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February 4 Book Reviews

Do Not Be True to Yourself: Countercultural Advice for the Rest of Your Life

Do Not Be True to Yourself: Countercultural Advice for the Rest of Your Life

Kevin DeYoung

Reviewed by: Eddie Mercado

Do Not Be True to Yourself: Countercultural Advice for the Rest of Your Life, by Kevin DeYoung. Crossway, 2023. Paperback, 80 pages, $6.81 (Amazon). Reviewed by OP member Eddie Mercado.

The celebratory commencement speeches in high schools and colleges often present us with a grand message: be true to yourself. Pastor-theologian Kevin DeYoung has noticed this trend. What he seeks to provide in Do Not Be True to Yourself is a gospel corrective. This book contains five reworked addresses intended to be read by young students. Given DeYoung’s chief aim, we must ask whether this book succeeds in what it set out to do. Can it adequately reach young believers with a response to the West’s gospel message of “be true to yourself”? I believe it can because of DeYoung’s content, contextualization, and conciseness.

Beginning with content, these chapters respond not with the opinions of another individual but with God’s Word. Whether appealing to Esau (ch. 1), Joshua’s ultimatum (ch. 2), or the blessed man of Psalm 1 (ch. 4), the Scriptures are presented as the standard for godly living as it is ultimately revealed in Christ. DeYoung’s addresses do not result in mere moralism, however. They are rooted in the work of Christ, as shown early on: “the great theologian of our age, Lady Gaga, was right: you were born that way. The good news of Jesus Christ is that you can be born again another way” (6).

In this book, DeYoung uses various cultural texts as illustrations. One of his strengths as a communicator is his ability to contextualize. He will challenge the reader. For example, DeYoung reflects on God’s impassibility as he discusses our fickle hearts. But he also makes several references to Disney movies to show the shift our culture has made in promoting its gospel message. DeYoung’s effort to meet students “where they’re at” is to be commended and will keep readers engaged.

Do Not Be True to Yourself has one more feature that makes this compelling for students: its conciseness. This is a small paperback that can probably fit in your back pocket. The chapters are packed with biblical wisdom but short enough to be read during a fifteen-minute break. This makes the book a worthwhile resource in the age of YouTube Shorts and TikTok.

The focus on students does not prohibit others from reading with profit. An appendix includes recommended books to read (two written by fathers of the OPC). Chapter 3, on the importance of joining a local congregation, is also relevant for Christians of all ages. One of the effects of the pandemic is that “many Christians think they can have Jesus without the church” (24). But DeYoung helpfully reminds us that the body must be bound to its head, Jesus Christ. In fact, that’s the only way we can be true to ourselves. Coming back to the titular address, DeYoung declares the countercultural truth of the gospel of Christ: you can only be true to yourself “if the real you is dead to sin and alive in Christ Jesus” (8).

 

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