12 August 2009

"Your Jesus Is Too Safe"

NOTE: This was originally posted at my church's blog but thought I'd put a bootleg post up here too. Also, I really appreciated his mention in the book of our old college professor, Dr. MB Jackson. Dr. Jackson was an awesome man. Now, on with the copied post.

What do you say about who Jesus REALLY is? There is no more important question you will ever answer in your life. Your answer to this shapes EVERYTHING else in your life.

If you've hung around The CCJ Blog for very long, you've probably read a quote or two from Jared Wilson (his blog, The Gospel-Driven Church, is a must read, in my opinion). Full disclosure: Jared is a friend of mine and was a college classmate of mine at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, TN. Despite him graduating from a state university, he is a super-smart guy who I have learned much from over the past decade.

Jared recently had his book, "Your Jesus Is Too Safe" published and released by Kregel Publications. Today, I'm taking part in the official blog tour for the book.

For a short review, I will just say you should read this book (buy it here). It is EXTREMELY readable when it could've been very dry and academic (as many books about Jesus can be). Jared's use of humor and slight sarcasm at key moments really helps keep you going (I very much appreciate his reference of movies like "The Karate Kid" and "Wayne's World 2" to illustrate very important points about Christ). For instance, he writes in the chapter titled "Jesus the King" that the way of this world is similar to the ethics of the Cobra Kai - "mercy is for the weak," but that the Kingdom of God is the upside down version of that. It's not all pop-culture references and humor, however. For instance, I re-read the "Jesus The King" chapter a few times to try to soak it all in, it's that deep (deep is good, you know). The book reads like a good pastor or friend walking along with you and giving you a more clear view of who Jesus, the cornerstone of our faith, really is.

I know I may be biased because I know Jared, but, seriously, this book is very good and well worth your $10.97.

Jared recently answered a few questions for me as a part of this tour to be published here on The CCJ Blog. Read on:

1.) What prompted you to write "Your Jesus Is Too Safe?"
The book really came out of a synthesis of different things in my life. Ten years or so ago a coworker in a bookstore handed me a copy of a book by N.T. Wright called The Original Jesus that really pushed my thinking about Jesus and the four Gospels. I really felt like I was seeing them for the first time. And that kind of began my intellectual journey in the historical Jesus stuff. And then about 5 or 6 years ago I began sort of a Gospel renaissance in my life, sort of a combination of embracing a more Reformed theology, getting under the mentorship of some really gospel-centered writers and pastors, and then a personal crisis the brokenness of which I cannot even put into words as of yet. But all of that left me with the stripped down all-importance of the gospel in my life and the preciousness of Christ.

So the book is sort of the outworking of my interest in the historical Jesus and my passion for gospel-centeredness in my life and in the evangelical church at large.

2.) What do you think is the biggest misunderstanding about Jesus in the American church?
I think the biggest misunderstanding we may have is how we think of the kingdom of God. Most scholars and pastors can't but admit "the kingdom" is pretty much the thrust of Jesus' message. But very few have ever preached on the kingdom. So large swaths of the church think the kingdom is heaven, or the church itself, or some other such thing.

I remember reading about this way back when, and I tried to track down the source so I could cite it in the book to no avail, but I recall reading (in something by George Eldon Ladd, I think it was) that a survey of pastors at the time revealed the vast majority agreeing the kingdom was Jesus' message and the vast majority admitting they'd never preached on the subject. That is really weird.

3.) Our area is rooted in German Catholic heritage and along with that comes a deep-rooted belief that good works are the path to heaven. Please explain to readers of the blog your view on faith and works and salvation.
Well, my view is the historic, orthodox Christian view, with a sharp Protestant edge of course, that, as Paul says, "by the works of the law will no man be justified" and "it is by grace we are saved, not a result of our works, so that none of us can boast."
That's all theological.

Practically speaking, I'm a big fan of salvation by grace because a) I'm an idiot and would hate to think salvation depended on how high, big, far, long, or good I can be, and b) I'd have no idea how good is good enough. It's a recipe for despair, which Martin Luther discovered in the depths of depression and frustration.The Bible basically says perfection is required, and if that's the case, I think we're all in trouble.

And in swoops the gospel. The only man who was ever perfect offered himself as the perfect sacrifice so that we might be reckoned perfect by his work, not ours. It's a great message and it's unique to Christianity. No other religion has grace as part of their game. I think those who really get it just can't help but find it so awesome.

4.) What, in your view, are some of the most dangerous (wrong), yet commonly held, beliefs about Jesus?
From the 30,000 ft. view, I think our biggest problem -- yours and mine and everybody else's -- is that we by default assume Jesus likes and dislikes all the same things and people we do. And sometimes we are in alignment. But not by default. It's the "Jesus in our image" thing. So jock dudes love the Jesus of Revelation, kicking butt and taking names. And chai latte drinking dudes love the tender Jesus. And all are parts of Jesus' personality and character, just like any of us can be angry sometimes and tender others. But to fixate not on Jesus but on one aspect of Jesus to the exclusion of all others isn't fixing our eyes on Jesus, but on a caricature of him.

5.) How does one come up with a reference to "Wayne's World 2" and "The Karate Kid" while writing a book about Jesus?
I could bluster here about cultural relevance but the real answer is just that I'm a doofus. A doofus who grew up in the 80's.

Bonus Question: Any final thoughts on the book that you'd like our readers to know?
I really want people to know that the title sort of belies that the book is more pro-Jesus than it is "anti" anything in the church or culture or anything. Some of that is in there, but it is not an incessantly critical book. It is a pastoral and inspirational and theological reflection on the Gospels-revealed awesomeness of Jesus.

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