Miles Stanford’s work, The Complete Green Letters, is a work that is actually a compilation of five smaller works. The Christian life is a heavy theme in the work and focuses on the believer’s position in Christ. The introduction states, “Stanford is convinced that the weakness experienced by the church today, whether individually or corporately, as well as throughout history, is primarily due to its ignorance of the truths pertaining to the deeper life.”
This he describes in the light of Pauline theology which he relies heavily on. The chapters are short in length and are easily read by both the scholar and the layman. The first part of the book describes various disciplines that are important to the spiritual growth of the Christian. The second part is about utilizing these principles in light of the position that we have in Christ.
The Complete Green Letters would be a benefit to all who read it, and can further one’s own research as many prominent scholars of past and present are quoted often. The book is perhaps summarized by Stanford himself who writes, “Let us cease laying down to the saints long lists of ‘conditions’ of entering into the blessed life in Christ; and instead, as the primal preparation for leading them into the experience of this life, show them what their position, possessions, and privileges in Christ already are.”
Miles Stanford begins the book with a series of eighteen spiritual disciplines that comprise eighteen short chapters. Within these short chapters Stanford finds ample space to list quotes from scholars, scriptural evidence for the discipline, and how not to utilize the discipline. Each chapter closes with an exhortation of sorts and the reader finds encourage from the author himself. An example of this is the end of chapter six where, in regard to being complete in Christ, Stanford states “Not only in our life complete in Him, but likewise the essential victory in all the many exigencies of life.”
After Stanford described the eighteen spiritual disciplines he transitions and begins to write about the believer’s position in Christ. This theme goes hand in hand with the back cover of the book which states “Not I, but Christ.” This statement appears in many ways throughout the work, but it points to a truth that Stanford wants to get across. If the believer does not truly understand who he is in relation to Christ then spiritual growth will be stifled. Stanford explains in great detail what has been done for us and how that changes our very nature. The finished work that Christ did on the cross is the foundation that the disciplines are built on, and the believer must understand that he is a new creation in Christ.
In chapter 24 Stanford states, “Positional truth is the basis of every sphere of our Christian life. But nowhere are we more dependent on the principle of position than in our understanding of our identification with the Lord Jesus in His death burial and resurrection.” Here Stanford is saying that unless a believer fully surrenders himself to Christ then spiritual growth will not happen. This principle is echoed in scripture in Luke 9:23 which states, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me.” Stanford then goes into a little theological history and describes Christ as the new Adam, and how through his death and resurrection He gave humanity second chance. Through the disciplines outlined God is trying to express Christ through us.
Many believers today find themselves in a state that is different than what is intended when one is in Christ. Throughout Christendom there are Christians who are still haunted by their past, living in the world, and looking to themselves for answers instead of to Christ. Believers must understand and accept their status in Christ. They were set apart in the priesthood of believers, a new creation, and there is now condemnation for those who have come to faith. It allows us to have confidence in who we are, but believers must put Christ first for this to happen.
In The Complete Green Letters, Mile Stanford lays out a roadmap to spiritual success that starts with choosing the right driver. If that driver is ourselves then we will not reach our destination, but if Christ is then we will. He lays out eighteen principles in what seems like a very short amount of time. The very short chapters allow the reader to read through each topic and see how one builds on the other in fairly rapid succession. It also gives the reader the impression that they are making great progress in a short amount of time, and can easily be read throughout the day. Though this is a strength it can also be a weakness of the book. Many complex disciplines seems to be rushed over. An example of this would be discipleship which is given four pages of explanation. Though the four pages are phenomenal, discipleship is a discipline that may take a lifetime and more explanation may be needed.
Stanford states, “Once in possession of a truth, we are to rest-He will produce.” Though this statement is true but can have some dangerous elements. A believer may say that he has given himself completely to Christ may think nothing needs to be done because Christ will take care of it. Nobody needs to be disciplined, evangelized, or encouraged. Though this is extreme some may take the statement to mean just that. Though in reality, when we are in possession of truth we must spread it far and wide so everyone can hear of it. That is what Stanford means by the comment.
Overall the book is recommended for any Christian that is serious about spiritual growth. The short chapters provide good reminders on things that must be done to get there, and are easily read during one’s quiet time. The work uses many secondary sources that will allow the student to research the disciplines in greater depth.
According to the forward the book lays out a summary of what it is trying to say. It tells the believer to “Live positionally, live positively, live possessively, and live triumphantly.” The believer would be wise to prayerfully implement the disciplines in the book into their lives. On a personal level this book has helped me with some lingering issues from my past. Christ died for the believer and no matter what happened before Christ, if we accept Him, we are a new creation, We have a fresh start and need to start living the victory so others can see what the Lord has done in our lives. The enemy wants to keep us down so others will not see the light of Christ in us. This book has helped me to shed my doubts and insecurities about my past, and live the way that Christ intended.
The Complete Green Letters is not your typical book in that there is a progressive story of sorts. It is a combination of books about various spiritual disciplines that can build on each other, but each chapter can be read individually and still be beneficial. This is a book that needs to read by all believers who struggle with their past. The chapters are written in such a way that it could be added to daily devotional reading. This along with prayer and scripture will help us live more Christ like lives. This book will assist the Christian in advancing in his spiritual life and the fruits will be evident to those around you.
Luke 9:23 (New Living Translation).
Stanford, Miles J.. The Complete Green Letters. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1983.