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Gospel Wakefulness Paperback – October 6, 2011
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“Gospel Wakefulness was a joy to read. My eyes filled with tears and my heart flooded with joy on numerous occasions. It’s been a long time since a book created the emotion in me that this book has. The chapters on brokenness and sanctification were humbling and beautiful reads. I am praying that Gospel Wakefulness falls into a lot of hands and hearts.”
—Matt Chandler, Lead Pastor, The Village Church, Dallas, Texas; President, Acts 29 Church Planting Network; author, The Mingling of Souls and The Explicit Gospel
“Is it possible that in our evangelical desire for bigger, better, faster, shinier, and louder we’ve actually dulled our spiritual senses? What can wake us up? Only the astonishment the Spirit brings through the gospel of Jesus. In his new book, Jared Wilson beautifully keys in on our need to be bowled over by the life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God and helps us seek real amazement in God’s ‘amazing grace.’ Writing with passion and clarity, Wilson shines the light of Christ on every page.”
—Ed Stetzer, Billy Graham Distinguished Chair for Church, Mission, and Evangelism, Wheaton College
“Anyone hungry and thirsty for righteousness will be refreshed by the invigorating streams of truth that flow from Gospel Wakefulness. Jared Wilson wants us to delight in the gospel to the point that sin becomes bitter and Christ becomes our supreme treasure. May this book awaken your affections toward the Savior who deserves all praise.”
—Trevin Wax, Bible and Reference Publisher, LifeWay Christian Resources; author, This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel
“To paraphrase Solomon, of making many books (about the gospel) there is no end. And I’m glad of it! I pray we never reach the day when we grow weary of writing and reading books about the gospel. That is why I’m profoundly grateful for Jared Wilson’s contribution to this growing genre of Christian literature. He awakens us to the power of the gospel—that alone brings hope in the midst of brokenness and joy—in the stunning truth that a holy God is actually for us. If you need to wake up to the beauty of the gospel (and who doesn’t?), this book is for you. If you’ve ever wondered how the gospel quite literally and radically changes everything, both now and tomorrow, Gospel Wakefulness is must reading.”
—Sam Storms, Senior Pastor, Bridgeway Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
“Gospel Wakefulness is one of the most theologically faithful, refreshingly honest, pastorally sensitive, and eminently practical books on the gospel I have read in a long time. Accessible without tiresome clichés or self-serving anecdotes, Jared writes as a man astonished at the riches of God’s grace, committed to the maturing of Christ’s church, and engaged with the advancing of God’s kingdom. The gospel is more clear and precious to me for having read Jared’s book. I cannot think of a greater compliment to be able to offer.”
—Scotty Smith, Teacher in Residence, West End Community Church, Nashville, Tennessee
“How many of us really understand the power of the gospel? It’s about more than just knowing the facts; it’s a deep-down realization that something amazing and wonderful has taken place. Jared Wilson explains that our lives will overflow with incredible joy and thankfulness when we truly comprehend the gospel. Jared’s book changes how we see the gospel and reminds us of just how amazing grace is.”
—Greg Surratt, Pastor, Seacoast Church
“By God’s grace this book will help ignite a burning obsession with the always-overwhelming, always-underrated, and always-powerful gospel of Jesus Christ. Don’t read this book unless you are ready to be ignited with a passion for the gospel in an extraordinary way.”
—Burk Parsons, Copastor, Saint Andrew’s Chapel, Sanford, Florida; Editor, Tabletalk magazine
“You’re a Christian, but you’re lagging. Joy is elusive. You struggle to get as excited about your faith as you do about Monday Night Football or lavishly dressed housewives. As sinners, we will all find ourselves in this position at some point. What we need is a fresh vision of the gospel, a new savoring of God’s grace in Christ. Jared Wilson gives us just this gift in Gospel Wakefulness—a book that makes us laugh even as it makes a mark.”
—Owen Strachan, Associate Professor of Christian Theology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; coauthor, The Grand Design; coeditor, Designed for Joy
“Jared is a brilliant writer with an important message, calling us back to the power of the gospel. He reminds us that we don’t need to desperately try to make it attractive because it already is the most attractive thing in the universe! Wilson demonstrates how we can simply and powerfully proclaim the gospel through our lives and ministries. I feel liberated by this much-needed call to gospel wakefulness!”
—Jud Wilhite, author, Eyes Wide Open and Uncensored Grace; senior pastor, Central Christian Church, Las Vegas, Nevada
“You may not recognize your need for this book until you read it. You won’t be sorry that you did, but be warned: Jared Wilson’s relentless focus on the wondrous grace of Jesus Christ may prompt some painful if ultimately liberating reflection on your desperate, everyday need for a Savior. Enjoy highlighting Wilson’s many pithy lines on our ongoing need for the gospel and rejoice over the stories of redemption he tells.”
—Collin Hansen, Editorial Director, The Gospel Coalition; author, Blind Spots
“It’s been said you can’t commend what you don’t cherish. It is clear Jared Wilson cherishes the life-saving, life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ. In this book he also commends it, so we will do the same.”
