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Toward hope and joy

BOOKS | An encouraging word in a time of hand-wringing

Toward hope and joy
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Kevin DeYoung’s Impossible Christianity (Crossway 2023) offers some rare encouragement in its 140 pages.

The Christian glass is more full than empty. Evangelical believers tend to focus too much on the empty part of the glass.

The book captures DeYoung’s point in an uncharacteristically long subtitle: Why Following Jesus Does Not Mean You Have To Change the World, Be an Expert in Everything, Accept Spiritual Failure, and Feel Miserable Pretty Much All the Time.

His book is based on the Lord’s commendation to the two faithful servants in Matthew 25:21, 23. They got “well done” on their report cards. Add 2 Timothy 4:7-9 (“I have fought the good fight”) and see how we can join with Paul in gratitude for progress in our sanctification, in spite of our shortcomings.

DeYoung’s message is a breath of fresh air in a time of pessimism and hand-wringing. “Following Jesus does not mean signing up for the Impossible Mission Force,” he declares: “He does not mean for us to feel bad all the time.”

He takes the reader through some helpful distinctions about the mix of sin and righteousness we have in this life, calling on the 17th-century Reformed scholastic Francis Turretin to contend for the true goodness of our good works.

DeYoung, a Presbyterian pastor, offers a balanced view of quiet time, or the disciplines of Bible study and prayer—keep doing them but don’t get obsessive about them. Don’t think they earn any merit with Christ. He encourages the wealthy: They can still get into the kingdom. They do have something to contribute.

Corporate responsibility and guilt are real but not quite as important as personal responsibility, DeYoung notes: “Past sins can be recognized and renounced, even if we are not required specifically to repent of them. Self-flagellation is not a requirement for spiritual maturity.”

Why offer this message in 2023? Because it is a timely response to the internet’s overblown influence, combined with national divisions over politics, race, and immigration, to name a few. DeYoung’s book is not especially political, but he offers a healthy balance of wisdom and understanding in his customary readable style.

Russ Pulliam

Russ is a columnist for The Indianapolis Star, the director of the Pulliam Fellowship, and a member of the WORLD News Group board of directors.


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