Book Review: Perfect Sinners, by Matt Fuller

Review
03.15.2018

Matt Fuller, Perfect Sinners. The Good Book Company, 2017. 144 pages, $12.99.

 

This book is a gold-mine of succinct explanation, careful metaphors, and fresh illustration that will breathe new life into those who desire to communicate the heart of the gospel in both evangelistic and pastoral contexts. Too many believers feel too often as though we’re living life on trial before God, uncertain of his verdict on us. What we need is good theology in palatable servings that will remind us again of the rock-solid, unchanging nature of our status before God so that the day-to-day ups and downs of our walk with God won’t throw us off course.

Matt Fuller delivers in spades. I constantly had people springing to mind with whom I wanted to share what I was reading. Read it with pen and paper in hand as you will likely be compiling your own lists.

“What does he think of me?” Fuller opens his book with this question and then shows how crucial a question it can be for someone interviewing for a job, or sitting on an exam. But he says, “It is God’s opinion of us that matters more than any other and determines our eternal destiny. Other people’s opinions of us can affect us deeply. . . . Yet, God’s opinion has an incomparable capacity to transform your life.”

Fuller quickly sets out the theme of the book: to help us see the differences between our “status before God,” which is settled when a person becomes a Christian, and “our daily walk with God,” which changes regularly. He writes, “When we allow our walk with God to shape how we imagine he views us, then we’ll wobble and be anxious.”

Fuller repeatedly raises practical questions with which believers often wrestle, and succinctly shows how the Bible offers answers. Just a few of the questions raised and answered are: How can God love me when he hates sin? Does God’s love for me vary? Does God reward differently? Why is change so slow?

The chapters aren’t too long or too heavy, and they refreshingly manage to cover a range of vital theological themes. One of the ways I’ve found myself encouraging others to read the book is by citing some of the easy-to-recall, pithy illustrations:

  • “Jesus doesn’t give us all the ingredients and if we make a good enough cake then God accepts us… no! Jesus gives us a perfectly finished cake.”
  • “We are not ‘on probation.’ No; we have been given, from the outset, a lifetime’s service record of Jesus Christ. We can never be sacked. We have 10,000 years of brilliant service already on file. We have all the pay and pension rights of a star employee. It is now impossible for the Boss to view us with anything but love and delight.”
  • “So don’t live life as though on trial before God, uncertain of his verdict. The verdict is in and God says, You’re righteous. A perfect sinner. Come near and enjoy me.”

This is the heart-warming, assurance-giving gospel—and Perfect Sinners manages to sustain this kind of encouragement chapter after chapter.

The last chapter summarises where the whole book has been going: “How do I enjoy greater assurance of God’s love?” Helpfully, Fuller starts with every Christian’s confidence: “I’m 100% certain of the fact that when I die I am going to be with Jesus in paradise.” One of the lingering effects of sin is that most of us struggle with assurance. He admits that we can struggle with assurance for different reasons—tough circumstances, hard-hearted hypocrisy, or a tender conscience—and then he points to three answers. Christians should “trust the Father’s discipline, observe the Spirit and above all look to Christ and keep doing so. It is faith that saves us, not assurance. But having full assurance in God’s work is the best way to work out our salvation! It is what the Lord desires for us.”

My church has bought enough copies of this book to give away to every member of the congregation who will read it. We’re in the early stages of members posting snippets of the book and encouragements from it to a church Facebook thread. I will keep spare copies of the book to hand and I expect to be regularly reading chapters with people as part of everyday pastoral conversations.

By:
Tim Chapman

Tim Chapman is the minister of Christ Church South Cambs near Cambridge, England.