In a book that idolizes the concept of hope, Pastor Ray Johnston of Bayside Church writes a book titled The Hope Quotient. On its front cover are the words, “Measure It. Raise It. You’ll Never Be the Same.” On its inside cover, it says the following:
Hope: It’s the ONE thing that can change EVERYTHING!
When you have hope, eleven things are unleashed in your life:
You have more satisfying relationships.
You’re more productive.
You’re less affected by stress.
You’re more successful.
You’re more satisfied.
You’re more compassionate.
You’re more willing to help people in need.
You’re physically healthier.
You hold yourself to higher moral and ethical standards.
You’re more likely to assume leadership.
You’re more likely to see God as loving, caring and forgiving.
This book will help you discover your HQ level and learn the seven key factors that, when built into your life, unleash hope. When you have genuine hope—not trite, pious platitudes but authentic hope that produces inner strength and confidence—anything is possible.
Already there is a problem; it appears that this book is going to be all about you, the reader, with a heavy focus on the here and now (felt needs especially) instead of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; Matthew 1:21, 18:11; John 1:29; 1 Timothy 1:15). Why is that a problem? Because salvation is found in nobody else but Jesus (Acts 4:12, Isaiah 43:11, John 14:6), Jesus really should be the center of hope, especially since this book is coming from a pastor in Johnston.
It should be understood that the job of a pastor is to preach the word. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 explains (NASB):
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
It should be understood that 2 Timothy is a pastoral epistle. The apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:16-21), is exhorting young pastor Timothy to preach the Word (verses 1-2). He gives the reasons why in verses 3-5 (and mind you, that time of sound doctrine’s not being endured is now, especially in light of such nonsense from false teachers like Rick Warren, Henry Blackaby and the late Jerry Falwell Senior).
Johnston is not preaching the word in that introduction. While there is no rule stating one must preach the Word in a book’s introduction, why is the only hope for mankind absent? Furthermore, I thought one saw God as loving, caring and forgiving when he/she realized the fact that that while we were sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8; see also thing #11 in the list above). Finally, the Bible says that without the shedding of His blood, there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:12-22). Everybody has sinned. If you don’t believe me, that is fine. I would just kindly advise you to examine yourself in light of Exodus 20:1-17 (I’ll get back to this concept later).
There’s a saying that goes, “Never judge a book by its cover.”
Well, I am going to judge this book by its inside cover.
Of course, I am kidding.
I do, however, wish I did not already have to begin my review right on the front inside cover of this book (instead of just the book itself). Already, it seems this book will reek of stuff that is all about the Christian and not Jesus Christ. Does this pattern continue in the “book” part of his book? This review takes a look.
READ THIS FIRST; READ THIS SECOND
In the table of contents, Johnston has two short introductory sections; one is titled “Read This First” and the other is titled “Read This Second.” Unfortunately, it is too late for that; I read the inside cover and found it in such strong opposition to what God’s Word says that I simply could not ignore it. Thankfully, these short sections are not as bad as the inside cover (although one commonality is that no biblical text is found anywhere). Johnston apparently invested seven years into researching and writing this book (p. xviii). This is a rather long period of time. He believes what he has discovered is so important that his team developed an online assessment for the reader’s hope quotient (p. xviii). Is this book really as important as Johnston states? Let’s find out.
Before we find out, consider this; nobody else in two thousand years of church history has taught or confessed the doctrine (or teaching) of the hope quotient. If what Johnston has discovered is so important, how on earth has the church survived about two millennia without this concept? That is an important question to ask before we move onward because Johnston’s claim is rather strong.
PART ONE: THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO DO (CHAPTERS 1-3)
In chapter one, Johnston mainly explains the importance of encouragement and hope (pp. 3-7). However, this is all his opinion; he does not cite a single biblical text to back anything he says. Furthermore, he writes something rather alarming; he writes that “getting and staying encouraged is everyone’s number one need—whether they know it or not” (p. 4). As mentioned earlier, Johnston is a pastor. His job is to preach the Word. He is not preaching the word here. He is preaching his opinion.
Is getting and staying encouraged really everyone’s number one need, as Johnston says? Did Jesus Christ come to the earth specifically to make sure everyone got and stayed encouraged? The Scriptures would say otherwise.
One must understand that people are born dead in trespasses and sins. Ephesians 2:1-10 also gives some insight (NASB):
2 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
The Bible is clear that people are born dead in trespasses and sins (2:1-3). God’s being rich in mercy makes one alive in Christ (2:4). Furthermore, it is by grace through faith that one is saved (2:5-9). It is not based on works (2:9). If one is born dead in trespasses and sins, how could there be a need for encouragement if that person is dead?
