As Christians know, but have a hard time grappling with, the Christian life is not always "neat or tidy or straightforward. The Christian message says that life is, and always will be, exceedingly, frustratingly messy." So writes pastor Daniel Fusco in Honestly: Getting Real about Jesus and Our Messy Lives.
Based on a sermon series Fusco preached on the book of Ephesians, he reminds us of the grace the gospel offers in light of our messiness (sin). None of us is beyond hope, and we can rejoice in the good news, not that Jesus makes us good, or better, or moral, but "that Jesus makes dead people alive." We were dead in our sin; Jesus gives us life. And it's not from what we do: "God does not love you because you're good; God loves you because God is loving."
In light of that hope, Fusco calls on us to pray, "all the time, in every circumstance," not just when things are messy. And we are to "walk the way Jesus walked," which he says would make our lives "unpredictable" but "good." From the start, we know "we're not saved by good works, we're saved for good works."
Honestly is an encouraging read, a helpful reminder that Jesus is sufficient for us, and that our salvation is not up to us but up to him. Fusco's style is very conversational, by design. He'd love the reader to imagine a conversation with him over a cup of good coffee. He says the book is like "improvised music" based on the sermon series he preached at his church, and refers readers to the series at the church web site if they want a more orderly presentation. Count me in; I think I would have enjoyed that more.
As much as I appreciated his message and theme, the presentation in the book was too scattered and disorderly for me. Plus, I'm not a big fan of using a too-casual tone in writing. For instance, on several occasions, he introduced a scripture like this: "Paul was like, "But now . . ." It's one thing for "was like" to slip out in conversation or extemporaneous speech, but when you add it in writing, presumably approved by you and multiple editors, ugh. Please, stop it.
(One thing I loved about the Kindle version: the footnotes actually worked as hyperlinks! For some reason, this is exceedingly rare in the Kindle books I read.)
Not to end on a down note, Fusco is clearly a terrific communicator. I'm sure his sermons are entertaining, inspiring, and encouraging. At the same time, it sounds like he's realistic about the Christian life and positive about the promise of the gospel.
Thanks to NetGalley and the Tyndale Blog Network for the complimentary review copy!