Over the past several years there has been a growing awareness of a quiet sickness plaguing the church. It is quiet because it has the outward appearance of godliness and spiritual growth, and it is a sickness because it leads to spiritual exhaustion at its best and spiritual death at its very worst. It’s an extremely cruel enemy because it deceives people into feel good about their spiritual walks at one moment, and causes them to feel completely defeated by their indwelling sin and failures when they are inevitably revealed in the next.
What great foe am I referring to? The temptation toward legalism and moralism in the Christian life. Christine Hoover refers to it as the “goodness gospel,” and says that when she lived under it, she “appeared to be a good Christian,” on the outside, but on the inside, “felt unlovable and was riddled with guilt about [her] inability to please God.” As an adherent to this false gospel, Christine “sought joy, peace, and love through being good, and instead found [herself] miserably enslaved to [her] own unattainable standards.” Perhaps you can relate?
To be sure, many of us have found ourselves in a similar spiritual maze. We know that in and of ourselves, it is impossible to please God, and yet we so often faultily feel as though pleasing God is all up to us. This type of do-it-yourself Christianity has been the subject of many blog articles and books in recent years as the church seeks to reorient itself to the concept of grace-empowered Christianity. That is to say, enjoying the powerful work of God’s grace in a believer’s sanctification, and not just in their initial salvation. We have been inundated with calls to rest in the indicative realities of the Bible (what Christ has done for us), and to allow that sweet, gospel knowledge to produce the sanctification and holiness that we all so desperately desire.
Yet, for many women I talk to, the question remains of how this actually happens.
How does “resting in the gospel” help me to crucify the flesh and live a life that honors God?
How does “resting in the gospel” not become its own legalistic standard?
Is it wrong to work toward holiness?
How does the gospel actual impact all of the minute details of my life as a woman?
I am so pleased to tell you that Christine Hoover’s new book, From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel, systematically and triumphantly guides women through these marvelous, yet sometimes confusing ideas. As I finished reading From Good to Grace I found myself thanking God for bringing this book into existence. I truly feel that Christine has painstakingly provided a pivotal bridge between the theological realities of the gospel and the practical applications of the gospel. Reading this book is not only going to encourage women to shed the chains of legalism, but it is going to give them the understanding of how to do so in their everyday lives.
So, let me tell you a little bit about this wonderful book.
What It’s About
From Good to Grace begins with Christine sharing her own struggle with perfectionism. In the past she evaluated her spiritual life by how well she was performing, how others were responding to her, and how she compared to those around her. She was addicted to the goodness gospel, constantly evaluating herself, putting on an external show for herself and others, and mistakenly assuming that the Lord’s love for her fluctuated based upon her performance.
All of this changed however, when the Lord drew her into a greater understanding of grace. Once she realized that she was not responsible for her own growth in holiness, but rather, that the Lord himself was responsible for it, Christine became a woman addicted to grace rather than goodness. After God “pulled her into his grace-filled arms,” she says, “what had always felt like duty and obligation [seeking to please God] now felt like crazy freedom.”
She then goes on to explain how the grace of God frees us from the chains of the “goodness gospel” and allows us to live in joyful dependence on the Lord. But this dependency is a discipline that must be practiced each and every day, because we all naturally gravitate back to a works-based mentality with God. This is what Christine desires to encourage her readers toward: understanding “how Christ’s gospel of grace is for every single day.”
The rest of From Good to Grace (the majority of the book) explores how the Bible beckons us to do just that.
Things I Love About From Good to Grace
From Christine's personal writing style, to her helpful illustrations, there is much to love about From Good to Grace. There are two particular things I'd like to highlight, however:
1.) Structure: The organization and flow of From Good to Grace is extremely helpful. It seems that many books being put out for women recently are made up of individual chapters that don’t necessarily build upon each other. These are helpful in that you can read a chapter at a time, digesting the material contained within its 6-10 pages in one sitting. Christine’s book benefits, however, from a more systematic approach, guiding the reader from one foundational truth to the many glorious and practical implications that flow out of it. This is extremely important when dealing with the subject matter of the gospel and sanctification as it aids the reader in understanding how the grace of God works itself out in our daily lives. She begins by explaining how we are to continually receive grace from God, and then moves on to how we are then able to be conduits of his grace to others.
2.) A Focus on the Holy Spirit: This is perhaps the most important aspect of the book. How desperately we all need to be reminded of the Holy Spirit’s active work in our lives! And yet, how often this member of the Trinity is overlooked. Christine is careful to give due attention to his ministry to us, allowing us to gain fresh perspective on the way he powerfully works within us.
One particularly helpful explanation for the Holy Spirit’s role in our spiritual growth was given in the context of the spiritual disciplines. We often think of the spiritual disciplines as a way we can work harder to be godlier, but Christine encourages us to look at them in a completely different light:
"…spiritual disciplines are not intended as replacements for the Holy Spirit. They are intended as ways to ask for and receive help from the Holy Spirit. God is the director and main actor. We belong to him. Spiritual disciplines, when practiced correctly, place us in positions of submission and acknowledgment of need, and help us be ready receptors when the Holy Spirit moves, leads, speaks, or convicts. I am essentially using spiritual disciplines like a door, opening my heart to God, ready to receive from him. They are a means of continual receiving and, therefore, are vitally important."
The Holy Spirit, then, is someone we are to be continually beseeching, receiving, and enjoying as bask in the glory of his grace.
I can't say enough good things about this book. It will benefit every woman who picks it up, so please do!
You can find it on Amazon here.