J. D. Greear, Jesus Continued. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014.
When it comes to talking about the Holy Spirit, the conversation typically goes in one of two directions. First, one quickly focuses on the gifts of the Spirit, and particularly on whether or not certain gifts are for today. And second, one may be driven to discuss the abuses of said gifts in certain segments of Christianity. While these may be useful conversations, this is not all that can and should be said about the Holy Spirit. In his book, Jesus Continued: Why the Spirit inside You Is Better Than the Jesus beside You, J. D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC, moves beyond the intramural debates to provide a helpful and popular introduction to the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
Greear’s work is divided into three sections. Part one is something of an overview for the entire book. In this section Greear looks at how the Spirit works in conjunction with God’s Spirit-inspired Word; the ministry of the Spirit, which includes pointing to Jesus; the way in which the Spirit guides the church; the coming of the Spirit in Acts and what this means for new covenant Christians; how the Spirit continues the ministry of Jesus through the church; and how we can prepare ourselves to be used by God. It is this last idea, found in chapter six that was particularly helpful. Often when one is struggling with the “will of God” for one’s life, one can become paralyzed and indecisive. The reason may be that we are waiting for some spectacular personal word from God or some incontrovertible sign before we move into what the Lord may have for us. According to Greear, this is out of step with biblical Christianity following the coming of the Spirit. He provides two ways in which we “actively wait” for God to use us. First, we position ourselves to be offered as a grateful sacrifice to God to be used as he sees fit (88–90). Second, we offer our whole selves, fully devoted in service to him (90–91). These two ideas are summed up for us in Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (NIV). As we dwell on the gospel, our love for and devotion to God begins to grow. We are then more likely to completely yield ourselves to be used for his purposes. It is this active waiting over against passivity that prepares us to be engaged in what God is doing now in this world.
Part two addresses the many ways in which we experience the presence of the Holy Spirit. We experience God’s Spirit in the gospel, in Scripture, in spiritual gifts, in the fellowship of the local church, in our spirit, and in the circumstances of our lives. Of particular interest to many people may be how Greear approaches the gifts of the Spirit. What he doesn’t offer is a full-blown theology of spiritual gifts. However, he does provide some guiding principles for help in identifying one’s spiritual gifts (122–129). Perhaps the most helpful principle is the one that describes how spiritual gifts are usually determined by “the confluence of what we are passionate about, what we’re good at, and the affirmation of others” (124). When these three areas come together one has a pretty good idea how the Spirit has specifically gifted someone.
The final section of the book (Part three) looks at how one can seek the Holy Spirit. Greear tackles such topics as how we are to respond when we don’t experience God’s presence and how he uses these times of silence to shape us, the place of prayer in seeking the Spirit’s work in our lives, and the need for brokenness and dependency on God for all things if we are to know his presence. He also addresses the topic of revival. What Greear shows in a relatively brief chapter, is how revival doesn’t come through demonstrations of the spectacular, but typically through the normal operations of the Spirit and the ordinary means of grace. Quoting Tim Keller, Greear notes that revival is “the intensification of the normal operations of the Holy Spirit (conviction of sin, regeneration and sanctification, assurance of salvation) through the ordinary means of grace (preaching the Word, prayer, etc.)” (196). This should be of encouragement to all pastors who faithfully, week in and week out, lead their members through these means. It should also encourage all of us, for at any moment, the Lord may send his Spirit to move mightily among his people.
This book is a welcomed introduction to the person and work of the Spirit for those new to the Christian faith and those Christians who may not have taken the time to study the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in the past. Greear does a fine job interweaving biblical instruction with personal experience as he works his way through various topics related to the Holy Spirit. Many of his personal anecdotes are entertaining. For those looking for a book that gives detailed attention to baptism in the Spirit and spiritual gifts this is not the book for you. Although Greear touches briefly on these themes, he is far more concerned with laying out a broad overview of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. If one is interested in these particular topics, one would do well to read one or several of the following: D. A. Carson, Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12–14 (Baker Academic, 1996); Wayne Grudem, ed., Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? (Zondervan, 1996); Craig S. Keener, Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today (Baker Academic, 2001); J. I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit (Baker, 2005); and Sam Storms, A Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts (Bethany House, 2013). The only real drawback to Jesus Continued is its broadness. In covering so much ground, there is little opportunity to drill down into what the Scripture has to say about a particular topic. Hopefully, the broadness of the author’s approach leads the reader to more questions, and a desire to answer these questions through a focused study of Scripture utilizing good books to aid one’s study.
One final word about the author: J. D. Greear is a Southern Baptist who appears to be open to all of the gifts of the Spirit. That being said, he is in no way a Pentecostal, nor do I believe he would characterize himself as a charismatic. The reader must judge for oneself whether or not this is a good thing, and whether or not one can humble oneself to learn from someone with a different theological perspective.
Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.