Posted by: ritagone | April 6, 2011

Simply Christian

I love a good book, a challenging book, a book that makes you think and that has the ability to leave you a different (better) person.  Last week it was my quoting of N.T. Wright’s “Simply Christian” that catapulted our discussion about the words “church” vs. “community” into a wonderful days’ long debate and made me feel that what I do every Wednesday morning has some relevance to the issues of Christian Associates on a very basic level, and I felt great about that.

I read “Simply Christian” slowly, savoring each chapter, underlining and putting exclamation marks in the margins (something I find difficult to do with e-books, I might add, although for travel you can’t beat the ease and weightlessness of a Kindle book).  And toward the end, as Wright wrapped up his conclusions, I found it amazing – as I often do — that he talked about the very subject that I am studying right now because I’m teaching our Growth Group this coming Monday night as we go through 1 Thessalonians.  What are the chances that “Simply Christian” would have something so pertinent to say to me as I prepare a short lesson on 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, which deals with, among other topics, purity in a world that has no idea what real purity looks like?

Well, I’d say the chances are pretty good, because that’s exactly what happened.  Sure enough, in the last pages of the very last chapter of the book, there were two quotes that leapt out at me about what holiness should mean to the Jesus follower, quotes that enabled me to better get my head around the lesson I am preparing for a bunch of people who, decades into their walks with Jesus, are still trying to learn and understand what this means, as I think we all are.

Wright said:  “Christian holiness is not (as people often imagine) a matter of denying something good.  It is about growing up and grasping something even better.”  And there you have it, better than I could say it, and counterculturally descriptive of the world around us.  The world around us tells us that there should be no denying yourself of anything you deem good, any pleasure, any sensation, any desire.  And we Christians, sad to say, have bought into this philosophy, couching it in all kinds of excuses and lack of restraint.  Instead, Wright tells us to grow up and learn to start grasping something far better, a life that resembles the life Jesus led.  What could be better, more fulfilling, than the purity and the focus and the selflessness that Jesus exhibited?  Instead, we’ve sold out for second and third best.  It’s not holiness; it’s hollowness.

And then he ends the book with these beautiful sentences, stirring in their excitement and their charge to start living a different kind of life:   “Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection.  Made for joy, we settle for pleasure.  Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance.  Made for relationship, we insist on our own way.  Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment.  But new creation has already begun.  The sun has begun to rise.  Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world.  It is time, in the power of the Spirit, to take up our proper role, our fully human role, as agents, heralds, and stewards of the new day that is dawning.  That, quite simply, is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God’s new world, which he has thrown open before us.”

You know, every once in a while – apart from the Bible – we read a book that pulls us up out of our lethargy and makes us take a look at ourselves, at our walk with God, and prods us to be better.  There are all kinds of books like this awaiting us if we would only look for them.  “Simply Christian” was such a book for me.  In fact, I plan to re-read it in the near future, because I’m sure I’ll discover new thoughts and ideas the next time.  It might be a great book for you.  It might not.  But there are others out there that can have this affect on you.  Look for them.  Don’t neglect the reading of Scripture, of course, but be sure to be doing some other reading at the same time.  Ask a friend what he or she is reading or has read that has stimulated discussion and/or change.  Make a commitment to do some reading at least every day.  I read “Simply Christian” a bit each morning.  It took me about a month to finish it.  It was a month well spent.

At the end of the day, “American Idol” is lots of fun and a great topic of conversation around the watercooler.  But watching it will not change your character.  Reading your Bible or reading a good, well-written book will indeed help you to grasp something better.

Maybe those of you reading this today would like to toss back to the rest of us a book you’ve read recently that has really challenged you and caused you to grow spiritually!






  1. Thanks for the suggestion Rita! Looking forward to reading it.

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