6 Ways I now think differently after reading IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK by Jefferson Bethke

This summer I was given a book by a great friend, Ryan Lauria (an awesome dude with great beard). He gave me the book after I had asked him, “What book, besides the bible, has influenced you the most?” It’s one of my favorite questions to ask because you really get to understand the person on a deeper level and you get a great book recommendation.

Jefferson Bethke’s purpose in writing this book is to show how Christianity is so much more than what is being told today. Christianity is much more than going to Heaven when you die. The faith is about making heaven true on earth in every facet and level of our relationship with God, others, and self.

The book lead me to change my thinking in 6 ways:

1. We all start our day with a “morning devotional.”

Since 8th grade or whenever I first got my first smart phone I’ve consistently had a morning devotional. But without a bible, notebook, coffee, and without God. Instead I’ve started my day with Facebook or Instagram and my warm bed. Most Christians and non-Christians start their day in a similar manner. Eyes open, phone is picked up, the next 15 minutes are spent scrolling the most recently updated feed. My point is this: we are beings of devotion. Why am I giving such a committed devotion to social media? I’m not saying you have to first wake up and read your bible everyday. Just realize that we often give special attention to things that don’t deserve it. Your first thoughts of the day are important and usually wasted. If I am not first on social media, then I’m thinking of the plans or important tasks of the day. Yes, those plans are more important than social media but do they deserve your waking thoughts? Or does gratefulness deserve those thoughts? Or how about morning coffee with your spouse or mom? Or a peaceful time with your God.

2. The key to joy is thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is the secret to a healthy Christian life. The best part about thanksgiving is we can do it anywhere. As Christians we often think we have to do big things for God, but the more I read scripture I see that God isn’t as concerned with us doing big things as with our attitude in the middle of the common things we are already doing. You don’t have to become a pastor, or move to Africa or win the award of most improved and dedicated Christian. Do you have a mindset of thanksgiving? For simple thanksgiving leads to simple holiness. Rather than thinking you have to do something more spiritual or holy, just infuse a ton of thanksgiving into the here and now. (pg.158)

3. God is vulnerable.

We may cringe at the idea of a vulnerable God, but he is a god who is also all-powerful and all-knowing. A god that knows all things, is in control of all things, yet can be known and considered your father. We often forget how crazy it is that God took up residence in a place and with people he created. A infinite God put himself in the finite. It would seem that we would love him like a celebrity coming back to their hometown. Instead we hate him for it. You would think since we don’t want him, he wouldn’t stay. But God is still pursuing us, still promising to be with us. Jesus came as God in flesh. God could have stayed high, holy, and safe but instead came and dwelt among us because he knew love isn’t possible without vulnerability. And because Jesus allowed us to know him, we put him on a cross and killed him. The very creation God made to reflect and show his beauty was the cause of his death. That is greatest act of vulnerability I’ve ever heard of. (Pg.46)

There is also something to be said about the importance of being vulnerable with friends, family, and loved ones. To love someone is to be vulnerable with that person. To be fully loved is to be fully known. The more you allow yourself to share and live life with someone, the richer those relationships will be. Vulnerability isn’t just for love relationships and spouses, but a method of how to grow deeper in relationship with someone. It’s how Jesus loved us.

4. Child-like faith.

There is a passage in the bible where Jesus talks about having faith like a child. Mark 10:15 says, “ Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” I’ve always thought Jesus was saying that I need to be very obedient to what he says, like a child to a father. That I need to believe what he says, and just humbly accept it. It is true that we need to be obedient but there is much more beauty to what Jesus is telling us. We are children of the King and that is an incredible freedom. Imagine you are in a royal throne room and you see the king sitting on his grand throne. There are servants all around doing their assigned job, making sure to not upset the king. Then you notice the king’s children playing about in the throne room and the king is pleased and laughing with his children. It doesn’t seem right that the children should be allowed to play in such a holy place but because they are the king’s children, they live life with the truth that they are fully known and fully loved by the king, their father. How do you live out your faith? Like a servant, trying to not upset the king? Or as a child of the king, with unearth joy.

5. Why Jesus died.

During the fall semester as a freshman in college, I struggled with the idea that Jesus died for me. It made more sense to me that Jesus died so that he would fulfill his Father’s glory. It makes sense that Jesus would die so that the wrong done against the Father would be payed for. But why are we given the gift of life with God? I read scriptures like Romans 3:25, “ God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, a through the shedding of his blood to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.” It seems Jesus died to restore justice to the Father. John Piper has a great article on this question — did Jesus die for us or God?

The article tells us that Jesus died for both us and for the restoration of the father’s glory. (That is the most baby-simple summary I’ve ever given. You just need to read the article.) The article really answers the question I had.

Jefferson Bethke helped me understand to why Jesus was able to die for us and for the Father’s glory. Young people especially are tempted to orbit their lives around their significant other. To make a idol out of their loved one, putting their identity in their boyfriend or girlfriend. When we make another person an idol, we end up squeezing the life out of them. When we have Jesus as our center, we can love that person even more because our center isn’t tied to or defined by that person. If the person upsets you, rather than your identity being hurt, you are able to love the person back with even more love, grace, and forgiveness because our self-worth comes from God. This helped me connect how Jesus was able to love us to the point of death, his Identity was not in us but the Father. Jesus was able extend the greatest act of love to us because the pain we were causing him was not affecting his identity, for he knew he was fully loved and known by his father.

6. You don’t always have to answer with “I’m really busy.”

It’s as if busyness is the new badge of honor. If you don’t answer the question “how have you been?” with “really busy” then you feel less then everyone else. Cause everyone else is just so busy and you don’t want to feel unimportant. I’m not saying its not true that people are busy. It is just reality that our society judges success by how busy we are. We can say Jesus is our God, but is our busyness our functional savior? I’m scared of being unimportant, that’s why I tell people I’m busy. When I answer with “I’m busy” it is actually a selfish and guarded answer. I think it’s time you and I start answering the question “how are you?” with honesty. Let us give the answer that the you and I deserve. The reason for this issue is again our identity. If what you do is your identity, then you better be busy. But if your identity is in God and you know you are fully loved and fully known, you have the freedom to answer with “I’m having an okay day.” You have the courage to be vulnerable and you lead the way into and stronger relationship with the person you are talking with.

If you have any thoughts or questions on Bethke’s book or this article, let me know. I’d love to talk.

This article not so much a book report but a mix of Bethke’s words and my thoughts that came about because I was reading the book. Not all points are from the book, but those that are, I’ve left page numbers.

Oh what a savior
Isn’t He wonderful.