Too often, Christians approach the Bible and God with an eye toward a three-step solution to whatever ails us. In the opening of With, managing editor of Leadership Journal and speaker Skye Jethani argues that we often see God as a means to an end, rather than the end himself.
Discovering and applying biblical principals is admirable, but Jethani explains that God calls us to himself – in relationship, not merely as a genie from whom we seek favour and the granting of our wishes. He takes a critical look at the common ways people – both Christian and secular – try to bargain with God, remake God in their own image, be self-reliant and independent from God, or find significance and meaning by what they do for God. These various postures before our heavenly Father often take precedence over life with God.
Jethani identifies four basic patterns of behaviour humans take before God: living “over” God, “under” God, “for” God, or “from” God. Some postures, such as life over God, are easily recognizable as antithetical to Scripture. Others, such as life under God, have the appearance of orthodoxy, but often lead to a “works”/reward relationship with God, full of self-effort and striving, but weak on grace and lacking in gospel power.
Instead, Jethani calls us to life with God –predicated on the view that relationship is the core of all creation, and that in the coming of Jesus Christ, we are given a sudden glimpse of truth, everything snaps into place, and the result is joy and life.
With is more than a self-help, Christian feel-good book; Jethani challenges the normal, accepted ways Christians typically relate to God. He resists the temptation to reduce his writing to a list of dos and don’ts, which would be contradictory to the gospel, and counter to life with God.
“What is your treasure?” With asks. “What is the goal and desire of your life?” If there are things we value more than God, then we are missing out on God’s fullest, and on the relationship with God that we truly long for. Jethani asks us to search our hearts, and ask if God himself is the goal of our lives, our treasure above all else.
With is a no-holds-barred critique of modern evangelical Christianity, especially from an American context. That said, everything Jethani writes about and examines is quite applicable in our Canadian churches and experience.
If you’re comfortable with your life, and you don’t want to examine your motives and relation to God, skip With. Jethani asks piercing questions that bring conviction and repentance.
On the other hand, if you’re longing for deep intimacy, a closer walk with God, and a more mature understanding of God, then With is worthy of reading and consideration.