I have to admit that there are so many sensationalist Christian books on the market that it’s a bit startling to find one that doesn’t promise to change everything you’ve ever known about the current hot topic.
7 & 7: The Way To Heaven comes out of nowhere. It’s unassuming. A black cover and a title like a step by step guide on how to be saved. It’s not. It’s a devotional, an introspective walk-through of the seven miracles and the seven “I am” statements in the Gospel of John. It doesn’t jump out at you, but as you join the author on the journey, you learn something important.
Why does the book exist?
Stopher writes to spread the Gospel and teach people about Jesus and the best way to do that is to walk them through the Bible. His hope is that by walking through these 7 miracles and 7 “I am” statements of Jesus will be a “road map” for the reader that leads to Jesus. Regardless of how the reader may, or may not, respond, Stopher accomplishes this task. He consistently and repeatedly points each miracle and statement to Christ and with each chapter you learn more about Christ.
What’s it all about?
“The major point here, Christian sibling, is that Jesus Christ is capable of more than we can possibly imagine, and sometimes we get to the opportunity to be a part of that.” – pg 55
The chapters are broken down into smaller parts. The intention is to read one part per day. By breaking down each chapter into these daily readings it gives the opportunity to contemplate multiple aspects of each miracle and statement.
Stopher splits his writing into a poetic and conversational style. In fact, the conversational parts read like a transcript. Rather than reading a book, it feels more like you’re sitting in on a talk given by the author. This has it’s good and bad points. Sometimes speaking doesn’t translate well to writing and there are times when it seems that Stopher is repeating himself. On the other hand, if you read the book as intended, one part per day, the repetitions can be an aid instead of hindrance.
Some things to watch out for
“I have said before many times, and I will say again many more, that there is indeed only one way to Heavebn, and that is through Christ.” -pg 119
No book is perfect, but Stopher makes clear he believes and teaches Jesus is the Son of God, God raised Him from the dead, Christ alone can forgive our sins, Christ alone can save us, and the Bible is God’s Word. The things to watch out for should be considered in that light with no intent on the author’s part to deceive, but only needing some clarification.
And this is where I lucked out. For the first time I got to ask the author questions about his book.
In the book Stopher says, “[The man born blind] did not have sin, as clearly declared by the Son himself (John 9:3).” This is misleading. In John 9:3 Jesus is referring to the blindness; neither this man’s sin, nor his parent’s sin, lead to this blindness. Unfortunately, Stopher’s phrasing sounds as if this man and his parent’s were sinless like Jesus.
Stopher’s reply: I would never presume to incite that anyone would be sinless. What I intended to convey was that his blindness is not a result of sin. My poem conveys this: “it was not the fault of his parents or their progeny, but was done so that God’s glory could be displayed for all to see.” I firmly believe that all of mankind is certainly conceived and born in sin, and we are redeemed through the grace of the only sinless man to live… Jesus Christ!
In Sign Seven, Stopher says, “Further, understand that the Word of God is absolute, irrefutable, and 100% accurate…to question this is blasphemy.” While I would agree that the Bible is the Word of God, accurate and inerrant, we create problems when we say that to question this is blasphemy. Doubts and questions are not sins, otherwise when the centurion said, “I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24) Jesus should have reprimanded him for blasphemy, instead Jesus heals the man’s child. My fear is that calling doubt blasphemy is a sure way to stifle faith altogether, or to drive someone to believing out of fear.
Stopher’s reply: Doubts and questions are certainly human things. If someone is caught in adultery, we would not question or doubt that this is a sin. We can question “why” it is wrong, and grow and learn through Scripture, but the truth remains that it IS wrong, because God says it’s wrong. The people who begin to ask “if” it is wrong is where the issue arises. People who seek happiness rather than rest in eternal joy, serving their own flesh and not the God of the universe…these are the people I speak of. So, perhaps it’s not that we question, but how we question that takes us across the threshold of sin. If we doubt that what God says is truth, doubting that sin really is sin, then we have the makings of a downward path.
The last “I Am” statement is Jesus’ proclamation, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, but through me.” (John 14:6). Stopher connects this with 1 John 1:8 “If we say ‘We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” This is all well and good, except that the conclusion, by Stopher is, “If you don’t have Christ, you are incapable of being honest.” While it’s true that those without Christ do not understand their sinful condition, it doesn’t mean they are never honest.
Stopher’s reply: Lost people are certainly capable of telling the truth. They certainly can state that a blue car is blue, and they would mean it. Truth can be shared, yes… but Truth cannot be spoken into anyone’s life by a person who has no Truth within them. To put a finer point on it, only a saved Christian can share deep and abiding truths about Jesus with a lost person. Now, you and I know that a lost person cannot save a lost person, but with all the universalism in the world today, I felt it necessary to point out that there is only ONE way, ONE truth, and ONE life, and that is through Christ. Further, even though this is a wildly exclusive statement, it is 100% accurate, and cannot be refuted. And everyone needs to hear it, and they need to hear it from us, the crazy people in a relationship with Jesus, who live with THE truth in us. So can a person be “honest” if they are not saved? Sure. But just because they can “say” truth to your life does not mean they can “speak” truth into your life.
The Wrap Up
“Now may the grace and peace of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came to reconcile us all back to the Father, flow over and through you without limitation as you proceed forward in life to share the Truth that HE IS with all of those who need to hear it. God bless you all!!!” – Dylan Stopher
I enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone wanting to take a closer look at aspects of John’s Gospel. There is a desire here to know The Lord better that Stopher wants to pass on to the reader and I appreciated that he kept the focus right there on Christ. The language is accessible and not lofty, the insights are down to earth and not sensational, and the entire work is thought provoking. This book is worth your time.