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Monday, November 22, 2010

A Review of "Jesus Manifesto"

Jesus Manifesto written by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola is not really a manifesto that Jesus wrote, obviously.  The subtitle is "Restoring The Supremacy And Sovereignty of Jesus Christ" which is what the whole book is about.  If I could summarize the whole book in a few words it would be that Jesus Christ is (or should be) our life, past, present and future. We are reborn in Him and we live in Him day to day and forever.  The authors' attempt is to bring the preeminence of Christ in everything we do, including the Church. The following quote grasps what the authors try to help us see: "Christianity is a relationship with Jesus Christ. When things go wrong, it's not because we don't understand certain doctrines or fail to follow particular commands.  It's because we have lost our "first love"...or never had it in the first place." (p. 39)
The first chapter is a survey of how Christ is presented in the whole Bible. So He is not just part of the New Testament. They show that today's church is preoccupied with teaching Christians a whole list of do's and do not's but the centrality of the Bible is on teaching Christ.

In chapter 2 they survey the book of Colossians as it shows the preeminence of Christ: "Christ is the all and in all." (Colossians 3:11).   They write:  "Christianity is a relationship wit Jesus the Christ.  When things go wrong, it's not because we don't understand certain doctrines or fail to follow particular commands.  It's because we have lost our "first love"...or never had it in the first place." (p. 39) 

Chapter 3 uses the book of Colossians to write a biography of every Christian, in other words, what positionally we have been declared by God. In chapter 4 they show how we are in Christ's death and resurrection and how it manifests in our daily living. They argue that our calling is not to be like Christ but to live His life already in us.  In other words, we are incarnations of Christ: "The truth is that if we fully understood what it means that the very being of God wants to take residence in us and share our life, we would all be reluctant incarnations." (p. 75) 

In chapter 5 the authors argue that traditional trends that focus on theology or ethics to explain what the Christian life is all about misses the point, or more direct, misses Christ.  Christ is the "real thing."  In chapter 6 they show that Jesus is not a cause nor a program.   Our focus should be on the "face" (in a spiritual sense) of Christ and when we do that, then we can reflect that unto others.  

Chapter 7 is a description of the church as it is the "embodiment and instrument for displaying the kingdom of God." (p. 107) and our time should be spent "figuring out our relationship to Jesus, and what He is doing in the world. Why? So we can join Him in what He's already doing." (p. 108) They also discuss the issue of social justice (and mercy) in relation to Christ.  

In chapter 8, they talk about the forgotten tree of life.  They assert that many christians are focused on learning about right and wrong that they forget to eat from the tree of life, Jesus Christ.  "He is the most exciting person in the universe, bar none.  But we are speaking about the real Christ, not the shallow, anemic, insipid "Jesus" that's so often promoted today." (p. 136)  

Chapter 9 is titled "A House Of Figs" which refers to Bethany.  The authors use Bethany to show that it was the place where Jesus was received and it symbolizes a home for Christ, what "the Lord is looking for in every city across this planet." (p. 146)  I believe the authors stretch this concept a bit too much.  In the last chapter they discuss what they see as a false dichotomy between the Christ in the Gospels and the Christ in the Epistles.  "The gospel that's so often preached today lacks a revelation of Jesus Christ.  The contemporary gospel boils down to a fire insurance policy, a Santa Claus God, or a performance-based religion.  As long as we stay on that plane, we'll never see or comprehend the staggering enormity of our Lord." (p. 170)  The Jesus of the Gospels is the same one from Colossians or from any other book in the Bible.  The Christ of the Gospels is the same one who will one day come in all power and glory.  The book concludes with an afterword which is in a form of a personal letter from the Lord using Colossians 1:9-3:16.

The book is filled with Scripture, especially relating to Christ, something the authors see lacking in many books.  Many of the passages are quoted but the references are footnoted to the back of the book.  I found the book very refreshing.  It helped me see how Christ should be everything to me in everything I do or say or write.  Thus, I am more conscious of this.  It helped me see that my purpose in life is to live the life Christ has given me and to reflect it unto others.  It is not a particular ministry or job.  It is to live for Christ, living as an expression of His life.
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