Spiritual Life


Active Spirituality by HedgesChristian theology has many tensions and mysteries including: divine sovereignty and human responsibility, the immanence and transcendence of God and the two natures of Christ as fully God and man. We recognize that we will never fully comprehend these truths that can at times feel contradictory. Alas, we are human and trust in the divine wisdom of our Creator God.

Currently there is a debate among evangelical Christians about the doctrine of sanctification. Books and blog posts have been written in an effort to hone in on the Christian’s active responsibility in their sanctification process. The debate has centered on what the Christian is to do now that they have a new identity in Christ. There is no argument that our salvation is made possible on the basis of Christ’s work for us through His death and resurrection. But for some evangelicals this is where it gets tricky. Does the Christian life require effort? If it does, then are we no longer relying on Christ’s work but rather ours? With a theologians mind and a pastor’s heart, Brian Hedges has jumped into the discussion with his new book Active Spirituality: Grace and Effort in the Christian Life. Brian is no stranger to this discussion on sanctification as he previously touched on this topic at greater length in his book Christ Formed in You: The Power of the Gospel for Personal Change. Readers of Active Spirituality who have not read Christ Formed in You will be well served and strengthened in reading both.

The essence of Active Spirituality is to give a biblically faithful presentation of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. As Brian rightly emphasizes throughout the book, this doctrine has balanced emphasis on both the grace of God through the working of the Holy Spirit in our sanctification process and the responsibility of all Christians to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). At the beginning of the book Brian notes the emphasis on action in the Christians life

The Christian life is called a walk, a race, a contest, and a fight. We are told to run, to wrestle, to watch, and to stand. And the victors – those who conquer and overcome – receive great promises whereas terrible warnings go to those who grow sluggish and neglect the great salvation secured for us by Jesus. (13)

Hedges wants the reader to see that while God’s grace is certainly at the heart of our growth as Christians, we need to couple that with a serious desire to fulfill the many commands God has given the believer to obey as Christians. Though we are saved by grace and no longer under the Law, we are still under the Law of Christ and Christ has required of His people to live a certain way and work towards obeying His Word.

Active Spirituality is written in a unique style in that each chapter is crafted like a series of correspondences between Brian and a friend seeking spiritual counsel. The friend is fictional and the reader is not provided the content of the letters they might have written. What we are given are the responses by Brian to this person. For Brian though, he has in his mind the lives of those within his congregation that he counseled as well as friends outside of his pastoral ministry. The way the book is set up really helps the point of the book to hit home with the reader. The writing is warm and inviting and his skill as a pastor shines through. Additionally, Hedges knowledge of Scripture and theology are just as strong. He interacts with much helpful literature on the subject such as John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Thomas Schreiner and Ardel Caneday’s book The Race Set Before Us.

Active Spirituality packs a powerful punch in a short space. Hedges walks the line between grace and responsibility in the Christian life with care and wisdom. I recommend this book for new Christians and any Christian who is going through a time of great struggle over how to work out the so great a salvation that they have been given in Christ Jesus.

You can also listen to an interview with Brian Hedges about his book on Bible Geek Gone Wild’s author podcast by going here.

I received this book for free from Shepherds Press through Cross Focused Reviews 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.”

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Modest by Challies & GlennThe idea of modesty for Christians has been predominately cast within the framework of a set of rules about what kind of clothing (mainly for girls) is considered to be appropriate. Whether its shirts below the knees, dresses to the floor or necklines for shirts no lower than the collar bone, the list of do’s and don’ts can be long – really long. But is this kind of list what God intends for us to have and hold others accountable to when it comes to modesty? Where do we get such a list from anyways? Who gets to make it and by what criteria? Is there possibly another way to both define and live modestly?

Tim Challies and RW Glenn think there is. In their new book, Modest: Men and Women Clothed in the Gospel, Challies and Glenn pave a new road for understanding modesty that centers on the gospel and lacks a set of do’s and don’ts – no matter how bad they know you want one!

