Irresistible Faith: Becoming the Kind of Christian the World Can’t Resist by Scott Sauls. Thomas Nelson. 224 pages. 2019
This is Pastor Scott Sauls’ fourth book. I always find his books challenging and quite helpful. Irresistible Faith is no exception. The “Foreword” is written by Bob Goff who writes that the book is an invitation for us to return to the most authentic version of our faith. It’s also an invitation to join, or create, an authentic community of people trying to go somewhere beautiful with their faith. He states that Scott has given us some beautiful reminders about what each of us needs and about the Someone we can trust to go with.Sauls tells us that these days the word “Christian” seems to evoke as many negative reactions as it does positive ones. He asks how it was that we ended up alienating the world around us from Christ, rather than attracting it to Christ? He tells us that at times our lives are perceived as being more lackluster than compelling, more contentious than kind, more self-centered than servant-like, more fickle than faithful, more materialistic than generous, more proud than humble. Instead of shining as a light to the culture, we often become products of the culture. He tells us that as those whom Christ has called the light of the world, the salt of the earth, and a city on a hill, we still have a long way to go. He tells us that the world thirsts for the kind of neighbors who deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow Jesus in his mission of loving a weary world to life. The world also thirsts for a new vision for being human, for pursuing and entering friendship, and for leaving things better than we found them.
Looking back at the church depicted in the book of Acts, he asks what it would look like for Christians to be reignited in this kind of faith for our time? What would it look like for us to become those who live most beautifully, love most deeply, and serve most faithfully in the places where we live, work, and play? What would it look like for Christians to become an irresistible force again, even among their non-believing friends, colleagues, and neighbors?
He tells us that well-formed followers of Christ can’t help but become positive contributors to the places they live, work, and play. This book is an attempt to nudge readers in that direction, away from worldliness and toward a world that thirsts for a hope that only Christ can provide. The first part of the book is designed to help the reader draw closer to Christ, our ultimate source of nourishment and light. The second part explores how living in community with other believers is an essential component to this endeavor. The final section encourages the reader to take the grace we have received from Christ and from each other into the world in a way that uplifts the poor, integrates faith and work, and leaves the world better than we found it.
As in his previous three books, Sauls is vulnerable and honest in his writing, telling us that he sometimes feels like he is more part of the problem than he is a part of the solution. He tells us that the first step in our journey of becoming like Jesus is acknowledging how unlike Jesus we are and knowing that he loves us just the same. While we are simultaneously sinners and saints, in Christ we are identified solely as the latter. The process of growing into the forgiveness, perfect righteousness, love, and character of Jesus is precisely that—a process. I appreciated his statement that when Christ invites us to come to Him as we are, He doesn’t intend for us to stay as we are. The closer we grow to Jesus, the less dominated by sin we will be. And the less we are dominated by sin, the more like Jesus we will become.
He writes about Scripture, telling us that fulfilling our calling to love and enjoy God with everything we are and to love our neighbor as ourselves—that is, becoming irresistible—stands or falls on whether or not we become people of the Book. He states that a sure sign that we have been filled with the Holy Spirit is the presence of a new affection and thirst for Scripture, and that the Bible in all of its parts is a reliable road map for trusting, following, and becoming like Him.
He tells us that when our lives are united to Christ through faith, we have the assurance that our best days are always ahead of us and never behind us.
He addresses a number of topics in this helpful book, including our work (that chapter was worth the price of the book for me), serving the poor, idols (our functional lord and savior), possessions, kindness and encouraging words over criticism and judging others and the resurrection.
Throughout the book he offers helpful illustrations as well as quotes from theologians, pastors and authors that he appreciates, such as C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller, Jonathan Edwards, Dorothy Sayers and John Bunyan.
The book ends with an appendix that includes “A Prayer for Irresistible Faith” which gives in summary form the many themes of the book.
I highlighted many passages in the book. Here are 10 of my favorite quotes:
- On the cross, Jesus took the punishment that our sins deserve, thereby moving our judgment day from the future to the past.
- When our lives are united to Christ through faith, we have the assurance that our best days are always ahead of us and never behind us.
- Everything minus Jesus equals nothing, and Jesus plus nothing equals everything.
- What if all it took for us to become the “light of the world” and the “salt of the earth” and the “city on a hill” to our friends, neighbors, and colleagues was to choose kindness over criticism toward one another, giving the benefit of the doubt over assuming the worst in one another, building each other up instead of tearing each other down.
- While Jesus invites us to come as we are, he does not want us to stay as we are.
- This is the good news—that in Jesus, God has forgiven all shame and guilt from sins past, present, and future. No one is beyond the forgiveness and grace that Jesus offers and accomplishes with his own death and resurrection.
- Jesus did not come to make bad people good or good people better, but to bring dead people to life.
- Blessed are those who recognize that in having everything without Jesus, they have nothing, and in having Jesus and nothing else, they have everything.
- Work, all productive activity apart from rest and play, contributes to our fulfillment as God’s image-bearers. It is one of the primary ways we have been invited by God to participate in his mission to redeem, restore, and develop the world.
- All Christians are called as Christ’s ambassadors into the places where they live, work, play, and worship, with the glorious purpose of leaving people, places, and things better than they found them. This is the universal Christian job description.