Newton, grace was tied specifically to Jesus Christ as that which unites the believer to Christ. In his own words:
The great God is pleased to manifest himself in Christ, as the God of grace. This grace is manifold, pardoning, converting, restoring, persevering grace, bestowed upon the miserable and worthless.
Tony Reinke has sifted through Newtons letters, thoughts on pastoral ministry, hymns, published works, and sermons and distilled the contents into systematic units beginning with John Newtons words on the sufficiency of Christ which is demonstrated in the diverse roles through which Christ meets the believer: Shepherd, Husband, Prophet, Priest King, and Friend. In each of his abundant metaphors, Newton presents Christ as central to the hope of the Christian life which is tied up in the ultimate aim of gospel simplicity. Again, the Apostle Pauls words form Newtons thinking:
For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God . . . (2 Corinthians 1:12)
This bedrock was the foundation to Newtons practice in the pulpit, his single-minded devotion to one Master, his focus on the glory of God, and his utter dependence upon God. The outflow of this integral life was gospel sincerity in which the principles and motives upon which [ones] conduct is formed are the same in public as in private. Their behavior will be all of a piece, because they have but one design. It follows then, that if devotion to Christ is the chief motive for righteousness, then the daily walk will be empowered by Christ.
Given that Newton identifies himself as chief of sinners, sin figures prominently in his view of the Christian life as that which pulls one away from Christ and from gospel simplicity. The effects of indwelling sin he likened to a troublesome lodger in his house who spoils all. To turn him out is beyond my power. We both lay such a claim to the same dwelling that I believe the only way of settling the dispute will be (which the Landlord himself has spoken of) to pull down the house over our heads. Even so, Newtons belief in sovereign grace was such that he acknowledged that even sin can be used to accomplish Gods purpose in the believers life, for he was firmly convinced that it was not his own sinlessness, but Christs upon which his salvation rested.
Newton hailed Christ as the believers victory, life and example, and in spite of humanitys profound sinfulness, Newton regarded every immortal soul as priceless, sharing C.S. Lewiss view that it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.
First and foremost a pastor, Newton wrote extensively on the growth process of the Christian life, the dangers of sinful habits and character flaws, and the importance of a right response to trials. The believers need for spiritual discipline, he believed, was centered in Christ Himself, and ultimately on Christs revelation in Scripture which he exhorted his sheep to read with sincerity, diligence, humility and prayer. His advice about Bible reading embodies simplicity: Read it through from beginning to end; and, when we have finished it once, begin it again. Likewise, his advice on reading books other than Scripture is also succinct: Read books like eating an apple eat whats good and toss the rest. This does not come across as snobbery or fear, but rather as a jealousy for the glory of Christ. Newtons highest aim in ministry was to put Christs beauty on display with no distractions.
On this fallen planet, trials and the war against sin can lead to insecurity in the heart of a believer. The daily battle for joy can lead to spiritual weariness. Even so, it was Newtons firm conviction that the believers worst enemy is selfishness. Given that we have met the enemy and he is us, victory can come only through obedience based on love for God that results in a desire to please God that is strong enough to supersede the desire to please Mr. Self as Newton referred to his selfish nature.
Tony Reinke helps his readers to see that Newtons theology of the Christian life boils down to this one thing: to live is Christ, (Philippians 1:21). And so, the ministry of John Newton resonates anew from these pages in a call to look again to the brazen serpent of the glory of Christ, when we feel our hearts growing cold, and we lament our chilled worship. Indeed, in reading his words, we find hope that although we are not what we ought to be, not what we might be, not what we wish to be, not what we would hope to be, we rejoice in knowing that we are no longer what we once were. Truly, this is amazing grace.
This book was provided by Crossway in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 : Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.