Feeling that the gospel has been largely silent in most discussions of modesty the authors set forth their plea:

We want to see your heart so gripped by the gospel of grace that modesty becomes beautiful and desirable to you, not just in your wardrobe but in all of life. We want you to understand that modesty isn’t just motivated by the gospel, it’s an entailment of the gospel – it flows naturally from a solid grasp of the good news of the gospel. (Loc. 99)

This plea for gospel-centered modesty  is a response to the legalism that has dominated the topic for far too long in far too many Christian circles. The consequences of a gospelless modesty are devastating. “When we build theology without clear reference to the gospel, we begin to take refuge in rules….the regulations become our gospel – a gospel of bondage rather than freedom.” (Loc. 176) A view of modesty that is void of the gospel will have nothing more than the appearance of godliness. Thus, a rules based modesty for dress can produce a kind of spiritual immodesty. “Pursue modesty outside of the gospel and not only will you fail to be genuinely modest, but everything you do in the name of that supposed modesty will undermine the very gospel you profess to believe.” (Loc. 455)

Defining Modesty

So if modesty should not be defined by a set of rules then how is it to be defined? This is where it can begin to get sticky. For Challies and Glenn there are two aspects that play into defining modesty. First, there is the situational aspect. Here the idea is that what may be viewed as appropriate or modest in one context (like a one piece bathing suit for women at the beach) is not in another (a women wearing that one piece bathing suit to church on Sunday or to work at her fortune 500 job on Monday). Even the most diehard rules based proponents of modesty could agree with this.

The second criteria for defining modesty is where some are going to cheer and other will no doubt squirm. This aspect draws on the cultural context. That’s right, the authors believe that cultural norms regarding modesty are a big factor in defining modesty. For those who are flipping through their Bibles right now for verses to counter this claim, wait one minute. The authors are already ahead of you. In 1 Timothy 2:9-10 Paul tells Timothy “that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness— with good works.” (Loc. 232-46) There are two things that can be seen here. First, Paul does not define modesty. Second, whatever Paul does define as modest he is clearly using the contemporary culture as a reference point. The authors point out that no one is going to claim Paul’s words here as a claim upon every Christian for all ages. The reference to “braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire” is a clear reference to something within the culture. So wearing these items in Paul’s day would have been viewed as immodest and they were not to wear them at church. Notice also how Paul grounds his example of external immodesty first in internal modesty.

These two aspects of defining modesty boil down to three parts:

  1. Virtue. Modesty is first and foremost a virtue— an inner attitude that may be internalized and largely unconscious, or very intentional.
  2. Respect. This virtue is grounded in respect for an appropriate cultural standard (the broader, general context) and appropriate situational standards (the narrower, specific contexts).
  3. Result. This respect is ultimately made evident in dress, speech, and behavior that willingly conforms to these standards. (Loc. 291)

These three parts then boil down into one defining statement – “Modesty is that virtue which is respectful of a culture’s rules for appropriate and inappropriate dress, speech and behavior in a given situation.” (Loc. 291) From here the authors make the following statement:

When the gospel controls your modesty, everything changes. You want to be modest because God sent his son, Jesus, to die for your immodesty and especially because Jesus willingly died for it. When the gospel controls your modesty, you won’t see it as a way of putting God in your debt because you don’t need to twist God’s arm to accept you— he already accepts you freely and fully in Jesus Christ. This gives you both the ability and the desire to respond to him by joyfully being modest in appearance and character. (Loc. 447)

In the end, Challies and Glenn want the gospel to be the root from which modesty grows from. “Don’t see your immodesty as the root of the problem; see it as the fruit and go after the plant where you can do the most damage— the tangled roots of your idolatrous desires. (Loc. 834)

Conclusion

If I were to have written a book on modesty I would hope it would have been like this. Challies and Glenn have rightly taken the list of rules out of modesty and replaced them with the gospel. This is a book for both men and women because men struggle with modesty as much as women albeit in different ways. My only contention with the book is I think the authors have misunderstood Mark Driscoll and the discussion he tried to have with sex in his book (Loc. 572-98). Having read and reviewed the book myself, I don’t think he commits the error they think he does.

That difference aside, I would recommend Modest to anyone especially teens and their parents. The position offered by Challies and Glenn would help a lot of people be freed of the legalism and rules that have dominated the discussion on Christian modesty.