If one still does not believe what Ephesians 2:1-10 states, one need only look at the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-1-17 (something I mentioned earlier). Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen something, even if it was small? Have you ever used God’s name in vain? Jesus said that whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:27-28). Jesus also said that if you ever get angry at someone, you’ve committed murder in the heart (Matthew 5:21-26). Just the mere thoughts of adultery and murder make you guilty of the very acts themselves.
Please understand that it only takes one murder to be a murderer, one lie to be a liar and so forth. David said in Psalm 51:5 that he was conceived in sin. Genesis 6:5 states that every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil continually. Clearly, man has a sin problem. Romans 3:23 states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Man is in big trouble with God because of his sin. This is more amplified by the fact that perfection is the standard (Matthew 5:48). It is hard to be encouraged if you are born failing to hit the perfection standard every time.
Now, some people try to justify their sin by trying to balance it out with the good deeds that they have done. However, if you were to try that in a court of law, the judge would throw the book at you. A good judge would not accept a bribe. He would cast you off into jail. God likewise will not accept a bribe, for there is no partiality with Him (Deuteronomy 10:17; Ephesians 6:9).
Thankfully, Jesus came to solve the sin problem over 2000 years ago (Isaiah 53:1-12). You and I broke the law. Jesus paid the fine (Matthew 26:14-28:20). This means that the judge can do what’s legally right in dismissing your case. He can say, “This person has broken the law, but someone has paid his fine. He’s out of here.”
There are two things a person must do. He must repent. This means to turn from his sin (Mark 1:16; Luke 24:36-49; 2 Timothy 2:19-26; Acts 17:30-31). He must also put his trust in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31, 17:30-31; Romans 4:1-25, 10:1-17; Galatians 3:1-14; John 6:26-29). These gifts of repentance and faith are granted by God (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:22-26). If you repent and put your trust in the Savior Jesus Christ, He will forgive you of your sins and grant you everlasting life (John 6:47).
Scripture is clear that Jesus did not come to the earth so that everyone would get and stay encouraged per se; He, the infinite God-man, came to save sinners by dying on the cross and rising from the dead to pay the penalty for our sins and purchase a place in heaven for us (John 1:1, 14; 1 Timothy 1:15; Isaiah 53:6). He came to seek and save that which was lost (Matthew 18:11). While His amazing grace is certainly encouraging, it is not encouragement that is everyone’s number one need; it is the need of a Savior that can save one from his/her sins. Only Jesus Christ can do such a thing (Acts 4:12).
It should be stated that Jesus Christ is nowhere to be found in chapter one. This is a problem because Johnston says other things that are in conflict with what the Scriptures say. Johnston states, “The truth is, the greatest gift you or I can give anyone is hope” (p. 5). He defines “real hope” as “a deep and powerful force when it is anchored in the seven factors that sustain hope” (p. 7). This is absurd. Real hope is not a force; real hope is found in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).
As much as I simply want to dump this book at this point (I could have easily dumped it just after looking at the inside cover, and rightfully so), I have to give some kind of review of the rest of this book in an earnest effort to be fair.
In chapter two, Johnston talks about how one’s HQ changes everything (pp. 9-23). Once again, Johnston’s opinion dominates. While he discusses more Bible characters in this chapter than the previous one, he does not give specific texts to back what he says. He could have used some kind of citations to back his claim that “every single person in the Bible is a comeback story from something” (p. 16). He also writes how hope sets one free to dream (p. 17). This is worth mentioning because this concept of dream is found often throughout Johnston’s book. The way he uses it is almost in alignment with the “dream destiny thingy” doctrine, which one writer calls a “false gospel.” In chapter three, Johnston discusses how discouragement destroys everything (pp. 25-32). Once again, his opinion dominates. Moreover, he cites Rick Warren as often as he cites the Bible (which is just bad, given Warren’s troubles).
PART TWO: SEVEN FACTORS THAT RAISE YOUR HOPE QUOTIENT (CHAPTERS 4-11)
Johnston actually places a warning level on this part. It states, “The following information is known to raise levels of hope, produce fresh vision, and increase energy.” I am not sure if this is his sense of humor at work (which he does have in this book) or if he is really trying to promote his manmade stuff. After all, he will not use biblical texts to back up any of these factors.
