Tuesday Morning Book Review || A Grace Revealed

bookEvery Tuesday morning, I review a book that I read recently. If you missed any, you can read past reviews here. This week’s book is A Grace Revealed: How God Redeems the Story of Your Life (kindle version) by Jerry Sittser. I’ve read two of his books and neither has disappointed.

A Grace Revealed looks at what the redemption provided by Jesus really means and does. Many have this idea that redemption means everything in our life gets cleaned and life becomes this rosy walk. While redemption does promise that one day, God will right all the wrongs of our lives and world, redemption does not promise it will happen now. 

So, what is redemption? According to Sittser:

Redemption from something — namely, sin and death and hell — also implies redemption for something, which once again points to the future. Redemption promises reconciliation between God and humanity, thereby turning enmity into friendship; restoring our broken relationship with God; repairing the divine image in us, once marred almost beyond recognition; renewing spiritual lives that were selfish, stagnant, and perverse; reforming ugly character and conduct; and resurrecting the body after death, which will make our bodies fit for eternity. God reclaims what is rightfully his. He created us; he redeemed us. We belong to him, twice over. In short, we are not only liberated from sin and evil, we are also given new life — a life so new that the apostle Paul equates it with sharing in the inexpressible and inexhaustible glory of God. God redeems through Jesus Christ, completely and perfectly. We don’t have to earn or accomplish our redemption as if it were a burden that rests on our shoulders alone. It is not a project but a gift, not something to achieve but something to receive.

One of the other things I loved about his picture of redemption is how it is not our job. It is something that is already completed, worked out by God, but something we live into and become. Sittser said:

Redemption means becoming the new persons we already are in Jesus Christ. In fact, we can become new in Christ because we already are new in Christ. Redemption is the work of Jesus Christ applied to the unfolding story of life, your life and my life. It turns gospel truth into a dramatic narrative and makes theology applicable to everyday life. Redemption happens through God’s involvement in the ordinary circumstances of life, no matter what those circumstances happen to be. You are not beyond God’s redemptive reach — not now, not ever. Redemption is rooted in a paradox, which can be summed up in a simple phrase: we become who we already are in Jesus Christ.

Here are a few other things that jumped out in the reading:

  • If you dare to surrender yourself to God, he will take up the story of your life and integrate it into the great story of salvation, turning it into something so extraordinary that you will be tempted to think that it was all a beautiful dream.
  • He wants to use the harsh conditions of life to shape us — and eventually the whole world — into something extraordinarily beautiful.
  • God purposes to claim us as his own — no matter how far we are from him, how fallen into sin, how lost and lonely. He wants to restore us to a right relationship with him and to remake us according to the image of Jesus Christ, which will ultimately lead to the renewal of the whole world.
  • God is the author of the redemptive story, from beginning to end. As sovereign Lord of the universe he is writing the story — it is thus his story; we are only playing a role in it. Still, as characters in the story, we do have freedom to make choices and thus to shape the plot, though that freedom is only true freedom when, in the course of the story, we surrender it to God and do his will. The setting and circumstances in which we live — however desirable or miserable — always play a limited role and, if submitted to God, can actually play a useful role.
  • The goal of redemption is not immediate happiness as we might define it now, but holiness of life; not the good life as we imagine it on Earth, but the perfection of Heaven itself.
  • Heaven is not some “place” out or up there, perhaps on the other side of Jupiter. It is rather a completion, enlargement, and perfection of what we experience in this life. Thus, everything that happens in this life spills over into that other and greater life, pointing beyond itself to reality as God knows, sees, and experiences it.
  • The problem is, none of us actually lives that way. We might be new in Christ, but we don’t behave in a way that seems new. If anything, there is still a lot of “old” in us.
  • redemption has a future orientation that is grounded in God’s eternal purpose,
  • Redemption from something — namely, sin and death and hell — also implies redemption for something, which once again points to the future. Redemption promises reconciliation between God and humanity, thereby turning enmity into friendship; restoring our broken relationship with God; repairing the divine image in us, once marred almost beyond recognition; renewing spiritual lives that were selfish, stagnant, and perverse; reforming ugly character and conduct; and resurrecting the body after death, which will make our bodies fit for eternity. God reclaims what is rightfully his. He created us; he redeemed us. We belong to him, twice over. In short, we are not only liberated from sin and evil, we are also given new life — a life so new that the apostle Paul equates it with sharing in the inexpressible and inexhaustible glory of God.
  • God redeems through Jesus Christ, completely and perfectly. We don’t have to earn or accomplish our redemption as if it were a burden that rests on our shoulders alone. It is not a project but a gift, not something to achieve but something to receive.
  • Circumstances don’t make us happy; only God can, enlarging our capacity to know and love him.
  • however bad it may be, adversity has no power to thwart God’s redemptive plan.
  • faith always comes easily when it isn’t really needed,
  • Faith is not faith when it sees, wills, and gets what it wants; it is not the same as self-confidence, natural optimism, or positive thinking.
  • The Christian answer to suffering, however, is suffering itself, Christ’s suffering; it is also resurrection, Christ’s resurrection — both of which are eternal realities to God. God knows pain within himself; God knows joy within himself. He knows the whole story as one, including how it all turns out, which is glorious indeed.
  • To be a person of character, then, is to exhibit the qualities Jesus Christ manifested while he lived on earth, whose suffering seasoned him and whose steady obedience made him strong and true, like a weathered tree.
  • circumstances alone have no power to determine what a person becomes.
  • Redemption thus consists of becoming who we already are in Christ.

If understanding where God is in your life story, how he is redeeming your life, what has happened, the pain you’ve experienced, or if you are questioning your salvation, this is a book worth reading.