About four years ago, Judah Smith’s church wanted to put Jesus on the minds of people living in Seattle. So the church put up billboards with the phrase, “Jesus Is _____.” Implicit in the phrase is the question, What comes to mind when you think about Jesus?
Now Judah Smith has written a book explaining what comes to his mind when he thinks about Jesus: Jesus is your friend, Jesus is grace, Jesus is happy, and so on.
What makes this book special?
One thing stands out. A lot of grace books are written primarily for Christian audiences. If you look at the books by Andrew Farley, Joseph Prince, Andrew Wommack, or my own books, you will find plenty of scripture references. Christians love these. Non-Christians, not so much. Quote chapter and verse from the Bible and their eyes glaze over. It’s not a language they understand.
Smith’s book is different. It was written for a wider audience than any grace book I have seen. It is full of pop-culture references, quotes “Pastor Jerry Seinfeld,” and calls Jesus the ultimate zombie. (He came back from the dead and now’s he’s gunning for you. Geddit?)
Does this matter? You bet it does! The good news is for everyone but not everyone is getting it. Those who are far from God and imagine him to be angry need to hear that:
If Jesus is the friend of sinners, it means God is the friend of sinners. (p.22)
The reason this book works is because Judah Smith is a first-rate story-teller. And he’s a funny to boot. His account of the Sermon on the Mount left me in stitches. Smith uses humor to dismantle religious mindsets and to show us that Jesus was a real person who spoke about real life.
He didn’t pontificate theologically in order to impress people. He told stories. If he were on earth today, everyone would follow him on Twitter and read his blog because he was real. He was authentic. What he said made sense. It went straight to the heart of the matter. (p.37)
Why do I recommend Jesus Is? Because it goes further than most in bringing the good news of grace to the widest possible audience. This is entirely consistent with the gospel, which is
…good news for everyone. It’s not good news just for people who are already good, for those who are self-controlled and disciplined enough to have all their ducks in a row. It’s good news for the people who can’t even find their ducks. They haven’t seen some of their ducks in years. Their lives are a mess. But they can come to Jesus and find instant acceptance. (p.126)
The strength of this book – its wide appeal – is also its weakness. The book gives a good introduction to the gospel of grace but leaves unasked many of the “what about” questions. But then this book is not meant to be an introduction to the gospel of grace; it’s meant to introduce the reader to Jesus. And on that score, the book is a home run.
If you are looking for a jargon-free grace book to give to your unsaved friends, look no further. Jesus Is is the book for you. It’s also the book for them.