Pete Wilson is the soft-spoken, well-coiffed senior pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville. His newest book, Empty Promises, echoes Tim Keller's Counterfeit Gods or Craig Groeschel's The Christian Atheist. In other words, it's a worthwhile, accessible read that props a mirror in front of the reader and confronts him or her with the brutal truth of a broken world.
Pete's written words first seeped into my life with the release of his first book, Plan B, which arrived in my hands at a supremely providential moment. I will always be thankful to Pete for writing it as it reminded me that even perceived failures in life don't mean God's done with you.
Consequently, I was excited to read his second book, Empty Promises. While it covers ground I've tread before, Pete's easy-going, knowledgeable pastoral prowess bounces off each page. He includes many stories from church members, illustrations from his own life, ample Scripture references, and pulls quotes from C.S. Lewis to Tim Keller. In other words, he's preaching with each chapter, but don't conflate a staid notion of early Sunday morning sermons with Pete's ability to weave these elements into a cohesive, effective whole. His words are decidedly simple, but they're conveying profound truth to as wide an audience as possible.
He sums up the book before even starting it. In the preface he states that the book, "uncovers the idols we create in our own hearts when we fail to look to God to meet our deepest needs." The following chapters are then dedicated toward examining these broad issues: achievement, approval, power, money. More likely than not, you're bound to see yourself in at least one of these chapters. As Pete relates via Calvin (the theologian, not the cartoon), "The human heart is a perpetual factory of idols." In this book, you might see invisible idols you've unwittingly created.
Before delving into the specific issues that can jeopardize a relationship with God, Pete states that "The real question for any of us is this: Which idol is God's biggest rival in your life?" He then provides these useful questions to help you assess your rivals:
These are questions that would do any Christian well to ask themselves before going to bed each day.
The bulk of the book concerns specific idols that can take hold of a Christian's life in a wide variety of ways.
On the idol of achievement: "Success-based identity is the assumption that what you do determines who you are."
On the idol of approval: "I thought my attempts to be all things to all people came from a desire to be loving. I now look back and realize that my primary motivation was not to be loving but to be loved."
On the idol of power: "We're so afraid of losing our identities as powerful people that we're unwilling to take the risks God wants us to take."
On the idol of money: "It's interesting that Jesus talked more about money than he did about heaven, hell, and prayer combined. Was it because he was fixated on it? No, but he knew we would be."
Pete shares a difficult truth as well, one that may be hard for some to grasp unless they've experienced a crucible moment: "God loves you enough to strip you of anything that keeps you from him—even if it's your most cherished dream."
He closes the book with practical ways to replace these idols, echoing thousands of sermons that have been preached throughout the ages: seek solitude, fast, read your bible, pray. While these "works" will not make you holy or more lovable to an infinitely patient and loving God, it will help your focus shift from worthless idols and empty promises toward a promise-fulfilling God intent on working good in and through your life.
Empty Promises was released in April 2012 and is published by Thomas Nelson.
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