Posted in Christian Faith

Book Review: The Life You’ve Always Wanted

Summary

In the book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, John Ortberg explains to readers how they can become like Crist but not without discipline and effort. Rather than just accepting that salvation is the “minimal entrance requirement for getting into heaven” [1] Ortberg contends that salvation is about living a glorious human life now, on Earth. He describes the process of becoming a person who lives victoriously and Christ-like as morphing, and describes the pre-morphed life as one of disappointment and guilt. Ortberg confesses that he has goals that are familiar to many of us such as. Trying to be a better person, better spouse, and better Christian. But, rather than trying to simply act like better people or striving to do the right things, he suggest that once we are transformed into the image of Christ, we will want to be better people and do the right things.

On the current state of the church, Ortberg quotes William Iverson who wrote: “A pound of meat would surely be affected by a quarter pound of salt.”[2] With that statement, he validates an assumption I have had for quite some time and that is that Christians are not bringing about the changes in the world that Jesus spoke about and that it is because very few people actually have actually morphed into the Christlike beings we are instructed to become. In Ortberg’s opinion, Christians are not worth their salt because they spend too much of their time trying and not enough time training. As a solution to what is ailing the world, Ortberg suggests that Christians train themselves as athletes would in spiritual disciplines that will help us grow toward the life God graciously offers us. [3]

Concrete Response 

Reading that Christians are not bringing about the changes in the world that Jesus spoke of because very few of us are actually becoming more Christlike resonated with me personally. I think he is on to something when he said that the reason for this is because Christians have been trying, not training to be more like Christ. When I think about all the troubles people have in the world today and what Christians are doing to solve any of them, I have been more or less stuck on why we are not, essentially, making a difference. The book makes it clear that the Church is not making a difference because most of its members have not been transformed. Most of us want to be more like Christ, Ortberg notes, but it isn’t happening. Citing a Gallup Poll that concluded that a third of Americans have made a commitment to Christ but the salty impact they are making is not recognizable. [4] To illustrate his point, Ortberg uses an example of a creeping caterpillar that is transformed into a soaring moth (Ortberg, 2002, p. 21). This simple illustration leaves readers wondering, if we are to be transformed into durable images of Christ, why is the metamorphosis of so many Christians barely recognizable?

Reflection 

What has been troubling me the most about this book is how convicting it is. Are the troubles of the world due to the fact, in part anyway, that I too have not morphed into who God designed me to be? I have spent quite a bit of time over the last several months trying to figure out how Christians might have a bigger impact in the world and I think it as simple as this from The Baptist Faith and Message, “Christians are under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society. Means and methods used for the improvement of society and the establishment of righteousness among men can be truly and permanently helpful only when they are rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ.”

Especially in light of what has been going on the last few years, I am in favor of having difficult conversations about race relations in America, about reforming a justice system that is broken in many places, and doing what I can to ensure that swift and certain justice is delivered to anyone who chooses to abuse their power or authority on those they have sworn to protect and serve. But, ultimately, no solution anyone comes up with will work unless, as stated above, it is rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. St. Francis of Assisi is credited as saying, “Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.” And, really, the solution is no more complicated than that. And, as Ortberg suggests, anything short of that amounts to Christians simply trying harder to be better and that has not been working.

Application

What I have gained from reading this book is a deeper understanding of transformation, what it means to be transformed, and that transformation is not simply an act of God but also something that requires discipline and purposeful, intentional training. Simply trying hard will not help us “do the right thing at the right time in the right way with the right spirit.” [5] In addition to training as an athlete would at spiritual discipline, we are also told that we need to wait, even trying to deliberately place ourselves in situations where we have to wait (Ortberg, 2002, p. 83). For me, I don’t need to find reasons to wait because, as it turns out, God has given me one and I need to find a way to be comfortable in it, which has not been easy. My wife and I sold our house last summer because both of us thought God had called us to ministry in another state but, one year later, we are now beginning to question whether we were called or whether the move was something we wanted for ourselves. After questioning our calling for several months, we are beginning to realize that God wants us to grow more where we are because the time is not right for us right now. This book made me realize that, perhaps we need more training before we are sent because God doesn’t think we are ready yet.


[1] John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, 2002, p. 29 

[2] Ibid. 33 

[3] Ibid. 46 

[4] John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, 2002, p. 33 

[5] John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, 2002, p. 43

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