Six Secrets of the Christian Life: The Miracle of Walking with God By Zane C. Hodges. Mesquite, TX: Kerugma, Inc, 2004. 80 pp. Paper, $4.95.
Summarizing years of insight distilled from decades of exegetical refinement and experience of truth in the lab of life, Zane Hodges left us with a wonderfully practical book on how to live the Christian life. The book respectfully discards the strewn wreckage of so many well intentioned band-aids and bromides for spiritual living. (“…working hard at it…. firmly making up [one’s] mind to do it…. persevering in spite of all difficulties,” p. 9).
Hodges acknowledges elements of truth in these over-simplifications, but none of them singlehandedly captures Christian living as both a Person and a process. None of them integrates the six distinguishable components he presents to us in Six Secrets as the dynamic process that girds the reality and movement of Christ in us, our earnest expectation of glory.
For a person who has believed in Jesus Christ concerning God’s gift of eternal life, living a personally satisfying life that also pleases God is far from automatic. The wise professor Hodges created and crafted for us a beautiful tapestry and useful primer of spiritual living that itself displays a measure of the wisdom, pleasure, and glory of the Person of God as intimately known by this book’s author.
Hodges’ choice of the word secrets, though initially perceived by this reviewer as bromidic, is actually in the spirit of Paul’s use of the word mystery, a collective truth previously hidden or veiled but emerging and then revealed through the progress of revelation in Scripture to the one pursuing it like treasure.
The six components presented in Six Secrets are joined to reveal a unified, orderly, and dynamic process. The six components itemized below, readable as one sentence, correspond to the six chapters of the book under review.
(1) The resurrection life of Jesus Christ who is in us who have believed, (2) transforms our minds (=hearts) by means of His Spirit, (3) so that God’s life in us is displayed (=glorified) through us in our daily decisions and directions, (4) resulting from an honest heart (=mind) deliberately facing the light of the truth of God’s Messiah revealed in His written Word, (5) that we speak to God about in reference to our experience,(6) whose glory we are invited to regularly pursue as a process with an intentional focus (mindset) on all we can discover in and about God’s Son alive in us.
This is eternal living of the eternal life given to us by Christ who lives in us. He is eternal life. This hope of Glory can continue through us to the world around us. But now this reviewer begins to build beyond the foundation expounded upon in Zane Hodges clearly and efficiently (75 pages plus 4 page index) written Six Secrets of the Christian Life. We are indebted to him for it. But he would want us to proceed on and not merely reminisce.
When writing in this form of summation literature, compared to his refined textual exegesis and exposition as displayed in his The Epistles of John, Hodges carefully crafted and freighted this book with frequent but contextually relevant references. The book is free of endnote debate.
This book is for the common reader but is delightful to others as well, as was Lewis Sperry Chafer’s He That is Spiritual (1918). Let the reader recognize Hodges’ target audience or he will degrade his appreciation for this consummate exegete’s skill, when called for, to summarize clearly and concisely for the many.
Noticeable in scanning through the text of the book are frequent references to key passages from the Bible weighing in on the message. A review of the helpful Scripture index at the end points the reader to 1 John at least twenty-eight times, Romans at least twenty-seven times, (primarily Romans 6-8), James 1 at least ten times and 2 Corinthians 3-4 at least nine times.
This pupil of Zane Hodges imagines a day when professor and pastor Hodges will receive Christ’s stamp of approval for humbly rendered worship throughout life in word and deed. Hodges would never claim to be a receptor of Christ’s final approval. He knew he would be with Him. He knew that his Master called him, with all of us, to behold Messiah Jesus now in the mirror of God’s Word. Hodges cultivated in life the process that humbly honors the person of Christ and His revealed pathway of spiritual growth. But in all things He let God be God.
The thought of potentially receiving the reward of Christ’s approval was a major, though not exclusive, motivator of Hodges. He likewise delighted in the completed work of Christ, the satisfactory payment for all sin, a theme evident in his book, The Atonement (2007).
Noticeable in his first book, The Hungry Inherit (1972), and for as long as this admittedly admiring reviewer recalls knowing him–from seminary years in the early 1970’s to Hodges’ death in 2008–he was a champion’s champion of the freeness of the gift of eternal life in Christ and corresponding assurance of knowing Him with certainty.
In Hungry he called our attention to living water, spoken of by Jesus to the Samaritan woman, the message of the gift of eternal life (John 4:10-14). Taking his cues from Jesus, Hodges likewise complemented this teaching, as evident in Six Secrets, with reference to the discipleship message of meat to eat that ye know not of (John 4:31-34). And so flowed the motivation of this mentor of mentors.
This man grounded his students in the gift, which, once given, can never be lost. At the right time, Hodges would then invite God’s children to enjoy the process of abundant living as he did–but only in honor of the One who rewards those who diligently seek Him. Likewise he compiled from Scripture and honed by his own joy of Christ living in him, the readable and delightfully ponderable Six Secrets of the Christian Life.
It wasn’t that he pursued the reward directly. Zane Clark Hodges looked forward to the revealing of the King Himself in His kingdom, the King Who has called us to celebrate with Him as His honored companions in the millennial bliss. That bliss awaits His children who diligently seek intimacy with the Person Who alone rewards or withholds the reward of intimate privilege at His side in the joyous administration of His reign yet to begin on planet earth.
Metropolitan State Hospital