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Do not read this book
on September 20, 2012
I was given this book to read because I was told it was an excellent book. The more I read the more upset I became and could barely complete the book. In closer examination I realized I was feeling bullied. Bullied by a man who said he was about grace yet used language that was not seasoned with grace.
What I found confusing was that I could not quite figure out who his audience was. Was it for the lukewarm unbeliever, the lukewarm believer, or the believer with lukewarm components to his life. He states that lukewarm people who called themselves Christians were not really Christians, but the he talks about believers who are Christians but who are lukewarm. Then he uses the word "we" throughout the book, thereby I presume he is also calling himself a lukewarm Christian.
After stating that lukewarm Christians were not to be found in heaven, he quotes Rev 3:16-18 as a basis for his statements on lukewarmness, but fails to quote verse 19: As many as I love, I rebuke and achasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. A clear statement that the lukewarm church he was addressing was loved and therefore He was rebuking them and would chasten them if needed. There is no indication that the church was about to be kicked out of their eternal position in Christ. The entire premise of this dominant point in the book falls apart.
This book is not about the gospel of grace. The book uses fear. And fear does not change people. It can be used in attempts of behaviour modification, but fear does not change the heart. God's kindness leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). Having lived in performance based Christian bondage for years, it was God's kindness that eventually broke through. Certainly, God is holy, but that is why we need Jesus. God is perfect, that's why we need Jesus. God is patient with us because of the work of the cross. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:17). Chan speaks of grace, but it sparsely populates the book, and the overall domination of law through word usage and tone drowns out what little grace there is.
Francis Chan provides a long list of features of the lukewarm. He then goes about creating a long list of what an obsessed Christian looks like. It's as if Chan has created a new set of Commandments on proper Christian behaviour that must be followed otherwise we are lukewarm and "we" are no longer saved. The law states that if you miss even the smallest law you are condemned. My question is: What if I display only one or 2 of the lukewarm characteristics and not all of the obsessed characteristics. Do I fail the test? Is there a tipping point? What if I am not obsessed at all, but quietly trying to live out my life before God? What if there areas in my life that God has not brought maturity and awareness to, am I good enough?
Doesn't this sound like the Old Testament? Isn't this the Old Covenant that God abandoned and replaced with the New Covenant? Throughout the NT epistles, Paul challenges and rebukes (almost angrily in some cases) the return to the law and making up of rules. People who use this book as a mirror will likely end up living by a set of rules and be under condemnation for not meeting the standard (the law).
Chan overtly implies that if you do not do these obsessed things you are lukewarm and therefore condemned. I have lived under performance oriented Christianity for most of my life, I am not about to start doing it again. Perhaps this is what has made me more sensitive to what this book says. I will mirror my heart against Jesus and be led by His Spirit into what I am to do and be. Certainly I will examine my heart, but I am not about to let Francis Chan dictate to me that I need to be obsessed and follow a new set of rules.
As to the tone of the book, I finally had to ask myself this question: Is this how Jesus talks to me? Is this how He develops His character in me, through harsh words and threats of judgment and condemnation? NO! I know his voice. When He speaks, my heart gets changed, I am lifted up, I am encouraged even when I am rebuked by Him. My Shepherd doesn't talk to me in the same way that Chan talks to his readers.
Because of the error in Chan's approach I do not even recommend this book for its few good elements. There are many other better books that talk about God's incredible love for us. Read: He Loves Me, Learning to live in the Father's Affection. The Naked Gospel is also another book that gives an excellent representation of the gospel of grace and the living for the Lord in that Spirit of grace. Jesus yoke is easy. His burden is light. Francis Chan's Crazy Love is more of a millstone and just plain crazy.