Christ Formed in You; The Power of the Gospel for Personal Change. Brian Hedges (Review)
Christ Formed in You; The Power of the Gospel for Personal Change is a promising and compelling title. It is promising because it suggests it is the Christian gospel that empowers change. It is compelling because of the universal longing for change.
Personal change is big business in our world. People want to change. They know they need to change. To at least some degree, they desire personal change. Thousands upon thousands of books are sold in America every day on aspects of personal change. People are not unaware of their need for personal change. They are not unwilling or disinterested in change. They are, however, often lacking desire and power for personal change.
Popular studies suggest that many who claim to follow Christ are not different from those around them who make no such claim. This is one of many reasons professing Christians need to experience personal transformation. In Christ Formed in You, Hedges deals with the foundations for personal change, the pattern of personal change, and the means of personal change.
Hedges states early that his “…central claim in Christ Formed in You is that it is God’s purpose to change us by progressively making us more like Jesus, and that this happens only as we understand and apply the gospel to our lives.”
The book is about change. It is about a miraculous and lasting kind of change the Bible calls transformation. It is about a miraculous transformation that results in holiness. Hedges book is not just about how to be saved by the gospel, but how to be made progressively holy by the gospel. Does that work? How does that work? Hedges answers these questions.
The book is not a collection of inspirational passages supported with scripture quotations. It is a focused study of the role of the gospel in personal holiness and it is saturated with scripture. It is built on the scriptures that explicate the Christian gospel. Hedges quotes Puritan John Owen said, “Holiness is nothing but the implanting, writing, and realizing of the gospel in our souls.”
Hedges uses a solid exegetical approach to ground the arguments and explainations of the book in Scripture, rich quotations for color and clarity, and lucid illustrations to make abstract theological truth understandable.
It is useful and thorough with a clear, logical progression of thought supported by almost thirty pages of small-print footnotes and useful indices. It is practical with a devotional quality, but it is the kind of book you will want to keep near-at-hand to use as a reference tool.
Here are some examples:
• A treatment of the new man and the new creation.
• Six things Christ achieved on the cross.
• What was accomplished in Christ’s resurrection.
• The theological “roots” of personal sanctification.
• How a right understanding of justification changes our approach to transformation.
• Our hearts and ten biblical examples of godly affections. (This is a very useful summary).
• Does a believer have an old nature?
• How do we understand the term “flesh.”
• How worship affects sanctification and transformation.
• Mortification and Vivification
• Ten ways to kill sin
• Five Characteristics of Spiritual Growth.
• The place of joy and satisfication in transformation.
• The means of sanctification and the role of spiritual disciplines.
• A palette of spiritual practices as means of transformation.
• The role of suffering in transformation.
• The role of relationships in transformation.
• Pictures of the church and it’s place in transformation.
Christ Formed in You is clearly written by a thorough student, if not a scholar, with a pastor’s heart and a clear personal passion for knowing God and pursuing Christlikeness. It’s a good book. It’s not a trendy, hip, new twist on old errors. It’s a clear compendium of a classical understanding the process of Christian holiness, rooted in the gospel and clarified for a modern audience. It is not light reading, but it is clear reading for common people who long to change and don’t want to be misled. Hedges isn’t hawking snake-oil cures for spiritual cancer. This is health food for spiritual vitality. I suggest you acquire a taste for it.
Personal post-script: A few weeks ago my two oldest preacher-sons were in a coffee house in Indiana and bumped into Pastor Hedges. He went to his car and returned with a copy of this book for each of my sons. They are what Spurgeon would have called “Preachers with slender apparatus,” which I think means, not much money. As you can imagine I have increased the frequency and intensity of my prayers of blessing for Brian.