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A Genuine Faith: How to Follow Jesus Today Paperback – August 1, 2005
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I highly recommend and strongly urge you to get this book. In fact, you may want to order 2 of them, and then you can give one away.
What does it mean to follow Christ in today's world? How can we be disciples of someone who lived 2,000 years ago? Why do the Gospels each emphasize contrasting pictures of Jesus? More...
Rodney Reeves, professor of Biblical Studies at Southwest Baptist University, Bolivar, is the author of a recently published book that answers these questions. A Genuine Faith: How to Follow Jesus Today examines each of the four Gospels, bringing to light their unique understanding of discipleship.
"My own desire to take seriously the call of following Jesus led me to the Gospels," Reeves said.
Another source of inspiration for the book is his personal experience in pastoral ministry. He finds in the Gospels a powerful antidote to clueless Christianity.
"You pastor a church and you begin to discover that people don't know how to live out the Christian life,â Reeves noted, adding that many Christians know they are saved, but lack a deeper understanding of how to follow Jesus. That is where taking a fresh look at the Gospels can be of great benefit.
"In the four gospels we have a single Christology, but we have four views of Jesus," said Reeves. "I think we are content with going to Paul who lays it out so well, but the Gospel stories were also written both for evangelism and discipleship."
Reeves desires for pastors to press on with these texts, bringing out the implications for how we are to follow Jesus in our own day.
So, how does Reeves understand each of the Gospels?
According to Matthew, we see Jesus is willing to make disciples of anyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear. Furthermore, greatness in God's kingdom is not viewed the same as greatness in the world.
"Littleness defines greatness in the kingdom of Christ," Reeves said.
Matthew also reveals Jesus' preparation of the disciples for his eventual departure. When Jesus said, "Lo I am with you always", he knew the vast majority of Christians would become disciples without seeing him in person on earth.
The Gospel of Mark reveals Jesus as one who risked everything for God.
"He believed in the reign of God," said Reeves, "and He ploughed deep fields of faith among shallow disciples."
Retelling the parable of the soils, Reeves shows how Jesus wants us to personalize the soils through self-examination. Is my heart shallow soil? Do weeds choke out my faith? Is my soil good, ready for a bountiful harvest? Certainly the parable communicates truth pertaining to both conversion and discipleship.
Luke shows Jesus reversing the curse, inaugurating the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy regarding the poor, the prisoner, the blind, and the oppressed. Although many of his enemies thought him a lunatic, Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom of God had come.
Provoking the wrath of the religious leaders, Jesus feasted alongside spiritual and social outcasts. In a particularly memorable quote, Reeves writes, "This is grace, that Jesus would stoop so low to save the least, the last, and the lost."
Indeed, sinners need to be changed by grace through repentance and faith. Luke depicts Jesus as willing to "get his hands dirty" in meeting sinners where they are. In doing so, He ushers in the perpetual year of Jubilee for his followers.
In turning to John's Gospel, Reeves spends a chapter bringing fresh insight to the story of Jesus' encounter with the woman at the well. Reeves calls her "The Ideal Evangelist" because upon her understanding of who Jesus is, she ran home and told all her townsmen about Jesus. "I kept coming back to the primary motivation that compels us to share our faith and hope: love," Reeves said, noting that the woman spilled forth the news about Christ as her heart overflowed with love for Christ.
Also in John, the nobleman whose son was healed by Christ reveals a picture of the ideal believer. Jesus sent the man home with a promise of healing for the son.
"It was a faith journey. It took a leap of faith to come to Jesus. It required even more to believe without seeing results," he said. Both the Samaritan woman and the nobleman provide living pictures of what it means to follow Jesus.
These are just a few of the Gospel stories Reeves uses in crafting this challenging book. He really drives home the point that, "We must read the Gospels holistically, not just jumping into them and reading a story and learning a quick life lesson from it." Continual reflection upon the Gospel stories in their own context will bring a clear understanding of what it means to follow Jesus today.
"I hope that when they finish my book, they turn with fresh enthusiasm to the Gospels, seeing Jesus and following him with their life," Reeves said.
A Genuine Faith will give you an opportunity to witness the glory of the Savior. You will be led down a delightful path of instruction in how to follow Jesus today.
Dr. Reeves does a wonderful job of taking what the Gospel writers have given us and spelling it out in real-world terms today. The greatest hindrance Americans have when they read the Bible is that they take the text out of context; these are not 'American capitalist' people with cloaks and sandals that we're reading about, they are Jews living under Roman oppression in the first century A.D. At times this one difference between how we act as Americans and how they acted in the scriptures can make for a decided historical and cultural conflict; one that may keep the reader from fully understanding the text.
Thank goodness someone like Dr. Reeves is able to wake us up from this sleep of ignorance. This book is a wonderful tool for understanding the meaning of the four Gospels, and it looks at each Gospel thoroughly and individually, as well as provide essential background information on both the author, setting and purpose of each individual book.
The real amazing part of this book is that it can educate those who don't have the slightest clue as to what is meant by the writing of the Gospels, as well as rebuke and re-educate those who think they've "understood" the good news. I thoroughly enjoyed having this author as a professor because he was able to add so much life to what might otherwise be a boring, easy to misread biblical text. However, his true talent of teaching is that he can address a concept that you may think you've already learned, and yet continue to shed multiple new lights on what you might have considered to be a mundane subject.
I'm so impressed with this book. It is my hope that writing will not detract this man so much from his job and family obligations that he may not continue in his written endeavors. We definitely need more books like this one. Now that he's given us insight on the Gospels, perhaps tackling the Epistles wouldn't be so tough? One can only hope.
Buy this book, and, more importantly, read it.
Rodney does a great job in focusing our attention to the actual stories in front of us, allowing us to see the writer's story and keeping us from bringing in information from the other writers. By using this method I was able to see truths that I had not seen before and had a greater appreciation for the gospels, individually and as a whole.