There are some books that you read and you can tell that they will be classics in the future. Books by John Piper fit into this category. There are books that are written and you think they may have the potential to be useful to future generation. The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler comes to mind. And then there are books that are written in such a way that they convey their message, but it is doubtful they will be useful in just a few years. Jesus Is ______ is this type of book.
The author, Judah Smith, is a pastor from Seattle. He became the pastor after the death of his father, something he talks about quite a bit in the book. He is also good friends with Mark Driscoll and a well-respected conference speaker.
In the book, Smith attempts to lay out who Jesus is by filling in the blank from the title. He tells us that Jesus is your friend, Jesus is grace, Jesus is the point, Jesus is happy, Jesus is here, and Jesus is alive. Throughout these descriptions, Smith uses a number of personal stories and examples from the Bible as way of illustrating his overall point. The message that he is conveying is an important one, particularly for those who have never heard of Jesus, and for that I commend him.
I have two concerns for the book. First, I think Smith was trying too hard to be culturally relevant. There were a number of slang terms and pop culture references in the book that will be unknown in just a short amount of time. Yes, Braveheart is an awesome movie, but will anyone know it 10 years from now? Does anyone still talk about Napoleon and Pedro? He also uses a number of slang terms that seemed out of place, especially when he was talking about “bling” and “24 inch rims.”
The other area of concern is Smith’s treatment of sin. While he does express the fact that sin is bad, Smith seems to indicate that our sin is no big deal to God and that He may not be interested in setting us free from our sin. This comes from the fact that Jesus defeated sin with His death on the cross. And while this is true, we should not dismiss the fact the sin is an affront to a holy God and that it has the potential to enslave us and keep us from being effective servants.
Smith does put a lot of focus on grace and this is essential for new believers. Too many individuals have been turned off to Christianity because they believe they have to clean themselves up before God will accept them. Smith is quite clear, with many illustrations from Scripture, that this is not the case.
Overall, as I stated, Jesus Is ______ is a book for a certain time. I doubt that it will be an effective tool in the future, but it should have its place in the here and now. While it may not be appropriate or useful for more mature believers, Jesus Is ______ can serve as an introduction to Jesus for unbelievers.
I was provided with a preview copy of Jesus Is _____ by Thomas Nelson through their Book Sneeze program. I was only asked to provide an honest review of the book.