by Rick Pidcock
Jason Janz is a fellow church planter out here in Denver, CO. Through his service at Red Rocks Baptist Church as an assistant pastor over the past ten years, he has been primarily involved with discipling young people and helping people overcome addictions.
Through his experience, he has developed a growing burden for helping people have a consistent, dynamic devotional life.
Jason addresses this need in his book Alone With God. The book includes eight chapters, as well as an appendix with practical examples of journals and time schedules for having a dynamic devotional life.
He begins the book with the premise that it’s all about a relationship. He says, “What is the greatest need of people today?…spiritual fitness.” He goes on to explain that because we are in bad shape spiritually, we need to cultivate our relationship with God. He says that most of us do not lack a desire to have a deeper relationship with God, but that we lack the motivation. He then sets our expectations high by saying, “In the following chapters, you will find the big picture of spiritual growth.”
In Chapter Two, Jason lays the foundation for building this relationship with God. He begins by explaining how the gospel guarantees our right standing with God, and what key factors influence our ongoing walk in the Lord. He says that these factors are the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and prayer and meditation.
Chapter Three discusses the need for believers to experience true inner renewal, seek God, depend on God, find satisfaction in God, be illumined by God, be immersed in the Word, have focused prayer, excercise spiritual discipline, spend quality time, and plan.
Chapter Four is an especially helpful chapter on common myths that we use as excuses to not grow in our walk with God and what truths combat those myths.
The fifth chapter then gets down to the nuts and bolts of how to have dynamic devotions. Jasons eight step plan includes the following:
Jason then explains the benefits of having a friend that will keep you accountable for your devotional life.
In Chapter Seven, Jason explains that the secret to doing this is through meditation. He explains through 2 Corinthians 3:18 what it means to meditate.
The final chapter closes the book with a call for the reader to impact the lives of others just as God has impacted the reader through devotions.
Overall, there are alot of helpful things in this book. It is important for us to remember that the basis for our walk with God is our relationship with God in the gospel. It is also necessary for us to seek to be transformed by God. And we also need to battle our excuses for not growing with truth.
Jason’s eight step plan is helpful as reminders of what elements should be in devotions. But the reader should remember that just going through the motions of those eight steps does not guarantee that you will have dynamic growth. In other words, trusting in the God that is revealed to you in your devotions is the only thing that can give you true growth, not merely going through an eight-step process. Jason does a good job of making this point when he says, “Scripture is the source, but it is not the object of meditation. The goal of all Bible reading, prayer, and worship is God.”
My one problem with the book comes in Chapter Seven. Jason begins with a great verse on meditation. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says,
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
Jason then explains that the human mind works in five stages: thought (process facts), imagination (draw a picture), emotion (feel the situation), conscience (discern right and wrong), and will (intend to act). He then says, “When we approach the Word of God, we need to proceed through all five steps in order to let the truths take hold in our hearts.”
A few pages later he includes another three-step process on how to do this. He says that meditation happens through memorizing, personalizing, and applying Scripture.
The problem that I have with this model is that it forgoes faith in the gospel. If you take a look at these two multi-step processes, both of them can be done by an unbeliever. And an unbeliever can also experience change in his life by following these steps. But were they really transformed by repentant faith in God? No.
Jason’s concept is not completely unbiblical. But without a detailed explaination of repentant faith, it is incomplete. Colossians 2:6,7 say,
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
In other words, we grow in Christ in the same way that we received Him–by faith in the gospel. People need to see that their primary problem has nothing to do with failing to follow any multi-step process, but has everything to do with their misplaced faith. If you are not growing in your marriage, you need to behold the glory of God in the gospel, and trust in God with repentant faith. Then God will transform your mind, imagination, emotions, conscience, and will.
If you are wondering why I am focusing on this one point, it’s that without this one point, true transformation cannot take place. In the beginning of this review, I pointed out that Jason sets our expectations high when he claims that he is going to give us the “big picture of spiritual growth.” But how can we really have that big picture without discussing repentant faith? Without a proper understanding of God-centered, gospel-driven repentant faith, all the multi-step processes in the world are useless.
Overall, Alone With God is an excellent practical tool for giving you ideas on growing your walk with God in your devotions. There are a number of practical ideas that I have never thought of before. But as you read this book, along with any other book that uses multi-step processes to growth, always read with the understanding that true growth comes only by repentant faith in the gospel.