Having read Not a Fan and Gods at War by Kyle Idleman, I was interested in his new book The End of Me. David C Cook publishers was kind enough to send me a copy to review.
The subtitle of the book is “Where Real Life in the Upside-Down Ways of Jesus Begins.” This adequately sums up the main focus of the book. Idleman shows how the ways of Jesus are often completely opposite of the ways of the world, and that in order to grow in Christ, we must adopt Jesus’ ways, which requires us to go against the normal ideas we have about how life works.
The book is divided into two parts. In the first part, Idleman focuses on four of the beatitudes (the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the humble/meek, and the pure in heart), showing that we must come to the end of ourselves before we can be used.
The second part shows us that, in Idleman’s words, “we will see that when we get to the end of ourselves and realize we aren’t strong enough, smart enough, or talented enough, then ironically we are in the best position to be used by God in significant ways” (p. 15).
Throughout the book, Idleman uses both Scripture and anecdotes to help us understand how all of this works.
Interestingly, I found the very last chapter of the book to be the best. In some way, it seemed the most practical and hard hitting. Just two examples will show what I mean.
First, he basically summarizes the thrust of the rest of the book:
“This book has been a kind of path, treasure hunt if you will, and on it we’ve followed Jesus through his teachings. We’ve seen how he turns the world’s views inside out and upside down. He simply cuts against the grain of how we naturally think, and we realize that to follow Jesus, we need to retrain our minds to focus through spectacles we’ve never worn before. The key to thinking his way is an utter surrender, a giving up of the old ways, which never would have worked anyway” (pp. 196-197)
What a great summary! I almost think it would have been helpful to lay that out in the introduction to set the stage.
The second example of how helpful the last chapter is says,
“Each day is a new narrow gate. The problem with dying to myself is that it’s so daily. I have to make the choice over and over again. I can live for myself or I can live for Christ, which means picking up my cross–at the drugstore, at the gas pump, in my living room, in traffic.
“Not only must I serve the people I love and admire, and those who can make my life easier, but dying to myself also means serving those I don’t really like or understand and even those who have hurt me. How can you serve a husband who is apathetic rather than loving? A wife who never speaks an encouraging word? A child bent on rebellion? How do you serve the coworker who talked behind your back? The rude guy across the street? The driver who takes your life into his hands on the highway? It takes dying to yourself. If Jesus can wash the feet of Judas, then it’s time for me to come to the end of myself and follow his example” (pp. 204-205)
What a powerful reminder! Living the way of Christ takes place most when we are serving people who require us to die to ourselves in order to serve them. It’s easy to serve those we love and to serve when we get something in return. It requires the life of Christ in us to love those we have issues with or who have issues with us.
In reality, the entire last chapter (all 21 pages of it) is full of wonderful reminders and truths. To me, the last chapter, alone, is worth getting the book.
The only issue I had with the book was the humor that Idleman puts throughout. It’s not so much the humor in the main body of the book that throws it off, but the humor in the footnotes seems a bit much. I’m sure that is just Idleman’s style. In defense of the author, he was probably just trying to take a tough topic (coming to the end of oneself) and make it a little easier to take in. In my opinion, however, it seemed to take away from the overall impact of the book. I would feel really convicted (in a good way) and then come across a footnoted joke that seemed to just rob the moment of its force and impact.
One example of the joking that Idleman does is during a part where he is talking about how much time people spend on entertainment and staring at screens. While making a great point about how busy we are (as a way of filling emptiness in our lives), we find this note: “If you’re reading this on a tablet, you’re absolved. In fact, let’s take the time you spend staring at a screen to read this book and credit that to your account. So play a few games of ‘Flappy Bird’ on me” (p. 125) In my opinion, the note, while humorous, seemed to jump in and take away the seriousness of the moment, a seriousness which was much needed.
Overall, The End of Me by Kyle Idleman is a great book. It serves to remind us that it is not all about us and that we must come to the end of ourselves so that God can do His work through us. I definitely recommend this book!
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.