"If your story of redemption stops at your healing or your freedom, then you do not yet have God's vision for redemption. If you are content to keep God's presence all to yourself, then you haven't truly been changed. He wants to do something in you, yes; but beyond that, he wants to do something through you. He wants to make his name known. 'Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble' (Ps. 107:2)"
This is just one of many quotes from the book that spoke volumes to me. It brought fresh ways of thinking, deeper healing and a new resolve to accept God's way of healing and redemption. This is not for the faint of Christian heart, but if you are truly seeking healing from abuse or addiction, this is a great resource.
This is the most eye-opening and encouraging book I've read in years. It's more than an exposition on the journey of the Exodus. Without accusation or condemnation, it peels back the layers and reveals God's work and His desire to redeem us from our very selves - while gently but clearly identifying the root of our distorted desires. Whatever "worship disorder" you have, this book can help set you free through the power of applied scripture. A MUST READ for anyone struggling to believe in the depths of suffering! I strongly recommend this book.
Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry by Mike Wilkerson (Crossway Books, 2011) is an incredible application of gospel work applied to the darkest parts of our being. It is a must read! It is a necessary resource for recovery ministries and groups. It is essential to marriage and family health. It applies to men and women of all ages and is vital for individual healing and church health. The most amazing aspect of this book is that although it focuses primarily on recovery ministries the message applies to everyone redeemed by the cross of Christ:
We are shackled by the past. Our bodies may be free but our hearts remain in Egypt.
The message of Redemption begins in slavery in Egypt and uses the Exodus event to show how Jesus Christ is your redemption. The message is fully God-centered showing that God's story is about God and how God's story answers real life questions. How does the cross apply to my past abuse? How does the cross apply to my past addictions? How does the cross apply to other problems in my life: marriage, family, eating disorders, depression, and any other issue I am dealing (or have dealt) with? Why is my life out of balance? Why can't I find peace?
Mike Wilkerson masterfully winds the exodus narrative through personal testimonies and illustrations to show how this major event in Israel's history is our model to understand our redemption in Jesus. This is established by the three main themes of redemption throughout the exodus: deliverance, ransom, and renewal. Through the cross, God delivers us from the bondage of our sin. Through the cross, God pays the ransom for our redemption from the penalty of our sin. Through the cross, God renews and restores us to our pre-fall condition into the image and likeness of his Son Jesus Christ. "When redemption is complete, God's original purpose for all creation will be completely restored" (36).
Like Pharaoh held the Israelites, Wilkerson shows how our abusers, addictions and shame hold us in captivity. He addresses bondage that is against our will well as our tendency to volunteer ourselves for slavery. He shows how we fail to trust in God by not placing our faith entirely in Christ just like the Israelites did not trust God's provision while wandering in the wilderness. In addition, he shows how our faith in Christ is usually not true, biblical faith but rather it is an agreement to trust God as long as he provides for us on our terms (Chapter 5: Demanding Manna).
The wounds of our past, self-inflicted or other-inflicted, define and determine who we are today. We hold onto them. We live in the past. We even long for the days of slavery back in Egypt over an unknown future. We have been set free from bondage and slavery but we are not yet to the Promised Land. We are wandering in the wilderness. We are pilgrims on the way. Every trial and test we face in life is an opportunity to trust God or run back into slavery in Egypt. Redemption helps us see this from God's perspective. God is renewing us. This is redemption. We cannot be the people God created us to be until we stop looking back and run to the cross. Redemption teaches us how. We bring all of our baggage from the past into all we do today. Once the shackles break off and we are truly free, our lives and relationships can begin to be what God intended. Redemption is the answer.
We live in a sin-stained, idol-filled, addiction-prone world and humanities' greatest need is for redemption. However, for many Christians, bridging the gap that often exists between the Bible and the trial is incredibly difficult. Even those who are well-trained in hermeneutics struggle from time to time to apply God's Word in a relevant way that speaks powerfully to the human condition.
