Today, we release the newest book from GCD Books—Jim Hudson’s Renew: How the Gospel Makes Us New. Too often we limit the power of the gospel to its blessings for us in the afterlife. We fail to see how the power of God, which raised Jesus from the dead, fuels our day-to-day battle against sin in this life. Renew shows us the grace of God is able to change us now.
For those looking to break specific sinful habits and temptations as well as those looking to gain a better grasp of how a Christian grows Renew speaks to the power of the gospel today.
Mathew B. Sims, Managing Editor
So how exactly do we grow spiritually? Is it simply a case of willpower and conquering our sin through perseverance and effort? In many parts of Christianity that is exactly what is believed. Growth is simply equated with obedience. We read the Bible and go to church to understand how we are supposed to live rightly and then our job as Christians is to try and do just that. God’s grace is rarely mentioned here.
In other parts of the Christian church, the therapeutic model is what is taught as the model for change/growth. Under the therapeutic model we try to understand how our wounds and dysfunctional family systems hinder our God views and contribute to our own dysfunctional behavior (which is rarely called sin). Our role is to apply wisdom principles (usually a blend of man-centered approaches and biblical proof texts) to enable us to overcome our problems. God’s grace is hard to find here too.
Still other approaches call into question the very idea of spiritual growth, seeing growth as something that may or may not even happen. This is the “let go, let God” approach. The focus here is on God’s unconditional approval of us as we are, without regard to whether we ever change. This approach may mention the grace of God, but it is a very anemic grace that lacks any power. Instead, it is a false grace that can often lead to permissiveness.
Each of these approaches has some parts that are true. God’s word does indeed give us a template for living, and throughout Scripture there are exhortations for us to engage in personal effort to live rightly. And it is also true that the wounds we receive from the sins of others affect us and can shape our own sin tendencies. And it is also true that, in Christ (an important caveat), we are loved by God apart from our growth as a Christian.
Yet all of the above approaches to growth are incomplete and, at some level, plain wrong. If we have the ability to overcome sin through our own effort, then Jesus died for no reason. And our wounds are not our greatest problem—it’s our own sin. No wisdom of man can overcome that problem. And God clearly cares about our growth. In fact, Romans 8:29 says that he has predestined us to be conformed to the image of his son. It would be unloving of God to not care about our daily fight against sin because it causes so much suffering in us. Because God loves us, he wants us to grow and to experience victory in our fight against sin. In fact, the Bible says he wants us to be dead to sin (Rom. 6:11).
This study is aimed at showing how the gospel, the means by which God initially brings us to salvation, is also the means by which God continues to save us for our ongoing growth, which the bible calls “sanctification.” Because of our faith in the completed and perfect work of Jesus Christ (through his life, death and resurrection), the power of God (grace) has been made available to us to fight against sin, to grow into the image of Christ and in so doing to glorify God. My hope for you is that through this study you will see how much God loves you and all that he has done for you in Christ. That will in turn cause you to love him more and love your sin less. Love God and hate sin. That is how we grow.
Jim Hudson (MA, JD) serves as a pastor and elder at Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. His ministry passion is to help others see the wonderful truth that through the Gospel we have all we need for life and godliness. Jim lives in Little Rock with his wife Leigh. While they have no children of their own, in Christ they have many spiritual children and grandchildren.