Reflections on the 10th Anniversary of Gospel Wakefulness

This year will mark ten years since the publication of my second book, Gospel Wakefulness, which in many respects serves as a the lodestar of all my writing. It’s not my personal favorite of all my books, and it’s probably not my best written book, but everything else I’ve written has served mainly to contextualize and apply the primary principle in that book. Because of that, when people ask me “If I read just one of your books, which should it be?,” I usually point them to Gospel Wakefulness.

What is it about? It’s essentially about personal revival. It’s about the kind of quantum leap in sanctification that seems to occur when one is found at the intersection of a profound brokenness and a beholding of the glory of the gracious Christ. It is about that returned-prodigal sort of breakthrough where one comes to, in the book’s definition, “treasure Christ more greatly and savor his power more sweetly.”

That book was really my working out with literary fear and trembling what had happened to me about five years previous to the writing, when the almighty God reached through the roof of the guest bedroom of our Nashville home, where I was desperate and depressed, and grabbed hold of my soul to remind me of the good news of Jesus. It wasn’t a new message. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before. But in the midst of my pain and ruin, it was as if I had heard it for the first time. That was my moment of gospel wakefulness, the dawning for me of the realization that the gospel wasn’t just for lost people, but also for messed-up Christians like me. The gospel in my heart grew ten sizes that day.

And by God’s grace, I keep going back to that moment in my heart and mind. It made me “gospel-centered” before I knew anything about a movement or a coalition or a tribe. Those things didn’t really even exist at that time. I didn’t become stubborn about gospel-centrality because somebody handed me a book or took me to a conference or told me to listen to somebody’s podcast. It happened because one moment I wanted to kill myself and the next I was rescued by a grace I was afraid had left me far behind.

Fifteen years or so from that moment, and now ten years from the book, I still aim to be driven by gospel wakefulness. Others may move on to other things, but I want to stay right here, neither forgetting how frail I am nor how beautiful my Jesus is. There’s quite a bit I would probably change in the book if I could go back — people I wouldn’t quote, stories I might not tell, means of expressions I might not use — but the meat and potatoes of it I still stand by. And I hope to still be standing by it another ten, twenty, thirty years from now. What better legacy could I leave, I tend to think, than that which is staked on my smallness and Christ’s strength? To that end, I will keep writing for more and more gospel wakefulness. And if you are one of the people who has been helped by that book (or any other book of mine, really), I thank you for reading.