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Jesus > Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough

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Abandon dead, dry, rule-keeping and embrace the promise of being truly known and deeply loved.  Jefferson Bethke burst into the cultural conversation in 2012 with a passionate, provocative poem titled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” The 4-minute video literally became an overnight sensation, with 7 million YouTube views in its first 48 hours (and 23+ million in a yea Abandon dead, dry, rule-keeping and embrace the promise of being truly known and deeply loved.  Jefferson Bethke burst into the cultural conversation in 2012 with a passionate, provocative poem titled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” The 4-minute video literally became an overnight sensation, with 7 million YouTube views in its first 48 hours (and 23+ million in a year). The message blew up on social-media, triggering an avalanche of responses running the gamut from encouraged to enraged. In Jesus > Religion, Bethke unpacks similar contrasts that he drew in the poem—highlighting the difference between teeth gritting and grace, law and love, performance and peace, despair and hope. With refreshing candor he delves into the motivation behind his message, beginning with the unvarnished tale of his own plunge from the pinnacle of a works-based, fake-smile existence that sapped his strength and led him down a path of destructive behavior. Bethke is quick to acknowledge that he’s not a pastor or theologian, but simply a regular, twenty-something who cried out for a life greater than the one for which he had settled. Along his journey, Bethke discovered the real Jesus, who beckoned him beyond the props of false religion.


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Abandon dead, dry, rule-keeping and embrace the promise of being truly known and deeply loved.  Jefferson Bethke burst into the cultural conversation in 2012 with a passionate, provocative poem titled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” The 4-minute video literally became an overnight sensation, with 7 million YouTube views in its first 48 hours (and 23+ million in a yea Abandon dead, dry, rule-keeping and embrace the promise of being truly known and deeply loved.  Jefferson Bethke burst into the cultural conversation in 2012 with a passionate, provocative poem titled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” The 4-minute video literally became an overnight sensation, with 7 million YouTube views in its first 48 hours (and 23+ million in a year). The message blew up on social-media, triggering an avalanche of responses running the gamut from encouraged to enraged. In Jesus > Religion, Bethke unpacks similar contrasts that he drew in the poem—highlighting the difference between teeth gritting and grace, law and love, performance and peace, despair and hope. With refreshing candor he delves into the motivation behind his message, beginning with the unvarnished tale of his own plunge from the pinnacle of a works-based, fake-smile existence that sapped his strength and led him down a path of destructive behavior. Bethke is quick to acknowledge that he’s not a pastor or theologian, but simply a regular, twenty-something who cried out for a life greater than the one for which he had settled. Along his journey, Bethke discovered the real Jesus, who beckoned him beyond the props of false religion.

30 review for Jesus > Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough

  1. 4 out of 5

    JoJo Sutis

    WARNING: THIS BOOK MIGHT MAKE YOU MAD!!! When I was offered the chance to read and review JESUS>RELIGION, I had never heard of Jefferson Bethke. I had never watched his YouTube videos. One thing I did know and believe is that Jesus is greater than religion, but I was curious to read Bethke’s take on this somewhat controversial issue. I was impressed! I was challenged! I was mad! I was impressed- that this book puts a voice to everything we know to be true in God’s Word, but aren’t necessary living WARNING: THIS BOOK MIGHT MAKE YOU MAD!!! When I was offered the chance to read and review JESUS>RELIGION, I had never heard of Jefferson Bethke. I had never watched his YouTube videos. One thing I did know and believe is that Jesus is greater than religion, but I was curious to read Bethke’s take on this somewhat controversial issue. I was impressed! I was challenged! I was mad! I was impressed- that this book puts a voice to everything we know to be true in God’s Word, but aren’t necessary living out. Things we sometimes ignore or twist to fit our own personal form of faith. Things we stand up for….but only to make ourselves feel better. I was impressed that Bethke did not hold back on who Jesus really is & what it really means to be a Christian. I was challenged- this book really called me out on several things. It made me really re-examine my heart about things like… Judging others Being a two-face AKA hypocrite Thinking the things I do in the name of Jesus, make me a “good person”. Here’s an example of a portion of the book that challenged me… “We talk about tithing, but the single mom next door can’t pay her rent. We make sure we have our quiet times every morning, but could care less about actually conversing with Jesus. We’ve never said the f- word out loud, but we have never prayed for our local homeless community either” OUCH! Is this challenging you as much as is it me??? I was mad- at myself, at religion, at the idea that sometimes I think I know all the answers…I’ve done all the right things and that I’m a-okay in my book! I was mad that Christianity has gotten a bad rap because of do-gooders who feel like it’s their job to look down their nose at other people with “worse” sins than their own. I was mad that, sadly, many churches have become unwelcoming to dirty filthy sinners. Guess what? I’m a dirty, filthy, sinner…that’s right. JoJo is a dirty, filthy, sinner. I’m no better than you. You’re no better than me. CAUTION: THIS BOOK MIGHT CHANGE YOUR LIFE!!! JESUS>RELIGION might change you life…. I really hope it does! But it may not. You may read this book and get mad for completely different reasons. You may feel that Jonathan is a little too honest, a little too open, a little too explicit. You may read it and think “that’s too deep, I’m not ready for that yet”. But, if you are tired of keeping up the “act”. Tired of constantly “performing” to earn favor. If you are ready to fess up that you’ve messed up, that we all have. If you’re ready to experience the grace of God and see that grace extend to people you know. Heed the invitation Jonathan writes about… “Relax, you don’t have to have it all figured out. All you need to do is come to Him (Jesus)… He just wants dependency, He just wants you…”

