October 19, 2019

Recommendation and Review: Your Jesus Is Too Safe by Jared C. Wilson

jesussafeI’ve never met Jared Wilson. We spoke on the phone once because, frankly, I’m desperate for friends. He doesn’t owe me money. We don’t have a book review treaty signed. He’s not going to like my book nearly as much as I’ve enjoyed his, and that’s OK.

Jared isn’t a well-known author or megachurch pastor. His blog, Gospeldrivenchurch.com, is an indicator that he has gifts to write, preach and teach, but blogging or preaching isn’t writing a book. (Take it from me. I know what I’m talking about on that one.) Jared doesn’t head up a ministry that will buy 10,000 copies of his book sight unseen or have reserved spots on all the conference schedules next year. I have no idea if he’s going to be successful as an author or will simply be another solid pastor who happened to write a book.

What I know is that Jared has written a book about Jesus that, for many of the readers of this bog and for vast numbers of evangelicals, should be THE book about Jesus they read in the next few months, because it may be the best popular level book written this year to re-introduce the Christ of scripture to the people who say they know him.

There are reasons I say that. First, there’s a lot of worthless manipulation and abuse of Jesus in dozens of popular books that are all over the bookshelves. Books with a confused view of Jesus, a culture war obsession with a non-existent Jesus and a devotional reworking of Jesus into something subjective and meaningless are thick on Christian reading lists. I’ve defended William Young’s adventurous parable of his rediscovery of the goodness of God, but if you are going to read a book on Jesus and the Gospel, that’s not your book. If you’ve wasted money on The Secret Message of Jesus or similar versions of Jesus as a symbol of political and ecclesiastical “relevance,” you now have a chance to repent and recharge your starving mind and heart.

If you think you know what you need to know about Jesus, you’re wrong. If you’re an ordinary Christian who believes you have to read N.T. Wright’s big Jesus book or all four volumes of John Meier to understand Jesus, you’re wrong. If you want your affection for Jesus ramped up to 11, you’re completely right to read this book.

What millions of evangelicals need is a solid, Biblical, interesting, well-written, compelling, intense and thoroughly balanced revisioning of the Christian faith with Jesus at the center. I thoroughly recommend Jared Wilson’s Your Jesus is Too Safe as the popular level, highly readable re-introduction to Jesus you’ve been looking for, or should have been looking for, all along.

What Jared has produced is a mini-Biblical theology, shaped around the major assertions about Jesus, and using an outstanding mastery of contemporary prose/preaching to take us thematically into the Bible in a quest to discover and appreciate every aspect of Jesus. There is much more to learn in this book than the cover and title would suggest. This isn’t a scholarly book, but it reflects deep, intensive, challenging sermons and teaching. This is real meat, but served up with all the right kinds of seasoning to make you remember this meal long after you’ve forgotten others.

A perfect book for a study of Jesus in any church or small group. A really amazing intro to Jesus that draws from scholarly sources like Wright and Ladd, but makes them accessible and fresh to anyone with an interest in Jesus. Not a wasted page, I assure you. Great preaching. Compelling retelling of the Biblical stories. Forceful application that applies to the sad state of evangelicalism today.

A few subpoints:

1) This is a book that will be enjoyable primarily by those in the younger half of the evangelical spectrum- 40’s and down. There’s a lot of Driscoll-esque rhetorical style about Jared’s writing, minus the Driscoll language and subject matter controversies. So it’s safe for all denominations, even Southern Baptists. (I did read the word “fartsy” in one chapter. I have forwarded this offensive term to the proper blogosphere authorities, who will tell Jared when he needs to apologize or resign the ministry.)

2) There are a box full of pop culture references. As I said earlier, for the over 40’s crowd, that may create a bit of static.

3) Those looking closely will find that Jared does have some corners to his theology that everyone won’t share, in particular, abandoning the dominant dispensationalism of evangelicals and an eschatology that seems to be a form of preterism. Nothing here to be a concern for anyone, unless you’re an Episcopal bishop.

4) If you are looking for an introduction to the quest for the historical Jesus or a fully rounded theological Christology, that’s not what you have here. This is strong evangelical theology, abbreviated, straight on, evangelistic and experiential, with an orthodox view of Jesus served up for the appetites of those who would enjoy Driscoll’s Vintage Jesus (Jared’s is a better book by far), Stafford’s Surprised by Jesus or Galli’s Jesus Mean and Wild.

