Book Notes | In His Image

Each month, you’ll hear from one of us on what we’re reading and a little bit about the book. Enjoy!

If you’ve spent any time around the Lifeway Women Blog, you’ve likely picked up on the fact that we are big fans of Jen Wilkin. It’ll come as no surprise to you to hear that we were chomping at the bit to pick up her newish (it released in April of this year) book, In His Image, and dive into its truth-laden pages. Even though we may be a bit biased, it doesn’t take a fan to acknowledge the depth of wisdom and insight included in this small volume.

Jen begins by acknowledging a question that rises in the lives of most every follower of Christ at one point or another, What is God’s will for my life? But instead of drilling down to the details of do this, don’t do that, Jen instructs us to a broader perspective. She says, “For the believer wanting to know God’s will for her life, the first question to pose is not ‘What should I do?’ but ‘Who should I be?’” She goes on to say, “God is always more concerned with the decision-maker than he is with the decision itself.” She continues, “The hope of the gospel in our sanctification is not simply that we would make better choices, but that we would become better people.” So how do we “become better people” in a gospel-centered way? Jen says, “… the Bible’s answer to ‘Who should I be?’ is ‘Be like the very image of God,’ [therefore] we must ask, ‘Who is God?’” We become “better people” as we behold God and seek to imitate our Father in Heaven, by the Holy Spirit’s help.

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Jen uses this idea to catapult us into a study of who God is and what His character means for how we are to grow In His Image. Chapter by chapter, Jen walks us through ten attributes of God: His holiness, loving nature, goodness, justice, mercy, grace, faithfulness, patience, truthfulness, and wisdom. Not only does she explain some of how we can understand who God shows Himself to be in these ways, but she breaks down how these attributes are to look in our lives as followers of Jesus, giving practical helps and kind caveats.

I was struck by the beautiful turn of phrase Jen crafts when expounding on many of these attributes. Read this excerpt from Jen’s discussion of God’s goodness:

Anyone who has passed a gardenia bush at dusk has known the redolent goodness of God. Anyone who has halted at a sunrise, stilled to the calling of a bird, wept at a harmony, rolled a raspberry across the tongue, reveled in dew-laden grass underfoot, or marveled at the symmetry of a spider web knows that goodness lies scattered around us, like so many diamonds for the gathering. We are fairly tripping over it at every turn. Even in a fallen world.

This beautiful prose is paired with encouragement and admonition, reminding us of how God’s character is at work in our world: “Fear not, for the God who spoke light into the darkness of Genesis 1 is doing so again. Good news. Goodwill. And the light shined in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it.”

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I don’t know about you, but encouragement like that, anchored in God’s unchanging character, infinite power, and unshakable goodness is like a balm to my soul in these somewhat chaotic times.

Jen goes on to discuss God’s just nature and our right standing before God because of the sacrifice of Christ. She aptly warns against forgetfulness in our faith: “If we grow forgetful that we are justified in Christ, our relationship with God and with others will feel the effects. We will begin to slip into patterns of denying or minimizing our sins, rather than acknowledging and confessing them. We will begin to keep score. We will become acutely aware of the offenses of others against us, and our anger will be easily stirred when they are committed. Furthermore, we will become blithely unaware of our offenses against others, and our anger will be easily stirred when they are brought to our attention. We will smooth things over with an apology, secretly believing that we did nothing wrong in the first place.”

More than once, she steps all over my toes, but in the best gospel-grace kind of way. Jen masterfully calls us to holiness with wisdom and kindness. While I was reading, I almost felt as if she were a friend who lovingly listened to me share about my life all the while knowing and understanding the things I wasn’t telling her—that friend who acknowledges where you are now but loves you well enough to fight for your goodness, to push you toward the things God calls true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. I believe you’ll find her to be that friend too.

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Let’s all pull up a chair and listen. I’m so grateful that I did.

Sarah Doss is a Content & Production Editor with Lifeway. She loves a quirky sitcom, baking as therapy, and travel (international or otherwise). As a recovering Lisa Frank enthusiast, she maintains a healthy affinity for school supplies and all things letterpress. Keep up with her on Twitter (she loves Twitter friends) at @sarahdossy.