—Elliot Grudem, Director, A29 Network; pastor, Mars Hill Church; Editor, Christian Beliefs
“Gospel Wakefulness clearly explains the difference between simply knowing the content of the gospel and being utterly captivated by it. Jared masterfully paints a picture of what a truly ‘gospel wakened’ soul looks like, all the while pointing to our inability to accomplish this ourselves. He continually points to the magnificent work of Jesus and clearly states how the good news should influence our lives. This book tells the story of how a proper understanding of the law and the gospel leads to not only a bigger view of Christ, but also to a life completely transformed by him. It challenges both new and seasoned Christians to go beyond merely intellectual Christianity and experience the full majesty of the cross of Christ.”
—Justin S. Holcomb, Episcopal Priest; Professor of Christian Thought, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; coauthor, Rid of My Disgrace and Is It My Fault?
About the Author
Jared C. Wilson is the director of content strategy at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, and managing editor of the seminary's website for gospel-centered resources, For the Church. He is a popular author and conference speaker, and also blogs regularly at Gospel Driven Church, hosted by the Gospel Coalition. His books include Your Jesus Is Too Safe, Gospel Wakefulness, Gospel Deeps, The Pastor’s Justification, The Storytelling God, and The Wonder-Working God.
Raymond C. Ortlund Jr. is the pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee. He is the author of several books, including the Preaching the Word commentary on Isaiah, as well as a contributor to the ESV Study Bible. He and his wife, Jani, have four children.
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Starting at the book's conclusion, his friend said to him, "I feel like all this gospel-centered this and gospel-centered that is just our version of 'smurfy'". Wilson doesn't think so and I hope he is right. This book demonstrates the centrality of the gospel in all things. I never get tired of it and it is clear that Wilson does not either.
The influences of Luther, Piper, and Edwards come through in this book. (At times, perhaps Brother Lawrence as well). Wilson is clearly a student of Calvinism, but not just any Calvinism--the Calvinism that beholds the majesty of God, basking in the wonder of his never ending glory. He writes, "there are only two steps to gospel wakefulness: be utterly broken and utterly awed. But neither of these things are things you can really do. They are things only God can do for you" (p. 35). His gospel wakefulness has a necessary dependence upon a gracious God.
Wilson also suggests "one of the marks of gospel wakefulness is the failure of anything else to thrill the soul like the gospel" (p. 59). I know where he is coming from. The gospel fills my thoughts--it fills my affections--yet I long for a deeper and deeper filling of God.
Another aspect of this book that I really enjoyed were the stories from his gospel wakened friends. "Andrew's Story" was particularly moving (p. 162ff). Andrew is a young man who has suffered with a deep depression. He reflects on the the holy week. He writes, "I'm so afraid. The thought of my God asphyxiating on a Roman cross is too much. The image of him lifeless, wrapped in a burial shroud--the blood is not even wet--hurts so much that I can barely breathe. Man himself has killed his only hope. To see all-surpassing Love and to beat it without mercy, to nail it senselessly to a slab of poorly fashioned wood--what is despair if it is not that? It's sickening. When Love is gone, what is there left to believe in?
"But Easter Sunday always comes. It comes while the world sleeps. It comes with the gentle fury that only God almighty could bring to pass. In the twilight of the world's end, we have the subversion of death itself. It happened here on this earth. No one even knew.
"I cannot grasp it. It is too unbelievable, to unreal, to imagine. To bring life out of nothingness. It cuts me so deep. Hope resounds even in the darkest corners of the earth. That Love could defeat cruelty, misery, fear, suffering--can you believe that?
"Even the darkest night will turn to morning. The sun is always rising. Even the worst sinners can be made clean. Evil--Death itself--obliterated by Love. Saturday is over, Sunday is here."
Does this move you? Does the gospel rock your world? Or do you find yourself racing through your quiet time so that you can "get on" with your day? Do you wish the pastor would hurry up so you can start watching the game? Do you skip out on singing at church or are you holding back the tears, contemplating the wonder of the gospel?
That's what this book is about.
a gift from a former student, a star pupil currently pursuing her doctorate.
In a small, dingy apartment in Midwest America lives an elderly immigrant woman who sells newspapers and fresh cut flowers during the day and cleans an office building in the evenings. On an iron shelf in her bedroom sits a mall lidless glass jar, and in that jar is a piece of the Berlin Wall the size of a marble. She has often held that piece of rock in her withered hand and wept. Her husband did not live to see the wall come down. Her cousin was one of the estimated five thousand people who tried to escape from the communist Eastern Bloc into West Berlin. He was one of the estimated one hundred to two hundred people killed by border guards in the attempt. He was one of those crushed by the Iron Curtain, so she is one of those who knows the unique confluence of memorial pain and joy in having intimately felt how the world once was and in having experienced how the whole world was changed. She knows what it feels like to carry an ocean full of grief and longing, what it feels like to cling to a sliver of hope, and what it feels like when that sliver of hope--a crack in the great barrier of darkness--gives way to a dam break of glorious fulfillment and release.