5) Jared’s final chapter contains quotes from both Piper and Wright, two guys who don’t exactly mesh when it comes to theology. I think Wilson is perhaps the best example I could point to of what is happening among the “young, restless and reformed.” They are capable of moving beyond their tribe to focus in on what matters most: Jesus, the Gospel and Gospel application in the church and the Christian life. I pray that Jared becomes a leader among these young theologians. His pen, mind and heart are working together to make Jesus look great, something I know Wright and Piper can both appreciate.

6) The cover and titles of the book are well-designed for marketing, but there’s really a lot more meat on the menu than just dealing with the pale, thin Christ of modern evangelicalism. This book is overwhelmingly about Jesus as revealed in scripture, not about how evangelicals have made Jesus into a dashboard doll.

7) If you have a young preacher who is trying to preach like Driscoll, give him this book. This is the style he’s looking for, married to the content that matters. But it’s better preaching. Much less ego and much more focus on Christ.

8) My book will be along later to straighten out Jared’s errors. So hang in there.

Comments

  1. Hmmmm … sounds good. I haven’t read Driscoll, Stafford or Galli, I’m afraid (hope I don’t get chewed for that), but I have read Yancey’s The Jesus I Never Knew — would it compare well to that?

  2. That’s really a book popularizing some of the historical Jesus material with application. Good book. I recommend and give it away frequently to students. This is much more fully theologically armed with plenty of references to Jesus’ culture and history. This is a fully Bilblical theology of Jesus in a popular format. Much more thematic and works almost exclusively in scripture, not in backgrounds.

    You won’t get chewed out here.

    • well, not for that 😉

      • LOL! Thanks, Michael – I’m going to have to check it out.

        Also, I love that you’re using that lady’s cartoon as your avatar – best flip of an insult since Connie Mack made the white elephant his team’s nickname, IMNVHO.

  3. Good insight that quality blogging does not necessarily translate into quality book writing. I suspect the same is also true for those bloggers who also write their own sermons. Kudos to Jared for being able to excel at both. I hope I can get his book in Canada, as I have had some problems with cross border buying (and this does not include shipping costs). I see it is not available at Amazon Canada yet.

    • Chris, can you order from “regular” Amazon? Does that only serve the states? I honestly don’t know.

      I will have to check in with Kregel b/c yours is not the first international inquiry, and I just don’t know the answer.

      I am told it will be carried at Barnes/Noble, Walden’s, etc., but I obviously don’t know inventory for individual stores and what-not.

    • The book is now available on Amazon.ca

  4. Do you think this would be a good book to give to someone who like miracles and devotionals and pilgrimages, but isn’t otherwise interested in Jesus Himself?

  5. ha, agreed about the apology due to the blogosphere! That is so offensive.

    Really look forward to reading the book. I’ve appreciated Jarad’s writing as well over the last couple of years (especially in addressing the motives of the silly church marketing stuff and trumping with the Gospel).

    His sermon series he put up at the Element on the spirit of Surburbia served me as well (at least the 3/5 of it thats up).

  6. Patrick: Yes. No predictions of course, but it’s compelling stuff. Just be aware of the age-group warning. I wouldn’t give it to someone who couldn’t hand a more “informal” approach. Lot of humor and asides in this book.

  7. I loved this book!

  8. I”d be glad to loan my copy to any of my co-workers.

  9. Michael, I am humbled. And honored.
    Just . . . wow.

    Thanks, friend.

    Even if I don’t like your book I’m gonna talk it up HUGE. 🙂

  10. Thanks Jared. Sorry about the fartsy thing. And I didn’t mention that you said butt. Hope you find a place to minister.

  11. …appreciate the recommendation and review Michael, was wondering what your thoughts would be. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

  12. I was wondering what to do with my B&N gift card. Thanks for the recommendation… should be reading it in 3-8 days.

  13. To Michael or Jared: With only a couple sentences, how would you answer someone who asked you, “How do I become a Christian?”

    • Trust all I know of God as revealed in Jesus with all I know of myself and my life.

      Repent and believe the Gospel i.e. I Cor 15:1-5

      • I like your answer very much, Michael. Simple and understandable (to the extent that we can ever understand the fullness of God and the Gospel).

        Trust, believe and repent seem to be the operative words here.

        Would it be correct to say it is not a crucial thing that people be baptized to be Christian or to be “saved?” Perhaps it is more that Baptism is a public pronouncement that someone is now following Jesus or that someone is now within the Christian community. I have always felt that unbaptized children who die will be forever with God and if that is true, then Baptism cannot be having any…magical?…powers. I know when I was a little girl, in answer to the question about what is Baptism we answered, “Baptism is an outward sign of an inward state instituted by God to give grace.” Or something like that anyway.

