Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Wonder Working God by Jared Wilson

Jared Wilson remains one of my favorite authors.  His work is clear and forceful, even though there is much disarming and enlightening humor generously sprinkled throughout.  His desire is that the reader would love the Lord Jesus more and, through that love, seek to live a life that honors him by making him known.  This is another book that, I believe, will help many to that end.

This spring Wilson released The Storytelling God, a work that focused on the parables of Christ.  His newest work is a sequel of sorts(compendium?...follow-up? goes together well!).  In The Wonder Working God,Wilson takes the reader through the miracle of Christ, all the while pointing the reader to the Kingdom of God and the King himself.

In a work like this, on a subject like this, what words mean are of great import.  The way "miracle" gets tossed around in common speech and in Christian circles makes it difficult to get the proper understanding of the miracles of Christ.  In a world where many "feel no such compunction" to avoid cheapening the word "miracle" and where phrases like “Choose your miracle.” and “Every day is a miracle.” and others "proliferate in both spiritual and secular Western culture, popularized on TBN or the Oprah show.  In this milieu,(where) a miracle is a fulfillment of your personal dreams and ambitions, and the accumulation of accolades and treasures," it is crucial that we have a proper understanding of what a "miracle" actually is.

Wilson provides a good, working definition for this study where miracle is defined as "a supernatural act of God that glorifies Jesus."  He also explains how miracles are "normal" and "glimpses of the way the world is meant to be, glimpses of the way the world is actually becoming".  Wilson adds that, "In and through Jesus, the kingdom is coming, and God’s will is being done on earth as it is done in heaven. Jesus’s miracles are the very windows into heaven, and through them heaven is spilling into earth like sunlight through panes whose shades have been violently rolled up."

Wilson covers Christ’s control over nature, his healings, his exorcisms, his resurrections and his own resurrection in order to help the reader see:

  1. The miracles demonstrate the “at hand”-ness of the kingdom of God.
  2. The miracles are acts of heavenly normalization, which is to say they are isolated snapshots of the transformation of the broken world to the way it will someday be.
  3. Because the miracles are acts of heavenly normalization, they are acts of revolutionary subversion against the corrupt course of the world and the realm of the Evil One.
  4. The miracles point to Jesus Christ himself as the source and summation of the three acts above.

Wilson's treatment of the eschatological wine of Cana is a great start.  His dealing with the feeding of the 4,000 continues well.  Encouraging the reader to see beyond simply the physical nature of this lesser known feeding miracle, Wilson points out that,

       In Christ, we are eternally satisfied, abundantly satisfied, mightily satisfied. And because the miracles are not ends in themselves but signs pointing to Jesus himself, we are reminded here that we are not merely saved but eternally saved, abundantly saved, mightily saved.
       Through the gospel, let us remember, we are satisfied with seven baskets besides: regeneration, pardon, justification, adoption, union, sanctification, and glorification—and still more. His mercies, like the bread of heaven sent to the children of Israel, are new every morning.
Wilson is immensely quotable.

  • Speaking of the situation before Christ calmed the sea--"The disciples’ snoring Sovereign is snoring because he is sovereign."
  • When Lazarus is called forth by Christ- "Lazarus does not need seven steps or tips about how to achieve a successful exit from the tomb."

  • Referencing the provision of water in the desert God gave the grumbling Israelites-- "he graciously turns their whine into water by instructing Moses to strike a rock."
  • Dealing with suffering and sovereignty--"the God of the Scriptures, the one true God, is sovereign over all things. And that is scary sometimes. It is spiritually discombobulating."

And even though they may exceed microblogging etiquete, his longer quotes are equally profound if lacking in 140-character pith.

On why Wilson confront false teachers, like Joel Osteen, publicly and harshly?
This is why: because he’s sending people to hell. He gives people who are suffering, poor, and in need of a theology of the cross of Christ a nonexistent genie in a magic lamp, and when they aren’t fixed, healed, or made prosperous, great doubt and confusion inevitably set in. They think: “Maybe God isn’t loving. Maybe God isn’t powerful. Maybe I don’t have real faith.” All because the prosperity gospelist has invited naïve people to ask comfort into their hearts and invite material goods to be their personal lord and savior. All their faith has been placed in mortal things and not on the God who purposes pain.
On the ultimate end of our ultimate enemy he adds,
      There is a well-worn rule of playwriting that goes like this: if you introduce a gun in the first act, it must get fired in the last. And because God is an excellent storyteller, what has been suggested in the first act (Gen. 3:15) shows up in the last:
       And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. . . . [A]nd the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Rev. 20:2, 10)
On faith,
      Faith is an empty vessel. It’s an open hand. It’s an openness to be filled with Jesus. When we come to Christ in faith, we are saying, “I need you and I want you; therefore, I trust you to save me eternally.” Don’t bring any works. That’s not an empty hand. Don’t bring a sense of righteousness. That’s not an empty hand. Bring your messed-up, broken, sinful self. Jesus came only to save sinners. If you’re not a sinner, you can’t have Jesus.
       So, “all things are possible for one who believes” isn’t some inspirational, self-helpy Dr. Phil “keep your New Year’s resolutions” mantra. It is a promise that trusters in Christ will not be conquered.
Wilson adds five ways to battle unbelief which, coupled with his beautiful chapter on depression from Gospel Wakefulness, make a great starting point to encourage yourself and others to persist in faith and persevere even through the darkest of times.

