Monday, April 5, 2010

Book Review: Christlike

book cover

The Pursuit of Uncomplicated Obedience
by Bill Hull

Trade Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: NavPress Publishers
First Released: 2010

Author Website
Author on Twitter

Source: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program.

Back Cover Description:
To make a difference, you have to be different.

The key to the spiritual life is cultivation of a spiritual heart. This is what makes the difference between hoping to change "someday" and actually changing our thoughts and behaviors now. Bill Hull says the great teachers of the past (such as William Law and John Wesley) and the best guides in the spiritual formation today (such as Dallas Willard and Richard Foster) all agree on the central importance of the intent of the heart.

Such a heart is cultivated, writes Hull, in the simplicity of a life fixed on the words and ways of Jesus. In Christlike, the author helps us grow intentionally in "uncomplicated obedience" to Jesus so that "our minds and hearts are in alignment with each other." But this is not a privatized spirituality. Instead, writes Hull, this simplicity is the key to effectiveness in the larger mission of changing the world for Christ.

Christlike is a book about what it means to be a disciple of Christ and why we should want to be one. It's Christ-focused, Bible-based, and the author used Scripture to make his arguments. I enjoyed that he presented a balanced, whole-Bible view of the various points of theology that he touched on. He understood that sometimes it's not a matter of one or the other being more important but of both being equally important since they're interconnected.

Chapter two examined the five main leanings in the Western church today (like a social justice focus, prosperity focus, etc.) and how they have some things right but that their focus is off. This causes problems in the type of Christians they turn out. I understand why he put in this chapter--and he handled it well and didn't come across as condemning--but I felt the heart of the book was the topic of discipleship, which was covered in the rest of the book.

He promotes following Christ's example. He showed how reading the Bible is a way to grow in your relationship with Christ and how to let what you read in the Bible change your life. He described how surrendering to Christ's work in our heart and being obedient to God with our actions (even when we don't feel like it) leads to changes to our thoughts and emotions that work outward to effect our everyday actions. This leads to uncomplicated obedience to God that can change the world, one person at a time.

I was sometimes a little hesitant about how the author worded things when trying to describe an idea, but his conclusions were always spot-on and Bible-based. The book makes you think because he correctly doesn't try to simplify what is complex, but the information is not difficult to understand and he does get to "the simplicity on the other side of complexity."

I'd highly recommend this well-written book to all Christians. Instead of grabbing the latest "Christian Life" book, grab this discipleship book. It'll be worth it.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from pages 41, 50
[From page 41]: The kingdom of God is a locality where God rules, where his will is done. That locality can be in this world or out of it; it can be in the human heart, a home, a group of people, and a society, even a judicial or political chamber.

[From page 50]:The mission of the church has been limited to the "spiritual mission" of getting souls saved. Is there anything more important than that? No, there isn't, but what is meant by salvation? Salvation is a journey that begins with entrance into a relationship with God. It is about the whole person, not just the soul. It is about growing and being shaped into the image of Christ in this present life, and it is about the future life. There is also real life to be lived here and now. Not only the life after death, but life before death. More precisely, eternal life before death. Salvation is about the reign of the kingdom of God.

The kingdom exists when the life of God is within us, when his presence is evident. We might even say it would need to be his active presence. It is within us and travels with us, wherever we go. (It also has a futuristic dimension that is not a part of this discussion.) So how can the life of Christ that is being lived and shaped in me cause me to have the same affect on others that the early Christians had? How can the life of Christ in me cause a resurgence of the faith in the West instead of the steady decline that is now the case?

Read the introduction and chapter one.

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