Sunday, January 23, 2011

Book Review: Jesus in the Present Tense

Jesus in the Present Tense: The I AM Statements of Christ. Warren W. Wiersbe. 2011. January 2011. David C. Cook. 208 pages.
When Helen Keller was nineteen months old, she contracted an illness that left her blind and deaf for life. It was not until she was ten years old that she began to have meaningful communication with those around her. It occurred when her gifted teacher Anne Sullivan taught her to say "water" as Anne spelled "water" on the palm of her hand. From that pivotal experience, Helen Keller entered the wonderful world of words and names, and it transformed her life. 
Once Helen was accustomed to this new system of communication with others, her parents arranged for her to receive religious instruction from the eminent Boston clergyman Phillips Brooks. One day during her lesson, Helen said these remarkable words to Brooks, "I knew about God before you told me, only I didn't know his name." (13-14)
I enjoyed Jesus In the Present Tense. I especially enjoyed the opening chapters of Jesus in the Present Tense. I loved the illustration with Helen Keller. I did. I loved it. And it was nice to begin the book with such a strong, favorable impression. (This was my first time reading Warren W. Wiersbe, and I'm always a bit skeptical when reading someone new.) After briefly discussing God's revelation--his name, his character--in the Old Testament and through the testimony of John the Baptist and Christ's earliest disciples, the book focuses on Jesus' I Am statements. Seven, of these "I Am" statements you may be familiar with. They are all found in the Gospel of John. (I Am The Bread of Life. I Am The Light of the World. I Am The Door. I Am The Good Shepherd. I Am The Resurrection and the Life. I Am The Way, The Truth, and the Life. I Am The True Vine.) But Wiersbe includes two other "I Am" occurrences. One occurring on the cross when Jesus recites Psalm 22--I am a worm. The second occurring during Saul's conversion experience as told in Acts.

The chapters weren't always what I expected. Not that that is a bad thing. Not necessarily. It's just that given the subject matter, I expected the focus to be a little different. I wasn't expecting so many Old Testament illustrations, for example. Using Abraham and Joseph to discuss Jesus' I Am the Resurrection statement, for example. I'd not thought of the concept of the "resurrection" in quite that way. In God working and moving in the personal lives--again and again and again. (I can see God's providence throughout both testaments. And I do believe--very strongly--in God's Providence, his Sovereignty. That God has purposed everything and that he is using people to accomplish his will, his design. And I do believe in regeneration, in being born again, in the spiritually dead being awakened to the truth by the Spirit.) Some of these illustrations made more sense than others. (There were a few cases, where I wasn't quite persuaded that his argument was thoroughly sound. The way he shifted back and forth through the OT and NT. He moved a little too fast for me in a few places. It would require more study, more thought, more meditation for me to decide one way or another. I'm all about context, context, context. And to piece together verses here, there, everywhere--to make a statement, well, I'd need to study each verse on its own to see what it was saying, who it was addressed to, the specific meaning, etc. To see how they connect--if they connect--to say if they're saying exactly what Wiersbe says they're saying. I'm not one to assume that any Old Testament promise about God's blessings can be applied to believers today.

Still, there were places I just loved it. There were places I found truth.

Jesus says "I Am" and not "I will be whatever you want Me to be." One person wants Jesus only as a religious teacher but not as Lord and Savior, while others want Him to give them business success so they can become wealthy. But we must accept Him just as He is, and not receive Him in bits and pieces. If we don't accept Him as He is, we don't receive Him at all. (33)

I try to be tolerant of other people's opinions, but not when they deny absolutes. Plastic words and plastic ideas that can be molded to please everybody are very dangerous, and I will not accept them. (70)

If all of God's sheep would reproduce, and if all the lambs would mature and the flock would obey the Shepherd, how different churches would be! (90)

People "come alive" to that which excites, delights, and satisfies them, that which is at the heart of their very being; and Christians should come alive to anything that relates to Jesus Christ. (97)

Christianity is not just another religion with a statement of faith. Christianity is Christ! (103)

Christianity is not a creed, an organization, or a religious system. It is the life of God in humans, making us more like Jesus Christ. (120)

God's Word is a gift we have received from God, and we must accept it and thank Him for it. Christians who are not thankful for the Bible will not spend much time with the Bible. (120)

The beautiful thing about growing in our knowledge of the Lord is that the Holy Spirit takes that knowledge and uses it to make us more like Jesus. The goal of our salvation is likeness to Christ, not just knowledge of the Bible. (148)

God knows us thoroughly. In the Scriptures He tells us what we are, and we had better agree with Him. But what we are in ourselves isn't important; it's what we are in Christ that really counts. (157)

Every Christian minister, teacher, and musician must carefully examine each sermon, lesson, and song, and ask, "Where is Jesus? Where is the gospel?" We are not ministering to display our talents or exalt ourselves but to glorify Jesus Christ. (173)

Believers who are living in the present tense should be sensitive to the needs of others and take time to show concern, to listen, and to encourage. (185)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible


Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

This sounds like an interesting read.

Ruth said...

Here's an update on the deepen my faith challenge.