The Wonderful Spirit-Filled Life, by Charles Stanley
This book is better than it has any right being. That is not to say that there aren’t problems with this book, and there are quite a few, but this book actually has a lot to offer the reader. As someone who reads a fair amount about the Holy Spirit, it is probably a bad thing to be surprised when someone has something worthwhile to say . There are at least a few notable aspects about this author’s approach to the thorny subject of the Holy Spirit. For one, he seeks to balance the practical and the theoretical approach, an unusual balancing act in this particular subject, even managing to discuss some elements like the conscience that are seldom discussed by Christian authors. Additionally, the book both strongly eschews a self-directed pulling yourself up by your bootstraps approach to moral growth but points out the importance of the Holy Spirit in living a victorious life. This is a book that simultaneously avoids a gospel of works and also the ragamuffin gospels that are so popular in our time and so harmful of the reputation of Christians as moral exemplars.
In terms of its contents, this book it a little over 200 pages and is divided into three sections. The first section is a matter of looking up towards God, with five chapters that take up about 70 pages. The second section shows the author looking in to the relationship of the Holy Spirit and the believer, taking seven chapters to cover about 90 pages or so. The third and final section has five chapters on looking ahead that show the Holy Spirit as a guide to a believer who has a “neutral” heart with the four markers of its action in believers: peace, the conscience, the Word of God, and wisdom. After a brief conclusion, the book also includes three appendices on such matters as spiritual gifts, the supposed “sign gifts” in focus, and some suggestions for further study and reading. Throughout the book the author blends biblical exegesis of uneven quality with a lot of very interesting personal stories that really reveal a great deal of the author’s own heart and his own struggle to understand the Holy Spirit. It is striking that the Holy Spirit is such a difficult matter to understand for writers, something that ought to make us ponder.
To be sure, this book is not perfect. Among its many flaws are some terrible discussions of the Holy Spirit in the Gospels and some terrible assumptions about the Holy Spirit in the Hebrew scriptures. On top of this, the author shows a great love of Baptist in-speak that does not translate well to those who are not familiar with it. He even winds up getting caught up in the problem of Eternal security and fobbing it off by recommending another book on the subject rather than trying to extricate himself from a mess of his own making. In the larger sense, the author shows himself interested in what he sees as the plain sense of scripture without having a sense of the need of tota scriptural and not only sola scriptura to define one’s understanding of it. Yet although this book is not a perfect one it is still an enjoyable one to read and has a lot that is worth saying. It presents a challenge by pointing out that it is not we who produce the fruits of the spirit in our lives but rather bear the fruit that God grows inside of us through His indwelling Spirit. And that is a lesson we could all serve to remember.
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