Depending on who you are and/or where you are coming from, this book may be offensive to you or you might find in it a breath of fresh air for a thirsty soul. Andrew Farley started his book showing us his compulsion to please God as a young christian with “obsessive Christianity disorder.” The persistent tension he felt in trying to work for Jesus made him a nervous wreck with some hard to believe experiences.
He was a successful bible college student and an evangelist. He was so bent on pleasing Christ to the point where he lost all his friends. And yet he still felt he was not where he should be. Subsequently his life became shattered.
Even though, one might want to argue the relevance of Farley’s experience to that of so many Christians, his story is not really unique. It’s not that hard to find Christians who are under the burden of religion. As Farley states, “many of us are still apathetic instead of ecstatic over the gospel” (p.15).
What made Farley walk into freedom in Christ was the naked gospel, the complete bare truth of what it really means to be in Christ. It is what it takes to experientially know what it means to have Christ live in you and through you. Farley gave short multiple choice questions that every Christian can take to know where they stand.
In Farley’s opinion, what stagnates some Christians is our thinking or belief system. He states that we are not really aware of the significance of what Jesus did on the cross and the very essence of the new covenant. He wonders if Christians knew why the covenant is even called new.
The old covenant was ultimately supposed to expose our unfaithfulness and uselessness. The new covenant deals with this problem by moving our focus to Jesus and his perfection. We are supposed to depend completely and totally rely on Jesus. The origin of our problem is when we think we are liable to put in a little of our religious effort to complete it.
“The challenge to experiencing victories over seemingly besetting temptations is the way in which we’ve tried to approach the battle. When we fortify ourselves with the weapon of the law, we set ourselves up to fail every time. We may brand it self-discipline or accountability – or better still plug in some other sensible term. But when it’s about anything but complete dependency on Christ within us for our sense of worthiness, it’ll ultimately put the will of human effort in motion.” (p.56).
In reality, few Christians would label themselves as legalists. But, ironically, in the name of self discipline or the notion of “keeping short accounts with God,” many Christians end up mixing grace with the rules. The justification for this is the mentality that we need guidelines or certain boundaries. In some cases, we think the rules reveals to us how to please God. However, Farley argues , it’s either ‘’the rules’’ or ‘’Jesus’’. You cannot have it both ways. He clearly states that to think “Jesus saves” and then to still believe that we need rules to live godly lives, is tantamount to cheating on Jesus. He devoted a whole chapter to elucidate this.
Farley also discusses the basics of the grace message. The first one he pointed out is that Jesus’ death brings us total and unconditional forgiveness. He also added that Jesus’ resurrection gives us new life which is seen in the new nature, new passion and desires. From these basic truths, Farley attempted to destroy many church traditions on confession, knowing the will of God, and the meaning of “dwelling or abiding in Christ.”
Farley made a case for the the difference between ‘’nature’’ and ‘’nurture’’. Many churches naturally put emphasis on nurture as the method to spiritual growth. This explains why we have small groups, bible study groups, accountability groups and so on. These things are needed according to Farley. He only states his worry about the fact that ‘’nurture’’ has been overflogged in comparison to ‘’nature’’. The scriptures states that we should consider ourselves dead to sin and continually realize that God has raised us up and seated us with Christ (Romans 6:11, Ephesians 2:6). In light of these obvious scriptural truths about nature, we are made aware not let sin reign in our mortal bodies. We are to set our minds on things above (Romans 6:12; Colossians 3:2). According to Farley, this is not nurture talk; it is simply nature talk!” (p.186)
Farley further elucidates that being a christian is not about asking, what would Jesus do? It’s a matter of unveiling and releasing what it means to have Christ living in us. He catches us by surprise in saying it is not really about imitating others. It’s about having Christ’s life flow through us effortlessly.
The reality of the truth of “Christ in you” has been forgotten under a fake gospel that motivates believers using the tool of religious pressure. When you begin to have doubts as to where you stand in Christ, you will rest or rely on your own effort. “Perform this to get that particular blessing” or “don’t do this so that you can stay free.” It sounds logical but it ultimately leads away from depending on Christ and unknowingly makes us to trust in ourselves. We may justify this by saying we’re co-labourers with God. However, the true gospel is still “Jesus plus nothing.”
Towards the end, Farley addresses a very significant question from those who wonder how then do we live right. The only rational option is to allow Christ to be himself through us…. Guidelines and principles – no matter how “biblical, godly or logical they are – are still very poor substitutes for a life animated by God himself.” (pp.57-8)
The Holy Spirit is more powerful than the credit we give to him. In fact, most Christians don’t trust him to do what he can do even though we give lip service otherwise. How can we not trust that the Holy Spirit is all we need to bring genuine change in our lives?
Farley argued that each of us is designed to show forth Christ in a unique way. This uniqueness is the very thing that religion is out to destroy in creating a uniformity that allows for religious control.
He reminds us that the new creation is what we are made to be. We are reminded to live this life by faith. If we receive this life by faith, we would start wanting what the lord wants. We derive satisfaction only ‘’as we fulfill them” (p.196).
Some Christians might actually reason that most of the issues raised by Farley are too good to be true. We need to however remember that we are to receive the word with humility and check the scriptures he quoted ourselves. We need to be aware that unlearning naturally poses a bigger challenge to learning.
There are however some downsides to the book as it does not address some other pertinent issues about wrong actions. Even if we are to believe that our actions do not change who we are to God, the consequence of making wrong decisions and actions are not clearly pointed out. We are supposed to know that wrong actions or behavior affects us, those around us and at times the wider society simply as a cause and effect even when God is no longer imputing the sin. As we trust the holy spirit to guide us into all truths, we need to appreciate natural consequences of doing wrong things.
Also,the book fails to show that our reigning with Christ in his present and coming kingdom is related to how we allow him to express that life through us (1 Corinthians 3:13-15, 1 Corinthians 6:3). As we all know, we are in the kingdom and there is still a coming kingdom (Luke 17:21, Revelation 21, 22). This notion might be hijacked by legalistic Christians and misinterpreted as promoting works. In reality it does not, it only shows that we can only take up responsibilities in the kingdom that we have developed ability for. And that ability is the attainment of the stature of Christ both individually and corporately.
Overall, this is a good read, especially for those who are looking to have basic understandings of the grace of God in a holistic manner. It’s available for sale on Amazon.
We welcome your comments and questions even if you have not read this book before.
Written by Peter, The New Nation