Books and Truths That Are Transformative
In my last blog, I addressed the journey towards maturity in 14 principles. In this blog, I would like to focus on the first two principles by highlighting some books and quoting some truths that are trans-formative. The first two points on that blog state:
1. I am learning to approach God as my Dad, confident in his love and care for me. This comes as a result:
Full conscious awareness of God's holiness.
Full conscious awareness of my own sin and depravity.
Full conscious awareness of the sufficiency of the atoning work of Christ and union with him.
Experiencing adoption and coming to know God as Abba or Daddy.
2. I am learning to live my daily life based on Christ’s righteousness rather my own personal performance. When God looks at me, he sees me just as if I have never sinned and just as if I have always obeyed.
The word “gospel” in New Testament Greek is εὐαγγέλιον, meaning "good news.” From your experience is the gospel good news? What if a cure for cancer was discovered which has no side effects, and it is available for free, and I know of people who are suffering with cancer, I would love to run to them and declare the good news about the cure. Does the gospel offer exciting news as well?
In the past I have always seen the good news of the gospel being relevant to my past and to my future. I “was saved” and I “will be saved,” but I could not see the good news of the gospel in the “being saved” process. In between the past and the future, the now, the present was mostly hard work and endurance. Does the gospel offer good news for the now?
In the final day of class in the course that I teach on “Islam and the Geopolitics of the Middle East” I offer those who take the course 75+ titles of books that I highly recommend. I encourage them to choose what area they want to focus on in their continued journey of learning through reading good books.
Over the years I have read several books that helped me understand and have a deeper appreciation for the gospel including the sanctification process in the now. Here are the best books that I know of on this topic.
To start with I read Jerry Bridges book Discipline of Grace. I read this book six times. Then I read Abba’s Child written by a very honest Christian author with the name Brennan Manning. I read that book twice. Then I read: True Faced by Bill Thrall. Then I read Bryan Chapell’s book Christ Centered Worship. More recently, I read Bill Tells’s book Lay it Down, two times. I will be discussing the highlights of this book with my family and with a few friends. Currently I am reading The Cure by Bruce McNicol. In the past I read repeatedly a great book by DeVern Fromke with the title The Ultimate Intention. I need to go back and read this book again. I wonder what I will discover this time while reading it after 45 years since I last read it. I might find myself disagreeing with him on certain aspects of his theology and enjoying other parts of his book.
Here is a summary of what I have been learning. I continue to repeat to myself and meditate on these truths trusting God that he will transform me. I encourage you to memorize these truths and meditate on them and may they sink down from our heads to our hearts.
Here are the statements:
1. “This shame—this self awareness of their ‘uncleanliness’—prompted Adam and Eve to fashion masks from leaves to hide what they now feared was true about them. It wasn’t just that they’d done something wrong. They were both convinced something was now uniquely and terribly wrong about them, with them.”
2. “God will never relate to me on the basis of my behavior or my feelings about myself but always on the basis of Christ’s behavior.” This is an aspect of the good news of the gospel which I need to preach to myself every day.
3. “It is not our will power, our accountability group, nor our long list of rules that keeps us from sin. It is grace and union with Christ” (Titus 2:11-12).
4. “You are not what you do. You do who you are.” Living according to my authentic self.
5. “In justification, God declares that our identity is not based on our performance; we have an identity gifted to us by the performance of Jesus.”
6. “The miracle of regeneration tells us we are not who we used to be. We have a new heart.”
7. “Our adoption completes our new identity; we are now beloved children of God.”
8. “The life in Christ is not about what I can do to make myself worthy of his acceptance, but about daily trusting what he has done to make me worthy of his acceptance.”
9. "Some believe they will eventually, through sincere diligence, change into someone better. Their confidence to change centers on sanctified self-effort. Others believe the very essence of who they now are is completely changed. They are convinced of absolute fused union with the God of the universe. Their confidence to mature is placed squarely in trust of their new identity in Jesus. This does not mean they don’t fail. They do fail. But in the end, they trust who God has made them. If I follow the first path, I’m trying to change from who I was into who I should be. If I follow the second, I’m maturing into who I already am. In the first, I’m working toward becoming more righteous. In the second, I’m already righteous, made right by God in the moment I believed."
10. “Your view of you is the greatest commentary on your view of God. Nothing you believe and depend upon is more magnificently freeing than this single truth: You are no longer who you were, even on your worst day. Trusting and leaning upon “Christ in you” is the source of every shred of strength, joy, healing, and peace."
The gospel was good news for my past and for my future. Was it good news for me in the now? Am I enjoying the gospel in the present during the process of sanctification? At times in the past the now, in between the past and the future, there was a great deal of hard work and endurance: daily quiet time, Scripture memory and review, church attendance, witnessing, performing and putting on a mask in order to get people’s approval. It was exhausting. Where is the good news of the gospel now in the present? This is what I am learning these days. The books above will help you as they are helping me to enjoy the gospel now in the present.
In The Cure, the author wrote:
"In our desperation to be loved, we’ll rush to fashion more masks, hoping the next will give us what we’re longing for: to be known, accepted, trusted and loved… If we could take off our masks long enough, many of us would say, “I’m tired. Really tired. I’m weary of hurting, weary of dragging myself through the same hoops I’ve jumped hundreds of times already. I feel betrayed—by my own behavior, by my community of faith. Everyone there seems to be doing fine. I almost believe they are. That hurts most of all. Mostly, I feel betrayed by God Himself.”"
Paul described his journey and his struggle against legalism in Galatians 2:19-21
“What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.” MSG
One of our special friends and prayer partners wrote commenting on a letter that I have written:
“Thank you for recommending the book Lay It Down, by Bill Tell. I am now reading it for the 2nd time and finding more freedom in Jesus which I desperately need as a longtime performer and people pleaser. Thank you so much for always emphasizing how we need to preach the gospel to our own hearts.”
May we all today live according to who we are in Christ and may the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.