“Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ” by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

(A disclaimer…this review is much more “theological” in nature than what I’ve normally posted here on my blog, so consider yourselves forewarned! ;-))
When I was offered the opportunity to preview “Jesus Manifesto” by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, the subtitle immediately caught my eye.  A passion for Christ’s supremacy and sovereignty in all things appears to me to be sadly lacking in much of the church today. In the introduction, Sweet and Viola claim to present “razor-sharp, cut-glass clarity of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Alpha and Omega”. So, do they deliver?
To a large extent, they do. “Jesus Manifesto” presents a much larger, exalted view of Christ than what we hear in most modern Christianity. It’s not unlike John Piper’s “Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ” in subject matter. In fact, more than a few times, I had the thought that Sweet and Viola were sounding almost “John Piper-esque” with their statements! I really appreciated the emphasis throughout the book on the truth that we are not supposed to “live a Christian life”, rather we are supposed to completely yield ourselves, completely lose ourselves in Him, and let Christ live THROUGH us! Chapters 8 through 10 were the most powerful in the book, in my opinion. I’ll share a few of my favorite quotes:
“But the ‘good news’ is that Jesus doesn’t want us to be ‘like’ Him. He wants to share His resurrection life with us. He doesn’t want us to imitate Him; instead Christ, the Unspeakable Gift, wants to live in and through us.” (p. 72) 
“Jesus isn’t a cause; He is a real and living person who can be known, loved, experienced, enthroned, and embodied. Focusing on His cause or mission doesn’t equate with focusing on or following Him. It’s all too possible to serve the ‘god’ of serving Jesus as opposed to serving Him out of an enraptured heart that’s been captivated by His irresistible beauty and unfathomable love.” (p. 94…See what I mean about Piper-esque?! :-))

“It’s one thing to work FOR God. It is another to work WITH God. And it’s yet another to have God work THROUGH you. The work of God is God Himself at work. But the latter only happens when…Christ becomes the motivation AND the source of our service. In this way, we discover what it means to serve in the Lord’s energy rather than our own.” (p. 136-137)
“The gospel that’s so often preached today lacks a revelation of Jesus Christ. The contemporary gospel boils down to a fire-insurance policy, a Santa Claus God, or a performance-based religion. As long as we stay on that plane, we’ll never see or comprehend the staggering enormity of our Lord.” (p. 170)
And yet, I did feel that the book had one flaw…an emphasis on the person of Christ to the detriment of the work of Christ in salvation. The two go hand in hand. When Jesus’ work on the cross was discussed in the earlier chapters of the book, the authors seemed to make some pretty sweeping statements. Personal accountability for sin was somewhat glossed over with statements like, “by His death, He slew all negative things” and, “where there was hostility, He brought peace” or “by that horrible death, He reconciled a fallen cosmos to God”. None of these statements are untrue, but when made without qualification they can come dangerously close to sounding like universalism. I didn’t see anything about what is personally required of us in order to become a member of the body of Christ. The assumption seems to be made that all the readers are already members. That seems to me to be a somewhat dangerous assumption to make. I understand that evangelizing isn’t the intent of the book, and yet without laying the proper foundation many who aren’t part of the body are likely to read the book and not understand what’s necessary in order for it’s message to apply to them. So, in order to set the foundation for all the wonderful truths that are presented (and presented very eloquently!), I would have liked to see a clearer presentation of WHY we need Christ in the first place and HOW to be a part of His visible body here on earth. 
Despite this issue, I enjoyed the book. More emphasis on Jesus’ complete and total supremacy and sovereignty is greatly needed in today’s church, and Sweet and Viola are to be applauded for daring to add their voices and attempting to raise awareness on this vital issue. Thank you to Thomas Nelson for graciously providing a copy for me to preview and allowing me to express my honest opinion. 

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  1. Good review, Kara! I came down on the book harder than you, but the basis of our concerns are the same. While I appreciated the authors' desire to exalt Christ, I felt they did so at the expense of a complete biblical profile. Many Christians try to soften Jesus' image to make Him more palatable, and I'm afraid Sweet and Viola do that here. Blessings!

  2. Thanks, Mike. I was afraid of being too harsh and erred on the side of too nice, LOL. I’m glad others have had the same concerns. I was disappointed that I couldn’t give a whole-hearted recommendation to a book that focuses on Jesus’ sovereignty and supremacy.

  3. Good review, Kara! I'm with you in wanting to recommend a book that focuses on the sovereignty and supremacy of Christ, but not being able to do it with this book.Thanks for stopping by my blog today.

  4. I appreciate this review. It's ironic that it seems this book assumes the gospel at some level.

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