Jesus Continued [Book Review]
December 10, 2014 3 Comments
Have you ever wondered why Jesus said it would be better for His followers if He left and sent the Holy Spirit (John 16:7)? When I first read that verse, I was taken aback.
Like Thomas in John 20, many of us would much rather have a physical human being that we can touch and see than an unseen Spirit that, like the wind, “blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes” (John 3:8). Often as Christians, we feel disconnected from God. We look at God speaking to His people in the Old Testament, Jesus teaching the disciples in the Gospels, and the Holy Spirit moving mightily in Acts, but we have a hard time connecting that with our lives today. This difficulty that even seasoned Christians have relating to God the Holy Spirit has led to Him being referred to as “the forgotten God” (to borrow Francis Chan’s term).
In his book Jesus Continued…: Why the Spirit Inside You is Better Than Jesus Beside You, J.D. Greear wants to help Christians personally relate to God through the Holy Spirit.
Greear opens by asking, “Do you ever feel like God is someone you know about more than someone you know-like He’s more of a doctrine than a person?” He goes on to describe the two extremes that often result from the misconstrued relationship with God. The first extreme is for Christians to seek an experience of the Holy Spirit apart from the Bible. The other, equally problematic, extreme is to seek to know and obey the Word of God without any interaction with or dependence on the Holy Spirit. As J.D. puts it: “Where the gospel is not cherished, the Spirit will not be experienced. On the flip side, where the Spirit is not sought, there will be no deep, experiential knowledge of the gospel. The two always go hand in hand.” The first extreme leads to empty frenzy and shallow people; the latter results in dead orthodoxy and artificial admirers. Greear corrects this false dilemma: “God’s Word and God’s Spirit operate together in one powerful dynamic. While pursuing one without the other leads to spiritual ruin, pursuing one in the other leads to power and life.” The rest of the book goes on to show the importance of seeking the Holy Spirit and the truth of God’s Word together in order to deepen our relationship with God.
Jesus Continued… is divided into three parts. Part One acknowledges that “a certain mystery enshrouds the Spirit’s leadership”, but goes into a thorough overview of who the Bible says the Holy Spirit is and what He does. Greear continually emphasizes that “you won’t know the Spirit any more than you know the Word of God. So if you want to walk with the Spirit of God, get on your knees and open your Bible.” Also in Part One, we are reminded of the Spirit’s role in our lives and what a life “lived in the Spirit” looks like, especially as it relates to finding God’s will for our lives (see Chapters 6 and 8).
After defining the Holy Spirit in Part One, Greear makes the doctrine of the Holy Spirit more personal in Part Two. In it, he outlines six areas of life in which we experience the Holy Spirit: the gospel, the Bible, our giftings, the church, our spirit, and our circumstances. While there were some of Greear’s thoughts that I didn’t fully agree with, this is definitely the part of the book that sets it apart from other recent works on the Holy Spirit. I appreciate J.D.’s passion for all believers to take full advantage of the Holy Spirit we’ve been given by experiencing Him in all areas of our lives as He empowers us to fulfill the Great Commission. Unlike other authors, Greear avoids the temptation to chase the rabbit trails like speaking in tongues and sticks to practical application of the clear biblical text to the daily Christian life.
Part Three of Jesus Continued… ties everything together by showing what a life lived in the Spirit looks like. He begins with honesty: there will be times in your Christian walk where you can’t “feel” God. What’s the reason for this? “Sometimes God withholds everything from us except His promises in order to make us ask ourselves, ‘Is this –His promise — enough for me?’ You can never know that Jesus is all that you need until He’s all that you have.” The rest of Part Three discusses revival on both a personal and community level. He is quick to point out that there are many “normal means” of ministry that lead to revival: repenting of sin, preaching the gospel faithfully, saturating yourself in the gospel continually, and persisting in prayer.
In the last chapter of his book, J. D. Greear says: “The Holy Spirit is given in the gospel, for the purposes of the gospel. Thus, those who want more of the Holy Spirit’s presence should press more deeply into the gospel; those who want to know the gospel more deeply should seek the help of the Holy Spirit; and we should expect those most filled with the Spirit to be the ones most passionate about the spread of the gospel.”
This book is great for those Christians seeking to grow deeper in their understanding of and relationship with the Holy Spirit. It is especially encouraging and challenging for us in those “Thomas moments” to remember that it really is better for us to have this Spirit within us to transform us, convict us, and empower us as we seek to accomplish Jesus’s disciple-making, world-changing mission.
Lawson’s Rating: IV out of V
Learn It. Love It. Live It.
More book reviews by Lawson:
–Jesus > Religion by Jefferson Bethke
–The Post-Church Christian by J. Paul and Carson Nyquist
–The Dude’s Guide to Manhood by Darrin Patrick
–The Gospel at Work by Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert
–Bonhoeffer Abridged: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxes
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Notable Quotes from Jesus Continued…
- “Something was so important about the Holy Spirit that Jesus told His disciples it was to their advantage that He go away-if His departure meant the Spirit came.”
- “God has always been a God who is close and present-but only since Jesus returned to heaven has He taken up residence inside of us.”
Chapter 1: A False Dilemma
- “There is a certain irony in how the Spirit operates; whenever He is really present, you are not thinking about Him, you’re thinking about Jesus. The Spirit’s work is to direct you to notice something else…. His purpose is to illuminate the gospel and bring glory to Jesus.”
- “Just as there is no real experience with the Spirit apart from the Word, so there can be no true obedience to the Word apart from the Spirit.”
