Book Recommendation:

Getting Back Into the Race, Joel R. Beeke (CruciformPress, 2011) There just aren’t many books out addressing the issue of the backsliding Christian. I imagine one reason is the marketability—I mean, how many backsliders are really going to go buy a book about their condition? And I don’t think they would take too kindly to being handed a book on backsliding by a concerned friend saying, “Here, I think you should read this.”  One of the symptoms of the backsliding Christian is denial. Or, if they are more honest about their rebellion, contempt. They’re just not likely to read this book. And yet, I’m so glad to have it available to whoever’s hands it may fall in.   The title, Getting Back In the Race, is a positive one.  I was eager to read what Beeke had to say on this issue. Along with the biblical analogy of a race to describe Christian sanctification, Beeke takes us through the book of Hosea. He also quotes extensively from a crowd that was not afraid to spill some ink over the issue of the backsliding Christian—the Puritans. I love it when a good book leads you to other good books for further reflection. There is a lot of meat packed in between the mere 100 or so pages that CruciformPress is known for publishing. And although Beeke is compassionate and encouraging, he doesn’t have velvet on his tongue (as Spurgeon would say). He points out that we cannot be presumptuous with God’s grace. How dare we be so audacious in our sin, believing God will look passed it just because we prayed a prayer. Here’s how he defines backsliding:
Backsliding is a season of increasing sin and decreasing obedience in those who profess to be Christians. Not every sin is backsliding. Christians must sadly expect their lives to consist of a continual cycle of sinning and repenting of sin by faith in Christ crucified (1 John 1:9-2:2). In backsliding, however, this this cycle of repentance is broken and spiritual ground is lost (16).
And here is one of the severe warnings he gives right after:
The longer one persists in backsliding, the less right one has to claim to be a true Christian (1 John 2:3-4), for repentance is of the essence of true Christianity (Acts 2:38, 20:21; 26:18-20).
This is just such a big issue that needs to be addressed more in the Christian community. Maybe if we have more books out there like Beeke’s we will be less prone to backsliding, more aware of the seriousness of our sin, and better equipped to counsel those we love who are flirting with the slippery slope. This book passes my test of being both convicting and encouraging. Beeke addresses the heart of the issue being idolatry—misplaced trust. Here is a good taste of the convicting:
You must know the dire straits in which your backsliding has put you. You must know the horrible offense of your sins against God. Bunyan said that sin “is the dare of his justice, the rape of his mercy, the jeer of his patience, the slight of his power, and the contempt of his love” (63).
And yet we are not left without hope. Beeke points straight to Christ, who is our only hope from the clutches of sin. He explains, “God has made Christ everything to the believer” (69). This is the best portion of the book. I will give you just a few of the 16 examples of how this is so.
  • Are we nothing but sin? Christ became sin on behalf of his people to redeem them from it (2 Corinthians 5:21)
  • Are we separated from God? Christ was forsaken by his Father as Judge so that we will never be forsaken by him (Matthew 27:46).
  • Are we prayerless and thankless? Christ is the praying and thanking high priest who sits at the right hand of the Father and never ceases to intercede for his people (Romans 8:34).
  • Are we restless? Christ went without rest for thirty-three years, but now he has entered into his rest (Psalm 132:8, Hebrews 1:3), causing his people to rest in him as their prophet, priest, and king who has paid for their entire salvation (Psalm 110) (69-70).
The gospel is saturated throughout the whole book. And, although my skepticism doesn’t think a backslider would read this book, God might just have them stumble upon it anyway. Like I mentioned in my reflection on Glory Road, he somehow worked it out for countless Arminians to stumble upon the writings of R.C. Sproul. I’ll trust that God will put this book in the right hands as well. To him be all the glory.