Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book Review - Christ Formked in You (Part V)

While the previous section outlines some helpful practical thoughts on change, the final three chapters outline in more detail some helpful, and often overlooked, factors in our transformation into the image of Christ.

The first chapter, on disciplines, is perhaps the most obvious factor (and certainly most written about recently) - spiritual disciplines. A single chapter will obviously not cover these in detail (found more fully in works by the likes of Don Whitney and others), but Hedges discusses how these are involved in our change. We cannot expect to successfully be holy without discipline, but they are spiritual disciplines because we cannot succeed by effort alone, and only with the Spirit's help. The amazing reality of change is that Christ was holy with no other means than those available to us, such as prayer, biblical meditation, and other disciplines (outlined in a very helpful table as inward, outward and corporate [more on corporate later] - Hedges uses few diagrams and tables, but they are always very useful. Ultimately, the spiritual disciplines are methods in which to keep our hearts full of the gospel and Christ.

The last two chapters discuss elements not often covered in detail when discussing the process of change in the Christian life. Suffering is is full of it, and we have little choice over how much and what kinds we suffer. But how we react has an enormous role on how we change. We must remember that suffering is always for the good of the believer, from the providential hand of God, a loving Father. It is used to teach us many thing - discipline, compassion, drawing us away from idols and this world. Finally, community is vital in our process to change. I personally found this a very helpful reminder, and it is often forgotten in books such as this. We were made to be relational, with God and with others, and those relationships are essential to our growth - not easy, but essential! Hedges outlines obstacles to community (individualism, busyness and other factors), and discusses the nature of the church (form Acts 2:42-3, covering the essential elements), but ultimately the point is that transformation is a community project. We cannot make it on our own. In community we get together and show love, speak truth, confront sin and stir up one another. I especially liked the thought that the people in our lives will last forever...transformation is not all about how I can grow...its about how we can grow.

I have enjoyed the book tremendously. I will read it again, soon, and try to make the concepts more real and well practiced in my life. I may even use it as the basis for a series of Sunday School lessons. It has been manna for my soul, and I heartily add my voice to the recommendations of others far better and wiser than I.

Note: I am reviewing this from a PDF version provided by the author, Brian Hedges

Book Review - Christ Formed in You (Part III)

The last three chapters in the first section cover the reality of the gospel in further detail. The first chapter discussed Justification, something of a battleground in evangelical circles today. This is a really helpful chapter, emphasizing the vital fact that transformation comes from grace (based in the finished work of Christ), not to gain grace. The bad news is we are guilty, and we cannot work it off, but the glorious news of the gospel is that while we cannot achieve righteousness in ourselves, we are declared it based on the death and life of Christ. This righteousness is achieved by faith, not striving, and Christ is the basis of our acceptance before God, not our own goodness. We love Christ not for fear of repercussions, but from grateful hearts of those forgiven and cleansed, walking with God as sons, not slaves.

The heart is the center of who we are, and the next chapter covers the reality that at salvation we are made new creatures, and given a new heart. We are transformed not by changes in our behavior, but from within, by changes in our desires. We can now seek God where before we could never have done so. Hedges provides a helpful listing of the characteristics of this new heart (with accompanying verses for each one): godly fear, hope, desire, joy, hatred of evil, brokenness for sin, gratitude, compassion, zeal and love. We have been saved, given a heart transplant, born again...we can be transformed, for 'the cure has begun'.

After showing us the reality of our change in position, and our transformation within, Hedges discusses sanctification. The reality is we are positionally sanctified already, but the rest of the book will be about how we practically progress in our walk to live up to this reality! The foundation for our sanctification is the gospel, and the reality is that sin no longer has the power on the believer it had before salvation, as Romans 6 clearly describes. The gospel story is that sin did its worst to Christ on Calvary, but he rose again victorious, and we share in that victory! If we are in Christ, we have died to sin, and risen to new life with Him. The reality is that sanctification, like justification, comes through faith alone in Christ. Transformation then comes as we think on these truths and the Spirit applies then to our hearts. Sanctification does not bring us into union with Christ, but union with Christ enables our sanctification. So how do we make this a reality in our lives? Hedges spells it out. Count on the truth of Scripture as it speaks on these things, and on the basis of this, do not allow sin to have dominion over you (for it really does not). We must instead yield to Christ, for He alone is the source of our change and transformation.

The reality is that we have extraordinary, supernatural resources in Christ. The rest of the book will discuss in more details how we apply these truths to our lives in practically undertaking the metamorphosis God designed for us to know.

Note: I am reviewing this from a PDF version provided by the author, Brian Hedges

Book Review - Christ Formed in You (Part IV)

The next section of the book covers 4 chapters, outlining the pattern of personal change.

Holiness is often seen as a dull concept, but Hedges helpfully outlines that the real thing is made to be irresistible. There is a tension here of course, God is other, morally perfect, causing a reaction that Sproul calls the 'trauma of holiness'...yet this same holiness, seen most clearly in the person of Christ, is what we were made for. Genuine holiness both alarms and delights us (a pleasing pain). And it is the gospel that enables this holiness - something that is not mere morality, but transformation.

