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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Loving Jesus More" (Phil Ryken)

TITLE: Loving Jesus More
AUTHOR: Phil Ryken
PUBLISHER: Wheaton, IL: Crossway Publishers, 2014, (176 pages).

Everybody talks about love. It is often used but one wonders what exactly does it mean. What does it mean to love? More specifically, in this book, what does it mean to love Jesus more? Spurred by a crude comment directed particularly at him for writing about love inside his office and not doing enough of loving people outside the office, Ryken admits that he needs more love for Jesus. At the same time, he also affirms the great commandment as necessarily beginning with the mind. Rather than to see the commandment to love with all our heart, mind, soul, and will as four different things, the Wheaton College professor prefers to see it as four different ways to do the same thing. He then builds his case from the beginning that we love because God first loved. us. We receive our love essentially through the Holy Spirit. If we are truly in love with Jesus, we will naturally find ways to overcome any obstacles in order to share the love of God with all. There is a logic that not many people realize. Those who can love Jesus "more" are those who love Jesus "less" in the first place. This book takes this thought and works through what it means to love Jesus more.

With lots of New Testament references and examples from the gospels, Ryken encourages us not to be waylaid by doubts, but to let doubts help us find the way to deeper faith. Like the witty words of Frederick Buechner, "Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving." Whenever we doubt, keep going back to the gospel story and the teachings of Jesus. This is where Ryken shines. Love in Christ comes in many places. There is the love that is prepared to forsake the glories of heaven for the ordinariness of earthly life. There is the deep suffering of Christ for our sake. There is the crucifixion as the ultimate demonstration of God's love. He points out that love is not something compartmentalized into intellect, emotion, physical, or whatever human will. They are all legitimate ways toward loving God. We love with our mind. We love with our delight and admiration of God's creation. We love God with the best of us. We love God with our "affectionate intellect."

Loving Jesus more means extravagance, brilliantly summarized by the moving act of the woman with the alabaster jar. It means obedience to what God had commanded or taught us. It means growing in affection for Christ. It means finding unlimited ways to love. It means mercy and grace. It means loving those who are difficult to love. It also means loving the Church, warts and all.

Ryken also deals with the common question of what if we do not feel like loving Jesus? One clue is our understanding and awareness of how much we have been forgiven. Another clue is whether something else has usurped the throne of our allegiance? Yet another clue is to find out how much we have become molded by the culture around us. The author ends with a call to love Jesus perfectly, that our desire to love God will be multiplied over and over again when we see the perfect beauty and Person of Jesus. Like the true story of Lap Vi Ho, locked up in a Vietnamese prison, whose love for his family enabled him to endure many hardships, believing that one day, he will be able to see his wife and children in a refugee camp in Thailand.

The idea is simple but the message is so necessary to our entire Christian living. Without love, all the spiritual disciplines, all the theological knowledge, all the strategies and the methods of doing church will fall to the ground like a dull thud. With love, whatever we do, whether it is a melody, a chorus, a rhyme, a strophe, a crescendo, or just a note, they can all be brought together to produce a musical masterpiece, for the ears and enjoyment of the God we love.

The study guide at the end of the book provides further opportunities to discuss this topic. If you are feeling a little jaded about what it means to love God, maybe this book is a breeze of fresh air to rejuvenate and to renew our love for God.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Crossway Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

1 comment:

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