A Resource Review:
“Perfect and Forgiven” by Zach Maldonado
Zach Maldonado serves as a pastor at Church Without Religion and with Andrew Farley Ministries. Zach is also an author and speaker with a passion to proclaim the gospel and to help people believe Jesus is enough.
He holds a Master of Arts in Theology degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. Connect personally with Zach on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook (@ZachMaldo). For more resources to encourage you in God’s grace, visit Andrew Farley Ministries at AndrewFarley.org.
The book begins with the oft-cited phrase of Christians,
“I, like so many others, boiled the message of Christianity down to one slogan: “not perfect, just forgiven.” Most of the time, I barely believed I was forgiven. But I knew for sure I was far from perfect and that God saw me as a filthy, worthless sinner.” (Kindle Locations 164-165). Kindle Edition.
The subject that Zach writes about is both deep and simple. It is the message of forgiveness and love in Jesus Christ. Simple. God loves you. God loves me. So simple. Yet, it is so deep and difficult.
As I read through the book, it made me think of the relationship I have with my children. I love them so much, and I cannot imagine a time when I could not love them. There is nothing they can do to make me love them more and nothing they can do to make me love them less. However, sometimes, they frustrate me, and I frustrate them, and there are times when peace is strained. (They are teenagers, need I say more?)
I assume that the vast majority of Christians struggle with the thought that they are already perfect and forgiven in Christ. We clearly see a disconnect in the idea that we are perfect and how we actually live on a daily basis. Many people are guilty of assuming God is like us, and judges according to what we see and feel when our children do something incredibly stupid. God is big. God sees into the heart, but more than that, God sees what we are becoming by the work of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. This being said, in Scripture there is discipline when humanity goes wrong. There are commands to be holy, there are commands to confess sins and to acknowledge our shortcomings before God and our fellow human being. In Scripture, there are multiple instances of people grieving over both personal sin and the sin of the world. Also, there are too many references to humanity grieving God to not be aware that there can be times of frustration and greiving of the Spirit.
Maldonado gets it right when he writes that the focus of our Christian life is to love God and develop a greater relationship with God. It is from that stance that we will grow in holiness. As Paul writes in Philippians, for it is God at work in you, enabling you both to will and work for his good pleasure (NRSV.) For me, the best passage in the book is the implication of being perfect and forgiven by God means freedom from failure.
Do you realize what this means? You’re free to fail. You’re free to mess up. You don’t have to get it right in order for God to accept you or love you. That’s what’s so radical about the gospel: it’s not about you! You don’t have to perform perfectly in order to be loved, accepted, or pleasing to God. The pressure’s off. And when we recognize that the pressure’s off, we start realizing, I no longer want to fail, because I know I’m accepted and loved by the God of the universe. (Kindle Locations 463-467). Kindle Edition.
There are a couple of things to know before you buy this book. First, this book would come under the “modern grace movement.” Second, It is not a theological treatise or a bible study. As best I can tell, it is a collection of sermons bound together in one volume. It contains many illustrations that help to move the book along and could be helpful for ministers who are looking for a sermon series on sanctification. The book is intended for popular use for congregations and could certainly be used for Christians who are struggling with their freedom in Christ.
You can buy the book in hardcover, paperback, and kindle edition here.