Originally posted on 10 August 2009 at deTheos.com.
Below are some of my thoughts after reading Your Jesus is Too Safe: Outgrowing a Drive-Thru, Feel-Good Savior. [Read the book interview with author Jared Wilson in the last post.]
It’s a great book, and may now be in my top 10 favorites. Seriously, I read many dead guys, and am constantly dabbling in a few books at a time. This one made me put down all others and dive in. There are only a couple other authors who can do that to me (one is my gifted writer wife).
What’s the purpose of this book? Wilson writes:
“to remind us, for the glory of God and the hope of the world, of the original message of the historical person Jesus Christ, who was, in fact, God in the flesh” (p. 15, introduction).
That’s because “to really know God, one must really know Jesus” (ibid.). Wilson had me in the introduction; I was hooked.
Diving into Your Jesus is Too Safe, I was challenged, excited, laughed often, got riled up at some of my jacked-up views, and came back thirsty for more of this Jesus. Wilson points past himself. He wants us to know and see Jesus! The thing is, we think we know enough about Jesus. But we only know enough to make us dangerous. And we each have “a Jesus” in mind when we hear His name. Is yours “ATM Jesus” or “Therapist Jesus” or “Hippie Jesus” or “get-out-of-hell-free-Jesus”? Perhaps you like “friendly legalist Jesus,” who gives you 5 easy steps to better finances, God’s way. Scrap all of those — and any others — and open up the Bible to get to know the Real Jesus, the God-Man who is the full revelation of what God desires us to know about Him now.
Somewhere along the way we Evangelicals fell in love with ourselves and made a plastic “Jesus” in our own image. Nevermind that He’s the self-proclaimed Image of God. We like Him to be like us, just a slob like one of us — but in a cleaned-up, respectable sort of way. Don’t get too comfortable with “your” Jesus.
As I mentioned, I can’t recommend this book enough. In fact, I bought copies for our youth volunteers, to go hand-in-hand with a series through the Sermon on the Mount that is all about Jesus. If you want to be challenged to see Jesus’ worth, words, works and ways, pick up this book, read it next to the Gospels, and get to work. You won’t be disappointed.
Wilson is a capable writer, and he’d be the first to admit that the path to getting published in non-fiction is quite arduous, if you don’t have a PhD (and thus no one will read it), or if you are not a celebrity pastor (in which case many would read it).
What’s in the book?
Your Jesus is Too Safe is comprised of twelve “portraits” of Jesus emerging from the Scriptures. It’s an accessible “mini-biblical theology,” tracing Jesus from Genesis to Revelation (cover-to-cover, through the ages) to see how He embodies these dozen paradigms. Sandwiched between and introduction and conclusion, here are the twelve chapters:
- Jesus the Promise
- Jesus the Prophet
- Jesus the Forgiver
- Jesus the Man
- Jesus the Shepherd
- Jesus the Judge
- Jesus the Redeemer
- Jesus the King
- Jesus the Sacrifice
- Jesus the Provision
- Jesus the Lord
- Jesus the Savior
The book may make the most sense to Christians, but I won’t hesitate to hand it to non-Christians. If we silly believers are often stumbling blocks to reflecting the true Savior, perhaps this raw take from the Scriptures can illuminate what we darken, and clarify what we make fuzzy. Whether you think you know about Jesus, or you know very little, pick up this book and learn the old truth through a new encounter. Plus, at about ten bucks, it’s a sweet deal. Skip three coffees over the next couple of weeks and read this book to energize your day. A few of the chapters (1, 4, 8 esp.) are worth the price alone.
