Christ's Glory, Not Mine

by science fiction author Andrea J. Graham

Review: Forsaken

The jacket description for Forsaken, a suspense novel by James David Jordan, tells us:

When Simon Mason, the world’s best-known televangelist, receives threats from Muslim terrorists, he hires Taylor Pasbury, a former Secret Service agent, to take charge of his security. When the terrorists strike, making a demand of the pastor that would shake the most steadfast saint, Taylor draws on all of her training to save Simon’s daughter. Along the way, she discovers that she is not the only one who has done things she would like to forget—and she is not the only one who understands that some things are more important than living.

Positive elements:

1) authentic characters. Jordan does well at making his characters come alive. Simon and Taylor especially are “real” people, with real strengths and real weaknesses, with motivations most readers will easily relate to.

2 Jordan clearly knows how to connect with the readers emotions, to engage his readers in the story and make them feel the characters’ emotions. This invites us to put ourselves in the situation and ask ourselves what we would do.

3) in a word: deep. Jordan is unafraid to tackle hard questions that most Americans, to my knowledge, would rather not consider. Martyrdom and Christ’s demands on his disciples need talked about a heck of a lot more. The fact Christ requires His followers to put Him first before everyone else in our lives, including even our own children, is a very unpopular scriptural truth today, so Jordan gets kudos for even bringing the topic up.

Negative elements:

4). Taylor, the first person narrator, frequently goes into Dragnet-style narration that takes several paragraphs to describe actions over a period of time. These passages get a little dull and, especially in a suspense novel, tempt the reader to skip over them.

5) in a word: weak. The novel at times reflects the common failure in the American Church to appreciate the gravity of sin, as betrayed by apparently buying into the common and good-intentioned heresy that a Christian is a sinner saved by grace. A sinner is, by definition, not under grace. A sinner is someone sold out to sin and living to obey the lusts of the flesh. Those of us who get caught by this snare of the enemy have good intentions, namely to be humble. However, to say we’re sinners is not humble, it actually knifes Jesus in the back. The devil deceives us into confessing we’re sinners because in doing so he has tricked us into denying the Lord.

At the point, the reader may be asking, so what is a Christian? A former sinner, in the process of being changed by God’s grace into a saint. We were, not are. We cannot serve two masters, Christ tells us in Mt 6:24. Either we will hate the one and love the other or be loyal to the one and forsake the other. To be a Christian means forsaking our allegiance to Sin and giving ourselves wholly to Christ. As we are by nature slaves sold under sin, this only happens by the grace of God. That is what is so hideous about “a sinner saved by grace.” It has a form of godliness, but denies the power.

The way some folks talk, you’d think the whole cross thing was God playing a sadistic mind game with himself to justify letting sinners into His presence, where they cannot go. The bible, however, teaches the Cross not only made a way for us to not only be forgiven, but cleanses us of sin. The work of the cross is to take sinners and transform them into saints.

Which is why one must be careful of how we sorrow. There is a sorrow that leads to life, and a sorrow that leads to death. For instance, let’s say someone denies Christ in order to save the life of their child, and then, hoping to make up for this, goes overseas and baits terrorists into killing them. This is actually a good way to end up in Hell, because our works are filthy rags. You can’t make it up to Him. You can only be so sorry you would rather your child had died than you had denied your Lord. That is the godly sorrow that leads to repentance and salvation. So long as such a person is glad their child is alive and would do it again in a heart beat, they haven’t repented of anything.

Now, Peter was reinstated after denying the Lord by being asked to declare his love for the lord three times, but this came only after he wept for having denied his Lord. Since it was his own life at stake, his later martyrdom did prove his repentance. But if it’s someone else’s life at issue, then it’s their life you need to be willing to risk, not yours. Otherwise you’re trying to make a deal with God. “You can have my life, but not _____” Sorry, it doesn’t work like that.

Note having characters with flawed views is not a bad thing in itself. The problem comes in when bad theology comes across as correct theology to the undiscerning. But I’m inclined to chalk up most of the novel’s weakness here to timidity. As I said, Jordan has my kudos for even having the guts to broach this topic, and he deserves a hearing.

The truth of God’s word on this topic is politically incorrect and most of us prefer to give Christ a make-over, effectively cutting out of the Bible the demands Christ places on His followers. This is a road that leads to destruction, my friends.

God’s truth doesn’t change because it’s unpopular. If we fail to give people the whole gospel, if we talk only of mercy and grace, we do them great harm, not good. God purchased us back from sin at Calvary, and we absolutely must talk about that mercy. But there’s a catch to being bought. We are not our own. We are bought with a price. (1cor 6:19-20) If Jesus is Savior, He is also Lord, and if He is not Lord, He is also not Savior. The Church must start holding believers accountable to the requirements Jesus laid out for discipleship in Luke 14:25-35, which says:

Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’?

“Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

“Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”