A review by Stuart Brogden
This is an uncommon book – the format is that of personal letters from the author, intended to provide pastoral guidance to the issue of sanctification. I was reminded of a couple of books I read in high school that were letters from a father, one to his son and the other to his daughter. I passed these along to my son and daughter as they grew into young adults. Brian Hedges’ belief is that this format will be more personal and effective – as our spiritual journey is not linear, but (as was the Exodus) “circuitous and roundabout, with lots of detours and obstacles, punctuated by backtracking, rest stops, and significant delays on the side of the road.” (page 14) I think the author succeeds in this regard, as each letter reads as a warm personal communication. I appreciated the author’s repeated reference to various works by John Bunyan, but was less enthused by his somewhat frequent use of quotes from C.S. Lewis and references to “the seven deadly sins” – a concept the Bible knows nothing about (sex outside of marriage and blasphemy of the Holy Spirit are more serious than other sins), taught by the Roman Catholic Church, based primarily on the list in Proverbs 6:16-19 but not taught therein as a special list of “deadly sins”. That being said, this book is a most excellent look at various aspects of everyone’s spiritual journey, with solid biblical counsel we can all benefit from.
Throughout this easy-to-read but thought provoking book, Hedges gives the reader biblical exhortations to walk in the light, to examine one’s self, to stay focused on Christ. He puts good works in their place (post-redemption works empowered by the Holy Spirit) and presses the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Late in the book (page 94), he gives us a word picture of a stool with four legs, each leg being an essential part of what God gives as assurance of our standing with Him.
- Faith in the gospel promises of salvation
- Evidences of God’s grace in the transformation of the heart and life
- The testimony of the Holy Spirit
- The fruit of love in relationship with other believers
He cites the Westminster Confession of Faith, which is accurate in the doctrine of salvation, for the first three of these legs; pointing us to 1 John 3:14 for the fourth. Our author provides a concise paragraph for each leg, demonstrating from Scripture each one and urging us to know the Word of God that we be not deceived by emotions or lies or, as the next chapter puts it – self-trust.
I will leave you with a short excerpt from the last letter in this book. Throughout, Hedges has given us solid biblical counsel, with many examples from Scripture and theological tomes. He contrasts grace and law, justification and sanctification, lawlessness and true trust in Christ. And in this last letter, we are given a solid comparison between the perseverance of the saints and the preservation of the saints. Often, reformed folk are accused of relying on works for salvation or for perseverance. This is a contentious issue, but is helpfully summed up by the phrase, “We are saved by faith alone, but by faith that is alone.” One who has been spiritually raised from the dead by the same power (the Holy Spirit) that raised Christ from the tomb will exhibit signs of life. He has no life before being made alive by God, so there’s no way his works can contribute to his redemption. Yet once made alive, the child of God will naturally grow in grace and the fruit of the Spirit as He works in us.
And this leads to the right understanding of the perseverance of the saints. Hedges tells us that perseverance and preservation are “really talking about the same doctrine, but from two different perspectives. If perseverance has to do with our responsibility to continue in faith and holiness, preservation highlights God’s work in strengthening and sustaining our faith.” Scripture tells us the Christ intercedes for us with the Father and the Holy Spirit prays for us when we know not how to pray. We will persevere because God is faithful! Our Lord declared He would lose none of the sheep given to Him by the Father. We are told that His Spirit is at work in us to will and to do His good pleasure. Our author points us to Hebrews 7 to see how the Lord Jesus provides for us in His sacrifice and His intercession.
“In His sacrifice, Christ our High Priest offered himself for us once and for all (Hebrews 7:27. This is his finished and completed work. But now, he continues to apply this work to us through his ongoing intercessory prayer. And this guarantees complete salvation!” (See Hebrews 7:24-25)
Dear saints, know this: you have died with Christ and are seated in the heavenly realm with him. How we can we go on living for the flesh, knowing it will perish like the grass? Our Lord is the faithful witness who has gone to prepare a place for us – where Abraham lives, in the city whose builder is God. Jesus will return to gather His sheep to Himself. Have faith in Christ! This book is a great help in reminding us He is sufficient.