Lately, I have been extremely focused on issues relating to growing in Christlikeness. It should be a major aspect of our lives as Christians. I was very interested to see how Unleashed by Eric Mason from B&H Publishing Group would add to my understanding.
The book is not overly long, at 185 pages including the notes. But there is a lot of great information contained in those pages. Throughout the book, Mason focuses on different aspects of how God conforms us to image of Christ, to paraphrase the subtitle.
Chapter 1 reminds us that being sanctified is ultimately tied in to the gospel of Christ. Mason points out that “Paul shows us that we never ‘get beyond the gospel’ in our Christian life” (p. 9). I think this is a much-needed reminder, as all that we are as Christians begins and ends with the gospel of what Christ has done for us; we live and grow out of that.
Chapter 2 focuses on how the Holy Spirit aids in our conformity to Christ. He points out that the Holy Spirit is often not given His proper due for the work in our lives, either by underemphasizing Him (making mention of Him, but not much else) or overemphasizing Him (by focusing too much on gifts of the Spirit, etc.) (pp.29-30). Mason seeks to provide a proper balance and explanation of how the Holy Spirit helps us grow in the image of Christ through our lives.
Chapter 3 focuses on the role of faith and repentance throughout the Christian life. Faith and repentance establish us in Christ, but they are not merely something we use to enter into a relationship with God. Rather, they are ongoing aspects of our lives with Christ. We live lifestyles of repentance, constantly seeking to ensure we are walking as God would have us walk.
Chapter 4 discusses the role of the word of God in our sanctification. In order to become more like Christ, we have to know what God says and instructs, and we can only know this as we read, memorize, study, and meditate on His word.
Chapter 5 explains the role of prayer in our spiritual growth. Prayer is the way we draw near to God and bring ourselves in line with His will.
Chapter 6 is an exceptionally good chapter, focusing on the role of suffering in our growth in holiness. This chapter is a wonderful way to help us look at our struggles and suffering through the lens of Scripture, seeing those things not as hindrances to our spiritual life, but often as the means God uses to help us conform to Christ’s image. Christ Himself suffered, so we should not expect anything less. Rather than losing hope, we find joy in the midst of our suffering and allow it to help us mature in our character.
Chapter 7 discusses strongholds in our lives and how to overcome them so that we may continue to grow rather than being hindered.
Chapter 8 is a wonderful examination of how marriage is often God’s means of helping people become more Christlike. As husband and wife look after each other and take on the God-ordained roles laid out in Ephesians 5, they begin to help each other become more like Jesus in their lives. With the husband loving his wife as Christ loved the church and the wife submitting to her husband as to Christ, the home becomes a constant place of mutual growth and encouragement as we “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12, ESV).
Chapter 9 explains the importance of Christian community for our sanctification. We need each other, and Mason lays out the “one another” passages in Scripture very clearly. I think it is great to be reminded of how we need others in our Christian walk, especially in our extremely individualistic society.
Mason’s book, Unleashed, is very solid in terms of theology and biblical understanding. While there were some new ways of wording things so that I could think through them differently, there was not much here I had not read in other places. So for those who have been Christians for a while and have read and studied a lot, they may find this book more of a refresher than eye opening. It would be an outstanding book for those new to the faith, however, as it would lay out sanctification in a clear and easy-to-understand way. The back of the book hints at this with it’s question “You’re a Christian. Now What?”
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in deepening their understanding of sanctification, but especially to new believers who are just getting started in their walk of faith.
Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.