Thank you to IVP Academic for providing a review copy.
The title caught my attention — Called To Be Saints: An Invitation to Christian Maturity — and the description of the book reminded me of an institution to which I had recently been introduced, Ambrose University College of Calgary, Alberta. Then I discovered that it was written by the president of Ambrose, Gordon T. Smith. Though the name of the school is relatively new (about 6 years), the school has a long history of training Canadians for Christian ministry and service, particularly those from Nazarene and Christian & Missionary Alliance denominations. Smith’s book reflects the deeply-cherished focus of these traditions on sanctification. Infused with wisdom and beautifully expressed, this is a book to be savored. Called to Be Saints is an invitation to discover Christian maturity “in Christ” — a maturity expressed in wisdom, work, love, and joy.
Chapter 1 offers an overview of the book in which Smith distinguishes Christian maturity from moralism and perfectionism, both of which impose “an impossible burden” apart from union with Christ. Maturity is also not a matter of human effort (pelagianism), but instead a “human response to the call and enabling of God” (22). True Christian maturity must be Trinitarian and Christocentric. It must take seriously the reality of God’s creation and God’s plan to restore all things. It must recognize the severity of sin. It must be expressed in community and in everyday activities. The experience of suffering plays a key role in shaping our maturity in Christ.
Chapter 2 addresses the heart of what it means to be a Christian, union with Christ. For Smith, “participation” —knowing, loving, and serving him — is the defining feature of the Christian life. Justification and sanctification are therefore intimately connected to each other. He defines the mature Christian as “one who lives in consciousness and intentional response to the presence of the Spirit” (52). We are “drawn into his life” by faith, that is, “radical trust in the person and work of Christ” (53). The result of this deep trust is humility. When we take “union with Christ” seriously, it transforms our concept of evangelism from teaching certain propositions that must be believed to inviting others to encounter Jesus and commune with him. Jesus, not the potential convert, is the focus. Continue reading