I’ve just finished my fourth Tim Chester book now, and have to admit up front that I am becoming a big fan of his writings. Here’s my other reviews of his books…
This one, his latest, subtitled “Living the Cross and Resurrection”, seeks to show how the pattern for Christian living is modelled on the cross of Jesus, and our hope for the future is based on the resurrection. The book is broken up into five main sections.
The first section seeks to explain the message of the cross, how it demonstrates God’s love for us, and gives us a new status. He shows how an appreciation of the cross gives us humility and confidence, as we look at God and ourselves in the light of the cross.
The second section then expands on how we live the way of Jesus, which is the way of the cross – a life characterised sacrifice, submission, self-denial, service and suffering. A powerful chapter entitled “Everyday Martyrdom” illustrates very practically what it means to follow the way of the cross each day. Counter-intuitively for our culture, this way of self-denial is actually the way of joy.
The way of the cross impacts on both our big life choices and our small daily actions. It really does include both martyrdom and washing up.
The third section, explores the pattern of the cross and resurrection – suffering followed by glory. There is no route to glory that avoids the cross, and so all evangelism must include the call to follow the way of the cross. Although our mission takes place in the power of the Spirit, it is to be characterised by humility, service and love.
It is in this section that some of his slightly controversial material is to be found. He is strongly critical of the desire to win the world by appearing successful, large, or powerful, and much of what he argues for in these chapters cuts right across the grain of what you might hear in many contemporary evangelical and charismatic churches, especially within the “church growth” movement. In fact, if anything, he seems to be suggesting that being small and weak are an integral part of our witness to the way of the cross.
The fourth section is on the power of the resurrection – power to be weak. Again, this may not be what you are used to hearing, with most teaching on power being related to how we overcome and are victorious in life. Tim Chester points out how often New Testament verses that promise power immediately go on to talk about suffering. We have power to suffer, power to be weak. It is not power for victory over suffering, but power to follow the way of the cross. Again, he is critical of the modern church that has taken its model of leadership from the world, rather than following the pattern of the cross.
The fifth section deals with the promise of the resurrection and hope. Here, he includes a very helpful chapter clearing up some common misconceptions of “heaven”. Our hope is not to go to heaven, but for a future when heaven will come down to earth. Our hope is for a future world characterised by justice, love and joy. This is a world worth living and dying for. It is a world taking risks for. We are to consider ourselves pilgrims, and store up heavenly treasure by being generous with earthly treasure.
Already Not Yet?
There are a few points that will make for difficult reading for charismatic evangelicals such as myself, as he is critical of “power evangelism”, and charismatic “highs and healings”. The difficulty lies in answering the question “to what extent can or should we expect the age to come to break into the future”? Chester does admit to there being a foretaste of what is to come, but seems to have a much lower expectation of God’s power to heal, or even his willingness to relieve us from present suffering, or to bless us in any way that is earthly. I do feel that there are many in charismatic circles who have an “over-realised” eschatology, assuming that we can just claim freedom from suffering and sickness automatically. But I do not believe that there is any problem in our desiring to see signs of the kingdom. As Chester himself acknowledges, the resurrection is not just a future hope, but a present experience.
Despite my slight reservations that he might underplay some of the blessings we can now enjoy through the Spirit, I would say this is another gem of a book from Tim Chester. Seeing the way of the cross as the pattern for the Christian life is thoroughly biblical and it is a tragedy that much of the church has marginalised this message. Also, the call to be a people of hope, based in the resurrection, is too rarely heard, resulting in Christians who live for this age that is passing away, rather than for eternity.