Book Review: Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola

If you get the correct answer to the wrong question, you will still be off — just as if you had received an incorrect answer. So argues Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola in Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ. Often the church is asking questions about the kingdom, about justice, about causes, about evangelism, about accountability, about gifts and about leadership. These questions are important, but not the main questions.

The main questions are the two questions Jesus asked of Peter:

  1. Who do you say that I am?
  2. Do you love me?

Sweet and Viola have provided a great service to the church and to Christians with this book. Too often we focus our attentions on things instead of focusing on Jesus. Most of us want to do better and improve, but we go about it the wrong way. We talk about being saved by grace and then try to live in our strength and with our ingenuity. Yet, it is Jesus living in us that makes all the difference in the world. The authors put it this way with regard to individual Christians and the church:

Genuine Christianity is learning to live by an indwelling Christ (p. 165).

Genuine church life is born when groups of people are intoxicated with a glorious unveiling of their Lord (p. 143).

Sweet and Viola do spend time dealing with aspects of Christianity that are substitutes for this focus on Christ. They tackle the social gospel, fundamentalism and a host of other focus points.

The only weakness in the book is that at times they draw absolute applications when the application may be more of a general principle. For example, on page 152 they assert that “God will not do for us what we can do for ourselves.” They base this on Jesus’ instruction to people around him to unbind the grave clothes from Lazarus after Jesus called Lazarus back to life. This method shows up in other places in the book.

However, this is a minor weakness compared to such a clear display of Jesus in the book. This is evidenced by what is my favorite quote from the book,

What is lacking is a groundbreaking revelation of Christ that boggles the mind and enraptures the heart (p. 17).

Boggles the mind and enraptures the heart — these are the results of really seeing and experiencing Jesus Christ. If you read this book, you will read a clear presentation of Jesus. This is true from the Introduction to the Afterword. You do not want to miss the Afterword.

Disclaimer: This book was provided for review by Thomas Nelson Publishers.