Waking the Dead: Book Summary

Waking the Dead

By: John Eldredge

(Summary by Don Ross)

“Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” That’s the offer of Christianity, from God himself.” This is the premise of John Eldredge’s Waking the Dead – discovering the full life that is offered in Christ and how to live in it consistently. Addressing the issue of modern Christians not experiencing the depth and richness in their walks with God that they desire, Eldredge suggests solutions to several problems at the root of this issue. These include having proper perspective of our lives, knowing our hearts have been made good in Christ, practicing the Four Streams (the means by which we experience life), and guarding our hearts at all costs.

Part I Seeing our Way Clearly

Chapter 1 – Arm Yourselves

Life is hard. In order to properly understand our lives, we must have the correct perspective of the context in which our lives occur. That context is war. Satan and the forces of darkness are making war against God and the forces of life, and mankind is at the center of the battle. We will need to fight for our lives.

Chapter 2 – The Eyes of the Heart

Jesus taught in parables, as opposed to propositional truth, in order to speak to the heart.

Through story, we learn the Eternal Truths: First, things are not what they seem. Second, this is a world at war. Third, we have a crucial role to play in the story.

Chapter 3 – The Heart of All Things

Eldredge argues from Scripture that the heart is central to the Christian life (Deut. 6:5, 1 Sam 16:7, Lk 12:34, Prov 3:5, etc.). Thus it follows that the Enemy wages war chiefly against a man’s heart. Without our hearts, we cannot have the life Jesus promised.

Part II The Ransomed Heart

Chapter 4 – Ransomed and Restored

Here Eldredge makes a central argument for his understanding of man’s heart. He speaks out against the teaching that as Christians our hearts are “desperately wicked” and we are nothing more than “sinners saved by grace.” Rather, he says, Christ has transformed each of us who follow Him and has given us a new heart (Ezek 36:26). Through this new, good heart, we are able to intimately know and follow God. Eldredge also discusses extensively the centrality of the Resurrection, as opposed to the Crucifixion, in the Christian faith, and that through this we see that Christ’s work was primarily about restoration and life, not simply forgiveness.

Chapter 5 – The Glory Hidden in Your Heart

Because our hearts have been made good – because we have been transformed by Christ – our truest selves are now different. A war within us still wages with the sinful flesh, but that is not who we really are. Rather, we bear the image of God, we are adopted into the family of God, and we are meant to reflect His glory to the world in a way unique to each of us.

Part II The Four Streams

Chapter 6 – Walking with God

The Four Streams are the means by which we as Christians experience the life that Christ has offered us and come fully alive. The first of these is Discipleship – not simply the programmatic training that has become common in most churches, but an intimate walk with God that comes through wisdom and revelation. Through learning and applying Scripture, we learn wisdom. We experience revelation by listening to God’s voice as He provides specific guidance for our lives.

Chapter 7 – Receiving God’s Intimate Counsel

The second stream is Counseling. In order to come fully alive, we need to understand our own stories in which we are living. The world will throw lies at us, trying to get us to believe things about ourselves that are not true or no longer true in Christ. Through wise counsel offered from God or from others who follow Him, we are enabled to see our lives with clarity and truth.

Chapter 8 – Deep Restoration

The third stream is Healing. Some wounds are so deep that even the proper perspective of counseling is of no help. For these things we need Christ to heal us deeply in order to experience the life He offers. We begin this process by inviting Him into the area of brokenness and asking Him to heal it.

Chapter 9 – Spiritual Warfare: Fighting for Your Heart

The final stream is Warfare. We have a real Enemy and he is actively engaged in destroying us. We cannot escape this assault and so we must confront it. We begin by renouncing lies about ourselves and others that “feel” true but are not, according to Scripture. We break those agreements and refuse to make others. In addition, we actively pray against the forces of the Enemy, claiming the authority that is given to us in Christ.

Chapter 10 – Setting Hearts Free: Integrating the Four Streams

Fighting for our hearts involves incorporating all four of the Streams into our lives. Most areas in our lives are not dealt with simply by engaging one Stream, and we need to listen to God for guidance on how to pursue life. Also, we are meant to engage in the Streams with others, offering to them the same freedom and life for their hearts that we have experienced.

Part IV The Way of the Heart

Chapter 11 – Fellowships of the Heart

The Four Streams are practiced in the context of a small community. We need to intimately know one another. This will be strongly opposed by the Enemy so we should not be surprised by conflict. An intimate community will be messy and difficult at times, but we must be prepared to fight for it if we want to experience the life Jesus offers.

Chapter 12 – Like the Treasures of the Kingdom

“Above all else, guard your heart” (Prov. 4:23). Our hearts are our most valuable assets. Jesus does promise life to the full, but in order to experience it we must learn to fiercely guard our hearts and to fight for freedom. In caring for our own hearts, we nourish our relationship with God, build up resources to care for the hearts of others, and defend ourselves against the attacks of the Enemy. We care for our hearts by doing the things that individually refresh us physically and emotionally and that restore our vision of who God is and how He is at work.