This holiness is both a putting off and putting on, a mortification and a vivifivation (the second and third chapters in this section). We first kill sin in our lives. After outlining some wrong views on this, Hedges outlines 10 ways in which we can kill sin, such as yielding to God, making no provision for the flesh, replacing sin with grace, the spirit, etc - outlining not merely principles, but scattering in several helpful examples to illustrate (something done frequently and helpfully through the entire book). While get rid of sin, we also strive to replace with godly character (branches are pruned not just to be pruned, but to bear fruit). Holiness is a lifelong walk ever more closely towards the image of Christ. Motivated by the mercies of Christ, we give all in return (Rom 12). This is first an inner change that reveals itself in outward change, being transformed by the renewing of our minds and with the empowerment of the spirit. Hedges finally outlines some realities about this transformation, such as the fact it is relational (vertically and horizontally), it will involve conflict, and it is symmetrical (I found this very helpful...we are only as spiritual as our weakest trait.

Finally, holiness is motivated by joy. The reality is, as God made us, we cannot know full joy without knowing the full reality of holiness. Looking to writers such as Brooks and Piper, Hedges points out that one of our greatest hindrances in holiness is a lack of desire, longing for the pleasures God alone can give...this is key in transformation (in the wonderful title of Chalmer's essay, through "The Expulsive Power of a New Affection"). The section closes with some very practical examples of how God's promises can help fight very specific issues (greed, lust, etc).
Note: I am reviewing this from a PDF version provided by the author, Brian Hedges

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Book Review - Christ Formed in You (Part II)

In the introduction, Hedges lays out his purpose. The Christian life is about conformity to Christ, and he will strive to map out the trail to get there. There are many wrong expressions and emphases of the gospel message that pervade modern Christianity, such as intellectualism, experiential pietism, 'lot go and let god 'thinking, etc, and hedges wants to guide us safely as the twin precipices of legalism and cheap grace - to show us how the transformation that God wants for all believers happens. Noting that there are a lot of excellent books that emphasize certain aspects of the path towards Christlikeness (Holiness, community and suffering, Gospel content, gospel application, motivating power, etc), Hedges looks to try and bring these all together in a single accessible volume. Following Owen, Hedges points out that holiness and christlikeness is not something we get after the gospel, but simply the implanting, writing and living out the gospel in our souls", the the rest of the book will work through this.

The first two chapters aim at laying out where we are going and what the gospel is as foundations for the rest of the book. In Chapter 1, Hedges lays out the grand themes of the Scripture, Creation, Fall and Redemption, showing how man was made with the purpose of glorifying God by reflecting Him, but how that purpose was shattered at the Fall with the entrance of sin. Redemption is thus not simply about salvation from punishment, but also to restore the shattered image, that we might again display God's glory in growing ever nearer to the image of Christ (as a side note, I love the reference to Lewis, Tolkien, and others throughout, Hedges finishing this chapter with an illustration from Narnia...enjoyed this through the whole book).

In Chapter 2 Hedges delves deeper into the nature of the Gospel. Starting with aspects of the Cross (substitution, restoration, rescue, triumph, etc), the book shows that the Gospel does not stop there. Christ rose from the dead the the first fruits of a glorious new harvest, was exalted and sent the Spirit as the "agent who personally effects our transformation." Christ died, rose and was exalted not simply for Himself, but that we could share in His victory and His image. Our response should be to turn (repent) and trust (have faith), seeking to enter into a life of ever closer communion with and conformity to Christ.

Note: I am reviewing this from a PDF version provided by the author, Brian Hedges

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Book Review - Christ Formed in You (Part I)

A number of things draw me towards a newly published book. First, there are some publishers that I have come to trust, so when they release a new title, I am naturally drawn to find out more about it (the current book is by Shepherd’s Press, one of these publishers). Then there is the topic: Christ Formed in You – The Power of the Gospel for Personal Change. That’s a great topic…there is lot out there on spiritual formation that is, at best, less than helpful. Good topics on this central theme – the power of the gospel to transform us into the image of Christ – are a treasure. There is also the author. In this case I had heard nothing about Brian Hedges, but he has a blog (Light and Heat: Meditations on Pursuing God with Both Mind and Heart), where I found many helpful posts, and saw from his blogroll that we would probably share a lot of the same theological leanings. Finally, I look for endorsements, and Paul Tripp (“This is a Gospel primer I will recommend again and again”) and Kris Lundgaard (whose own The Enemy Within I found particularly helpful) confirmed that I would want to read this title.

When I first pick up a book I look for another couple of things. I read the forward (here from Don Whitney, who lays out the importance of the theme, for the knowledge of true saving faith, the effectiveness of our evangelism, and most importantly, the closeness of our walk with Christ – “those who know the gospel best are most likely to become closest to Christ and most like Christ.”) I then scan the table of contents, and I love the flow – The Foundation of Personal Change (the Goal, the Gospel, Justification, the Hearth, Sanctification), The Pattern of Personal Change (Holiness, Mortification, Vivification – who wouldn’t want to read a book that uses words like vivification!, Motivation), and The means of Personal Change (Disciplines, Suffering, Community). Finally, I glance over the whole book (more in the next few posts), and scan the endnotes (wish they were footnotes, but can’t have everything). In the endnotes I found a lot of authors I have personally profited from, particularly writers like Sinclair Ferguson, Lloyd Jones, Sproul, Carson, MacArthur, Powlison, Ryle, Owen, Packer, Stott and several other, confirming that this was a book to look forward to.

Enough for just now. I’m really looking forward to reading the book, and will write more over the next week…hoping it lives up to expectations!

Note: I am reviewing this from a PDF version provided by the author, Brian Hedges


It's been a while! Hopefully I'll post a little more often, though no promises. I am about to start into a book I've been looking forward to a great deal though, so we'll be starting with that...perhaps if time allows I'll get round to updating the Christian Scholar's page as well...