Book Review: Living Jesus: Doing What Jesus Says in the Sermon on the Mount, by Randy Harris

Living JesusWe talk a lot about the “Sermon on the Mount,” but it’s not often we see people living it. This is why books like Living Jesus are important, helping us learn to put into practice some of the most difficult exhortations in the Bible. Randy Harris writes, “I’m not attempting to write a scholarly book on the Sermon on the Mount. I’m trying to provide a field manual for living the life Jesus wants for us” (12). Harris urges his readers to ignore the perspective of “Jesus raising the bar so high that we can only try and fail and so learn a lesson about the grace of God,” stating, “This isn’t ‘Suggestions on the Mount’” (13). We are encouraged to take seriously the words of Christ and live them. “This is not only a life that should be lived. It’s a life that can be lived” (22).

Harris breaks the text down into twelve sections, providing practical commentary on each passage, after which several discussion questions are provided for group study, as well as a few challenging examples for living each section. The book concludes with a description of the covenant Harris has made with a group of college students to take seriously the Sermon on the Mount, to memorize it, and hold one another accountable to living it daily. The “Monk Warriors” of Tau Chi Alpha (“Toughest Christians Alive”) may seem a bit gimmicky—we are talking about college students—but the journey they share is provided as an example of how to “live Jesus,” not the way. Further aid comes by way of suggested reading material and the DVD series by Harris upon which Living Jesus is based (not having seen the series myself, I cannot comment on its effectiveness, though I would recommend the book on its own).

One consideration I offer is realizing an holistic approach to living the Sermon on the Mount after reading Living Jesus and attempting to live particular sections at a time as they are suggested. Harris has provided a welcome alternative to the boring, redundant, and ill-approached sermons on the “Sermon” many of us have heard all our lives, but it is only a stepping stone in actually living the life into which Jesus calls his disciples. It is good to spend separate periods of time learning to live out all the different avenues talked about by Christ, but they also must not be used as substitutes for the final stage of holistic living. Indeed, it is time to “live Jesus.”

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from ACU Press/Leafwood Publishers as part of their ACU Press Bookclub Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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