Book Review – “It’s Not What You Think” by Jefferson Bethke

It’s not often that I finish a book and immediately want to reread it, but that is the case with this book.  It’s Not What You Think by Jefferson Bethke is a book that I will definitely be recommending to others.  I think that every Christian should read through this book, especially those of us who are thoroughly set in a Western mindset.

The subtitle for the book is “Why Christianity Is About So Much More Than Going to Heaven When You Die.”  With this title and subtitle, it seems to fall in line with other books I have been reading recently by N. T. Wright and Dallas Willard (both of whom Bethke cites and quotes in his book).  Bethke writes to help us reorient ourselves and break out of some misconceptions we have regarding Christianity and what it means to follow Jesus.

In the Introduction Bethke points out, “One of the scariest questions we have to ask ourselves is, what if we aren’t seeing Jesus properly?  What implication does that have for our lives?  What if Jesus isn’t who we think?  I believe he’s always catching us off guard, creatively challenging us, pursuing us, and loving us” (xxv).  It’s a great set of questions, and I believe that we have managed to misunderstand some things in Christianity.  Bethke’s book goes a long way in helping us readjust our understanding of Jesus.

The chapter titles are as follows:

  1. Your Story’s Not What You Think: Love Defined You Before Anything Else Did
  2. The Temple’s Not What You Think: It’s God Pitching His Tent in Your Backyard
  3. People Are Not Who You Think: They’re Neighbors to Love, Not Commodities to Use
  4. You Aren’t Who You Think: You’re a Person from the Future
  5. The Sabbath’s Not What You Think: You Rest As You Play
  6. Worship’s Not What You Think: You Become What You Behold
  7. The Kingdom’s Not Where You Think: It’s Not in the Sky; It’s Here Now
  8. Brokenness Is Not What You Think: You Must Embrace Your Scars
  9. The Table’s Not What You Think: It’s Not Just a Meal; It’s a Sacred Space

Each chapter tackles an issue that is often misunderstood in Christianity, according to the author, and tries to reexamine it afresh through another look at the Scriptures, especially as understood from a first-century Jewish context (which is, after all, the context through which Jesus came).

For example, in chapter 7, Bethke tackles the idea that the kingdom is primarily about a future place we will go to. Obviously, we will be in Heaven one day, and that is never in question.  But when we reduce the kingdom to primarily a future event, we miss out on a lot now.  Bethke writes:

“Growing up, I always thought our hope was that we would get evacuated, that one day I would get snatched up into the sky and leave this nasty and evil earth.  But from the very first sentence God seems to be about restoration.  He doesn’t want us to leave; he wants to come here himself.  That God’s reign and rule would be established in our finances, academics, sexuality, and jobs.  That God would dwell with us” (136).

We need to be reminded of this!  Jesus is our King, and He came to set up a new kingdom (a new dominion and way of living) now, which will, of course, be fully consummated in the future.  But we are already living it now, if we follow Him.  This idea ties in to the subtitle, reminding us that salvation is not merely about forgiveness of sins, but is about a new life (an abundant life) that starts now.

While I may not agree with everything Bethke says, I agree with most of it, and it needs to be heard.

I would strongly encourage everyone to get this book and read it slowly and thoughtfully.  I believe it will help your relationship with Christ grow, and will offer a correction to some of the misunderstandings of Scripture we have built up over the years.  Read it and be blessed!

Note: I received this book free from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.


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