NOTE: Thanks for Cruciform Press for providing an e-copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

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No one sets out to be a Pharisee, well, almost no one. There was a time before and during the life of Christ where a certain group of religious leaders were actually called Pharisees – and they were proud of it. They thought they were doing God and all His people a spiritual service by making all kinds of extra biblical rules. They were making laws for God’s laws and they believed God loved them all the more because of it. They were zealous about their faith.

Fast forward to today. Being a Pharisee is not cool. One kind of wanders if it ever really was, but to the self-identified Pharisees it was for sure. Though we would never proudly identify ourselves as Pharisees, we can all be one at some time or another over one thing or another. This is what Larry Osborne calls being an accidental Pharisee. In his new book Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Dangerous of Overzealous Faith, Osborne goes right for the gut in all of us. In a Carl Trueman sort of way, he goes after everyone for becoming Pharisees. Simply put, in a zealous attempt to live Scripture more scripturally, we then judge everyone else’s faith according to ours and become the thing no one wants to be – a Pharisee.  But we did it accidentally. Osborne identifies an accidental Pharisee as

People like you and me who, despite the best of intentions and a desire to honor God, unwittingly end up pursuing an overzealous model of faith that sabotages the work of the Lord we think we’re serving. (p. 17)

Sound familiar? Maybe it describes someone you know and maybe it describes you. Truth be told, we can all become Pharisees, accidentally of course. You know who they are. The person who comes home from camp high on Jesus. The person who just led someone to Christ. The college freshman Bible studies major who comes back to his home church for summer break with all their new found knowledge seeking to solve the churches problems. Even the bookworm Christian who just read the latest book everyone is talking about and they are dead set on changing their entire Christian life in order to do what this or that book has taught them. We’ve seen them and we’ve probably been them at one time or another. Lest we think we are immune to this trap Osborne reminds us that

As long as my only image of a Pharisee is that of a spiritual loser and a perennial enemy of Jesus, I’ll never recognize the clear and present danger in my own life. I’ll never realize that its often a very short and subtle journey from being zealous for God to being unintentionally opposed to God. (p. 27)

Through seven steps, Osborne walks us through the many ways in which a person can become the Pharisee no one wants to be. As with many sins it begins with pride. In this regard, we compare our zealous Christian life to the Christian life of others and judge them as less of Christians because they are not where we are at when we are there. Once we have justified our comparison towards other Christians of lower spiritual status we begin to exclude them from our lives and God’s grace.  This exclusion leads to legalism. Of course we don’t intend to become legalists because they have such a bad reputation. But then again, we do so accidentally.  Then, as our new found zealous Christian life travels on we begin to look to the past and worship it. We all do this with high school and college memories but its very dangerous with our spiritual lives. Akin to legalism is our desire for uniformity among Christians within our Christian lives and every aspect of our doctrinal beliefs. Finally, for those whose gifts might lead them to be studying Scripture more than most Christians, be it a teacher, pastor or missionary, we can tend to project our gifts onto others and expect the same from them. We can have the gift of evangelism and expect everyone else to be like us. We can have the gift of teaching and expect everyone else to study Scripture as much as we do and know as much of it as we do.

As I stated earlier, Osborne sounds a bit like Carl Trueman in this book as he goes after some of the current trends in contemporary evangelicalism when it comes to living zealously for God. Here are some examples from the book to give you an idea:

If you spend more time than most thinking deeply about theology, read books written by dead guys, and do your Bible study in the original Greek and Hebrew, you’ll be sorely tempted to look down on those who think the last book in the Bible is called Revelations, and on those who think the last book in the Old Testament was written by an Italian prophet named Ma-la-chi. (p. 48)

The same goes if you identify yourself as Spirit-led, missional, incarnational, gospel-centered, or some other current Christian buzzword. You’ll find it hard not to look down on those who don’t even know there’s a buzzword to conform to. (p. 48)

We’ve coined words like radical, crazy, missional, gospel-centered, revolutionary, organic, and a host of other buzzwords to let everyone know that our tribe is far more biblical, committed, and pleasing to the Lord than the deluded masses who fail to match up. (p. 90)

I’m concerned that the new boundary markers and litmus tests of today are not leading us back to New Testament Christianity; they’re leading us back to New Testament Phariseeism. They’re simply the newest iteration of old-school legalism. (p. 91)

