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Irresistible Faith

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I received an ARC from Thomas Nelson via NetGalley, this review is my personal opinion.

I  like how Pastor Scott Souls open up from his own life on how to be a real Christian in the now and how to impact our society. How we should care more about our relationship with God, to be grateful for were we are, to be open and let others see us as we are. With practical and biblical advice I believe that this is not an ordinary book, but more of an invitation to step up of the normal and trust God to work on us, so we can truly serve Him with our all.
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Scott Sauls is one of my favorite pastoral voices - this book is no exception. He answers the question "how can we make our faith irresistible?"  With practical and biblical ideas. I loved the way he moved from the individual to the church to the larger world - but kept Jesus at the center of all the ideas and challenges he shares. This is a great read for anyone desiring to grow in their faith, draw closer to Jesus and show the world irresistible faith!
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The Christian Church is in the midst of challenging times. In fact, the way that the world view the Church has not changed a lot. The Church and Christians remain quite a rejected bunch of people in many societies. One of the reasons is what author Scott Sauls say: "the people of Jesus often have not represented him well." Many of us know that Christianity is about Christ. Yet, there are many who are disappointed with the behaviour of Christians, which in turn leads them to reject Christianity altogether. This is a pity but also a common reality. Mahatma Gandhi once commented about Christians: "I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." He is not the only one who says things like that. Many non-believers are aghast at the way some Christians are politicizing religion; having hypocritical behaviour; and doing things that are perceived as "holier-than-thou" attitudes. Such cultural climates, rightly or wrongly, are what believers have to go through these days. Safe to say, if believers were to practice according to the teachings of Jesus, they might be seen in a better light. Having said that, historically, believers no matter how pious or charitable they had been, criticisms have never subsided. Even Jesus Himself had been persecuted. This is unavoidable. What author Scott Sauls has proposed is a good posture of resilience and optimistic response.

Society nowadays, rightly or wrongly, discredits the entire Christian population, albeit unfairly. One should not generalize the entire Christian faith on the basis of a section of Christians. Yet that happens a lot. The challenge before us is this: How do we move from this state to becoming a community where people would find us and our faith irresistible? Three things: 1) Abide in Christ; 2) Belong to an irresistible community; and finally, 3) becoming an irresistible Christian.

Sauls makes several pertinent observations. The problem with the negative image about Christians is both external and internal. Externally, it is because the behaviour of Christians do not reflect enough of Christlikeness. Internally, it is due to Christians' flawed understanding of Christianity. He embarks on a positive journey to remind us of the great achievements of old. In spite of opposition, Christians have started hospitals, universities, contributed positively to the arts and the charities; etc. They have helped society to flourish at that time and we ought to continue our witness in our present times. At the same time, we are urged to avoid adopting any "holier-than-thou" behaviour or to politicize our beliefs. We should do our part to shape culture.

In Part One, Sauls begins with Christ. No matter how impossible it is, any optimism must stem from abiding in Christ. That means recognizing that Christ accepts us as we are. He makes a good observation, that even when Jesus felt forsaken when He was at the cross, we are given much grace that even in the midst of struggle, we could even question God: "My God, why haven't You forsaken me?" That is a comforting thought. At the end of the day, it is all about God loving us and we living for approval by God. Having said that, Sauls takes us through the journey of struggling to read the Bible. Many struggle with boredom, confusion, and lack of focus. That is why we need to depend on the Holy Spirit to help us get our heads straight. The journey to savouring Christ needs divine guidance, more than mere human perseverance.

Part Two brings us to the effects of abiding in Christ. A community is about relationship. Without the foundation on Christ, Christian community loses its meaning and identity. Sauls shares several examples about the need as well as the impact of a transparent, kind, intimate, and compassionate community. In our world, it is common to be showered with thousands of praises, but all it takes is one criticism and we can get shaken. An irresistible community will not only cultivate an atmosphere of safety, it helps us be ourselves. Not only that, we help one another grow beyond our negativity in a beneficial way. That said, we also need courage to stand up for what we believe in, rather than to shirk back at the first signs of opposition. Even when we admit we are a mess, that does not mean we should quit altogether. After all, the gospel is for hypocrites from all walks of life! As long as we learn and respond humbly, there is no preventing us from reaching out. An irresistible community also embraces hope and helps one another to do the same.

Part Three puts all the discussion we have so far into action, especially about personal testimonies to becoming an "irresistible Christian." First, learn to treasure the marginalized, especially the poor. They are often ignored. Once we have learned to deny ourselves, identifying with the poor becomes much easier. We are not self-accomplished individuals. We are nothing without God. With God, they believe that God's blessings are to be shared, not hoarded. This attitude of sharing and caring are practical steps toward blessing our neighbours. The work we do should not just be making money or to make ends meet. It is a mission for Christ. Once we have this as the reason for work, going to work need not be purposeless or monotonous. As new creation people, we ought to seek to leave this world a better place than before. Sauls exhorts us to cultivate and live out a "love-driven, life-giving" community, even when such communities are increasingly a minority in many parts of the world.

