For my August reading challenge book, I selected Living Jesus: Doing What Jesus Says in the Sermon on the Mount by Randy Harris. Loveta, my mother-in-law, chose this book for me to read after she had read and studied it in Bible class at church. Randy Harris is a popular author in the Pierce family, as my husband took a class of his while studying at Abilene Christian University. Living Jesus was to be my first experience with Harris’s work.
Harris discusses one portion of the Sermon on the Mount in each chapter of the book. I limited myself to reading just one chapter per night so that I could contemplate Harris’s observations, explanations, and challenges. Yes, challenges. Ultimately this book is a challenge to, as the subtitle indicates, do what Jesus says. Oftentimes this means thinking deeply about what Jesus is saying in the Sermon on the Mount. For example, in chapter 7 Harris examines Matthew 5:33-37 in which Jesus instructs us not to swear oaths. Harris believes Jesus means this directive to be more about maintaining high integrity–avoiding/correcting lies big or small, confessing wrongs, etc.–than about just avoiding oath swearing. Harris writes, “The goal here is to examine our hearts and to expose the roots of our dishonesty” (p. 82). He admits this isn’t easy, but Jesus didn’t care about making things easy for us.
I enjoyed taking a slow, in-depth look at the Sermon on the Mount, which in the past I’ve quickly read but never really studied. I definitely had to stop and examine how I am fulfilling or failing Jesus’s challenges, which was one of Harris’s goals in writing the book. His writing is very accessible, and I can easily see why he’s popular not just among my family but at ACU and beyond. I gave the book 4 stars on Goodreads.