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Jesus > Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough Paperback – October 14, 2013

4.8 out of 5 stars 920 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jefferson Bethke is the author of New York Times bestseller Jesus > Religion. Bethke’s message connects at a heart level with an audience ranging from atheists to nationally recognized religious leaders. He lives in Maui, Hawaii.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (October 14, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400205395
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400205394
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (920 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I've been paying a lot of attention to Jefferson Bethke the last year or so. Having a few years on his 23, I'm blown away by the man of God he is and by what he's already accomplished at his young age. He is cranking out a lot of great content. He's relevant. He knows how to connect with his culture and generation. He's artistic. He does what he does well: very well. He's got a lot of insight. Sometimes people like this end up turning you off and leaving you bummed out by just how good they seem. How can you be so courageous? How can you read so many books? How can you be influencing so many people etc?

Enter Jesus > Religion. You soon realize Jeff's entire life isn't filled with sainthood. Throughout the book Jeff shares his story. It's honest, raw, and at times very dark. And yet it's a beacon brightly blazing on Jesus. As we often hear, the one thing people can't argue is our personal testimony. What I love about this book is that Jeff has been through the motions of trying to be good, of trying to find fulfilment in sin, and ultimately being captured by grace. It might be easy to roll your eyes at a cute, rich pastor's kid raving about how great God is - but Jeff's story is hard to argue with. It's not pretty, but it's glorious.

I'm not going to go over every chapter, since you should read the book yourself. The title tips you off on the angle of the book. Here are a few things that stuck out to me that I wanted to mention about this book.

#1 The book addresses the topic of sin head-on
In Jeff's words:
"God doesn't hide sin. In fact he put it on display two thousand years ago in a splintered T-shaped piece of wood. Jesus came down to earth, live the perfect life we never could have, and died the death we should have.
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Format: Paperback
I'll admit: I had mixed feelings when Jefferson's YouTube video came out. As Kevin DeYoung put it, "There is so much helpful in this poem mixed with so much unhelpful." However, it is evident that Jefferson has matured a lot since posting the initial video (thanks to the discipleship of Christian leaders and his humility in accepting their constructive criticism).

In order to flesh out his views on Jesus, Christianity, and religion, Jefferson has written the book Jesus>Religion. The book uses the contrast between Jesus and religion to accomplish the dual goal of addressing false perceptions of Christianity while presenting a true picture of what followers of Jesus look like.

Before we go too far, let's define some terms. When Jefferson speaks about religion, he means "what one must do, or behave like, in order to fain right standing with God" (pg. 27)-in other words, depending on our own works to be on God's "good side." Of course, Christianity itself is a religion, but in the sense that it is "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe" (pg. 27). What distinguishes real Christianity is that it "centers on Jesus' righteousness-what he has done and how good he is" as opposed to other religions that "center on people's righteousness-what we do and how good we are" (pg. 28). The possible confusion stemming from the way Bethke defines religion is why I would have preferred for Chapter 2 to be Chapter 1 instead (for more on the negative definition of "religion," see DeYoung's article). Throughout the rest of the Jesus>Religion, Jefferson contrasts Jesus (aka true Christianity) with religion (aka self-righteousness/hypocrisy).
Jesus>Religion begins with Jefferson's life story in which he, like many Americans, was a "Christian by default.
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Format: Paperback
I didn't really know what to think when Jefferson Bethke first came out with the hit YouTube video Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus. The video highlights flaws in many institutional churches in America--what is referred to as "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" in some circles. At the same time, the way Bethke defines "religion" has not gone uncriticized (on this point, I highly recommend reading Kevin DeYoung's review article, "Does Jesus Hate Religion? Kinda, Sorta, Not Really"). While he still promotes the same general message, he has learned from his critics and from his personal studies to become more nuanced in his presentations, as seen in other videos he has put out since then. The culmination of his thought as it stands now can be best seen in his recently released book, Jesus > Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough. The book is an extended commentary of sorts on the ideas that were laid out in the original video (plus a few of the more recent ones). This is where Bethke lays out his personal theology, which centers around the theme of how the message and redemptive work of Jesus Christ still shine forth in the Gospel stories despite the many misconstructions and misapplications (which he groups together under the umbrella of "religion") that have muddied the waters in the past. A very Christocentric theme, and one that I hope to be able to examine herein.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
But first, it's worth looking at the kind of individual Jefferson Bethke is. I must admit that he is the type of person that I would probably be able to relate to pretty well. Age-wise, I'm only a couple of years younger than him.
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