Last week I posted a blog about how God might view evil. You can read that post here.
This week I want to switch to the other end of the spectrum and start a review of the book: Free to Be Holy The Liberating Grace of walking by Faith, by Jerry Wragg & Paul Shirley.
When you are trying to find answers in life, I find it amazing how God sends them. This book came to me from my daughter who had her own copy gifted to her from her friend Gretchen. When Gretchen sent the book to my daughter, my daughter turned around and sent me my own copy, “because she knew I would need to be able to mark it up”. Now, I write a review of it while Gretchen has no idea— her strong impression that the book was good enough to share— continues on as others read it.
I hope you find this review good enough for you to purchase the book and look for your own answers to how we should live as Christians.
1 Peter 3:10-12 says:
“…If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.” (NLT)
1 Peter 1:15-16 says:
“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (KJV)
It has taken me a long time to completely believe the scriptures as they are written. We have so many pastors, teachers, laymen, and our sin natures putting various spins on the meaning of scripture— which usually means… like the serpent (Satan) in Genesis, we end up saying to each other and ourselves… “…Did God really say?…” (Genesis 3:1). This needs to change. We need to understand exactly what God has said and live by it.
Chapter one of this book, Free to Be Holy, is titled Saved to Be Holy. The authors write, “Holiness and true joy in the Holy Spirit are core features of God’s future kingdom (Rom 14:17), and therefore should be the intense pursuit of every believer…. no man can enjoy unhindered daily communion with God in this life apart from a vibrant pursuit of practical holiness…. Holiness is not an addendum to gospel grace; it is at the heart of it.” (p.16)
“God redeems His people so that we will ultimately reflect His moral purity.” (p. 20) (1 Pet 1:15).
The authors compare the requirements of holiness for God’s people in the Old versus New Testaments and determine that the New Testament does not relax the righteous requirements for a believer, instead “it reveals an increased depth of holiness that penetrates all the way to the heart.” (p.21) We are under the New Covenant where God says, “I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts.” (see Hebrews 8:10 NLT)
“The apostle Paul says that we have been ‘predestined to become conformed to the image’ of Christ (Rom 8:29), who is infinitely holy.” (pp. 21-22)
“Our union with Christ has consecrated us—set us apart—exclusively for God’s service.” (p. 24) Then the work of our Sanctification begins.
“Sanctification…requires our personal effort to imitate and display God’s character, because no one can have assurance that he will see God apart from the evidence of holiness.” (p. 24) (see Heb 12:14).
“In ourselves and by ourselves, sanctification is impossible. So where can we look for our sanctification? We must look solely to Christ, who is not only the standard of holiness, but also its source….’the primary secret of sanctification is a personal and vital union with Jesus Christ.’ Through this vital union, we believers enjoy the security of being His possession, the power to pursue holiness of life, and the anticipation of being perfected in holiness when we meet the Master.” (pp. 24-25)
“Progressive, measurable growth in the Christian life is a major theme throughout the Scriptures.” (p. 27)
“…the cumulative effect of all our Spirit-filled moments of faith and obedience is a growing spiritual maturity.” (p. 28)
“Today, people are emphasizing, not humble faith and obedience to Scripture, but emotions.” (p. 36) “Rather than talk of ‘submission to Christ,’ many Christians prefer more… emotion-laden concepts to describe what activates and motivates Christian obedience…. Rather than speaking of ways to grow ‘strong in faith’ (Rom 4:20), the focus is now on ‘sensing’ God’s presence and His love. We are not asking, ‘What does Scripture clearly say about my heart and conduct?’ but ‘How do I feel about my walk with the Lord?’, and ‘Am I experiencing a joy and delight in the Lord?'” (pp. 38-39)
The authors say: “We are rightly alarmed when someone modifies his behavior without expressions of true devotion to Christ. Self-righteous externalism of any stripe is devilish….There is no more deadly blindness than washing the outside of the cup while the inside remains filthy (Matt 23:25).” (p. 39)
The authors discuss a turn in our culture that is beginning to include the various psychological disciplines that the world embraces. Trust me, I’ve had my run of that mess, but what is not taken into account is that the scriptures say, “The Lord… is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 KJV). The story of Manasseh in 2 Chronicles 33 is a testimony that even the most evil people can turn to God.
When these changes in culture began to take place— “Church leaders were intimidated, being told that ‘disorders’ were beyond the soul-care abilities of skilled pastors looking only to the Scriptures. ‘Professional’ therapy became the path to restoring emotional wholeness….Biblical terms like ‘repentance’ were replaced by words such as ‘healing’ and ‘renewal.’ ‘Sin’ was now called ‘dysfunction’ and ‘disease.'” (p.45)
The late Chuck Colson’s analysis was:
“The myth [that man is inherently good] deludes people into thinking that they’re always victims never villains; always deprived, never depraved. It dismisses responsibility as the teaching of a darker age. It can excuse any crime because it can always blame something else—a sickness of our society or a sickness of the mind….” (p. 45)
“As a result of all this, churches embraced the assumption that aberrant behavior in both adults and children was likely the result of past emotional trauma yet to be resolved. More and more people were diagnosed as emotionally broken—victims of an unjust and ruthless environment.” (p. 46) Christians concluded that they had to be emotionally restored before they could submit to the ideas of faith and humble obedience. “Apart from faith, the battle with besetting sins will always be a losing one.” (p. 46)
“Believing God when nothing else in life feels right or makes sense is the very heart of spiritual maturity (Rom 4:18-21; Heb 11:1).” (pp. 47-48)
“When painful trials traumatize and rattle us, we must trust and obey God’s character and promises.” (p. 50)
“The Word of God alone grants us ‘everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3)….In fact, humble faith—not feelings—is how the believer walks in the power of the Spirit and grows strong against temptation (Gal 5:16). (p. 51)
How do you feel about the truths of scripture? For yourself, can you believe 2 Peter 1:3a, “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself….”
Next week I will begin Part two of the review of this book. I highly recommend this book for anyone that wants to go deeper with God by searching what the scriptures really say and then living it out with the help of the Holy Spirit.