Andrew M Davis is a pastor I know through my links with 9Marks. I can’t remember if I bought the book or it was given to me (more likely) at T4G. Regardless, it’s written by a man with many years of experience in the ministry, and you can tell. Some books I just churn through and some books I like to savour over a period of time because they are just that good/deep/challenging. This definitely falls into the latter category. So much so, that I have been using chapter by chapter during my morning devotions (I often like to read a chapter of a book alongside my readings). The book comes in at a hefty 468 pages and maps the ‘Infinite Journey’ of growing toward Christlikeness. According to Davis, this journey happens on two fronts:
(1) Externally through gospel advance.
(2) Internally through sanctification.
Spiritual growth is the key to this book, and also its ultimate objective. Davis argues that Christian maturity is found in 4 areas:
These four sections make up the brunt of the book as he takes time to elucidate on each area.
Davis is (rightly) concerned that knowledge has a bad press when it comes to Christian spirituality. Many believers hold to a perverted view that somehow factual knowledge is detrimental to spiritual growth and development. He warns us: “A depraved mind leads to a depraved life. A transformed mind leads to a transformed life.” (p.95) Therefore, “We must keep growing in knowledge or we will cease making progress in the Christian life.” (p.107) Hang on, is he claiming there is no place for the ‘experiential’ then? Absolutely not. Instead, he puts experiential knowledge in its place, namely well below that of Scripture.
For Davis, faith operates in three invisible realms: “the past as recorded in scripture; the present invisible spiritual world which exposes around is right now; and the future as promised in scripture by God the Savior or threatened in scripture by God the Judge.” (p.133). This section goes on to explain this in greater detail.
Character is being conformed to Christ in five ways: affections, desire, will, thought, emotion. These together add up to virtue. He then takes a chapter on each of these attributes. Now what exactly does a virtuous Christian look like? He tells us on p.266, which includes a list of 78 (I counted them) virtues that ought to be in our ‘character toolbox’. He then lists (on p.267) what Christians ought not to be (60 this time) including, to my personal amusement, ‘dull’.
We may not be saved by our works, but in this section, Davis reminds us that we will be judged by them (Rev. 10:12–13, Rom. 2:6–8). His point being that spiritually mature Christians will be marked by a life of ‘habitual obedience’. If we want to live a life marked by Godly actions, then this is the key: “unlearning habits of wickedness and learning new habits of obedience.” (p.276)
This is without doubt the most challenging part of the book, as he reminds us that as Christians we are called to die to self, daily. He looks at issues such as sexual purity, dealing with sin, worship, spiritual disciplines, daily relationships, mission, and stewardship.
This is a brilliant piece of work. Written by an experienced practitioner (unlike many works being published these days by those in their 20’s and 30’s). He quotes everybody from Greek philosophers to Puritan greats and, liberally sprinkled with helpful illustrations, this has to be a go to book on sanctification. I just cannot recommend it highly enough. Please, please, please get it. Read it. Use it. Outstanding.