Gary Thomas is the kind of author that makes you wince and worship all at the same time. Wince – because he clearly identifies our rebellion against God as part of our fallen nature, and worship – because he reminds us that God hasn’t left us that way.
The Beautiful Fight was at least the fourth Thomas book I’ve tackled (there’s an asterisk by Authentic Faith, because I skimmed. Sorry, Gary). This one deals with the subject of spiritual transformation and the fact that holiness is not passive, it is active. He points out that of which we’re already aware: that we have watered down the message of Christianity to the point where there is nothing compelling, nothing that draws people in, nothing that identifies a difference.
An author’s typical take on holiness might include the mandate to separate from the world. Thomas refutes that idea, and says that “The surprising message of the incarnation – and later of Christ’s ascension – is this: ‘Don’t try to escape the world, but rather go deeper into the world. See it as you have never seen it. See it with God’s eyes. Hear it with God’s ears. Feel it with God’s heart. Think about it with God’s mind.'”
Thomas argues against the avoidance of pain in growth: “I’ve come to realize that when I refuse to face the pain of transformation, eventually I must endure the misery of my immaturity…There is no greater weight we must bear than the heaviness of our own sinful choices.” He helps us re-visualize Jesus’ admonition to “Take my yoke upon you.” (“While a superficial look at yokes makes one think of work, deeper reflection reveals that a yoke is an offer of help.”) And he reminds us that spiritual maturity is incremental: “Christlikeness is born in us…in the small tasks of life.”
Like all of Thomas’ books, The Beautiful Fight is a challenge towards living a gospel-centered life. If you struggle with your spiritual trajectory (and if you say you don’t you’re a stinkin’ liar), pick it up today.