I am continuing with the best books that I read in 2013. This book comes in at number ten although it is a book that is a couple of years old. I ran across it when I had a District Board meeting I had to attend in April 2013. I am a sucker for books and I am a sucker for Christian book stores. One of the chain stores which is not in Dothan has a branch in Montgomery and so generally when I go there I find a good excuse to go to the Family Christian Store there. I have found that the availability of Pentecostal~Spirit-Filled books are much higher than our local Lifeway. On the day that I walked in they had a table full of about thirty books that were only $5. This book was one of them.
The old Charlie “Tremendous” Jones quote about you will be who you are five years from now except for the books you read and the people you meet has been around for a long time. But you can bank on this, no matter how many times you hear it or how long it has been around, it is true. What I take into my mind through the words and writings of others has a huge impact on me whether I am willing to admit it or not. Reading is like eating food. What we eat has a great impact on our health and how that we feel and reading is as to our mind as food is to our body. This book falls into the category of David Platt’s book Radical.
Author: Kyle Idleman
Publisher: Zondervan, 2011
The book is divided up into three sections: Fan or Follower? An Honest Diagnosis; An Invitation to Follow; and Following Jesus—Wherever, Whenever, and Whatever. The previous books that I mentioned are generally going to be much deeper theologically (Preaching the Psalms & The Preaching of Jonathon Edwards) and historically (Killing Jesus) whereas Idleman writes in a very conversational tone. However this does not mean that it lessens the wallop this book has. On a side-bar, generally the vast majority of my reading is done with the intention of mining something to preach/teach to our church. I do read books on the bestseller lists merely to engage the societal and cultural trends that we face in our world today. Furthermore I even read books that I don’t remotely agree with (i.e. Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and others who are opposite of me politically and religiously) because I believe that the truth of God’s Word can prevail against the most basic or complicated of the humanistic towers of Babel that are being erected in our society. If I know what they are writing/saying I can much more effectively engage it than just some superficial reaction that may come because I am getting second-hand information.
I wrote in the margins of this book, I underlined multiple sentences on multiple pages, and there were areas I agreed with KI on and there areas I thought he was in left-field. If you are given to thinking in series of lessons/sermons this book will have be a treasure trove of seed thoughts for you to dig out. I found the material on Nicodemus and Jesus in John 3 to be motivating especially when he writes about a man leaving the church KI pastors. I don’t want to spoil the reason and KI’s response but it will inspire any man who is regularly preaching week-in and week-out. Another place that I found to be very rich in inspiration was the quick treatment that he did on Luke 14. While KI only spends one chapter on it, I believe that there are several messages in this one chapter.
· Luke 14:1-14—The Battle with Religion
· Luke 14:15-23—Excuses that will keep you out of Heaven
· Luke 14:25-27—The cost of discipleship
· Luke 14:28-32—Building and battling
· Luke 14:33-35—You must give up everything
The key to developing this series will mean there will be some holy sweat involved in cross-referencing, working with the Greek words (I suggest you might pick up A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament. . . Thanks to Tony McCall for prompting my memory of this wonderful work that I had forgotten!), and looking at this chapter from the angle of the other Gospel writers.
Another area of this book that will help with religious hypocrisy and those who have a tendency to lean on their heritage or “pedigree” is KI’s treatment of Matthew 23. Although he covers it in one chapter, I believe that you can do much with the Seven Woes the Lord dropped on the scribes and Pharisees.
Section 2—An Invitation to Follow is basically KI working with Luke 9 where Jesus encourages those who will be followers to take up their cross and follow. There are some very thought-provoking illustrations that are there. I would also recommend that you take John MacArthur’s book Hard to Believe and use the two in tandem.
Admittedly I never would have purchased this book if it had not been on the $5 table at Family Christian. However, I have gotten much more mileage out of this book than I did on the 2 fer $20 deal from Chili’s last week. This book made me pause and think numerous times throughout the book. This is always a very powerful experience of mind and soul engagement that rarely if ever takes place if you are watching television or some mindless drivel that is non-stop “entertainment.”
Quotes from the book:
I think Jesus has a lot of fans these days. Fans who cheer for him when things are going well, but who walk away when it’s a difficult season.
My concern is that many of our churches in America have gone from being sanctuaries to becoming stadiums. And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following him.
Many fans mistakenly identify themselves as followers by using cultural comparisons. They look at the commitment level of others around them and feel like their relationship with Jesus is solid. Essentially they grade their relationship with Jesus on the curve, and as long as they are more spiritual than the next guy, they figure everything is fine.
There is no way to follow Jesus without him interfering with your life. Following Jesus will cost you something. Following Jesus always costs something.
Most of us don’t mind Jesus making some minor change in our lives but Jesus wants to turn our lives upside down.
What you spend your time and money on often reveals the true desire of your heart and shows who or what you are truly following.
One man spoke to KI at a conference about his daughter who had walked away from Christianity. KI said he had heard this gut-wrenching story far too often and most parents always said, “We can’t understand what we did wrong.” KI said he was waiting for this man to say this but instead he said the reason his daughter walked away. . . We raised her in Church, but we didn’t raise her in Christ.
This book is worth it whether you read ¼ or ½ or ¾ ‘s of it.
Thanks for reading. . .