Friday, July 17, 2015

Passing Through: Pilgrim Life in the Wilderness

Passing Through: Pilgrim Life in the WildernessPassing Through: Pilgrim Life in the Wilderness by Jeremy    Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jeremy Walker has written a new book that is quite timely.  For too long, Christianity reigned supreme in the west.  This caused many of us to become comfortable and begin to treat this world as if it were our home.  But with the west becoming more openly hostile to biblical Christianity, many of us are reassessing just what it means to be a pilgrim in a foreign land.  As we try to learn how to deal with a world that rejects us (because it rejects Christ), we often err one way or another.  Sometimes the temptation is to disengage and sometimes the temptation is to assimilate.  Neither of these are the proper way to be in this foreign world and remain not of it.  Walker sets out to help guide the reader as pilgrims passing through.

Any book that can, in the span of 10 pages, quote Bunyan, Lloyd-Jones, and Sun Tzu is going to be a fun read.  And it is.  Walker starts off by encouraging the reader to embrace their status as resident aliens and recognize that our stay in this world is just the precursor for something greater to come.  He then sets out to help the reader prepare for how to live as a pilgrim.  A pilgrim must do certain things to live properly.

We must Know the Environment—Recognize the world in which we live and understand the times.  We must know that we cannot follow the Lord and be friends with/be accepted by the world.  We do not need to flee or hide from the world.  But we need to be aware that there will be opposition, unless we desert.   It is dangerous to not be aware that the world, apart from the saving work of Christ, sees us as enemies if we bear the light of Christ.
We must Know the Enemy— We have to not simply know what is going on around us, we have to be mindful that we are being actively opposed in our efforts to live a faithful life of worship and witness.

We must Fight the Battles—The Christian life is a battle.  We are in hostile territory and are actively opposed by an enemy who would destroy us if he had the ability.  We need to know that there will be constant and consistent battles, and we must engage in them, or we will suffer loss.

We must Pursue the Mission—This is an important aspect for many of us living in the security of the west.  The enemy’s attack are much more subversive than they are in a world of active tribulation.  One of the greatest temptations and struggles we can face is the apathy that arises out of spiritual stagnation.  We aren’t actively turning from the Lord, but we are not pursuing him and his work either.  And this lukewarmness can destroy our faith and our witness.

We must Respect the Authorities—Walker makes the case that Christianity is not a subversive, rebellious cultural coup.  Respect of authority is a sign of a Spirit-filled believer.  That one is hard for many of us to deal with.  Walker does not address the responsibility of those in authority.  He focuses on those of us who are under authority and how we are called to be obedient.  Walker does not argue that there is no place for civil disobedience, but it is significantly less of an option than we are prone to believe (using Daniel as a great example) and prayer is a much better option that we often forsake.  This is the best chapter of the book, far better than I am conveying.  It is worth the price of the book on its own.

We must Relieve the suffering—We overreact when we flee so far from the bogeyman of “social gospel” that we see no need to bear the present burdens of those around us.  We are commanded to love our neighbor, visit the widow and orphan in their distress, and to do unto others as we would have them do unto us.  It is part of our jobs as Christians to meet needs.  It is one of the reasons we are still here.  God may not need our good works, but our neighbors most certainly do(I think I am stealing from Luther here).

We must Appreciate the beauty—God made all that is.  It may be broken, it may be marred, but there are the fingerprints of God all over creation.  We are created to be worshipers and we should worship when we see things that are beautiful.

We must Anticipate the destiny—We are to set our minds on things above.  If we are to be pilgrims, there is a type of discontentment that we should passionately embrace.  We act different and think different when we realize that this world is not our home, it is not the end, and there is something significantly better awaiting those who persevere to the end.

We must Cultivate the Identity—This section was basically a “make your calling and election sure” charge to the reader.  If you are a believer, a child of God, a new creation; recognize that this is the Lord’s doing.  And recognize that you are responsible to grow in that godliness and be conformed to the image of the Son.

We must Serve the King—It is what we were created to do.  It is what we are called to do.  It is what we will do for eternity.  It is not a burden; it is a blessing.

Walker begins each chapter by offering the Scriptural framework for the position he is taking.  He then offers some summary thoughts and adds a section of specific counsels to these issues.  It is not enough to simply be aware of your environment or that we have an enemy or that we must engage in battle.  How are we to respond to these truths?  Walker includes some helpful counsel on how to live in light of these facts.  Walker doesn't limit the scope of the book by offering specific imperatives beyond scripture.  Some would, erroneously, see this as a weakness and lament that he didn't address specific, cultural issues.  In approaching it the way he has, he does well to not bind the conscience beyond the word of God by giving biblically derived counsel, not man-made hedges.

This is a good book and worth the time and effort.  I thought it was a bit long and had a hard time getting into it at first.  But I believe that anyone who spends some time and makes the effort will benefit from these pages.

I received a review copy from the publisher.

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