“We’ve made of Him an appetizer when in reality He is the main course”
Michael Reeves’ Rejoicing In Christ is not a large book, but it is rich, and packed with illustrations, both figuratively and literally, that serve to draw our attention to something we often overlook: the glory, the majesty and the reality of Christ Himself. Rejoicing In Christ serves as a primer on the person of Jesus, from his existence before time began as a part of the Trinity, through His incarnation and His current position as intercessor before the Father. From there, Reeves unfolds the biblical story showing how Christ is woven into the narratives and throughout church history, clearly not on the back burner as a “plan B” should the Israelites fail to bring about God’s intentions on earth, but front and center, always present, and foreshadowing what was to come at Calvary.
Reeves’ main objective is to remind us what union with Christ really means and then to motivate us to contemplate on and revel in that union. Here is where his command of analogy is most evident: he illustrates how in failing to rejoice in all of Christ, we’ve made of Him an appetizer when in reality He is the main course. Our union with Christ isn’t merely a means to an afterlife in heaven, it is our identity that allows us to know and enjoy Him in the here and now and is the entire goal of Christ’s saving work on the cross. He isn’t just providing gifts for us, He is the gift! He isn’t just our Savior, He is our brother. The church isn’t only indebted to Him for His sacrifice, it is His bride, meant to be united with Him forever. Reeves writes, “For Paul, the gospel could not be about anything else first. It could not be about forgiveness first or justification first, for what is the point of being forgiven and justified? Not simply that we might stand forgiven and righteous in heaven. We are forgiven in order to know and enjoy Christ. Knowing Him is the only true life” (121).
To assist in making his point, Reeves looks back through the history of the church and excerpts pertinent quotations from the apostles and church fathers to theologians and pastors before and after the Reformation and up to the present day, all who have recognized the full significance of Christ as He reveals Himself in the Scriptures. Sprinkled throughout the book are images and works of art that illustrate the influence of Christ on the church and the world at large down through the ages. With these images and references to history past, Reeves is connecting the Church Militant with the Church Triumphant, encouraging us to contemplate on Christ as those who have gone before did, uniting our collective stories as one under our Head.
Beyond helping us see and savor Jesus Christ, Reeves also encourages us in our spiritual walk presently, and gives us hope for the future. First, he reminds us of a truth prevalent throughout the Scriptures: that suffering comes as a natural part of our identity in Christ, but that in it, He shares with us “a preceding joy that enables us to bear hardship” (95). Then, by taking our eyes off of ourselves and our worries for the world around us, and instead fixing them on Christ, He offers us true relief for our troubles and grants us the satisfaction of our longing souls in His own glory. “Christian confidence does not come from looking at the state of the world; it comes from Jesus” (117). Reeves is so very helpful on this point from beginning to end: Jesus not only took our sin on Himself and gave us the cloak of righteousness that belonged to Him alone, but now our identity in Christ unites us with Him in every way, allowing us a share of God’s favor with His own Son, providing us with peace we could never know on our own.
By the book’s end, when we arrive out of the whirlwind compiled of Scripture, history and art, pastoral wisdom and doctrine, we cannot be anything but compelled to see Christ for who He truly is and to rejoice in Him.
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