I believe it is possible to learn to live as Jesus taught. That is what the process of Spiritual Formation is all about (putting on the character of Christ). And that is what this trilogy of books aims to do. James Bryan Smith believes the gospel is about change in our lives today, not just our eternal destiny. In his Apprentice Series he aims to help Christians develop a robust discipleship by helping them understand who God is, what it means to be a Christian and what it means to live in community as a part of God’s kingdom. You’ll find all 3 of these books helpful if your desire is to learn to live as Jesus taught:
We all have ideas that we tell ourselves about God and how he works in our lives. Some are true–but many are false. James Bryan Smith believes those thoughts determine not only who we are, but how we live. In fact, Smith declares, the most important thing about a person is what they think about God. The path to spiritual transformation begins here.
“I have never met a person whose goal was to ruin his or her life. We all want to be happy, and we want it all of the time.” So begins James Bryan Smith in The Good and Beautiful Life. The problem is, he tells us, we have bought into false notions of happiness and success. These self-centered decisions lead us further into the vices that cause ruin: anger, lust, lying, worry and judging. Eventually we find ourselves living a beautifully packaged life of self-destruction. Following the Sermon on the Mount, this follow-up to The Good and Beautiful God guides us to look behind these character flaws and to replace our false beliefs with Jesus’ narratives about life in the kingdom of God.
In this third book in the Apprentice Series, James Bryan Smith helps us know how to live in relationship with others as apprentices of Jesus. “Apprentices of Jesus are not part-time do-gooders,” he writes. “They live in continuous contact with the kingdom of God, and are constantly men and women in whom Christ dwells. They do not sometimes tell the truth, sometimes live sacrificially or sometimes forgive. There are myriad opportunities for us to impact the world in which we live.”
Erich’s note: This series came about as the result of his learning from two great men, Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. Foster was a mentor to him and James eventually served as a teaching assistant to Willard for more than 10 years. It was during that time that Willard encouraged him to create “a curriculum for Christlikeness.” You can learn more about this series including downloading some leader guides for taking groups of people through this curriculum by visiting their website.
Your turn… What are some other books on Spiritual Formation that you’ve found to be helpful?