Book Review: Your Jesus is Too Safe

Recommendation: Read it.
Rating: 4/5 Stars.

9780825439315

For a few years now I’ve appreciated Jared Wilson and his work with College students and Young Adults at Element Nashville. Jared’s blog, Gospel-Driven Church, has been an encouragement and inspiration as he writes about the need for continued focus on the Gospel of Jesus Christ for non-believers as well as the Church. It came as no surprise that he was publishing a book and that the title was, “Your Jesus is Too Safe.” In his writing online, Jared has always focused on Jesus and His amazing ability to fill all needs and aspects in our lives. I’ve anticipated this book since he announced it and I’m glad to be able to participate in the blog-tour for it.

In my experience with the group of young adults that I minister with, many times we’ve encountered a low view of Jesus Christ with emphasis placed on one or two aspects of His person and having blinders to the rest. Since the very first days of the Church the ongoing struggle has been to completely acknowledge who Jesus is with all of His names and titles without overemphasizing, de-emphasizing or ignoring any of them. Even today we swing between “Jesus is love, let’s be nice to each other, everything’s going to be alright so don’t bring us down with talk of Sin, repentance, judgment and wrath.” and “We have to completely separate from the world or we’ll get some on us, legalistic, if you cuss right before you die in a car wreck you’ll go to Hell puritanism.” There are aspects of the truth in these views but we need a moderate, middle of the road, balance to our understanding of Jesus.

In “Your Jesus is Too Safe”, Jared Wilson has delivered an excellent source for a better understanding of Jesus. It could serve as a refresher for any “lifer” church member or as strong introduction to Jesus for a non-believer or a new believer. This book would serve well to give the reader a high theological view of Jesus Christ and His roles. In our times of need and weakness we have Jesus the Forgiver and Jesus the Redeemer. When we need leadership we have Jesus the Shepherd and Jesus the King. Jesus the Prophet and Jesus the Judge provide us with discipline. Through 12 chapters, Jared gives a refresher or instruction of different aspects of Jesus. In any given time in our life Jesus may only be one thing to us but we can never disregard or forget that He is all of these at once.

As I read through this book I encountered things I hadn’t heard before or were presented in a different light. I believe this book would be useful to anyone wanting to deepen their understanding of Jesus. “Your Jesus is Too Safe” would serve well in any personal or church library.

There is only one reason I give this book 4 out of 5 stars and I’m not even sure I shouldn’t have said 5. Whenever I teach or preach it could probably be guaranteed that I will use some humor which means I believe it’s useful in communicating and relating with others. I know that many times humor is determined by personal taste and I may find that I’m in a very small minority for this part of the review. As I read through “Your Jesus is Too Safe” I found myself caught off guard by how much Jared used humor in his book. I’ve been wondering if my expectations of the book were wrong. In reading Jared’s blog posts in the past, it seemed to me that he was pretty serious in his presentation of the Gospel, whether written or spoken. In reading this book there were times when I thought the humor was too much or distracting. When presenting scripture passages or stories, I think that humor diminishes or softens the truth when it doesn’t need to be or shouldn’t be.

But, this is probably me making too much of it or being caught up in my preconceived notions of how the topic would be presented. “Your Jesus is Too Safe: Outgrowing a Drive-Thru, Feel-Good Savior” sounded pretty serious to me and so I was probably thinking in the wrong direction. I am curious to read what other reviews have to say.

I did rate it 4 out of 5 because the amount of humor is a personal view and because there is so much depth and quality material in this book that I’ve already recommended it to others and will continue to do so.

I’m thankful to Jared Wilson and Kregel Publications for the complimentary copy of “Your Jesus is Too Safe” and the opportunity to participate in the blog-tour for it.

To read other reviews from the blog-tour visit: Your Jesus is Too Safe Blog Tour

Mere Discipleship Quote: “So ‘what are we going to do?’”

“So ‘what are we going to do?’ Respond with the way of Christ. The world may think that way irrelevant, even foolish. But what the world takes as foolish is actually the wisdom of God and the only hope for our world. We do not need more “effective” kingdoms of men; we do not need more “responsible” kingdoms of this world; we do not need more “realism” among the kingdoms of a fallen order. We need the kingdom of God.”

Lee C. Camp, Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World , p. 50

Jesus and Agendas

I finished this up this morning and I’ve been letting it rest. Many times when I write I’m unable to work in love along with the truth. This post stems from my personal journey in reading, meditating and prayer and several face-to-face conversations over the last year. This is one entry in a larger subject that I’ve been wanting to address and this may be the catalyst. Although I’m confident in addressing these things while teaching and discipling, I’m more cautious of posting in a larger public access where there is a greater possibility of misunderstanding. But, that’s what a blog is good for, a series of articles that address and continue the conversation.

In all of this, Jesus Christ is all that matters. I have an amazing life in Him and I continue to be amazed at His work in my life. In the ministry that Jesus has granted me in teaching, writing, shepherding and discipling, I always want to share the amazing story of Jesus and encourage everyone to live more fully in Him.

After processing this post this afternoon this song came to mind. The lyrics fit the theme I’m attempting to communicate. I also think it helps us focus on what matters even while reading the post.

I believe that if we lived with this kind of attitude more often throughout each and every week and not just our 1 hour of prescribed worship, then the great matters of debate would not matter to us so much. We would just live for Jesus and share the message of life in Him with others.

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This week we’ve had some political activity in Oklahoma that has had dueling sides lobbing volleys at each other. I’ve also been reading an email conversation among some area ministers that has also been political in nature but on a different matter than the Oklahoma legislature. I’m being general about these topics and this post because I don’t want to point a finger at any particular person, but at all of us. This topic of politics, Church and State, and Christian political involvement has been heavy on me for several months now, but can be traced back to the 2004 U.S. Elections. The reason it goes so far back is for a different post. The 2008 U.S. Elections were a portion of what motivated me to read and study on the subject, but the major factor was the quest for understanding on how to be a Christ-follower.