  2. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Skalberg

    My 14 yo son found Jefferson Bethke on YouTube and loves his Spoken Word videos. I ordered this book to learn more about his theology. My son jumped at it when it came in and read it before I did. I am not a theologian, but I did not spot any glaring issues with what he has to say. As a mom raising kids in this time of crazy huge numbers of young people raised in Christian homes leaving the Church and not going back, I am interested in any (theologically sound) young voices who are doing things My 14 yo son found Jefferson Bethke on YouTube and loves his Spoken Word videos. I ordered this book to learn more about his theology. My son jumped at it when it came in and read it before I did. I am not a theologian, but I did not spot any glaring issues with what he has to say. As a mom raising kids in this time of crazy huge numbers of young people raised in Christian homes leaving the Church and not going back, I am interested in any (theologically sound) young voices who are doing things a little different who grab a hold of my kids' attentions and help make this faith thing relevant and real. I am encouraged that kids like Jefferson are out there living their faith out loud and bold.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Micaiah

    Gosh, this is kinda rough...because I didn't even finish this one. I went into the book expecting a really great message - the title is, after all, Jesus > Religion, and the subtitle is "Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough." Sounds like really good stuff, am I right? But reading it, it made me feel like I *did* need to try harder, do more, and be better to be "good enough." So, I dunno. There's a fine line between really being under grace and following Gosh, this is kinda rough...because I didn't even finish this one. I went into the book expecting a really great message - the title is, after all, Jesus > Religion, and the subtitle is "Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough." Sounds like really good stuff, am I right? But reading it, it made me feel like I *did* need to try harder, do more, and be better to be "good enough." So, I dunno. There's a fine line between really being under grace and following Jesus simply by faith, and being under "grace" but always doing works to measure up. That fine line was blurred and very hard to find in Jesus > Religion, but it felt like it leaned more towards the latter part of that sentence. I feel sorta bad giving it this kind of review, but I want to be honest, and honestly? I wasn't really getting anything that great out of this. *sigh*

  4. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin Thompson

    Good news; Bethke understands the essence of the gospel, Jesus, the divine Son of God, came and died on our behalf for our sins. After his death he rose again from the grave, conquering shame and death so that whoever believes on and trusts in him through the Holy Spirit have been forgiven and will have eternal life. But beyond this Bethke gets caught up in some not so useful rhetoric. He doesn’t deal with the Biblical tension between the love of God and the wrath of God. For instance, he seems Good news; Bethke understands the essence of the gospel, Jesus, the divine Son of God, came and died on our behalf for our sins. After his death he rose again from the grave, conquering shame and death so that whoever believes on and trusts in him through the Holy Spirit have been forgiven and will have eternal life. But beyond this Bethke gets caught up in some not so useful rhetoric. He doesn’t deal with the Biblical tension between the love of God and the wrath of God. For instance, he seems to believe that obeying God out of fear is somehow foreign from the Bible. Likewise, he ignores the responsibility and massive expectations of God on the elect, focusing instead solely on the rest we have in Christ and the completeness of his atonement. Consequently, Bethke’s picture of the gospel becomes very confused, where we are supposed to be good despite already being made perfect, we are supposed to hope for a better tomorrow even though Christ’s work is totally complete and finished and we are supposed to participate in the Church even though we are somehow closer to Christ in our minds and hearts than we are with other Christians. Bethke, like so many American evangelical Christians before him, eagerly through out the communitarian emphasis of religion along with its legalistic tendencies. What is left is a personal belief system devoid of anything sacred or obligatory. Finally, Bethke does not understand Bonhoeffer. He cites Bonhoeffer as follows, “Even the famous German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wanted to reach a place of “religionless Christianity”. In 1944, while he was in prison for trying to sabotage the Nazis, he wrote, “We are approaching an entirely religionless age; people as they are now simply cannot be religious anymore. Even those who honestly describe themselves as ‘religious' do not in the least act upon it, and so they presumably mean something quite different by ‘religion’”. Bethke jumps too soon to consider Bonhoeffer an ally in his war against religious fakery. Bonhoeffer did agree, of course, that religion was fake and unhelpful to the Christian message. However, he thought religion was unhelpful because it conformed to easily to its surrounding culture. After all, the Church in virtually all its denominations merely stood by if not outright cooperated with the Nazi regime as it committed acts of unspeakable evil throughout Europe. But if Evangelicalism is anything, it is a religion in this sense. Modern western Evangelicalism praises to an absurd degree American culture. Evangelicalism has bought wholesale into consumeristic and hyper-individualistic thinking more than any other form of Christianity. If Bonhoeffer saw American Evangelicalism today he would call it the epitome of religion. Evangelicalism, especially in its view of Christianity as a relationship, encourages complacency and calls it contentment, promotes selfishness and calls it God’s love and tells Christians they don’t really have to help the poor, it’d just be nice if they did. Bonhoeffer would call us a bunch of pansies for not taking our faith seriously. Bonhoeffer, however, went even more extreme than this. He argued that Christians should not waste their time in churches, but instead should be in the world with the homeless, sick and mentally ill. He would say stop volunteering to lead Bible Studies or help with children’s choir and go protest an abortion clinic or give your food to the homeless.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Trina Lee