Wilson closes with the resurrections Christ performs, culminating with the "cosmic exorcism" that was his very own resurrection from the dead.  "In the Gospels, we are viewing the kingdom of God coming into the world through the works and words of his Son, Jesus Christ, and he is steadily and certainly filling all things (Eph. 4:10). He fills even the grave with life."

     What may happen when the miracle of the gospel lands squarely in your heart, when it becomes real, the reality that God—as in, God—loves you?
... As it pertains to having the living God draw near to us, the experience of fear and trembling assumes it is truly God and the glorious Christ we have encountered and not some pitiful caricature. The god of the prosperity gospelists is a pathetic doormat, a genie. The god of the cutesy coffee mugs and Joel Osteen tweets is a milquetoast doofus like the guys in the Austen novels you hope the girls don’t end up with, holding their hats limply in hand and minding their manners to follow your lead like a butler—or the doormat he stands on. The god of the American Dream is Santa Claus. The god of the open theists is not sovereignly omniscient, declaring the end from the beginning, but just a really good guesser playing the odds. The god of our therapeutic culture is ourselves, we, the “forgivers” of ourselves, navel-haloed morons with “baggage” but not sin. None of these pathetic gods could provoke fear and trembling.
Wilson continues,
 But the God of the Scriptures is a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24)...This is the God who leads his children by a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. This is the God who makes war, sends plagues, and sits enthroned in majesty and glory in his heavens, doing what he pleases. This is the God who, in the flesh, turned tables over in the temple as if he owned the place. This Lord God Jesus Christ was pushed to the edge of the cliff and declared, “This is not happening today,” and walked right back through the crowd like a boss. This Lord says, “No one takes my life; I give it willingly,” as if to say, “You couldn’t kill me unless I let you.” This Lord calms the storms, casts out demons, binds and looses, and has the authority to grant us the ability to do the same. The Devil is this God’s lapdog.
       And it is this God who has summoned us, apprehended us, saved us. It is this God who has come humbly, meekly, lowly, pouring out his blood in infinite conquest to set the captives free, cancel the record of debt against us, conquer sin and Satan, and swallow up death forever.
This is a great book worth reading and sharing.  Short, clear, fun, encouraging.  Get one, gift one.  It is money and time well spent.

You can download a sample of the work here.  Be careful though.  While the sample is free, it will ultimately cost you the price of a book because it is hard to read some of this one and not want the whole thing!


“Into a world where naturalism is the prevailing philosophy, Jared Wilson casts a fresh vision for the wonder-working power of the God-man, Jesus of Nazareth. This biblically engaging, Christ-exalting, and never-boring book deserves your close and attentive reading.”
—Sam Storms, Lead Pastor for Preaching and Vision, Bridgeway Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

“Christianity is supernatural. We read the Bible and see God doing things that can’t be explained rationally. That is the God we long for, One who can do extraordinary things in and around our ordinary lives. But Christianity is about God, not just what God does. I love this book, because Jared Wilson helps us worship the miracle worker, and not settle for just wanting and worshiping miracles.”
—Darrin Patrick, Lead Pastor, The Journey, St. Louis, Missouri; Vice President, Acts 29; Chaplain to the St. Louis Cardinals; author, The Dude's Guide to Manhood
“Could it be that Jesus’s miracles were not the paranormal, but actually the true normal breaking into our world of paranormal sin corruption? Wilson gets to the biblical heart of why Jesus performed miracles—these harbingers of God’s mission to set right all that has gone so terribly wrong. Along the way, Wilson helps us hear what Jesus has to say to enlightened postmoderns, skeptics demanding apologetic proofs, and the paranormally fascinated. A soul-refreshing, gospel-drenched read.”
—Jon BloomPresident, Desiring God; author, Not by Sight and Things Not Seen

From the Publisher:
Do you believe in miracles?
Walking on water. Multiplying the fish and the loaves. Raising Lazarus from the dead. The miracles of Jesus may be well known, but they’re often misunderstood. In The Wonder-Working God, pastor Jared Wilson wants to help us see that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to the miraculous events recorded in the Gospels.
From the humble wonder of the incarnation to the blinding glory of the transfiguration, this book shows how Jesus’s miracles reveal his divinity, authority, and ultimate mission: restoring us and this world to a right relationship with God.

* I received an ARC of this work from the publisher to offer a review.