on April 18, 2011
Christians sometimes have an odd relationship with the Old Testament. Some simply avoid it, due to its particularly nasty depiction of humanity (well deserved at that). Others moralize it, treating everything as an object lesson. "David overcame his giant, what's yours," and that sort of thing. And still others seek to discover where the Old Testament bears witness to Christ. as He Himself said it did (cf. John 5:39; Luke 24:13-35). From the first word of Genesis to the last word of Malachi, it's all about Jesus.
That includes the exodus. This momentous event in the history of the Jewish people became the archetype of God's saving work as the writers of Scripture in both Testaments referenced it again and again. Indeed, Pastor Mike Wilkerson writes, "When it comes to understanding redemption, the key back story in the Bible is the exodus" (p. 33). But what does the Exodus tell us about Jesus--and how does reading it help me, practically? In Redemption, Wilkerson offers thoughtful answers as he examines the exodus account and shows us how through it Jesus frees us from the shame of sin and the futility of idolatry.
The challenge with many books of this nature is that it's very easy for solid, biblical answers to some of life's toughest questions to ring hollow.
"If God is really good, why did this happen to me?"
"Why does God feel so far away?"
"I thought this addiction was behind me--why does it keep coming back?"
"Do I really have to forgive him?"
"Am I destined to be alone for the rest of my life?"
Our anger at others, our anger at God, our frustration over besetting sin... these are not subjects handled lightly. It's easy to say, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life," but what do you do when you have a stepfather who treated you as something less than human (see Sarah's story, pp. 41-53)? In a situation like that, it's difficult to see God's love, despite the reality that "whether our misery is big or small, we all find ourselves under the fountain of God's mercy" (p. 43).
The Israelites, who suffered as slaves under Pharaoh, couldn't see it either. Yet, even in the midst of their suffering, God was not unaware of their suffering. He was facing it.
"He heard, saw, and knew their suffering. He invites us to do the same. The problem isn't that God has abandoned us in our pain, but that sometimes we refuse to face it with him." (p. 49)
Like Israel, God's "firstborn son" (Ex. 4:22), and like so many of us who are adopted as sons (cf. Gal 4:5), God the Son experienced great suffering, yet He did not turn away. Instead, He faced it with God the Father, and in doing so purchased our redemption.
For those who have trusted in Christ, who have suffered greatly, facing our pain is a great struggle, something we must be careful not to minimize. Yet face it we must if we are to be free of our wounds and our idols. But, like Jesus, we can be confident that God will deliver us.
As Wilkerson examines the exodus account, he weaves in the personal stories of men and women who have suffered from various forms of abuse--sexual, physical, mental, and chemical. Some were victims, others victimized themselves. But in each and every circumstance, they experienced redemption through faith in Christ. It didn't make everything better; they still had to face the consequences of sins committed by and against them, but they were able to walk into their new life in Christ, confident in God's steadfast love. He had redeemed them and He would never leave them, nor forsake them.
These stories tell readers that, ultimately, Redemption is about one thing: Renewed worship. In the fall, we turned from worshipping the Creator to worshipping His creation, and it ruined everything. Every problem that exists in the world, every injustice committed, every person defiled by abuse, every marriage that is devastated by adultery... all of it is a worship issue.
Yet so often, even after we have been redeemed, we find ourselves volunteering for slavery to idols. Like the Israelites in the wilderness who built for themselves the golden calf, we build for ourselves functional saviors and deceive ourselves every day. For example, many men (and an increasing number of women) are enslaved to pornography--an idol of their own making. Yet even in the midst of our voluntary enslavement, we are not without hope. Just as Moses interceded for the people of Israel, Jesus intercedes for us. And, "if it were not for this intercession on our behalf, we would not even have the opportunity to repent" (p. 130).
Genuine repentance, moving us from conviction of sin to, ultimately, rejoicing in God's favor, persevering day by day in faithfulness, is a great gift of redemption. It allows us to "trade hates and loves, hating the sin you once loved and loving the God you've hated by your sin. It trades the lie of idolatry for worship in spirit and truth" (p. 133). No matter how grave my sin, it is not too big for Jesus to forgive. No matter how deep the idol, it's not so deep that Jesus can't uproot it.
And He will do it.
The exodus was God's redeeming act of calling out a people from the land of Egypt so that they might worship and obey Him. In Jesus, the greater exodus has come; from among all the nations of the earth, God is saving for Himself a people that will worship Him by faith in Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross paid the great price for the redemption of their sins. With new hearts and new desires, we have been redeemed, freed from our idols, freed from the stain of sin, freed to see God as our promised land. Redemption is a wonderful reminder of all of these great truths.
