Tuesday, August 17, 2010

‘ReBorn to Be Wild: Reviving Our Radical Pursuit of Jesus’ by Ed Underwood – Book Review

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I have long been fascinated with what was happening in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s. One of the big movements at that time was the Jesus Movement. In ‘ReBorn to Be Wild: Reviving Our Radical Pursuit of Jesus,’ Ed Underwood, who encountered Jesus for the first time as a student in California at that time, explains the beliefs of that movement and how we can revive that movement today.

Here is the synopsis of this book:

          Are you a tame evangelical? 
          Maybe it’s time for a Wild revival!
Long before becoming a pastor, Ed Underwood was a “Jesus Freak” – a young man whose life was set on fire by the Jesus Movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s. He and his friends threw their hearts into a revival they knew would change the world. Except it didn’t.
Instead, as years passed, the Jesus Movement seemed to stop moving. How did all those passionate, young Christians morph into today’s tame, suburban evangelicals? That question sparked this passionate, provocative book, which exposes six seductive lies that can sidetrack a revival…and affirms five life-changing truths that can keep a revival going.
Underwood writes to fan the flames of enduring revival today: “I’m asking God to use this book to show those of us from the Jesus Movement generation how to finish what we started. But more than that, I’m begging Him to call Christians of every generation to the radical commitment that fuels revival.”

Here is the trailer for this interesting book:

Here is the biography of this author:

Ed Underwood oversees the ministries of Church of the Open Door in southern California with Judy, his wife of almost forty years. Still a “Jesus freak” at heart, Underwood placed his faith in Christ during the Jesus Movement of the late 60s, and his passion in life is to see revival one more time. Before becoming a pastor and an author (When God Breaks Your Heart), Ed worked as a firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service and a commissioned Army officer. He wrote When God Breaks Your Heart after almost dying from a vicious and chronic disease.

In the Foreword, Bodie Thoene, a longtime acquaintance of Pastor Underwood, explains the book this way:

ReBorn to Be Wild is an eyewitness account of the Jesus Movement of the 1960s and ‘70s. What God did in our generation ranks among the great spiritual revivals since the day of Pentecost, when Peter stood up and shouted to the religious establishment: “Men of Jerusalem! This Jesus whom you crucified is alive!”
Personally meeting the risen Jesus changes everything. It happened to our generation in a movement so powerful and unique that it will be mentioned in church history along with the revivals of Wesley, Moody, and Billy Graham. (p. 15)

In the Preface, Pastor Underwood asserts that we need to learn from the mistakes of the past in order to move forward into a bright future:

By learning from mistakes of the first-century church and our failure to heed the warnings of Christ and His apostles, you will know that there is a way to see this revival through – to finish well, to get moving again, to get back on track, to reenergize the wild heart of sold-out believers. What is He asking you to risk?
Everything. That’s right, everything. That’s the cost of revival, the cost of discipleship – everything. But you will not miss any of it.
I want to help you become the type of devoted disciple the Lord uses in a revival. I’m asking God to use this book to show those of us from the Jesus Movement generation how to finish what we started. But more than that, I’m begging Him to call Christians of every generation to the radical commitment that fuels revival.
This is a book for those who want to live expectantly and wake up every morning thinking about Jesus and what we can do for Him, and go to heaven with stories of what He did in our lives that we will be talking about forever! (p. 21)

Pastor Underwood explains his salvation experience:

Keith began talking about God and Jesus and truth and mercy and a word that I was especially attracted to: grace. He was so gentle, so real, and so different from anyone who had ever talked about God around me before. And it was on a curb in Bakersfield, California, on that summer night, that the Jesus Movement moved into my heart.
The man I had just met asked me to pray with him, and I did. In everyday sentences, I told God that I knew I was a sinner, that I believed Jesus died for my sins, and that I wanted to receive Christ as my Savior. Keith said “Amen,” grabbed me in his arms, hugged me wildly, and read from his Bible how the angels were having a party right now because they were so excited that I had become a Christian.
That was the night the light dawned in my heart and the darkness lifted from my life. Like the thousands of others who were meeting Jesus through the Bobbies and the Keiths in their lives, I knew I was different. Especially when the darkness tried to hang on while Jesus pulled me from its death grip. (pp. 39-40)

Pastor Underwood points out a key to revival:

The only starting point is grace, pure and free. If you want revival, you must embrace grace, or it’s not Christianity. Grace sets Christianity apart from all other religions. It’s what makes our message good news.
Years ago a group of British thinkers on comparative religion furiously debated whether one belief set Christianity apart from other world religions. C.S. Lewis wandered in late, took a seat, and asked, “What’s the rumpus about?” When they told him they were trying to determine Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions. Without hesitation he replied, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”
It’s grace. Would you say that? Without hesitation? If not, you’re not ready for revival. Whether you met Jesus in the Jesus Movement like me or you’re an emergent Christian or you’re a believer anywhere in between who’s asking God to use you to make a revival-difference in this world, you have to get it straight.
Only those who are willing to join God in risking grace by extending it to sinners without hesitation or compromise will know the spontaneous spiritual joy that sparks revolution.
Undeserved, unending, unearned, unconditional, uncontrollable, unblinking, unbound, undefiled, undeniable, unequivocal, unfaltering, unhinging, unlimited, unmistakable, unprecedented, unsettling –grace – God’s gift of life to all who believe in His Son, unheard of anywhere else but in Christ. (p. 43)

The Jesus Movement followed Jesus’ example, and that’s how it grew exponentially:

