Book Review: 40 Days Of Grace

40 Days Of Grace: Discovering God’s Liberating Love, by Rich Miller

This is a book that suggests a depth that it does not possess. The title of this devotional suggests a connection between the 40 days of discovering grace (which is apparently a difficult thing for many people?) and the 40 day period of trials for Noah, the spies in Canaan, or Jesus Christ in the wilderness, as well as the 40 day fasting periods of Moses and Elijah as well. That said, the book is itself a very shallow account of grace, positing a false dilemma between grace and works. At one point in this book, the author (who apparently has made a living traveling in the shallow waters of antinonmian theology) explicitly quotes Hebrews 4:9-10 and their relevance for the Sabbath only to say that the Sabbath is acceptable to God only if it is kept because of grace and not out of any sense of duty. Yet elsewhere in the book the author states that grace is all about submitting to God’s will and not demanding our own (and God’s will includes the respect for the Sabbath among many other matters). There is a tension, and even a contradiction, in this insistence on doing things by our will and yet surrendering to God’s will. Perhaps the author is unaware of this tension, but it does effect this work.

This book is part of a large group of works [1] that seek to present an antinomian view of grace as opposed to legalism. In many such cases the whole grace versus works false dilemma is one of the most obvious tactics in the Satanic playbook, for those who seek to earn salvation will be denied and those who think that grace negates God’s law rather than enabling it to be obeyed in the first place also fall short. Neither those who reject God’s laws nor those who reject the need we have for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to pay the price we deserve for our wayward hearts and our wicked ways will enter the Kingdom of heaven. All too often, however, the discourse of grace is one that feels it philosophically necessary (because of its gnostic roots) to deny the presence of any sort of effort or obedience on our part, because if any part of human effort is involved in our living our faith, in the eyes of Hellenistic Christians the grace of God is denied and replaced with a works theology. Revealingly, the author is particularly hostile to those whom he does not deign as grace people, showing the common tendency for those who attack God’s law to attack those who defend God’s law, even as a law of love written on our hearts and not as a rigid and controlling standard that seeks to make life a drudgery of attempting in vain to earn God’s love and the gift of salvation.

Though this book definitely falls into the category of milk (and sour milk at that) rather than spiritual meat, it is nevertheless not without value. Strikingly, at roughly the middle of the book the author composes two very deep and moving prayers that deal with the lies that we denounce when we attempt to recover our dignity from sexual abuse and exploitation as well as the verbal abuse and bullying of others (sadly, I have all too much experience with both things) [2]. The moving and passionate defense of those who have suffered abuse in this world suggests that a large part of this message is designed to show the dignity and worth of people who have far too often been denied both in the eyes of others and in their own harsh and self-critical self-perception. There are some people, indeed many people, who need to know that they are loved, and that God is not on the side of those who seek to destroy our dignity and our peace of mind and assault and accuse us without ceasing. That said, neither are we to be complacent in the love of God as if we have no part to play, or that God revels in our brokenness. Grace, such as it is, is a necessary starting point to realizing that God loves us and calls us in spite of where we begin. In the course of events, as we become increasingly conformed to the image and likeness of our heavenly Father, we in turn are to graciousness to others who are equally unworthy of it as we were when we first received it from God. This book is somewhat biased, and it only skims the surface of grace, but it nonetheless does have enough genuine and worthwhile truth in it to make it of some value to those who are willing to sift the wheat from the chaff and who come to this book knowing that the fruits of the spirit will flow from one who has received and accepted God’s grace, and not sought merely to use grace a cloak for our own selfish will.

[1] See, for example:

[2] The two prayers are as follows, taken from pages 109 and 110:

“I renounce the lie that I am dirty or my body is dirty because of the sexual acts perpetrated on me. I am not a slut, whore, prostitute, sex slave, or [fill in any other names you might have been called or called yourself[. I have been made clean by the word Jesus has spoken to me (John 15:3). I am not trash and my body is not just somebody’s plaything. My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in me and will never leave me or forsake me. I have been bought with a price, the precious blood of Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Hebrews 13:5, 1 Peter 1:18-19). And I renounce the lie that I am a victim, but I announce that in Christ I am a victor, more than a conqueror through Him who loved me (Romans 8:37). And I refuse to become like those who have done these things to me, so I reject hate and choose forgiveness in Christ (Ephesians 4:31-32).”

“I renounce the lie that I am dumb, stupid, a moron; that I can’t do anything right; that it would have been better if I had never been born; that I am unloved, unwanted, and that I don’t belong or [fill in any other name or practice that demeaned you.[ I renounce all the disgusted looks, raised and harsh voices, sarcastic remarks, cutting jokes, nasty and derisive comments, favoritism to others, neglect of my basic needs for love, affection and security. I declare that how I have been treated says much more about the character of my abusers than it does about me. I announce that in Christ the Lord my God in my midst is mighty. He will sing and rejoice over me with joy. He will quiet me in His love and shout with joy over me (Zephaniah 3:17). The Lord delights in me (Isaiah 62:4) and He takes pleasure in me (Psalm 149:4). I am the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:8), and so not only am I precious to HIm but He will protect and shield me.”

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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