James MacDonald, pastor, and radio host of Walk In the Word, offers a biblical and practical way of life change for Christians in, I Really Want To Change…So, Help Me God, published by Moody Publishers, 2000. At the outset, this book is one of the most biblical and sound works teaching sanctification. That is no small pat on the back. The “Christian Living/Personal Growth” category of publishing could probably fill the earth with the books promising life transformation. There are all kinds of offerings on how to change. Everything from Keswick style passive sanctification, positive thinking,  monasticism, etc. What this book is, is not any of those. Good thing. It is ,in the words of  Dr. John MacArthur ,who gives an endorsement on the back cover:” a very practical look at real change through the lens of truth.”.

MacDonald cuts right to the heart of the matter, after reminding us that change is not easy, and we all fail at it. Only GOD can change us and that we can only change by his power. This sets the whole course of the book, whose every chapter is designed to engage the reader through summary statements of each chapter, Biblical study, study questions, practical application, and prayer.

He sets out by dealing first with the false views of change that many Christians have accumulated through years of trying and failing at sanctification. This part is fascinating and very helpful, because more than likely we are guilty of buying into one of the false ideas he lists( e.g. environmental change, legalistic change, monastic change, etc.) Of course the most important part of the book is really the beginning. Why? Because as he states on p. 52,”Stop! The rest of the book will only make sense to the followers of Jesus Christ.” Change begins with conversion. And it continues in sanctification. After clearing up more false ideas about God and what he is trying to do in our lives, he gets to the most important thing we need to do, and that is repent.

Here again, in repentance, MacDonald deals with some bad thinking on the matter, but also the fullness of repentance in describing it, defining it, and showing it’s effects. Here, James doesn’t let the reader off easily! But you’ll have to read it to understand what I mean. Let’s just say, he’s a true pastor and firmly but lovingly addresses our TRUE repentance in it’s whole form. This is a recurring theme in the book, state the right view, and deal with the false views of a subject-leaving no stone unturned. It’s consistent with the issue of change, because obviously if we think wrongly about it, and it leads down the wrong path, we fail. So this book is as much a corrective to bad theology, as it is a prescription, or a manual for how to change biblically.

The book then goes on to deal with Romans 6, 7 and 8 as those passages deal with our position in Christ, being identified with his death, burial and resurrection. This part is straight up BIBLE. He deals with those passages exegetically, shows us how to apply their truths in real life.  He goes on to the issue of the source of the Christians’s power, which is the Holy Spirit, and finally he talks about FAITH and friendships (which of course affect our choices).

This book does what it must-brings us to a place where we must rid ourselves of false ideas, ground our thinking in the Scriptures, and repent, and believe that we are dead to sin, and can live by the power of the Spirit by faith. For MacDonald the best part of his book, according to him on p.128 is ROMANS 6:11, which reads “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord“. He calls this “the absolute centerpiece of Christian victory in the entire New Testament…”  Interestingly, the next verse is probably my favorite part because it is nitty-gritty, nuts and bolts, real illustration of how Romans 6:11 works.

Here’s how it works. Imagine yourself at the point of temptation. Deep within you a struggle is going on. You are tired of your old pattern of behavior and the pain and guilt that comes with it, but you feel strangely compelled to make that sinful choice again. Right them you must excercise your faith and consider yourself dead to sin. It doesn’t matter whether you feel dead to the temptation…to the sin. If you excercise your faith, you will experience victory.” p.128

I’m not sure if that alone will spell victory(James says it’s the “centerpiece” of victory)  but it certainly is the right way to begin. Nevertheless, I appreciated how he took a verse of “positional truth” about our identity in Christ, and fleshed out its real incarnation in practice.

This book is gold. It needs to be read, and applied. Thankfully, it is free of the strange doctrines that often come with theories of sanctification. No, it’s not the Bible, but it honors it’s inspired source by exegetical, pastoral, and practical reproof, correction and  teaching & training of us readers in righteousness. And that leads to God’s kind of change.

A must read. A must do!

I Really Want To Change…So, Help Me God by James MacDonald, Moody Publishers, 2000.  ISBN-10:0-8024-3423-1

Amazon        Christian Book Distributors

Advertisements