We were refreshingly naïve, didn’t know any better, never thought of explaining this command [the Great Commission] away with evangelotalk models of why this didn’t mean us. We just took Jesus at His word – He had the power and did what He said. We told people about Him and trained them to tell others.
It happened much faster than you would expect if you have read any books about evangelism and discipleship that tell you that most Christians aren’t capable of telling people about Jesus until they have memorized their stuff or been to their seminars or learned how to be more churchlike.
But if you’ve read the story of the early church in Acts, perhaps you’ve tried to picture that revival in your mind. If so, then maybe you already know that this is how it always happens: People who barely know Jesus make some of the best introductions to Jesus. (p. 46)

The enemy of our souls overlooked the Jesus Movement at first:

Had the devil known what God was up to, he would have marshaled his forces against us with murderous rage. Christians underestimate the power of grace, but Satan never does. He knows the dangers. He saw it before when John the Baptizer pointed to Jesus of Nazareth, declaring, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29). Since then, he tried every malicious weapon and committed every wicked warrior to his defense against grace. Nothing works; grace is too powerful and pure. (p. 63)

In Part Two of the book – ‘A Revolution Stalls’ – Pastor Underwood reviews six lies the Jesus Movement people believed that caused them to veer off the narrow path:

1.   More is Better
2.   “Churchianity” is Enough
3.   Power is Good
4.   Bigger is Better
5.   Enemies All Around
6.   It’s All Mine

In the ‘More is better’ chapter, Pastor Underwood makes the point that the way the Holy Spirit is viewed has been very divisive in the Body of Christ:

Only in the last ten years have some of us from both sides repented of our divisive and narrow behaviors and conversations. The healing has begun, but it’s been forty years! Four decades of allowing those on the fringe of both circles to define us by what we were against rather than what we were for.
Who could envision Jesus’ precious promise of a Comforter becoming so divisive? Only the accuser of the brethren, the divider of God’s people, saw it coming and licked his evil lips, anticipating and even plotting the fight. The holy lips of the One seated at the right hand of the Father quivered with grief. His people divided over their only source of strength and it broke His heart.
His name is Jesus. Tragically, our preoccupation with the limits of His Spirit’s work among us caused us to ignore Him. (p. 99)

In the ‘Bigger is Better’ lie, many pastors were distracted by trying to have more attendees than at the church down the street. Pastor Underwood fell into that trap briefly:

My life changed the day I realized that the bigger-is-better lie had sidetracked my revolutionary heart. I never stopped being ambitious for Christ’s kingdom, but I did stop being ambitious for mine. That’s what I had always wanted anyway, and what Jesus always wanted to give me. I think God wants to know if we really want to be great according to His measure and grace and faith, if our ambition is really godly.
So will you take the same commitment I did concerning true greatness? Will you commit to firmly and finally rebuking the lie that bigger is better?
God is calling you back to the vision that pulled your heart toward greatness, the vision He planted in your heart when you first believed. Picture what your life will look like after you break free of the envy and shame of pursuing other Christians’ boundaries. You will see His mighty hand working in your life again. You will know the satisfaction He reserves for those who live only to hear His applause. You will see those you love – your spouse, your children, your family and friends – drawn to Christ by the great adventure of your life. (p. 157)

Many Christians are anxious for heaven because they want to avoid the evil of this world; that is not the point!:

I hear Christians say that they can’t wait for heaven because they’re tired of having to live around all this sin and pain. The remark reveals a longing for a place far removed from the wickedness that touches our lives every day in a million ways.
The Bible says that heaven will be void of evil, but that’s because it’s full of something else – the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev. 21:23). I expect the absence of wickedness to thrill our hearts, but that’s not the main attraction. What pulls our redeemed hearts to heaven is the promise of face-to-face intimacy with Jesus (Rev. 22:4). Biblically, “going to heaven” isn’t running from the presence of evil of this world, it’s running to the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. (p. 171)

The only way back to revival is to focus on Jesus:

The only way back to revival is through Him. Our relationship with Jesus must once again define our lives. When we put Jesus back into the Jesus Movement, He will finish what He started through us. When you put Him back into the center of your passion for revival, you will join our spiritual revolution.
If I could do it all over again, I would pay a lot more attention to the very simple words of Jesus and a lot less attention to the convoluted teachings of men. I listened to their “enlightened” explanations of why we couldn’t take Jesus’ words at face value, why they don’t apply to us today, and why they’re not as radical or dangerous as they seem at first glance. I wish I would have trusted my first pure understanding of His radical words rather than their taming clarifications of “what He really meant.”
When we reembrace the simple but transforming words of Christ, when you and I, no matter what our age, believe them as much as we did back then, then we will all begin to experience revival again.
The six lies sidetracked us and gentled our wild hearts, but we can get back on track by believing five simple truths from our Savior that guided our revival and radicalized our hearts. (pp. 198-199)

In Part Three, ‘A Revolution Reborn – Call to Radical Commitment,’ the five simple truths are:

1.   Our Only Hope, Our Only Hero – Jesus
2.   Our Only Goal, Our Only Gold – hearing “Well done!” (Matt. 25:21)
3.   Our Only Treasure, Our Only Investment – God’s Kingdom
4.   Our Only Community, Our Only Care – to love one another
5.   Our Only Plan, Our Only Power – Faith in Christ

It is clear to me, as it is to Pastor Underwood, that the only solution to our problems is Jesus. I thank him for showing us the original heart of the Jesus Movement “Jesus freaks,” and thank him for giving us a blueprint for bringing forth revival again.

You can order this book here.

This book was published by David C. Cook and provided by the B&B Media Group for review purposes.

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