Here’s a sampling of some of my favorite excerpts from Your Jesus is Too Safe:
“Jesus showed up and said that the kingdom of God was here now, coming and breaking into history. And he said the kingdom was coming by, in, and through him. This was a hard pill to swallow—then and now. Let’s be frank: if you find the message of Jesus easy to digest, you’d better check the label on the box. You may be consuming a diluted version of Christianity. The message of Jesus—that he himself is life and you can’t get it anywhere else, least of all in yourself—is the hardest message we could ever hear, because it goes completely against our perceptions, our prejudices and our opinions. It goes radically against the bent of our souls.” (p. 27, ch. 1, Jesus the Promise, emphasis added)
“But no, Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Law, but to put it in its rightful context—which is to say he put the Law in the context of Himself.” (p. 28, ch. 1)
“Here’s the important thing to remember about the Sermon on the Mount: it’s not some long prescription for behavior modification… more than being stuff to do, it is stuff to be… [it] is a description of kingdom life.” (pp. 33-34, ch. 1)
“… our Redeemer lives. And one day, he will descend with a shout, and this old earth will get an extreme makeover in an eternal splash of glory, the likes of which will make the aurora borealis look like a Lite-Brite.” (p. 35, ch. 1)
“Repentance is the bottom-line call of any real prophet. It’s not all about predicting the future or just being a religious rabble-rouser. It’s about calling people to turn around, because the prophet wants them to have a heads-up for when God arrives.” (p. 41, ch. 2 Jesus the Prophet)
“God became incarnate in the man Jesus Christ, who is the embodiment of forgiveness. God, in his great love for us, wanted to forgive our irreparable offense to his holiness, so he came himself in the person of Jesus to work this miracle of forgiveness. Have you heard the phrase ‘grace has a face’? That’s the active work of the incarnation of Christ, and the task of incarnational ministry for those who follow Christ: to put a face on grace.” (pp. 70-71, ch. 3, Jesus the Forgiver)
“[Jesus] was an integrated man, a whole man, which means he was an unfallen man. Jesus, as one unstained by the mark of Adam’s sin, perfectly reflected the holiness of God. He was whole, so when we look at Jesus and hear what he said and see what he was doing, we are looking at and hearing no one less than the one true God himself.” (p. 96, ch. 4, Jesus the Man)
“Jesus is so intent on shepherding us the way we need to be shepherded, that he is willing to put his own life on the line to protect us. He lays down his life for the sheep. That’s not just a good shepherd—that’s a great shepherd! That’s a crazy shepherd …” (p. 112, ch. 5, Jesus the Shepherd)
“The dualistic approach is echoed even in current campaigns against the penal substitution theory of the Atonement. Critics maintain that penal substitution proposes an unloving god essentially inflicting child abuse upon his loving son. They are wrong. We cannot and must not set Jesus against God, either in our discomfort with God’s wrath or in dismissal of Jesus’ judgment. Take a look at John 5:21-23…” (p. 128, ch. 6, Jesus the Judge)
“The key to living in a redemptive way, to trusting Jesus the Redeemer, is to trust him to redeem you in the circumstances and situations, not after the fact…. It’s something entirely different to look forward into the invisible future, clouded by all that assails and assaults you, and still see Jesus the Redeemer. Trusting Jesus the Redeemer to bring you out of a trial while you’re still in the trial requires not just waiting for redemption, but also living redemptively. You can live redemptively by committing yourself and disciplining yourself to do these three things: 1. Take Heart. 2. Hold Hope. 3. Have Faith.” (p. 165, ch. 7, Jesus the Redeemer)
“There can be no serious talk about Jesus without reckoning with the idea of him as king. There can be no serious talk about Jesus’ message without reckoning with his announcement that ‘the kingdom of God is at hand’ (Mark 1:15). His kingship is perhaps the primary thing we must know about Jesus, the primary way to see him.” (p. 173, ch. 8, Jesus the King)
Why is it important that Jesus never sinned?
“First, by never sinning, Jesus redeemed the sin of Adam. As the New Adam, it was Jesus’ mission to pull a huge do-over on the fall of mankind, to right the wrongs of our ancient parents Adam and Eve. … Second … Jesus had to be a sinless man, an innocent man, because of God’s command, and thus by Jewish law, any sacrifice offered for the forgiveness of sins must be pure and unblemished… Only the blood of something pure could cleanse the hearts of the impure.” (p. 203, ch. 9, Jesus the Sacrifice)
“It’s imperative we see that God is not interested in making our lives better. He’ll have nothing to do with being a supplemental enhancement to support our personal goals and ambitions. He’s not a sidekick, co-pilot, or self-help guru, and we should stay far away from a so-called Christianity that presents God as a way to improve our lives.
“God is life itself. Christ is life itself. We cannot live apart from God.” (p. 224-25, ch. 10, Christ the Provision)
“Over and over, if not verbally or explicitly, at least practically and implicitly, Jesus went around placing himself at the center of the God-life, at the center of God’s kingdom, at the center of one’s faith in God. He was asserting himself as the one to orient your life around if you really want to be faithful to God. And, folks, a normal man doesn’t do that. These days, we put people in mental institutions when they claim to be God.” (p. 251, ch. 11, Jesus the Lord)
“We were, for all intents and purposes, anti-God, even if consciously we though we were just ambivalent. But then the resurrection power of Jesus—he who is mighty to save—ushered us into new life.
“In him.” [See Romans 5:9-11] (p. 273, ch. 12, Jesus the Savior)
“The most important way that I’ve tried to synchronize the disparate portraits is by tracing throughout the entire journey the great unifying presence of the gospel. The gospel is the hope of the world—and these days it’s a hope that many inside our churches are just as starved for as those outside. My prayer is that more and more churches in Western evangelicalism will repent of their relegating of the gospel to a place inside the Trojan Horse of attractive programming and performance-driven worship services and self-help sermons, and once again herald it boldly as the only and supreme hope of a dying world.” (p. 282, conclusion)
Wilson traced the Gospel throughout Your Jesus is Too Safe, pointing past himself so we see Jesus, and desire more of Him. Wilson hit his intended purpose, “to remind us, for the glory of God and the hope of the world, of the original message of the historical person Jesus Christ, who was, in fact, God in the flesh” (p. 15, introduction). Taking the dozen portraits together: Jesus is God’s Promise, Prophet, Forgiver, The Man, our Shepherd, Judge, Redeemer, King, Sacrifice, Provision, Lord and Savior. He is all!
- Read the book interview with author Jared Wilson