Book Club: “Counsel From the Cross” (by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick & Dennis E. Johnson) Reviewed by Gaila Roper Part 2


Beloved children function differently from house-guests or foster kids. Sadly this is true. My husband was a foster child his entire childhood. Often children believe they have to earn love and a place in the hearts of foster parents. But God’s love is not like that. This great love that was provided for His beloved children came at a great cost. The first chapter of Ephesians further explains what Christ’s work provided for us. Elyse states,” He is devoted to our soul’s safety and complete sanctification. Because he has adopted us and made us his children, he is determined that we will be like him. We are his children; we will ultimately resemble him. He is shaping us into his image (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 4:24).  The Son has been made like us; we are being made like him.”


So, to put it bluntly, why does the gospel bore us? Or why do we relegate it to the back of the Christian bus, as Elyse, puts it?   Well, it could be that we just haven’t been taught to connect it with our daily lives. I can put it better than that. The disconnect lies with a self focused heart rather than a God focused heart. Simply stated, it’s not the message, it’s my receiver, my hard heart. Sound harsh? The Bible does warn us that it’s a double edged sword. The truth cuts through the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Could it be that we just don’t trust Him? Deep in our hearts we remain convinced of our own ability to change. This self sufficiency involves fearing the loss of control. We want to change our motives and desires, so what do we do?   The Christian bookstores, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon are filled with Christian self help books. We counselor hop, church hop, always searching but never finding the secret to living holy. I remember reading Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret; In His Steps; Hinds Feet on High Places; Corrie Ten Boon; going to Bible School. Searching, searching for something to give me power over my sin. Going to 12 Step meetings, Bible Studies, Christian Psychology meetings and books, memory groups, retreats, revivals, re-dedications, saying the prayer a hundred times. You may have your own story. Dear one, ‘it is no secret what God can do, what He’s done for others He’ll do for you, with hearts wide open He’ll pardon you, it is no secret, what God can do.” It’s the Gospel. “We don’t need a self help book, we need a Savior”, says Elyse. We need him every hour, as the gospel song says. The same way we depend upon Him for our salvation is the same way we depend upon Him for our sanctification. We trust and obey. We believe the truth of what His word says, and apply it to our hearts. Will our hearts fail us? Knowing what Scripture teaches about depravity and a sin filled world, yes I will fail. But I will also change in my perspective. I have a new heart and a new nature filled with His divine nature.(2 Peter 1:1-4) This creates lasting change. A relationship was made in heaven when Christ hung on that cross for us.


The Gospel is simply objective truths about the nature of God, Christ’s person and work, and mankind’s depravity. God is always sovereign, loving and wise, Jerry Bridges used to say in his book, “Trusting God”. Because He is in control, loving and good, and infinitely wise—you and I can trust Him. Even if the bottom falls out of my world—He says He is still the same. Jesus always loved to do whatever God asked of Him. So before the foundation of the world(Eph.1:1-13) it was settled that He would become a man, yet fully God, in the incarnation,(Philp.2) be the Saviour to mankind, by reconciling God to man through His substitutionary death on the cross; though lost and condemned we became “beloved children”, forgiven and adopted because of the gospel message worked out in the life of Christ on our behalf. We are beloved children because we are “in the Beloved One”. The Gospel tells us the truth about God, ourselves and others in this world. So I must trust Him when He says my heart is not trustworthy (Jer.17:9); I must trust Him and not put my trust fully in man(Ps 118:8); neither can I love this world or the things in this world (1Jn 2:15). So Who or what can I depend upon in this life?  We trust in the Lord. We apply truth of what God says to the motives, desires, thoughts and beliefs of our hearts. We run all of them through the truth of Scripture, even when it doesn’t feel right to us.  That would seem blind, naive or even mechanical if not for the Presence of the Spirit of truth. Proverbs 3:5,6 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” By applying our hearts to trust in the truth of the God we have come to know, we won’t lean on or depend upon our own or anyone else’s understanding of who He is, who we are and who the world is. We acknowledge this truth by trusting what He says about them, and extending God’s love out to them, just as He in Christ did to us.


So, can you hear the song? His song? The song of the Lamb? He is so worthy. The Revelation Song is going through my head now. I am saddened that I frequently tune Him out because my own heart deceives me regularly. But He knows that.He’s still ruling at the Father’s right hand. He’s provided all that we need every day to please Him. Elyse says “I need to hear that gospel song over and over again because my soul is a sieve and the gospel leaks out of it, leaving only the husks of Christianity—my self righteousness and obligations.” “You are His beloved child because of Christ’s precious life credited to you. Can you hear him singing this never-ending theme to you, his bride?”

By Gaila Roper

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