Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Review: Loving Jesus More

Loving Jesus More. Philip Graham Ryken. Crossway. 176 pages. [Source: Crossway.]

The goal of this book is to help people grow more in love with Jesus.

Phil Ryken's newest book has a great goal. He wants his readers to LOVE Jesus more. Ryken sees things realistically. He knows most--if not all--believers struggle with loving Jesus, with loving Him MORE. It is oh-so-easy to love him less--less than at first, less than we should, less than we ought. Ryken sets out to show how readers can, in fact, love Him more. 

The book focuses on two things: God's love for us, which, is the source of our love for him, and, our love for God, which, spills over into our love for others. 

I believe the book does its best to be practical and relevant. I am not doubting it is practical and relevant. But it isn't exactly new or surprising information. The things he discusses while remaining relevant are things that the reader most likely already knows. (Things like living an obedient life, not clinging to favorite sins, going to church, loving and forgiving others, reading the Bible, etc.) 

It is in the "putting into practice" what one already knows that would show actual results. The book is good--great, even--if and only if it challenges readers to change their beliefs and behaviors. If the Spirit uses Ryken's message to reach hearts and awaken the conscience. I believe the Spirit can use books and sermons. I believe the Spirit also uses the Word of God itself.

Perhaps because I loved Philip Graham Ryken's Loving the Way Jesus Loves so very, very much, I was disappointed by Loving Jesus More.

Favorite quotes:
Once we have the Holy Spirit, it is vitally important to leave our lives open to his influence. If we want to love Jesus more, and if the Spirit is the source of that love, then we should do everything we can to keep the channel of his grace wide open. The Bible gives some very specific instructions about our response to the Spirit. It tells us some things we should be sure to do, and also some things we should be careful not to do. On the positive side, we are told to “walk by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16) and “keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). This principally means following the words that the Holy Spirit has revealed in the pages of Holy Scripture. But it also means following the leading of the Spirit through his inward work in our mind, heart, and conscience… On the negative side, the Bible tells us not to “quench” (1 Thess. 5:19) or “grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Eph. 4: 30). The Bible talks about quenching the Spirit in the context of prayer, worship, and the ministry of God’s Word (see 1 Thess. 5:16–21). We quench the Spirit whenever we sense him leading us to do something and then fail to follow through.  It is also possible to grieve the Spirit, which we do whenever we persist in rebellious sin. After all, the Spirit is a Holy Spirit, and therefore as he lives in us, he wants us to be holy. The context in which the Bible tells us not to grieve the Spirit is noteworthy. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths,” the Scripture says. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Eph. 4:29,31). Bad language, hate speech, and words that tear people down grieve the Spirit of God. All of this may help to explain why we are not falling more in love with Jesus. When we do not turn to God in prayer or encourage people in the gospel, then we quench the Spirit. When we curse God or speak against other people, we grieve the Spirit. As a result, we choke off the channel of God’s love.
Most of all, the assurance of God’s love will come by going back to the gospel and listening again to the good news about Jesus Christ. If the gospel is what we are having trouble believing, then it may be tempting to ignore it. Instead, we ought to go back to the lowly manger and not stop until we have gone on to the bloody cross, the empty tomb, and the glorious throne of God, where Jesus reigns as the King of all kings. When we go back to the story of Jesus like this and see him again in his gospel, we know that we are loved. We know this because everything Jesus has ever done for our salvation is a demonstration of his affection.
The more trouble we have seeing Jesus, the more we wander into foolish thinking. The consequences are devastating: sinful patterns of self indulgence, angry conflicts with other people, and bitter thoughts about ourselves as well as others. If these are some of the struggles that we have— habitual sin, broken relationships, self-loathing— then we must not be seeing the love of Jesus the way that God wants us to see it.
The whole drama of our salvation is a love story from start to finish— the love that has appeared to us in Jesus Christ. Truly, it is a love that will never end, because nothing in time or eternity can ever separate us from the love that God has for us in Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:35–39).
If we ever wonder why we do not seem to love Jesus very much— at least not as much as we should— maybe this is one of the reasons why: we are not reading the Bible in one of the ways we should. We are reading it in worship services, perhaps, or reading it for a class or study group. We are reading the Bible for content and maybe for application, but not for a relationship. If we want to love Jesus with all we have, we should read his Word the way a lover would, as a message from our beloved. Whenever we open our Bibles, we should pray, “Lord Jesus, I am not just here for these words; I am here for you, and for the love message you want to send from your heart to mine.” God has promised to meet us in his Word, which makes Bible-reading a place to rendezvous with our Savior.
One of the best ways to test our grasp of God’s grace is to see how we respond to the people we think of as “sinners.” What do we say about them? How do we treat them? What are we doing to reach out to them with the love of Jesus? Sadly, many Christians do not care enough to get involved in the lives of people in spiritual trouble. They do not touch “sinners,” and they do not let “sinners” touch them. Our calling as Christians is to share the love of Christ with people who need his grace. In the same way that Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, and in the same way that he has touched our own lives with mercy, we are called to reach out with his love… But what would happen if we really believed that God has grace for sinners— not just for us, but for everyone? What would happen if we embraced lost and difficult people instead of avoiding them? What would happen in their lives, and what would happen in our lives? The way for us to make the difference in the world that God is calling us to make is to believe that he has grace for sinners. 
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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