It's been a while since I've seen a book I wanted to review. I was looking at the Moody Publishers Newsroom website and the title of this book caught my eye: Getting Over Yourself: Trading Believe-In-Yourself Religion for Christ-Centered Christianity.
If I remember correctly, when I was looking at the preview of the book online the chapter titles were a big part of what convinced me that this would be a good read, Here's a little sample of them:
1.LOSERVILLE : Is Christianity for the Cool, Trendy, and Successful?
4. HASHTAG FILTER: The Promise of a Socially Approved Life
5. THIS IS SO BORING: The New Prosperity Cardinal Sin of Settling For The Mundane
I love the title of Chapter 5, it's so true! The living a mundane life really does seem to be a sin in our age. It really looked like this guy had a lot of the same thoughts my dad (a pastor) has had on the state of modern 'Christianity', so I ordered the book.
Of course, it turned out that the chapter titles weren't the only interesting thing; their content is also interesting. Inserra does a lot of Biblical critiquing of modern popular Christianity. But the critique often hits close to home, many of his chapters are quite convicting and yet oddly comforting in that they are reminders that the Christian life is supposed to be hard, and that dying to self really will be painful. Here's an excerpt from one:
""Jesus told His disciples, 'If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it' (Luke 9:23-24). Jesus is calling HIs disciples to attend a daily funeral for their own ambitions and pride. The cross was not a piece of jewelry in New Testament times. It wasn't a living room decoration carved nicely to fit on the mantel. There weren't crosses hanging in any place of worship. A cross meant one thing: death. It was a curse to hang on one, to receive capital punishment in a gruesome manner for crimes committed. It would be the equivalent of being told to pick up your lethal injection or electric chair. For Jesus to tell His followers to carry their crosses (prior to HIs own death, which would probably have shed light on the metaphor) meant a call to die to themselves. This probably sounded insane, but is much better than the alternative given in the next verse: 'For what does it benefit someone if he gains the whole world, and yet loses or forfeits himself?' (Luke 9:25)"
One little statement in the book I found particularly thought provoking: "Our problem is when we're trying to use Christianity to be a better version of ourselves rather than a more accurate reflection of Him…" That truly fits more with our having become a new creature (not just bettered creatures), in Christ, and turns the focus away from having our own talents used by God and level sets our gaze toward whatever work God has for us, whether it utilized our talents or not. After all, God will probably often put us in positions that we are not naturally talented at/fit for to show His power in us.
As I mentioned, my dad is a pastor, and he has done lots of counseling over the years. At one point, I found a section of this book particularly startling in its correlation to what I know dad has experienced over the years in counselling wives in troubled marriages. My mom can attest to it as she accompanies him in these counseling sessions. Inserra's list of what wives will say: "'I feel like I settled' 'What if I married the wrong person?'….. 'I just feel like I need to focus on myself for a while…. And then the famous line: 'I believe that God just wants to be happy.'" fits exactly what mom and dad have heard from unhappy wives. As the author laments: "The life God has given you, and (in the case of marriage and parenthood) has directly called you to, becomes a symbol for all that is keeping you from a 'truly' fulfilling life." This is all in the chapter about the sin of mundaneness. Our idea of the Christian life seems to be that of a life of self service, and self glorification rather than the service of God and others. In the book it's noted that: "Contentment is a borderline curse word in pop-Christianity, because not pursuing or desiring something 'better' is seen as settling for less than God's best……Ironically, the discontented life is one that is actually settling for less than God's best….The yellow brick road to God's best life for us is one of contentment in Christ, obedience to Christ, fulfillment in Christ."
Now, I need to mention that there were a couple of things in the book that I didn't think were particularly Biblical, but the only one that I feel the need to address is where Inserra talks about running into someone who had left the church he's the pastor of, this woman had left because she had begun a same-sex relationship and knew that the church stood with God's Word against those types of relationship. He seems to indicate to her that she didn't have to leave - apparently she still would have been welcome to attend the worship services and Bible studies. That concession really surprised me because of Biblical instructions like in the Apostle Paul's first letter to the Corinthians where he tells them not to associate with professing Christians who are living in unrepentant sexual immorality: "I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. 'Purge the evil person from among you.'(1Co 5:9-13 ESV) Of course, if a fellow Christian sins, we don't immediately kick them out of the church, we try to restore them first (Gal 6:1, James 5:19-20, Titus 3:9-11…etc), but if they are persistent and will not repent, we must separate, and perhaps God will use the separation to lead them to repentance (2 Thess 3:14).
But for the most part Inserra seems very Biblically focused. To reiterate what he demonstrates and critiques clearly in the book: modern 'Christianity' is obsessed with self. I especially see it in memes on Facebook, like those depicting a girl saying to the Devil, "I am the storm" (how arrogant!). Others brag about being princesses because we're daughters of the King, but their intent (at least from my perspective) seems to be aimed at making people treat us like Princesses. It has been lamentable to see the focus of Christianity trending toward self, rather than God. We worship our worship, worship our devotion to God, and worship our own 'potential'. This book is a breath of fresh air. It was refreshing to read a book written from a Biblical perspective that reiterates the Bible's focus on God, not on ourselves. I'll end with one more quote from the book: "It's clear that God is fully satisfied with Jesus. Am I?"
Many thanks to the folks at Moody Publishers Newsroom for the free review copy of this book (my review did not have to be favorable).