We become accidental Pharisees when we lay down boundary markers that are narrower than the ones laid down by Jesus and then treat people who line up on the wrong side of our markers as if they were spiritual imposters or enemies of the Lord. Our goal may be to protect the flock. Bur boundary markers that are narrower than the ones Jesus laid down don’t protect the flock; they divide the flock. (p. 142-43)

Now reading some of this may jar you back in your seat and make you think Osborne is just not spiritual. After all, how are some many of the things he goes after not Scriptural or spiritual to be pursuing? Some of you may need to read some sections a few times over several days to really let what is being said sink in. To be honest, I was myself initially a bit put off by some of the things said but the more I thought about it the more it made sense. Osborne is not saying being missional or gospel-centered is unbiblical, but we must be careful to look down on those who have not incorporated what is biblical into their thinking, Christian or church life. All these things have Biblical truth to them but none of them has it all on their own.

Accidental Pharisees will put you in your place, take your excuses away, make you dump your pride and have you on your knees repenting it before God. This is a book anyone can benefit from. For those who seem themselves looking into a mirror to those who are not there yet. Get the book and then get a copy for your overzealous Christian friend. I had a few quibbles with how Osborne interpreted some texts and he could have incorporated more of the NT than mostly the Gospels and the teaching of Jesus. Overall, the point of the book is sound.

NOTE: I received this book for free from Zondervan through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review. The words and thoughts expressed are my own.

“It’s only after having been loved that you respond with love. You love him (God) back, and you reach out to share with others a tiny portion of the love that you yourself have received.” (p. xix)

Love. It’s a small word with great potential. Its absence is destructive but the effects of its presence are incalculable. But what is it? Is it a feeling or an action? If an action, what does it look like? Where does it come from? From within, or without?

These questions and more are answered in William P. Smith’s new book Loving Well (Even If You Haven’t Been). Though it can be easy to talk about what love is on paper or in conversation, it still remains that there is an undeniable hurdle to jump when moving from the theory of love to practicing it. It is out of a desire to help us see love in action that Smith has written this very helpful book.

Roots of Love for Others

If there is one place we cannot say love is rooted in is ourselves. We are, by nature, unloving people. Even the good that we might do in an unconverted state is tainted with selfishness. Smith roots our love for others within the love that God has shown us in Christ. The key passage is 1 John 4:10-11, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (ESV) Smith explains that our love for others comes not out of ourselves but out of God’s love for us. “It’s only as the reality of his love becomes my present experience that I will be more concerned about expressing my love to others than insisting they express theirs for me.” (p. xix) Thus, unless we are in a loving relationship with Christ will we ever be able to love others.

Loving Well……

Loving Well is broken into three parts: Love That Responds to a Broken World, Love That Reaches Out to Build Others Up and Love That Enjoys Heaven and Earth. Each chapter addresses one area in which we need to love others.

Part 1 is perhaps the jarring of all three. Smith helps us see that in order to truly say that we love others we must be able to move towards others in love because this is what God did to us in Christ. Too often we want to turn tail and run from hurting people. But God came down to His hurting creation even though He knew we would abuse the grace we have been given in Christ and hurt Him. We respond to the broken world we live in with God’s love because that’s what God did to us in Christ. Here we see that we are to run to those in need, take on their sorrows, confess our temptations to one another, forgive each other by covering a multitude of sins and love in a longsuffering way with each other.

To be able to love in these ways requires vulnerability on our parts. We must open ourselves up to others in order to love them. God opened Himself to us in Christ. He moved towards us so we can move towards others with His love.

One of the gems in this section is chapter three on Struggling Love. Here Smith digs deep into the confessions of Christ to His disciples. Not of sins but of temptations. While examining Luke 4:1-12 and 22:39-46, Smith points out that, given that the Gospels are eyewitness accounts of the words and works of Christ, the only reason we have these accounts is because Christ Himself told the disciples about them. He is the eyewitness to both of them because He was the only one there (save Satan in the wilderness). Smith’s point is that Jesus Himself modeled confessing temptations to one another by the very fact that he recounted these grueling experiences. If Jesus can confess His temptations to some of the roughest people in town, then we can to others as well.