    Jesus > Religion is a game changer; this book has the potential to shift how an entire generation knows Jesus and to clearly see when He’s being falsified and used, especially in the name of religion. When Jefferson Bethke’s video went viral in early 2012, what impressed me even more than his spoken word poetry was how he responded to his critics. My expectations therefore were high for Jesus > Religion and Bethke exceeded them all. Thoughtfully unpacking the message from his video and going much Jesus > Religion is a game changer; this book has the potential to shift how an entire generation knows Jesus and to clearly see when He’s being falsified and used, especially in the name of religion. When Jefferson Bethke’s video went viral in early 2012, what impressed me even more than his spoken word poetry was how he responded to his critics. My expectations therefore were high for Jesus > Religion and Bethke exceeded them all. Thoughtfully unpacking the message from his video and going much deeper, Bethke is open about his own struggles and shares his faith journey. Bethke’s strength is in his gift for juxtaposition. He has the humility of someone twice his age, while speaking truth in today’s vernacular. Between intersections of words, Bethke calls us all out on our hypocrisy with directness and grace. I would highly recommend first reading this book yourself before gifting it to someone who isn’t familiarity with the Bible. While Bethke does a great job of giving context to the stories he uses from the New Testament, especially in the later half of the book, not as much context is given for the Old Testament references. With discussion questions written provided at the end of each chapter, this is a great book to read and discuss with a friend.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    This book really sparked my interest. I've been struggling for a while with the concept of faith. For a few years, I've felt like I was living in this cookie-cutter world called "Christianity" and felt like I didn't fit the mold. No matter how hard I tried, parts would stick out over the boundaries, or there wouldn't be quite enough dough to fill in the little nooks and crannies. I'm not saying this book "fixed" me. Not even close. But it did make me feel as if I'm not alone, and explained that w This book really sparked my interest. I've been struggling for a while with the concept of faith. For a few years, I've felt like I was living in this cookie-cutter world called "Christianity" and felt like I didn't fit the mold. No matter how hard I tried, parts would stick out over the boundaries, or there wouldn't be quite enough dough to fill in the little nooks and crannies. I'm not saying this book "fixed" me. Not even close. But it did make me feel as if I'm not alone, and explained that we've created a religion that is like a cookie cutter, when really, it wasn't like that at all. Two thoughts really made me think: 1. Jesus went to the cross knowing everything that I would ever do, say, or think and feel. He still went to the cross to save me. 2. "Church" comes from the Greek "ekklesia." I already knew this, but I didn't know it's original meaning - "people called out." To me, this definition is what church should be: a group of people coming together in faith to spread God's grace.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Omar

    The author does a good job of correcting our tendencies to put rules and standards ahead relationship, but I think he pendulum-swings to the opposite extreme in forgetting to emphasize that the Christian's goal is to become more like Christ - which necessitates change of life. Favorite Quote: "I think the more focused Christians are on external behavior, the greater the possibility they are trying to make up for what they lack in their hearts. When we have no real transforming power of Jesus in The author does a good job of correcting our tendencies to put rules and standards ahead relationship, but I think he pendulum-swings to the opposite extreme in forgetting to emphasize that the Christian's goal is to become more like Christ - which necessitates change of life. Favorite Quote: "I think the more focused Christians are on external behavior, the greater the possibility they are trying to make up for what they lack in their hearts. When we have no real transforming power of Jesus in our hearts,we hold up a list of external behaviors so someone can look at us and identify us as Christians. We humans prefer the tangible to the intangible any day. We prefer the flesh to the Spirit, the law to the heart" pg. 45

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I read this book not primarily for myself, but with an eye toward the students I teach. I often want to point them to books that are wise and Jesus-centered, but most of those [that have meat] are at a reading level that is too complex for them, or just aren't engaging to them [particularly if they don't know Jesus]. I was very pleased after finishing this book - it covers most of the bases of things I'd want them to know and understand. I read a section of it in class the other day and they rea I read this book not primarily for myself, but with an eye toward the students I teach. I often want to point them to books that are wise and Jesus-centered, but most of those [that have meat] are at a reading level that is too complex for them, or just aren't engaging to them [particularly if they don't know Jesus]. I was very pleased after finishing this book - it covers most of the bases of things I'd want them to know and understand. I read a section of it in class the other day and they really were engaged. Bethke has some good quotes in here, except that as a pretty well-read Christian I see where he steals most of his ideas. I don't feel like this book is anything groundbreaking in terms of theology or application, but just solid repackaging of truth for a younger generation. His bibliography in the back is helpful, as it points the reader toward the thinkers, pastors, and authors who very clearly influenced him. I didn't give it 5 stars because the book as a whole doesn't quite flow as nicely as it could, and because the chapter on art and music seems a bit heavy-handed and harsh. It reminds me of Romans 14-15 in that I think he'll look back and realize that as one who enjoys Christian freedom he shouldn't impose that on everyone. Some people enjoy the art he deems cheesy. It's strange, too, because that chapter is the only one in which there seems to be a less than conciliatory tone. Overall, really good book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    I was surprised at the quality of this one. I'm not wild about Bethke's famous youtube video, as I think it uses bad vocabulary and gives the wrong impression. But he has the chance to explain himself in this book, and I can accept most of his explanations. Begrudgingly I'm giving this one three stars. It's Bethke trying to speak to disillusioned youth at large in this book -- those who do not understand the importance of, and place for, the Christian church in the world today. Okay fine, for the I was surprised at the quality of this one. I'm not wild about Bethke's famous youtube video, as I think it uses bad vocabulary and gives the wrong impression. But he has the chance to explain himself in this book, and I can accept most of his explanations. Begrudgingly I'm giving this one three stars. It's Bethke trying to speak to disillusioned youth at large in this book -- those who do not understand the importance of, and place for, the Christian church in the world today. Okay fine, for the right audience, this book could be a good help. But it still rubs me the wrong way as he singles out the world "religion" as the bad word, representing all the negative results of times when the Christian message is distorted. Instead, he should use words like "legalism" or "fundamentalism." He keeps the emphasis on "grace alone" which is great to hear. But again, he falls into the trap which most non-denoms fall into, that being: What are the means of grace? If we are saved by grace alone, how do we know we are saved? He keeps the emphasis on Jesus alone, and rightly so, but there's no assurance of salvation anywhere, so in the end it goes back to "feelings" and "good works" in general. But that's me critiquing what's not in the book. To stay on point: I see how he's trying to write to a specific audience at a very basic level, and I understand it. But his aversion to traditions of the faith still rub me the wrong way...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kaysi

