Saturday, February 11, 2012

Book Review: The Gospel-Driven Life

The Gospel-Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World. Michael Horton. 2009. Baker Books. 272 pages.

I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this book. It was such an amazing read!!! And I can't recommend it enough. It's one of those books I could just gush on and on and on about! One of those books about the essentials of the faith, one that everyone should read, one that everyone needs to read!

The book is divided into two sections: "Looking Up, Looking Out: Breaking News," and "Looking Around, Looking Ahead: A Cross-Cultural Community." The first section--the first six chapters--are amazing, outstanding, a must, must read. The second section--the last four chapters--are good, but not as GREAT as the earlier chapters. Overall, the book is a book that NEEDS to be read and reread because it is rich in gospel-truth. The message of The Gospel-Driven Life needs to be heard time and time again.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes. (Granted, the "few" may be a joke.)

To the extent that we remain pilgrims in this life, the gospel will remain strange even to us. Until the day we die, we will struggle to believe the bad news and the Good News that God announces to us. We do not just naturally think that we are born in sin, spiritually dead, helpless, and unable to lift a finger to save  ourselves or impress a holy God. As a result, it does not just occur to us that our greatest need is to be redeemed, justified, regenerated, sanctified, and glorified by God's saving work in his Son and by his Spirit. If the "Good News" that we proclaim is determined by what we already know--or think we know--and experience, it isn't really news. Limited to whatever we already think is relevant, practical, and useful, the message will never be surprising, disorienting, and troubling. It can never throw us off balance or cause us to reevaluate our priorities and interpretations of reality. (19)
Born with a severe case of spiritual scoliosis, our spines are twisted so that all we can see are our own immediate felt needs, desires, wants, and momentary gratifications. But the gospel makes us stand erect, looking up to God in faith and out to the world and our neighbors in love and service. Not every piece of news can do that, but the gospel can. (20)
The Bible is not a collection of timeless principles offering a gentle thought for the day. It is not a resource for our self-improvement. Rather, it is a dramatic story that unfolds from promise to fulfillment, with Christ at the center. Its focus is God and his action. God is not a supporting actor in our drama; it is the other way around. God does not exist to make sure that we are happy and fulfilled. Rather, we exist to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. (26)
Does our worship focus on this unfolding historical drama of the Triune God? Are we being constantly directed outside of our inner experience and our own felt needs to the real newsmaker in history? Are we perpetually drawn outside of ourselves, "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2)? Is our corporate and private worship centered on "human will or exertion" or on "God, who has mercy" (Romans 9:16)? Is the main point trying to see how God fits into our existing plot or to hear God tell us how we fit into his unfolding drama of redemption? (29-30)
We are not really prepared for life until we are prepared for death. (38)
There is no happiness without holiness. Created in God's image "to glorify God and to enjoy him forever," our fulfillment, meaning, and pleasure are found in friendship with God. As the church father Augustine expressed it in the form of a prayer, "You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you." (40)
The doctrine of justification--that is, God's act of declaring the wicked righteous by imputing our guilt to Christ and Christ's righteousness to us through faith alone--is only irrelevant or incomprehensible for our society today because God and sin have become irrelevant or incomprehensible for the church. (52)
We need God's Word, standing outside of us, to pass judgment on our lives, calling us out of our optimism and pessimism to hear things as they really are. If our introspection leads us to greater self-confidence, we have only deceived ourselves. (57)
God's law is not a tool that we can use; it is the rod by which God measures us. God's law says, "Be perfect." God's gospel says, "Believe in Christ and you will be reckoned perfect before God." The law tells us what must be done if we are to be saved; the gospel tells us what God has done to save us. (60)
God's love did not overwhelm or overrule his justice, but fulfilled it. Justice and love, righteousness and mercy, wrath and peace embraced at the cross. (62)
The gospel is not a general belief in heaven and hell or hope for a better life beyond; it is not even confidence in a resurrection at the end of the age. It is the announcement that Jesus Christ himself is our life, for he is our peace with God. He does not merely show us the way; he is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). (80)
Nowhere do we find the apostles proclaiming the gospel as an invitation to have a personal relationship with God. After all, they presupposed that everyone has a personal relationship with God already. In fact, our major problem is that we do have a relationship with God: the relationship of a guilty defendant before a just judge. (91)
So the gospel does not offer the possibility of a personal relationship with God, but announces a different relationship with God based on Christ! Instead of enemies, we have been reconciled through Christ's sacrifice (Romans 5:8-11). "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1). (92)
We all want to be and to do something rather than to be made and to receive our identity from above. It is a blow to our spiritual ego to be told that everything has already been done. Yet that is the glory of the gospel! (93)
"Lord and Savior" is simply who God is, not something that we can make him to be for us. In fact, he was reigning and saving us while we were "ungodly," "while we were still sinners," even, "while we were enemies" (Romans 5:6-10) (93)
The hardest thing in the world for us even as believers in Christ is to sit down and receive something. However, that is exactly what we have to do. (108)
To receive the Light, we must have our darkness exposed; to be clothed in Christ's righteousness, we must acknowledge our righteousness is filthy rags; to live in Christ, we must die to our former identity. Only the Spirit can raise those who are "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1), so that we can accept the news: both the bad and the good of it. (125)
Christ lived the purpose-driven life so that we would inherit his righteousness through faith and be promise-driven people in a purpose-driven world. (141)
Getting the plot of Scripture is crucial to the very existence of the church. Who is Jesus? We don't get to decide. The story tells us who Jesus is! He is not just anything and everything we want him to be in our lives. (236)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible


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Annette said...

Becky, set your comment spam different. You often get odd spam comments. If I leave a comment and then ck follow up comments I too get the spam sent to me, even on my phone.
Thank you for the review, sounds like a great book.