Hidden Agenda: Dropping the Masks That Keep Us Apart by Steve Brown is a “wake-up call” book. This book intends to shake Christ-followers and wake them up to the glorious reality of grace. The author points his finger a lot in this book. Much of the finger-pointing is at himself – as he shares about his own personal struggle with sin. His admission is enough to make the unsuspecting Pharisee bristle, “What qualifies a man to write a book who has not yet conquered his sinful proclivities?” If a thought like that crossed your radar screen, The Hidden Agenda is for you.
Steve Brown maintains:
- People have hidden agendas
- People wear masks that ultimately hurt the ones we love
- People generally live in fear that their hidden agendas will be exposed
The hidden agenda is “a plan designed to accomplish, change, fix, destroy, remedy, reward, punish, promote, or hinder.” People fear the hidden agenda will come into the light which leads to rejection, punishment, shame, or failure.
The author encourages readers to dispose of their hidden agendas. He encourages them to be transparent about their struggle with sin. He writes, “Nobody speaks from Sinai, and when you appear to be an outsider to the human race, you truncate the message you communicate. You need forgiveness and encouragement as much as anybody. You need to cut some slack for the people you serve and they need to cut some slack for you.”
In communicating his desire for readers to dispose of their masks, he uncovers the motivation for writing the book: “I’m writing this book because I have a passion about God’s people creating spaces where masks aren’t necessary, where we can experience the freedom and joy of no longer being ashamed in the darkness behind our masks. Life is hard, our sins are great, and the wounds are deep. We simply can’t do this thing without one another, and the loneliness is making us crazy.”
Brown is quick to point out the failures and faults of Christians who feel as if they have “arrived.” He contrasts this self-righteous mindset with a powerful principle: “Every time a believer starts feeling good about personal righteousness and purity, at that point God is brought down to the believer’s level and becomes something less than the holy, righteous, and pure God of the Bible.”
The author encourages readers to shed the masks and dispose of the hidden agendas once and for all. He reminds them, “They are crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20). Such a death and resurrection means forgiveness, redemption, acceptance, and love from a holy God. Brown argues, “The key to being reasonably free of hidden agendas and masks is remembering you’re dead and the key to knowing and applying that is the Holy Spirit.”
All this discussion leads to the most important part of the book where Brown guides readers on an important theological journey. Readers are reminded of their position in Christ, namely – they are justified, imputed with the righteousness of Christ, and adopted by God. The author writes, “You’re forgiven, you’re clothed, you’re adopted, and you’re sanctified. In the face of those truths, you now have a safe place . . . and his name is Jesus. You don’t have to impress, manipulate, lie, or pretend anymore.”
The topic of sanctification is an important theme in The Hidden Agenda. Brown rightly notes the distinction between definitive sanctification and progressive sanctification (without using the theological lingo). This places him in the center of the Reformed stream. Yet, some accuse Dr. Brown of antinomianism. The author speaks candidly about these accusations and denies them outright.
I understand why some would charge Dr. Brown with antinomianian. Yet such a claim for a man who believes in and preaches the doctrine of justification by faith alone has no merit and falls flat. The argument is erroneous and the accusation unfair.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones argues, “I would say to all preachers: If your preaching of salvation has not been misunderstood in that way, then you had better examine your sermons again, and you had better make sure that you are really preaching the salvation that is offered in the New Testament to the ungodly, the sinner, to those who are dead in trespasses and sins, to those who are enemies of God. There is this kind of dangerous element about the true presentation of the doctrine of salvation” (Romans 6, pp. 8-9). Lloyd-Jones continues, “There is no better test of gospel fidelity than the accusation of antinomianism.”
As noted above, Brown responds to the charges of antinomianism. However, this response in my mind does not go far enough. Perhaps the topic is beyond the scope of the book. Perhaps another book is needed to thoroughly address this matter.
All in all, Hidden Agenda is a wonderful read. Brown writes in plain language, offers helpful illustrations that cement the principles he presents, and guides readers in a direction that honors and glorifies God. Perhaps the most helpful thing about Hidden Agenda is the transparency of the author. He is candid about his own battle with sin, which in my mind qualifies him to weigh in on this crucial topic.
An important disclaimer: If you are easily offended, don’t read this book. If you take yourself too seriously, toss this book in the trash. If being politically correct or phony is your way of life, move on to a book that will match your Pharisaical propensities.
But if you’re tired of living in bondage, pick up a copy of Brown’s book. If you’re tired of playing games living a facade, pick up Hidden Agenda and devour the godly wisdom that Steve Brown presents. Your worldview will be adjusted, your outlook will be transformed, and the masks will end up the rubbish bin – where they deserve to go! May readers be awakened to the glorious reality of grace and revel in the mystery and majesty of the gospel!
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.