Book Recommendation from a Pastor
“The End of the Christian Life” by Todd Billings
Recommendation by Pastor Eric Cai
About eight months ago, my wife and I had the profound, no, sacred and bittersweet privilege of visiting a beloved member of our church in her family’s home as she was nearing the end of her life. Megan and I were merely flies on the wall as we witnessed her palpable anticipation of concluding her pilgrim journey in her mortal body and resting in the arms of her Savior. She spoke warmly and tenderly of her Savior’s care, waiting to enter into the joy of her Master. She finished her race well. As we left, we felt like we were more ministered to in the brief 20 minutes spent with this faithful saint than all the cumulative minutes that we had ever spent ministering to her.
But it wasn’t all sweet; in fact, there was bitterness, too. While faith would give way to sight for our dear sister, it was only because she was at the door of death. The fact that she was in her Savior’s presence and that we would reunite one day wouldn’t change the fact that she was gone from us here and now. While death for the Christian gives way to resurrection hope in the future, it does not change the fact that death is still a dirge in the present. Death will be overthrown and swallowed up in victory, but for now, it is still a sting—the last enemy still to be conquered (1 Cor. 15:26).
Upon further reflection, I realized how woefully inept I am at articulating a Christian hope in the midst of death. That even as a minister of the gospel, I still lacked a grammar of articulating what it means to embrace the resurrection, on the one hand, and to embrace mortality, on the other. So how do we talk, think, and feel about this? What does it mean to live as those caught in between the two ages of death and life? How do we live in this continuum of already, but not yet?
Theologian Todd Billings reflects on these questions in his book The End of the Christian Life. In 2012 at the age of 39, he was diagnosed with a rare, incurable form of cancer. Billings doesn’t have the luxury of thinking about death, mortality, and Christian hope from an ivory tower. He is intimately acquainted with the reality of death every day.
His book takes us through how to develop a language on how to reflect on our mortality and how to see it as a lifelong feature of discipleship (118). This Is by no means an easy book. It was a hard and, at times, painful read. The book is a sustained reflection on the ancient Christian tradition and “art of dying well” (113). But not out of morbid curiosity, but because of how praying and living as mortals—accepting that we are dependent creatures fully loved by God—is an act of witness to a world that tells us to live as though our lives will never end (12). This book has helped me reassess what it means to be truly human. I am not limitless. We are just creatures of the earth simply loved into being by a gracious God.
Whether we choose to pick up this book or not, may we grow in witnessing to the hope of the gospel, the hope of glory, just as our dear sister so faithfully did in her mortal life—that we are not our own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death, to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
Our joy is not something we can muster up by our own strength. True joy comes when we place our faith in Christ and allow the gospel truths to overlay all that we experience, including our trials. We find comfort and hope in Jesus.
Since we’re all sinners, this article speaks and applies to all of us. Yet at the same time, we find confidence in knowing we are redeemed by God, destined for glory, and empowered to run the race set before us.
How often do we succumb to our worries and forfeit opportunities to look to God and be satisfied in Him. Let us not forget our identity in Christ and the promises God will never break.
This author helps us diagnose our hearts and marvel at the majesty and love of God. In response to what we heard this past Sunday, there’s an element where we ought to be bewildered by the love and majesty of God in how He loves us.
As Christians we are to be marked by our reasonableness (Phil 4:5). In a day and age where people are quick to lash out or act impulsively, we can show how we are different by just being mindful of our interactions.
Do not despise your weakness. Perhaps it is the means by which we are led to Christ. In these moments we cling closely to our Lord and Savior.
A good song to reflect on how we are to love as God has shown us and also enfolded us into His family of love.
While this song is geared more towards children, the catchiness of this tune helps all of us store up the truths of Scripture in our hearts.
A throwback if you’re a fan of Josh Garrels, he recently released updated versions of his earlier songs. Even if you’re new to his music, enjoy these songs that draw from gospel truths.
In line with our church’s theme to pray, here’s a very practical discussion on how we can encourage others to pray as well as to incorporate and grow in our communion with the Lord.
It is easy to profess our allegiance to Christ, but true discipleship is costly and hard. In this interview, author J.T. English expands on what following Jesus entails.
Christianity is not a chore. It is a gracious relationship to delight and be satisfied in all of who God is and all that He’s done and will do.