The good folks at Patheos asked me to review Matt Chandler’s new book, To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain.
Since Matt was kind enough to endorse one of my books, I decided to accept their request.
Before I talk about the book, a few personal words about Chandler.
Matt Chandler and I have never met, but we’ve had some correspondence in the past.
I remember when I heard that he had a brain tumor and I was burdened to lift him up. The Lord healed him, thankfully.
Chandler is typically lumped in with the Neo-Reformed crowd. From my experience and the experience of many of my friends, this is a group that is noted for not fellowshipping outside its own borders. There are exceptions, however.
(Steve Brown happens to be one of the most remarkable Reformed Christians on the planet today, by the way.)
Adrian Warnock is another Reformed brother who is non-sectarian and moves outside his camp to fellowship with and listen to other servants of God. For that reason, I have a lot of respect for Adrian.
In addition, Joe Carter (of the Gospel Coalition) and John Ortberg both graciously endorsed God’s Favorite Place on Earth. Again, this sort of thing is uncommon for many in the Reformed camp (to endorse a book from someone who isn’t part of their tribe).
Incidentally, if you’re finding this blog for the first time, you may think I’m anti-Reformed. Not so. I’m both Reformed and Arminian and I’m neither at the same time.
I think Calvin and Wesley were both remarkable servants of God. They just emphasized different sets of Scripture and built their theology around them.
But one thing I deeply despise is the spirit of sectarianism and elitism. And these twin plagues are in the drinking water of many movements in the Body of Christ today.
As I’ve said elsewhere, sectarianism and elitism are like body odor. The people who have it don’t know it, but everyone else can smell it a mile away.
Point: If you only listen to and give credence to those who are part of your denomination or your movement or your tribe, you will always be short-sighted (though you may not realize it).
We have not so learned Jesus Christ to enclose ourselves in this way.The Body of Christ contains many members and we must be open to all of them.
“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’,” said Paul.
That doesn’t just mean a glib head-nod to the oneness of Christ’s Body.
It means and demands fellowship.
It means and demands interaction.
It means and demands communication.
They drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took them in.
~ Edwin Markham
That said, Matt’s book is a discussion based on the book of Philippians. It reads like a casual sermon on the letter (and if I had to guess, it’s based on talks he delivered on Philippians). Some biblical exegesis with personal anecdotes and contemporary illustrations woven in.
Matt uses Philippians to describe the journey toward spiritual maturity. I’m not so sure Paul had “spiritual maturity” in mind as the theme for his letter, but it’s fine to use it that way and Matt does a fine job with this approach.
Having looked at Philippians for a long time, I find it interesting that the church was made up mostly of women, and at the time Paul wrote the letter, it was around 10 years old. That’s ancient in the ancient world.
Like most of his letters to churches, Paul was writing to a church in crisis. Several of the women in Philippi were at one another’s throats (for instance). And Paul had to call on one of the mature brothers to help them break loose of one another. The church was splitting at the seams, so Philippians was a call to remind them of their Lord and refocus them back on who they really were.
(Okay, this is what comes out of me when I talk about Philippians. Back to Matt’s book.)
In short, I found the book to be an easy-to-read, popular discussion on Philippians that’s suited (especially, I feel) for new Christians. If Matt and I ever meet in person or talk on the phone, we’d discover that we have a tremendous amount of common ground to tread. That sentence in itself says volumes about what I think about his new book. 🙂
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