    In Jesus > Religion Jefferson Bethke asks many of the same questions and wrestles with many of the same ideas I myself have been asking and wrestling with over the past few years. I wouldn't say I agree with every single word he writes, but Bethke and I have come to a LOT of the same conclusions at this stage of our journeys. Bethke's rise to recognition came as a result of his spoken word YouTube videos, which are excellent, but that also means he didn't set out to be an author. He acknowledges In Jesus > Religion Jefferson Bethke asks many of the same questions and wrestles with many of the same ideas I myself have been asking and wrestling with over the past few years. I wouldn't say I agree with every single word he writes, but Bethke and I have come to a LOT of the same conclusions at this stage of our journeys. Bethke's rise to recognition came as a result of his spoken word YouTube videos, which are excellent, but that also means he didn't set out to be an author. He acknowledges as much in the book's introduction, and it is evident in his writing style. At times the book feels more like a rambling rant than cleanly divided chapters of organized thoughts; however, to be honest I really didn't mind because the things he's addressing are so important. I'm just glad someone is saying what he's saying. For those who grew up in or around evangelicalism, I think Jesus > Religion could be a great starting point to challenge preconceived notions (which many don't even recognize as such) and force people to think critically about who Jesus really is and how He really ought to affect our lives. For those who are already on that journey, there's probably a lot here that will resonate with you and possibly help you to feel a little less alone. I am very thankful for this book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Robert Sutherland

    A pretty affected rant, Bethke gets the essence of the gospel and how many think incorrectly that a works based religion will make one right with God. His theology is ok but his writing is quite frankly annoying. Maybe it's the 20 something west coast style but he over uses the dramatic triplet. For example It's free. And it's life giving. Will you trust him. That's ok once or twice but by the 20th time it had gotten on my nerves. That said he made several excellent points. All sin is paid for eithe A pretty affected rant, Bethke gets the essence of the gospel and how many think incorrectly that a works based religion will make one right with God. His theology is ok but his writing is quite frankly annoying. Maybe it's the 20 something west coast style but he over uses the dramatic triplet. For example It's free. And it's life giving. Will you trust him. That's ok once or twice but by the 20th time it had gotten on my nerves. That said he made several excellent points. All sin is paid for either by Jesus on the cross or by the sinner. We pray for the presents of Jesus when we really should desire his essence. His treatment of the unhealthy separation of sacred from secular, especially in the areas of music and art was quite good. His message was true but I think premature for someone married less than a year to be touting the merits of marriage to the love of his life. Overall the book was long on the what and very lacking in the how.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Katlyn Saley

    Wow. This wasn't the easiest book I've ever read. Not because I didn't enjoy reading it, but because the author really used God to get to my heart and thing about issues that sometimes I try to avoid. This book is powerful, and inspiring. It took me a while to get though, but I'm glad I read it. If you have not seen the youtube video Jesus>Religion I would recommend to do so. This book is an in depth explanation of that video and is the reason I bought the book in the first place. In my opinion Wow. This wasn't the easiest book I've ever read. Not because I didn't enjoy reading it, but because the author really used God to get to my heart and thing about issues that sometimes I try to avoid. This book is powerful, and inspiring. It took me a while to get though, but I'm glad I read it. If you have not seen the youtube video Jesus>Religion I would recommend to do so. This book is an in depth explanation of that video and is the reason I bought the book in the first place. In my opinion the meaning of the church has been lost today due to Religion. Jesus says "we as the people" are the "church." Something to think about. Are you living the way Jesus would want you to live?

  13. 5 out of 5

    Hufflepuff Book Reviewer

    A potentially life-changing and thought-provoking book written in a successfully casual tone. I love Bethke's heart and his ideas. This book changed the way I thought about myself. If we truly believe that Jesus's grace is sufficient, then we can quit trying to change according to our own efforts and simply let God do the work within us.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Loved the authors take on Christ and the Church. He is very passionate and writes a clear picture of Christ and salvation. Jesus is greater than Religion, and I enjoyed reading in this author's words just how much he is.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Denae Christine

    Reader thoughts: Very similar to Not a Fan and Crazy Love and Radical. All of them even have fancy theological subtitles that I just ignore. Once I've read the other three, this book didn't really add anything new. This book is straightforward and reminds us that the Bible isn't a rule book; it's a love letter. In the same page it'll say religious do-gooders are trying too hard and then that they aren't humble enough (ish). It'll say that broken sinners need Jesus. These are true, but it felt a li Reader thoughts: Very similar to Not a Fan and Crazy Love and Radical. All of them even have fancy theological subtitles that I just ignore. Once I've read the other three, this book didn't really add anything new. This book is straightforward and reminds us that the Bible isn't a rule book; it's a love letter. In the same page it'll say religious do-gooders are trying too hard and then that they aren't humble enough (ish). It'll say that broken sinners need Jesus. These are true, but it felt a little like it was pushing everyone to the middle ground. It was like, don't be a righteous person who's nitpicky over every possible sin, but don't sit around thinking it doesn't matter when you sin all the time. Jesus doesn't call us to be middle-grounders. He calls us to follow Him with our whole hearts and everything we're doing. Maybe I misread it, or maybe I just got bored because the book sounded so similar to the other books. I did like that JB reminded us that any sin can seem justified if we take pieces of the Bible out of context. He has the stance that homosexuality is a sin but that it won't prevent people from entering heaven. He said some believers will still struggle with that sin until the day they die, but that won't keep them from Jesus. I don't know if I have heard this idea, and I'm not sure what I think. I don't know if we have enough Bible verses to say one way or the other. Writer thoughts: JB did a good job keeping interest by always inserting his personal story. He'd have a bit of story and a bit of life application and bit of his thoughts on the Bible (with verses!) for each chapter. It's a good strategy for non-fiction writers. Everyone likes to read some story, even non-fiction readers. I've been wondering how to put more stories in my math lessons so my students find math more interesting and remember it better. Stories make everything better (I'm convinced Jesus used parables for this reason).

