Sunday, August 03, 2008

Because He First Loved Me

Somewhere back in my college days, when I was at a point of wanting to know God more deeply, I remember an older Christian sister asking me"Why do you love God?" Her question was asked so pointedly and intently that I was momentarily taken off guard and remained silent, thinking, thinking. The answer soon flooded over my soul: "I love God because He first loved me!" (1 John 4:19)

Last week I finished reading the recently published Because He loves Me, How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life by Elyse Fitzpatrick and the memory of that epiphan-ous moment of 20+ years ago came back to me. What I didn't really realize so many years ago, but have been learning the past couple of years or so, is that the gospel, or, the good news of Jesus Christ, is daily, yea, even hourly, the foundation of a transformed life.

Because He Loves Me

Fitzpatrick divides her book into two parts:

I. How God's Love Transforms Our Identity
II. How God's Love Transforms Our Life

The first part of the book is largely a reiteration and exploration of the gospel, and though an older Christian may be tempted to skim through chapters with titles such as Remembering His Love, Identity Gift, Your Inheritance, this temptation should be resisted. For the truths of the gospel to do their transforming work in our lives, we must live by them, and thus, as a forgetful people we must marinate ourselves in them.

This becomes even more clear as Fitzpatrick moves into part II of her book, laying out just how the gospel transforms in chapters such as Be Who You Are, I will Cleanse You, Walk in Love, and Take Courage, Your Sins Are Forgiven. I particularly benefited from the discussion of the indicative and imperative components of the gospel, or the 'gospel declaration' and the 'gospel obligation' from Chapter 10, Be Who You Are. Both components of the gospel must be present or in balance lest we become moralists, over emphasizing the obligation, or libertarians, over emphasizing declaration. I tend to the moralist camp, myself!

Examples of this perfect declaration/obligation synergy are found throughout Scripture:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God (indicative). Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (imperative). For you have died and your live is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory (indicative). Put to death therefore what is earthly in you (imperative)...

~Colossians 3:1-5a

and another quick example from Philippians 2:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence work out your own salvation with fear and trembling
(imperative) for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (indicative).

~Philippians 2:12,13

Fitzpatrick writes, "please remember that your growth in holiness is firmly bound to your appreciation of the gospel and God's love, for it is only an appreciation of his love that can motivate genuine obedience."

Also good is chapter 10, Take Courage; Your Sins are Forgiven, in which Fitzpatrick takes a couple of real-life sin situations and explains how Christ's incarnation, sinless life, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension each can have a transforming impact. Good stuff.

I have a sexist confession to make: I usually don't read or like theological books by women authors. I haven't thought too deeply about why this is but I just don't. Maybe it is the cute illustrations or the overuse of exclamation marks? Anyway, while this book has a few of the illustrations I shy away from, the content of the book is excellent and theologically meaty, yet easily understandable and practical--not in the pragmatic sense, but in the the life-changing-if you apply-it sense. I've already given my copy of this book to a dear friend who was passing through and I plan to re-order for myself and for a few friends. And, as an added bonus, this book could easily replace a number of 'life issues' books--the ones which tell you how to overcome this or that-- you may have sitting on your shelves.

Edit: my links are dead but I'm leaving town early in the morning and don't have the time to fix them now. Sorry.