In describing her new found faith in Christ, Rosaria Butterfield described her conversion as a crisis of worldview. Everything she thought she knew and believed about the herself and the world was destroyed, and it was painful. It was like heart surgery without the anesthesia. When you come to faith in Christ you come to learn that you do not shape your identity, God does in Christ. Your identity in Christ shapes who you are as a Christian.
Often times, in the early stages of discipleship with new believer’s, well meaning seasoned Christian’s jump right to the do’s and don’ts of the Christian life. Going to church, reading your Bible, praying, giving money to your church, etc. While those are all true and right activities for the Christian, they need to be grounded in the new identity believer’s have in Christ. These Christian activities that stem from faith in Christ need to be rooted in one’s identity in Christ himself.
Seeing the need for a resource to help new believer’s begin to understand their new identity in Christ, author, speaker, and pastor Alex Early has written a new book The New Believer’s Guide to the Christian Life: What Will Change, What Won’t, and Why It Matters (Bethany House, 2016). The driving force behind this book is Alex’s desire to help new believer’s see how the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which they now believe, shapes who they are as a Christian and gives the grounding for all of the Christian practices that are to follow.
In many ways, what Alex is doing is nothing more than what the apostle Paul did in many of his letters in the New Testament. He gave doctrine before duty. Orthodoxy before orthopraxy. While we need to show new believer’s right Christian practice, we need to do so within the context of who God is and who they are in Christ.
One of the things that is most helpful in Alex’s writing is his openness about the struggles of the Christian life. Yes, we are dead to sin but we still struggle with it. Yes, our debt of sin is paid for on the cross but we will still act like it wasn’t. No, we can’t add anything to our salvation and justification but we still act as if we can. The more honest we are with new believer’s about the real struggles of the Christian life early on, the better equipped they will be to handle them down the road. The gospel is not a quick fix to my life. It is change over the long haul and Alex gets that.
This book isn’t just about the who of being a Christian but the doing as well. Alex addresses important identity practices like baptism, church membership, life within the church, and money. These are all identity shaping practices. Their practice says something about who I am as a believer, especially baptism and church membership. Because he discussed baptism and church membership, I think he should have discussed the Lord’s Supper as an identity shaping practice.
So if you are a new believer in Christ or know someone who is, then I recommend The New Believer’s Guide to the Christian Life. Its message is crucial to a believer’s understanding of their identity in Christ. Even as a seasoned believer I found several parts helpful and challenging.
I received this book for free from Bethany House for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”