Subtitled “Using the Sermon on the Mount as a Guide to a Happy, Meaningful Life,” Life is Easier by lifetime student of the Word, Jim Christiansen, offers a unique method of studying out this most famous of Jesus’ sermons. Approaching the sermon as the one in which Christ fit the most precious and important of His teachings, Christiansen utilizes the eight so-called Beattitudes as a sort of inverted outline for the remainder of the sermon found in Matthew 5:12-7:27. After discussing the logic of preferring discipline today over sorrow tomorrow, Christiansen acknowledges that there is not simply one key to spiritual health but many, as can be seen in Christ’s teachings there on the Mount. He then moves through the sermon backwards from Matthew 7 by following the implied outline of the eight Beattitudes. He then continues his book by discussing the doctrine (world view) of Christ, the reality of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, faith, repentance, and baptism, to name just a few.
Taken as an entire collection of thoughts drawn from these three beautiful chapters in Matthew, Life is Easier is an awesome journalistic precis on matters of dire, spiritual importance. Some caveats may prove helpful in noting, however. These thoughts mentioned above, first of all, must not be separated and left to themselves. Christiansen’s discussion of obedience to the teachings of the Sermon in Chapter 2 (p.10), to name one example, may be misconstrued as works-based salvation, if it were not for his discussion on the doctrine of Christ later in Chapter 12. Secondly, it would prove helpful if Christiansen’s brief definition of faith as the “accepting and receiving of inspiration or revelation” (p.106) were detailed a bit more. Could this “inspiration or revelation” refer to any so-called “nudgings of the Spirit” or whispers from God or other extra-biblical babble? The Bible seems clear that no revelation outside of God’s complete Word is required. I cringe when I hear or read suggestions otherwise.
Overall, I enjoyed Christiansen’s book and his dedication to preserving the truths of Christ’s sermon. Oftentimes as I read the book, I was reminded of passages from John Piper’s Desiring God. I imagine a lengthy chapter on the Sermon on the Mount would fit nicely amidst the other collections of Piper’s texts, for there seems to be few better texts describing Christian Hedonism than that whose first nine verses start with the word “blessed” (“happy”).
© 2011 E.T.