Mike Wittmer has a specialty. He takes theological confusion, clarifies the issues, and then shows how this theological clarity matters to our lives. He’s done this with a number of topics, most notably the emerging church (remember that?), death and heaven. In his latest book, Becoming Worldly Saints: Can You Serve Jesus and Still Enjoy Your Life?, Wittmer does the same with an over-spiritualized view of the Christian life. He answers a critical question: Can you serve Jesus and still enjoy your life?
Having read books like Don’t Waste Your Life and Radical, it’s easy to be confused about this question. Is it okay to enjoy the pleasures of earth — a baseball game, a vacation, or a TV show — or are they an unspiritual waste of our lives, and an abandonment of the mission of God? Wittmer presses this question home: “Have you ever thought you might enjoy life more if you weren’t a Christian?” Do others get all the fun while Christians endure this life and wait for heaven?
It’s a great question. In answering it, Wittmer structures the book around the story of Scripture under the familiar headings of Creation, Fall, and Redemption. He challenges some of the wrongheaded ways we think about the Christian life without removing the tension of living for the purpose of redemption while enjoying life on earth.
- Do you think that this life doesn’t matter, other than that it’s a dress rehearsal for eternity? That’s spiritualism, and it’s to be rejected just as much as naturalism, the view that this life is all that there is.
- Do you think that matter is bad, and the spiritual is good? That’s Gnosticism, a serious distortion of biblical teaching.
- Do you think that heaven is our home, and that we’re strangers here on earth? That too is wrong. Earth, not heaven, is our eternal home.
Wittmer helps us understand our purpose on earth — “to love God, serve neighbor, responsibly cultivate the earth, and rest every seven days.” He helps us understand the breadth of the gospel, and how this applies to our vocations. He even helps us untangles some complicated theological issues, and does so with humor about cats and banjoes. He helps us see that Christianity restores our humanity, so that “our human life and our Christian life are the same life.” In fact, living fully as humans is essential for our mission:
When we eliminate our earthly pleasures, we inevitably limit the reach of our heavenly purpose. If we want to attract people to Jesus, our lives must be attractive…A flourishing human life is the best advertisement for the gospel, and the gospel in turn empowers us to become better people.
I love his conclusion: “Do whatever God is calling you to do, no more and no less. Do it with all your might; then go to bed.” He does answer the question the poses at the beginning of the book: “Not only is it possible to enjoy your life while serving Jesus, but it’s the only way you can.”
There is nothing like good theology made clear, and then applied to life. Becoming Worldly Saints is a book that will help you understand how Christ can make you more, not less, human, so that you can live for God’s redemptive purposes while enjoying your life on this earth.