Active Spirituality by Brian G. Hedges
Written as a series of a letters to a new Christian in the faith, Brian Hedges new book entitled Active Spirituality is a remarkably wise and thoughtful book. Taking the poles of justification and sanctification as his key anchors, he writes these letters with a sense of the finality of our being made right by God while also incorporating the hard work that being more like Christ is a gradual process. Not shying away from the gospel’s indicatives and imperatives, every Christian will find something to chew on after they read this wonderful book. Often, while reading this book, I found myself saying, “Amen,” and having to re-read certain letters to really sink my teeth into what Brian was saying. I heartily recommend this book to every Christian along the journey of faith.
Owning up to the reality of the Christian life isn’t a walk in the park. Brian reminds Chris of this point in Letter 16 on The Good Fight of Faith. He writes, “So many people approach Christianity the same way. They fail to assess the danger, count the cost, and adequately prepare for the arduous and grueling journey ahead. Our fallen world isn’t friendly to faith; it’s hostile enemy territory where we’re assaulted by foes on every side….So, what is our hope? Only Christ. “Be strong in the Lord and the power of his might.” (69-71) We lack the foresight to prepare for the journey of faith often because we don’t see our faith in the midst of a battle, but rather like a peaceful walk by the river. As Brian so aptly points out, the world is hostile to faith with foes on every side, from our thoughts and desires, to the very things we think will help us often turn out to pull us away from God. Basking in the light of Ephesians 6, Brian pulls our attention to Christ and the power that God provides us as we do battle with enemies high and low.
One of the particularly strong points in the book is Brian’s insistence that as we live by the Spirit, this should lead us to more effort on our parts in the sanctification process. Brian writes, “No, the way of the Spirit doesn’t eliminate the need for effort. On the contrary, the New Testament indicates that the work of the Spirit within us leads to more effort on our part – not less. Paul, you may recall, always exhorts the churches to more love, more knowledge, and more holiness.” (29) What a beautiful relationship there is between the work of the Spirit in our lives and the nose to the grindstone effort we must give in the Christian life. To say that we must live with more effort in the Christian life does not take one iota away from the truth that salvation is all of God’s work and none of ours. But, this free gift of salvation by grace gives us the motivation to do all the good we can for as long as we can. Much like a child receiving a new bike for Christmas, the bike is his by the gift of another, but the practice of riding the bike straight without falling takes continual effort and patience. So is salvation, a free gift indeed, but working this gift our in real life takes mental, physical, and spiritual effort all around.
From assurance of salvation to gospel humility and apostasy, these letters cover many different topics in Christian theology and practice. The end result is the same, a robust offering of grace filled and gospel saturated encouragements for people on the road of faith. I hope many believers read this and give it to their friends, for they will not leave empty handed.
Thanks to Cross Focused Reviews and Shepherd Press for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.