When the professor hears the epic Brandenburg Gate speech in which President Ronald Reagan famously commanded, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" he admires it as a watershed moment in history, as iconic a sound bite from the annals of historical rhetoric as any. When the woman hears "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" she is stirred, always. When the professor speaks of the fall of the Berlin Wall as an earth-shattering event, he really does mean to communicate the radical nature of the event; he really does understand this. But the woman knows that the fall of the Berlin Wall was an earth-shattering event deep down in her bones.
This is gospel wakefulness."
And this is how Jared Wilson begins his book, Gospel Wakefulness.
In it, Wilson spends many pages simply rejoicing in the message of the Gospel. Gospel wakefulness, defined by Wilson, is "treasuring Christ more greatly and savoring His power more sweetly." This is what the book aims to aid the reader in doing and it is, by the grace of God, very successful. Wilson's intent is to rejoice in the Gospel in such a manner that it continues to stir up believers to greater affection and awe of the one true God. Wilson is clear that he is not speaking of conversion, primarily. There is a wakefulness to the Gospel that occurs when Christ makes dead men come to life, when we are converted by the Gospel, for sure. But Wilson's focus in this text is not conversion, but a greater Gospel affection that occurs after our initial Gospel reception. It is when the Gospel message, and the Savior King of the message, becomes preminent in the hearts, minds, lives and affections of the believer. When the sometimes becomes the all-the-time and the mountaintops of God's present love become the daily path the believer walks.
Wilson takes a few pages at the beginning of the book to answer the question, "What is the Gospel?" His answer avoids the typical reductionism that has become prevalent in a post-Revivalism Evangelical world where "the Gospel" is simply about how a person "gets saved". Wilson does a good job, as he does in The Explicit Gospel, of helping the reader to see that "The Gospel" in Scripture is nothing less than personal salvation, but it is much more! It is a good, brief description of the Gospel that is ever-increasingly necessary in an Evangelical sub-world where we have become "Gospel" focused, but to the point where "Gospel" has devolved into a word devoid of its biblical meaning. "Gospel" has become an Evangelical shibboleth of sorts where, while maintaining a reductionist meaning, it is used as a catchphrase/buzzword to identify the "good guys" (gospel,gospel,gospel--even when the Gospel is poorly defined or poorly applied) from the "bad guys" (those liberals who hate the Gospel and only want to dig wells and feed people).
The pages Wilson devotes to initially defining the Gospel are necessary and beneficial, as are the chapters that follow. There really should be instructions on the back jacket for how to properly consume Gospel Wakefulness, like a shampoo tube telling you how to wash your hair. For this book, the instructions could be: Read, Rejoice, Repeat.
Read the chapter. Read the presentation of the Gospel. Read the explanation of the Gospel. Read testimony from people who have experienced a greater wakefulness to the Gospel message and the Savior of the Gospel. Read stories and accounts of people who have experienced "an expulsive power of a new affection"(Chalmers), people who have come to love Jesus in a whole new way.
Rejoice in the message of the Savior King. Rejoice in the message of a Father who loves His children. Rejoice in the message of a Creator who goes to the greatest lengths imaginable to redeem and restore His creation., including you and I. Rejoice in the messenger. Rejoice in the Scriptures that bring the message to us. Rejoice in the men and women who have perpetuated the story over the past millenia. Rejoice in the central figure of the message. Rejoice in the veracity of the message. Rejoice in the immediacy of the message. Rejoice in the supremacy of the message. Rejoice in the sufficiency of the message. Rejoice in the historicity of the message. Rejoice in the finality of the message. Rejoice, and again I say, rejoice!
Repeat. Some of these chapters deserve a second reading. Or a third. Not because they are complex, they are not. Not because it is a taxing or confusing or a monotonous read that would cause you to skim and miss, because the chapters are none of those. Rather, these chapters warrant a second or third or fourth read because the message they convey is amazing. The joy and confidence with which the message is conveyed is contagious and encouraging. And some chapters, depending on circumstance, will need to be read multiple times. Not to understand the concepts or to see the logical flow coupled with testimony and biblical evidence, but to simply "get it". And maybe to keep it.
Maybe you have been attacked by the attempted enslavement of religiosity and everything in our oftentimes anti-Scriptural, "Gospel" focused Evangelical sub-culture. Chapter 5, Freedom from Hyperspirituality, may serve you greatly. Maybe you are a pastor, or an interested member of a local church. Chapter 10 on The Gospel Wakened Church is a great read. Maybe you are struggling with your role in sanctification, how does grace mesh with works in the life of a born-again believer. Chapter 7 on Gospel Driven Sanctification is a dynamic look at this complex subject.
The chapter that really ministered to me was Chapter 8 on Depression. Wilson draws from his own struggles, the testimony of others, teachings from church history and, primarily, Scripture itself to minister to those afflicted with depression. This is a subject that needs a dose of honesty and a refocus on the Savior who gives grace to those who believe, but also a common grace that reigns over His creation, and this is what Wilson does.
Gospel Wakefulness is a wonderful book and a means by which God will minister mightily for some time to come. It is worth a read, or a few.