Do you ever feel at times that you don’t measure up? We’ve all experienced that nagging thought that we’re not enough. Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen is an encouraging book that enables us to rest in His sufficiency rather than trying to prove our worth to God.
Jennie claims to be a recovering achiever who seeks to point spiritually thirsty people to the only source who can truly satisfy our deepest longings. She uses several first person narratives from the Gospel of John to demonstrate that although we are unable to meet our needs, God is more than enough.
I appreciated Jennie’s emphasis on pointing the reader to God, rather than relying on one’s own strength. This book is written in a reassuring style bringing comfort to those who feel that they don’t measure up. At times however, her train of thought seems inconsistent. Here is one such example – as she points out the difference between vulnerability and transparency, “Vulnerability is the edited disclosure of personal feeling or parts of ourselves. Transparency is exposing the unedited, unfiltered, unflattering parts of our souls . . . Vulnerability is precious and useful and can serve great purposes, and it’s as far as we need to go with most acquaintances and for sure as far as we should go for Facebook. But transparency is necessary with our closest people and especially with God. It’s the only way we can truly be known” (p. 110).
After pointing out the limitations of vulnerability and the superiority of transparency as the only way we can truly be known, she then emphasizes the importance of vulnerability. She quotes C.S. Lewis, “To love at all is to be vulnerable” (p. 111) and then highlights the importance of vulnerability, “To love is to be vulnerable” (p. 111). I agree with her conclusion – transparency is good but it can be selective. Bill Thrall provides a helpful distinction as he points out, “Transparency is showing you the cracks in our lives whereas vulnerability gives you the permission to fill those cracks.” Her distinction between vulnerability and transparency on page 110 does not seem to agree with her conclusion on the following page.
Jennie does a good job identifying the struggles that many people face. She reveals several break through moments in her life, but it seems that she is struggling instead of experiencing the rest of faith that she is emphasizing for her reader as she writes, “I often live driven more than I live called” (p.192). All of us have experienced that feeling of being driven but I wished she would have stated it in the past tense. If Jennie who is an experienced Bible teacher is living as being driven more than being called then what hope is there for the average reader?
She gives us clue why she often feels this way on the same page, “Yep, I sin. I am a sinner” (p. 192). It’s true that we all sin; however, Paul’s appellation to the recipients of his epistles was to call them saints not sinners. It is more accurate to say that we are saints who sin. God has given us a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17), we have a new identity in Christ.
Later on she asserts again, “We are sinners” (p. 203). On the following page she makes an excellent point that contradicts her assertion, “We are not defined by our worst or our best; we are defined by our God” (p. 204). If we not defined by our worst (i.e. being a sinner) but defined by God (i.e. a saint), then why does she emphasize our identity as a sinner? Later on she reiterates the principle, “Everything flows out of our identity” (p. 216). We act in accordance with how we see ourselves. If I see myself as a sinner then I will have a propensity to sin; if I see myself as a saint then I will tend to act as a saint.
There were a few areas that I would have preferred greater theological precision. Jennie wrote, “We don’t confess so that God will forgive; we confess to remember and enjoy that we already are forgiven” (p. 192). I agree that Christians are to live in freedom and there is no condemnation for God’s people (Romans 8:1); however, the first part of her sentence is contrary to Scripture. 1 John 1:9 states, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The word “If” denotes is a conditional sentence and this is in the present tense (“if we keep on confessing”) if we are to receive forgiveness and cleansing.
Overall, Jennie has written an encouraging book enabling the reader to take off the mask of having it all together and resting in His sufficiency. Many of the chapters have an excellent “Experience Guide” with good questions for applying the key principles. (I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review).
Associate Pastor – Discipleship. The Church at LifePark
Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University
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