Rick Osborne. At Work Within: Be Transformed into All God Created You to Be. Impartation Idea, 2016. See here to buy the book.
In At Work Within: Be Transformed into All God Created You to Be,
Rick Osborne talks about how Christians can be spiritually
transformed. According to Osborne, the Gospel is not just about
accepting Christ and going to heaven. Referring to New Testament
passages, Osborne makes a case that the Gospel is also about Christians
becoming conformed to God’s image, and people becoming righteous like
How do Christians become this, with all of their sinfulness, wayward
thoughts, and uphill spiritual battles? Osborne raises a variety of
considerations, as he continually appeals to Scripture for support.
Osborne emphasizes God’s activity of working within Christians to will
and to do God’s good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). There is Christ’s
presence with and within Christians, discipling, motivating, and
empowering them. Faith that God will accomplish this spiritual
transformation and hope for the good that God has in store for believers
also play a significant role in the Christian life, according to
Osborne. Christians are to recognize that they are new creations, which
means that they are acting according to how they truly are when they
are righteous, and against who they truly are when they sin. They are
consciously to put off fleshly attributes such as sexual immorality and
anger, and put on attributes such as humility and love (Colossians 3).
Scripture reading, memorization, and prayer about Scripture are
crucial aspects of sanctification, according to Osborne, for the Holy
Spirit uses Jesus’ words in instructing believers (John 14:26), and
focusing on Scripture enables believers to keep God’s agenda in the
forefront of their minds. In the picture of sanctification that Osborne
presents, God plays a role in instructing and empowering Christians,
and Christians remind themselves of godly attributes through reading and
memorizing Scripture and demonstrate their continued reliance on God
through prayer. Osborne’s model is not rigid, for the Holy Spirit can
be flexible in terms of what he wants to teach a believer at a given
time. Osborne also stresses that Christians should regard spiritual
transformation as an act of divine grace, which God gives freely, not
something that they deserve or earn.
In the Conclusion, Osborne has a more communal focus, as he talks
about discipleship. Osborne expresses problems with spiritual
mentorship. For Osborne, the goal of discipleship is not for mentors to
create clones of themselves, but rather to point disciples to Christ,
so that they can learn from Christ themselves. Osborne believes that
Christians should go deeper than listening to a sermon once a week and
going to a small group, noting the intensive teaching and discipleship
that occurred in the New Testament. Still, in discussing
practicalities, Osborne seems to fall back on the paradigm of church
services and small groups.
Osborne shares his own experiences of spiritual success coupled with
spiritual fruitlessness and emptiness (these co-existed, according to
Osborne). He talks about dreams that he has had that he believes are
from God, and what he thinks that those dreams teach him and can teach
others. Each chapter also ends with short sayings, many drawn from the
book itself, which readers can share on social media.
In terms of positives, Osborne conveys a compelling and passionate
thirst for God, one that wants to go deeper in a relationship with God.
Osborne asks interesting questions and makes intriguing observations
about biblical passages. He notes, for example, that Paul in Romans
1:15 wanted to share the Gospel with Christians, whereas many
evangelicals today often act as if the Gospel is primarily supposed to
go to non-believers so that they can be converted. In discussing
Ephesians 3:17-21, Osborne observes that Paul is asking Christians to
know what is beyond knowledge, which appears rather paradoxical.
Osborne portrays a relationship with God in which God is tangible and
real, and I have difficulty identifying with that. Therefore, I
appreciated something that Osborne said on page 55: “…Jesus is walking
with you and teaching you, whether it always feels like He is or not…”
Osborne does well to criticize authoritarian impulses in Christian
circles. In response to Christians who rely on their favorite teachers,
Osborne points out that Paul in I Corinthians 10:15 encouraged the
Corinthian Christians to judge for themselves what Paul says. Osborne’s
contrast of discipleship with mentorship was also effective.
Overall, Osborne painted a specific picture of the sort of spiritual
activity that he was prescribing. He gave examples of what believers
can do in praying about Scriptures, and he described how that worked in
his own life. His story about how God transformed his attitude towards
women (moving it from lust to humanizing and honoring them) conveyed
where Osborne was, where God wanted him to be, and how God moved him in
that direction, with Osborne’s participation and cooperation.
In terms of critiques, I think that Osborne’s method can be
effective, in some areas, but I doubt that it can remove or heal every
deep scar, weakness, or inability, at least not by itself. Many people
may need more, such as counseling, or medication. Osborne mentions
counseling in one brief passage, but the book would have been better had
it presented a more holistic picture of healing and transformation.
Osborne also could have been more specific about how Christians can
edify others, beyond advising them to share passages from the book on
social media. Since I am a bit of a loner, I somewhat gravitated
towards Osborne’s individualistic picture of the divine-human
relationship (not that he necessarily intended it to be
individualistic). Still, as he acknowledges, Christians are to take
their transformation into interactions with others. He should have been
more specific about how that can occur, and what it looks like.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Bookcrash. My review is honest!