“The Naked Gospel” by Andrew Farley

If you’ve been plugged into the blogosphere you’ve probably heard of The Naked Gospel and the story of how it’s author, Andrew Farley, came to write it.

Farley was burned out with “obsessive Christianity disorder.” The pressure he felt in trying to perform for Jesus reduced him to a nervous wreck. He had been a successful student and a motivated evangelist. He was intense to the point where he lost all his friends. And yet he was miserable and felt far from God. Then his life fell apart.

Farley’s story is hardly unique. A survey done by Willow Creek Church measured attitudes and behaviors of folk in over 400 churches and found no connection between church activity and those who were growing and fulfilled in their Christian walk. It’s not hard to find Christians who are burdened with religion. As Farley writes, “many of us are still apathetic instead of ecstatic over the gospel” (p.15).

What set Farley free was the naked gospel, the bare truth of what it means to be in Christ and to have Christ live in you and through you.

According to Farley, what messes up some Christians is that we don’t understand the significance of what Jesus has done on the cross and what makes the new covenant new. The old covenant hinges on us and ultimately reveals our inability to remain faithful. The new covenant solves this problem by shifting the focus to Jesus and his perfect faithfulness. We are supposed to depend wholly on Jesus. Problems come when we think we need to add in a little religious insurance based on works of our own.

The obstacle to experiencing victory over temptation is the way in which we’ve gone about the battle. When we arm ourselves with the law, we set ourselves up for failure every time. We may call it self-discipline or accountability – or plug in some other inventive term. But when it’s anything but dependency on Christ within us, it’ll inevitably put the wheels of human effort in motion. (p.56)

Few Christians would call themselves legalists. But in the name of discipline or “keeping short accounts with God,” many mix grace with the rules. We justify this by thinking we need guidelines or boundaries. Or perhaps we think the rules show us how to please God. But according to Farley, it’s the rules or it’s Jesus. You can’t have both. To think “Jesus saves” and then think we need rules to live godly lives, is to cheat on Jesus.

This book is a good introduction to the gospel. Farley covers what are fast becoming the central tenets of the grace message; that Jesus’ death brings complete and unconditional forgiveness, and that Jesus’ resurrection brings new life characterized by a new nature and new desires. From these truths Farley demolishes many church traditions pertaining to, for example, confession, divining the will of God, and what it means to “abide” in Christ.

I would say I am well acquainted with the grace message, yet there were a couple of things in this book that took me by surprise. Consider the distinction between nature and nurture. Many churches emphasize nurture as the means to spiritual growth, hence we have small groups, Bible study, accountability groups, etc. These things are helpful, says Farley…

But do you see what I see? The Bible talks about considering ourselves dead to sin and realizing that God has raised us up and seated us with him (Romans 6:11, Ephesians 2:6). In light of these truths about nature, we’re told to not let sin reign and to set our minds on things above (Romans 6:12; Colossians 3:2). This is not nurture talk; this is nature talk! (p.186)

Christianity is not a matter of asking, what would Jesus do? It’s a matter of unpackaging what it means to have Christ within us. It’s not about imitating others. It’s about having the supernatural life of Christ flow out of us naturally. We are all unique canvases on which the Master paints.

The simple truth of “Christ in you” has been buried under a counterfeit gospel that motivates believers by applying religious pressure. When you are uncertain of your standing in Christ, you will begin lean on your own effort. “Do this to get that blessing” or “don’t do this and stay free.” It sounds reasonable but it leads us away from dependency on Christ and teaches us to trust in ourselves. We may justifying it by telling ourselves that we’re co-laboring with God. But the true gospel is “Jesus plus nothing.”

How do we live upright lives if we don’t use the Ten Commandments as our guide?… The only sensible choice is to allow Christ to be himself through us…. Principles, rules, standards – no matter how “Christian” we believe they are – are poor substitutes for a life animated by God himself. (pp.57-8)

The Holy Spirit is more powerful than we give him credit for. Farley asks, how can we not believe the Holy Spirit is sufficient to bring about genuine change in our lives?

Another thought which blindsided me was the idea that God has made each of us a certain way and that most of the time we’re called to live inside our comfort zones. This is not an appeal to a life of comfort and idleness. It means that displaying Christ through us is something we have been uniquely designed to do. Each of us is a custom-special, tailor-made by God. So when we are who we’ve been designed to be, it feels right. Too often the call to live outside of our comfort zone is interpreted to mean, be someone God never meant you to be.

