Book Review When Grace Comes Home: How the doctrines of grace change your life

Book Review

When Grace Comes Home: How the doctrines of grace change your life, by Terry Johnson.  Christian Focus Publications, 2000.  $7.99.

The Reformed Community is known for its ability to plumb the depths of theological knowledge.  There are many great books by Reformed scholars that testify to this fact.  Whether one reads the works of B. B. Warfield, Louis Berkhof, Meredith Kline, or Cornelius Van Til.  More often than not, though, many of these authors deal with issues on a very technical level.  The practicality of their work is sometimes obscured by the technical nature in which they deal with their subject matter.  This, however, is not the case with Terry Johnson’s When Grace Comes Home.

Terry Johnson sets out to explore the implications of the Reformed faith in the way it impacts our lives on a day-to-day level.  The book is 186 pages long and has chapters on worship, humility, adversity, outlook, witness, sanctification, assurance, law and liberty, prayer, guidance, and faith for living.  Johnson explains: “In our polemics with unbelievers and believers alike we mustn’t forget that the message of God’s sovereign grace in Christ is ‘good news’, it is gospel.  The following book attempts to demonstrate that believing those doctrines is something to be glad about.  In one practical area after another, the message of grace fully understood takes us to the highest heights of peace, comfort, thanksgiving, and joy that it is possible to reach in this world” (p. 8).

The practical nature of Johnson’s insights, for example, emerge in his chapter on humility.  Johnson observes:

“I have been amazed to find non-Christians using the phrase ‘There but for the grace of God . . .’  Do you know the origins of that expression?  It goes back to the English Reformer John Bradford.  He was walking down the street and passed a drunk lying in the gutter.  While others showed contempt for the ‘bum’, Bradford, a Calvinist said, ‘There but for the grace of God lies John Bradford.’  He understood the implications of the doctrines of grace.  God has made us what we are.  We can glory in nothing.  ‘By the grace of God I am what I am. (1 Cor. 15.10).  How then can I too harshly judge another?  But for the grace of God, I commit their sin.  But for the grace of God I copy their failure.  Is this your outlook?  The most humble people in the world ought to be those who believe the doctrines of grace.  They better than anyone, know that only by the grace of God do we amount to anything in this world, and escape hell in the next” (pp. 38-39).

Does a Reformed Christian simply give assent to a body of doctrinal propositions?  Or, is there fruit that a Reformed Christian should produce in his life as a result of the doctrine he knows. This book makes the reader stop and consider what it means to be Reformed on a day-to-day level.  It forces the reader to ask himself what difference the sovereignty of God, the depravity of man, the intercessory work of Christ and the Holy Spirit makes in his life.  The book is also helpful for those who want something for family worship because it provides the reader with suggested Scripture readings to go along with each chapter.  For these reasons, this is a book well worth reading.