Monday, August 11, 2014

Book Review: Wonder-Working God

The Wonder-Working God. Jared C. Wilson. 2014. Crossway. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

In March, I reviewed Jared C. Wilson's The Storytelling God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Parables. I was happy to be able to review The Wonder-Working God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Miracles. Both books are excellent, by the way. Both focus on God's glory as revealed in Jesus Christ. Wilson argues that "miracles are pictures of what happens when God's will is manifest on earth as it is in heaven."

From the introduction:
What if the miracles in the Bible— and miracles today, should they still occur— are not God trying to convince us he’s “up there somewhere,” looming out there in heaven and trying on earth to get us to acknowledge him, but are actually God showing us that he is right here and right now in charge? What if, in other words, God is not an interloper in our world, but the things we find so familiarly “everyday”— sin, corruption, injustice, decay, death— these very “laws of nature,” are interlopers in his? When we are able to see the world that way, we get closer to the heart of the gospel. The miracles of Jesus serve that end, and when we see the world through the reality of the kingdom of God, the miracles become just as provocative, just as scandalous, in this day as they were in first-century Palestine. We post-postmoderns pride ourselves on being beyond all that superstitious hokum, but we place our hopes in the same sorts of sentimental magic as the ancients. We worship our accomplishments and our knowledge, because we worship ourselves.
The Wonder-Working God is a book that closely examines the miracles performed during Jesus' ministry. There is a big-picture focus: how do the miracles fit into the big picture of the kingdom? what do they reveal? what do they reveal about us? what can they teach us about ourselves? what do they reveal about God?  what can they teach us about God? But Wilson spends plenty of time focusing on the details of some of the miracles. Again stressing what miracles reveal about the kingdom of God. By the way, if you're looking for a deeper understanding of the phrase "kingdom of God" and what it means, then, this book has it! This is a King-exalting book!!!
But in the proclamation of his kingdom, something special, something different, is happening. The reign of God is finally and directly being pressed into the brokenness of the world— the sins of men and the rebellion and injustice of mankind— fulfilling God’s promise to one day set things back to rights. The church often gets “the kingdom” wrong, because we equate it so often with the church or with the place of paradise we call heaven. But while both the church and heaven are integral to the purposes of God’s kingdom, neither is itself the kingdom. The kingdom is God’s reign, his sovereignty, his will being done… The kingdom of God broke into the world in and through the person of Jesus. There can be no kingdom without a king, and ours comes announcing that God is now forgiving sins, restoring peace and justice, reversing the curse, and setting in motion the end of days. This is— finally— good news for a creation that is groaning for redemption. All that is left for us to do is repent and believe, and the kingdom blessings will be ours, too. But only through Jesus. No Jesus, no blessing.
Because the entire world has been affected by mankind’s sin, the way the Bible talks about the kingdom’s coming seems somewhat cataclysmic. This place is broken, but because we have become so accustomed to living with the brokenness, the very restoration of the place can seem like a breaking. And it is. It is a breaking of the way things have been and a resetting to the way they ought to be.
I loved this book. I loved it because I learned so much from reading it. I loved the focus on Scripture. And I loved some of the insights the book provides about what the gospel is and what the kingdom is. I loved the focus on Jesus' ministry, the closer examination of his preaching and healing, of Jesus' disciples, of the crowds both believing and  unbelieving.

Favorite quotes:
Something for nothing? That is the exchange offered in the gospel of Jesus. Bring your nothingness, and he will give you his everything. It’s the only exchange Christ will make.
There is one great sign that you are loved more than you thought. It is the cross. And there is a still further sign that you will live in this love forever. It is the empty tomb.
There are a lot of reasons for difficulties and sufferings in the world, but a powerless, passive God isn’t one of them.
Like the Bible that reveals it, the gospel is not about us but for us. The story is chiefly about God’s glory. But in the gospel, we are partakers of that glory. So part of the story of Christ’s death and resurrection is the story of the captives being freed from sin and shame.
We love for Jesus to fix our circumstances and our pains, but we often don’t want him doing the invasive surgery his gospel is designed for.
So often we try to have Jesus without his cross. We carry on, assuming the Christian life should be typified by comfort rather than suffering, assuming sin will disappear without its being intentionally killed, assuming Jesus saves us because we’re essentially awesome people. But the Savior without the cross is no Savior. The Messiah without the cross is no Messiah. The King without the cross is no King. So to take Jesus and remove the offense of the cross is a satanic act. When you seek to have Christ without taking his cross, you are not aligning with Christ but with the Devil.
It is perhaps a modern myth of the church that every lost person feels lost. The reality for many of us is that we are too satisfied with our ambitions.
The incarnation is crucial to the good news of forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. The reality is this: only man should pay the price for the sins of mankind, but only God could pay the price for the sins of mankind. Thus, in Jesus Christ, the “man should” and the “God could” unite in perfect payment and pure pardon.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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