Chapter 2: Mystery and Clarity
- “If we fail to acknowledge this mystery [of how the Holy Spirit works], we either reduce God’s working to a formula that will cause us to miss the Spirit’s genuine movement in our loves, or (perhaps worse) we become over-confident in what we think He is saying to us, elevating our interpretation of His movements to a level of authority we should only give to Scripture.”
- “God leads His people through both the mystery of the Spirit and the clarity of the Word.”
Chapter 3: The Mighty, Rushing Wind
- “The Spirit is a mighty, rushing wind and those filled with the Spirit move. They move to those within their community in need of the gospel, to those outside of their communities who are broken and in need of hope, and to the ends of the earth in places that do not share their language or culture. Movements (by definition) move, and that means if you’re not moving, then you’re not really part of the movement. Where there is no movement, there is no Spirit.”
- “The primary objective of God’s Spirit is to complete the mission. To know Him is to be devoted to that mission. Without Him, we cannot hope to succeed. With Him, we cannot fail.”
Chapter 4: Greater
- “God’s acts in the past should not only inform and inspire us, they should move us to seek more of His activity in the present. The Bible contains not only records of what God has done, but invitations for us to believe in what He will do.”
Chapter 5: God Doesn’t Need You
- “God doesn’t need you! Never has. Never will. For anything. Ever….He’s not short on money, talent, or time. He has never commanded us to go save the world for Him; He has called us to follow Him as He saves the world through us.”
- “The weight of responsibility for the mission does not rest on our shoulders, but on Jesus’ shoulders. He leads; we follow. He commands; we obey. He supplies; we steward. He delivers; we worship.”
- “We need to offer our lives to God because the gospel demands it, not because He needs it. And then we need to look inward to discover where and how the Spirit of God has called us specifically to help. Instead of being guilt-driven, we need to become grace-driven and gift-driven.”
Chapter 6: God Steers Moving Ships
- “The Holy Spirit is always leading to the cross or from it, to carry its message of healing to others.”
- “In response to the gospel, seek to sacrifice, yearn to give, get ready to offer yourself, and look to the Holy Spirit to show you where He wants you to go and what he wants you to do.”
Chapter 7: Experiencing the Holy Spirit in the Gospel
- “The gospel is the most important and powerful means by which we experience the Spirit’s presence…. Perhaps the most overlooked truth about the Holy Spirit is that His presence is intricately tied to the gospel.”
- “The only thing stronger than the captivity of sin over our souls is the power of the Holy Spirit released by faith in the cross of Jesus Christ. As we dwell on it, embrace it, and drive it deeper into our lives, the power of new life comes into us.”
Chapter 8: Experiencing the Holy Spirit in the Word of God
- “The most reliable guide to the will of God is the Word of God.”
- “The Spirit primarily guides us to obey God’s revealed commands, adopt His values, and become the kind of people He wants us to be.”
- “Scripture spends more time focused on the type of people we should be and less on the specifics of where and what we do. When you become the kind of person God wants you to be, you will do what He wants you to do.”
Chapter 9: Experiencing the Holy Spirit in our Giftings
- “Knowing [your spiritual gifts] is essential to understanding what the Spirit wants from your life….you cannot really walk with the Spirit until you are familiar with the gifts He has sovereignly given you for service in His kingdom.”
- “A spiritual gift usually reveals itself in the confluence of what we are passionate about, what we’re good at, and the affirmation of others.”
Chapter 10: Experiencing the Holy Spirit in the Church
- “God uses His church to speak wisdom into your life, guiding you more fully into the paths of wisdom. Important decisions made in isolation usually end in disaster.”
- “The Spirit’s presence in the church today guides His people in the application of His message and the execution of their mission.”
Chapter 11: Experiencing the Holy Spirit in Our Spirit
- “Prayer ought to be more of a communion with the living Father in and through His written Word than a mere recital of our needs.”
- “The more Scripture you know, the more illumination the Holy Spirit can give regarding His will for various situations.”
Chapter 12: Experiencing the Holy Spirit in Our Circumstances
- “Because we have an enemy who works around the clock to try and thwart the purposes of God, and because God often uses difficulties to test and deepen our faith, the presence of adversaries more likely indicates that we are in God’s will than out of it.”
Chapter 13: When You Can’t Feel God
- “Sometimes God withholds everything from us except His promises in order to make us ask ourselves, ‘Is this-His promise-enough for me?’ You can never know that Jesus is all that you need until He’s all that you have.”
- “The gospel declares to us that God has made Himself close to us in Christ… When our feelings tell us that is not true, we must defy those feelings with faith in God’s promise.”
Chapter 14: Revival: When the Holy Spirit Moves in Power
- “[As Christians,] we patiently plant the seeds of God’s Word in the hearts of those around us, water them with our tears and fertilize them with our faith. Disciple-making can be laborious, painstaking work.”
- “In an awakening, the Spirit of God does not typically do a ‘new’ thing; He simply pours great power upon the ‘normal’ things faithful Christians are already doing.”
Chapter 15: You Have Not Because You Ask Not
- “God has one means for seeking [the Holy Spirit’s power]: persistent, faith-filled prayer.”
- “When we pray, we should seek to perceive what God wants, either through the Word of God or the Spirit of God (or some of both), and then ask for those things in faith.”
Chapter 16: The Way Up is the Way Down
- “God blesses the poor in spirit because their empty spirits make good vessels for His own. You will never be full of the Spirit so long as you are full of yourself.”
- “Human talent can take us only so far; to have lasting, eternal impact, we have to be filled with God’s Spirit.”
- “When God makes you weak, it’s not because He has forgotten you. Quite the opposite. He is inviting you to lean into the power of His Spirit. And that’s the greatest invitation you’ll ever receive.”