Churches, married couples and individuals will greatly benefit from reading Redemption and wrestling through its questions and implications. Individuals will be greatly challenged and blessed as they do the same. Let this book's insights minister to you and free you to minister to others.
on February 17, 2011
We live in a sin-stained, idol-filled, addiction-prone world and humanities' greatest need is for redemption. However, for many Christians, bridging the gap that often exists between the Bible and the trial is incredibly difficult. Even those who are well-trained in hermeneutics struggle from time to time to apply God's Word in a relevant way that speaks powerfully to the human condition.
With this in mind, Mike Wilkerson, counseling pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, has written a brilliant book entitled Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry. Drawing upon the Exodus event and real-life stories of addictions, hurt and idolatry, Wilkerson paints a vivid picture on how Jesus leads us to freedom. Some of the stories Wilkerson tells are absolutely gut-wrenching and will make even the most jaded reader wince. Yet that makes the picture of the redemption we have in Christ all the more beautiful.
After an introduction that orients the reader to the reason why sin exists, the first chapter, entitled "When You Suffer, God is Near" outlines how just as Israel suffered under the brutality of the Egyptians, we too suffer. Yet it is in our darkest hour of suffering that we can see the evidences of God most clearly.
The second chapter, entitled "Bricks Without Straw: How Long Oh Lord" encourages believers and those who are hurting most to cry out honestly to God in the midst of our hurt. We may not always receive an answer for why we suffer, yet the Christian can place his or her faith in a God who is always faithful.
Chapter three, entitled "The Passover: At Your Worst, God Gives His Best" Wilkerson shows how the Passover becomes a picture of the cross and a model for God's dealings with us. This chapter centers on our need for forgiveness.
Chapter four, entitled "Crossing the Red Sea: Into a New Life Free from Shame" is really, in many ways, the hallmark chapter of the book. Here, Wilkerson describes how the actual event of the Exodus serves as a paradigm for our own freedom. We are remade because our Creator was unmade. Due to this process of recreation, we are not defined by our past struggles but by our new identity with Christ.
Chapter five, entitled "Demanding Manna: The Subtle Significance of Everyday Desires" was, for me, arguably the most convicting chapter because it deals with an issue that virtually every person struggles with: good desires turning into idols. Here, Wilkerson discusses how even the most basic, natural desires can and often do become idols when they take the place of God. This is a brilliant chapter and full of insight that every pastor needs.
Chapter six, entitled "The Golden Calf: Volunteering for Slavery" is an outstanding chapter on idolatry. While much of this can be read in Tim Keller's Counterfeit Gods, Wilkerson nevertheless brings his own unique spin to the discussion. Ultimately, however, this chapter feels too borrowed from Driscoll's own Death by Love and Counterfeit Gods by Keller. That said, it is nice to see both Driscoll's and Keller's works synthesized into a coherent system.
Chapter seven, entitled "The Covenant-Keeping God: Our Only Hope for Lasting Change" warns the reader that change and freedom is not possible by a simple act of the will. Our redemption is ultimately found in resting in the God who is faithful to His covenant. In many ways, freedom rests not in "doing" but in "being". This chapter provides several needed warnings against such things as "idol-hunting" and "morbid introspection". It is a brilliant chapter and will provide much food for thought.
Chapter 8 is entitled "Is God Your Promised Land" and asks the reader to consider that question very closely. Freedom from sin is not just for the sake of freedom--it is freedom to know God better. If God is not our "Promised Land" we are elevating freedom from a particular sin to the level of an idol. This too is an excellent chapter and is a tremendous reminder for many who find themselves in counseling situations.
Finally, the epilogue and appendix provide short exhortations as well as a helpful summary and synthesis of the book. My only regret here is that another chapter was not devoted to Wilkerson for the very heavy topic of religious addiction, which he covers in a mere page and a half in the appendix. Overall, however, the epilogue and the appendix serve their purpose well.
In conclusion, Wilkerson's book is a tremendous book that covers the some much needed ground in truly biblical counseling. Redemption is highly readable and practical. I found myself repeatedly needing to place the book down and worship our God who has redeemed us. While the book is short, clocking in at 176 pages, it is a heavy book and is not light reading. In many ways, I wish this book was made mandatory for every believer taking a hermeneutics class because it teaches one how to apply the Bible accurately and practically. It is my prayer that Wilkerson's book finds its way into the hands of many pastors.
*Thanks to Crossway Publishers for providing me a free review copy of this book*
on August 25, 2011
This is a powerful book that any Christian can profit from. It is extremely well written and engaging. I cannot recommend it high enough.
I have just completed a weekend intensive with my church. We used this book, and it was life changing. The format called for each of the participants to read the book before the weekend started. We then had a session for each chapter. The session would consist of 15 minutes of worship, 45 minutes of teaching (The teaching was 100% based on the chapter in the book. Even the same illustrations were used.), then we had an hour and a half of group time to share our thoughts, struggles, sins, and sadness. I cannot imagine doing that without the aid of this book.
