Thursday, February 14, 2019

Book Review: Navigate Your Faith

Navigate Your Faith: A Christian's Field Guide to Not Getting Lost. Ron Pratt. 2019. Charisma House. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: They wanted the blessings of God in their lives without any personal sacrifice. We live under grace and how we live is up to us was their heart view. They believed their job was to enjoy the lifestyle they desired. Jesus' job was simply to stamp His approval on every expression of that lifestyle.

Premise/plot: Navigate Your Faith is a blend of fiction and nonfiction. On the one hand, it stars a fictional couple: Jason and Cindy. Each and every chapter advances their story. They face challenges--many of them. On the other hand, the author--a pastor, I believe--speaks directly to readers--often in a passionate, zealous, admonishing way--though not without encouragement.

Topics addressed include entertainment, the internet, social media, drinking alcohol, flirting, infidelity, abortion, bitterness, etc.

My thoughts: Is the intended audience of Navigate Your Faith a "carnal" Christian? Someone who professes Christianity but doesn't take ever take the faith seriously? Someone who lives on their own terms and dismisses the Bible as only for zealots? Is it for those "Christians" who have "accepted" Jesus as Savior but never as Lord? Perhaps. That was my first impression anyway. I think the book assumes that readers know the gospel story, and have to some degree professed their faith. The book never did go there--what is the gospel? who is Jesus? how can I be saved? what is repentance? what is justification? what is sanctification?

The focus of Navigate Your Faith seems to be solely on sanctification. How am I supposed to live? Pratt argues that how we live matters--greatly. Christians are not free to live however they want. They  are to live under the authority of the Word of God and be led by the Holy Spirit. They are not to set their own standards of right and wrong. They are not to pick and choose which parts of the Bible to take seriously. They are to show their love for Christ by obeying Christ. Their minds are to be RENEWED; their lives are to be TRANSFORMED. Culture and society should not be forming the hearts and minds of Christians. Christians are called to live holy lives pleasing to the Lord.

The book seems to be building up to the critical moment when Christians like Jason and Cindy--and perhaps readers--ask Jesus to be LORD and surrender "the wheel" to him.

I liked the tell-the-truth-as-I-see-it-approach to this one. I did. I liked the passionate warnings. I don't disagree with the dangers Pratt warns his readers about. We are to live by our convictions and LISTEN to God as he speaks to us through the Word of God. We are not to quench the Spirit but be led by the Spirit. We are to live surrendered lives and be living sacrifices.

There were a few places here and there where his approach felt slightly off to me. For example, in speaking about abortion he lists four steps that are necessary for healing. They are: telling your story; forgiving the others involved in the situation; forgiving yourself; and trusting God with your future. Perhaps it's implied that there is a step zero: repenting/confessing your sin to God and receiving forgiveness. But it didn't feel implied in that chapter. It felt more like an elephant-in-the-room. God did get the fourth step. So he wasn't absent. This seems to be the part in the book where the focus starts to shift towards the importance of "making" Jesus or "accepting" Jesus as Lord of your life and stepping down off the throne of control. The remaining chapters continue this theme--let God be God and you stop trying.

I am not being critical of this specific book when I express my doubts to the school of thought that has "accepting" Jesus as Savior and Jesus as Lord as two separate events. I don't like the phrase "accepting" Jesus either. But I particularly don't like it when used with the phrase "accepting Jesus as Lord." Because Jesus IS Lord whether we recognize HIM as such or not. Even if we never "accept" the Lord's sovereignty--He IS Lord. It's more a manner of recognition and humility. To "accept" Jesus as "Savior" but not as "Lord" is to say, "Thanks for my ticket to getting into heaven. I'll see you on the other side. Meanwhile this is MY LIFE so stay out of it." This monstrosity just should not be--this goes back to being a "carnal" Christian as opposed to a Spirit-filled one. But is there such a thing as a carnal Christian? I'm not prepared to argue that there is--or that there isn't. Only God knows the state of another's soul. God is God. I am NOT God.

I think there is always a matter of growth. We grow from very little knowledge--the tiniest spark of who God is and what it means to follow Jesus--and keep growing our whole lives through. I am not saying that one isn't a Christian until one knows everything and lives by that knowledge. But I think part of being a Christian is realizing that it is a growing process--not a stagnant one. We should be always, always, always seeking more, more, more. We need nourishment. We need the Word of God. We need the teaching of sound biblical preachers and teachers. We need the support and encouragement of Christian friends and a church family. We need to mentor and be mentored. We need to be a community.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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