Dwell: Life with God for the World
Jones’ premise is nothing new – that life is about living for God and also we have to carry out a mission in the world. There are actually dozens of authors who have written books on that very topic (Bosch, Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, David Gushee, David Augsberger, etc). However, where Jones is different is that he uses Jesus as the model, specifically his Incarnation. He also presents a method for doing so.
He spends the first four chapters focusing on what that living for God looks like, so that it’s not a generic “be spiritual.” What is the goal in the spiritual life? He spends way too much time on this, and that’s why it seems boring. It gets more practical in chapter 5.
God is writing a masterpiece of a story in humanity, and from the beginning, six conclusions can be made about Christian spirituality (Ch 1); it is 1) creation affirming, 2) people affirming, 3) body affirming, 4) connected to the presence of God, 5) connected to the just reign of God, and 6) experiencing and advancing God’s shalom. True Christian spirituality is centered around the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives, as he conforms us into the likeness of Jesus and brings into us the life of Jesus (Ch 3). Also, it is clear that we cannot do the work of advancing God’s reign without the power of the Holy Spirit.
“As fully God, Jesus shows us in his life what God is like. But as fully human, he shows us what humanity is intended to be.” (84) Jones describes 4 characteristics of Jesus that shows the spirituality marked by the Holy Spirit: 1) his boundary-breaking compassion, 2) he actively brought shalom, 3) he valued people, and 4) he was a wounded healer.
In chapter 5, Jones gets more practical in how to live in God. He characterizes five aspects of the spiritual disciplines: paying attention (focus), receiving from God instead of self, the physical matters (embodiment), church body (community), and habits/ritual (rhythm). Then he expounds on the disciplines of prayer (Ch 6) and worship (Ch 7). Chapter 8 is a refreshing explanation of the discipline of Sabbath-keeping. It is called the discipline of rest by other authors. It’s probably the best chapter in the book, but Jones forgets to link it to the Incarnation or the model set by Jesus.
I was surprised that Jones included the discipline of feasting (Ch 9). He even admits that it’s “not a practice that makes it onto a lot of the lists of the classic disciplines.” (180) But it’s “vital for sustaining and shaping our life with God for the world.” (184) This is just like Jesus, who commonly ate with the people he tried to reach or teach. Feasting is a great way to be like Jesus. However, Jones’ treatment of the discipline of fasting is quite weak, but there are plenty of books out there on that topic, so no worries.
In the next chapter, Jones helps us to understand our lives in the important context of time and place. This is the real conclusion of the book, since the actual last chapter is terrible. The clear guideline he gives in living in God and for the world is in obeying the command God gave to the Israelite exiles: “maintain their distinctive identity as the people of God...[but also] become active [cultural agents] in the host culture.” (200)
As a church, that means intentionally reaching out to our communities and make them part of the church. It also means Christians must actively pursue real relationships with people in our physical neighborhoods. Make them friends. We cannot live as Christians nor carry out God’s mission in isolation. We have to be in the world if we are to reach it for God.
All in all, this was a good book, balancing both theory and practice. But I think Jones covers too many topics to get to his point, and in rushing through, he doesn't do them justice. At least his point is easy to find.