What happens when you read two books back to back and then encounter what seems to be a vicious disagreement between the two authors? Now John Eldredge and Bill Hull probably don't know each other personally, but who knows, they might! That's beside the point. I recently finished reading “Wild at Heart” by John Eldredge and I am currently reading “Choose the Life” by Bill Hull.
I enjoy reading books that are scripturally based and written to edify the Christian community by offering insights from the Word of God to help people renew their minds on a daily basis. Both books mentioned above fit this category of literature. When I read such a book, I try to take in what the author is saying and I use it as a filter to view my life experience in light of what I know to be true from Scripture.
Let me give you a mental picture here. Do you remember those cartoons and movies from when we were kids where it showed a little tiny angle on one shoulder and a little tiny demon on the other? The little “blue” guy would say, “don't throw that pie in his face, that wouldn't be nice.” The little “red” guy would say, “Don't listen to that pansy, you know that jerk deserves, throw the pie, throw it hard!” I will continue assuming you know what I'm referring to.
Here's the mental image… As I enter my day, let's say I'm faced with the opportunity to leave work, take the afternoon off, and go canoeing with a few guys from my cell group. I can picture a little John Eldredge on my left shoulder saying… “Go for it Cliff! You work too much! You need to do things that make you come alive. Go canoeing with your friends and be adventurous, dangerous even.” Of course I would weigh these thoughts in the context of my day and my responsibilities, etc. However, do you see how what I read in “Wild at Heart” can have an impact on my thoughts and influence how I process decisions?
Now in all fairness, I've only made it to page 48 of Bill Hull's book, “Choose the Life.” However, I've already started to notice the little Bill Hull on my right shoulder. This little guy is prompting me to process thoughts, ideas, and decisions based upon what I've read from his book.
Now in the old cartoons, the little blue guy and the little red guy kind of represented good and evil, good conscience and bad conscience. I don't use this illustration to say that either Eldredge or Hull is good or evil. In this mental picture that I'm drawing, neither author is red or blue, but instead I like to picture them as little claymation characters. Simply picture them each sitting on one of my shoulders competing for my attention and literally battling it out with all the intensity that you would see on Celebrity Deathmatch. Let me explain…
Today, I made it to page 48 in the “Choose the Life” book by Hull. However, what I read on pages 46 and 47 stopped me dead in my tracks. Now if you can imagine, the little John Eldredge has been on my left shoulder for several weeks now. In fact, I've written two devotional blogs based upon some insight's I received from “Wild at Heart” and I will likely write more. Eldredge was sitting there helping me to apply the insights from his book to my daily life. It was pretty cool until he heard what I read from Hull's book this morning. It was then that this Celebrity Deathmatch – Christian Author Edition began.
Celebrity Deathmatch is a show from MTV, a network I rather despise and have blocked from my satellite receiver. I've only seen the show once for about 10 minutes. This show uses claymation characters that are made to look and sound like Hollywood celebrities. These celebrities are then put into a claymation wrestling ring to battle each other. MTV advertises the show by saying… “The world's leading provider of claymation carnage. We bring you gore, violence and some juicy celebrity casualties–but don't worry, we're just claying around.”
I know what you're thinking. Only Cliff can use such a show as an illustration in a devotional post. We'll if you weren't, at least I was thinking it! Let's go on to the match.
On one corner (or on one shoulder), we have Christian Author John Eldredge. In the other corner (or on the other shoulder), we have Christian Author Bill Hull. Today's match is a battle between the two authors as they compete to make their case for the condition of the human heart. Is the heart of a Christian Deceitfully Wicked?
Bill Hull will argue from the Scripture that indeed the heart is desperately wicked and that we should avoid our heart's desires. John Eldredge will also argue from Scripture as well, only to proof that Christian is given a new heart at regeneration and that God has placed certain desires within our heart to help us discover his purpose for our lives. Eldredge is determined to have us search deep within our lives to find our purpose and to live from our hearts so that we can “come alive.”
Are you ready for the match?
From “Wild At Heart” by John Eldredge (Page 133)
First off, your sin has been dealt with. You Father has removed it from you “as far as the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12). Your sins have been washed away (1 Cor. 6:11). When God looks at you he does not see your sin. He has not one condemning thought toward you (Rom. 8:1). But that's not all. You have a new heart. That's the promise of the new covenant: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezek. 36:26-27). There's reason that it's called the good news.
