"The Heart of the Church: The Gospel's History, Message, and Meaning", by Joe Thorn (book review)

Joe Thorn writes, "The gospel is the heart of the church.  It's not simply one thing we believe, but the defining truth for the Christian and the church" (p.105).  Replaced by feel-good messages and motivational speeches, the true message of the gospel is missing in many churches today.  More and more professing Christians are growing increasingly biblically illiterate to even the fundamental truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  And that is why I believe Thorn has written this book, which is book one of the series: The HEART of the Church, The CHARACTER of the Church, and The LIFE of the Church.

I first encountered Joe Thorn's writing in TableTalk magazine, published by Ligonier Ministries.  I typically wait to read the author's name in those articles until I've finished the article.  That way I'm not biased for or against any one author in particular.  I repeatedly find myself liking the articles he's written.  Why?  Because he writes so simply, but so very truthfully and thoughtfully.

This book is no different, and here's how I would describe it. Imagine Wayne Grudem's tome, "Systematic Theology", which is well over 1,000 pages long.  Single chapters on Justification, Sanctification, and Forgiveness, for example, can be quite lengthy and deeply described.  This one is just the opposite: It is very short, sweet, and simple.  While there are some big Bible words (i.e. doctrines) inside, Thorn does an excellent job explaining their meanings and import.

The book is broken down into three parts: (1) The History of the Gospel (3 chapters, 20 pages), (2) The Doctrine of the Gospel (6 chapters, 26 pages), and the (3) The God of the Gospel (5 chapters, 22 pages).  I was inspired and encouraged by chapter 8 on "Sanctification".  I agree wholeheartedly with Thorn when he writes, "Putting sin to death and pursuing righteousness is what sanctification looks like in the life of a believer" (p. 69).  Sanctification is something that simultaneously troubles and encourages me.  I don't want to just be forgiven.  I want to be different; radically changed.  I can trust that God will see my sanctification through, because the change that I crave is a work started AND completed by God Himself.  Thorn encourages readers, "Sanctification is the work of God in which we participate by His grace" (p. 67-68). 

This book -- and I'm fairly certain the series in whole -- will be one that churches WILL want to make available in their bookstores or reader kiosks.  It's that important for today's busy person who doesn't have or make much time to read good, trustworthy books.  (I completed this one in two relatively short sittings.)  I think "The Heart of the Church" should at least whet the appetite of Christians whom the Holy Spirit is pushing in sanctifying growth to be in God's word.  Thorn writes, "God does not do this work [sanctification] in us arbitrarily.  He does it through the ministry of the word."  I hope and pray this book will inspire many to get their noses into God's holy, inspired, and infallible word.

RATING: I give "The Heart of the Church" 5 out of 5 stars.  It is gospel-centered, clear, and concise.  Well done, Joe Thorn.  I look forward to reading the other two!

DISCLAIMER: I received this book free of charge from Moody Publishers in exchange for my unbiased review of it.  All opinions are mine, and I was not required to provide a positive review of it.

Author Bio: Joe Thorn is the founding and Lead Pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, IL. He has written two books, Note to Self: The Disciple of Preaching to Yourself, and Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God, and has contributed articles for the ESV Men's Devotion Bible, The ESV Story Bible, and The Mission of God Study Bible. He is currently writing a series of three books on the church for Moody Publishers.

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