Six Secrets of the Christian Life by Zane Hodges is one of the shortest, easiest books you’ll ever read, which is a good thing, because you’re going to want to read it several times. In his inimitably brief way, Hodges takes readers on a guided tour of central truths of the Christian life: its miraculous and transformative nature, the need to be open to God’s truth and to pray for His revealed will, the importance of mindset and understanding our position in Christ.
If this sounds like the same old standard stuff, that’s because in some ways it is — but you should hear Hodges tell it. As is typical for him, Hodges does not philosophize; he doesn’t “develop doctrines” or “draw out principles” that are abstracted from the text of Scripture. Rather, he teaches through a careful reading of (relatively few) key passages. The result is that by the time you’re done, you will understand the Bible more clearly, and also understand more clearly how to walk with God.
For example, the third chapter, titled “Seeing What We Are” leads readers to the conclusion that the Christian life is “coming to be in experience what we already are in our innermost being.” Now, the common approach to this truth is to flood the reader with dozens of references to various spots in the New Testament, especially the Pauline Epistles, and then synthesize the mass into a laundry list of statements. There’s nothing wrong with the laundry list approach in principle. After all, Paul does it in Romans 3:10-18. However, it’s not the only way. Hodges makes the same point by a careful exploration of James 1:22-25, in which James teaches that a believer must look into the Word to see “the face of his birth” — James has given the key to understanding that phrase in v. 18 — and in order to remember (and live by) what he has seen, he must continue looking. Rather than a laundry list of statements, James uses a single, captivating image to teach this truth. Most preachers and commentators understand the implicit rebuke in v. 24, but very few have grasped how James uses the same image in v. 25 to teach what a believer should do. If you’re paying attention, you’ll get a lot more than a lesson in positional truth in that chapter. You’ll also get a lesson in how to read James — a lesson that will pay dividends throughout the book for years to come.
Hodges also brings age and experience to the book, and the result is a deeply practical style that hits struggling believers where they live. If you are trying to live the Christian life, but you’re frustrated because you just can’t seem to “get it right” — this book is written with you in mind.
If there’s a flaw in the book, it’s the word “secret” in the title. It has always seemed odd to me that we could refer to certain truths as “secrets” whilst arguing that they’ve been plainly revealed for all to see — especially when we’re talking about the basics of the Christian life. In Hodges’ defense, though, lots of people don’t know these things, even though they’ve been plainly revealed. In one sense of the word, I suppose that makes them secrets.