Monday, October 28, 2019

Book Review: The Rhythm of the Christian Life

The Rhythm of the Christian Life: Recapturing the Joy of Life Together. Brian J. Wright. 2019. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: A good life requires a good rhythm—a pattern of movement regularly repeated over time. When we live life in tempo and experience the various harmonies around us, we find true joy and experience lasting contentment.

Brian J. Wright's newest book relies heavily upon three things: the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Bonhoeffer's Life Together.  His message is clear: the rhythm of the Christian life is equally dependent on time alone with God and time with other believers. To be in rhythm is a very good thing--a blessing from above. To be out of rhythm is a very dangerous thing--an indicator that you are out of favor with the Lord.

He writes, "We cannot glorify God—the chief purpose of our life—without living in the rhythm of faith he ordained. He wired us this way. He designed it into our DNA. As Christians, our whole life, no matter when or in what context, consists of loving God and loving others—just like Jesus did. When we neglect the rhythm of the Christian life as God ordained it, we are vulnerable to sin, Satan, and the world."

I am conflicted when it comes to this one. On the one hand, I do believe that we are called to love God--and to love with him with all our hearts, souls, and minds. I also believe, of course, that we are called to love others--both saved and unsaved. There were plenty of sections I agreed with overall. (In fact, I'd say I agreed with at least 90% of it.) On the other hand, I think this one could be misinterpreted by those with a tendency to legalism. This one at times focuses so much on activities and measuring those activities, reflecting on intentions, reflecting on growth or lack thereof, that there's no room for grace and celebration. Jesus Christ has paid it all. All to him I owe. We stand on Christ's righteousness alone. Nothing we can do can "add" to our salvation, to make God love us more, to win us any bonus points in God's sight.

For the record, I do not believe that Wright is encouraging legalism and dismissing grace. I'm not calling into doubt his intentions--to encourage believers to live a holy life pleasing to God and to be a blessing to the world around them. But does one live a holy life by focusing closely on what you're doing, on what you're feeling, on what you're intending, on how you're growing? Or does one live a holy life by keeping both eyes front-and-center on Christ? While I'm not doubting that there is a time and place for moderate amounts of self-reflection...I think you can overthink things and complicate the Christian walk. To those prone to doubting or legalism...or both. I think it might prove discouraging.

The book does offer much food for thought. For example, he writes, "the health of the community depends on each one of our private devotional lives...Everything we do (or don’t do) affects both us individually and the church communally (for better or worse). What may seem at first glance a “personal” practice is actually communal in nature." That's a truly terrifying thought, isn't it?!?! Perhaps sobering is the better word choice. The time I'm NOT spending with God is weakening my local church. OR The time I am spending with God is strengthening my local church.

Or consider this, "The purpose of our time alone is bigger than us alone. If we are only trying to achieve a greater individual closeness to God, then we are failing our spiritual family. We are setting a bad example of being united in Christ. We are distorting the truth about corporate life. We are squandering our gifts and talents by rebelling against God’s Word that calls us to edify one another."

And..."Our time alone is either weakening or strengthening us as a whole, and our time together is either increasing or decreasing our individual faith. This thought should be sobering to us, knowing that we could be dragging down our whole family of faith, or they may be pulling us down with them."

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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