Basics for Believers by D.A. Carson

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

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Basics for Believers: The Core of the Christian Faith and Life (A Study of Philippians) was first published in 1996 (this is a re-print, I love the simplicity of the cover). This short book is four messages D.A. Carson delivered during Holy Week 1994 at the “Word Alive” conference. D.A. Carson has become one of my favorites since I read/listened to Resurrection Life in a World of Suffering: 1 Peter (the book was a manuscript of The Gospel Coalition’s Women’s Conference a few years ago, you can find it on YouTube, I believe).

This book is less than 200 pages long and only five chapters: Put the Gospel First (Philippians 1:1-26), Focus on the Cross (Philippians 1:27-2:18), Adopt Jesus’s Death as a Test of Your Outlook (Philippians 1:27-2:18), Emulate Worthy Christian Leaders (Philippians 2:19-3:21), and Never Give Up the Christian Walk (Philippians 4:1-23).

The chapters go over thing such as: Putting the priorities of the gospel at the center of your relationships with believers and prayer life, putting the converts of the gospel at the center of your principled self-denial, imitate worthy Christian leaders who make much of the cross and whose spiritual life is growing and constantly focused on Jesus, and resolving to grow in the grace of Christian gratitude and courtesy.

The beginning of each chapter quotes the Bible verses that will be discussed. Carson explains things in a way that makes sense for new believers, but his lessons always have a ton of depth for older believers. This book is excellent for an individual and group study (there aren’t discussion questions at the end of each chapter, or at the end of the book).

I took some notes while reading so things would stick. Here are some things I wrote down. I hope it intrigues you enough to pick up this book! It really is great!

  • Paul prays that the love of the Philippians “may abound more and more.” Growing love for God must be reflected in the love for other believers (1 John 5:1). He wrote “that your love may abound more and more *in knowledge of depth of insight*”. Paul wants them to enjoy insights into God’s word and ways to know how to live light of them, and prays that they will be pure and blameless until the day of Christ. By asking for gospel fruit in their lives, the ultimate purpose of these petitions is to bring glory to God who redeemed them.
  • We are called not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for him. The call to suffer for the gospel is a gracious gift from God (Mark 8:34), we need to take up our crosses daily (Luke 9:23)… Die to self-interest for the sake of others.
  • Emulate worthy Christian leaders… Those who are interested in the well-being of others, not their own. Those who follow Jesus learn to cast self-interest, self-comfort, and self-focus aside.
  • Emulate those who have proved themselves in hardship… Epaphroditus was committed to helping Paul advance the gospel, and it almost cost him his life.
  • Emulate those who are continuing to grow spiritually, not those who are stagnating… Paul doesn’t want power to be powerful, but so he can be conformed to the will of God.

I’m very much looking forward to reading Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount and His Confrontation With the World: A Study of Matthew 5-10 next!

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