Near the beginning of this book is an anecdote regarding the late evangelist D.L. Moody, which is worth reprinting here:
A newspaper reporter once wrote, “I can see nothing whatever in D.L. Moody to account for his marvelous work.” When Moody read the report, he chuckled, “Why, that is the very secret of the movement. There is nothing in it that can explain it but the power of God.”
I hope John Fogal won’t mind my saying that this kind of captures how I feel about this book. It’s pretty simply and/or straightforwardly written—in fact, there are several chunks here that scream “repurposed sermon.” Nonetheless, the power of God shines through here, and that’s what makes this worth your time.
John W. Fogal, Sr. Living the Beatitudes: See How You Are Being Conformed to the Image of Christ. 180p., $12.00, ChurchSmart Resources.
Each of the chapters (except the opening and closing ones) are devoted to the individual Beatitudes, and the seemingly escalating demands put upon us by Jesus through them. The “seeming” part of it is left there to hang, so that we feel the weight of it. It’s not until late in the book that Fogal lets the cat out of the bag: “These chapters have described a glorious way to live, but Christ must live that life in us as He is our life…. In the strictest sense of the word, Christianity is not a religion, it is a life.”
In between, though, there’s plenty to chew on. For example, I liked Fogal’s near-incidental observation that as Americans, we don’t “get” hungering and thirsting for righteousness…. because we don’t “get” hungering and thirsting. It’s a foreign concept to most of us. Only through suffering and/or God’s discipline do we really get any of this, or of our need to submit ourselves to Jesus so that His life might flow through us.
I liked the chapters on mercy and purity of heart in particular. And again, in the former, Fogal reverses our usual way of thinking: “Showing mercy to others is not a condition for receiving mercy from God. It is proof that we have received it.”
In short, this book makes it clear us that we can’t live up to the demands Jesus makes in the Beatitudes. It equally makes clear that Christ can, and did, and does live up to these demands. And that God intends our lives to be in Christ. Do the math.