My brother Trevin recently wrote a great book entitled Rethink Your Self: The Power of Looking Up before Looking In. I posed a few questions to learn more about his latest work and wanted to share his replies with you. Rethink Your Self is currently on sale for only $10 at Lifeway. If you buy it today before the sale ends, you’ll also get his excellent book This Is Our Time for free.
Trevin, why did you write this book? I definitely see a lot of the identity crisis you discuss in the book as I counsel Soldiers. I’ve already begun sharing copies of the book with them, because it perfectly tackles the frustration and internal conflicts they are experiencing. In the book, you cite convincing research that suggests most people try to find themselves by looking inside themselves. So is this a situation where you were simply following the research, seeing this philosophy play out in culture, experienced it interacting with people as a pastor, or all of the above?
It’s all of the above, with a strong dose of entertainment thrown into the mix. It’s astounding how many films, books, cartoons, TV shows, and pop songs offer this narrative arc of “the only way to be happy is to find and be true to yourself.” It’s everywhere. It’s the air we breathe. It’s also the cultural atmosphere in many of our churches, even in churches with a strong commitment to the Bible and to the foundational tenets of the Christian faith. My goal with this book was to give what one reviewer recently said was “a warmly written invitation to those burned out by the quest to define themselves. Like all false religions, expressive individualism creates refugees, and those refugees will be welcome and helped here.”
Most of your other books (Holy Subversion, Counterfeit Gospels, This is Our Time, etc) are geared toward Christians who are secure in their faith. This book felt like you were targeting people who aren’t Christians or aren’t really religious. Or maybe people who aren’t really sure what they believe or know why they believe in Christianity. Is that a fair observation? As a follow up to this question, I sense that younger people in particular are really going to resonate with this book (college-aged and young adults). Do you think that will end up being your primary audience?
The idea for the book began as something geared toward church leaders and Christians secure in their faith — to help them see and counter the “be true to yourself” philosophy when they find it. But as I got started on it, I sensed the Spirit leading in a different direction, preparing the book to be a tool that a church leader could easily hand out to an undiscipled person in church or an unbeliever outside of church. I didn’t assume any church background or knowledge of the Bible. I tried to write it so that I could give it to a neighbor or to a friend or college student and have no doubts they could follow my argument and understand the presentation of Christianity. Speaking of college students, I do hope that this will be a primary audience. I’m partnering with multiple college ministries and college pastors across the country so that the book will hopefully reach people who are asking these big questions at the start of their careers.
You cite surveys indicating people who don’t believe in God still pray occasionally. You argue a lot of people who do believe in God see him as distant and not really interested in a relationship with mankind. He’s a cosmic helper if he wants to be. We can call on him in times of trouble. He may help, but he may not. But you argue God isn’t some kind of “cosmic bellhop.” You state the Bible says God is very interested in relationship with us, and our purpose in life involves a process of discovery, of knowing Him. Proverbs 9:10 supports your observation by stating, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Of course, we see God thru the person of Jesus pursuing us and inviting us into relationship as well. Any additional advise you would offer to Christians to help their non-Christian friends and loved ones comprehend this correct understanding of who God really is? I just think if people begin to understand how interested God really is in them and how He delights in us–it’s a game changer. How can we explain God is way better than a genie in a bottle (or cosmic bellhop) many of us imagine Him to be and that He cares about every aspect of our lives?
It’s counter-intuitive really, because the way we help people understand that God really does desire a relationship with us and wants to be involved in our lives is by reorienting ourselves around the picture of His greater glory. It’s not in God making us the center of His universe that brings us happiness—that kind of god is way too small. It’s in us recognizing God at the center of His universe (and our personal life story) where we find our truest satisfaction. It’s in reflecting Him that we become, not less of ourselves, but more of ourselves. It’s in following Him that the sinful aspects of our lives fall away and the holy and beautiful parts of our lives come into full flower. We are most ourselves when we are most like Christ. That’s the beauty of the gospel’s transformative power. And that relationship we have with God, through Jesus, is what brings us salvation and satisfaction.