Part 2 deals with loving others in ways which build them up. Too often we think we can love those close to us from a distance. But loving others well requires that we get close and personal. Here we are shepherding others, talking to others, serving others and meeting their physical needs. What is often missed in loving others for the sake of edification is that we don’t have to be compatible with others in order to do this. “God is good at befriending people who are very different, then calling them to befriend each other. He desires that his friends develop diverse, complementary relationships with each other that go deeper than sharing similar socio-economic status.” (p. 89)

Part 3 seeks to show us how we can love on earth now in ways that we will love in eternity: pure, wholesome, healthy, delightful and enjoyable love. The key chapter for me in this section was on submitting to one another through humble love. This is “learning to bend yourself around what someone else needs from you.” (p. 183) We see this so clearly in what Christ did for us on the cross. He humbled Himself in the form of a servant by taking on human flesh and submitted Himself to death for our sins. He died the death we deserved to die, in order to give us the live we did not deserve. This was both a humble act on the part of Christ and humbling to meditate on.

….(Even If You Haven’t Been)

While defining love can be elusive and slippery, living love is more raw, concrete and messy. The subtitle of the book assumes something of us that we don’t want to readily admit – that if we are honest, we are not loving as well as we should or can. Quite frankly, Loving Well is a slap in the face to all as Smith both exposes how loveless we really are too often and how even in our expressions of love we do not love we enough.

On the flip side there is great encouragement in the gospel that we can love others well. What is pervasive throughout Loving Well is its gospel centered focus. Smith roots everything in the gospel and the life of Christ. Every chapter is rooted in the example of love for us we have in Christ. We can love other well because we have received the love of God in Christ. While I am normally turned off by books that have tons of examples I looked forward to each one in this book. One thing that was refreshing was how much Smith opened himself up throughout the book as he humbly showed how even one who writes a book on loving other well often times hasn’t. He is very candid about his failures, which is very refreshing!

Loving Well would be a great personal devotional book, small group study and should be on every ones reading list this year.

NOTE: This review was originally posted on SI and is reposted with permission.

Remember. We are told to remember many things. Our parents told us to remember to brush out teeth before bed, remember to clean up our room, remember to finish our lunch at school, etc. God tells Israel to remember the Sabbath and to keep it holy (Ex. 20:8) and to remember the day when they left the land of Egypt (Deut. 5:15). Remember.

Forget. We are told to forget many things as well. If we receive new training on the job we may be told to forget everything we thought we knew about how we did our job previously. While encouraging us in our Christian life Paul tells us, “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (Phil. 3:14). He also encourages us to forget about ourselves. Really?

This is exactly what Tim Keller brings out of Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 3:21-4:7 in his new book the Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness. The primary verses in this section are as follows:

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. (1 Cor. 4:3-5)

In addressing the many divisions that were in the church of Corinth “Paul shows that the root cause of the division is pride and boasting” (p. 8). It is pride and boasting that shows we have a high view of self. But lest we think we can just think lowly of ourselves and be getting it right Keller reminds us, “A person who keeps saying they are a nobody is actually a self-obsessed person” (p. 32).

If we are not to think too highly of ourselves or to lowly either, then how are we to think of ourselves? We are to be self-forgetful. How does this work? Keller explains:

A truly gospel-humble person is not a self-hating person or a self-loving person, but a gospel-humble person. The truly gospel-humble person is a self-forgetful person whose ego is just like his or her toes. It just works. It does not draw attention to itself. The toes just work; the ego just works. Neither draws attention to itself. (p. 33)

So Paul will not be judged by others, but neither will he judge himself. It is only the Lord that judges. And here is where the freedom of self-forgetfulness comes in. “But Paul is saying that in Christianity, the verdict leads to performance. It is not the performance that leads to the verdict” (p. 39). The deal is that before we can even perform any of the good works we were created for (Eph. 2:10), we have been declared righteous in Christ at the moment of our salvation. It is then out of this declaration of being found righteous in Christ that we can and do perform these good and righteous works. This is the freedom of self-forgetfulness!