  16. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I encountered Jeff on a youtube video about a year ago, describing why he hates religion but loves Jesus. At first I thought that the title was a contradiction but after watching it, I noticed that my views lined up with his. This book explicitly stated that it is Jesus plus nothing, no rules or behaviors to adhere too. It is simply Jesus living his right through you, I can relate to his vivid testimonies on how I got burned out by religion. All I heard growing up was "do more to get more." "Do I encountered Jeff on a youtube video about a year ago, describing why he hates religion but loves Jesus. At first I thought that the title was a contradiction but after watching it, I noticed that my views lined up with his. This book explicitly stated that it is Jesus plus nothing, no rules or behaviors to adhere too. It is simply Jesus living his right through you, I can relate to his vivid testimonies on how I got burned out by religion. All I heard growing up was "do more to get more." "Do good and God will bless you." "If you don't do this, then God won't do that." I was never convinced that there was a loving God that was not counting my sins against me. Neither was there a God that was reminding me of my sin and my broken promises to stay faithful. Jeff states that it is not your works that matter but His. It is not your efforts to please God but it is the fact that God is pleased with Jesus and He is pleased with you. The love of God transforms your heart, not the god of religion with a bunch of rules to live by. Not the one that tells you that He is running out of chances to give you. Additionally, his testimonies about how God revealed Grace to him was amazing. Amazing Grace how sweet the sound, that saved me a wretch like me; I once was blind but now I see! Kudos to Jeff for writing a controversial, poignant and relevant book about the Grace of God. Religion will put in bondage but the good news of the gospel will set you free!! Highly recommended to unbelievers or believers!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Bane

    In all reality this is a book I believe everyone needs to read. Whether you’re a Christian or not, it is a challenging book. Jefferson walks the reader through his history with religion and Jesus. He communicates a strong message of how Jesus is greater than religion. The resounding theme of the book is everything is about Jesus, it’s a message of the love of God through his Son. The book doesn’t beat around the bush, Jefferson doesn’t hold back. It is message this generation needs and actually d In all reality this is a book I believe everyone needs to read. Whether you’re a Christian or not, it is a challenging book. Jefferson walks the reader through his history with religion and Jesus. He communicates a strong message of how Jesus is greater than religion. The resounding theme of the book is everything is about Jesus, it’s a message of the love of God through his Son. The book doesn’t beat around the bush, Jefferson doesn’t hold back. It is message this generation needs and actually deep down wants to hear. This is your chance to take your faith to a whole new level! I encourage everyone to pick up a copy and when you are done reading, pass it along to someone else. But this is your warning…you will be challenged, you will have to make a choice to face fears and your perspective of people and sin may need altered. While the book does discuss some heavy topics it is a VERY encouraging book. Many times are I was reading I was laughing, smiling and literally having a good time with the book. I felt as if my life was interacting with the words written. The message is a message of life! You won’t regret reading this book. It is worth the time, the money and investment. It is a message you will want to share with your loved ones. Happy reading!

  18. 5 out of 5

    morglowe

    Jefferson Bethke really does a good job breaking down the cultural stereotypes that have been formulated about Jesus, religion, and Christians. He explains why we should be looking at Jesus instead of mere humans when we seek to find an example to follow. As humans, we struggle with hypocrisy, and at times this fog clouds the window through which we view Jesus. Jefferson challenges the reader to make a conscious decision to look to Jesus instead of people and a particular religion. Christianity Jefferson Bethke really does a good job breaking down the cultural stereotypes that have been formulated about Jesus, religion, and Christians. He explains why we should be looking at Jesus instead of mere humans when we seek to find an example to follow. As humans, we struggle with hypocrisy, and at times this fog clouds the window through which we view Jesus. Jefferson challenges the reader to make a conscious decision to look to Jesus instead of people and a particular religion. Christianity and a personal walk with God is not about a set of dos and don'ts. It's about having an innate desire to do what Jesus wants you to do because that desire is in your heart. Religion is about rituals. Christianity is about love. As a Christian we have this misconception that there are rating systems by which we are judged. This myth is shattered throughout this book. Mr. Bethke explains that Jesus is more than just doing the right things and being good enough. This book challenged me personally to look at my Christian walk deeply and check my motives for doing what I do. Is it just to be seen of men? Or am I doing things out of a heartfelt desire to show my love to God.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I was heavily involved with college ministry when Jeff's video was first released. I enjoyed it and it started a heavy debate among some of us in the church as to his definition of religion or religious people. This book clearly explains what he meant and how it is dangerous to be religious even if you are religious against religious people (yea figure that out!). While reading the book you can tell that the book is very personal to the author. He puts a lot of personal stories even stories abou I was heavily involved with college ministry when Jeff's video was first released. I enjoyed it and it started a heavy debate among some of us in the church as to his definition of religion or religious people. This book clearly explains what he meant and how it is dangerous to be religious even if you are religious against religious people (yea figure that out!). While reading the book you can tell that the book is very personal to the author. He puts a lot of personal stories even stories about writing the book. Most of the book feels like a long blog post. Some people like that familiar tone and some don't. I thought it was a nice change from the books that I normally read. It is an easy read and has sparked a lot of discussion with my friends and family. I hope that this book becomes as large as his video and they discuss it everywhere. More importantly then the book is the context of the book and that is the grace of Jesus. The message in the book is clear: Stop trying to work for your salvation. Jesus already completed that on the cross. Accept His grace. Now go and grace others.

  20. 4 out of 5

    ReGina

    So, this was definitely my kind of Christian theology book. I get very annoyed with watered-down, super sanitized versions of Christ as well as self-serving, issue-based versions of Christianity. This book very much identified with my understanding and relationship with Christ as well as the reasons I believe in being a Christ follower. That being said, I think this is still somewhat surface. However, when scratching as some deeply embedded views, surface is actually okay. I didn't have the same So, this was definitely my kind of Christian theology book. I get very annoyed with watered-down, super sanitized versions of Christ as well as self-serving, issue-based versions of Christianity. This book very much identified with my understanding and relationship with Christ as well as the reasons I believe in being a Christ follower. That being said, I think this is still somewhat surface. However, when scratching as some deeply embedded views, surface is actually okay. I didn't have the same types of church and Christian experiences as Bethke, so I don't know if I was ever in the same place to which he often refers. But it's still an easily identifiable place, and you get it. It's not over your head, and it's very approachable, regardless of your beliefs. That's hard to do, and Bethke does it extremely well. I'm going to have this as a book club discussion with my church group; it should inspire a lot of dialogue. If you think that Christianity as it is often presented on a platter is hypocritical and you think many Christians are doing everything except looking like Christ, this is a good book for you. Highly recommend.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    This was a really fresh look at Jesus. Each one of us is an important part of the church body and we need each other to work properly.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Halley Hopson

