Matt Chandler has been one of my favorite “celebrity pastors” to listen to and read for quite a few years now. So when I heard about his new book coming out, I was eager to get my hands on a copy. And what is this new book? Recovering Redemption: A Gospel-Saturated Perspective on How to Change.
Change. It’s something that we, as Christians, all want. We want to stop that habit. We want to change that attitude. We’re sick of dealing with and struggling with the same old things. Is there any hope? Will you ever get victory in that daily battle that you’ve been struggling with for months, maybe even years?
The answer: Yes. There is hope. You can change. But not on your own. And not with some 3-step how-to list of do’s and don’ts. The only true answer to lasting change and fighting against sin in the Christian life is found in the never-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ!
That is what this book is about, as the subtitle says: A Gospel-Saturated Perspective on How to Change.
Laying the Foundation
In the first 4 chapters of the book, Chandler lays out a full-orbed picture of the Gospel. Not the “cover-versions” of the Gospel (as he calls them), but the true, life-giving, saving Gospel that we are given in the Bible. In these chapters, Chandler looks at the holiness and righteous of God, the sinfulness of man, the payment made by Christ, and our response of faith and repentance. There are some great sections in these chapters, including 4 “false-gospels,” or ineffective ways that we seek to make ourselves right with God (pages 26-36) and a wonderful section on repentance, where he looks at true, godly grief vs false, worldly grief (pages 68-79).
Some Big Words
Next, in chapters 5 and 6, Chandler looks at some of the benefits of belief. He spends a whole chapter looking at justification and adoption. He makes the very important and helpful point that we must correctly understand what it means that we have been justified before God and adopted as his son/daughter before we can ever expect to move forward in our quest for a changed life. He says:
“So we are justified before the law bench of heaven.
We’ve been adopted into His heavenly family.
And because of these two all-consuming realities, all the ingredients are in place for us to deal strongly and confidently with whatever comes our way, including those many sins of ours that have been so adept at defeating us for so long” (95).
And in chapter 6, he deals with the topic of sanctification, showing that sanctification is a lifelong process of growing in godliness. I was thankful that Chandler introduces the reader to two often-forgotton words in the Christian life: Vivification and Mortification. He makes it clear that the process of sanctification, of becoming more like Christ, necessarily includes these two things: (1) Vivification – Our minds and hearts are brought to life as we set our minds on the things of heaven, on the Word of God, etc. (2) Mortification – Putting to death sin in our life … not just “dealing with” it, but killing it.
“If you can think of vivification as the life-giving plant food and fertilizer that you spade into your garden, mortification is the knuckle-busting process of pulling up the weeds” (103).
Bringing It To The Ground
Finally, in chapters 7-12, the book brings this biblical truth “to the ground,” so to speak, bringing the theological truths and realities of the Gospel to bear on the practical, day-to-day issues of life. Chandler says:
“Having done a flyover of some key gospel ideas throughout the first half of this book, we’re now beginning our descent pattern, brining this payload of biblical truth down to the ground, where the Spirit of God can taxi its arrival into your everyday life” (117).
And bring it into every day life he does. Chapter 7 deals with the issues of guilt and shame; chapter 8, fear and anxiety; chapter 9, he deals with the continual process of pulling up roots and putting down stakes, or to put it in more familiar terms, putting off and putting on; chapter 10 deals with reconciling and amending relationships and chapter 11 looks at confronting and forgiving others; and finally, chapter 12 looks at the Christian life as a lifelong pursuit of joy — not joy in things of the world, but joy in God himself (the chapter will remind you of Piper’s Desiring God if you’ve read that).
In this last section, Chandler does a great job of tackling some of the big “root” issues in the lives of every believer, root issues that rear their ugly head in all sorts of sins, addictions, and behavior in our life.
This was a very good book, one that offers a helpful corrective to a lot of popular 12-steps to getting rid of this addiction, or 10 steps to ridding yourself of this sin. Chandler shows very clearly and very practically that the only source of real change in the life of the Christian is a continual remembering of the Gospel and a constant application of those Gospel truths to your life. I think that anyone who reads this book will be given 2 things: A robustly biblical picture of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, and a renewed perspective on how to change that is completely rooted in nothing other than this Gospel. And judging by the title of the book, I think that this is exactly what Chandler aimed for.
In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank B&H Books for Providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review