Friday, January 13, 2012

Getting Back in the Race by Joel Beeke

As in a military conflict, so in the ongoing war that is the Christian life: perseverance like that of a marathon runner is a neccessity--even, and especially, in the face of what seems to be daunting odds.--Joel Beeke, Getting Back in the Race.

Dr. Beeke, or Mr. Puritan as he is known around my living room, offers some great insight from Christian minds of the past, along with his own gems, on how the Christian is to run the good race. Specifically, in this book, he deals with the perils and the prescriptions for one who has fallen down during this race and even might be slipping backwards. To be a backslidden Christian is a terrible and dangerous place to be and Beeke does well to warn his reader.

What does Beeke mean by "backsliding"?

Backsliding is a season of increasing sin and decreasing obedience in those who profess to be Christians. Not every sin is backsliding. Christians must sadly expect their lives to consist of a continual cycle of sinning and repenting of sin by faith in Christ crucified(1 John 1:9-2:2). In backsliding, however, this cycle of repentance is broken and spiritual ground is lost.

Beeke outlines briefly the purpose of Getting Back in the Race.
The purpose of this book is to awaken Christians to the reality of backsliding, to help us recognize it when it starts, to show where it may leadand to empower believers--those who are in the grip of backsliding, or those in a postition to help the afflicted--to get back into the race by the grace of God.
Beeke does not discount the grace filled miracle that is the perseverance of a believer. He argues that perseverance is as mighty a miracle as conversion itself.

How do we do that? How do we keep up the pace? It's one thing to begin the Christian life, but quite another to persevere in it. It's one thing to repent and believe the Gospel, but quite another to go on repenting and go on believing. The miracle of Pentecost in Acts 2:4 is great, but in some ways, Acts 2:42 is even greater: "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and in fellowship and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."

After this brief introduction, Beeke asks the reader the permission to engage them directly, as if a pastor speaking to a backslidden brother or sister. The tone of the book is direct and hard but loving and not harsh. The use of second person is very effective in making the topics covered personal and cutting, not cutting like an assailant, but cutting like a surgeon wielding a scalpel to remove a cancerous tumor that promises to infect the entire body.

Beeke divides this book into 4 chapters plus an introduction and conclusion. He takes time to help the reader discern if they are backslidden, or simply a repentant sinner. He illustrates this as the difference between a runner stumbling and a runner falling to the ground and possibly not getting up. Getting Back in the Race is essentially an exposition of Hosea 14:1-9, specifically applying it to those of us who have begun the race, but at certain times have laid face-first on the ground, debating whether they can, or even desire to, return to their feet and finish the race.

Beeke's book is confrontational, loving and direct. He doesn't waste time tiptoeing around sensitive subjects, but dives headfirst into some tough waters. This is a quick, good read for anyone who feels they might be backslidden or has opportunities to minister to those who are.