‘Ephesians describes in broad strokes and detailed lines how being embraced by the love of Christ changes everything. Because of Jesus there is a “new creation order” in effect from the highest echelon of the angelic order in heaven to the lowliest invertebrate growing in the deepest part of the deepest ocean. It is fitting that the Creator who made all things would redeem his creation. But what of the rebels, God’s enemies who are loyal to the Devil and the world that is passing away? How can they be redeemed? God’s glory is the answer. It is in beholding the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ that we are changed.’
Alive in Him by Gloria Furman is a book about Jesus. It is a book that dives into what it means to be in Jesus through the book of Ephesians. Alive in Him is not a commentary, but neither is it a Christianised self-improvement book. Rather, Furman’s book is Biblically rich as it wrestles with the issues of Paul’s letter. The approach allows the reader to grasp the big pictures of Ephesians and in ways that become applicable to everyday life.
Alive in Him helps the reader to lift their eyes from themselves to Jesus. The subtitle, How Being Embraced by the Love of Christ Changes Everything, is apt, our identity as followers of Jesus is rooted in the person of Jesus. Central to this is Paul’s use of the theme of the body of Christ. Furman is clear on this point, to follow Jesus is to be united with other followers. This is not merely a word against an individualised and privatised version of faith, but an urgent call to build and support each other as we follow Christ. Furman demonstrates this:
‘We need daily intervention because our steps can be drawn back into the shadows. Walking in love (as we learned about the body of Christ from the previous passages) is a community project. The dark forces that attempt to weave us back into ungodly patterns of living are constantly at work in the world. Those perverse values make up a pervasive way of life. How can an isolated Christian stand up to such pressure alone? We are all being assaulted both overtly and subtly by the darkness that opposes the light of Christ. You and I desperately need other Christians in our lives who are willing to interrupt our dark thoughts and show us the brilliant light of the Word.’
Alive in Him helpfully uses narratives throughout. These help to illustrate the points Furman is making and transition between points. On the whole the illustrations and imagery work well and add clarity to the points made. In particular, Furman’s use of the ‘zombie’ motif was especially good in clarifying our pre-Jesus state and bringing out the point that life in Christ is resurrection life. Her stories also connect with everyday life:
‘One of my children once asked me what it feels like to be filled with the Spirit: Do you feel stuffed full like you ate too much? How do you know when you’re filled up? Those are good questions, aren’t they? The Spirit-fullness we desire is not a bellyaching overdose, but worship-full expression of the life of God in us.’
How I Read Alive in Him
I integrated reading Alive in Him with reading and teaching on the book of Ephesians. Normally I would simply read a book straight through, but reading it with the Bible in one hand and Alive in Him in the other is definitely the best way to approach this book. You can either do this individually or as part of a group. Crossway has produced a free supplementary study guide to partner the book which can be downloaded here.
Overall I really liked this book. Gloria Furman’s passion is evident in her writing and she has the clarity to match. Even better, Furman’s book directs you back to the pages of the Bible. She isn’t writing in to garner the spotlight but rather to guide the reader to Paul’s letter of Ephesians. Most of all, Gloria Furman has got the order right. She realises it ‘is in beholding the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ that we are changed.’ In other words, we are changed because God has accepted us in Christ, not in order that he will accept us.
Read an excerpt from Gloria Furman’s Missional Motherhood.
Gloria Furman can be found online at gloriafurman.com.
Disclaimer: I have received a free epub copy of this book in return for this review.