Necessary Christianity, Claude R. Alexander, Jr. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2022.
Summary: In a culture of options, focuses on the necessities of the Christian life by looking at the “must” statements in the gospel associated with Jesus.
Bishop Claude R. Alexander, Jr. makes a trenchant contrast between our culture and a vibrant Christianity. We like to think about our options, our possibilities. Alexander contends that the mature follower of Jesus is shaped by the necessities of undivided loyalty to Jesus. Alexander organizes his book around the “must” passages associated with Jesus, six in number that lead to six “musts” for the maturing disciple of Jesus:
1. I Must Focus. (Luke 2:40-52) “I must be about my Father’s business.” Jesus was intentionally focused on his mission and his relationship with his father from the age of twelve. He pursued his calling as one who would teach about the Father’s way even as a young man, declaring implicitly that carpentry would not be his life.
2. I Must Progress. (Luke 4:38-44) “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also…” Life with Christ is dynamic. It is life lived on assignment, no matter the context.
3. I Must Be Directed. (John 4:1-30) “He needed to go through Samaria.” Jews ordinarily avoided Samaria. Jesus needed to go through Samaria because God directed him to do so to encounter the Samaritan woman, and through her to see a town believe. We learn that we may be directed to those others shun and called into things others don’t understand.
4. I Must Be Clear. (Matthew 16:13-27) “…Jesus began to show to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” The maturing disciple is clear that following Christ may entail suffering and that God’s purposes may be unpopular and will face opposition. The disciple also embraces the whole plan and purpose of God, not only suffering and death but also resurrection and glory and is not deceived by the enemy.
5. I Must Be Diligent. (John 9:1-5) “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day.” Jesus discerns the moment and meaning of his encounter with the man born blind. He acts with urgency, realizing it will not always be day, maximizing every moment. He challenges us to live in this way. Even on the cross, Jesus forgives and promises paradise to the thief, arranges for the care of his mother, quenches his own thirst with God’s word, takes on himself the judgement of God against sin, and accomplishes our redemption, and can declare “It is finished.”
6. I Must Yield. (Matthew 26:46-54) “Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly? But if I did, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now?” Jesus refuses to avoid God’s purpose for his life, even when able, he has exercised patience from age 12 to his death, knowing all that time this was God’s purpose. Jesus took God’s way as his and accepted that only he could walk it–others would flee. The assurance is that God will stand by us. He raises the Son and he will raise us up as well.
Alexander has this way of writing in simple declarative sentences that convey the sense that “this is just the way it is for those who set themselves to follow Jesus.” There is neither bombast nor subtle nuancing. It’s simply, “this is what Jesus knew were the “musts” in his life, and so they are for us. We often “complexify” our lives and use that to evade the call of Jesus. This book strips discipleship down to the necessities. And therein is life.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.