My Thoughts
First, I thank the author for reminding us once again that there is hope and excitement in the proclamation of the gospel in words as well as in deeds. Faith without works is dead. Work without faith is meaningless. We have many reasons to be optimistic and hopeful. Sauls has given many reasons for such hope throughout the book. Some of the ideas would take sometime to sink in, especially the part about "being ok with not being ok." As people have said, the longest journey is from the head to the heart. The gospel reminds us that we need to abide in Christ and to let Christ abide in us. For without Christ, we can do nothing. Hopefully, readers will get a good sense of this truth as they read this book. It is easy to plunge into the more "practical" part of the book, but I would advise against that. Every work and activity needs a firm foundation. With patience, we would get there.

Second, don't for one imagine that there will be no resistance. There are obvious limits to any forms of optimism. I am sure the author writes this book with the best of intentions and the highest of hopes. Unfortunately, it may be too idealistic to think that practicing all the good we could automatically result in being "irresistible" to the world of opinions. Jesus has said clearly that those who follow Him will be persecuted. Scriptures are full of reminders to believers not to be discouraged when the world reject us. Christians are not of this world, though they are in the world. In other words, in spite of the optimism that Sauls puts into the book with regard to becoming the people the world cannot resist, I think the opposite is more true. The more we be like Christ, the greater the rejection rates. It is an unfair world, so we should not deceive ourselves into thinking that we can change the world's thinking.

Finally, a reminder that our objective in the Christian life is not about becoming "irresistible" in itself. This is a byproduct of something bigger: Christlikeness. We are called to Christ and this means called to holiness. We can try to become as attractive as possible to the world, but that again is a red herring, a futile exercise in itself. What really matters is how we love God and love people. This is a lifelong journey of perseverance in our pursuit of God. For Jesus has reminded us that blessed are those who seek after God's righteousness, for they shall be filled. This is a promise that we can take heart in. Don't give up on the tasks before us. Don't give in to discouragement surrounding us. Don't give away the hopes we have in Jesus. Stay

Scott Sauls is senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee. He was formerly a lead and teaching pastor at New York City's Redeemer Presbyterian Church. He also teaches homiletics at Covenant Theological Seminary.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.

This book has been provided courtesy of Nelson Books and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.
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It's good to see an increase in books like this one - books that are challenging the way we followers of God are presently living, speaking and behaving. I'm continually surprised by how many non-believers and/or non-church goers are sharing how uninspiring and unloving the average person claiming to be a Christian is. It breaks my heart as I realise I am no better.

Sauls asks, “What would it look like for Christians, en masse, to start loving and following the whole Jesus and the whole Scripture, the whole time, into the whole world?” It's exciting to contemplate a different world one in which the followers of Jesus truly are a shining light and salty in flavour drawing others to the love of Jesus. Sauls does an excellent job in this well written book to highlight what a vibrant church of Jesus followers would look like and some of the causes for the current malaise.

I really liked how he set the book out in 3 sections, 3 chapters in each:

1. Abiding in the Irresistible Christ - it all starts with Jesus. How does one become like Jesus if we're not continually hanging out with Him?

2. Belonging to an Irresistible Community - God is communal in His nature (3-in-one) and being made in His image we must be too. Accordingly, we can only thrive as believers if we commune together.

3. Becoming an Irresistible Christian - this was perhaps my favourite section as it challenged me the most. 3 chapters dealing with practical love for the poor, embracing work as a mission and being motivated to leave the earth a better place.

This is a challenging and convicting read and I'd encourage every Christian to read it. I also hope Sauls produces a companion study guide that challenges the reader to execute upon some of the great content in the book.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from Nelson Books via NetGalley without any expectation of a positive review.
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Scott Sauls writes with a candor that makes the reader feel as though he is talking directly to them.  His experience with people as a pastor and his insight into the human heart are clearly evident.  This book is another great example of taking the complicated aspects of the Christian faith and making them understandable and applicable to the everyday believer in order for them to draw closer to Christ.  This is an excellent book for every person of faith.
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Jesus and resurrection faith in plain English. Great stories mixed in with Scripture.Very easy and enjoyable to read, lots of highlights and notes. A fantastic refresher on faith.
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Great read. Very thought provoking and makes you really exam what you think are Christian actions and attitudes. How Christlike is our faith? Is it irresistible?  Scott Sauls is a honest writer and challenges the reader to open their heart and mind to examine our walk in light of The Word.
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My review of “Inexpressible” by Michael Card, focusing on God’s hesed love for his people.

