Bill Tell's book, "Lay it Down: Living in the Freedom of the Gospel," had me captivated after reading the back cover's description. It mentions "burnout" and makes the statement, "For a generation of Christians who have learned a gospel of performance and striving, Lay it Down, offers the good news of the grace that is already ours in Christ." To be fair, no one ever taught me performance and striving... specifically, or intentionally, but of recent I began to suspect I picked it up somewhere along the way over the years. Self-help books are only as useful as I am motivated. Jesus-help books hold the power of God, so I was excited to open the pages and read what the Good News and Gospel meant for me all over again in fresh perspective.
This book wasn't a page turner that made it difficult to set down. On the contrary, I found myself wondering whether or not I agreed with the author quite a bit for the first half of the book. I couldn't exactly peg him as being "wrong," but I wasn't sure I agreed with his theology and interpretation of passages. I found myself setting the book down and walking away after reading only a few pages at a time.
There are a few places I was certain I'd have to agree to disagree with the author's stance, such as when he is considering whether disobedience distances people from God. The author states that (page 51), "Isaiah 59:2 is not true for the believer, the one who trusts Christ for salvation." He goes on to elaborate that our fellowship with God is not broken because of sin (even unconfessed sin, if I understand his writing correctly). I was starting to wonder whether this guy figured sin didn't have any affect on believer's lives at all, when a few pages later he explained that although our fellowship with God isn't broken based on our sin, we aren't able to enjoy the fellowship until we've been cleansed. I thought he was going to toss out the entire concept of confession, but reading farther along, he states, "Our confession isn't meant to get our sin out from between God and us [because according to the author fellowship isn't broken]. It isn't meant to restore the relationship [because the author stresses our relationship with God is not conditional and based on our behavior; rather it is unconditional based on God's grace]. Confession is the way God washes us so we can stop being so uncomfortable in our relationship with Him." Sometimes, such as in this case, it feels like it took the author several pages just to repaint an idea with different words and a more positive spin, when in the end he was restating the same concept he started off calling a lie.
I have a lot of post-its in this book. I ran out and started ripping them into smaller pieces. I eventually decided this book must be a keeper so I might as well start writing in it. If that makes you cringe, please know that I plan to keep books I've written in to pass down to my children. By the time I was three-quarters of the way through this book, I finally felt like I had a better understanding of the author's writing style and what point he was trying to make in this book. It's not simple to write a book about allowing God's grace to shift our perspectives on Biblical truths, while challenging our application, but upholding a theological premise. The casual language caused me to second guess what he meant and be very skeptical at some points initially, but the more I read, the more I appreciated the heart of his message. We are free in Christ. We can embrace that freedom. We can gain immeasurably from a perspective shift, while keeping our feet solidly on a foundation of Jesus Christ and His Word.
The emphasis on not allowing ourselves into a works, efforts, earning, people-pleasing, perfectionist, legalistic, etc. mentality was very helpful and I appreciated the reminders of my identity in Christ, the freedom which I have been set free to enjoy, and that the "work" of my salvation, as well as my sanctification, belong to God. I can't do them, hurry them along, or mess them up monumentally. God's grace is sufficient to cover the gaps in my performance a million times over. I would recommend this book to anyone middle school or older who is willing to commit to reading the entire book. If you read only half, you may risk missing what the author is pointing toward and clarifies greatly in the latter half. It is best interpreted as a whole work rather than dissected or picked apart for quotation in my opinion.
***In the interest of full-disclosure: Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to give a positive review, my opinions are my own.