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness was truly a joy to read as well as a reality check as it exposed the depths of pride in my heart. I read the whole thing in one sitting which is best but I encourage readers to read it all the way through several days in a row. The further you read the more the point becomes clear. Just when I thought I had an idea of what gospel-humility was I read this book and realized I still had no idea. This is a must read for any Christian living in the self-absorbed culture of our day that has crept its way into the pews of our churches and the seats of our homes.

NOTE: I received this book for free from 10ofthose.com in return for a review and I was under no obligation to provide a favorable one.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to dig your own grave? For real though. We use the phrase ‘Your going to dig your own grave if you_____’ metaphorically all the time. I suspect there have been some throughout history who have literally had to dig their own grave six feet in the ground at gun point. How often do we consider the fact that in a way this is what Christ is asking us to do at the moment we trust him as savior and each day we live as a redeemed child of God?

In their new book, Die Young: Burying Yourself in Christ, seasoned authors Hayley and Michael DiMarco are calling all Christians to die young and bury themselves in Christ. This is a book about living as dead to sin and alive to Christ. Black may be the new pink and 40 maybe the new 30 but for the Christian death is the new life. “People bury themselves in things they hope will save them, but the only one who can truly be saved is the one who is buried in Christ (p. 18).”

Die Young is all about self-denial. Not in a monastic asceticism sort of way by removing yourself from society and the comforts of life. “Die Young is about that kind of death, the dying-to-self kind of death, the ‘living sacrifice’ that Paul wrote to the Romans about in Romans 12. This ability to deny yourself so that you don’t serve your desires over his (p. 13).”

Through a series of seven chapters that present implications of the gospel in the life of the believer, the DiMarco’s present aspects of the Christian life in the form of statements that reverse how we might naturally think about things. This seven fold picture begins with the reality that for life in Christ to begin we must first die to ourselves. Death is the new life. Christ died to sin (our sin) and rose again to new life. When we respond to his gospel invitation in faith we make a decision to die to ourselves and are buried with Christ in His death to our sin and we are given the new life that He accomplished in His resurrection. Christ’s death and life become our death and life.

Chapters two through six cover five more areas in which the gospel reverses how we might naturally think about things in this life. Down is the new Up deals with concept of living humbly before God and others. “It’s from a lowly position of self-awareness and sin that we are saved because God reaches down and touches us in our need (p. 45).” Less is the new More deals with our desire for stuff and our hearts desire to make idols out of it – even the good stuff God blesses us with. Everything we have comes from God but we can ask from it what it cannot give us (and only God can) when we turn it into an idol. Our hearts desire should be to give from what we have been given instead of hoarding and wasting it. By giving more we are dying to our desire to keep what we have. “It is the deep desire within us to get more that giving is mean to kill (p. 91).” Weak is the new Strong is a recognition that we cannot do life on our own and that we cannot even die to sin on our own. Once we recognize that we are weak then God can show us his strength. In Slavery is the new Freedom we see that being a slave to Christ is what brings us true freedom in this life and allows us to enjoy it in the life to come. When we become free in Christ we become free from the death (separation from God) that slavery to sin brings. Slavery to Christ brings with it freedom from the condemnation of God when we were in our sins (Rom. 8:1). “This is the freedom that slavery (to Christ) brings, freedom from the condemnation that ought to come from sin but doesn’t because of the blood of Christ (p. 123).” When we are slaves to sin we receive the result death brings (separation from God) which is a lack of freedom from God’s judgment on our lives. Finally, in Confession is the new Innocence we are comforted in the reality that when we sin we have an advocate with the Father in Christ so that when we confess our sins God is faithful and just and will forgive because we have been united with Christ’s death and burial to sin and share in the new life His resurrection brings. We need to confess our sin at the time we respond to the gospel and daily as we walk with Christ. Confession is the cure to the guilt that sin brings with it.

Whether or not the DiMarco’s intended to do so, the final chapter, Red is the new White, offers both a conclusion to the book of counterintuitive statements about the Christian life but also a complementary statement to the first – death is the new life. Throughout Scripture there is a consistent witness to the reality that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (ESV – Heb. 9:22).” Red is the new White demonstrates for us that when we are covered in the blood of Christ we are made white as snow (Isa. 1:18). With Christ’s death there is shed blood. In Christ we are covered in it and we have new life in Him. Thus, “the blood is our bleach (p. 170).” Death is the new life and red is the new white are complimentary statements that serve as fitting book ends to this encouraging book.