In this area two major questions have caused my thirst for knowledge:

1. What does it mean to be a servant in the Kingdom of God? This has caused me to measure every thought, word and deed against being part of the Kingdom of God and to examine where I lay my allegiance.

2. What does it mean to serve the Prince of Peace? For instance, how can we serve the Prince of Peace and speak of Just War?

I admit that these are heavy topics and that’s why it’s taking me months and years to sort through them. It’s also why it’s for another post, or several posts, but I wanted to lay some groundwork for what I submit to you today.

Let’s get fired up

The news in Oklahoma and the email conversation were focused on two different hot-button political issues for many Christians in America. As both sides shared their views and cases and a few derogatory statements, I was left wondering. I wonder if there is a different and better way. A third side to the story, a third way to approach all of this and actually build each other up instead of tearing each other down. I believe that the Kingdom of God is that third way, but I still wonder how we are to apply it in this world. Many people within the two current sides of the religio-political conflict believe that they are presenting and fulfilling God’s Kingdom in these matters.

But I wonder why it’s not working. If we believe that the Kingdom of God cannot be overcome and we believe that we are living in His Will through government and politics, then why isn’t it working? There are various answers to that because I’ve heard them, I might even state them myself, but I like to keep things fairly simple and there is a “least common denominator”: We can’t legislate morality. Nobody can. We can’t make people do what they don’t want to do. And we can’t prevent people from doing what they want to do. It’s very difficult to do it in our families and circle of friends much less the church. How can we expect it to happen at the state, national or even global level?

So where does that leave us? Do we stop paying attention to all of this and mind our own business? Absolutely not, because that would require us to deny the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. I suggest we look to Jesus and His words and actions. I don’t mean WWJD because that leaves the door open to us justifying ourselves. You might even find people along the political spectrum that will say that they are doing what Jesus would do in government affairs. What did Jesus actually say? What did He actually do? These are the questions that we must seek answers to as we scour the Scriptures. I believe that if we are truly reading, studying, meditating and processing what Jesus said and did, we will have a better understanding of what our role should be and how we should act in our role as citizens. If we present ourselves as followers of Jesus Christ then we must look to Him and His ministry. What does Jesus spend the most time speaking about? What are His Top 10 topics? Where do politics and government fall on His list of issues? These are some of the questions that I encourage everyone to seek answers to in the Bible.

I hear voices

What are the voices that we listen to? There are 168 hours in a week. How much of that time is spent listening to the voice of God in His Word? How much time each week do we spend listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit in our prayer time? How much time each week do we spend encouraging one another through the Fruits of the Spirit? Are we doing this at all? Worshiping and praising God, breaking bread together, praying for one another and reading God’s Word. Yes, I’m married with children and I know that everything that goes along with that takes up time but if we get 8 hours of sleep each night, and work 40 hours a week we still have 72 hours a week to live. On what is that time being spent?

If we aren’t spending the majority of our time with God’s Word, God’s Spirit and God’s people, then we should really examine our lives if we are to continue to call ourselves Christian. What other voices are we letting in? Are they the columnists of every variety and in every form online and in print media? Are they the talk-show hosts on the radio and television? Are they the journalists on the news broadcasts? Are the voices that we let in from organizations and individuals, activists for their own agenda or cause? As a bond-servant of Jesus it’s hard enough to control our own voice and how it influences us when we don’t listen to God. Why do we exacerbate the problem by listening to so many other voices that may not have our eternal interest in mind and don’t encourage us to stand-fast in the presence of the Lord?

If not by the government, then how?

So what do we do with our fellow citizens? How are we to relate to our neighbors who do not have a life in Christ? Jesus ate with the sinners and tax collectors. In that day and age the religious leaders viewed that as despicable and they protested it. I wonder if they were like some protesters today, full of vitriol and screaming and spewing words and spit at their opponents. The must have lost sleep over Jesus and His ministry and they became containers of pent-up rage that went unchecked until it caused them to do what should have been unthinkable, justify murder.

One major thing about Jesus eating with the sinners and tax collectors is this: Any time He spent with them, He proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was at hand and that they should live with that in mind. This meant that He always sent them along on this life’s journey with “Go, and sin no more.” Jesus met with them in whatever state they were in, but did not want them to remain in that state and took the time to explain why and how to get out. Jesus sought first and foremost to forge a relationship with them so that He could share with them. This leads me to wonder about us in the 21st century.

Is it stretching it too far to apply this thought to our contemporary society with “Jesus ate with the homosexuals and gossips”, “Jesus ate with the liars and the greedy”, “Jesus ate with the arrogant and the abortion doctors”, “Jesus at with the adulterers and abusers” and so on? Jesus continues to want to meet all of us, and he continues to send us back into the world with “Go, and sin no more.” He wants to save us and then have us proclaim that salvation with our actions and words.

The very name Jesus means “the Lord saves”. It doesn’t mean “the Lord debates,” “the Lord politicizes” or “the Lord votes”. We all can testify to the various and innumerable ways that we have been saved, but I truly hope in this context that we ask that the Lord to save us from our personal and political agendas and grant us a better insight and practice of His agenda.

Notes and References:
Romans 1:16-2:16
Matthew 7:1-6
Matthew 9:9-13
Luke 6:31-42
A post this morning from Vince Antonucci: Judgment for the Judgmental
Also from this morning: Thy Kingdom Come by Ben Myers