In chapter four, he gives an overview of the seven factors. It is worth noting that he cites the CEV (Contemporary English Version) translation in the chapter introduction (each chapter introduction in this book features a Bible verse and a quote from an individual). He uses a variety of translations in these particular citations. This is interesting to say the least. However, he uses no biblical texts to support any of these seven factors in this “overview” chapter. The seven factors are as follows:
One: Recharge Your Batteries (Chapter Five): In yet another chapter dominated by Johnston’s opinion, Johnston discusses the importance of eliminating passion killers and developing supply lines (pp. 41-55). Along the way, he says in regards to unkind critics (which is passion killer #2 of 5 on his list), “It’s important to listen to advice and feedback, but remember, the world is full of unkind critics who don’t have your destiny in mind” (p. 47). While I have a problem with that statement given my aforementioned links regarding the “dream destiny thingy” doctrine, I have a bigger problem with his stating that “The message of the Bible, the central reason Jesus went to the cross, is that God wants to forgive you for your past and also free you from your past” (p. 47). As mentioned earlier, Jesus came to save sinners because we have all done it and we are in desperate need of a Savior. Where is “sin” in Johnston’s message? Where is repentance? It is nowhere to be found. Jesus Himself said that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name (Luke 24:36-49). Nowhere in Scripture does it say Jesus came to forgive and free us specifically from our past. It could be argued that Johnston is preaching a different Gospel here. This is bad. It’s also worth noting that he cites John Maxwell (who is a “pastor” who mainly preaches self instead of Christ. Pastor Chris Rosebrough of Fighting For The Faith has covered Maxwell extensively on the Fighting For The Faith program). It is obvious that Maxwell’s constant “self-preaching” has rubbed off on Johnston, as evidenced by Johnston’s consistently writing of himself and his life experiences (which is hard not to notice at this point of the book).
Two: Raise Your Expectations (Chapter Six): In this chapter, Johnston lists and describes “five attitudes and actions that will help you become a person who expects great things” (pp. 57-69). One thing he states in this chapter is that “these four words, Things Will Never Change, are so powerful they can handcuff the hands of God” (p. 62). This statement is absurd. Is he suggesting that if I use those words in some way, shape or form that I can handcuff the hands of God, the only One who can not only kill body and soul but send them both to hell (Matthew 10:28)? Johnston’s statement almost stinks of “Word of Faith” heresy. This is bad. In fact as far as this chapter is concerned, I am not sure what is worse between that ridiculous statement or the fact Johnston has a section in the chapter called “The Gospel According to Steve Jobs” (which I know is no gospel at all, per Galatians 1.
Three: Refocus On The Future (Chapter Seven): Here, Johnston idolizes the question of “What can this become?”, a question he believes (notice that “he” believes it, which makes this his opinion) is of extreme importance (pp. 71-85). In one part of the chapter, he cites Mark 1:17. In this passage, Jesus, speaking to Simon and Andrew (two fishermen at the time), says, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (NASB version). Johnston says the following about Jesus:
What made Jesus so effective? What made Him the single most magnetic leader to ever walk this planet? What was it about Jesus that liberated people from their pasts and freed them to go on to become something they never dreamed? Here it is: Jesus was not focused on what they were like. He was focused on what they could become.
Once again, absurdity strikes (notice I bolded the “dreamed” word, for nowhere in Scripture does Jesus say anything about His liberating us from our past, thus freeing us to become something we never dreamed of doing). Jesus is more than a leader; He is the Savior of the world. Furthermore, Jesus did not come to this earth because He had some kind of focus of what others could become; He came to save people from their sins (Matthew 18:11; 1 Timothy 1:15). It is awesome to see Simon and Andrew immediately leave their nets to follow Him (Mark 1:18). Unfortunately, Johnston narcigetes the passage to make it about you, the reader, and what you could become in the future. This is eerily similar to a “sermon” Pastor Chris Rosebrough of Fighting For The Faith reviewed recently by Chris Hodges, a guy who preached clear heresy in that “sermon”, as clearly indicated by Rosebrough in that review (check it at the 1:00:36 mark here). Rosebrough argues that this whole “what you could become” stuff is a different gospel altogether (which would not be without its consequences, per Galatians 1).
Four: Play To Your Strengths (Chapter Eight): Here, Johnston gives seven important reasons for discovering your God-given gifts (pp. 87-99). For reason #2, he says that discovering such gifts “helps you discover your purpose” (p. 89). However, nowhere in Scripture does it say God created us for a purpose; instead, He created us for good works (Ephesians 2:10; see also such texts as Ephesians 5:22-6:9 and Colossians 3:18-4:6). Pastor Chris Rosebrough gave a lecture about this topic here. Johnston says other stuff in this chapter that warrants a refuting. After all, his book mainly features his opinion more than Scriptural backing. That same pattern continues here.
