Saturday, March 1, 2014

Book Review: Captivated

In Captivated: Beholding the Mystery of Jesus' Death and Resurrection, Pastor Thabiti M. Anyabwile attempts "to stare at Jesus and be captivated by Him."  This book represents a series of sermons preached at the First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman and has a stated purpose:  "As we are transfixed, may we find that He [Jesus] has been looking upon us all along.  May we behold His face and be satisfied as we're changed from one degree of glory to another in Him."

I appreciate the sincerity of Pastor Anyabwile's love and reverence for Christ and the work He accomplished for us on the cross.  His humbleness as a pastor is seen in how he rightly handles Scripture and gently guides the reader to behold the loving sacrifice of God's own Son.  The author's writing style is smooth and enjoyable to read.

This book is very short and devotional in nature with questions 'For Further Gazing and Reflection' at the end of each chapter.  These questions are not deeply introspective or thought-provoking for private study, but they would be useful for a small group study or family devotional with new believers or young children.

First off in Chapter 1, Christians are compelled to contemplate the fact that Jesus must drink the cup of God's wrath--and He did.  We are asked to rejoice in the reality that God loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Then we are faced with the following questions:  "Do you feel ashamed that your sin put the Son of God face down in the dirt, pleading for another way?  Do you feel ashamed that your sin is so vile and wretched that there was no other way?"  In light of these rhetorical questions, we can plainly see that man owes God complete submission to His will.

Next in Chapter 2, Christians are confronted with God the Father's abandonment of Jesus on the cross which ultimately leads to our adoption.  I felt the weight of my sin as Pastor Anyabwile described the humiliation & mocking that Jesus endured on the cross.  However, my heaviness was not from a sense of condemnation, but from a deep sense of gratefulness as I contemplated the great exchange of my sin for His righteousness.

In Chapter 3, we see the death of death in the death of Christ (the title of John Owen's treatise on the subject).  Pastor Anyabwile reminds us that man was not made to die, but to live with God in obedience and love forever.  For the most part, this book is written to Christians; however, the author does give a clear, concise, and powerful Gospel presentation for the unbelieving, or nominal Christian, reader, (Kindle location 692).

In Chapter 4, we look at the question asked by the angels in the tomb:  "Why do you seek the living among the dead?"  The pastor further asks:  "Do you actively live as though God raised the dead?"  I was stirred by this question to reflect on how I live in light of the resurrection in terms of sacrifice, love, and hope.

Finally in Chapter 5, we are confronted with the truth that knowing facts about Jesus' life or the Bible in general are insufficient for recognizing who Jesus really is.  "Knowing Jesus requires that God supernaturally open our eyes with spiritual sight...In fact, we are unable to know the truth about Jesus in a saving way unless God reveals the Son to us."

In a way, the ending seemed anti-climatic, but then again, when you are beholding the Son of God and the work He did on the cross, what does an appropriate ending look like?  Overall, I really enjoyed this devotional book and highly recommend it for all Christians.

Full Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.