How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life
by Elyse Fitzpatrick
In her latest book, Because He Loves Me, Elyse Fitzpatrick asks an interesting question: In your pursuit of godliness, have you left Jesus behind? You may be wondering, how is that possible? Do you remember the biblical account of Mary and Joseph’s return to Nazareth following their celebration of Passover in Jerusalem? After a day’s journey, they realized that Jesus was not with them. They hurried back to the city and found him in the temple, speaking with the teachers. Fitzpatrick uses this story to illustrate what many Christians do in their relationships with Jesus. “By definition, we Christians joyously celebrate our Passover Lamb, our salvation with Jesus, but then, like his parents, we eagerly head on back to Nazareth, back to living out our beliefs without a conscious awareness or acknowledgment of his presence. Of course, we assume that he is somewhere nearby. We haven’t felt his absence because we’re so preoccupied with living life for him” She goes on to clarify, “What I am saying is that once we’ve been saved, once we’ve understood and accepted the message of the gospel, the person and work of the Redeemer becomes secondary to what we’re focused on — living the Christian life.” Because He Loves Me is written for the Christian who thinks the gospel is just for “getting saved,” who knows he is supposed to be different, but isn’t seeing the transformation he expected, or who wonders about the difference Jesus is supposed to make in his daily life. Fitzpatrick teaches Christians how the gospel is central to everything.
The book is divided into two parts: How God’s Love Transforms Our Identity and How God’s Love Transforms Our Life. In the first section, Fitzpatrick does something very interesting. She shares the gospel with scripture only, no explanation or commentary, using 111 portions of scripture from both testaments. Then, she asks for a heart check. “What did you think as you read the preceding verses?” The temptation is to skip these pages and think, Yeah, yeah, yeah, I already know the gospel. That kind of response proves Fitzpatrick’s point: Many Christians experience a disconnect between the gospel and their daily lives. “I’ve written this book because grasping the reality of God’s love will provide every answer to every question we have about him and ourselves. It will tell us who we are, why we’re here, and how we’re supposed to do what we’re supposed to be doing. Delighting in God’s love will transform everything about us, including who we are, or our identity.” Over six chapters, Fitzpatrick pinpoints the symptoms, diagnoses real spiritual problems, shares God’s remedy, and explains deep truth regarding who we are in Christ. She answers the question, What does it truly mean to be a child of God? The answer lies in the gospel. What Christians need to understand is that we never outgrow the gospel. It may be considered elementary or shallow waters by many, but there are depths to the gospel and the power of God’s love.
In the second section, Fitzpatrick teaches how to be who we are, as described in the first section. She gives very practical applications for the gospel in our daily lives. She uses scripture to explain how God works in us to carry out his commands, how he cleanses us and sanctifies us, how his love demonstrated in the gospel motivates us to walk in obedience rather than mere moralism, and how we can rest in Christ’s finished work and cease beating ourselves up when we sin. Fitzpatrick’s training as a biblical counselor informs much of what she writes in this section. She offers insight into several unbiblical ways of thinking common to Christians, getting to the root and replace it with truth. I think one very important chapter, one that I didn’t expect, is “Gospel-centered Relationships.” In this chapter, Fitzpatrick explains why God commands that we live in community. The church is imperative for our sanctification. The Christian life is not meant to be lived alone. “Maturity in Christ occurs when, by the Spirit and in God’s grace, our brothers and sisters take biblical truth and apply it lovingly, patiently, boldly to our hearts. In the same way that I’ve encouraged you to remember the Lord in your pursuit of godliness, I’m now encouraging you to see that the primary way he’ll minister truth to you is through deep and transparent relationship with others…Jesus uses sinful human beings to prepare his bride.”
Because the word “gospel” is used so often, Fitzpatrick is careful to define the gospel early in the book. The gospel “is the incarnation, sinless life, substitutionary death, burial, bodily resurrection, ascension, and eternal reign of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.” Not once does she indicate that the gospel is something “we do.” It is a work that is done for us for the glory of God. Our only work is to believe, to look to the crucified and risen Christ, and even that is something God works in us first.
Because He Loves Me will prove to be life-transforming for those who read and apply its message. Yes, we go to the gospel to understand salvation, but we also go back to it again and again to inform how we are to live every day for the glory of God.