Eric Mason tackles the topic of discipleship and grace in his latest book, Beat God to the Punch: Because Jesus Demands Your Life. The compact book uses John 1:35-51 as its anchor thought to encourage the reader to bow the knee to Jesus in all aspects of life today. As Mason states in his introduction, “Interestingly enough, we will find that it isn’t through contrived circumstances, but through the mundane to the magnificent seasons in life where grace works in us to a life lived on our knees walking with and serving the living God” (p 3).
There is no need to go into the details of each chapter – the author writes in a way that draws from many sources and from many angles which would make that a difficult task.
Rather, here are some of the highlights from the chapters:
Chapter 1: Crossing Paths With Grace – Mason digs into the history of the ancient world of discipleship, linking the first century to today and Jesus’ call for us to be his disciples. The chapter ends with the exhortation, “At the end of the day, a disciple must be transformed into wanting what the Lord wants for them. Will you live with the challenge of following Him…while you struggle to understand grace from a divine perspective?” (pp 24-25).
Chapter 2: Experiencing Grace – While the chapter digs into grace and the experience of grace, the chapter holds two particular gems: the first is the nuanced grace/truth relationship in our relationships with others; the second is a description of his “F.A.T.” leaders (p 44). The second stood out because of the emphasis on developing leaders who may not seem to be the ideal candidates based on human talent or their making certain that they were constantly waving a particular theological flag every chance they could. Rather, they were “Faithful, Available, and Teachable” (p 44). Encountering such an endorsement for church leadership development was encouraging and refreshing.
Chapter 3: How Grace Works – Goodness and mercy are spoken of throughout the chapter culminating in the statement, “Goodness and mercy pursuing us through the Spirit extinguishes all of our excuses for allowing our fervency for His Lordship to want during hard times” (p 62). The challenging words of the chapter encourage the reader to follow Christ no matter what is going on in their life or world.
Chapter 5: Completing Work of Grace – The spark of the book’s final chapter comes with the reminder that grace for following Jesus is not just for personal consumption. Grace is also for seeing how others need grace and extending grace to those in need.
Just in case you missed it, I skipped Chapter Four: Grace Recovered. The reason is simple – it makes for a smooth(er) transition to my observed critiques of Beat God to the Punch.
There are a three main areas that I would have loved something more out of the book:
The fourth chapter of the book was a quick review of the doctrine of grace throughout church history. The chapter read a bit like the part of a sermon that a preacher found to be really interesting but the congregation is left wondering how it actually added anything to the overall message. Though Mason did try to connect the history with the call to follow Jesus, the linking was weak and I was left feeling happy for a history lesson but wishing the entire chapter had been shifted in a condensed format into the appendix.
A second aspect of the book that I found lacking was a clear connection of the thesis of the book throughout the chapters. While each chapter was well-written, how the chapter directly fit into “beating God to the punch” of following Jesus as a disciple by grace was sometimes lost in the midst of the various citations, details, and examples.
Finally, I was left wanting more practical connections of the concepts of the book to a person’s daily life of discipleship. Granted, keeping the writing more in the realm of concept and theology allows for the Spirit to convict the individual in their particular context; yet I was left floating in the theoretical a bit too much for my personal taste. A few more personal stories or examples could have helped provide touching points to assist the reader apply the book to their lives.
My overall takeaway:
The book was a compact, short read that is worth picking up. The reader will likely be left with an awe of the grace of God through Jesus Christ and a conviction to bow the knee to Jesus not only for initial salvation, but also in the day-to-day sanctification process of being a follower of Jesus Christ.
As Mason states, “At the end of the day, a disciple must be transformed into wanting what the Lord wants for them…Will you follow Him?” (pp 24-25)
Disclaimer: I received this book free from B&H Publishing Group. The opinions expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.