A Review of “Hit List” by Brian Hedges

“With the exception of John Owen, no other author has so helped me to understand the mortification of sin.” Those are the words I was pleased to write as part of my endorsement for Brian Hedges’ newest hit listbook Hit List: Taking Aim at the Seven Deadly Sins. Brian has been a sort of long-time friend. We first met when I was a sophomore in college. He was a wise pastor I knew through mutual friends and he helped to guide me through a number of different theological and practical issues. His ministry to me has continued over the years through his writing. Hit List is just one example of his astute theological mind and pastoral care. This is a great resource to use in counseling those who do not fully understand the gravity of their sin.

Hit List encourages Protestants to think carefully about the so-called Seven Deadly Sins: pride, envy, wrath, sloth, greed, gluttony, and lust. We often associate these sins with the Roman Catholic Church, but, as Hedges points out, their origins actually date back to the fourth century. Regardless of the origin of the conversation, Hedges helps readers to see the significance of highlighting these particular seven sins. He parts ways with Roman Catholic theologians in the use of the word “deadly” as distinguishing it from so-called “venial sins.” Rather Hedges prefers to speak of the big seven as “Capital Sins.” He explains:

I find even more helpful an older designation for the list of seven: the “capital sins.” Capital comes from the Latin word for head, caput, meaning source, like the head of a river. These sins were considered capital sins not because they were the worst, but because they were the principle sins, the gateway sins, what Dorothy Sayers called, “well-heads from which all sinful behavior ultimately springs . . .the Seven Roots of Sinfulness” (5)

So this work aims to help us fight sin by specifically targeting these seven that we might be better equipped to address all the varieties of sin. Hedges calls it a “dossier” on “seven of our most dangerous enemies” (4).

He spends the next seven chapters, then, unpacking each of the big seven in specific detail. An examination of each sin lends itself well to both a more articulate understanding of the sinfulness of the particular sin, and the appropriate attack on it. In typical biblical counseling fashion, Hedges walks us through “fruit” and “root” of each sin. Exposing they ways in which the particular sin can destroy lives, subtly deter our worship of God, and have the long-term impact of deteriorating our relationships to others. His counsel on fighting the temptations is equally as in-depth. He does not merely say, “look to Jesus,” but he demonstrates how the gospel can apply particular remedies to each situation. So, for example, pride needs to be met with humility. But for Hedges, this does not merely mean we need to be humble or express humility. It means something more. He writes:

But note that I’m not simply saying we need humility, but that we need to be humbled. Of course, we should humble ourselves. But the kind of humility we need isn’t the result of will power, but the reflex of a heart captured by the vision of God. As John Owen said, “There are two things that are suited to humble the souls of men, and they are, first, a due consideration of God, and then of themselves—of God, in his greatness, glory, holiness, power, majesty, and authority; of ourselves, in our mean, abject, and sinful condition.” (20)

To be humbled means to come to terms with two great truths of the gospel: (1) God is infinitely holy, and (2) we are completely sinful. To be humbled means to come to terms with our dependence upon God. When we boast in ourselves we do not understand the gospel. “We need to boast in something better,” says Hedges (21). The gospel applies uniquely to each sinful struggle to help us kill sin.

The book is designed for small group study. It comes complete with probing questions at the end of each chapter and is laid out in a simple, concise fashion. Groups could work through one chapter a week, review and discuss the questions. It is an extremely practically oriented book, even while it upholds a robust theological foundation. Readers will find too, ample quotations from the Church Fathers, Puritans, and even a few contemporary theologians. Hedges gives those interested in further study plenty of resources to consult.

There is so much about this book to praise. I was delighted to endorse it and delighted to recommend it. It will be a book I use in my own personal life and in counseling session for years to come. Check out Hit List and set yourself up to do battle with these seven capital sins.

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