Loving Jesus More, Phil Ryken. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014. Paperback, 175 pages.
The Bible compares our relationship to the Saviour in several ways: disciple/Teacher, sheep/Shepherd, servant/King, and more. One of the most powerful images is that of the Bridegroom and his Bride. Jesus is the husband, and the church is his beloved wife. We are in this relationship with Christ where he deeply loves us and is covenantally committed to us. Unfortunately, we don’t always reciprocate that love as we ought. That’s what this book is about. The title says it all: it’s aimed at stirring up Christians to love their Saviour more. What Christian wouldn’t want to do that?
Phil Ryken is the president of Wheaton College in Illinois. He’s written numerous books besides this one. Loving Jesus More came out of a series of chapel messages he delivered at Wheaton College in 2012-2013.
Though it comes from a scholar, this book is far from being academic in tone or approach. Rather, its tenor is thoroughly devotional and pastoral. Ryken gets to the heart of the matter, diagnosing why we don’t love the Saviour more, but also showing the way forward. He does all of this by faithfully expositing and applying relevant Scripture passages.
For a short book, it punches well above its weight. The writing is crisp and winsome. Let me give you a brief sample. In chapter 2, Ryken writes about doubt and how doubt can impact your love for the Saviour. He notes:
Some believers spend too much time doubting their faith, and not enough time doubting their doubts. Yes, there are some reasonable questions that thoughtful people have always raised about the Christian faith. But there are also some very good questions that faithful people should raise about their spiritual doubts:
- Have I studied what God has to say on this question, or have I been listening mainly to his detractors?
- Am I well aware of the how this doubt has been addressed in the history of Christian theology, or has my thinking been relatively superficial?
- Have I been compromising with sin in ways that make it harder for me to hear God’s voice and diminish my desire for the purity of his truth?
- Is this a doubt that I have offered sincerely to God in prayer, or am I waiting to see if God measures up to my standards before I ask for his help? (p.33)
The book is peppered with appropriate illustrations (many of which I’ve noted for my own preaching and teaching!). Moreover, Loving Jesus More also includes a Study Guide with helpful questions for reflection or group discussion.
This little gem could be quite edifying reading for a number of quiet Sunday afternoons. I’d also recommend it as a gift for those who make public profession of faith. They’re openly stating their love for the Saviour – and we should encourage that love to grow. And, for all of us, don’t we desire to grow in affection for the Saviour who literally loved us to death? That growth will happen through the Scriptures, and also through faithful books like this one based on Scripture.