Wednesday, September 23, 2009

More on Gospel Living

As a follow up to my previous post on The Gospel Driven Life, I thought I would also promote a book I have just finished reading that also promotes a gospel understanding of the Christian life, but from a more personal perspective. Authored by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson, this book seeks to emphasize that the proper way to understand ourselves and our personal struggles is not "by walking beyond the gospel that first brought us into the favor and family of God but rather by moving more deeply into that same gospel," (14, emphasis in original). Stated very simply in the Introduction, the purpose of the book is to help Christians "take the truth of our acceptance before God by Christ's righteousness alone and make it practical as you live your everyday life, (19), because "many Christians . . . just don't know how his incarnation, sinless life, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, ascension, and reign ought to impact them in the 'real world,'" (20).

The book is geared towards providing a Christian approach to counseling, which they call "gospel-centered counseling, and define as,
the process of one Christian coming alongside another with words of truth to encourage, admonish, comfort, and help--words drawn from Scripture, grounded in the gracious saving work of Jesus Christ, and presented in the context of relationship (91-92).
The goal of this counseling is not just to help people behave better or to have more self worth, and it is not just geared towards individuals, but rather to help "one grow in his or her understanding of the gospel and how it applies to every area of life and then respond in grateful obedience in every circumstance, all tot he building up of the church and for the glory of God," (92). This book emphasizes the reality that in Christ, we are part of a community and therefore, there should be a communal focus to how we live and deal with our problems.

The book is split up between chapters 1-4, which are general chapters that discuss the different aspects of the gospel and provide specific illustrations for how the gospel should shape our lives, and chapters 5-9, which contain more direct material concerning counseling. In this latter section, the authors deal with such topics as the gospel and sanctification, emotions, and relationships.

For those familiar with a redemptive-historical approach to the scriptures, you will be pleased to find that this book is basically an approach to counseling that is based on the insights gained from a redemptive-historical interpretation. Throughout the book, Fitzpatrick and Johnson look at different areas of life through the indicative/imperative lens--what Christ has accomplished for us and who we have been made in him, and now how we should live in light of our new identities in Christ.

Although Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ is directed towards the topic of counseling, the material can and should be read, reflected upon and applied by all Christians, not just counselors and pastors.

If interested, you can see the Table of Contents and read the Introduction and some of the first chapter here.

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