What Is a Christian?
by Ryan McGraw
The question is hard, but the clarity of this booklet’s treatment makes answering it look easy. What Is a Christian? (Reformation Heritage, 2014) is Presbyterian minister Ryan McGraw’s thoroughly biblical summary. Briefly put, a Christian believes something. This quality—faith in everything God says, and preeminently in what He says about the saving work of the God-man Jesus Christ—is the essence of Christianity. From that belief flows an experience of union with Christ, and a life of obedience to Him. In short, McGraw insists that a true Christian believes something, experiences something, and does something.
What does it mean to believe the word of God? First, the word of God is found in the Bible. The true Christian believes the Bible because of his conviction that God said it. Since God said it, how could it be wrong? Specifically, the Bible outlines the doctrines of creation, sin, and redemption. One must believe that God created that world, that human beings are God’s creatures and responsible to obey Him, and that the Father’s love has been expressed in the effective saving work of Jesus Christ, in order to be a Christian.
This belief, which involves knowledge and trust, leads to a mystical union with Christ. McGraw identifies three ongoing processes in this union. First is a Spirit-empowered conviction of and repentance from sin. Second is trust and reliance upon Christ. And third is a love for God greater than one’s love for the world. The “almost Christian” may know the truth and think he trusts Christ, but he will lack the key element of love for God overflowing in obedience to God’s commands. In sum, the true Christian experiences the grace of Christ, the love of the Father, and communion with fellow believers through the Spirit’s work (2 Corinthians 13:14).
What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done
by Matt Perman
The secret to productivity is to identify the most important task and do it immediately. Put first things first, in other words—or, to take Matt Perman’s short version, always ask What’s Best Next? (Zondervan, 2014). While this is obvious, common-grace advice found in many business books, Perman builds his entire treatment of the topic on biblical bedrock. That’s why the subtitle promises that the book will explain How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done.
The Bible has a lot of material on doing good for others, helping the poor, and so on. For most American Christians, those verses are nice but unrealistic. After working all day, spending time with your family, and taking a little time to relax, you don’t have time to evangelize or help poor people. In effect, following those commands has been relegated to the realm of the super-Christian.
Perman won’t let his readers use that dodge. The primary way each of us does good for the poor and for the world is by being good at our vocations. Ministry jobs are one kind of calling among many, but there is nothing holy about reading the Bible all day to the detriment of your roles as a father, employee, etc.
Thus, to be effective, put your week into a basic routine with time blocked out for your main recurring tasks. The little stuff will fill itself in, if you remember that life is not about saving the good parts for yourself: “Generosity is the heart of all true productivity.” In other words, says Perman, change your mindset. Serving others is not an extra; it’s part of life, and it’s best done by doing the things you’re already doing excellently, with time-management skill, to please the God who saved you. That’s the best kind of life.