I was going to wait until next week to review From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel because I have a giveaway and a special interview with Christine to share with you.
But after I highly recommended the book last week, a reader brought The Gospel Coalition’s review of it to my attention, and wondered at the question made by the reviewer, “Doesn’t grace lead to goodness?” The question asserts that the book failed to point its reader to a pursuit of good works. So, I decided to share my thoughts today and vanquish any fears that this book is a call to heavy handed grace which leads to licentiousness and away from true goodness.
So, let’s look at TGC’s question.
“Doesn’t Grace Lead to Goodness? This was the one question that stuck with me after reading From Good to Grace. When believers are forgiven and liberated from their bondage to sin and death, aren’t we supposed to become slaves to righteousness… It seemed to me that much of the book equated the pursuit of goodness with legalism…Peter tells us we’re called to be holy as God is holy. Paul exhorts us to imitate God (who is the definition of goodness) as beloved children. I’m assuming this means God intends us to strive for goodness in some regard. Unfortunately, Hoover does little to address the ways in which these two realities—grace and the pursuit of holiness—interact. She isn’t the first to step foot into this gray zone. ”
I’m not sure how she missed one of the central messages that walking in the Spirit is the way to goodness (a little ironic given the topic of the book.)
In essence, she’s asking, “Don’t we need to strive for holiness?” And the answer is beautifully answered, a resounding “YES” we do, absolutely, but in the strength of the Holy Spirit. (excerpts below) You see, why we do what we do is the point of the book. We can do all the right things for the wrong reasons.
In this book, Christine contrasts the beliefs of a woman who believes the goodness gospel and how those core beliefs play out in her daily life vs. the freedom and reality of the true gospel which is freedom to good works via the Spirit led life.
Many Christian women are joyless and in bondage to another gospel, and although this is a partial list, here are some of the reasons we live this way:
- it’s easier to walk in the flesh, than in the Spirit, so having begun in the Spirit, they’re now being perfected in the “flesh” (Gal. 3:3)
- when we walk in the flesh, we feel more in control. Walking in the Spirit is foreign to many Christians, unfortunately, and it shows in our lack of fruit (love, joy, peace)
- we care more about self-image and how we are perceived by others
- we fail to understand the love and goodness of God
The goodness gospel preaches that we must do more, be more, attain more, and never drop any of the roles we juggle. It’s all about our performance. On the days when we are performing well by our own standards, and everyone is applauding us, we feel validated and good. On the days when we fail, and people criticize us, we feel condemnation. This is not the good news. The good news is that we are not enough, and we don’t have to be enough, because Jesus is enough on our behalf.
For those worried that From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospelis a call to licentiousness, or as TGC article infers, a call to abandon good works, I’ll leave you with a few quotes from the book and let Christine speak for herself:
“As we receive his love, our responses will include daily dying
so that we might awaken to righteousness. We will make no provision for the
flesh because we desire to live according to the Spirit. That’s the heart’s
desire of the redeemed.” Pg. 85
“The Spirit enables us to pursue righteousness and do all that
God asks of His followers. “I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not
fulfill the lust of the flesh….” Pg 94
“We can trust that it is the Holy Spirit who is leading us when
he aligns our hearts with Scripture and convicts us of truth. This conviction ….leads
to godly sorrow and repentance. “ pg. 101
“As he convinces us of both our need and our reception of
imputed righteousness, we recognize a growing love and desire for obedience in
our lives. He leads us away from the lusts of the flesh.” Pg 101
“ but we have another responsibility, and that is to obey when
he leads. It’s not enough to receive the Holy Spirit’s conviction, direction,
counsel, and leadership; we must then fall in step with him by following and obeying.” Pg. 106
Christine’s heart is to want to do right so badly and be good in all her roles, that it eventually brought her into bondage. If you can relate with this struggle, you’ll be blessed by her gracious, clear, gospel solid writing.