In Reforming Joy, Tim Chester uses Galatians as the text to help readers rediscover the joy found in the gospel. The reason for using Galatians as the primary text is that Chester observes similarities between shortfalls of the church of Galatia in the first century and the Roman Catholic Church of the sixteenth century. Going through the entire epistle’s five chapters briskly, the author develops linkages between the two eras of believers primarily regarding the doctrines of justification and sanctification. In the first chapter, the author discusses the joy that is found in having Scripture alone as the sole authority of our lives instead of the numerous competing forces in our daily lives that strive to divert our attention. The next chapter focuses on how faith in Jesus can free us from trying to justify ourselves by our own futile efforts so that we can live joyful lives for Him alone. Next, the author examines how the local church is a source of Christian joy when God’s Word is preached faithfully thereby allowing believers to be nurtured in faith together. In the fourth chapter, we see how the doctrine of adoption gives us the joy of becoming children of God through Jesus and how He also delights in us because of Christ’s sacrifice for us. The last chapter talks about the joy that comes from living Spirit-led lives that both liberates us from the law and prevents us from obeying our fleshly desires. Thus, in five short chapters, Chester packs a succinct summary of the how the Christian life is a joyful journey and not an arduous trek. At the end of each chapter, the author includes a long quotation from one of the Reformers to illustrate the concepts discussed.
I would recommend this book to all Christians as it is easy to forget that the gospel is good news which brings great joy as the angel declared to the shepherds (Luke 2:10). Chester helpfully reminds us that the Christian life should be marked with joy since we experience true freedom by subjecting ourselves to the power and authority of Scripture as God’s Word. In our depraved nature, we are inclined to succumb to our sinful ambitions so we need to be regenerated by the Spirit who empowers us to exercise faith in Jesus and see Him as the supreme joy above all else. Furthermore, since we are no longer held hostage by our sinful desires, we need the Spirit to indwell and lead us so that obeying God’s commands is not burdensome but joyful. Moreover, we gain spiritual nourishment and joy when we remain intertwined with other believers as adopted members of God’s household to sit under the faithful preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments. When we experience true joy that is found in the gospel, we will no longer try finding satisfaction in following the law by our own efforts or using grace as an excuse to achieve our evil desires.
In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a review copy of this book from Crossway.