With this in mind, Mike Wilkerson, counseling pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, has written a brilliant book entitled Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry. Drawing upon the Exodus event and real-life stories of addictions, hurt and idolatry, Wilkerson paints a vivid picture on how Jesus leads us to freedom. Some of the stories Wilkerson tells are absolutely gut-wrenching and will make even the most jaded reader wince. Yet that makes the picture of the redemption we have in Christ all the more beautiful.
After an introduction that orients the reader to the reason why sin exists, the first chapter, entitled "When You Suffer, God is Near" outlines how just as Israel suffered under the brutality of the Egyptians, we too suffer. Yet it is in our darkest hour of suffering that we can see the evidences of God most clearly.
The second chapter, entitled "Bricks Without Straw: How Long Oh Lord" encourages believers and those who are hurting most to cry out honestly to God in the midst of our hurt. We may not always receive an answer for why we suffer, yet the Christian can place his or her faith in a God who is always faithful.
Chapter three, entitled "The Passover: At Your Worst, God Gives His Best" Wilkerson shows how the Passover becomes a picture of the cross and a model for God's dealings with us. This chapter centers on our need for forgiveness.
Chapter four, entitled "Crossing the Red Sea: Into a New Life Free from Shame" is really, in many ways, the hallmark chapter of the book. Here, Wilkerson describes how the actual event of the Exodus serves as a paradigm for our own freedom. We are remade because our Creator was unmade. Due to this process of recreation, we are not defined by our past struggles but by our new identity with Christ.
Chapter five, entitled "Demanding Manna: The Subtle Significance of Everyday Desires" was, for me, arguably the most convicting chapter because it deals with an issue that virtually every person struggles with: good desires turning into idols. Here, Wilkerson discusses how even the most basic, natural desires can and often do become idols when they take the place of God. This is a brilliant chapter and full of insight that every pastor needs.
Chapter six, entitled "The Golden Calf: Volunteering for Slavery" is an outstanding chapter on idolatry. While much of this can be read in Tim Keller's Counterfeit Gods, Wilkerson nevertheless brings his own unique spin to the discussion. Ultimately, however, this chapter feels too borrowed from Driscoll's own Death by Love and Counterfeit Gods by Keller. That said, it is nice to see both Driscoll's and Keller's works synthesized into a coherent system.
Chapter seven, entitled "The Covenant-Keeping God: Our Only Hope for Lasting Change" warns the reader that change and freedom is not possible by a simple act of the will. Our redemption is ultimately found in resting in the God who is faithful to His covenant. In many ways, freedom rests not in "doing" but in "being". This chapter provides several needed warnings against such things as "idol-hunting" and "morbid introspection". It is a brilliant chapter and will provide much food for thought.
Chapter 8 is entitled "Is God Your Promised Land" and asks the reader to consider that question very closely. Freedom from sin is not just for the sake of freedomâ€”it is freedom to know God better. If God is not our "Promised Land" we are elevating freedom from a particular sin to the level of an idol. This too is an excellent chapter and is a tremendous reminder for many who find themselves in counseling situations.
Finally, the epilogue and appendix provide short exhortations as well as a helpful summary and synthesis of the book. My only regret here is that another chapter was not devoted to Wilkerson for the very heavy topic of religious addiction, which he covers in a mere page and a half in the appendix. Overall, however, the epilogue and the appendix serve their purpose well.
In conclusion, Wilkerson's book is a tremendous book that covers the some much needed ground in truly biblical counseling. Redemption is highly readable and practical. I found myself repeatedly needing to place the book down and worship our God who has redeemed us. While the book is short, clocking in at 176 pages, it is a heavy book and is not light reading. In many ways, I wish this book was made mandatory for every believer taking a hermeneutics class because it teaches one how to apply the Bible accurately and practically. It is my prayer that Wilkerson's book finds its way into the hands of many pastors.
*Thanks to Crossway Publishers for providing me a free review copy of this book*