The adventure of life is in discovering the new creation that God has made each of us to be. The life we live we live by faith in the Son of God. Consequently we “genuinely want what God wants” and because he has placed Christ’s desires within us “we’re only satisfied as we fulfill them” (p.196). I would go a little further and say that true meaning is found in matching our God-given uniqueness with his message and mission.

The truths covered in The Naked Gospel are obvious once you hear them. The problem is we don’t hear them often enough. Or we hear them and don’t believe them saying “grace can’t be that good” or “the gospel can’t be that simple – there must be something more I have to do.” The real value of this book is in distinguishing the raw gospel from the empty traditions of men that have crept in and enslaved us.

It’s amazing how simple and straightforward the naked gospel really is. In fact, most of my exposure to the New has involved more unlearning than learning. Once we remove the clutter from our theological closet, the gospel shines brightly again. (p.216)
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10 Comments on “The Naked Gospel” by Andrew Farley

  1. Funny how the Church forgets the fundamentals about every other generation. Watchman Nee preached this stuff last century. Jeanne Guyon wrote about it 300 years ago. And before that some guy called Hebrews wrote a whole book on it that nobody really knows how to read anymore.

    The Rest of God isn’t a topic people preach much on these days because nobody knows how to enter it – perhaps because we lack the “faith and patience” necessary to inherit what is already ours?

  2. I have a question. If Andrew Farley meant that “it’s the rules or it’s Jesus”, then how come Jesus said, if you love me, you will obey my commands? That kind of means that it’s BOTH Him and His commands (the rules). Many Christians conclude from that verse in the Bible that it’s all about obeying Him. Can you clarify this?

  3. just finished reading “heaven is now” by andrew farley… (couldn’t find a posted book review for it, so hope here is ok)
    i would call it a ‘grace primer’ – it was a very easy read, and would recommend to anyone taking their first baby steps into understanding grace (especially those who might be hesitant about charismatic teachers)
    praised Jesus when found it on display in a certain “denomination-owned-and-operated-big-chain-christian-bookstore-that-i-don’t-like-to-frequent” (b/c they don’t carry ‘charismatic’ authors…they don’t even carry “the naked gospel”) all i could think about as i walked out of that store: its time to wake up church! Jesus is knocking on the door! there is no stopping the good news of grace! i might even have been skipping!🙂

  4. One of the best books I have ever read! It was so encouraging to view the full Gospel. It excites me and brings me such supernatural joy🙂

  5. How does one get out of the “how to’s?” For example, as soon as I hear a principle, such as “abiding in Christ” I want to do that, but am then wanting to know how? And I don’t get that we are not supposed to “try” to do anything, or some say that we are then demonstrating “self effort.” Then I read in the Word where it seems to say we are supposed to “try” such as in the Scripture where it says “as much as possible, live in peace with all men,” and there are many more which indicate that we are “to do” certain things. Where does “abiding in Christ” and exerting our will to do His will come together. Those are the things I get confused about.

  6. all i can say christians need to develop a personal relationship with God for themselves. the holy spirit is the best teacher. do not depend on a man to teach you how to live the bible is so complex so i doubt any man hold all the answers. most time people passions and views are taken out of their own experiences but no man is perfect. the holy spirit will guide us into all truth.

    and contrary to what Andrew said during an interview question on WDcX , if one die with unforgiveness in their heart they are not going to hell. unforgiveness never enters the heart alone it comes with all its cousins, pride, resentment, malice , anger.therefore the holy spirit cannot dwell in a heart full of unforgiveness. furthermore unforgiveness puts you in a self righteous position and you take on the role as God the righteous judge because you believed you have the right to justify yourself as worthy and the offender as unworthy.

    for further reference to forgiveness listen to Corrie Tenbloom testimony

  7. Philip Brooklyn // July 8, 2015 at 12:16 am // Reply

    pliz am blessd with the book ” Naked Gospel ” i just saw it in a friends house ,,it hit me hard and i had to unlearn what i learned,,,
    if i can only get that book !

  8. I first recognize that I have not read this book, but rather only reviews of it. At least from that it seems Farley throws the baby out with the bath water so to speak. You can’t divorce grace from obedience – we don’t obey to try to “measure up” before God, but rather, we recognize that Jesus saves us in spite of our complete inadequacy, and out of joy gladly respond in obedience. If we truly believe Jesus is God and our only means of justification before God, then we should equally give His words and commands the weight upon our lives they deserve. Our motivations in obedience are what matter – for God looks at the heart.

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