The Imperfect Disciple debuted a little over a year ago, and I’ve been keeping an eye on what lines seem to resonate the most with readers, at least according to what I’ve been able to seen on social media. Below are 20 quotables from the book that seem to have landed well with others. Maybe they will with you too.
1. “The point of the Christian life is not self-improvement or more Bible knowledge but Christlikeness.”
2. “The words of fear and shame may cut deep, but Christ’s blood speaks a better word.”
3. “Jesus is looking specifically for the people who can’t get their act together.”
4. “A message of grace will attract people but a culture of grace will keep them.”
5. “One of the subtle dangers of the way many Christians ‘do discipleship’ is that they are always somehow looking at Jesus and yet never really seeing him.”
6. “Our obedience is not the grounds of our relationship (with Jesus) but the overflow of it.”
7. “Every day, I wake up into Romans 7. Every dadgum day. My alarm goes off and I sit up in bed, my uncoffeed consciousness groggily gearing up for sins–both of omission and of commission. I’m engaged in the flesh before I even get my feet on the carpet. And yet, right there beside me, laid out like the day’s outfit for school, are new mercies. Romans 8 lies right there, spooning Romans 7 in a full-size bed, no wiggle room.”
8. “What is the use of telling a guy in bare feet to pull himself up by his bootstraps?”
9. “No matter how you feel, if you are a follower of Jesus, you are never truly stuck.”
10. “What is discipleship, then, but following Jesus not on some religious quest to become bigger, better, or faster, but to become more trusting of his mercy toward our total inability to become those things?”
11. “It’s interesting how often the areas of our inner selves we strive the most to hide from Jesus are the ones he’s most interested in. And it’s amazing that these things about ourselves we hope he doesn’t see are the very things he means to cover with his grace.”
12. “Only the gospel gives us the security (of union with Christ) to risk reputation and hurt in order to love others sacrificially and boldly.”
13. “When our vision is constantly occupied by small things, we are tempted to yawn more at the glory of God.”
14. “The problem is the same every day, but the mercies are new.”
15. “This is the whole point of reading and studying the Bible – to encounter the glory of Jesus – and if we aren’t reading and studying to encounter the glory of Jesus, we are missing the whole point.”
16. “In the end, as in the beginning, it is not our good intentions or even our good deeds that will get us out of the muck of ourselves. It is God’s rescuing hand. It is his enduring announcement over us messed-up creatures, ‘I love you,’ that changes everything.”
17. “I wonder sometimes how all of our steps, tips, and quasi-spiritual ‘life hacks’ come across to the Christian woman who is married to an unbelieving husband completely apathetic to the things of God, to the young Christian whose parents aren’t saved and hate that he is, to the husband whose wife seems more interested in Pinterest than in him, to the working-class guys and gals who see through the slick pick-me-ups of the privileged, to the frequently discouraged, the constantly disappointed, and the perennially depressed.”
18. “Do you know why there are a thousand fresh self-help books every year? It’s because they don’t work.”
19. “Jesus’ major contribution to the world was not a set of aphorisms (general truths). He was born in a turdy barn, grew up in a dirty world, got baptized in a muddy river. He put his hands on the oozing wounds of lepers, he let whores brush his hair and soldiers pull it out. He went to dinner with dirtbags, both religious and irreligious. His closest friends were a collection of crude fishermen and cultural traitors. He felt the spit of Pharisees on his face and the metal hooks of the jailer’s whip in the flesh of his back. He got sweaty and dirty and bloody – and he took all of the sin and mess of the world onto himself, onto the cross to which he was nailed naked.
In his work and in his words, Jesus is making promises to the beaten, the torn, the broken, the depressed, the desperate, the poor, the orphan, the abandonded, the cheated, the betrayed, the accused, the left-behind. He is, believe it or not, promising to fix it all.”
We just don’t get the Sermon on the Mount, or Jesus’s ministry in general, like his immediate hearers did. Jesus wasn’t turning things upside down. He was turning them right side up.
This is why the good news is good news for those at the bottom. Think of every category of person spoken to in the Beatitudes:
The spiritually impoverished.
The emotionally devastated.
The psychologically weak.
The culturally oppressed.
The inwardly pure.
The relationally calm.
The physically abused.
The personally accused.
Culturally speaking, do we cherish these people? Are these the kinds of people we typically feature on magazine covers or in awards shows? And we don’t typically have a word for them. And yet these people are exactly the ones Jesus is speaking to. His words are especially designed for and specifically targeted at . . . well, losers.
And this cannot be good news for those who are, spiritually speaking, sitting at the head of the conference table. It cannot be good news for those who are, you know, feeling their own way through life by following the positive energy, man.
This cannot be good news for those clinking wine glasses over burnt steaks while making a deal on the vivisected corpses of babies. It cannot be good news for those trying to game the system.
But isn’t it good news for those of us in the caves?