A mom home with her four preschoolers got devastating news in the form of a phone call from her husband: “I’m not coming home…ever.” Persistent depression hounded a young pastor since childhood, even after he fell deeply in love with Jesus as a college student. A teenage athlete from a nominally Christian home chased girls, partied, got in fights and generally used his brilliant intellect to disprove the faith his mother had tried to instill. A 32-year-old commercial real-estate high-flier relapsed in drug treatment on New Years Eve at the dawn of the new millennium — divorced, depressed, despondent and desperate for real change. They all longed for change. Maybe like you, or someone you know or counsel, they all needed to know that they weren’t beyond hope.
Recovering Redemption: A Gospel-Saturated Perspective on How to Change, by Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer, is about how the gospel transforms and redeems the most broken of hearts. Even in many churches in which the power of the gospel to save is boldly proclaimed from the pulpit, the power of the gospel to effect lasting change in marriages, in addictions, and in psychological disorders is often dismissed. We say that we have a “lust problem”, a “communication problem” in our marriage, “anger issues” or the like, instead of recognizing, as Chandler and Snetzer say, that “the heart of all our problems is the problem of all our hearts.” And so, we look for answers in all of the usual places: trying harder to change ourselves, looking to others, escaping into the world, or seeking to earn God’s favor through increased religious effort. Of course, real change is never found through any of these means, but it sure doesn’t keep us from looking for it there. Paul rebuked the Galatians, “Having begun by the Spirit are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3) And yet, the not-so-subtle message in many churches and “Christian” counseling centers is more like, “the gospel may be mighty to save, but only the wisdom of man can effect lasting change.”
At The Village Church, where Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer both pastor, people like those above, along with scores of others, have found redemption in Christ from sin and suffering through the power of the gospel as described in Recovering Redemption, which is the basis for the church’s recovery groups ministry. In just over 200 road-tested pages, Chandler and Snetzer, the former teenage atheist and the former 32-year-old addict, respectively, unpack an approach to change that is fueled by the gospel. For sure, change begins with a recognition of the gravity of our sin that results in “godly grief” instead of “worldly grief”. Relying heavily on the work of Puritan Thomas Watson in The Doctrine of Repentance, the authors paint a vivid portrait of genuine repentance that leads to genuine change. In the gospel, believers stand in a new identity in which God the judge has declared us righteous and God the Father has declared us His! The chapter on justification and adoption lays essential theological groundwork in an accessible format.
Then the real work of real change begins. And here is where I believe Recovering Redemption separates itself from every other book on this subject. Chapters 6-11 address topics like gospel-driven sanctification (mortification and vivification), dealing with guilt and shame, fighting fear and anxiety, renouncing our former ways, and biblical peacemaking: reconciling, amending, confronting and forgiving. Every biblical counselor, pastor, teacher, elder or church leader who reads these chapters will benefit from the wisdom from God’s Word that is immediately applicable to helping broken people find hope and healing through the gospel. Laced with stories of real individuals whose lives have been redeemed by the power of the gospel through The Village Church’s recovery groups ministry, Recovering Redemption is a book of hope for those who long for redemption and for those who long to help others find it.