In Christ, Devotions for Every Day of the Year by E. Stanley Jones, Seedbed, 2017. (This is a reprint of the book from 1961.) Available HERE.
*This review rambles a bit about the author and devotionals in general, before getting to the review. Read this post in about 3 minutes.*
I first learned of E. Stanley Jones a couple years ago. Somehow I had never heard of him, I guess since he was a missionary outside of my circle of evangelical Christianity. But regardless, he was well known! In 1938, he was identified as “the world’s greatest missionary evangelist” by Time magazine. He has also been called the Billy Graham of India. His work was in India.
I reviewed another book by Jones here: The Christ of the Indian Road. This book is not an autobiography of his life but rather an explanation of the approach he took to sharing Christ in India. His approach was to lift Jesus high and focus on Him. Christians can confuse cultural standards or norms with biblical standards. We can force ways of life on others, ways that are American or Western, and not necessary to Christianity…and that hinders mission work.
But this devotional. A word about devotionals first…I am not a fan of the devotional genre in general as far too many are light and superficial, and lack a truly biblical perspective. They can be more like a pep talk loosely based on one Bible verse. In addition, a concern is that if devotionals are based on one verse, and that is the extent of your Bible reading, this is a serious problem.
Of course though, one can do other Bible reading and study beyond a one verse devotional. AND just because a devotional is based on one verse does not mean it is light and superficial. Indeed, the classic My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers is based on one verse each day and it has depth, biblical substance, and is often very challenging. I often see this Chambers devotional at thrift stores and used book stores, as it is such a classic and around for so long. Get a copy! Or access online HERE. I’ve utilized this devotional at least 2 years.
But finally…In Christ by E. Stanley Jones. This devotional can be considered a study, really, of the 172 times the phrase “in Christ” (or similar) is used in the New Testament, but the study is divided up into 365 days. While you can read one-a-day, I think many will find themselves reading more each day as each devotional often flows into the next. And don’t let my use of the word study make you nervous, as while it is explanatory and has depth, it is also practical, encouraging, and affirming – affirming in a correct biblical sense that is – not affirming in a secular, self-centered way. It keeps you focused on Christ and your position in Him, and this does bring challenge or conviction at times.
Somehow, we can overlook the phrase “in Christ” despite its ubiquitous use in the New Testament. This alone is a good reason to get this book – to make you more aware of this phrase and its powerful meaning/usage for the Christian.
One of the devotionals actually became the springboard and outline for a sermon I preached – read my message here: Are you overlooking these 3 great miracles?
At times, the ministry of E. Stanley Jones back in the day could make Christians a bit nervous. Because of his strong focus on Christ, there was concern he did not care about doctrine or was perhaps a pluralist, thinking – for example – a Hindu could just add Jesus to their plethora of gods. This devotional should clear up that concern! In a number of devotionals he brings up eastern religions and notes problems and conflicts with Christianity. Jones is good at bringing out the nuance in various beliefs, in a helpful – not condescending – way towards other belief systems while demonstrating the uniqueness of Christ and Christianity.
Being written in 1961, when the “power of positive thinking” was at its height, there are devotionals that relate to this, pointing out problems. It remains relevant today because the power of positive thinking mentality changed American culture and sadly infiltrated Christianity. We are still under its sway, held captive by self rather than living in Christ. I wrote a book about this, so of course these devotionals stood out to me! What, you did not know I wrote a book? See HERE.
I was planning to close with some quotes/excerpts from the book, but got frustrated. Even though I highlighted much good content, sharing it out of the context of the daily devotional, the excerpt did not make as much sense or carry the same punch. But here is just one:
The “affirmation” for July 29th: “In heaven I shall glance at golden streets and even the faces of my loved ones, but I shall gaze at the face of my Redeemer.”
That caught my eye to share with you as a terrible “family idolatry” can go on in the church in various ways. For example, several years ago I heard a sermon about heaven and what the pastor said he was most looking forward to in heaven was seeing his family. He went on significantly about family, and I don’t think he ever mentioned Jesus!! Seriously! Ummm? Maybe we need to read Revelation chapters 4 and 5, two of my favorite chapters in the Bible. The Lamb is worthy and to HIM belongs the praise, honor, glory and power for ever and ever!
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⇒ In case you missed it, yesterday I reviewed an excellent evangelistic book by Andy Stanley. See HERE if you missed it.