Jason Allen: Faith 'more than behavior modification'
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) -- Jesus came "for more than behavior modification," Jason Allen noted upon the release of his book "Being a Christian" today (Feb. 1).
"We live a more joy-filled, satisfied life ... [when] we experience the joy and wholeness that only Christ can give."
In Being a Christian, Allen addresses multiple areas in a Christian's life that intersect with the Gospel, from dealing with one's past to how the Gospel affects marriage, family, work, recreation and church life.
"When I came to Christ as an 18-year-old college student, I expected something of a change," Allen recounted, "but what I had in mind was more like behavior modification than spiritual transformation. I knew Jesus died to redeem me but didn't quite understand He'd died to redeem all of me.
"My old life was driven by self," Allen said. "Christ inverted all of that.
"My ambitions, lifestyle choices, convictions became -- and are becoming -- shaped by Christ. He transformed me from the inside out, and He continues to do so. Jesus redeemed all of me."
In exploring the Gospel and its implications for Christ-followers through the 146-page book, Allen noted, "I pray God will work to dramatically impact the reader. This is what God does and it is exactly what each of us needs."
Allen said the primary audience for Being a Christian, released by the B&H Publishing Group, is people who have embraced Jesus Christ as their Savior since "you will not be able to live the Christian life unless you are a Christian. It is not until you are a Christian that the life of Christ is in you. The Gospel is the door that leads one to life in Christ, the Christian life."
Yet those who are inquiring about the Christian life also can benefit from the book, Allen said. The secret to the Christian life, he said, is that there really is no secret. It is simply loving and intentionally living for Jesus.
In writing about dealing with one's past, for example, Allen notes, "Every person has a past," referencing "things we have done at a previous point in our lives that cause regret and embarrassment, if not outright shame.... Everyone's past is marked by, at least to some degree, foolish words, reckless decisions, and sinful acts."
Many Christians and would-be followers of Christ live with "persistent, suffocating guilt," Allen writes. "They question whether Christ will truly forgive them for what they have done. They feel they will never measure up spiritually, and thus are assigned to second-class Christian status. But nothing could be further from the truth."
Allen cites the transformation of the apostle Paul who -- before his conversion, missionary journeys and New Testament writings -- was a fierce persecutor of Christians, including the stoning of the church's first martyr, Stephen.
The key to Paul's impact for the Gospel is that "he looked forward to Christian service, not backward in guilt, shame, or regret," Allen writes.
Relaying three facets of dealing with one's past, Allen writes:
-- "View your sin as God views it: God has separated your sin as far as the east is from the west; He's cast it into the sea of His forgetfulness. Remember, Jesus did not reluctantly accept Paul. On the contrary, He intentionally sought Paul and enlisted him into Christian service.
-- "Rejoice in God's providence: Whatever your background, whatever your past, rejoice in God's plan for your life. He led you by superintending your steps and bringing you to a point of conversion. His providence is always good, beyond improvement. Thus, He crafted your story, including your past, for His own optimum glory.
-- "Own your testimony: Do not see your past as an embarrassing prologue to be buried, but as a glorious story to be leveraged for the Kingdom. Remind people, as you remind yourself, that if God can save you, He can save anyone. Rejoice in the mire from which you were saved; celebrate publicly God's goodness in your life. As you do, you'll encourage others and embolden yourself."
Allen, president of Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., since 2012, also is the author of "Discerning Your Call to Ministry" and editor of "The SBC and the 21st Century: Reflection, Renewal & Recommitment" drawing from addresses by Frank S. Page, R. Albert Mohler Jr., Ronnie Floyd, Thom Rainer, Paige Patterson, David Platt, Danny Akin and other Southern Baptist leaders on various facets and concerns within SBC life.
Among the endorsers for Being a Christian are Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee; Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, parent organization for the B&H Publishing Group; and John MacArthur, pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif.
Being a Christian, Page wrote of the book, "deals with a plethora of subjects, most of which are struggles for the majority of us. Please listen to the solid experience, biblical scholarship and personal passion behind these words. The heart message of this book will help you, not to follow a list of rules, but to fall in love with a God who loves you and wants you to draw near to Him in every part of your life."