If you ever get the chance to write a Christian book, there are two simple steps you need to follow. First, make sure you portray yourself as having it all together. Focus on your many strengths and ‘victories’ (in extensive detail of course!) and skim over any possible weaknesses and failings. Second, you need to pile up the guilt on your readers so they feel absolutely terrible about themselves. This will leave your readers with the impression that you are truly wonderful and, of course, they’ll want to join your church! In case you’re wondering, my first Christian book is due to be released any day now and I look forward to welcoming you to our 9am congregation at Carlton!
Now before you get too worried (and leave 9am!), please know that I’m joking. The point, however, is to highlight just how refreshing I found the book ‘You can really grow’ by John Hindley. The author is genuinely honest about his own struggles in the Christian life. He describes himself like this:
‘I am eager to get my work done well. I am eager to spend enough time (with enough emotional energy) with my girls. I am eager to keep space to have an evening or two with my wife. I am eager to go on holiday. I am hoping to just cope without going under. I am not that eager to grow as a Christian.’ (pg 8)
If we’re honest, I think that many of us can identify with his experience. We know that we should be growing as Christians – that day by day, we should be transformed to be more like Jesus - but the reality is that we’re often struggling just to survive. We feel overwhelmed in the busyness and complexity of our lives and figure that if we can just somehow muddle on in our Christian life then surely that will be enough for God. However, reflecting on 2 Peter 3:17-18, this book reminds us that:
‘God wants more for us than this. He wants us not just to keep going, but to keep growing – not merely to survive as a Christian, but to thrive as a Christian. He wants more for us than we do!’ (pg 10)
However, the book doesn’t just say you ought to grow, but shows us from the Bible why we should want to grow. Having the right motivation is crucial - just think of the religious leaders from Mark’s gospel. Quoting Isaiah Jesus said ‘These people honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me’ (Mark 7:6). It’s not enough just to have the right behaviour - the religious leaders would have been far more diligent than us in their personal bible reading – it’s about genuinely growing as disciples of the Lord Jesus.
Having explored the motivation for Christian growth, the rest of the book outlines the different ways that God uses to grow us. The first three should come as no surprise - word, prayer and Christian fellowship. These so called ‘means of grace’ are the main ways that God uses to grow us in our knowledge and love of him. However, the author also shows how God can grow us through the ordinary aspects of everyday life – including suffering and (rather surprisingly) our sin. The key point is that God has given us everything we need so let’s trust that God will use these means to conform us to the image of His Son - our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (Rom 8:29).
Many of our gospel teams will be using this book in term 2. If you would like to buy a copy, please speak to your gospel team leader or your congregational leader.