The subtitle to Recovering Redemption is A Gospel-Saturated Perspective on How to Change. It was written by pastor Matt Chandler and counselour Michael Snetzer. I have some mixed feelings about this book. It says some good things, and makes some good points. On the other hand there are some theological weaknesses and a writing style that seemed far more conversational than well-thought out.
The Good Points
The books starts with creation and the fall to set the proper theological stage for talking about redemption. They also spend a chapter on our own lame attempts at redemption apart from Christ. It is important that we understand some of the ways the flesh seeks redemption without going to God. We tend to look to ourselves, other people, the world and religion (viewed here at simply religiosity w/out regard to faith in Christ in contrast to biblical religion).
They address the concept of “struggling well”. It is helpful to remember that we don’t arrive in this life. Our sanctification will experience many peaks and valleys. In this context they address the right and wrong kinds of grief.
They then have a too short chapter on “The Benefits of Belief” which covers justification and adoption. It is important that we grasp these as foundational to our sanctification.
They, I think rightly, view sanctification as synergistic. God works (first and effectively) and we work (in response and imperfectly). God is more fully vested in our sanctification than we are, but we are not passive in this process. We are to engage. They address mortification and vivification as the two essential aspects of sanctification. We put sin to death in the power of the Spirit, and the Spirit also brings fruit to life as we rely on Him. Paul puts this a taking off and putting on. Matt and Michael re-frame it in terms of renouncing and re-rooting.
They spend a chapter talking about issues of guilt and shame which can hamper our growth in Christ. Matt, due to his experience with cancer, talks about fear and anxiety next.
There are 2 good chapters focusing on relational issues of forgiveness and conflict resolution. Sin is relational, and when we fail to restore our relationships our sanctification is essentially sunk. We somehow think that holiness is separate from our relationships instead of lived out in our relationships. This is probably one of the more important contributions of the book.
They end the book with a chapter on seeking our pleasure in Christ instead of ourselves, others and the world. There is a brief epilogue on making much of Jesus.
“Our reconnection with God, so unquestionably strong and secure, means we can now reach toward others without needing the acceptance and approval we’ve already received from the Lord, but rather with the freedom to pour out into their lives the forgiveness and peace of Christ.”
They try to say too much in too short of a period of time. As a result they don’t really dig into many of these topics. It seems rather cursory at times. It would be a good introduction for newer Christians, but more mature people will not be very satisfied.
More problematic is the formulation of justification. The focus seems to be innocence instead of righteousness.
- “declared innocent” pp. 86
- “on the sacrifice and willing substitution of the innocent, crucified Christ.” pp. 86
- “God has imputed to us all the innocence and righteousness and perfection of Christ.” pp. 86.
- “pardoned and ascribed righteousness.” pp. 87
- “We’re given innocence.” pp. 206.
Innocence is good, but no one is saved because they are innocent. We must be righteous. Christ’s satisfaction is effective because He was righteous. The lack of clarity annoyed me precisely because this is such an important doctrine. Particularly when dealing with younger Christians we should be clear, and not confusing.
There was also very little about union with Christ. Yes, that is a fairly abstract concept for people but it is really that by which we gain all that Christ is for us.
Stylistically I was not really enjoying the read. I noted early on that there were way too many one sentence paragraphs. There were also sentences what were not complete. It comes off either as an unedited sermon or quite poorly written (or written for nearly illiterate people).
Why does this matter to me? My publisher challenged me: did I want to simply get a book published or write a book that would still be read in 100 years. This reads like the former. That may be a result of the uncertainty regarding Matt’s cancer. He has already exceeded the doctor’s best guesses. He is living on borrowed time, from a worldly perspective.
“Gospel-motivated worship leads to gospel-empowered ministry and mission. Being gospel-centered and saturated leads to a joy-filled submission toward all that He calls us to do, based on all we’ve been given.”
As a result, this is a book I might recommend to some people. But it is not a book I would unreservedly recommend. I am iffy on it, which is unfortunate.