One of the most disappointing things for a reader is cracking the cover of a book that has received great amounts of praise from credible voices only to be disappointed with the content the book actually delivers. I can assure you; this is definitely NOT the case with Thabiti Anyabwile’s new book, The Life of God in the Soul of the Church: The Root and Fruit of Spiritual Fellowship. Within the first 5 minutes of reading, my soul was already deeply encouraged by the simple, straightforward, and substantive manner of Thabiti’s presentation of truth about which, on a number of occasions, made me internally (and sometimes externally) exclaim, “YES!”
In the quote below, Anyabwile draws on the opening chapter of 1 John to explain the goals of spiritual fellowship with Christ and among saints in the church. He writes:
The goals of…fellowship are joy and holiness. ‘We write this to make our joy complete’ (v. 4). Or, as some manuscripts and translations render the verse: ‘We are writing these things so that your joy may be complete.’ John clarifies the message of the gospel for his readers and for us. He proclaims his message so that our joy would be filled out, swelled to fullness, complete, overflowing, bursting forth—so that nothing would be lacking in our experience of joy!
What an incredible thing. Have you thought about this lately? That the Son of God took on flesh. That Life itself entered the world to be horribly abused, slaughtered, pierced, hung on a cross, buried, and then raised from death—for the sinner’s joy! Christ endured the agony of the cross for the joy set before Him—for His joy in redeeming us and for our joy in knowing Him! This is what the end of the gospel brings—joy for the sinner who now looks to His Savior face-to-face.
This is why fellowship cannot fundamentally be reduced to activities, a set of programs, or a set of dos and don’ts. In essence, through fellowship the Lord’s life pushes us, propels us, and draws us to joy—great joy—built through relationships, not structure. (pp. 21-22, emphasis mine)
Check back next week for a review of The Life of God in the Soul of the Church, posted in partnership with a blog tour sponsored by Christian Focus Publishers. I will tell you, in advance, that this is the best book I have encountered on the subject and practice of fellowship in the local church. Whether you’re a pastor or layperson, you’ll want to pick this one up!