This is a guest post from my friend, Vishnu Virtues. You can connect with him at the end of this post. Enjoy!
If you’re one of 26 million people who watched this video, then you’re familiar with 23-year old Youtuber and now published author, Jefferson Bethke.
In his newly released book, Bethke follows up his viral online performance and continues the dialogue about how Christianity has gone astray.
He asks the hard questions of what it really means to follow Jesus.
Is it simply going to church every Sunday?
Is it listening to Christian music only on the radio?
Is it hanging out with-church-going people and the religious crowds?
Or exchanging Christmas gifts?
In fact, Bethke’s new book, Jesus > Religion, he comes out swinging against feel-good Christianity and the commercialization of Jesus to the point that, “Jesus has been transformed to a newer, safer, sanitized and ineffectual one. The Jesus of today is a profitable and family-friendly one that is in the middle of a profitable marketing scheme.”
Bethke opens the book by writing that, “Jesus is so much greater than “don’t smoke, don’t drink and don’t have sex.”
In Jesus > Religion, Bethke delves into his background from a poor and trouble-causing church-kid to discovering the real Jesus in his early 20’s. In an easy to read and conversational tone, Bethke educates the new-believer and re-orients the longtime practicing Christian.
Bold, honest and with plain talk, Bethke questions the practice of today’s Christianity and calls us to rediscover, “the real Jesus who wants us to love Him and serve Him and not for what he gives but for who he is – dangerous, unpredictable, radical and amazing.”
Bethke rails against the rules and external behavior of misguided Christianity and reminds his readers to focus on Jesus’ grace instead.
Here are 3 primary lessons from Bethke’s book, Jesus > Religion.
1) Forget the rules and follow Jesus.
“Let’s stop trying to be perfect and righteous people because those are not the people God is looking for.” God, Bethe writes, is looking for people who can admit their needs and shortcomings in life. He’s looking for people who are vulnerable enough and honest enough to surrender themselves to their Savior.
So no need to get caught up in what it means to be a good Christian. Church worship, baptism, tithing, not cursing and other “Christian” behavior or practices are hardly as important as accepting Jesus into your life.
No need to check off boxes of activities that Christians are supposed to do.
Let’s drop the charade, or at least appearance of Christian behavior, and get back to accepting Jesus in our hearts.
“If you love him, he can and will use you,” Bethke reassures us.
2) God first.
Bethe writes that we get caught up in God’s blessings and gifts (material, physical, health and more) and says that many of us think of God as an “eternal dentist” that we can call on to fix problems as they arise in our life and to give us things we want.
In the process, we forget all about God. He reminds us to remember and worship God first. It’s not that we’ve each given God a go and become frustrated by God not working in our lives. To the contrary, we try to manipulate God to giving us what we want and when we don’t get it, we think God was absent in our time of need.
“Jesus suffered and exchanged places with us to bring us to God,” Bethke remarks, “not to bring us a new Bentley.”
We are inspired to seek God instead of what God has to offer.
Bethke reminds of St. Augustine’s prayer; “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
Bethke goes on to share the following words of wisdom:
“Jesus doesn’t promise us worldly success; he promises himself.
Jesus doesn’t promise us riches; he promises a rich life in him.
Jesus doesn’t promise us easy lives; he promises to be with us.”
We are reminded that Jesus gives us something more than all of these temporal wants and desires. He gives us eternal salvation. All of our blessings are awaiting us in heaven.
s grace is given, not earned.
Bethke reminds us that we don’t have to do much at all to earn God’s grace. “We can’t earn God’s favor, no matter how hard we try. We will always come up short.”
He writes that there is no point in trying to be God’s son or daughter, when we already are. And like our own parents, we don’t have to earn a relationship with Him. “There is no earning when it comes to being a child. You simply are.”
God is willing to offer His grace; we just need to trust God and accept it.
He automatically takes us into his family and tells us “we’re home” regardless of our troubles, struggles or transgressions. He’ll always be there for us.
To accept God’s grace, we allow him to see our most hidden parts, our faults and misgivings.
“When we expose ourselves and are completely vulnerable, we lose control but gain joy and freedom. No matter what your sin is, nothing is outside of grace,” Bethke writes.
We may be fed up and disillusioned because of religion, not because of Jesus.
Bethke’s book will flip your world view of the happy-go-lucky church life and inspire you to strengthen your relationship with Christ.
He suggests dropping the “Christian show” we feel compelled to put on through external behavior and practices, and instead create a stronger bond with Jesus in our lives.
Forget the gifts, focus on God. Forget the physical comforts and be grateful for the spiritual ones.
And finally, remember that you don’t have to earn or win God’s grace. You have it. Now. Live your life by having a relationship with God. Allow God into your heart and to be a part of your daily life.
Question: Do you think Christianity has focused too much on all the wrong things: behavior, church attendance and external appearances? Is it time to refocus our lives on Jesus?
Vishnu writes about self-improvement, coming back from setbacks and spiritual matters at www.vishnusvirtues.com. You can check out his ebook, Is God Listening? here: http://www.
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