Saturday, March 14, 2009

Book Review - The Beautiful Fight

More on serving to come, but I just wanted to take a minute to write about a book I read recently. It's the best book in the Christian nonfiction genre that I've read in a while. Written by my favorite author, Gary Thomas, The Beautiful Fight details many of the components of spiritual transformation, delving into what seems like quite a paradoxical issue: We make choices to grow into holiness, yet the Holy Spirit is the One making us holy.

I started writing posts on various chapters of this book before, but I never posted them because I would read another chapter and think I'd post something on that one instead. Eventually, I finished the book and regretted not having shared something about each chapter as I read it. At this point, how do I summarize a book that is so full of helpful, practical truths about the transformation we're all saved by grace to experience throughout our lives? Thankfully, at the end of the book, there is listed a review of the main point of each chapter, so I thought I would share with you some of that review so you can know a tiny bit of the topic each chapter deals with:

  • "First, we must gain a new vision for how compelling Christianity can be (chapter 1). We need a larger understanding of what it means to be strong 'oaks of righteousness' (Isaiah 61:3) for the display of God's splendor. Until we are captured by this vision, we won't let go of our old way of life.
  • Second, we must grow in our understanding of what it means to be experience God and to be empowered by his Holy Spirit (chapter 2)...Instead of just knowing about God, daily experiencing God's power and presence must become an essential element of our faith.
  • Third, we need to recapture the theological importance of the ascension (chapter 3). The ascension gives us hope that we can become more like Jesus is now and leads us to look at our bodies in a new way (chapter 4).
  • This sets us on a journey of offering up our eyes to see as God sees (chapter 5), closing our eyes to what is against God, and opening our eyes to God's goodness and power. We also begin cultivating mouths that speak God's words (chapter 6) and embark on a life of active listening (chapter 7). We train our minds to think God's thoughts (chapter 8) and our hearts to feel what he feels (chapter 10). This leads us to offer up our hands and feet to be God's servants and to go to the needy and lost (chapter 9).
  • With transformed bodies, we start living a life of intentional and conscious availability (chapter 11), motivated by gratitude and a desire to give God his due glory (chapter 12). Lest we grow weary in the Beautiful Fight, we remember the need to pursue perfection (chapter 13). Even though we'll never achieve perfection, the journey toward it keeps us from the snare of complacency.
  • We'll face many obstacles along the way. The Beautiful Fight is certainly not an easy struggle (chapter 14). But when we submit and surrender to God, we accept the lessons we can learn from our disappointments, illnesses, and failures, trusting that God will use them to conform us to the image of Christ.
  • On top of all this, we recognize the importance of being an active member of a Christian community (chapter 15). The Beautiful Fight is not a solo pursuit; we need to cultivate healthy, inspiring relationships - in person primarily, but also receiving inspiration through books and study to keep us from becoming too ingrained by our local culture and age.
  • Finally, we recognize that while God is the force, power, and inspiration behind all of this, we have a responsibility to cooperate with his work and make decisions accordingly (chapter 16). We can put ourselves in places that encourage growth."
Thomas so eloquently answers questions that, I admit, have plagued me for a while. Questions about my role versus God's and questions about the end goal of perfection versus reality on earth and human nature. The chapter on community was extremely good. Being a small group pastor's wife, I've been privy to a lot of great teaching on the subject, but The Beautiful Fight's teaching of the subject was fresh and insightful. The epilogue had me in tears as I was overwhelmed by the comprehensiveness and precision of God's purposes for man on earth. I highly recommend this book. For part of the reading of this book, Joel and I read through it together, discussing various parts. I think it's helpful to read this with someone, to help pull out personal application opportunities. There are study questions at the back that would be suitable for small group settings and one-on-one discipleship relationships. But you can certainly read through it on your own too, just letting Jesus guide you in your understanding of His purposes for us on earth.

(Note: I've reorganized my reading list on the right side of my blog, and I plan to link those books mentioned to posts that I write in review of that book. I'll try to get to the others soon. I hope it will be helpful to some of you who are looking for a little reading inspiration!)


alicia kristine said...

so good to hear from you sister! my boys are 14 mo. apart... you have found my blog I set up for all the relatives! you are welcome on either of course! Snips Snails and Little boy tales is the one that is a little more personal!

alicia kristine said...

I revisited your post today~ thank you for being Bold! I'm getting this book ~ there are many key things this book addresses that is so easy to just think "well that's a given". But it runs so deep into our foundation that we need to revisit things like this often as we grow and mature in His word. You are a light sister and even though we have never met you make me smile!

Meaghan said...

so fun to see you on sunday! i'd love to get to actually "talk" sometime!!!

Kate said...

I just started reading this book last week. I've had it on my book list for a while, since I first saw it listed on your blog. I might have to check in with you about it as I am reading it! Thanks for sharing. "Glass Castle" is now on my list too. You always give me good recommendations.