I am grateful to my Twitter friend, @PJ_Mills15. for writing this review of the book and small group curriculum for From Death to Life! We had the opportunity to meet at the 2018 G3 Conference. For all the headache Twitter can bring, it has also brought about many wonderful connections for me.
P.J.’s thoughts on the book:
Growing up in a general Baptist church, I cannot say how many times I raised my hand or filled out cards at revival services in order to confirm that my eternal destiny was secure. To be sure, I was a frequent flier in the hand raising, card filling, aisle walking program. Up until a few years ago, my testimony of salvation had largely been based the sinner’s prayer that I prayed when I was 12 years old. I thought my salvation was due to the fact that I had simply made a better choice than my peers.
Since I abstained from “egregious” sins, memorized a lot of Bible verses, and got baptized, I was well on my way to heaven and the extra hand raises were for safe measure. I also cannot say how many times I was falsely assured by pastors and youth leaders who told me, in essence, “don’t sweat your salvation; once saved, always saved.” I am absolutely certain that this personal example is not unique to myself. Easy believism and decisional regeneration are pervasive in our land and they are deadly doctrinal plagues to modern evangelicalism.
In Allen Nelson’s book From Death to Life: How Salvation Works, he cuts to the heart of this tragic issue and rightly asserts that “the altar call and the sinner’s prayer have done more damage to churches than we can imagine this side of heaven… It creates a system whereby many people see the gospel as a ‘shot in the arm’ they receive to keep them out of hell.” Allen further states that the situation in modern evangelical churches regarding the presentation and content of the gospel is “dire” and the content of what we preach as being the gospel is critically important. I can attest that growing up, the gospel to me was exactly what Allen described: a shot in the arm to keep me out of hell.
Sadly, this is an altogether common experience in American evangelicalism today. In this book, Allen cuts to the chase and lays out an excellent Biblical examination of exactly what the gospel is (and is not), how salvation truly works according to scripture, and how the gospel is to be presented. He does an exceptional job dismantling the false notions of easy believism that have crept into far too many pulpits in our day, and he establishes a much-needed framework for how salvation actually works. His handling of the doctrines of grace is firm, yet gracious, and wonderfully pastoral in nature. He writes in a manner that is theologically deep, yet at the same time accessible, practical, and profoundly relatable.
This past summer the Lord blessed me with the opportunity to lead a bible study and I chose to utilize Allen’s book and the accompanying study guide. One of the things I appreciated most was that this study starts out laying a vital foundation with the sufficiency and authority of scripture. Allen’s insistence that God’s word, not our feelings or experiences, should guide our understanding of salvation was a breath of fresh air and a most necessary dividing line to any Bible study; especially one on salvation!
Throughout the 9-week study, subjects such as total depravity, regeneration, conversion, the active and passive obedience of Christ, sanctification, and the necessary elements of gospel proclamation were taught and discussed. The study bore much fruit and I am deeply grateful to Allen for writing this book and taking the time and effort to put together such a wonderful teacher and student guide. I intend on using this material again for another upcoming Bible study and I cannot commend this book highly enough. I would recommend this study to any group whether it be a Sunday school class, small group, youth group, or simply personal study. It is written and put together in such a way that makes it a great practical and edifying resource for all ages. I am thankful to God for Allen and the very evident hard work he put into writing this vitally important book. I pray it will be both a blessing and a wakeup call to the Church of our day as well as a source of edification for many saints in the years to come.