    I absolutely love the way Jefferson Bethke describes and explains so many things about Christianity in both this book and his YouTube videos.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Gillies

    Exactly what I needed to read. Worth the time.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Luis Dizon

    I didn't really know what to think when Jefferson Bethke first came out with the hit YouTube video Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus. The video highlights flaws in many institutional churches in America--what is referred to as "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" in some circles. At the same time, the way Bethke defines "religion" has not gone uncriticized (on this point, I highly recommend reading Kevin DeYoung's review article, "Does Jesus Hate Religion? Kinda, Sorta, Not Really"). While he still I didn't really know what to think when Jefferson Bethke first came out with the hit YouTube video Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus. The video highlights flaws in many institutional churches in America--what is referred to as "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" in some circles. At the same time, the way Bethke defines "religion" has not gone uncriticized (on this point, I highly recommend reading Kevin DeYoung's review article, "Does Jesus Hate Religion? Kinda, Sorta, Not Really"). While he still promotes the same general message, he has learned from his critics and from his personal studies to become more nuanced in his presentations, as seen in other videos he has put out since then. The culmination of his thought as it stands now can be best seen in his recently released book, Jesus > Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough. The book is an extended commentary of sorts on the ideas that were laid out in the original video (plus a few of the more recent ones). This is where Bethke lays out his personal theology, which centers around the theme of how the message and redemptive work of Jesus Christ still shine forth in the Gospel stories despite the many misconstructions and misapplications (which he groups together under the umbrella of "religion") that have muddied the waters in the past. A very Christocentric theme, and one that I hope to be able to examine herein. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: But first, it's worth looking at the kind of individual Jefferson Bethke is. I must admit that he is the type of person that I would probably be able to relate to pretty well. Age-wise, I'm only a couple of years younger than him. We belong to the same generation--the Millennials (in Sociological circles, this term refers to everyone born between 1983 and 1999). We have a distinctive culture and ethos that is characterized by flashy-soundbites and a heavy reliance on social media. We are the generation that is apt to put out YouTube videos then write books based on said videos (assuming that the individual who put out the video has writing ability, which is not always the case). True to form, Bethke employs many pop culture references, writes in a narrative style that meshes well with this generation's mindset, and he never fails to amuse with quips such as "some of the most self-righteous people I have ever met have been twenty-year-old hipsters" (p. 50), and "if you can replace God's name with your girlfriend's name in the song, it's probably not all that deep or theologically dense" (p. 160--Worship leaders, take note: If you had to take just one thing from this book and nothing else, let it be this one.). His charisma and ability to make creative presentations of his thought will go a long way towards changing the hearts and minds of youth, and believers should pray that the change will always be in a positive, God-honouring direction. THE GOOD STUFF: Now, about the book itself. I wasn't quite sure what to expect when this came out. I actually quite enjoyed reading Bethke's life story and how he uses his life experiences as object lessons to communicate biblical truths. He is quite careful and nuanced about the way he presents his ideas, which is why I was able to agree with most of what he said. Anytime it seemed that he was about to veer off the wrong direction, he puts the appropriate qualifiers, which dispel any misgivings I may have had otherwise. An example that appears many times in the book is the heavy emphasis on salvation by grace. Bethke is very much dead-set against Legalism of any form (you don't even have to read the book to know that, as the cover alone gives away the premise). The potential pitfall of this is that it is easy to veer off the other extreme into what Michael Brown refers to as "Hyper-Grace," or more classically known as Antinomianism. But rest assured: Bethke is no Antinomian. He is clear that Christians are to be identified by their ongoing striving after holiness, and not some decision that they made at some point in their past (pp. 46-50). He hits the nail on the head when he says, "if you care more about flaunting your Christian freedom than promoting Christian unity, you're probably not free. You are actually a slave to your so-called freedom." (p. 53). In addition to this, he also has a wonderful picture of what true freedom in Christ is like: If someone has a true relationship with Jesus, they will feel the irresistibility of His grace, and cannot help but want to obey Him because we will see that He is infinitely better than the dead-ends of the world (pp. 146-150). We can have genuine assurance without turning that assurance into a licence to do whatever we want. And lest anyone thinks Bethke is giving people an excuse to throwing away the Law and the Church, he doesn't: He affirms that the Law is good as long as it is used rightly--as a moral standard to demonstrate our imperfections and need for a Saviour, and not as guide for how to get right with God (pp. 29-32). He also affirms the necessity of belonging to a church, arguing that we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater and abandon the Body of Christ just because we perceive imperfections among those who comprise it, since God intends for it to be a place where broken people can find healing together (pp. 194-196). THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF: So far, so good. There is very little to disagree with Bethke. But there is one thing that keeps popping up, and that is how he defines "religion." Now, he is clear how he defines the word, and that he's not referring to religion in the generic sense of "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe," but rather, to a more specific definition, which is "what one must do, or behave like, in order to gain right standing with God" (pg. 27). Sounds good, but then here is the problem: By playing semantic games with the word "religion," anyone can load anything negative they want onto it and use it as a verbal punching bag. But then, why should "religion" be used to highlight only the negatives? I have noticed that the people who define religion this way are those who insist on a dichotomy between relationship and religion dichotomy. And yet, I and many others have never had the relationship/religion dichotomy. As far as I can tell, it is a false dilemma to say that Christianity is either one or the other. It is both: It is a religion (in the historic sense of the term) and a relationship, with the religion defining the terms of the relationship and ensuring that we do not simply define "having a relationship with God" according to our own follies. The Bible never uses the word "religion" with a negative connotation (Case in point: In James 1:27, it is used quite positively), and "religion" has a long track record being used to express what is positive in Christianity, whether it is Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, or Jonathan Edwards' A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections. There is a risk that this loading of negative baggage onto "religion" would create a discontinuity between our generation and previous ones, making it hard to relate to them or see the good that they have to offer to us. Also, an observation that is often made regarding Millennials is that there is a marked tendency towards Libertinism and an eschewing of the work ethic of previous generations. While Bethke does clearly state that he does not espouse or condone these views, I fear that a generation of itching ears will still misconstrue his words as a green light to live in ways that are clearly in disobedience to God. See, Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:8 that "the Law is good if one uses it properly." This implies both a proper and an improper use of the Law. It is improper to use the Law to win brownie points with God--a point Bethke thoroughly brings home. But it is perfectly proper to use the Law for three things: 1) To reveal the sinfulness of human hearts, 2) to restrain evil, and 3) to reveal what God regards and pleasing in His sight (for the theologically-savvy, I am referring to The Three-Fold Use of the Law). Of these three, only the first is mentioned in the book (pp. 29-32). Unless this proper use of the Law is highlighted, it is easy to take the denunciation of works-righteousness and turn it into a wholesale rejection of the Law, which in turn leads to a reinforcement of the do-as-you-please ethic that is all too prevalent among this generation. SUMMARY: Having said all of that, Jefferson Bethke's insights are certainly well thought out, and the Body of Christ is made all the more enriched by his talents in communicating biblical truth to this new generation. He properly warns against many pitfalls that plague the modern Church (whether it is Legalism, Antinomianism, Tribalism, Separatism or using the Gospel for material gain), and steers a path that is both balanced and biblical accurate. This book is specially helpful to those who are wrestling with one or more of the issues just mentioned. Also, I highly recommend that those who read this book should take the scripture passages that are referenced in the endnotes and study them for oneself. The various authors that he cites can be potentially fruitful to look into as well, provided that one exercises discernment in knowing which ones are reliable spiritual guides and which ones are not (In p. 125, Bethke cites Sex God by Rob Bell, which just left me wondering, "But Why?"). Overall, I commend Bethke for having produced this helpful volume. He's got a long way to go, and Lord knows how he might be used to impact this generation in years to come. It is my prayer that not only he but everyone who follows him (myself included) will continue to grow and be conformed in our thoughts and in our actions to the Jesus to Whom we look up, and upon Whom we place our hopes and allegiance.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Shay Prendergast