Too many Christians today are living back in the old covenant. They've had Jeremiah 17:9 drilled into them and they walk around believing my heart is deceitfully wicked. Not anymore it's not. Read the rest of the book. In Jeremiah 31:33, God announces the cure for all that: “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” I will give you a new heart. That's why Paul says in Romans 2:29, “No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly, and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit.” Sin is not the deepest thing about you. You have a new heart. Did you hear me? Your heart is good.
Now if you have not read “Wild At Heart,” go get a copy! It is an AMAZING BOOK! It's a book written to men, however is a great read for women to help better understand the men in their lives. The whole book is about living from your heart. It's about looking inside your heart to find the footprint of God. It's about discovering your purpose and doing what God designed you to do! It's about finding out how God wired you to come alive!
My favorite quote from the book is found on page 200. Eldredge quotes someone who once said, “Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” This book and this quote specifically has made a deep impact on my life the past few weeks. In fact, I've discovered a desire to write and I am now in the process of getting started in writing my very first book about the Cell Church and what I've learned from my experiences in it.
So that's what Eldredge had to say. Let's get back to the match here and see what happens next…
From “Choose The Life” by Bill Hull
We are told to follow our gifting, and sometimes we are exhorted to follow our Myers-Briggs personality profile. How many times have we been told to follow our hearts our dreams? I know that most people who advocate such routes don't mean to recommend not following Jesus. But consider this: My gifting is to serve others and build up the church (1 Peter 4:10-11). A few years ago I considered taking a new position. I was being interviewed by a trusted friend. He confronted me with this very issue saying, “Bill, do you want to serve in this role, or are you just looking for a place to exercise your gifts?” I had to confess that I was thinking gifts. I was taught to understand God's leading in conjunction with the opportunity to use my skills.
As for following dreams, they too can be tainted. I am sure my dreams for ministry, for example, are soiled with my selfishness and my need to be noticed and adored. There is a reason we should not follow our hearts; they are unreliable and even deceitful (Jer. 17:9). There are so many tempting and right-sounding rivals to following Jesus.
Okay, am I making a little more out of this than I should? Probably, but I tend to do that from time to time and most people learn to love me anyway! But do you see the arguments in those quotes?
Let me say this. I love the John Eldredge book “Wild at Heart.” Now is Eldredge a deep theologian? Not that I'm aware of, but his book was certainly used by God to minister to my life and it helped me to come alive, at least to allow this dream of writing a book one day to come alive.
When I look deep into my heart, it's not deceitful or wicked. From the day I became a Christian, my heart has always wanted holiness and righteousness. My heart has always wanted to please God and serve others. I'm going to have to side with John Eldredge on this one!
Hull wrote… “As for following dreams, they too can be tainted.” To this the little John Eldredge on my left shoulder says… Yes, the dreams produced by our hearts can be tainted. However, the Word of God can also be used in the wrong way, taken out of context, and we know that Satan certainly takes the Word of God and twists it, distorts it. Should we not follow the Scripture because of this?
Hull, on my other should says… “I am sure my dreams for ministry, for example, are soiled with my selfishness and my need to be noticed and adored.” Eldredge fights back… Dude, that's not you! That's not your HEART! That's your flesh! Didn't you read Cliff's devotional post the other day about the Three Enemies of the Warrior?
And so on the battle between Eldredge and Hull regarding the state of the Christian heart, Eldredge is victorious. What a match!
Listen, I'm going to continue to read Bill Hull's book. I just couldn't go on before I addressed this idea that he alludes to. In fairness to Bill, I believe that he simply misapplied Scripture (Jer. 17:9) to make his point. However, I believe that the point he was making in the statement quoted above from his book was accurate to some degree. Too many times we rely on our gifts and abilities to determine where we ought to serve in the ministry.
I would suggest that what Hull is suggesting is that we would instead seek God's wisdom and discernment to discover his will for our lives. It's just funny that Eldredge suggests the way to do that is to look deep into our NEW HEARTS given to us by God to find the desires that he placed there.
Very interesting indeed!