◐ Book Name: Union with Christ
◐ Author: Rankin Wilbourne
◐ Genre: Christian Theology
◐ Pages: 320
Recommended for disenchanted Christians searching for the supposed life-changing transformation and peace that’s supposed to come from knowing Jesus.
◐ Review: 3/5 ⭐
I am evaluating this book purely on its quality, for the moment setting aside the controversy surrounding author Rankin Wilbourne.
Written for Christians by one of the most gifted speakers I’ve heard in my generation, Rankin presents the Gospel in a way that a layperson can understand. His words are at once, both accessible and also intellectual enough to satisfy my need for evidence.
The author begins with the question of why so few Christians today seem to mirror the one they supposedly follow. Where is the transformative power that is supposed to follow after accepting Jesus as their Lord? Where is the supernatural joy and peace that Jesus promises?
He starts by presenting the Gospel message as one in which an understanding of God’s grace is just as necessary as an acknowledgment of one’s sinfulness and need for that grace. One cannot exist without the other.
As someone who grew up in a performance-based understanding of the Gospel, it took me until my twenties to grasp this concept. Even then, it’s something that I frequently forget. But such is my human nature that thinks I can manage on my own. In my current phase in life, I found it a timely reminder of truths I have known but neglected to bring into my reality.
Rankin’s book breaks down very lofty, obscure theological concepts, and explains them in more concrete ways, giving a myriad of illustrations to drive home his point. This helps make an abstract, yet essential tenet of the Christian life, easier to grasp.
I especially appreciated how he began his book by talking about imagination, and how important it is. And throughout, he continues to refer to our human need for stories of enchantment and fantasy–stories, in short, that take us out of our dingy world, into one where wondrous things are possible.
However, some aspects of the book I didn’t like so much are that he can get rather repetitive. There were moments while I was reading that I thought, “I’m certain he already said this somewhere earlier.” The book could have been condensed quite a bit by removing some of the repetitive parts.
Rankin also relies a lot on quoting other theologians, from the early church days to our modern day. While he quotes them to illustrate that the notion of union with Christ has been well understood and present since Jesus walked the earth, it seems unnecessary to use so many. I didn’t read this book for a collection of quotes from other writers. I read it to hear what the author had to say on the subject. In short, Rankin is a better speaker than writer, in my opinion.
The theme of how action springs from a deep understanding of our sin and God’s love that rescues us from it, was transformative for me as a young woman. If this book had been released sooner, I might have found freedom from guilt that I couldn’t live up to the Bible’s teachings sooner. I especially appreciated chapter 13, which basically sums up the message of the whole book beautifully.
This book isn’t perfect, but for those, like me, who have grown up in a church culture of “what would Jesus do?”, as a way of shaming people to live “holy” (when at our core, we are utterly incapable of it), may just find freedom through this book. I was reminded again of how I can rest in God’s love, and live on the basis of that, rather than as a way to earn his love.
This book holds a message much needed in our culture of instant gratification and self-absorption, our culture of shame and inadequacy.
I had seen enough of Jesus to spoil my enjoyment of the world but not enough to be content with Jesus alone.
“If the gospel is supernatural, as you say, then why doesn’t it seem to make more of a difference in the lives of so many who claim to believe it?”
You are completely safe, hidden in him. He represents you before the Father. He covers you–your sin, your shame your weakness. … To be found in Christ means you don’t have to prove yourself anymore. Your frantic attempts to find or craft an acceptable identity, or your tireless work to maintain your own reputation–these are over and done. You can rest.
If only we could see how much God desires our good, then we would never choose against God’s will for our lives.
Union with Christ holds together what so many of us are struggling to hold together. It allows us to sing of a grace that asks nothing of us to love us–amazing grace–but at the same time, demands everything from us–my soul, my life, my all.
Union with Christ gives you a completely new self-understanding found outside of yourself in Christ. Union with Christ gives you a new identity. In fact, that’s one way to define the Christian faith: faith is finding your identity in Christ.
Everything we do, Dante is saying, the good things or the bad things, every virtue or vice, we do for love. We are lovers. We are creatures of desire. It’s simple a question of where that desire is directed. Dante was the one who showed me that sin was not the breaking of rules so much as my misdirected love. … For Dante, sin is loving the wrong things, or to be more precise, loving the right things in the wrong way.
The doldrums are an important, even necessary, part of learning to abide. They protect us from the dangerous temptation of enthroning our experience of Christ over the real Christ. See, if you always got a high, or a spiritual surge, every time you drew the sail, it would be easy to shift into pursuing your own immediate gratification instead of pursuing Christ.
The myth of just sitting and waiting to be hit by inspiration, artistic or spiritual, is just that–a myth. Real artists, spiritual or otherwise, just show up and get to work.
He is yours and you are his forever.