Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Book Review: Not God Enough

Not God Enough: Why Your Small God Leads to Big Problems. J.D. Greear. 2018. Zondervan. 237 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: For much of my life, I have struggled with my faith. I always wanted to believe, knew that I was supposed to believe, and hoped deep down inside that I really did believe...I’ve come to see that the problem—my lack of faith, my passionless heart, and my struggle to surrender—came from a fundamental deficiency in how I saw God.

In Not God Enough, J.D. Greear argues that if you're struggling with God--whether you're angry, disappointed, doubting--chances are that your God isn't BIG enough. Or, to rephrase that, YOUR God may be a God of your own making and not the God revealed by Scripture. It is of the utmost importance that the God you worship be the one true God.

Has Western culture made God small? Has Western culture made God domesticated? Sadly, I think the answer tends to be yes to both questions. J.D. Greear writes,
"We present God as the best way to a happy and prosperous life. We show how God is the best explanation for unanswered questions and the best means to the life we desire. Our worship services seem more like pep rallies accompanied by practical tips for living than encounters with the God who stands beyond time and whose presence is indescribably glorious. Ironically, our “diminished” God feels, for a while, easier to believe in. He acts in ways we can understand, explain, predict, and even control. He rarely offends us, so we are not embarrassed to talk about him with our friends. He helps us find our meaning and purpose. We think everyone should try him."
A small God can't be worshipped and adored. A small God can't be feared. The God of THE WORD is to be feared and worshiped. 

Of the book's purpose he writes, "In this book, I want to give you a vision, as best I can, of God as he really is. Not the domesticated, practical, fix-it-and-make-you-feel-good god of Western Christianity, but the real one." He continues, "In order to discover this awesome god, we are going to delve into the faith encounters of several biblical heroes, but there’s one in particular we will keep coming back to: Moses...he wanted Moses’s experience to be both a comfort to us when we doubt and an example of how to follow God in the midst of doubt."

I really liked this one. I love that Greear quotes some of my favorite authors. I love his honesty and his passion for the gospel. I didn't agree with every single sentence in this one. There were one or two sentences in this one that felt a tiny bit off--in terms of not being quite Reformed enough. But overall I'd recommend this one. 

  • Without a trembling awe before God’s majesty, we’ll never develop the ability to know him, much less love him.
  • Until we have a sense of his magnitude, we won’t even be able to ask the right questions of him, much less receive his answers.
  • True worship is intimacy grounded in awe.  Only then can worship move to intimacy, which grows out of embracing how close this infinite God has brought himself to us in the cross. Only the two together, in the right order, lead to biblical faith. Only the two together will yield the emotion that fulfills the Great Commandment and promote the passion that engages the Great Commission.
  • The real God is not a god who simply completes us and makes us feel sentimental during worship; he is a God who humbles us and transforms us from the inside out. When you really see him, you’ll either love him or hate him.
  • When we truly behold his glory, we won’t need to be compelled to trust or love God; we just will.
  • Ironically, many today seem turned off by the concept of an awesome, terrifyingly great God. We assume that any God you need to fear must be guilty of something, or that a terrified reaction to an infinitely great and wise God is a relic leftover from an oppressive, archaic view of religion. We prefer a God who is small and domesticated, who thinks like we think, likes what we like, and whom we can manage, predict, and control.
  • When you ask your questions of God, do you tremble? Do you approach him with a sense of how large, glorious, and wise he is?
  • When John saw Jesus in glory, John didn’t burst into a peppy chorus of “Friend of God.” He fell at Jesus’s feet as though he were dead. That’s not a figure of speech. He literally thought he was going to die.
  • Beholding God from the safety of the cross is like watching a tornado pass in front of you from the safety of a cave where it can no longer touch you. You may be safe, but you still stand trembling before the awesome power of the tornado, a power you know could sweep you away if you stepped out of that cave for even a second.
  • Worship, faith, passion, and obedience can flourish only in the soil of awestruck wonder. No fear, no faith.
  • We need to behold the living God, whose greatness is so great that it makes our minds explode when we try to comprehend him, and whose goodness is so good we can’t tell if we want to draw closer or run away. Our diminished view of God has severely hampered our witness to an unbelieving world.
  • If we confess our weakness, he will fill us with his strength. If we admit our foolishness, he will bestow his wisdom on us. If we allow ourselves to be undone in his presence, he will piece us back together in love. 
  • Can we imagine how offensive it must be to God when we attempt to reshape him according to our preferences? How would you like it if someone did that to you?
  • If our “God” never contradicts us, always likes what we like and hates what we hate, he’s not the real God. All we’ve done is deified our preferences and called the personification of those things “God.”
  • If we can’t escape the powers of sin, it’s not because our wills are too weak but because the presence of God feels so distant.
  • If you want to overcome sin, don’t focus on shrinking your temptations; focus on enlarging your view of God.
  • When you’re weighed down by insecurity and doubt, don’t drum up feelings of self-empowerment. Don’t look inward to find your spark. Don’t tell yourself that you’re unique, a snowflake, a skittle, an unmatched gift to the world. Look to the “I am” and lay your insecurities down at his feet.
  • It doesn’t matter what your insecurity is. The I am is all that you need.
  • In the Christian life, dependence, not self-sufficiency, is the objective. God wants people who are weak in themselves and strong in him.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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