The content of the book looks at the ways people have suffered and have often turned that suffering to sin. It seeks to break us free of both and uses the story of the Exodus to do so.
At very least, try the Kindle Sample. It won't cost you anything. If you don't like the into/first chapter, don't buy it. However, I would be surprised if that is possible.
on May 24, 2011
Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry by Mike Wilkerson (Crossway Books, 2011) is an incredible application of gospel work applied to the darkest parts of our being. It is a must read! It is a necessary resource for recovery ministries and groups. It is essential to marriage and family health. It applies to men and women of all ages and is vital for individual healing and church health. The most amazing aspect of this book is that although it focuses primarily on recovery ministries the message applies to everyone redeemed by the cross of Christ:
We are shackled by the past. Our bodies may be free but our hearts remain in Egypt.
The message of Redemption begins in slavery in Egypt and uses the Exodus event to show how Jesus Christ is your redemption. The message is fully God-centered showing that God's story is about God and how God's story answers real life questions. How does the cross apply to my past abuse? How does the cross apply to my past addictions? How does the cross apply to other problems in my life: marriage, family, eating disorders, depression, and any other issue I am dealing (or have dealt) with? Why is my life out of balance? Why can't I find peace?
Mike Wilkerson masterfully winds the exodus narrative through personal testimonies and illustrations to show how this major event in Israel's history is our model to understand our redemption in Jesus. This is established by the three main themes of redemption throughout the exodus: deliverance, ransom, and renewal. Through the cross, God delivers us from the bondage of our sin. Through the cross, God pays the ransom for our redemption from the penalty of our sin. Through the cross, God renews and restores us to our pre-fall condition into the image and likeness of his Son Jesus Christ. "When redemption is complete, God's original purpose for all creation will be completely restored" (36).
Like Pharaoh held the Israelites, Wilkerson shows how our abusers, addictions and shame hold us in captivity. He addresses bondage that is against our will well as our tendency to volunteer ourselves for slavery. He shows how we fail to trust in God by not placing our faith entirely in Christ just like the Israelites did not trust God's provision while wandering in the wilderness. In addition, he shows how our faith in Christ is usually not true, biblical faith but rather it is an agreement to trust God as long as he provides for us on our terms (Chapter 5: Demanding Manna).
The wounds of our past, self-inflicted or other-inflicted, define and determine who we are today. We hold onto them. We live in the past. We even long for the days of slavery back in Egypt over an unknown future. We have been set free from bondage and slavery but we are not yet to the Promised Land. We are wandering in the wilderness. We are pilgrims on the way. Every trial and test we face in life is an opportunity to trust God or run back into slavery in Egypt. Redemption helps us see this from God's perspective. God is renewing us. This is redemption. We cannot be the people God created us to be until we stop looking back and run to the cross. Redemption teaches us how. We bring all of our baggage from the past into all we do today. Once the shackles break off and we are truly free, our lives and relationships can begin to be what God intended. Redemption is the answer.
Read it. You will be transformed.
on January 26, 2012
In Redemption Mike Wilkerson provides a true biblical approach to freedom from addiction and not merely a "redeemed" version of a secular method. The following quote highlights this perfectly.
"Some believe their addiction is an irreversible fact of life and can be managed only by healthy habits. I once talked with one man who through AA had stopped abusing alcohol. Unfortunately in the process he gained a new addiction: his preoccupation with sobriety......the addiction is always at the center defining life." - pg. 24
This is the first book on this topic I have ever read that does this. Based on this fact, I think this text could easily become a road map for years to come in the churches efforts to free her people from the chains of addiction.
Additionally, I have been in church leadership, in one form or another, for a decade and when I read books under the topics of recovery, grace, forgiveness and even salvation I am typically looking to categorize it in one of two ways. The first is a book for the leader which is meant to help him understand an issue and shepherd/lead people dealing with it. The second category is for a book written for the person actually dealing with an issue; in this case that would be addiction. This book clearly falls into the first category of being for the leader who is looking for help in facilitating some real change and progress in the lives of people dealing with addiction. Placed in this category I think that Redemption proves to be excellent.
The only caveat that I have and the reason for four stars is that this book may be unapproachable to those who do not read regularly and/or do no not have anyone to shepherd them through the process that the text prescribes. Due to this, I think that it could benefit greatly from a companion work book to facilitate application in a small group environment, or in an individual who is working through some addiction issues on their own.
In summary, this is a great book which I would, without hesitation, recommend to any leader looking to build a redemption ministry and/or walk with one person on their path to recovery.
Re:Lit and Mars Hill Church hit another homerun.