Goals of the Book:
Do you, off the top of your head, know what the Hebrew word hesed means? You might not, considering that English Bibles translate the word in a multitude of different ways. But what might we think about God, and how he feels about us, when we capture what his hesed looks like for us?
Of course, we’ll never be able to capture the depth of that kind of love God has for us. But thanks to Michael Card, we might start to see it more consistently in the Bible and start to appreciate it on a new level. Hesed, generally translated “covenant love” or “consistent love”, is a deep and powerful concept, one well-deserving of it’s own book. Thankfully, Card walks us through the process of translating the term and applying it to our own lives.

Why Should We Care?:
We always wonder if the Lord loves us when X is true. X could be, “I’m a sinner” or “I committed this specific sin” or “I don’t go to church as often as I should”, etc. But how would your relationship with the Lord change if you started to think, primarily, in terms of the Lord’s love for us? How would it change if God’s love became the primary lens through which we view our relationship? Studying the word hesed is a wonderful way to understand the Lord’s love for us throughout Scripture, seeing concrete examples of this kind of love and the Scripture’s consistent witness to his love for us.

“Hesed: When the person from whom I have a right to expect nothing gives me everything.”

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Book:
As I alluded to above, I appreciated Card’s careful attention to both biblical theology and the breadth of the biblical narrative. Sometimes, we hear that God “loves” us, but these abstract statements may not mean much for us. But studying Ruth, and seeing examples of hesed love? Now, that’ll change your life.

I also appreciated a really early discussion on the laments in the Psalter and how hesed plays into biblical lamentations. I wish I could quote it in full, but I’d rather point you to the book that I recommend you purchase 🙂 Essentially, Card looks at the book of Lamentations/Jeremiah, and Psalms 13 and 89 to show us how God’s covenant love for us is the turning point that changes our grief into celebration and love.

I also appreciated Card’s honesty in translating hesed. He notes that it is not an easy 1:1 translation from Hebrew to English, and the translation comes with some of its own issues. Etymologies are not always helpful in translation, nor are simple word studies. Card can lay this out for us without bogging us down with too many technical details that would bore his popular level readership. (This gets major brownie points from me!)

Like I said above, I highly recommend this book. If you’re struggling with God’s love for you, are interested in a word study with touches of biblical theology, or want to explore new dimensions to who God is and how he relates to us, this is the book for you. You can read more about the book here on IVP’s website, or you can order it on Amazon here.
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There are many books about living the Christian life that are good and this is one of them. He has some fresh perspective and I enjoyed that.
I received this book free from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.
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Irresistible Faith is a book I will be recommending to many. Instead of telling the reader that they aren't doing enough, he encourages them to start with where they are in life and use that place as a way to reach others.
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Who are we as the Church? Scott Sauls paints a picture of God's church as it should be: an inviting, supportive community, just as the one referenced in Scripture. We are so far from what it should be, and Sauls' book illustrates that. This is a call for back to the Bible community, a longing for what has long been lost or forgotten and the will to make a change for the good. How does faith become irresistible again?

This book would be welcome reading for any church or ministry that finds themselves asking," Is this all there is?" This is an invitation to live out our own faith in a way that leads others to the church, not seeking perfection, but seeking change and growth in their lives. Scott Sauls has a great way of including the reader in this process, all while encouraging us to be the change. No history or struggle can be erased, but over time, the renewal process can begin. This hope-filled book is a great place to start.

I was an early reader thanks to #NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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What does Biblical Christianity look like? What if followers of Christ lived the type of faith that would attract the world, rather than repelling it? Scott Sauls has written a very practical book about faith that is lived in daily life.
He begins with faith as a personal matter. We must "be okay with not being okay." Faith in Christ requires an understanding that we don't have it all together, but trust in Christ to make it "okay" in the end.
The second section involves life in the community of faith. in the chapter entitled "Performing Soul Surgery on One Another" Sauls reminds us why we must confront each other in love. Isn't that hypocrisy? Sauls notes that what qualifies you or me to steer anyone from a path of sin to a path of wholeness is not that we have our acts together. If that were so, we would all be disqualified. Rather, it is in treating others as fellow sinners who are on a journey beside us that we have a duty to help our fellow traveler deal with the speck in his eye.
Finally, Sauls puts Irresistible Faith into perspective in how we live daily. We must treasure and help the poor, rather than blaming and ignoring them. We should see our work as a mission, rather than a job that has no relationship to our faith. Finally, our task is to leave the world a little bit better by the way we live.
Thanks to the publisher for providing an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
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