Gospel Wakefulnessby Jared C. Wilson
Length: To read (213 pages).
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When you are so awed by something the only thing you can do is savor it and tell everyone about it. This thing you are wowed by permeates your entire being and is prioritized in your heart above everything else. For Christians, this thing should be the Gospel (or more specifically Jesus Christ). Jared Wilson aims to illustrate how this happens for Christians.
Who should read this?
Many Christians struggle with the fact that they don’t have an all encompassing love for Christ like their fellow brothers and sisters do. They read accounts of people from church history who are “strangely warmed” for Christ and wonder why this has never happened to them. Ultimately, they begin to wonder about their own salvation. Gospel Wakefulness can help shed a light on this question and provide some comfort, but also some conviction on the topic.
Jared Wilson describes gospel wakefulness as “treasuring Christ more greatly and savoring His power more sweetly.” He illustrates this definition by using a story from a woman who lived in oppressive East Germany during the Cold War. When the Berlin Wall came down, it was an earth shattering, liberating moment for this woman, that affected every fibre of her being.
It shook her to the core in a delightful way. Whereas a student of history may understand and appreciate the significance of the event, the woman feels and is defined and changed by the event. The event re-orients her entire thinking, and affections. This is gospel wakefulness, when the Gospel of Jesus Christ so enraptures your affections, you are changed completely.
So this book is primarily trying to describe the experiential nature of the gospel. When the gospel really gets to your soul, what happens to people? But before this, Wilson asks and tries to answer the question, how does the gospel really get into your soul? He is careful to state that his book does not lay out any steps to gospel wakefulness.
It doesn’t tell you how to get there. In fact, the only way to get there is by God’s mere good pleasure. If He awakens you, it is on his terms and timing. Wilson is also careful to point out the gospel wakefulness does not necessarily coincide with conversion, though it can. If it did coincide with conversion, the danger then would be that people would look to or seek an experience instead of looking to Christ.
Rather, gospel wakefulness can occur at or after conversion, it can occur suddenly or dawn slowly over time. These are very important parameters for understanding what Wilson is trying to say. His book is primarily descriptive, not prescriptive.
God works through means and most people are brought to wakefulness by first being brought to the end of themselves. When all their other hopes run out, only Jesus is left, and therefore he becomes the sweetest thing to them. As a result, these people experience an expulsive power of a new affection.
Jesus becomes first in everything, and everything else is ordered rightly. From here, lives are truly changed, and the remaining chapters lay out the implications of being gospel awakened, such as: renewed worship, new freedom, confidence through daily life, battling depression, and missions.
Gospel Wakefulness can help Christians understand what is going on with Christians who have new affections for Christ. It is extremely penetrating in describing the experiential nature of the gospel. The gospel itself is presented clearly, and Wilson takes his time defining and setting his parameters to prevent confusion and misunderstanding.
His prose is simple to read, and he uses lots of illustrations to clarify some of his points. The whole book is truly Gospel centered. It is what God has done and will do as opposed to what people should do. Wilson could have laid out a six step plan, but he resisted and focused on what God has already done.
Every chapter or so ends with a personal story about the specific topic Wilson is trying to address. Some of these stories were helpful, some were not, and some bordered on the mystical. Wilson seems to imply that these stories are a prime example of what can happen to people who are gospel wakened. Perhaps so. But the length the personal stories occupy throughout the total book place a greater emphasis upon them than should be warranted.
There is also a danger in understanding this topic as describing two classes of Christians, those who have been awakened vs those that have been merely converted. One should be cautious in looking for an experience, and all Wilson is trying to do is describe why people throughout church history have had such experiences.
He is not writing a theological treatise, but perhaps he should have spent more time on this particular aspect of gospel wakefulness. To be fair, Wilson does say gospel wakefulness is just treasuring Christ more than before, something all Christians are and should be striving for. So he implies a sort of growth in affections for Christ, rather than Christians who have wakefulness vs those who do not.
But many of his stories and descriptions in the book describe the latter and not the former, and so he implicitly frames the book as awakened vs non-awakened.
Overall Gospel Wakefulness is a helpful book, despite some inconsistencies. The first few chapters are the strongest and completely lay out the Gospel in all its power, glory, and sufficiency. They also paint a picture of what it looks like to savor Christ more and more. They provide comfort that God has already done everything for you and that Jesus Christ is the sweetest, most extraordinary being in the entire universe.
Gospel wakefulness means treasuring Christ more greatly and savoring his power more sweetly.
I can teach about gospel wakefulness, but gospel wakefulness can’t be learned.