In Heaven is Now, Andrew Farley has refined and clarified his teaching on the distinction between the Law that condemns sinners and the forgiveness of Jesus Christ that saves and sets free from sin forever. The first half of the book adeptly leads readers through Scripture to explain the finished work of Jesus on the cross and how it applies to us. The later half of the book focuses more on living into the Christ life. This is much the same message as Mr. Farley's previous book; here, I think it is better articulated and includes a more devotional application. Although the book has plenty of positives, the unorthodox Biblical readings of Jesus' and John's teachings prevent me from recommending it for individual or group use.
Farley does an excellent job showing how Jesus' work forgives all of our sins and wipes them away forever--never to be seen by God again. He leads readers through Scriptures to show that we are new people "in Christ," and that, as Christians, we are never out of Christ. This will prevent the misunderstandings that Christians may have about being able to fall out of God's grace or lose salvation. Short, helpful anecdotes illustrate these points in each chapter. On these topics, I think Mr. Farley may minimize the damage that sin in our lives does to our relationship with God in the present reality of our lives. Any devoted Christian knows that sin becomes a stumbling block and obstacle to experiencing present communion with the Lord. Farley does state the need to stop sinning and remember who we are in Christ.
Mr. Farley makes clear that the Law is used by God to point people to Jesus. He highlights this "second use" of the law while eschewing anything close to a "third use" of the law that would teach Christians any sort of ethics or ideal for which to strive. A problem here is that he does not define "The Law." It seems that he is referring to any Scripture occuring prior to the cross or that seems to make demands of Christians. This will help free readers from the treadmill of trying to live up to God's standards to avoid his displeasure or punishment but leaves a confusing picture for how the Christian is actually empowered and called to live. Jesus is clearly shown as the way to fulfill all of God's standards, as believers rest in his righteousness by faith; however, Farley rejects Jesus as an exemplar or even a teacher of the Christian life.
It is always refreshing to read authors emphasizing the present reality of God's kingdom and salvation. God's kingdom and new creation is not just off in the heaven; rather, his kingdom has been inaugurated in Jesus Christ and given to us by the Holy Spirit. It is here and now for us to live into, possess, enjoy and share with others. What is missing here is a correct understanding of what life in the Kingdom looks like on earth which many believe is seen in Jesus' teachings from the Sermon on the Mount; however, Farley categorizes these and similar teachings as condemning Law. There is no mention of the call to discipleship, to taking up one's cross, denying one's self and following Jesus. Based on the teaching in this book, I am led to assume that the "cost of discipleship" is a condemning command by Jesus to those under law and should not be allowed to encroach on the life of grace, as Farley sees it.
Unfortunately, I believe he misinterprets Jesus' teachings, such as the Sermon on the Mount. I agree with him that this is not a standard we can attain on our own under any circumstance; however, I think it is the image of Christ to which believers are being conformed and that it expresses the way of life in God's kingdom for transformed believers empowered by God's spirit. Mr. Farley teaches that all of Jesus' teaching prior to the cross and resurrection are taught under the old covenant to condemn listeners. This is an understanding at odds with the Biblical witness and the apostolic teaching--the context in which the gospels were written. This gross misinterpretation includes Mr. Farley's teaching that the Lord's Prayer is "an `old [covenant] prayer that condemns." I have found this to be at odds with ALL faithful teaching and practice of the church from the 1st Century to the present--Reformed Protestants, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Pentecostals all pray this prayer. I consider this a deplorable teaching that can be a stumbling block to readers' individual and corporate prayer lives.
This is a major problem I see in the book, because these teachings are so relevant to Christians' lives throughout the centuries and world. The Lord's Prayer, for example, has been prayed prior to the gospels being written and as part of the apostolic teaching handed down by faithful Christians through the generations. I think this is a blatantly erroneous teaching.
I personally am not comfortable with the author's adopting the voice of Jesus in writing to readers at the conclusion of each chapter. This is a caveat I have in general not just with Mr. Farley. Sarah Young's "Jesus Calling" books are popular and have really ministered to readers, so it is a method that can be effective. Mr. Farley's "dustjacket" fan, Leonard Sweet, concluded his book "Jesus Manifesto" with a letter from Jesus addressed to "insert your name here." I found that off-putting, too. Mr. Farley's writings as Jesus seem prayerfully and carefully done. They are prophetically encouraging and thoroughly Biblical. I just have trouble with them being signed as "Jesus," as if there is no human agency. Each writing is followed by a welcome prayer and a plethora of Scriptural references to show their inspiration to which they seem strongly faithful.
I disagree with Mr. Farley's interpretation of 1 Jn 1:9 as being not written to Christians or applying to Christians. Earlier in the book, Mr. Farley makes a helpful and important differentiation between a person's spirit, soul (consisting of the mind, emotions and will) and body. While our spirits are reborn in Christ's righteousness once and for all, I think sometimes confession and cleansing from God of any "unrighteousness" is for our soul rather than a futile ritual of being "reborn" again, as Mr Farley seems to assert. And Mr. Farley also reminds readers that being "in Christ" is being in eternal communion and fellowship with the Lord; however, our ongoing sins can be a hindrance to our living into this fellowship--despite Mr. Farley's protests to the contrary. Confession and receiving cleansing of our sinfulness (sinful thoughts for example) can serve to remove from our souls what hinders our intimacy with the Lord. I believe he is always deepening our experience of his grace and forgiveness, and I believe 1 Jn 1:9 is a Scripture useful to the Christian for edification. As it is with the Lord's Prayer, Mr. Farley's teaching on this text is at odds with orthodox Christian teaching--historic and present.
What I gather is that Mr. Farley associates confession and asking forgiveness for sins only with the erroneous teaching that unless a Christian continues to confess sins as they occur he or she does not remain forgiven. I think he is right to emphatically reject that belief. What I think most "confessing" Christians practice is to acknowledge (confess) the sin to God, repent of it (stop sinning) and receive or affirm God's forgiveness in his or her life. This does not infer at all any idea that Christ's work on the cross is not complete, full, or satisfying and a once and for all work on behalf of sinners. Confession, according to 1 Jn 1:9, can be a practice of acknowledging sin as we become aware of it, repenting of it and receiving God's forgiveness and cleansing of any negative consequence of the sin to our spirit and soul--not our eternal salvation which is secure in Christ. I don't think this is at odds with the Biblical and apostolic witness.
Overall, this is could be a refreshing teaching that has immediate application for Christians' lives. I believe readers may come away from reading Heaven is Now edified but also severely misinformed on significant Biblical teachings. I encourage you to challenge what I believe are the wrong teachings listed above that undermine the positives in the book.