Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions? Perhaps they sounded something like this: This year I resolve to speak and act with kindness. This year I resolve to exercise self-control when it comes to eating. This year I resolve to get up earlier for a quiet time and to exercise. This year I resolve to go to bed earlier so that I can get up earlier.
Maybe you made some resolutions, maybe you didn’t. Ultimately, they all mean basically the same thing: your life doesn’t look exactly like you think it should.
For the Christian, thoughts and actions aren’t always up to God’s standard. He has commanded us to be holy because He is holy. Left to ourselves we would fail miserably. But God has provided all that we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Though we know this, the difficulty lies in acting according to what we know to be true.
Christians are resolved when it comes to growing in and pursuing holiness day by day; one doesn’t have to wait for a new year or Monday morning or a birthday to start obeying the Lord and diligently pursuing Christlikeness. But, just in case you are newly resolved to do so, I want to encourage you.
Over the holidays, I finished reading an excellent new book: Christ Formed in You: The Power of the Gospel for Personal Change by Brian Hedges. I do not think it would be an exaggeration for me to say that it’s the handbook I wish I’d had when I was a new Christian. Not for me to have read by myself, necessarily, but for a pastor, youth pastor, elder, or lay leader to have used as a discipleship tool or curriculum.
From beginning to end, Hedges roots each point of understanding or action in the scriptures, in the gospel, God’s grace, and God’s overall plan in redemption. The thing I like most about this book is that it is both intensely doctrinal and practical. With clarity and compassion, Hedges brilliantly connects our doctrines to our lives. He makes it clear that what we believe (about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the gospel, salvation, spiritual growth, etc.) directly impacts the way we live. By the end, the reader will understand the who, what, why, and how of the gospel. Also, the reader will have a grasp of how the power of the gospel and God’s grace transform a person’s life and his/her relationships with God and others. Here is an outline in Hedges’ words:
My central claim in Christ Formed in You is that it is God’s purpose to change us by progressively making us more like Jesus, and that this happens only as we understand and apply the gospel to our lives. In the pages that follow we will explore the transforming power of the gospel from several angles.
•Part One focuses on the foundations for personal change. We will look at God’s ultimate goal in transforming us (Chapter One); the key to transformation, which is the gospel itself (Chapter Two); and the application of the gospel to our lives in three specific ways (Chapters Three, Four, and Five).
•Part Two then takes up the pattern of personal change. We will explore the captivating beauty of gospel holiness (Chapter Six); with its demands that we both kill sin (Chapter Seven); and grow in grace by the power of the Spirit (Chapter Eight); and the quest for joy that motivates us in this pursuit and strengthens us in the battle for holiness (Chapter Nine).
•Part Three of the book focuses on the means of personal change, the tools God uses to transform us. These final three chapters, while building on the foundation of the gospel discussed earlier in the book, are the most practical. We will learn how God uses spiritual disciplines (Chapter Ten); suffering (Chapter Eleven); and personal relationships in the body of Christ (Chapter Twelve) to conform us to the image of Christ.
In each of these chapters, my aim has been to “connect the dots” between the gospel, the goal of Christlikeness, and the specific aspect of spirituality under discussion.
Hedges accomplished what he set out to do. Each time I picked up this book, even the cover art, a potter working his clay at the spinning wheel, served to remind me that God is the Potter and I am only a lump of clay in His hands. It really helped to set the tone and my attitude before reading.
Whether you decide to work through this book on your own or use it with a small group, Christ Formed in You is an ideal choice. If you’d like more information about the book, you may want to read my previous posts and quotes from the book (Your Pursuit of Holiness…, Christ Alone, and Thanksgiving Day 11) and John Bird’s review featured at Discerning Reader.
Shepherd Press has graciously provided a copy for me to give away. I would like to offer it to anyone who is involved in discipling another believer or small group OR to an individual who desires to better understand the gospel and how we grow in holiness.
Your contact info is safe with me and will be deleted after the drawing is complete. I’ll announce a winner Monday morning, January 31.
[Disclosure: Brian Hedges sent me a copy of his book in exchange for a review. He didn’t ask me to like it, but I do. Shepherd Press sent me a copy of the book just because they wanted to; they didn’t ask me for anything. I have registered my blog with Amazon, so if you click the book cover image, you will visit Amazon’s page for the book. If you make a purchase from Amazon after clicking through from my site, I will receive a few pennies of your purchase (and be very grateful). If you click the WTS Books link, WTS will count your click-thru, but I will not receive any percentage of your purchase. I think that’s all.]