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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"Seated With Christ" (Heather Holleman)

TITLE: Seated with Christ: Living Freely in a Culture of Comparison
AUTHOR: Heather Holleman
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2016, (192 pages).

Admit it. We are all guilty of comparing ourselves with others. The difference is in the degree of comparison. In our rush to get things done, sometimes we need a reminder to just pause, perhaps, take a seat, have a cup of coffee, and take stock of where we are. Perhaps, we have given in to the temptations to take charge, to maintain primary control, and to let human wisdom predominate over all. In doing so, we become enslaved to our own wishes. We work as if our salvation depends on what we do or not do. We struggle for the best academic result as if our life's qualifications depend on our efforts. We try harder, serve harder, publish harder, and strive harder in our various earthly pursuits. In focusing upon the verbs within our abilities, we unwittingly sidestepped what Christ had done for us. Expounding on the essence of Ephesians 2:6, the author provides a spiritual snapshot of what it means to be seated with Christ. With creative renditions of how these verbs personify the anxieties of the human heart, Holleman pulls out four strands of the essence of what it means to be seated in Christ.

First, it recognizes once and for all what Christ had done for us. In our rush to get things done, and the busyness of life, we jump straight into the driver's seat of control, to try to make things happen, and when things fail to go our way, we pin the blame on others, sometimes on God. We have the seat but we fail to sit and savour that privilege. Sadly, this seat is often something that we have but seldom use. We are also urged to recognize the dangers of Appearance; Affluence; and Achievement. These three A's smother our desire to take the seat with Christ.

Second, we learn about what it means to be truly free from ourselves and our expectations, that we may embrace the grace of God. We need to move from appearance to adoration, that instead of constantly looking at ourselves in the mirror on how we can look good, we need to bask in the glory of God on how good God is. We can also be free from the seductiveness of affluence by moving more toward the privilege of access to God in Christ. Wealth is definitely a huge thing in our society but undue pursuit of wealth can be an enslavement in itself. The essence of what we need is sufficiency in God. Wealth is a resource to glorify God.  Instead of the constant struggle to achieve things, we need to move toward abiding in Christ. We are reminded that often, it is not about us getting things done outside but about the things that need to be done inside.

Third, we are challenged to take to posture of surrender. Just like Jesus who prayed not His will but the Father God be done. Four questions challenge us.

  1. Is knowing Jesus better than anything?
  2. Will I live the life God asks me to?
  3. Is there anything in my life that doesn't please God?
  4. Am I available to be God's spokesperson?

These questions force us to make a choice between our will and God's will. It may seem difficult initially but once we overcome ourselves, we will be on our way to true freedom. Indeed, freedom is not about doing anything we please, but to do all that pleases God.

Fourth, as we are seated in Christ, we learn about what it means to be sent in the Name of God. This is something we cannot truly do unless we ourselves have experienced and enjoyed the presence and beauty of God. How can we testify of someone who has not touched us?

So What?
This hugely practical book on Christian living addresses a core fault in our lives: The desire for control. We have subconsciously bought into the lie that God only helps those who help themselves. We have also deceived ourselves into thinking that actions always speak louder than words. Wrong. We need the Word in us to direct us in our actions in life. Gradually, as we deal with the spiritual impediments that we often put in front of us, we would realize that to be seated with Christ is a lot more significant and profound in more ways than one. What we need is to pause to take in the deeds of God. It is not about what we do but about what Christ had done. It is not how much we can accomplish but about what Christ had accomplished. It is more about considering what Christ had done for us more than all that we can ever imagine. Holleman writes with great understanding of our desire to achieve or over-achieve. We are tempted toward placing a higher premium on appearance before human eyes more than God's eyes. As we deal with our sinful desires to enthrone the flesh, we will gradually learn that such acts are never ending and never satisfying.

I am reminded of how much we have trapped ourselves in our own kingdom of self. The truth is, as long as we think we are the masters of our own destiny, we will continue to spiral downward in our own strengths and self-sufficiency. The corollary of this is anxiety, worry, and constant clamour for attention and significance. In our competitive society, we easily give in to comparison which often leads to unhealthy self-esteem. Spiritually, it creates in us a life of striving that seems to put ourselves in the driving seat of our lives. Our starting point must be in Christ, which is what Holleman tries to explain in the pages of this book. By articulating the notion of seats and being seated in Christ, we are regularly assured that it is ok to slow down, to put away our masks, and to abide fully in God. In doing so, we will sense that life is a lot more than what we put in. We begin to appreciate that no matter how hard we try, we cannot control everything. We can only do so much. By getting a real sense of who God is, we are ready to get a better sense of who we are.

Author Heather Holleman teaches college writing at Penn State University. She helps out in Cru ministries as well as the graduate student ministry at Penn. She is a mother of two daughters and live in Pennsylvania with her husband Ashley. She maintains a blog at her own website.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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