Book Review: Jesus > Religion


A few years ago, I saw Jefferson Bethke’s spoken word video Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.  Since then I’ve heard and read other things from him and about him and think that he is an outstanding young man that is doing a great job of stripping away the distractions of religion in order to point people to the simple truth of the gospel.  I picked up his book Jesus > Religion and read it this past weekend.  It’s a quick read and flipping through the pages feels like chatting with a friend.  Bethke’s transparency is endearing and helpful for anyone looking to shut out the noise and learn what it means to truly follow Jesus.  I highlighted several things while reading and have posted those notes below…

  • Make sure your discussions are guided by gentleness, humility, and learning.  We are all on this journey toward real and authentic truth together.  You won’t find an arbitrary concept when you get there, but a Man with scars in his hands and a crown on his head.
  • I didn’t know it then, but God broke me to fix me because he loved me.
  • Religion says do.  Jesus says done.  Religion is searching for God.  Jesus is God searching for man.  Religion is pursuing God by our moral efforts.  Jesus is God pursuing us despite our moral efforts.  Religious people kill for what they believe.  Jesus followers die for what they believe.
  • Love is the new law.
  • When religious discussions are broad and consider the ideas of theologians rather than the facts about Jesus, they generate apathetic views of Jesus.  Changing the focus of the conversation from religion to Jesus actually invites people to face him and the grace he provides.  It lets his grace so confront them that they have to address it.
  • I sacrificed real safety for the appearance of safety—and it was more work!  That is the essence of fundamentalism—living by the rules to stay out of trouble rather than seeing the rules as tools to bring us into intimacy and joy.
  • Even in Bible times, Christians were quick to abandon the pure gospel.  We so deeply want to contribute to our own salvation that we become intoxicated by the rules.
  • “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their mouths and walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle.”  Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel, p. 199
  • One of the best barometers of a true Christian’s heart is to see what kind of people he attracts and what kind of people he repels.  If Jesus is in you, you should attract the marginalized and beaten-down members in society, just as he did.  And there will be some people who aren’t happy with it.
  • If we say we love Jesus, let’s start acting like followers and stop acting like fans.  The world is waiting, and they can tell the difference.
  • A grace economy is backward to most of us—those who think they qualify, don’t; and those who admit they don’t qualify, do.  There’s no bell curve involved.
  • Too many times we curse the rain in our lives—suffering, trials, hardships—but the truth is, without rain nothing grows.
  • The problem with wearing masks is even when we receive love, it’s really the mask that is receiving the love, not us.  Whatever gets thrown at us will always hit the mask and can’t penetrate our souls.  So it is with God’s grace.  Every second of every day he pursues us and offers grace, but until we take off our masks, we will never be able to accept it.
  • Grace always wins.
  • If we only give God glory for explicitly Christian things, we are thieves.  He wants all the glory.
  • But combining worship with spirit and truth is a beautiful thing.  Truth with the Spirit becomes vibrant, organic, and alive.  It feels fresh and new.  Thankfulness sparks in a heart frequently.  That’s true worship.
  • The only way he gets a voice at the table is if he authentically and strategically engages his craft in his mission field.
  • We all come in with baggage.  We all come in trying to find our way.  We all come in with broken edges.  In the same way a mosaic is made up of broken, ragged, and dirty pieces of glass, so the church is made up of broken, ragged, and dirty people.  But when you zoom out and see the whole picture, you see something beautiful.  Broken people living life together is a beautiful picture.
  • He is a better king of your life than you are.  No one has caused me more hurt, shame, guilt, and pain than me.  He knows, and he rescues me.  He can do the same for you.  Just come as you are.


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