Four Cups: God’s Timeless Promises For A Life Of Fulfillment, by Chris Hodges
[This book was provided free of charge by Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]
By chance, when I was reading John Maxwell’s Leadership Gold , in the chapter when Maxwell was talking about loaning influence, he happened to mention that one of the guys he was “loaning” influence to was a fellow out of Alabama named Chris Hodges. As it would happen, this is the fellow who wrote the book I read today, and it would appear that from my reading of this short but very excellent book (it packs a punch at 120 lean and focused pages) that this loan of influence was very well-merited, and also very well rewarded. Hodges strikes me as an enthusiastic and energetic person with a profound interest in marketing and a professional focus on helping churches grow, and that could have easily been something I would have viewed with suspicion, had he not written a work that shows immensely deep understanding of the purposes of God’s Sabbaths (in particular the Passover).
Four Cups refers to the four cups that Jews drink in the Passover Seder  and their meaning both for the ancient Israelites as well as modern Christians today. It is hard to imagine a more appropriate book being written for the Passover season by a mainstream Christian who comes so close to recognizing the continuing validity of the Sabbath and biblical Holy Days existing, but this book is superb in that it takes the Bible seriously and avoids the contradiction between law and grace that marks so much of evangelical discourse. The book is primarily focused on God’s gracious deliverance and freedom, but it recognizes (quite accurately) that having been delivered from slavery to sin that God’s Spirit within us that enables us and encourages us in behaving righteously. Aside from some minor quibbles about the author’s tripartite division of mankind as an analogue to a nonexistent Trinity and his calling Passover a cultural tradition as opposed to a divine appointment, there is very little to criticize in this book.
On the contrary, there is a great deal to praise, as this book manages to capture a great deal of insight into relatively few pages. The book is organized in that it first talks about God’s promises and the differences between the unreliability of man and the reliability of God, in His own fashion. Then two chapters talk about the freedom that God gave to Israel from Egypt’s slavery and the freedom from sin provided by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The author comes very close to recognizing that the Sabbath covenant is all about freedom, which makes the enduring relevance of freedom for Christianity a reminder of the Sabbath’s continual validity . After this the author discusses the four cups of the Passover seder, each with its own chapter: the cup of sanctification, the cup of deliverance, the cup of redemption, and the cup of praise. With a bit of imagination in painting the scene of biblical events like the resurrection of Christ and the Passover in Egypt, the author skillfully connects these four cups with four important aspects of Christianity: freedom, deliverance, purpose, and fulfillment. The author then skillfully connects this fulfillment with the purpose of Church leadership in equipping members for service of God and others.
Despite the brevity of this work, it manages to be full of deep insight and understanding of the thread  that connects the Holy Days and Sabbath with God’s action in history as well as the patterns of disobedience-punishment-contrition-deliverance  that filled the history of ancient Israel and our own lives and contemporary culture. The author notices the Laodicean attitude present among many churches that comes from brethren having a lack of understanding of the freedom they have been given from difficult personal backgrounds, their lack of love for their (future) brothers and sisters in Christ, and their lack of involvement in serving as models as God’s ways with an intentional purpose towards individual and corporate growth in godliness as well as influence in the greater community through service. The author even closes with a comparison of the four cups to four different aspects of church involvement: weekly services (salvation), small groups where brethren can encourage each other and hold each other accountable (deliverance), intentional process of personal spiritual growth through service (redemption), and member involvement in congregational affairs (praise). Though this book is a short one, it is an immensely worthwhile read that provides a great deal of food for thought, especially for those interested in issues of church leadership.
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