In 1730 to 1740 America experienced the First Great Awakening, a revival that not only impacted the British Colonies, but one that spread around the globe. Around the time of the Civil War, America experienced the Second Great Awakening. Now 150 years later America is in a spiral down the trail of post-modernism! This contrast is striking. Has the Church fallen asleep? Has it failed in its mission assigned to us by our LORD in Matthew 28:19-20? Is the problem with the Church, or is the problem in the pew?
These are some of the questions that motivated me to take a look at the newest book by Jared Wilson, “Gospel Wakefulness”. My own relationship with Christ also motivated me to take a look at this, and I was curious, just what is Gospel Wakefulness?
Jared Wilson defines “Gospel Wakefulness” as: “…treasuring Christ more greatly and savoring His power more sweetly (Wilson 24).” However, Mr. Wilson goes on to explain that Gospel Wakefulness is not something you do or can learn, but something that happens to you as you grow in your relationship with Christ (34).
I like to share my disagreements up front. There is no advantage in my mind to hold off until the end, until people are reeled in to the greatness of a book (and this is a great book). However, it is written by man, and has flaws. My primary disagreement with Jared Wilson is in his view of how Gospel Wakefulness occurs as an act of God as a lover. Mr. Wilson makes the point that Gospel Wakefulness is being “swept off our feet by a romancing God (69).” He then goes on the attacks of what he calls machismo and saying that this is how God draws us (70). I’ve been saved now for almost 20 years, but there is no doubt in my mind that I have experienced Gospel Wakefulness as Jared Wilson defines it. However, I was not drawn to God by a romantic love, but that of the love of a father.
Hebrews 12: 5-6 says, “And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. (English Standard Bible)’” This is how the LORD stirred my heart to Gospel Wakefulness, not as some lover trying to woo His bride. I have been very blessed by the LORD since the point of my Wakefulness, for which I’m very thankful.
Now let me share you some of the many praise worthy aspects of this book. There is no doubt in my mind that Jared Wilson understands greatly that which he has written about. To have such a clear definition of Gospel Wakefulness, I believe, only comes from experiencing it for one’s self. Throughout the book Jared Wilson also takes the time to share several other people’s stories and their encounter with gospel wakefulness. One of the stories that really struck me was the story of Eric, probably because it some ways it mirrors my own story. Eric’s story is in Chapter 2 which is Nonnegotiable Brokenness.
Another chapter that really stood out to me, not necessarily for myself, but because of my relationship with my wife, was the chapter on Depression. Jared helped put things in a way I could understand, and even see how better to minister to my wife who has dealt with depression since she was a child. In this chapter Jared mentions his own failing in ministering to someone who was severely depressed, but then goes on to explain how now he sees things differently. I’ve been like many of the Christians whom Jared mentioned who often times think that if a person’s relationship with Christ was better then they wouldn’t be depressed. This is of course untrue. Jared helped show me ways where I can stop being like Job’s friends, and instead be the support my wife needs.
Finally Jared Wilson’s chapter on “The Gospel Wakened Church” really grabbed my attention, and had me shouting, Hallelujah! (All right maybe not quite, but it was a great chapter). In this chapter Mr. Wilson mentions Tim Challies and an experience he had at a conference up in Canada. He had been asked to speak, and decide to focus his topic on the centrality of the gospel (183). Jared Wilson mentions how Mr. Challies felt that the reception was a little cold to this particular message. And in fact Jared Wilson quotes an attendee who was disappointed that Mr. Challies didn’t cover something other than the centrality of the gospel (184).
In this chapter I again saw some of myself, as he quoted C.S Lewis. C.S. Lewis wrote several letters in which he mentions his experience of “Gospel Wakefulness”. In one particular letter C.S Lewis mentions how he had been asked about a belief at some point earlier he would have said he believed it, but something happened in his life where he had now experienced his belief (186). One very strong aspect of this chapter is it gives six resolutions for Gospel Wakened Churches. You can find these resolutions on pages 197-200. The other aspect that I think is central to this chapter is its stressing the importance of the Gospel not just once, but every day.
Even though I have concerns with Jared Wilson’s attack on “machismo” I would still have to rate this book 5 out of 5. So strongly do I believe in the message of this book that I have already given it hearty recommendations to two of my brothers, and will be recommending it to my brother’s-in-law as well! I also told a friend of mine, who also has a review coming out on this book that this is a book he needed to read because of what he would gain. I know that Jared Wilson is working on another book, and I look forward to reading some of his other writings.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Crossway as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”