an infinite journey – a review

An Infinite Journey - CoverAndrew Davis’ book, An Infinite Journey: Growing Toward Christlikeness, is a real diamond in the rough.

I received a free copy for review from the publisher, Ambassador International, and to say that I was pleasantly surprised would be a gross understatement.

What first drew me to request this book was the raving review written by Tim Challies.

Upon receiving my own copy, I was amazed to find praise from D.A. Carson adorning the cover as well.

My respect for both of these thinkers and writers was a sturdy preface indicating the quality of the content to come.

I was not disappointed.

Davis’ main premise is this: We are all on two infinite journeys – the external journey of the gospel’s advance to all nations, and the internal journey of sanctification (pp. 17-18).  Davis points out that “these two journeys have one goal: ‘the praise of His glory’ (Ephesians 1:12, 14)” (p. 21).

Why are the two journeys called infinite?  Not because they will never be accomplished, but because they both require the infinite power of God in order to take place.

An Infinite Journey is an attempt to organize the Bible’s teachings on sanctification.  As outlined by the author, “… all of Christian maturity can be found under four major headings: Knowledge, Faith, Character, and Action” (p. 29).

Davis uses thorough precision to touch on a myriad of topics in each of these categories, and I found him to be a down-the-line, biblical thinker.  It was refreshing to find a present-day author churning out such solid truth with equal conviction.

I was particularly challenged by this premise near the beginning of the book:

“The Church needs to reclaim a Bible-saturated, Spirit-drenched emphasis on both of these infinite journeys, learning that they are absolutely intertwined.  It is impossible for the Church to make progress externally to the ends of the earth if there are no Christians mature enough to pay the price to go as missionaries and martyrs.  And it is impossible to make genuine progress in sanctification if the people only read good Christian books and stay in classrooms, but refuse to get out into the world as witnesses.  These journeys are mutually interdependent: without progress in one, there can be no progress made in the other” (p. 24).

The chapter that impacted me most was the one entitled, ‘Reliance on Christ.’  God really used that chapter to convict me of my own reliance on myself, as opposed to genuine faith and trust in God.  I was able to see how I have shifted my weight from leaning wholly on God to depending on my own strength (or lack thereof).  This chapter reminded me that God not only initiates salvation, but He brings it to completion, and every step I take in between is purely through His sustaining grace.

One component that I had never considered before was what Davis calls the ‘two-sided coin’ of faith (p. 153ff).  He explains the definition of faith as found in Hebrews 11:1 — “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  According to Davis, the Greek word for ‘conviction’ as used in this verse actually refers negatively to a sense of rebuke or reproach for sinfulness that leads to repentance.  As such, faith has two components, namely the positive looking forward and assurance, and the negative aspect which causes us to see our sinfulness and turn from it.  Previously, I had always considered both parts of Hebrews 11:1 to be synonymous, as opposed to complimentary.

A criticism I’ve read about the book is that its hefty length deters churches from being able to digest it piece by piece, as for a weekly Bible study.  I understand how this could be a hindrance, but I don’t think that should be a reason for not using the book.  To overcome this hurdle, perhaps one leader could read the whole book, highlight key premises for the group, and choose six or eight topics to focus on in depth for discussion purposes.

Another potential criticism could be a tendency to emphasize works over grace.  Though the book is filled with things we are commanded by God to do, I believe the author would be the first to argue that none of these good works could ever be accomplished apart from the grace and strength of God.  Towards the end of the book, I started to feel a bit heavy from the weight of all the requirements of Scripture on a believer, but then the Lord reminded me of Davis’ initial premise, that both of these infinite journeys require the infinite power of God.

An Infinite Journey is a book I would highly recommend not only to pastors and others in full-time ministry, but to laypeople as well.  It is an extremely valuable resource, as it addresses nearly every conceivable component involved in the path of becoming more like Christ.

I would especially encourage missionaries, spiritual mentors and evangelists to obtain a copy, as it is a worthwhile tool for new believers seeking to navigate the forthcoming and lifelong journey of sanctification.

Though it is best read cover to cover, the book could also be useful as a topical reference to answer specific questions regarding certain aspects of the Christian life, such as emotions, self-reliance, or stewardship.

Thank you, Pastor Davis, for this gift to the Church at large.  It is evident through your testimony that you are a man who walks the talk.  May this book be used to encourage many in their growth toward Christlikeness, and may you see the fruit of your labor.

To order a copy of An Infinite Journey, click here.

rolling up the stairs

It was my privilege to guest post over at Bronwyn’s Corner this week.  She and her ministry of words have been such a blessing and encouragement to me.  I encourage you to pop over and pay her a visit by clicking here.

Below is the post that first appeared on her blog.

Living in West Michigan this winter has been Down. Right. Crazy.

The snow just Will. Not. Stop.

Frequent hours have been spent at the end of our driveway, heaving shovel after shovel of brown, wet slush over my shoulder onto the white banks that stand as sentries on either side, now taller than my head and growing every day.  Bundled in multiple layers, squinting my eyes from the blustering wind and flurries blowing sideways, I’ve often been reminded of this quote by Phyllis Diller: “Trying to clean your house while your kids are still growing is like trying to shovel the sidewalk before it stops snowing.”

