B&H Publishing, 2018. 219 pp.
Religion/Christian Ministry/Pastoral Resources
If You Only Knew is the story of how Jamie Ivey found freedom in Christ. Ivey grew up going to church and “walked the aisle” at a young age. However, something just didn’t “stick.” As Ivey became a teenager and young adult, she struggled with sexual sin. As the gospel increasingly took root and convicted her of this sin, Ivey repented and sought to lead a Christ-honoring lifestyle that honored what the Bible teaches about sex. However, she struggled with insecurity and shame over her actions. She feared what others—specifically, her church—would think if they found out she didn’t have the clean-cut past one would expect out of someone who grew up in the church.
Ivey’s story is not just one of finding gospel freedom from the sin that had entangled her for so long. It is also a story of finding freedom from the shame and tendency to hide her sin and struggles. The fact is, all believers wrestle with sin in one form or another and need love and accountability from their fellow church members. Because of this Ivey encourages readers to resist being shocked by one another’s sins. Instead, she calls believers to both confess their sins to one another, and to speak truth into each others’ lives. We all need to be reminded of the hope and freedom we have through Christ and we need the church to walk with us in our march against sin.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
There are many reasons why pastors would benefit from reading If You Only Knew. For one, it’s an encouraging read. Ivey manages to tell her own story—one that is deeply personable—in a way that identifies with all readers, even if they have not had the same experiences. All believers—including pastors—can relate to a constant wrestling with sin. Some way or another, we all search for an identity outside of the gospel and act in a way that betrays our unbelief in its truths. We feel shame at struggling with sin and want to hide it from others.
Ivey encourages readers to dive into the mess with each other. The fact is, hiding our sin another evidence of a search for identity in something that is not the gospel. When we are fearful of what others may think, we cannot find true gospel freedom. The freedom Christ brings from sin is evidence of God’s faithfulness to us. As Ivey states in her book’s synopsis, “When we quit hiding, God gets the glory and we are able to fully embrace not only our relationship with Him, but also with one another.”
Additionally, Ivey brings to light the fact that women struggle with sexual sin. For a long time, it’s been assumed that only men struggle with sexual sin and porn addiction. But this assumption has created an environment where it’s taboo for women to admit to struggling with sexual sin. This environment keeps them from being held accountable for it, and likely causes them to continue falling into it.
Though Ivey doesn’t offer a structured plan for how one should move forward once they’ve read her book, there are obvious practical implications woven throughout. This book should encourage pastors to create or continue avenues of accountability wherein church members can confess their struggles to one another, demonstrate Christ’s love, and hear the truth that will set them free.
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