Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Kingdom Life - Alan Andrews General Editor

The Kingdom Life: A Practical Theology of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation

The Kingdom Life, by NavPress is a well done hardback book. The design and layout are also excellent. There are over 314 pages of practical theology that is meant to be translated to daily living. The study of theology must be more than simple head knowledge but must move into our discipleship and spiritual formation. Alan Andrews is general editor. Other authors in the book are Dallas Willard, Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, Keith J. Matthews, Bill Hull, Keith Meyer, Peggy Reynoso, Paul Fuller, Bruce Demarest, Michael Glerup, Richard E. Averbeck and Christopher Morton. The foreword is by Rick Warren. 

The Kingdom Life receives praise from Michael J. Wilkins who says "This book is sorely needed.". David Fitch from Norther Seminary says "It is not another book on how to do discipleship as a program; rather, it reexamines the theology and practice of discipleship in light of the lordship of Christ and the life we have in His Kingdom." The books points out that the "word kingdom is used more than 150 times in the New Testament" and that "in democracies, people have a difficult time understanding the full implications of living under the rule and reign of Jesus Christ." (pg. 7) Although America is not only a democracy the point carries that we should look afresh at life in the Kingdom of His Lordship.

"Where is the kingdom of God?" the book queries. The simplified answers is "The kingdom of God is wherever Jesus is king! If Jesus is king in your heart, then the kingdom of God is within you." (pg. 7) Jesus is king in heaven and in our hearts but when "the reign of Christ is fully realized on earth, then the kingdom of God is on earth." (pg. 7)

The book is split into two parts. Part one is "Process Elements of Spiritual Formation" and part two is about "Theological Elements of Spiritual Formation." In this review I will only highlight a couple chapters that were my personal favorites - "The Gospel of the Kingdom and Spiritual Formation" by Dallas Willard and "The Bible in Spiritual Formation" by Richard E. Averbeck.

In chapter one Willard rightly notes, in simple and concise fashion, that "The simplicity is that we discover all of the complexity of the kingdom by simply following Jesus. As we follow Him, we are also formed in Him." (pg. 30) Often this point is overlooked but we cannot keep looking for the pie in the sky or the "next" miracle around the corner that will get us where we need to be. No! It is in becoming a true follower and disciple of Christ. As we do this Christ will lead us and teach us for "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Colossians 2:3 NIV).

Willard goes on to note that "we are called to well informed action in the process of our own spiritual growth." (pg. 31) The Word of God and the Holy Spirit are essential for our growth but trusting them to follow through is not in question. We must be mindful of our part in participating in The Kingdom Life. Much of the book focuses on "our part" in the journey. He also notes that "When you line up with the laws of God, you are lining up with what God Himself is doing." (pg. 38) Willard also points out the trinity of evil which he defines as the world, the devil, and the flesh. (pg. 47)

In chapter ten Averbeck begins with the premise that "Spiritual formation is based upon the Bible as God's reliable and authoritative revelation...our primary source of truth..." (pg. 275) As part of our spiritual formation we must move the Scriptures from simply being words on pages or simply historical narratives. As he notes, "The Scriptures are living and active in penetrating, exposing, and transforming our hearts and lives as the Holy Spirit brings to bear upon us individually and together." (pg. 275) 

In a practical sense, "if you love someone, you take what he or she says seriously." (pg. 276) This is probably where the great disconnect lies in our culture. It is to see the Bible as what God would say to us, and if He is truly Lord then we are also living in His Kingdom. We must take the Bible seriously in our times because it is a "divine revelation for spiritual formation". (Pg. 279) Averbeck cites 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and points out that "Timothy could rely on Scripture both to say what is true and to use as his divine authority in teaching..." (pg. 279) 

Averbeck also notes one of the presuppositions of every reader of the Scriptures. This is something we must bear in mind as we study and read the Word of God. He notes that "People are so bound up within their matrix of cultures and communities that they do not read the Bible apart from that set of circumstances. As with individuals, he experiences of communities profoundly shape how they read the Bible." (pg. 284)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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