The Good and Beautiful God - Falling In Love With The God Jesus Knows
James Bryan Smith
ISBN: 978-0-8308-3531-7 IVP - Books InterVarsity Press Publisher
Published Date: 2009 Review Date: 3 December 2009
A review of The Good and Beautiful God
James Bryan Smith has combined his years of personally seeking spiritual transformation in his life with his studying under some of the scholars of spiritual formation to write this very readable, practical training guide for discovering the God that Jesus reveals to us. The book is organized in chapters focusing on false concepts we hold about God and the true concepts Jesus reveals. Following each chapter are ‘soul training’ exercises to help imbed the teaching of Jesus into our lives., so we can see and understand the world Jesus’ sees.
We frequently discuss change in our lives. As Christians we like to discuss it’s cousin - transformation. They are at the heart of our self-help culture. Jim says many Christians “lead a life of quiet desperation, longing for change and yet uncertain that it will never happen. “ I understand that statement. I have seen the truth of this in Paul’s writings and felt his eagerness for us to share in this new life in Christ. Often, I have felt like I was at the first screen of a internet mapping program. I could enter both my current and desired state, but I didn’t have the map and the step by step instructions of how to get from point A to point B. Jim’s book provides those instructions. He outlines and develops four things that are key to spiritual formation: changing the stories in our mind, engaging in new practices, reflecting and talking with others on the same path, and being the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
Jim challenges the reader to understand the most important things to us are: what we think of God and how we love God. We achieve our deepest desires and become our true selves in light of God’s grace through faith working in love. We are storied creatures, but we need the right stories running our lives. Our stories have their roots in the kingdom of this world. What we need is the mind of Christ. Knowing that my life has often been driven by the tapes that run in my head, I found these principles for change very helpful.
Jim walks through scriptures and and the insights of others to reveal the God of Jesus who is good and beautiful, loving and trustworthy, self-sacrificial and forgiving, powerful and caring, and out for our good. While he clearly shows that our God has a love that is unconditional, he deals honestly with our holy God’s wrathful response to sin and evil. Another concept I found convicting was that it wasn’t my sin that moves me away from God, but my refusal to accept His grace.
The book is designed to be worked in a community over a period of several weeks, where working together will magnified the impact of the new knowledge. There is a very detailed small group discussion guideline for each chapter at the end of the book.
I heard Jim Smith speak in November and was enticed to learn more. As such, I read the book by myself and fairly quickly, totally ignoring his advice. This is an example of one of those false concepts that Jim describes in the book that applies in such a concrete way in my life, The need to outrun God. I could only laugh at myself when I realized this is what I had done with the book.
This is not a book that will go back on the shelf, but one I will be using and sharing. If you are looking for the directions on how to get from where you are to having the mind of Christ, this book is for you.