The heavy-hitters endorsing Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson make an impressive list: Matt Chandler, Scotty Smith, Trevin Wax, Owen Strachan, Ed Stetzer, Pete Wilson, and more. The theme of this 2011 book is the need to focus – really focus – on the power and meaning of the gospel.
Gospel wakefulness, according to Wilson, is “treasuring Christ more greatly and savoring his power more sweetly.” He explores the idea in depth. He looks at how to comes from brokenness, how to renew affections, how it awakens worship, the freedom it brings, what the gospel-wakened chu8rch looks like, and related topics.
Essentially, Wilson is describing the Biblical concept of sanctification, how Christians mature in their faith (or how they’re supposed to mature). There’s clearly a need for a book like this – the last 40 years of conservative, evangelical, and traditional Christianity have been heavily characterized by a focus on seekers. Unfortunately, that has also meant a reduction in focus on discipleship. And the church is paying a price for that.
Still, there’s something I find disquieting about the book. It’s similar to what I found disquieting about Bruce Wilkinson’s The Prayer of Jabez that took conservative Christianity by storm some 20 years ago. The Prayer of Jabez could easily – too easily – be read as the prosperity gospel. Gospel Wakefulness can easily be read as a kind of contemporary gnosticism, in spite of all the celebrity endorsements.
I don’t think that’s Wilson’s intention. But the suggestion that there’s a higher level of gospel understanding and experience certainly could lead people in that direction. Some of us Christians have that gospel wakefulness, and some of us don’t. And having it implies a superiority of understanding, if nothing else.
You see the endorsements, you look at the author’s other books, and you want to be more positive. But I find this book troubling.
Wilson is the author of more than 10 books on the contemporary church and related topics, including Gospel Deeps: Reveling in the Excellencies of Jesus (2012), Romans: A 12-Week Study (2013), The Pastor’s Justification (2013), The Storytelling God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Parables (2014), The Wonder Working God (2014), The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto Against the Status Quo (2015), The Story of Everything (2015), Your Jesus is Too Safe (2016), The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together (2017), and Supernatural Power for Ordinary People (2018). He’s also published one novel, Otherworld (2013).
Sanctification is an old term, and one that is well understood. A book about sanctification and discipleship doesn’t need a made-up title.
Top photograph by Patrick Hendry via Unsplash. Used with permission.
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