Especially this time of year, with finals and term papers upon many of us, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that every part of our lives has been redeemed by Jesus for his glory and the good of others. If you’re drifting away from that radical, daily transformation that grabbed you at the beginning of your faith journey, or you never quite got there in the first place, read Being a Christian by Jason K. Allen. Better yet, read it for free! See the end of this post for details on entering to win a free copy!
Overview + bottomline
This book is handy because it’s a quick read, it keeps things practical and not too theoretical, and is soundly doctrinal without being wordy, dry or pedantic. I wouldn’t describe it as seeker-friendly, as the author assumes that you are coming from a Christian worldview, and it’s packed with Scriptures. It could be a great read for a newer Christian trying to learn the ropes of this following Jesus thing, or make a good refresher for someone who finds themselves getting a little dull or complacent about their day-to-day walk. As biblical guru John MacArthur notes in his foreword:
“This book is an excellent exposition of the gospel … suitable for any reader at any stage in spiritual growth. It communicates effortlessly some of the difficult truths that most of us have to labor hard to make clear.”
It’s definitely designed to be relevant to modern times, with relatable examples to illustrate points. It’s not written specifically to a college student, and there’s plenty of things that are not as directly applicable to most gals in their early 20s, such as raising kids or marriage, but even if you’re not headed there or aren’t there yet, it’s good food for thought of future reference. Many of the topics, such as time management and use of money, are hugely important in college/the early 20s.
Bold and timely encouragement to stop wasting time
It’s no secret that in American (and Western) culture, time-wasting is off the charts. Allen devotes a section to how the gospel should impact how we use our time, and gives some gems of advice that are particularly helpful to those of us who are in early adulthood and forming the behavioral patterns that will likely follow us for the rest of our lives. He recommends learning to say no to unnecessary commitments, cracking down on unproductive screen time, and remembering that we only have a few hours in each uncertain day on this earth. To me, this was the most important section of the book. I have strong workaholic tendencies, and it can be tough for me to step back and realize that constantly striving after achievements and productivity for productivity’s sake is not the best use of my time. It’s also a great reminder to cut back on time down the tubes thanks to social media — Pinterest can be a killer for me! Whatever it is specifically for you, Allen’s to-the-point advice will help you sift out the necessary and the superfluous things in your schedule.
The section relating to recreation and the gospel is separate, but ties in seamlessly with the time section. Allen gives the advice to simplify your life, which is a breath of fresh air to me, as a student, when all the world around me is telling me is that I need to apply for one more scholarship, do one more summer internship, take one more class, shadow one more professional, get one more resume critique, and on and on in an endless cycle. Allen also strongly encourages taking the Lord’s Day as a day of rest, contemplation and worship. This is something that has been a struggle for me since the end of high school, but I have tried to always make it a priority, and I’ve definitely seen it pay dividends. Since reading Being a Christian, I’ve been redoubling my efforts, and I encourage you to do the same as much as you are able. As Allen asks, “If we do not rest on Sundays, when will we?” It might seem impossible to never work or have study group or homework on Sundays — I haven’t been able to do that as often as I would like. But Allen hits the nail on the head when he exhorts us to prioritize meeting with other Christians, spending time in nature, reading Christian literature, and spending time with friends and family on Sundays. We’re not, as Allen notes, obligated to observe the Sabbath, but if we don’t protect some time of rest during the week, we’ll run ourselves completely ragged, and schedule worship out of our lives.
Financial advice to foster contentment, not greediness
I think the money chapter of the book is second only to the time section in value — of course each subject area in the book is as valuable, but Allen does an exceptionally great job with these two areas, in my opinion. This might be uncomfortable for us “broke” college students, struggling to pay outlandish tuition and textbook prices and keep gas in our cars, but most of us are fabulously wealthy by global standards, and have every reason to expect to become more so as we finish school, start careers, and pay down any student debt we may have. Even if times are tight now, if we establish wise and generous habits now, they should stand us in good stead later. Allen offers his trademark upfront advice in areas like generosity, stewardship, and financial responsibility. He also gives us a key reminder: That we should love our provider, God, not the material things that he gives us, which are fleeting.
Super relevant to those who grew up in the church…
Allen shares a bit of his personal background as a Christian in the intro, and it immediately resonated with me. He talked about growing up in the Bible Belt, where oftentimes churches dominate social calendars but Christ doesn’t dominate hearts. He reminds us that “the Christian life is more than just keeping a few appointments,” which at face value seems obvious but upon further scrutiny hits upon an issue of epidemic proportions in areas where going to church is socially acceptable and often not much more than any other civic club. Allen’s not denigrating potlucks or Bible studies, but he’s not afraid to remind us that just attending youth group, worship, or college ministry isn’t all Jesus wants to see from us.
… and to those who didn’t
In his section dealing with the gospel and your past, Allen exhorts all of us to embrace the messiness of our pasts (recent and distant) as evidence of what Christ can do for us and through us. He encourages his readers to face their pasts head on and not be ashamed of where they’ve been because it makes where they are now that much more amazing. This is really encouraging for all of us, especially those who feel deep shame because of mistakes in their past.
To church or not to church?
Allen addresses a popular issue amongst Americans, particularly young ones, in his chapter on the gospel and the church. You probably know several people who say that they are spiritual or religious Christians, but they don’t feel the need for a church. After having some negative experiences in the church that I grew up in, I felt this way myself for a time. But I’ve since come to realize that the church, though flawed (after all, the church is made up of us messy humans!) is one of the best things about the Christian walk. Allen deals with this issue, and also advises us to guard against the opposite end of the spectrum, becoming obsessed with the institution of the church, rather than Jesus, the head of the church.
Want to win a free copy of Being a Christian? Oh yeah!
I’m super excited to announce to you guys my first-ever giveaway at An Inspired Walk, a copy of this wonderful little resource. It’s perfect for reading on the beach or curled up in bed over summer break — read it yourself and then add it to your personal library or pass it along to someone else who could benefit. I’m super excited for one of my readers to get their hands on this great little book, which I really enjoyed and learned from. To enter, just follow the steps below and leave a quick comment on this post to let me know that you’ve completed them! Keep an eye on my social media accounts/emails so you’ll be sure to know if you win.
How to enter this fantastic giveaway:
- Follow the blog on Pinterest.
- Follow the blog on my newly-launched Facebook.
- Sign up for email notifications using the form below (this is super important, because it’s a sure-fire way to make sure you know about it if you win)
- Leave a comment here saying you completed the above steps, and keep your fingers crossed!
- Bonus points: Refer friends who enter the drawing (have them mention your name in their completion comment) and I’ll put your name in the hat an additional time for each referral!!
All the rules and technical stuff
The contest will remain open for one month, or until 50 entries are reached, whichever is longer. I’ll be picking the winner at random, and should it turn out that they didn’t complete the entry steps, or don’t meet the criteria explained in this section, I’ll choose another name at random. This giveaway is only open to residents of the contiguous United States ages 18 and older. I’ll ship the book to the winning entrant within about a week of the contest closing, and announce the winner on the blog, social media accounts and via an announcement email.
Thanks so much for reading, and make sure to enter my giveaway and pass it along to any friends who might be interested!
**Disclaimer: I am a member of the B&H Publishing Bloggers Group. I receive books to review for free, but I’m not paid to endorse products, and all opinions shared on this blog are entirely my own.**