Jared C. Wilson, Pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont has written a heart-felt call to the spiritually lazy Christian to re-awaken to the beauty, freedom, and necessity of the Gospel in the midst of a cultural christian message that has served to place a pillow under the head of well meaning followers of Jesus Christ.
From the beginning Wilson refuses to cut corners as he presents a reminder of what the true Gospel of Jesus Christ is, and begins to describe the concept he refers to as "Gospel Wakefulness", "Treasuring Christ more greatly and savoring his power more sweetly (24)." His goal, as laid out in chapter one, is that, "as we pour over this robust gospel together, you will find more and more cause to exalt in your gospel wakefulness, or perhaps experience it for the first time." This book spoke to me on several different levels, reading this book I found that the Gospel continues to inform my thinking personally in my own walk with Jesus Christ, and as a Pastor of Biblical Counseling.
Wilson presents the concept all to well. In fact, the concept almost immediately becomes the desire of the reader, the "Spiritual euphoria, the exorbitant joy, the desire to leap and praise...spiritually seeing with eyes of faith what you always assumed was there" (33). What true follower of Jesus Christ does not desire that? What true follower of Christ wouldn't want to know how to grow in that concept? Wilson paints a beautiful picture of what our relationship with God can be under the banner of "Gospel Wakefulness" and then brings a disappointing truth to bare on the conversation when he writes, "I cannot lay out gospel wakefulness in a technique or a system like your mom might lay out your Sunday clothes (35)." Wilson admits this is not a self-help program, with six steps to a deeper walk with God. While I understand that, and while I appreciate that Wilson does not desire to try and present a program, I found myself frustrated at first as I read this book. My desire was to blame, or accuse Wilson of speaking down to his readers. My critique pictured Wilson, and those he deemed spiritually awakened, to be on a higher spiritual plane, as if to say, "You haven't arrived until you have experienced Gospel Wakefulness". I pictured a usual spiritual conversion of the individual who came to Christ as a means of avoiding Hell. Yes, he believed in Christ, and yes, Ihe loved him, but, if he was completely honest, he did not want to go to Hell when Ihe died. That is a picture of us in our immaturity, but it is an immaturity of faith that I believe Christ views just as valid as the one who has experienced what Wilson considers, "Gospel Wakefulness." To be fair, Wilson was not saying that this type of salvation experience was invalid, he was saying that often times our understanding of the Gospel can, and should mature over time. Many times this maturity is like a "Spiritual quantum leap in...sanctification, in which God [brings] the gospel to bear powerfully," in our everyday situations (29). As I continued reading I realized that it was my desire to grow in love with Jesus Christ, and experience even more the depths of gospel maturity that awaited me on this path which led to my frustration. This is when i realized that Wilson's writing had awakened me to the idea that the pursuit of such a faith was a journey worth taking. In terms of a tool to deepen one's personal walk with Jesus Christ I highly recommend this book.
A second area that Wilson's book challenged me was in my Counseling ministry. While the purpose of this book is not to sharpen skills, or develop Biblical Counseling methods it does speak to various issues one would experience in the counseling office. The primary counseling related issues I see addressed in this book are those of Spiritual numbness of emotions, depression, heart idolatry, and personal sanctification. Many times there seems to be a fine line to balance between leading someone to grow deeper in love with their savior, or leading them down the road of behavioristic exercises. Wilson writes, "When we are free from the law's curse, we are set free to the law's blessings. The difference-maker is the gospel and the joyful worship it creates. Any other attempt at law-abiding is just behavior management (115). As a Biblical Counselor I totally agree. My belief is that encouraging any believer to practice the law, (what I normally ask people to do are to engage in a spiritual activity such as certain spiritual disciplines) apart from a deepening love of God is simply leading them to practice behaviorism. The activity alone cannot cure their spiritual struggles, but when "we truly behold the gospel, we can't help but grow in Christ and with the fruit of the Spirit (116)." The difficulty comes because the counselor and the counselee both desire to see changed behavior. The temptation is to work on the superficially presented problem avoiding the inward truth that we all, "worship our way into sin, and we have to worship our way out...the sin problem is just a symptom of a deeper worship problem...affections are set somewhere else. And wherever our affections are set is where our behavior will go (117)." Our goal in helping these individuals must be to help them on the heart level. They must see the truth of their spiritual idolatry, which is what their sin struggle essentially is. Leading them into spiritual disciplines alone is not enough, a counselee, "must behold the wondrous things in God's law...he must be moved to decide to be diligent from a force outside of himself. His eyes must be opened by the Spirit. And in this opening, the law and his keeping of it become wondrous, not tedious (116)." This is the goal of all true gospel teaching, and it is what Wilson says gospel wakefulness accomplishes. If you know someone caught in the trap of spiritual numbness, trying to understand where he stands with God, and why his emotions fall flat, I highly recommend this book.
While these are only a couple area's in which Wilson's book challenged me, the concept he presents has the potential to inform all area's of one's life. The reason is the because the focus is right. Wilson always avoid the hyperspiritual and brings his readers back to a reminder of who we are apart from Jesus Christ, the great lengths God went to for the potential of a relationship with Him to exist, and how that relationship provides freedom and hope in the midst of a dark and fallen world. I am happy to have this book on my bookshelf.