MILES J. STANFORD, THE COMPLETE GREEN LETTERS BOOK CRITIQUE

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Introduction
            There are many who would consider Miles J. Stanford’s work The Complete Green Letters to be a classic piece of Christian literature. Stanford’s work is vast and covers a wide range of topics. His book is broken up into five different sections, but for this assignment we were only required to interact with the first two sections that covers twenty-eight chapters.  There will be times it will feel as though this author is jumping around during this assignment because there is not enough room to responsibly cover all twenty-eight chapters.       
Summary
            Stanford begins his book where some would argue Christianity starts, with faith. This chapter like every other chapter in this work is not very long but Stanford attempts to pack as much information into it as humanly possible.  One of the first statements that he made which really stuck out to me, was when he said, “Faith needs facts to rest upon.”[1]He goes on a little later to tell us how this faith is built up. He says, “Once we begin to reckon (count) on facts, our Father begins to build us up in that faith.”[2]
            He moves on into the next chapter (2) and here he discusses the idea of time. Not just time in a plain manner but time in how it is used to affect our spiritual lives. He makes a rather profound statement when he says, “…since in most instances when seeming declension begins to set in, it is not, as so m any think, a matter of backsliding.”[3]That is a great statement since most think if you are not moving forward you are moving backwards.  Moving on chapter three find us staring in the face acceptance from God. In this chapter Stanford describes what acceptance looks like form both ends of the spectrum. He says, “Those who have the deepest appreciation of grace do not continue in sin.”[4]He goes on to quote J. W. Sanderson Jr. in an attempt to show how fear and love bring forth different obedience/appreciation.  He says, “Moreover, fear produces the obedience of slaves; love engenders the obedience of sons.”[5]In chapter four Stanford covers purpose, he explains that we are to go to the Word for one purpose and that is to know and meet the Lord. We are not to go to the Word in an effort to just grow smarter.[6]
            In chapter six he discusses how the believer is complete in Christ. One of the most important quotes made in that chapter came when he said, “No believer ever fell into maturity, even though he is complete in Christ.”[7]Chapter nine Stanford deals with consecration. We find in this chapter the power that lies behind the Christian life. He says, “They think because they have the will it is enough, and that now they are able to do. This is not so. The new will is a permanent gift, an attribute of the new nature. The power to do is not a permanent gift, but must each moment be received from the Holy Spirit.”[8]Working ahead to chapter thirteen, were he discusses discipleship there is a fine line walked in what must be preached. He believes “the atonement of the cross and the fellowship of the cross must be equally preached as the condition of true discipleship.”[9]While chapter thirteen leave you wanting more, the next chapter answers what is the hearts cry of a believer is that heart hunger for bearing fruit.[10]He explains that it is not until we take up our crosses for discipleship, and death to self settles in, do we experience real discipleship.[11]
            As Christians we are taught to seek God when we need help, Stanford seems to disagree with that. He says, “God is not trusted, not honored, in our continually asking Him for help.”[12]Now in chapter nineteen he begins a series of what could be called condition verses position. He provides some distinction when he says “Our condition is what we are in our Christian walk, in which we develop from infancy to maturity. Although our position remains immutable, our condition is variable.”[13]There are many more chapters that could be covered, but to be honest I do not know I could do them justice in attempting to cover them. Covering these first twenty chapters has been a challenge.
Critique
            It is this author’s hope to be as far and balanced as possible while offering a critique of this work.  This work as whole seemed to have much to offer to its reader. It is not all of the content I have a problem with, it is majorly the presentation of the material. This work would be fine for someone to read as a devotional type of work, but in the context of a college course having to read straight through it, it leaves me wanting for more. There seem to be no line running throughout the material tying it all together. It is not until you get into the second section of the book that he begins to incorporate his idea of condition verses position.
            There are both good and bad spots all throughout this book meaning that there were things I agreed with and things I did not.  I think he makes an excellent point about our attachment to God when he says, “The more you find him in your sorrows and wants, the more you will be attached to Him and drawn away from this place where sorrows are, to Him in the place where he is.”[14]Only two pages away he has another little gem that blows the reader away, he says, “ To taste of the grace of God is one thing, to be established in it and manifest it in character, habit, and regular life, is another.”[15]
            Stanford states, “The lack of Divine blessing, therefore comes from unbelief, and not from failure of devotion.”[16]It is sayings like that which have me concerned about does he hold to a “name it, claim it” type of theology. Because the Bible says we have not because we do not ask and when we do ask we ask from the wrong motives (James 4). Some more along those lines, “That is to say, the first stage of faith is always the battle of taking hold by the will, heart, and intelligence of some truth or promise which is not real to us in experience, and declaring it to be our despite appearances.”[17] Two pages over he has a quote from S. D. Gordon speaking about claiming our victory that we already have in Christ.[18]I do not know if it is my own Christian immaturity or good discernment but it is this type of teaching that makes it hard for me to put my support behind a work.
Application
            This is truly going to be a difficult section for me. I would be able to give you more application points from the title of the chapters than from the actual material itself. So, here we go. I have realized that I need to spend more time seeking God so that I can be more aware of my need for him in order to progress spiritually.[19] I can learn to fail at things more graciously, because it is in those failures that the Lord is truly growing me to become more like him.[20]I must remember to take in the word and let it consume me so that I can grow in my spirituality.
            There should also be some sanctification taking place in my life where I am setting apart myself for service to God. The best way I can think to set myself apart is through self-denial. If I were able to deny myself things that are good for things that are better, I would grow in knowledge and wisdom for the Lord. In this denying the flesh is also the preparation needed for service to God. There should be continual repentance taking place and not just of a general nature but of specific sins. I should also learn to live in the position I have in Christ, instead of just my current condition.
Conclusion
            It is the hope of this author that this has been a fair and balanced critique of this work by Miles J. Stanford. In my humble opinion I would recommend this work only to seasoned believers who have a strong base in which they can work from. While there were a few hidden gems to be found in this work, I was left with more questions and ultimately confused by the disjointed nature in which it was written.  If you are looking for something to help you grow in your walk with the Lord I would highly recommend Donald Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Lifeor Foster’s Celebration of Discipline.

Bibliography

Stanford, Miles J. The Complete Green Letters. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983.


                  [1]Miles J.Stanford, The Complete Green Letters. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983)4.
                  [2]Ibid. 4.
                  [3]Ibid., 6.
                  [4]Ibid., 13.
                  [5]Ibid., 13.
                  [6]Ibid., 17.
                  [7]Ibid., 24.
                  [8]Ibid., 36-37.
                  [9]Ibid., 53..
                  [10]Ibid., 58-59.
                  [11]Ibid., 60.
            [12] Ibid., 65.
                  [13]Ibid., 77.
                  [14]Ibid., 5.
                  [15]Ibid., 7.
                  [16]Ibid., 13.
                  [17]Ibid., 64.
                  [18]Ibid. 66.
                  [19]Ibid., 8.
                  [20]Ibid., 16.

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