A friend of mine (thanks RK!) recently recommended this book: Extravagant Grace by Barbara Duguid. The book is about failures, weakness, apathy, and coldness in the Christian life. It is about the Christian life full of tears, struggles, and the all-too-often reality of giving into temptation. Extravagant Grace is definitely not a book about living the victorious Christian life by way of spiritual disciplines. It’s more realistic and biblical than that. In other words, Duguid knows what sin is and what it means for the Christian to follow Jesus while struggling with sin-tainted hearts – and it comes out in this book.
But Extravagant Grace is not a pessimistic treatise on sin in the Christian life. It is a book that makes little of man, and much of Christ. It is a book that explains what “saint-and-sinner-at-the-same-time” means. It is a book that echoes the grace-full tones of Reformed theology. Specifically, in this book Duguid takes John Newton’s teaching about sanctification and puts it into modern-day situations and terms. If you like John Newton’s discussion of sin and his great emphasis on grace, you’ll for sure like Duguid’s book.
Extravagant Grace, in thirteen chapters and just over two hundred pages, discusses topics like total depravity, stages of faith (young, maturing, and mature), understanding sin in our hearts, grace alone, the Holy Spirit’s work in sanctification, and how justification relates to sanctification. Duguid also weaves in some helpful stories and illustrations throughout. My only very small critique of this book is that it was somewhat repetitive. But repetition is a good teacher I suppose!
I appreciated this book because it was very biblical, solidly Reformed, and deeply honest; I also appreciated this book because it constantly brought me back to the gracious work of Christ on my behalf. Like Duguid, I struggle with terrible sins that I’m too ashamed to discuss – but it is always refreshing to hear that Christ’s blood washes away all sin and that God’s love for me in Christ is stable and constant. I’m happy to be reminded that God can even use my sin to bring glory to his name and strength to my faith. Throughout this book I kept thinking, “I am weak but He is strong.” That’s a great confession for sure – one with which Newton would agree.
You should get this book if you struggle with sin. In other words, this is a book for Christians in all walks of life. It’s not too tough to read and it is very clearly centered on grace. There are some discussion questions at the end of each chapter, so it would make for excellent book club material. Pastors should get this book to help them preach grace better, elders should get this book to help them shepherd Christ’s flock in a grace filled way, and laypeople should get this book to help them understand what Paul’s words mean: where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. I’ll for sure be recommending this book and giving it out often. It encapsulates what Newton said before he died:
“Two things I know. First, that I am a great sinner. Second, that Christ is a great Savior.”
rev shane lems
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)