I received a copy of this book at the bloggers gathering at TGCW14 over a month ago. The title, Extravagant Grace: God's Glory Displayed in Our Weakness, by Barbara Duguid (P&R), caught my eye immediately. I feel weak often. I am overwhelmed by my sin on a regular basis. This book, I thought, must be written for me.
I could not have been more right.
It is a rare occasion that I finish a book sad to see it end. At over 200 pages, I honestly wished for it just to keep going. Not because it was incomplete or in need of greater explanation, but because it was good for my soul. I was opened to a fresh understanding of my indwelling sin and its purpose in my own sanctification. I was confronted with the glory of Christ's death on the cross and his righteousness that covers me. I was encouraged to remain steadfast in my fight against sin and my trust in the Savior. I just wanted to keep reading in order to drink deeply from the well of truth contained in its pages.
This book reminded me of three crucial truths about the Christian life.
The value of prayer. Duguid reminds us that only God can change a person's heart. He is the one who grants the new birth in Christ and changes a person day by day. Because of this we should pray fervently for God to work in the lives of people. I was encouraged to pray for family members who don't know Christ and for friends I know struggling with besetting sins. I was convicted to pray for myself. I know that there is just as much besetting sin in me as the next girl. No amount of willpower will get rid of it for me. I need the supernatural work of God to change me and make me more like himself. The good news is that he has promised us this very work in his word, Duguid says. We aren't praying blindly, but with bold faith for God to do what he delights to do--humble his children and make them like himself.
The reason for indwelling sin. This point is probably the greatest takeaway for me. Duguid says that God wants humble children, which is one of the primary reasons he leaves us with indwelling sin. Sin humbles us. It shows us our desperate need for a Savior. Because of our tendency towards self-sufficiency, if we had been wiped clean of our propensity to sin at conversion we would fail to give God glory for this cleansing. Indwelling sin keeps us on our knees and gives God glory. It also makes us long for heaven more. Only on that final day will we truly be cleansed from the sin that entangles us. While God sees Christ when he looks at us now, there will come a day when the full, sinless righteousness of Christ will cover us completely. Heaven is our final home. We will see God in all his glory because we will be like him, perfect and whole. This truth should make us ache for that day. Our sin reminds us that we are not there yet--not even close. Come, Lord Jesus!
The importance of a long term view of the Christian life. Because our salvation is an "already, but not yet" reality, we need not be discouraged when we are not yet there--or when those around us aren't either. Duguid says that God is the one who gives people differing degrees of faith, sanctification, and resistance to sin. Some of us struggle with certain sins all of our lives. But because of the final day, when our sin stains are cleansed in their entirety, we can have hope for the present. God completes the work he starts in us and in our friends and family.
Uses for the book. Because of the nature of the book, it is a really good option for any type of book study. There are in depth questions at the end of each chapter that bring the points of the chapter home. Duguid is a biblical counselor, so she is skilled at getting to the heart of matters. There are multiple questions, so if you were working through the book in a book club or small group, you may, for the sake of time, go through only two or three questions in a gathering. But if you wanted to use the book in one-on-one discipleship or personally the questions would be really useful.
One of the main points of the book is that she interacts with John Newton and his teaching on the Christian life, indwelling sin, and God's grace. It made me want to buy the writings of Newton immediately! While I was always helped by her interaction with Newton, the back cover of the book states she turns to Newton "to teach us God's purpose of our failure and guilt." This is true to some extent, but she doesn't use him as much as I thought she would. This is not a critique by any means, because I think the book is perfectly complete on its own. It's more an observation than anything else. I suppose by interacting with Newton, even if it was less than I anticipated, she did her job. I want to read Newton now. And read this book again and again.