        Jared, your book sounds great. Michael keeps me busy reading the books he recommends. I have liked them all so far!

    • Waltizing Matilda says

      In Acts 16 a jailer asks Paul, “What must I do to be saved.” Paul said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved – you and all your household.” IMHO if someone is asking, “How do I become a Christian,” then they probably already ARE a Christian. They just need someone to come beside them and mentor them.

      • Waltizing Matilda says

        I meant to say disciple them. Too many distractions while I’m trying to slack off at work…

  14. So, how does it compare to Mark Buchanan’s “Your God Is Too Safe”? That book really changed the way I think about life, and God.

    • It’s been a while. Jared doesn’t write the same kind of prose, but the basic approach and audience is the same. Jared uses more humor and is a bit more “in your face” as a communicator. Buchanan has more of a Eugene Peterson-esque prose style. I think the Buchanan book probably would work better with a slightly older audience. Jared is very comfortable with his age group and below.

  15. I’ve been a Christian for over 35 yrs. I wonder if i will ever begin to truly believe in the person of Jesus, that he is the power of God unto salvation, the Logos and “i am’s” of the gospel of John, the one for whom and in whom all things consist of Col. 1. I long for the Spirit to transform the Person of these passages and of the book like you have briefly reviewed into my life in such a way that there is no incongruity between my knowledge and confession of Jesus as the Christ and a believing in Jesus that is insperable, indistinguishable from my every day walk, talk and do life. Lord, have mercy, make us to be your beloved and holy people who shine with your glory and presence.

    • Christopher Lake says

      Mick,

      I hear your struggles and identify with them. Every sinner has incongruities between his/her claimed beliefs and how he/she lives out *of* those beliefs. The good news is, though, that Jesus had *no* such incongruities, and it is His righteousness that God counts to those who trust in Him alone! About your and my struggles… they will be gone, and we will be with Jesus for eternity, very soon. It may not seem so right now, but that is the blessed truth, my brother in Christ. 🙂

  16. I also wish every church would follow Jared’s Bold initiative to give 50-60% of their gross giving to missions.

    • Good call, Mike. But I also think that churches can’t really do anything. A church cannot wrong someone. People can offend others and be forgiven, but churches or companies cannot. I think that people should seek out ways of doing more with their money. And maybe foster relationships with people in the community as opposed to sending all their money to overseas efforts.

      There’s a website that tracks reached people groups. There are more “reached” people groups in Mexico (as a percentage of total groups) than the “reached” people groups in the United States.

      And yes, I happen to think that what the Monk and his Appalachin students do for their domestic mission trips (just cuz they don’t need passports doesn’t mean they aren’t on mission trips) is just the bomb.

  17. I just ordered the book – I look forward to reading it.

    Is anyone familiar with David Bentlt Hart? I just read his “Atheist Delusions” and “In the Aftermath.”

    A particularly profound read is his essay “Christ and Nothing.”

    I will give one quote from the book:

    “Surveying the desert of modernity, it would be a kind of moral deriliction for Christians to fail to acknowledge that Nietche was right in holding Christianity responsible (even if he misunderstood why) for the catastrophe around us.”

  18. aliasmoi says

    How does it compare to Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution?

    • No real points of comparison. Revolution is autobiographical and Too Small is a Biblical study. Rather different books.

  19. Dixie Dawg says

    I think I’m gonna wait for Jared’s sequel. If he is less than forty he prolly needs a bit more scar tissue before he comes into his full revelation. Course that assumes that the actual living of life might be just a tad more risky than the blogsphere. Darn. I didn’t get that done in 140 characters. Rats.

    • Christopher Lake says

      Dixie Dawg,

      Re: your comment on Jared’s relative youth and blogging– I’m less than 40 (36, to be exact), and despite not having my own blog, I do probably spend too much time in the blogosphere. Neither of those facts necessarily means that I lack scars from the “actual living of life.” We never really know what other people have endured and learned in a certain span of their lives (unless they tell us). I encourage you not to overlook what sounds like a really good book, simply because the author is under 40. I could fill pages here with the scars that life has given me by the age of 36– but I won’t, because I’m not an author, and it might come off as self-indulgent rather than compelling, gripping, or insightful. 🙂

    • Jesus wasn’t even 35 when he died. Sorry, Dixie, but age doesn’t tell you how far someone’s traveled.

  20. If you know Jared WIlson, this is probably not newsworthy, but be warned: as of Chapter Two I’ve already encountered two “Dudes”!