Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Something close to the final Introduction

Have you ever been in a situation where you know your destination but can’t find your way? It happens to me with almost predictable regularity. In fact, I’ve been lost in nearly every big city I’ve ever visited. Just ask my wife. In these moments of dislocation and disorientation, we need two things for our journey to be a success: a map and someone to show us where we are in relation to our final destination. When you come right down to it, then, I suppose we usually need a third thing as well. Especially men. When our journey has been reduced to an ineffective mix of hunches and guesswork, we need to admit we could use some help!

Following Jesus is also a journey, and one with a clear, inspiring destination. According to Scripture, our destination is to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). To be holy. Most Christians realize this and desire it. But we often feel disoriented in the midst of our journey. Though we know where we should be going, it can seem like we’ve lost our way.

A primary reason for this disorientation is simply that becoming more like Jesus—a process theologians often call “sanctification”—takes a lifetime, and life gets complicated. As the years unfold it can become unclear how sanctification really works, and how it fits with other elements of Christian life and thought. For anyone who takes faith seriously, honest, important questions will eventually arise.

• How do my current struggles with sin affect my standing with God?
• What practical steps must I take to deal with sin and nurture spiritual growth?
• What should I expect as I pursue change?
• How do I measure progress?
• And how do other aspects of my life – my longings for happiness, my personal disciplines and habits, my sufferings and trials, and my relationships with other people – fit into all this?

Dangers, Toils, and Snares

This journey towards holiness is further complicated by what the well-known hymn “Amazing Grace” describes as “many dangers, toils, and snares.” It is both terribly sad and undeniably true that a fair number of these perils have emerged from within Christianity itself.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

A unified vision of gospel-centered spirituality

One of the things Brian wants to accomplish in this book is a synthesis of several approaches to spirituality that are usually not found together: So, the gospel (chapters 2-5), the application of the gospel in the pursuit of holiness (chapters 6-8), Christian hedonism as motivation (chapter 9), and means (disciplines, community, suffering, chapters 10-12).

What he hopes will be distinctive in this book is combing these approaches together into one unified vision of gospel-centered spirituality. The idea is that in reading this book, you can get a clear picture of the goal (think, John Ortberg or J. I. Packer), the means of the gospel (think, Jerry Bridges or C. J. Mahaney), the application in mortification and spiritual growth (think, Kris Lundgaard), the motivation (think, John Piper), and the means of disciplines and community (think, John Ortberg or Don Whitney), plus suffering (think, Jerry Bridges and others).

I think that goal is clearly reflected at last in this, the latest and probably the final Table of Contents.

Christ Formed in You
The Power of the Gospel for Personal Change

Part I: The Foundations of Personal Change
1. Restoring God’s Broken Image: The Goal
2. The Key to Transformation: The Gospel
3. The Curse is Canceled: Justification
4. The Cure Has Begun: The Heart
5. Closing the Gap: Sanctification

Part II: The Path of Personal Change
6. Captivated by Beauty: Holiness
7. The Killing of Sin: Mortification
8. Growing in Grace: Vivification
9. The Quest for Joy: Motivation

Part III: The Means of Personal Change
10. Training in the Spirit: Disciplines
11. The Refiner’s Fire: Suffering
12. Life Together: Community


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