There are books galore about the Christian life. Some of great, and some … well, aren’t so helpful. Some are heavy lifting, and not accessible to the average person i the pew. Some are so light, they are ultimately unhelpful.
Not only does Derek Thomas quote a fair amount from his friend and colleague Sinclair Ferguson, but How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home is very much like the best books Ferguson has written. It is deep, but not complicated. It is short, but not trite.
Thomas looks at the 8th chapter of Romans in this book. He uses this as a summary of the Christian life- how God brings us from justification to glorification through adoption and sanctification. Sounds complicated, but Thomas puts the cookies on the shelf where you can reach them.
“Even as mature Christians, we need to remind ourselves continually of the basis for our acceptance- it is entirely because of what Christ has done for us. Thus, faith in Christ is not a one-time event; we must live by faith each day.”
I read the chapters out of order because I used parts of it as I wrestled with my sermon texts near the end of Genesis. In addition to Ferguson, Thomas brings in quotations from John Calvin and a number of other luminaries as well as some great hymns. Sometimes someone else can say it better than we can.
Obviously, Thomas starts with our continuing problem with sin. We need to continually preach the gospel to ourselves, “that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Though we continue to break God’s law, there is more than sufficient grace and pardon in Christ. We are to live as justified people, not as condemned people.
“Every believer lives in a tension between what he is and what he will be, between the now and the not yet.”
He moves into a convicting chapter on our mindset. Our default, due to our sinful nature, is upon this life, ourselves and our desires. It leads to death. It is self-defeating. But, the Spirit changes our mindset, leading us into obedience as justified people. But Paul is noting the importance of the life of the mind. Thomas moves from the problem of earthly-mindedness to being spiritually minded. The Spirit, as Jesus’ representative, helps us to set our minds on things above. He leads us to consider eternal, and gospel realities.
“It is fascinating, isn’t it, that in Paul’s day, as in our own, the most prevalent sin has to do with sex.”
The Spirit also leads us to put our sin to death. Apart from the work and leading of the Spirit, we will feed our sin, coddle it and nurture it. We will satisfy those desires! The Spirit changes all that. Now we struggle, resist, and kill it. He keeps a focus on grace in this very important aspect of sanctification. He, like Paul, does not want us to fall (back) into the trap of legalism.
“If we forget who we are, we will fail to be what we should be. And that is our biggest error- a failure to remember who we are in Christ.”
He brings us into the reality of that identity- sons of God. Our obedience is one prompted by love, because He first loved us. He spends some time on what it means for the Spirit to testify to our spirits. He lands on the notion that the Spirit prompts us to cry “Abba!”. Not merely God or Lord. He works in us to re-shape our identity so we continually think of God as our Father. It changes how we talk to Him, and respond to Him.
Thomas continues to work his way through the chapter pointing to our hope in the re-creation to come, the sanctifying providence of God and more. Along the way there are plenty of great sentences worthy of remembering. I used plenty of red ink in my copy (which is why I don’t do eBooks). I was encouraged by this book because this book continually pointed me to Jesus, not myself. I was encourage as he repeatedly referred to the present ministry of the Spirit. Really, what more could I want? The chapters were short enough to be read at lunch, before bed or as part of your devotional reading.
This is a book I heartily recommend, and may give away. It is one of the best books I’ve read in quite some time because it sticks with me. I’m relying on the gospel to bring me all the way home. I have no hope without it.