Sunday, June 19, 2016

Hidden Agenda ~ Good As Far As It Goes, But Lacks Crucial Details

“If you read the Bible much and don't feel horribly guilty and convicted, you're a fruitcake.”

If you want to learn from Steve Brown, get used to statements like that one, from his latest book, Hidden Agenda. Brown's method of communication is challenging, occasionally shocking, wryly funny, very personal, and sometimes politically incorrect. Many people could find this book difficult to finish because they will probably be offended several times. But that, Brown would admit, is one of the risks involved with taking off masks.

“Masks” and “hidden agendas” are his terms for the images we project so that people will approve of us and the goals we have and don't want others to know about. That's likely an oversimplification, but broad, unqualified statements are also part of Brown's style. More about that later.

Essentially, Brown is calling for Christians to practice openness and honesty instead of deceiving others and themselves by hiding their shortcomings, fears, and lack of spiritual perfection. Dropping the mask creates closer, more personal relationships, eases the stress of trying to “perform” for approval, and counters the effects of “desperately wicked” hearts that cause us to deceive ourselves.

Brown repeats throughout this book a principle which is of great help to those who want to be honest in their relationships but are afraid because of the dangers of dropping the mask [and Brown affirms that the risks are very real]. He encourages believers to rejoice in the knowledge that God, Who knows all of your faults, already loves you – so you don't have to “act” or “appear” a certain way to earn His love. And since you have been accepted by God, why are you so worried about what everyone else thinks?

This is a powerful message with radical implications for believers who struggle with fear of rejection or struggle to maintain a false self-image of spiritual superiority.

“Hidden Agenda” has weaknesses which should be acknowledged. Early on, Brown says that Christians don't do comedy well. Many of his attempts at humor fall flat, and often distract from the gravity of his statements. He also admits that he expresses principles in broad strokes with few caveats or qualifiers. Unfortunately, the qualifiers and details are important facets of this issue. Leaving them unmentioned [or even worse, mentioning them superficially and then ignoring them] can lead to misunderstanding and misapplication. This is why Paul had to correct the church at Rome in Romans 6 about the implications of grace and behavior. The “kickers,” as Brown terms them, may be downers which complicate things, but they are necessary components of the equation when principles are applied to everyday living. The author may not like the messy details, but not addressing them thoroughly does a disservice to the reader. I was particularly disappointed with the lack of discussion of how I Corinthians 9:22 relates to masks, agendas and evangelism.

The cry for satisfaction in God's acceptance of the individual, and the need for and benefits of authentic living, is a much needed message, powerfully presented here. But I finished the book feeling like I had been giving only half the story. I recommend this book, with the “kicker” that the reader treat it as just one aspect on the subject, not a well-rounded study.

About the book:
We like to pretend that hidden agendas are just for self-important bosses or egotistical politicians, but we all have them. Deep down, we all have a secret plan for getting from where we are to where we want to be, even if we refuse to admit it to ourselves.

And if our hidden agendas aren't enough, we wear masks to obscure the truth even more. We put on these masks---like religion, appearance, power, politics, or protection---to drive our agendas. But all of this leaves us feeling phony, ashamed, guilty, and afraid. It's killing us and hurting those we love. But for most of us, it will be a cold day in a hot place before we will be fully honest with anyone else.

There is so much more to life than hiding, pretending, and never being loved. In fact, there is already one person who sees behind the masks we wear and the hidden agendas that drive us. It does no good to tell God that you're sick when you're drunk, that you love him when you don't, or that you didn't steal and eat an apple (with apple juice dripping down your chin). God always recognizes and loves the "you" behind the mask.

So what can we do about the hidden agendas we have and the masks we wear? How can we gather the courage to be real? "Being real" has to start with your relationship with your heavenly Father. God already knows you inside and out. But God doesn't know you in order to "out" you to your friends. His unconditional love for his own is reason we can pray to our Father without fear of rejection or judgment. Knowing God's love, knowing that your heavenly Father is for you not against you is the only reason to give up your masks and develop the type of authentic relationships you never thought you could have.

Purchase a copy:

About the author:
Steve Brown is a radio broadcaster, author, and the founder of Key Life Network. A former pastor, he also sits on the board of Harvest USA and devotes much of his time to the radio broadcasts "Key Life" and "Steve Brown, Etc."

This reviewer received the product free or at a discounted price in order to bring you an honest review. No other form of compensation was given. All opinions are those of the reviewer.

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