    The book's writing style could put it in the YA category. Not terrible, but very young and overly enthusiastic, at least for my taste. He makes many good points about following Jesus versus following religion, but it was repetitive. I also thought he was a bit off the mark with some of his theological assertions. For example, "When we become lazy and only copy other art in order to make it Christian, we are sinning. We are saying God is a copycat and that he needs culture's creativity." I follow The book's writing style could put it in the YA category. Not terrible, but very young and overly enthusiastic, at least for my taste. He makes many good points about following Jesus versus following religion, but it was repetitive. I also thought he was a bit off the mark with some of his theological assertions. For example, "When we become lazy and only copy other art in order to make it Christian, we are sinning. We are saying God is a copycat and that he needs culture's creativity." I follow the point he's making, but to say that trying to "Christianize" current culture is a sin, sounds like one of the rules that the "fundies" add to the bible, which he warns against back in chapter 3. It's certainly misguided but I don't think he makes a solid argument for it being sin. I appreciated the section about idols, in particular how you can tell that someone has idolized something when they demonize the opposing view. This quote from chapter 8 was also good, "If you only want to obey God when you feel threatened by his commands, it's not God you worship, but your fear." Overall I think the message is good, and I'm hoping to get my kids to read this and spark some discussions.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    "I saw the church wasn't a museum for good people; it was a hospital for the broken. Jesus wasn't trying to create a place to show off His shiny employees; He wanted a place where His children could be healed."

  27. 4 out of 5

    Deena Shoemaker

    Jesus > Religion presents a challenge to the pharisaic rule that has overshadowed much of American Christianity and comes back to the core of who Jesus really is. It's about how far away we've gotten from the true essence of what it means to be followers of Christ. Bethke doesn't just skim the surface of the issues; he digs into them, bringing out the parts of scripture that apply. When the poem Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus first came out, I shared it. I loved it. I understood it because Jesus > Religion presents a challenge to the pharisaic rule that has overshadowed much of American Christianity and comes back to the core of who Jesus really is. It's about how far away we've gotten from the true essence of what it means to be followers of Christ. Bethke doesn't just skim the surface of the issues; he digs into them, bringing out the parts of scripture that apply. When the poem Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus first came out, I shared it. I loved it. I understood it because I had felt the pressures of it. But all I could hear were people telling me how theologically wrong it was. After all, we ARE a religion. Christianity is religion. Well, yes and no. Yes we are A religion but that’s not what Bethke was getting at. That’s not what a lot of people (like me) heard. He was talking about rules and behaviors. He was talking about us acting just like the Pharisees of old. Because we do. As a millennial I wasn't really surprised by much of the book. It's something my generation has been struggling with all our lives. We struggle with the perfectionism. Everyone has to be perfect, everyone has to look the same, everyone has to give up all things that aren't expressly labeled "Christian" and burn them in our backyards (I’m not exaggerating I actually know people that were told to do this). But even growing up in the generation that has kicked and screamed against the church, I was surprised by some of Bethke’s topics in this book. He points out things I haven't even thought of. We've allowed our culture to affect the way we interpret scriptures in ways we can't even imagine. We have pulled back from culture as a church. We have categorized ourselves separately from the world under a slot called "Christian," where we have our own clothes, our own music, our own movies, our own books, etc. We don't need to mix with the world because we've got our little subculture. This is one of the issues Bethke addresses. We've separated ourselves. And why bother reaching out when we've got our perfect little comfort zone right here? We've built of walls of perfection around our t-shirt Jesus slogans and our not-really-theologically-sound-but-at-least-it-said-amen pop music. These past couple of months I've been trying to abandon all I know (read: thought I knew) and take the Bible at its actual literal word. I've been trying to drop what people have told me it means and really dig in and get the message for myself. But somehow Bethke managed to show me I wasn't even close to letting go of all my presuppositions. That fact alone scares me. It should scare you. We should be terrified because we are supposed to be reflections of Christ, but our glass has some major distortions in it. We’re looking more like fun-house mirrors instead of a high-quality looking glass. We share our gold-star-sticker version of Church with people while we smile and all the while we are bleeding underneath. As Bethke’s original poem highlighted, “church isn't a museum for good people, it's a hospital for the broken.” We can’t expect to reach people when we can’t even be vulnerable. We can’t show them that Jesus loves the broken when we pretend we aren't. This book has opened my eyes wider than I thought they needed to go. I thought so much about it and still have more to think about. My heart broke over this book. I hope yours will too. We need to shed our religion we've been hiding under and get back to Jesus. Christianity is a religion, but it isn't about the works of religion. It’s not about what we do, it’s about what He’s already done. You wrote that if you had affected just one heart that this book would be worth it. You have already affected one, and I've no doubt there will be many more. Thank you for being real, thank you for being raw, thank you for going along with God and writing this book, Jefferson. Thank you, thank you, thank you. this book was provided in exchange for an unbiased review by ThomasNelson through FaithVillage.com

