When you think of God, what immediately comes to mind? Do you think of an overbearing dictator in the sky who revels in telling you what to do and punishing those who disobey? Do you imagine a score-keeper who maintains a running talley of your faults and expecting you to make good for your wrongs?
Well, if those are your perceptions, you are the person that Mike Glenn had in mind when he wrote his book The Gospel of Yes. God is not that way at all. In fact, as Glenn points out, even in the Ten Commandments God lays out the way that life works best and opens our lives up to the “yes” of the rest of existence.
Glenn does an admirable job of laying out the story of the Bible and how even from the beginning God pursued humankind, making a way back to himself. In different ways to each prominent character he made declarations of his promises and his determined mission to carry them out. I was excited to read about how desperate our need is for a “yes” in a world that constantly tells us “no.”
God tells us “yes” throughout the story of the Bible as he intimately walks with his people. His “yes” is most profound in the life and death of his son, Jesus, who from the cross and in his resurrection he gives us the “yes” of forgiveness of sin, “yes” of being set right with God, and the “yes” of our hope of resurrection with him.
However, as Glenn continued to share the story of the gospel (what God did/does for us), he switched into law (what we are required to do). Granted, it is an optimistic perspective on our life in Christ, but it lays out much that is burdensome as he talks about how the “yes” of God requires life change. Hearing the “yes” of God, according to Glenn, means we must respond with our own “yes” of forgiveness of others, simplicity, authenticity individually and in relationship, and of our specific and unique purpose in life. Rather than teaching the true freedom of the gospel, Mike expresses an urgency to do and achieve the Christian life.
I fully acknowledge that Mike did not intend to create a new list of “shalts and shalt nots,” because, after all, having purpose can be a wonderful thing. At times he does remind the reader that God’s gift of salvation is free, yet the overall tone is one of requirement. A fine example is his treatment of the Beattitudes: rather than a bestowal of blessing, Glenn interprets the passage as a sort of laundry list of qualities that we are to cultivate in our lives as Christians. The missing piece is the imputed righteousness that Christ gives us as a gift as part of his work of salvation. That is, Jesus not only died to save us and forgive us, but he also lived the perfect life we could not, for us, and in our place, and then credited his perfection to our account.
In an episode of The Middle this past year tells how the Heck family decided to change churches. The message from the service was “Get your business done.” Essentially, the pastor called the congregation to seek out their specific purpose in life and to do what they are called to do. Throughout the rest of the episode the mother, Frankie, tried everything she could think could possibly be her purpose. Failure after failure, night after night with no sleep because of obsessing on what her purpose could be, left Frankie baffled. Finally she gave up her search and found that she was probably already living out her calling in her day-to-day care for her family.
Does the Bible instruct us to find our purpose in life? Not really. Many people like to point to people like Noah, Abraham, Moses, and the prophets as people God specifically called to a specific purpose. But what about the hundreds and thousands who are never mentioned by name? Did they each have a specific life-long calling?
The Westminster Catechism asks “What is the chief end of man?” or “What is our purpose?” The answer: “…to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Done! What more do we need than that? The real way the gospel is our “yes” for our purpose is that it frees us from the requirements of ritual and duty to the law and allows us to pursue what we will. God does not have to prescribe what your calling is an any other way than through the talents that he has given you.
Speaking of talents, do you recall that parable that Jesus told? Several servants were given varying numbers of “talents” or coins. All but one invested and received a profit that they gave to the master. The only one who angered the master was the servant who did not do anything but bury the money; he did nothing with what he was given.
God does not give you a gift and make it a secret to you. You know your talents and gifts, your job is to use them in any way you can. And the only reason that you would do so is because you want to honor God for what he has done for you. God does not make this a requirement, but simply and profoundly frees us to do what pleases us and him.
Glenn says that “yes” is likely God’s favorite word. He says “yes” to free his creation, “yes” by his limitless mercy, “yes” with his common grace on every person, “yes” with his specific grace to save sinners. He shouts his “yes” as he continues to involve himself in his created order to bring his promises to fulfillment.
Note: a copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review. No obligation was given to give the book a positive review; all views expressed are my own and not influenced by the publisher.