Book Review: Jesus > Religion

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I have gotten back into the swing of things and have read a few books in the past few weeks in addition to my schoolwork. I am finally able to start blogging somewhat regularly again, so I'm bringing back that notion of regular book reviews. Of course! One of the most anticipated books of the year, or really just a one that I've been following for a while, is Jesus is greater than Religion, by Jefferson Bethke. I was really looking forward to his book for a long time, and it really struck a chord.

Some may remember when he burst into the Youtube scene with his spoken poem by the same name. It's gained over 25 million views in the past year and a half since it came out January 2012. The book is like an extension of the poem - Why following Jesus is much more than just organized religion, in so many words. In it, he tackles what authentic Christianity is all about, and takes a personal relationship with Jesus to the next step. He shares his struggles and hurts, his personal journey through a rough childhood, a rash early adulthood, and a raw understanding of it all. From the beginning Bethke points out that he doesn't have the answers, but is sharing his journey for others to hopefully see Jesus more clearly. To want more of Him. Bethke's rough background is shared with such humility and openness, his style of writing is so personable and real, it feels like I'm having a conversation with him face to face. He's not putting on a show- this is really him. His journey to discovering what authentic Christianity really looks like is one that believers and not should read. Jesus is the star, not him as the writer. After all, the entire narrative of the Bible is all about Jesus. In order to discover more of Him, though, we are to leave behind empty religion.

You know what I mean, megachurches, or any for that matter, who only care about how much is in the till and how many are in attendance, and how good the sermon went. Not all are like that, I assure you, but this is typical American Christianity which we have been fed our whole life, coming out of consumerism and saying "Jesus loves me so it's okay if I do this, but then why does he allow me to go through this? I tithed this week, I attended service on Sunday, what more do you want?"--- and it's battled head on. Bethke sees this attitude first hand by attending a Christian college, and being on the baseball team, among other areas. Everyone prays before the game and attends church, but that's where it ends. He saw his team members wasting their lives away on the sidelines, only taking their faith as far as they wanted to as long as it was still convenient for the college scene. They believed in God, so other than professing their faith, they didn't have to do anything else, right? That is part of what Bethke means by empty religion, or spoon fed American Christianity, if you will. This is one of the many motives behind the spoken word poem which led to and is further explored in this book.

Bethke approaches it with such humility. He encourages his readers to leave behind this empty religion and follow the true hero, the true star and writer of our story - Jesus. Furthermore, an excerpt from the poem which inspired the book ---

Now back to the point, one thing is vital to mention
How Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrums
See one’s the work of God, but one’s a man made invention
See one is the cure, but the other’s the infection
See because religion says do, Jesus says done
Religion says slave, Jesus says son
Religion puts you in bondage, while Jesus sets you free
Religion makes you blind, but Jesus makes you see
And that’s why religion and Jesus are two different clans

As Christians, we are to abandon empty religion with rules and rituals that strive to earn God's approval. That's not he wants - God designed us as individuals, not robots. Instead, he wants us to choose him by our own free will - he loves that. We are to embrace the free gift of God's very own son, Jesus, who came to die for our sins as a sinless perfect sacrifice. Jesus already paid the price, and Jesus sets us free - we don't have to do anything else. Works alone won't get us eternal life, faith and works plus Jesus will. Grace.  I think Bethke has got it pat down, and many others out there do, too. Bethke has found a message here that many end up searching their whole lives for, but instead come up empty handed. I would recommend this book for anyone and everyone, no matter your background, where you came from, or what you believe. This book has provoked me, challenged me, convicted me, and led me to a deeper understanding of who Jesus of the bible really is and what he is all about.

I encourage you to check it out as well!

Check out Jefferson Bethke's book:
Barnes & Noble

Get to know him better:



  1. I love this! I remember when the YouTube video came out, and I thought it was so true. It's such an interesting concept that I think we often overlook, but religion was created by man, and Jesus was created by God. That word religion just throws people off I think, and it's become more about that than true faith, which is sad.


  2. Hey Katherine! I nominated you for the Sunshine Award on my blog today! Have a great weekend!


  3. Thank you for Sharing
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