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Earley

    Warning: This may make some readers angry. I read the first chapter of this book and was stunned. I was immediately blown away by the beauty of this man's words. He's so honest and blunt about his past to guide and prove a point to his readers. I can only imagine the amount of courage it took to write such a book. There were so many things that made me stop and think. It took me so long to read this book because after I'd read a few paragraphs, I'd have to put it down and think about its message. Warning: This may make some readers angry. I read the first chapter of this book and was stunned. I was immediately blown away by the beauty of this man's words. He's so honest and blunt about his past to guide and prove a point to his readers. I can only imagine the amount of courage it took to write such a book. There were so many things that made me stop and think. It took me so long to read this book because after I'd read a few paragraphs, I'd have to put it down and think about its message. This is a book you can read again and again and again; yet walk away every time and understand something new that you hadn't noticed the last time. I know this won't be the only time I read this book. Jefferson made me think about and realize things I never thought or realized before! It was like opening my eyes after a long sleep. Chapter 9 (section: "What we were created as and created for") made me see what I hadn't seen before. Every chapter was eye-opening and interesting and personal and heartfelt. The whole book was inspirational. Chapter 8 probably had the biggest impact on me because I've been having a difficult time lately. The whole book really helped me on a personal level, but as far as faith goes, Chapter 8 probably had the biggest effect on me. There are certain things I will be seeing with new eyes. I'm not entirely sure how to rate this book because it was just....It was indescribable, and this book will be different to everyone that reads it because I think everyone will get something different out of reading it. But personally, it made me see things on a whole new level and think about things in a different way. I would really recommend picking up this book, or even watching a few of Jefferson Bethke's YouTube videos.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    this book has touched places in my heart that no book ever dared to travel. and trust me I've read quite a few book, YA mostly but still, and none have left the effect on me as this one has. let me start off by saying now that I discovered Jefferson Bethke when I was searching the web for Christian videos. I felt that I was drifting from God lately so I decided to do something entertaining and interesting by watching videos and that's when Mr. Bethke showed up. I had watched "Counterfeit Gods" fi this book has touched places in my heart that no book ever dared to travel. and trust me I've read quite a few book, YA mostly but still, and none have left the effect on me as this one has. let me start off by saying now that I discovered Jefferson Bethke when I was searching the web for Christian videos. I felt that I was drifting from God lately so I decided to do something entertaining and interesting by watching videos and that's when Mr. Bethke showed up. I had watched "Counterfeit Gods" first and oh boy did that almost bring me to tears because of how deep it was. how TRUE it was. never had heard anything more true and empowering. I bought the poem on iTunes and I listen to (or try to) it everyday. it's THAT good. so I watched more videos of his and I began to like the Jefferson dude a LOT. so I followed him on all social media. I was at books a million one day and saw a book with his name on it. I figured since his videos were good, then this book must be also. one of the best purchases of my entire life. this book offered so much perspective. so many thoughts and stories and views. this book even brought me to tears. and sometimes I would have to close the book and silently thank God that someone actually found the words to say that reached and helped me understand. I was high lightning and mentally memorizing quotes and lines. i love this book so much. this is one I'm going to read over and over and over again. I'm frustrated? I'll read this book. I'm sad? I'll read this book. I'm confused? I'll read this book. heck I'm going to read it just because! and, Jeff, thank you for all that you've done. you truly are inspiration and I cannot begin to say how grateful I am for you. keep doing you, bud.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Virgilyo Souza

    Back in January of 2012, a young boy from Tacoma, Washington put out a video on YouTube entitled 'Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus'. In just a few hours after uploading, the video hit millions of view. Up to this date, the video has more than 26 millions view. This book Jesus > Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough is based on that poem. This piece of text is powerful, honest, provocative and challenging. While reading the book, I could relat Back in January of 2012, a young boy from Tacoma, Washington put out a video on YouTube entitled 'Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus'. In just a few hours after uploading, the video hit millions of view. Up to this date, the video has more than 26 millions view. This book Jesus > Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough is based on that poem. This piece of text is powerful, honest, provocative and challenging. While reading the book, I could relate myself to many stories a comparison that Jefferson Bethke mention. Jefferson is a young leader who became a phenomenon on YouTube with his own interpretation of thoughts on why he love Jesus, but not religion. A true addict of grace. A voice that this new generation need to address many issues and obstacles that the younger crowd faces when It comes to following Jesus. I liked that book, in fact I think I could say is one of my favorite book of 2013 so far. I will recommend to everyone that I have the opportunity to talk about Jesus or religions.

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