Today we will begin a new series in which we will go beyond the standard book review and take a closer look at one book every month or two (depending on the length and quality of the book). I plan to devote one or two days a week to this topic.
The first book I have chosen is the very popular book Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman. I read this book last year and it is without a doubt one of my favorite non-fiction books of all time. Let me warn you though, Kyle’s straight forward, no-nonsense approach is not for everyone. If you are looking for a book that is all roses and sunshine, this book is not for you. If you are someone who gets easily offended or lacks a sense of humor, you may be better off reading another book. For those of you looking for motivation, inspiration, and straight forward truth that will lead you to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ, you will find no better book.
For those of you who didn’t read the book description listed in yesterday’s post, I have included the link here. https://missybaroff.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/beyond-the-book-review-new-series/
However, in short, the premise of the book is based on the question “are you a fan or a follower of Jesus Christ”. Many of us “Christians” would be quick to answer “yes” to this question; many of us honestly believe the answer is “yes”, but many of us are only deceiving our selves.
[Yes, I am starting with the Prologue (You know it is going to be an amazing book when you get hooked by the prologue or introduction alone)]
If you have ever had to give/write a lesson, sermon, blog post, or whatever, you know it is not always easy to come up with a message that is going to hit home with your audience. Mr. Idleman knows that exact feeling and he shares how he struggled one Easter season to come up with an Easter message for those “Creastors “(visitors who come to church on Easter and Christmas)that would prompt them to return on a “normal” Sunday.
“Finally a thought crosses my mind: I wonder what Jesus taught whenever he had big crowds. What I discovered would change me forever. Not just as a preacher, but as a follower of Christ. I found that when Jesus had a large crowd, he would most often preach a message that was likely to cause them to leave.” (Not a Fan-Prologue pg.11)
Shocking, I know, but is it true? Let’s take a look at one of Jesus’ messages to one of his largest crowds.
Feeding the Five Thousand (John 6:4-14):
4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.
7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.”
8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”
10 Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples[a] to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.”13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
As we can see here Jesus has become Mr. Popularity. Thousands of people have come to see him as they have heard about his miraculous healings and teachings.
JJesus Walks on the Sea (John 6:15-21)
15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.
16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them. 18 Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing. 19 So when they had rowed about three or four miles,[b] they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid. 20 But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.
The Bread from Heaven (John 6:22-25)
22 On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered,[c]and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone— 23 however, other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks— 24 when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.25 And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?”
The massive crowd was so impressed with what Jesus had done with the bread and fish, they camped out overnight. As Kyle Idleman says, these must have been some big time fans of Jesus Christ. I mean who doesn’t like devoted followers?
Kyle goes on to paint a picture of what he believes took place on that next morning and while it isn’t one I ever heard in Sunday School, I am inclined to agree with his interpretation.
“The next morning when the crowd wakes up and they are hungry again, they look around for Jesus, aka their meal ticket, but he’s nowhere to be found. These fans are hoping for an encore performance. Eventually they realize that Jesus and his disciples have crossed over to the side of the lake. By the time they catch up to Jesus, they are starving. They’ve missed their chance to order breakfast and they ar ready to find out what’s on the lunch menu.” (p. 12)
You would think that Jesus would be thrilled to have so many followers, but once again, Jesus is able to see the hearts of men and not just outward appearances and actions.
John 6:26-27: Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”
“Jesus knows that these people are not going to all the trouble and sacrifice because they are following him, but because they want some free food. Was it Jesus they wanted, or were they only interested in what He could do for them. (Not a Fan pg. 12)
It is easy for us to criticize this massive crowd and their selfish desires, but are we really that different? How many of us follow Jesus because of what Jesus does for us? How many of us are strong and faithful during the good times but quiet and distance during hard times?
John 6: 35-40″ And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Rejected by His Own (John 6:41-59)
41 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” 42 And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
43 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’[e] Therefore everyone who has heard and learned[f] from the Father comes to Me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me[g] has everlasting life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”
53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed,[h] and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”
59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.
Many Disciples Turn Away (John 6:60-66)
60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”
61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them,“Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”
66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.
“Many of the fans turn to go home. I was struck by the fact that Jesus doesn’t chase after them. He doesn’t soften his message to make it more appealing. He doesn’t send the disciples chasing after them with a creative handout inviting them to come back for a “build your own sundae’ ice cream social. He seems okay with the fact that his popularity just plummeted……….it wasn’t the size of the crowd that Jesus cared about, it was their level of commitment.” (page 13)
And this is just the prologue, people! If the prologue is this good, kind of makes you wonder just how great the book is going to be!
For those of you who are looking forward to what is to come, I’ll leave you with one final quote:
“I hope you read this book and discover with me what it really means to follow Jesus. I will talk more about repentance than forgiveness, more about surrender than salvation, more about brokenness than happiness, and more about death than life. The truth is, if you are looking for a book about following Jesus that lays out a comfortable and reassuring path, you won’t find it here. Don’t get me wrong, I want you to keep reading; I just want to be up-front and let you know there won’t be a lot of free bread.” (pg. 13)
Until next time,