Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Review: The Utter Relief of Holiness author John Eldredge

"What a relief it would be to be set free from all that plagues us -- the inner struggle with anger, or contempt, the habitual sins. Is such an experience possible? John Eldredge believes it is, and in THE UTTER RELIEF OF HOLINESS, he shows readers how they can be that free, through the healing work of Christ in their lives. It begins when we discover what the salvation of Jesus Christ means for our own restoration and find that holiness is an expression of the healing of our humanity.

Here is a book that explores the beauty of the genuine goodness available to us in Jesus Christ, and guides the reader through the process whereby God makes us whole and holy by his love. Readers will be relieved. Utterly." [Goodreads]

The Utter Relief of Holiness:
How God's Goodness Frees Us from Everything that Plagues Us
author John Eldredge
Publisher FaithWords

As a reviewer, I was delighted to discover a new John Eldredge release. And the cover certainly didn't dissuade my interest. I began reading with an openness to hear the author's premise, yet I admit to struggling with this book the further I read. 

There seemed to be a greater focus on one's sin than the One Who has already conquered sin and it's wages. And where people focus their attention is where they walk. 'So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.' Romans 8.6 NLT. I continued to anticipate hearing the Good News of 2 Corinthians 10.5 'and every arrogance that raises itself up against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey the Messiah.' CJB , or in the words of Eldredge's main choice throughout the book, The Message, 'We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.' There was no pointing in the direction of these instructions.

So when I read [p.169] 'Wherever it is we find self struggling, we begin to choose love', my response is to say, 'if we choose Love, keeping our thoughts fixed on Love, Love is Who masters us and wins the struggle.' Not 'Jesus help me love this person' rather 'Jesus I love you' which changes the direction of my thoughts, increasing His Love within us, so that is what flows out of us. Rather than concentrating on my 'personality has motives behind it...most self protection...where most of our deepest repenting will take place'. Why not live in love with the One who has already conquered all of this? Why not develop a deep inner relationship with THE Lover of our soul, giving our attention to the development of that relationship, pursuing God, rather than beating ourselves over every real or imagined, sin? How would you rather spend your time? Pursuing the nature and Presence of God or your sins? 

If you are focused, single minded, on expressing your love, your worship, with ALL your heart, mind, soul and strength as commanded, you won't have time for other distractions. Your heart will be 'fixed' on your first love, on what's important, on what truly matters. When you live by the experience of God's Love for you, your view of others will change. As directed in Eph 3.19 'I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.' As you receive this Love poured out it changes your heart, perspectives, actions and reactions. It's about letting your roots go down deep into the soil of God's Love then allowing the nourishment to bring life and growth. Unfortunately, not what this book focuses upon.

Eldredge's closing begins [p.177] 'Love God and love others. Honestly, if you set these two motives before you each day, they will see you through a thousand quandaries.'  I would have to say, follow that first and greatest command.  Love God. With ALL your heart, mind, soul and strength. Then you'll be facing the right direction as you enjoy a much more joy filled walk. And as the Love within you increases it will be what spills over in situations and on others. Without striving.  Living at rest.  Living refreshed. And living in increasing wholeness and holiness.  Not by striving, but in living in the overflow of the Presence of Christ.

Many more instances cited [p.178] contrary to the life hidden in Christ, which I won't spend more of your time discussing.  Suffice it to say, it definitely contrasts with Phillipians 4.7 'And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.' AMP

I would argue, the pursuit is not for 'a deep and genuine holiness'. [p 179] The pursuit is for Christ Himself.  The holiness, the utter relief of holiness, is one of the amazing gifts of grace that results.

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