Five: Refuse To Go It Alone (Chapter Nine): Here, Johnston rinses and repeats his self-help opinions as he discusses five types of relationships we all need (pp. 101-112). While he actually uses some type of biblical text for four of them, he does not for the “vision casters” relationship (p. 107). Instead, he cites his own experiences and how even Mark Driscoll influenced him (which is alarming given what has happened here, here and here).
Six: Replace Burnout With Balance (Chapter Ten): Here, Johnston discusses 7 questions that supposedly “bring things back into balance and lift your Hope Quotient” (pp. 113-127). A section worth noting in this chapter is “your spiritual vital signs” (pp. 118-119). Like most of his book, this is Johnston’s opinion; he cites no biblical text for any of this. Furthermore, he states something rather alarming for the “whispers” sign (the other four are emotions, moments, fun and people):
How long has it been since you heard the still, small voice? One of the first signs of a hardening heart is a deafened ear to the quiet promptings of God.
Absurdity strikes once again. Nowhere in Scripture are we told to hear the still, small voice or the quiet promptings of God. God speaks to us in His Word, through His Son (Hebrews 1:1-4). Johnston’s statement is a tacit denial of Sola Scriptura.
Seven: Play Great Defense (Chapter 11): For this last factor, Johnston writes about hope killers and life strategies (pp. 129-142). He says something alarming when he says the following on page 136:
We honor God most when we say, “God, I know I’m your child. I know I’m forgiven through my faith in Christ. I believe you have great things in store for me, and I am choosing to let go of my past.”
This is a strong statement. Unfortunately, he gives no biblical text to back it up. Furthermore, is he suggesting that we honor God the most when we say those words? If so, then that is just (you guessed it) absurd (not to mention oozing of “Word of Faith” nonsense). It’s also worth mentioning that that phrase has many references to the self (as shown in the bold text). Don’t we honor God more when we walk in the good works Christ has called us to do (Ephesians 2:10)? What about loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30)? What about loving our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31)?
PART THREE: UNLEASHING A CULTURE OF HOPE (CHAPTERS 12-17)
In part three, Johnston writes about how to unleash hope in your marriage, kids, career, church, community and world (pp. 145-215). Once again, his opinion dominates. However, he does give good stats on marriage and kids (pp. 146, 162-163). Furthermore, in the context of what married couples should do, he did state that it is important for the couple to get “connected to God’s Word” (p. 153). Unfortunately, his questionable Bible translation citations (he cites the Amplified Bible, which has its problems), his belief that a Christ-centered church is a powerful force, and his not backing up most of his statements with Scripture (among other things) overshadow all of that (pp. 145, 182, 189, 194-195, 206).
READ THIS LAST: A CONSPIRACY OF GRACE:
In this very short section, Johnston tells a story in what seems to be an attempt to illustrate a presentation of the Gospel (pp. 217-221). He speaks of Jesus Christ more here than he does the rest of the book combined (or so it seems). That is good. However, he misses the mark when he states “Jesus came to earth because He wanted to have a relationship with you” (p. 222). That is not entirely accurate. The Bible says He came to seek and save that which was lost (Matthew 18:11). The apostle Paul considered His coming to save sinners a “trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance” (1 Timothy 1:15). Johnston invites the reader to partake in a sinner’s prayer. Johnston does place a emphasis on forgiveness of sins and Jesus’ dying for the reader (p. 222). That Gospel nugget saves this book from being a total wreck (assuming the reader actually got this far despite all the manmade nonsense Johnston promoted up until this point).
With the exception of the “Read This Last: A Conspiracy of Grace” section and a sentence in the book about advising married couples to “get connected to God’s Word”, this book is a total wreck. Johnston mainly gives his opinion throughout this book while also both citing questionable people/translations and twisting/adding to God’s Word. This “Hope Quotient” nonsense is just strange, manmade doctrine. I am convinced that the praise for this book shown in the opening pages came from people who did not compare Johnston’s teachings to what God’s Word says. If they did do such a thing, they would find it is not as praiseworthy as they made it out to be.
NOTE: This review appeared on my former blog, faithcontenderblog.wordpress.com. I tweeted my review, tagging his Twitter account in the process.