Creating A Hostile Environment For The Flesh: Reclaiming And Maintaining Personal Victory, by Bernard King
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/WestBow Press in exchange for an honest review.]
This immensely short book is the sort of material that one can easily imagine coming from a pastor like the author. The message itself is competently written, the author thinks his message more original than is the case, as is often the way these things work, and shows himself to be as fond of acrostics as the author of Lamentations and Psalm 119, although somewhat less intelligently than those noble Hebrew poets. When one reads as much self-published material as I do, a book like this comes as a breath of fresh air. One looks at its size and knows the book will be short, one reads it and sees that the author knows how to write a complete sentence , one reads its material and finds it to be the source of agreement and worthy of thought and reflection, and that is good enough reason to enjoy it. Let us not pretend that this is an earth-shattering message or that it offers new truth about the Bible or new depths of interpretive skills or insight. It is a competently written message of practical importance, and that is good enough reason to read this book and appreciate it for what it is, and it would be the sort of message, or series of messages, that one could listen to with pleasure and the resolute determination to attempt, by the best of one’s own strength and the strength given by God, to put it into practice.
This short book has the aim of giving the reader some counsel in how to gain personal victory through creating a hostile environment for carnality and sin. Given the lamentable tendency of people, including believers, to find themselves caught in patterns of sin , this is a message of considerable practical importance. The author, after starting his discussion with a comparison between the task of a Christian in dealing with the unwanted pull of the flesh and his son’s struggle with an unsightly mole, reminds Christians that we cannot depend on our own strength but must depend on the strength of God. The author then compares our fleshly nature, the pulls of the world around us, and the direct action of Satan (and presumably the rest of Satan’s kingdom) to the three-headed beast of Cerberus famous to those who are aware of Greek mythology. The author takes about half of the body of material to get to the point where he starts talking about the steps that one takes to make one’s life uncomfortable for the pulls of the flesh, and the answer is not asceticism but rather filling one’s life with the people and ways of God, prayer and Bible study and the like. Again, this is not earth-shattering sort of information, but it is a useful reminder that if we want our life to be empty of what is unwelcome that it must be full of what is welcome to the greatest extent possible.
It is my firm conviction, like that of the author of the book, that we often do not pay a great deal of attention to the environment that we provide for the various forces that play a role in our lives. Perhaps our native desire to escape the responsibility for our actions, and to avoid the full recognition of the choices we make and their repercussion leads us to be quick to blame our behavior on environmental situations or malign forces or bad natures and to deliberately ignore the extent to which we shape our environment. To admit agency would be to accept responsibility, and yet we are too proud to apologize to those whom we have hurt or to repent and seek the gracious forgiveness of God. In many ways this book is clinical and competent in discussing our fallen and deceitful hearts, but for many readers it could feel more like a harangue than a gentle call for repentance. One must, of course, be careful in the sort of tone one puts on the text one reads, and to maintain where possible a hermeneutic of charity in what one reads. Of course, I hope that those who read my own words need no such reminder themselves.
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