Thursday, April 12, 2012
My Review of Gospel-Centered Discipleship by Jonathan Dodson
Photo Credit: Crossway Books
It seems like it can be really easy to misunderstand what becoming a disciple of Jesus is about. For many, belief in Jesus is simply a get-out-of-hell free card. Believe Jesus, have your sins forgiven, and go to heaven when you die. Yet this simple concept of what the gospel of Jesus Christ is couldn’t be less satisfying. And the crazy thing is that the gospel is meant to be ultimately satisfying because we were made for so much more than a mediocre earthly life followed by eternity with God. Jesus called himself the Bread of Life, as well as a well from which all thirst will be satisfied. But is this what people are often led to when they’re given the gospel? I think about what I would mean to communicate the gospel to people, and too much of what we’re told about evangelism is simply centered on saving people from hell. Compound that with all the people I know who claim to be Christians, but live no different than non-Christians, and it’s hard to see the gospel as really even remotely relevant for right now. But there are some Christians who come to Jesus believing their life is supposed to be different. So they embrace the gospel to save them, and then perform their hearts out with religious service to keep them in God’s favor. It seems like the gospel is what saves us, but it doesn’t change us.
GOSPEL-CENTERED DISCIPLESHIP by Jonathan Dodson is a vital book in the discussion of what exactly the gospel is and what it does for us. Dodson reveals a deep love and appreciation for the gospel of Jesus as that which both saves us and sanctifies us. The gospel is about falling in love with Jesus and living our lives in light of what he’s done for us. It’s about having our affections transferred from all the lifeless idols our hearts turn to and to Jesus as the one for whom we were created to be most satisfied in.
Dodson reveals the tendency of many Christians to take one of two paths after embracing the gospel—religion or rebellion. The religious seek to earn God’s favor through their actions. This is defeating because nothing we do will ever be good enough. Instead, Dodson reveals the Bible’s teaching that Jesus performed perfectly for us so that we wouldn’t have to. Yet the rebellious take the opposite route. Fully embracing that Jesus performed perfectly for us and paid for our sins, the rebellious treat their lives as essentially free do whatever they want, including sinning freely, because God has already forgiven them. Dodson combats this with the biblical teaching that we are saved from our sin so that we can be obedient to Christ. True freedom is freedom from sinning; not to sinning.
Dodson explores the motivations behind the things that we do, which are the true heart of why we commit the sins we do. Discipleship is about fighting for continual belief in Jesus. It’s about fighting for the image of Jesus to be constantly and beautifully revealed in our lives. There’s an incredible chapter on the Holy Spirit who is “the motivation behind the motivation” for gospel-centered discipleship, as Dodson proclaims him. We can’t forget the Spirit’s role in our spiritual journey with Jesus because it is the Holy Spirit who powers our belief and reveals both our sin and desperate need for redemption, as well an accurate picture of who Jesus is.
The book closes with one of the most brilliant and biblically inspiring ideas I’ve ever come across. Throughout the book, Dodson reveals the need for Christians to be plugged in to the body of Christ. Building upon this is the concept of “fight clubs.” Because sin must be fought and defeated in the power of the Holy Spirit in order to continue in belief in Christ, Dodson encourages believers to be a part of a group of two to three fellow believers of the same gender. These groups constitute fight clubs, and their goal is to gather together to fight sin together. Dodson proposes that this is done by relying on the Bible, doing theology, and allowing this to penetrate our lives through gospel-driven changed behavior. I was really encouraged by this idea and loved the focus on the church as the context where both spiritual growth happens and mission is catalyzed.
GOSPEL-CENTERED DISCIPLESHIP is one of the most encouraging and biblically faithful books I’ve read in awhile. It gave me a beautiful vision of Jesus that drives me to follow him more completely. Jonathan Dodson has done an incredible service to the body of Christ, and I would recommend this to any believer as a source guide to what it means and looks like to follow Jesus everyday.
I received this book for free for review from Crossway