There are two things that were really helpful in this book. First, it is evident page after page that this is a book deeply grounded in Scripture. Almost every page not only cites Scripture but quotes verse after verse. The words of the authors and Scripture are woven almost seamlessly together. Second, each chapter has a number of short stories from the lives of Hayley and Michael about how they have struggled with and applied the truths of each chapter. These are not superficial stories but are very transparent and readers will find it very refreshing to read. At times they seem to chop up sections of the chapters and you are not sure if you should read them and then move on or finish the paragraph in the text and then go back and read them. Nevertheless they are helpful.

Die Young is a great book that will refresh your soul. The author’s honesty is most helpful. The chapter titles are catchy and thus easy to remember allowing you to return to reflection on their content. So pick up your shovels and dig your grave. Because death is the new life and red is the new white. Dig your grave where you will bury yourself in Christ, die to sin and live under the blood of Christ that makes you white as snow and free in Christ.

NOTE: I received this book from Crossway for free and was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

Jesus + Nothing  = Everything. Its a simple equation really. Similar to the mathematical equation 1 +1 = 2. But as simple as it looks and sounds it is so hard to live out. This is what Tullian Tchividjian discovered in his first year as senior pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

Tchividjian begins by explaining the inner struggle he had over his own identity during his first year at Coral Ridge:

I’d never realized before how dependent I’d become on human approval and acceptance until so much of it was taken away in the rolling controversy at Coral Ridge. Before, in every church I’d been a part of, I was widely accepted and approved an appreciated. Now, for the first time, I found myself in the uncomfortable position of being deeply disliked and distrusted, and by more than a few people. Now I realized just how much I’d been relying on something other than – something more than – the approval and acceptance and love that were already mine in Jesus (p. 22).”

What Tchividjian recounts for the reader here is not something unique to him. No, desire for the approval, acceptance and appreciation of others is something that strikes at the heart of everyone. We have an addiction to being liked and we desire what he hope others think about us more than what we have in Christ. We have a gospel problem.

The solution to this problem is found in the gospel and for Tchividjian much of this gospel truth was found in the book of Colossians. It is here that Tchividjian discovered the gospel truth that Jesus + nothing else  = everything because everything we have in Christ is all we need to shape and find our identity. The growing truth that is set forth in this book is that though we need to gospel to get saved we need it just as much after we are saved. The gospel not only “ignites the Christian life” but is also “the fuel that keeps it going (p. 37).” This is a book about helping us to find and remove the idols in our lives that our hearts seek to build our identity around.

The greatest threat to the believer finding satisfaction in their identity is Christ is legalism. “Legalism happens when what we need to do, not what Jesus has already done, becomes the end game (p. 46).” It is because these self-imposed structures seem so right that makes them so dangerous. “Our rules become our substitute savior, and keeping those rules becomes our self-salvation project (p. 48).” It “preserves our illusion that we can do this (p. 49).” This legalism is a double edged sword and so cuts both ways. First, there is “front-door legalism.” This says that “I can find freedom and fullness of life if I keep the rules (p. 51).” Second, there is “back-door legalism.” This says that “I can find freedom and fullness if I break all the rules (p. 51).” But both sides of the coin mean I am trying to save myself and neither is the gospel.

The freeing message of the gospel from legalism is that in Christ we are free from the law and its desire to enslave us to the double edged sword of legalism. We need to bask in the reality that Christ has freed us from the demands of the law for he has met them because we cannot. Our self-imposed legalism cannot help us fulfill the law. We were never intended to and God does not expect us to. Our attempts are displeasing to him and they diminish the law fulfilling work of Christ that has already been accomplished on the cross.

Page after page Tchividjian lays out for us the freeing truth of the gospel. It is this gospel truth that we need to run to everyday. It is this gospel truth that keeps us day by day. It is the gospel truth of what Christ has already done for us in Christ that enables us to stand before almighty God because he has freed us from sin and covered us in himself.

This is a book that every believer needs to read and digest. This is probably the most encouraging book I have read all year and one I will return to for years to come. Jesus + Nothing = Everything is a freeing gospel truth!

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