'The Utter Relief of Holiness' | John Eldredge [Book Review]
Holiness and relief are two words that never go together.
Upon hearing the term holiness, most Christians think of hard work, discipline, and repentance of sin, none of which brings relief. Usually relief conjures images of rest, relaxation, or a cool drink on a hot day, yet the two seemingly contrasting ideas flow smoothly together in John Eldredge’s book The Utter Relief of Holiness.
Eldredge, known by most for his authorship of Wild at Heart, a book aimed at drawing men’s hearts back to God, penned this refreshing treatise on holiness. With a background in acting and a Masters in counseling, he wields a unique style readers will find entertaining and insightful. In typical Eldredge fashion, he shoots straight on every page.
He explains that many believers miss the true purpose of Christianity. He asks, “What is Christianity supposed to do to a person?” He spends the rest of the book answering the question. Divided in two major parts of a journey, he leads the reader across a surprising path of what holiness means and how to attain it. Eldredge points the reader time and again to Jesus’ words to people.
The book begins with the source of holiness Himself, Jesus. “There was, obviously, something about Jesus, some wonderful quality that compelled people to want to be good. And this is where we must begin our search for holiness.” He goes on to explain that Jesus taught people about what we all long for deep down: freedom from the dominion of sin. Sin causes us sorrow, but Christ offered salvation and a new holy life which brings lasting freedom. Yet holiness takes work.
But this is not another book on spiritual disciplines. The book doesn't offer a list of practices, though Eldredge mentions prayer constantly. He even writes out detailed prayers during many chapters, each designed to give the reader an example of what asking God for holiness looks like. Other than prayer, he quotes scripture at length. Yet he clarifies Scripture and prayer can’t guarantee holiness. Eldredge explains that true holiness, unlike what the Pharisees had, comes from the heart.
Eldredge uses the tact of a counselor and the posture of a close friend to walk you through attaining holiness. For those who find themselves in a world of failure with sin, he spends an entire chapter dealing with how to overcome powerful strongholds. No skimming of the surface here. Eldredge explains, with scripture, how to deal with stubborn sins and perilous thought patterns.
Finally, the book ends with the chief motivation of the Christian: love — love toward God and love toward neighbor. Love means more than playing nice with everyone. We find how to love in the way Jesus did. Eldredge takes a perspective different from what most people do when thinking about how Christ loved people. But to find out, you will have to read it for yourself.
The Utter Relief of Holiness will leave you wanting more of Jesus Christ and thanking God for the freedom He brings.
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