Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 11/08/2010 by John Bird.
Recommended. Makes a biblical case that personal growth and transformation is powered by the Gospel.
While his teenage peers worried about little more than Friday's exam over Romeo and Juliet, Brian Hedges was contemplating a call to preach. He answered that call at the age of eighteen. Since then, between serving in a para-church ministry and preaching in his local church, Hedges has gained eighteen years of ministry experience. Not bad for a 36 year-old. Hedges' preaching is characterized by clear, well-organized, well-illustrated, expository sermons that are full of practical application. In his first book, Christ Formed in You, he proves that he can deliver as powerful and practical a message in writing as he does in preaching.
In the foreword, Donald Whitney captures the essence of Christ Formed in You:
Brian Hedges understands that the pursuit of "the holiness without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14) requires a clear understanding of the Gospel. For it is in the Gospel that we see Christ in His glory most clearly. And the better we understand and feast our souls on the Gospel of Christ, the more intimate with and like Jesus we become.
The twelve chapters in Christ Formed in You are divided under three headings:
Part 1: The Foundations of Personal Change
Part 2: The Path of Personal Change
Part 3: The Means of Personal Change
In Part 1, Hedges gives an in-depth explanation of the gospel and its various aspects. These chapters are foundational to the book, just as a correct understanding of the gospel is foundational to any progress in holiness. Change “happens only as we understand and apply the gospel to our lives.” And central to the gospel is Jesus Christ, our example of perfect holiness. Hedges writes:
Jesus is the true Imago Dei, the true image of God. But he also remakes human beings in his image through his work. His life on this earth was the perfect embodiment of all that is righteous, good, beautiful, and true...In him we see what God intended all human beings to be in their relationships to God, to one another, and to creation...The question this book aims to answer is how do we become like Jesus?
Part 2 explores the beauty of holiness, the killing of sin, growing in grace, and the motivation for true holiness (joy). In Part 3, Hedges discusses the means through which God works to make believers more like Christ (primarily meditation on Scripture, prayer, suffering, and community).
Though written clearly and at an understandable level, Christ Formed in You isn't light reading. Hedges believes that good theology is essential ("we need to frame our concerns about personal change in the larger story of God’s saving work, the story of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration..."), and readers can be assured that they will get a dose of good theology. But the book is also very personal. Through the author's use of illustrations from his life, including taking readers through his own spiritual journey, we see qualities important in a pastor: humility, patience, love, and a genuine concern for others. These characteristics reinforce another common theme that runs throughout his book - the importance of relationships and community:
The goal of redemption is to make you a "little Christ." God wants to renew his image within you. But spiritual renewal doesn't happen and cannot happen in isolation from others. It happens in relationships.
Hedges rarely makes a claim that isn't backed up by carefully applied Scripture. And he seems to possess an inexhaustible supply of the classic hymns, from Wesley, Newton, and the other great writers, stored in his memory, always ready to illustrate a truth. He mentions the influence that the Puritan writings have had on him, and their influence is evident. Not only does he quote them often, but his use of outlines and lists reminds one of their works. I found these lists, lists such as, "Ten Ways to Kill Sin," "Five Essential Elements Which Make up Spiritual Transformation," "Six Ways God Utilizes Suffering in Our Lives," very helpful, as I did the entire book.
Readers from all backgrounds and at all stages of life - believer or skeptic, young or old - will benefit from reading Christ Formed in You. I hope, and expect, to see many more books written by the same author.