This book is an easy, 12-step program on how to change your life. Our lives need improvement. But despite all of the messes we make, we can’t seem to fix much. It seems that when we take 2 steps forward, we end up taking 7 steps back. The good news is: this book is easy to read. The bad news: that is the only ‘easy’ part to this 12-step/12 chapter book. The better news: you can’t change you, but God can.
The authors (Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer) have served in leadership positions at The Village Church for over seven years. They’re old enough to know and have talked to enough people to know that change can’t happen on our own strength. At least, not for very long. So they wrote a book in twelve parts to give us a story of the Gospel and how it makes an impact in our lives to change us from the inside-out, and not from the outside-in. It’s not meditating for 5 hours a day that creates a change in us. It’s not praying at seven daily intervals that creates a change in us. It’s believing in the King who is stronger than us, the One who cares for us and died to save us.
Chandler and Snetzer form this book to have a flow (they even tell us this on page 162). It’s not a mere mash up of concepts. The story of our redemptive-history starts with the fall, and this first chapter is awfully depressing. There’s nothing emotionally wrenching in this chapter, but it’s the truth that, despite man’s best efforts, everything is falling apart. And we know it. And we know we can’t do anything about it.  We try to fix ourselves in different ways, but we fail every time.  But God….saved us and by Christ’s death we might are the righteousness of God.  Our godly grief leads us to repentance and to the one who saved us,  for we are made new and have been brought into a new family.
 We begin to put sin to death,  and confess our struggles so that, as a family, we can help build each other up into Christ.  God wants us to overcome our fears so that we can trust in Him more than in ourselves,  and by trusting Him we’ll pull up the roots of sin and let Him work knowing He loves us. Seeing the damage of sin, we  seek to reconcile with others,  confront them (in love) to the sin that so hinders them,  and seek to know the Lord more for He is our source of true joy. We were created to serve Him.
The Chocolate Milk
The book really started to pick up at the second half. The authors bring us through the gospel to see that the change that happens in us is not due to our own strength, but that of the strength and hope we receive from Christ, His life, death, and resurrection, and from the Holy Spirit and how He leads us to Christ. The afflictions and annoyances that we experience now “will seem silly to [us] 20,000 years from now” (pg. 141). They point us to God’s sovereignty and how He works through circumstances in life to mold us and shape us into the image of Christ.
There is no silver bullet. It takes time, and it hurts. But it makes us stronger. We grow and mature. We see how wicked sin is. God’s work should lead us to fix relationships with those in our spiritual family, but will lead us to confront each other of our sins and hopefully, to grow and respond in love. Because “love never ends” (1 Cor. 13.8a)
I have yet to listen to Chandler’s sermons on Recovering Redemption (and I’m sure they’re superb), but this book does a good job in pointing us to the Gospel, and why we should press on. There will be old roots that we hold on to (though we wish they were gone), and they remind us that we’re human. Just as we have received forgiveness from God, so we should be willing to forgive those who sin against us (Mt. 6.12, 14).
Is it hard? Yes. Chandler and Snetzer never say that life isn’t hard. They never say we need to simply “get over it.” We will be offended, we will get hurt by those who are close to us. But we aren’t left on our own. Christ is our example. He came and served. He died. He forgave. He freed us from sin so that we can serve, die to ourselves, love, and forgive.
The Spoiled Milk
The authors have a writing style that presents itself as if they are talking right to you. This can be handy, and for most of the book it is, leading most to have an easy-going time when reading this book. However, the style goes overboard by repeatedly showing up throughout the book.
For example, in Chapter 11 “Feel the Heartburn”, the authors talk about confronting sin and then give two warnings on the threat of ignoring a brother’s sin. One warning is when we are filled with bitterness, instead of wanting to help a brother or sister, we more or less “hate their guts” and want to ignore them. “A second indicator of unhealthy conflict avoidance is when our knee-jerk reaction to relational difficulty is to run away from the problem, becoming what we might describe as a ‘flighter’ – which is probably not a real word, but we think it gets the message across” (pg. 179; emphasis mine).
While flighter isn’t actually in the dictionary, do I really need to be given this information? Is it pertinent to the point? It’s one thing to hear it in a sermon (which even then, I could do without it), but I don’t see the need for it here. While there are other examples all over the book, it’s not really a major issue, but it is cumbersome to have to read through this style in an effort to make the book more readable. In fact, I think the excess oftentimes hinders the point (again, never in a major way).
Chandler is a good speaker and author, and I enjoyed this book by him and Snetzer. They wrote this book for the layperson, and it can easily be read by the layperson. This book is no silver-bullet, but hopefully those who read this book will be encouraged enough to put these words into practice, to read their Bibles, to see the graciousness of God, and to love their neighbor as themselves.
- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: B&H Books (May 1, 2014)
[Special thanks to India and Jim at B&H Publishing for sending me this book for review! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]