Shoveling

The same could be said of our desire to ‘clean our hearts,’ through the ongoing process of sanctification.  No matter how many times we go out to shovel the sin away through repentance, it just keeps on snowing.  We just keep on sinning.  Day, after day, after day.

Our pastor recently gave a very timely illustration for his shivering Michigan flock.  He compared the cleanliness of our hearts to the cleanliness of our snow-covered driveways.  “Even if you shovel on Thursday night, it’s covered again on Friday morning.  And if you shovel on Friday, there is a fresh pile waiting for you on Saturday.”  The same is true of our hearts, he said.  We need to daily — no, hourly — be kneeling before the throne of grace in repentance, gratefully accepting God’s cleansing power of forgiveness through His Son.

It’s an uphill climb, this process of sanctification.  A lifelong, uphill climb.

As a wise four-year-old once observed, “It’s not easy to roll up the stairs. But it is easy to roll down.”

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The same goes for sanctification.  It’s not easy to work our way up, but it is oh, so easy to slip down.  Like a child grunting his way up the steps of the slide at the playground, heaving those chubby little legs up one, then two, then three rungs of the ladder, it takes careful, deliberate effort to make one’s way toward the top.  By contrast, it takes barely any energy at all to slide down the metal slope — and often, with much glee and delight.  The slippery ride into sin is often laced with enjoyment — yet just as often, it ends with a thud in the dirt at the bottom … and usually not without tears.

Sometimes I think God gives us these life lessons as warnings — red flags, to keep us from making the same, painful mistakes again.

This past summer, I was slowly shuffling down a flight of stairs in our home, clutching a pillow to my cramping stomach and leaning my right shoulder against the wall.  Three steps from the bottom, the banister which had served as my crutch ended abruptly, without my knowledge.  As a result, I missed the last three steps and landed — hard — on my big toe, bent under.  Instantly broken.

That was over six months ago, and my toe still hurts.  I couldn’t drive for six weeks.  The lesson was well engraved into my mind.  Now, whenever I approach the top of the staircase, I block everything else out of my mind and focus on descending the steps.  I refuse to make the same mistake again.  The fall that day was quick, and the results oh, so painful.

We learn from experience that it’s much easier to roll down the stairs than it is to roll up.  We learn from experience that if we don’t shovel the driveway, we won’t make it into the road.

In his book, An Infinite Journey, Andrew Davis goes into great depth about the Christian’s journey of sanctification.  One component, he says, is experiential knowledge.  Combined with factual knowledge about God from the Scriptures, the Lord has also provided us with real-life lessons that teach us about His goodness, His holiness, His grace, His jealousy, His love.

One Scriptural example offered by Davis is of Moses lifting up his arms in prayer.  Moses quickly learned through experience that if he let his arms sink to his sides, the tide of the battle would turn against the Israelites in favor of their enemy, the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-13).  It was hard work.  So tiresome, in fact, that Moses had to request a rock to sit on, and two assistants to help him hold up his arms.  The lesson learned, as Davis points out, was that “prayer is indispensable to the journey of victory that God has prepared for His people” (An Infinite Journey, p. 114).

A lesson I gained from this account was that sometimes we need assistants to hold up our arms.  When the climb up the stairs toward heaven becomes tiresome, when the shovel full of snow becomes too much to bear, instead of just rolling down the stairs back to square one, or letting the snow pile up until it’s impassable, we can call for help.  We don’t have to walk the Christian life alone.

Firstly, we have God.  It’s only by His grace and strength that we’re able to raise our foot to the step or our shovel to the bank in the first place.  Secondly, we have a spiritual family.  Brothers and sisters in Christ who are called to share the burden and bear each other’s load on the long trudge through the blizzard toward glory.

The arduous, persistent task of shoveling the snow from the end of the driveway is not without reward.  It almost certainly guarantees safe passage toward the desired destination.  Without clearing the accumulation away, even an SUV would fail to break through the solid blockade.  Similarly, by continually going to the Father with a broken and contrite spirit — not for multiple assurances of salvation or acts of justification, but for the ongoing acknowledgement that He is God and we are not, that He is good and we are not, that He can save and we can not — that heart posture, only possible through God’s grace and His Spirit, will allow for safe passage between the banks to our eternal destination with Him.

Maybe you’re at a point in your climb where you’ve fallen down a few steps and broken your toe.  Maybe you’re hobbling in pain, limping your way back to the staircase.  You know from experience that it’s much easier to roll down than it is to roll up.  But you don’t want to be at the bottom.  You want to be making your way back to the top.  If that’s the case, perhaps you’ll be challenged by this portion of Revelation:

“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.  Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” (Revelation 2:4-5)

If this resonates with you, Andrew Davis offers this three-step suggestion: Remember, Repent, and Do.  Remember the height from which you have fallen.  Remember the affection you used to have for Christ.  Repent.  Then do the things you did at first.  Go back to the stair case, take a deep breath of God’s grace, and start climbing.  Zip up your jacket and start shoveling, even while it’s still snowing.

To purchase An Infinite Journey: Growing toward Christlikeness, by Andrew Davis, click here.

Photo credits: Szapucki (shoveling) and Brian Moloney (stairs)