Saturday, April 19, 2014

Redefined by Kenneth Ortiz

If you are a Christian, you have been transformed. You are a new creation. You have been redefined.

The divine redefinition, Ortiz says, changes everything. It changes our access to God and how he relates to us. But many believers do not understand and embrace their new definition. They have bad thinking.

Ortiz has written this book to help us be aware of our beliefs about ourselves, about God, and about how God relates to us. He helps us understand imputed righteousness, our status as a child of God, that it is by belief and not behavior (although belief determines behavior), the scandal of grace and freedom in Christ, being a member of God's family, justification by faith alone, and our rights to certain promises and provisions guaranteed in the Word.

I feel there needs to be a word of caution. Ortiz heavily emphasizes our identity in Christ, our redefinition, to the near exclusion of how we live into that definition and our responsibility to do so.

Ortiz heavily emphasizes the freedom we have in Christ, noting Gal. 5:1. I am not so sure that means, “We can choose to use this freedom however we like. We can do whatever we please.” (109) First of all, Paul was talking about the law. Yes, we are free from the requirements of the law. But does that mean we can live as we please? Ortiz wants to think that if we love God, doing “whatever we please” will always be pleasing to God. I don't think it is that simple, nor apparently did Paul. What about Gal. 5:13? “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh...” What about the struggle against the “law of sin” within himself that Paul reports in Romans 7? What about Paul's admonition to “put off” the old self and “put on” the new self (Eph. 4:22-23), or to put to death what is “earthly” (Col. 3:5)? If we can do whatever we please why does God discipline those he loves (Heb. 12:6-7)? Why would we need the Word for correction and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16)?

Ortiz swings from one side to the other. On the one hand, “Christ wants us to be free – free to choose how we'd live our own lives.” (109) But then, “God desires we wage war against the sin that harms us.” (212) And, “Jesus was very serious about us going into strict training so that we can live holy lives and get rid of sin.” (214) So, what does Jesus Christ want for us, to be free to choose how we would live our lives or that we would go into strict training?

I think sometimes Ortiz promises too much. “If you understand that you are declared righteous no matter what you do, you'll know that your prayers are always effective, no matter what.” (90) That is just not true. Psalm 66:18 tells me if I am loving some sin, God will not hear me. 1 Peter 3:7 warns the husband to treat his wife right so that nothing will hinder his prayers. James 1:6-7 tells us we must believe and not doubt or we won't receive from the Lord. James 4:3 tells us we can ask “amiss” and therefore do not receive what we pray for. It would seem to me that there are certain behaviors of ours that will, in fact, make our prayers ineffective.

This is a book mostly emphasizing what we have in Christ with only a short section of admonition at the end of the book to live out our identity - “Why not live a life worthy of the calling we have received?” (206) And, finally, “Seek to be holy.” (206) “Seek to get rid of all sin.” (215)

I do agree with Ortiz in that, “It's time to believe that you are a new creation. It's time to choose to view yourself as God sees you.” (42) But that is only the beginning of the adventure. Understanding what it means to be a new creation and how that is lived out to God's glory is a life long process, and perhaps another book.

Kenneth Ortiz has more than a decade of experience in church leadership and pastoral ministry. He currently lives in Winter Garden, Florida, where he serves as a member of the ministry staff team of Mosaic Church. He has been ordained since 2006. Find out more about him at his website.

Leafwood Publishers, 224 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

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