I recently finished John Ortberg's The Me I Want to Be. I love John Ortberg as a preacher and author. What he has to say is substantive, practical, humorous, and sophisticated in a down-home way. He's a good thinker who possesses that rare gift of taking ideas and translating them into words that all types of people can understand—without appearing to be a simpleton. When the Game is Over It All Goes Back in the Box is one of my favorite devotional books of the last 10 years.
When I saw the title for Ortberg's latest, The Me I Want to Be, I chose to hold out hope that he had gone the Osteenian path (Your Best Life Now), or stooped into self-help land. Thankfully, The Me I Want to Be turned out to be an extremely helpful and practical book on spiritual formation for the everyday Christian—a really good one. Like all of Ortberg's writings, the illustrations he uses are fantastic. Here a few lines from The Me I Want to Be,
- "Here is the good news: When you flourish, you become more you. You become more that person God had in mind when he thought you up. You don't just become holier. You become you-ier. You will change; God wants you to become a "new creation." But "new" doesn't mean completely different; instead, it's like an old piece of furniture that gets restored to its intended beauty."
- "A friend of mine recently graduated from one of the service academies where they are very serious about the "clean your room" rule. Sometimes my friend got ink marks on the wall that would not come out, so he would chip the plaster off. The inspectors would give demerits for ink marks, but they figured missing chunks of plaster was a construction problem. The "rules" ended up encouraging the slow demolition of the room."
- "Self-improvement is no more God's plan than self-salvation. God's plan is not just for us to be saved by grace — it is for us to live by grace. God's plan is for my daily life to be given, guided, guarded, and energized by the grace of God. To live in grace is to flow in the Spirit. We have now reached the foundational idea of this book: The only way to become the person God made you to be is to live with the Spirit of God's plan is not just for us to be saved by grace — it is for us to live by grace. God flowing through you like a river of living water."
- "What would grow an orchid would drown a cactus. What would feed a mouse would starve an elephant. All of those entities need light, food, air, and water — but in different amounts and conditions. The key is not treating every creature alike; it is finding the unique conditions that help each creature grow."
- "Spiritual growth doesn't mean a life of doing what I should do instead of what I want to do. It means coming to want to do what I should do."
As a book on spiritual growth for the everyday Christian, I couldn't recommend the book more. With his typical humor and insightfulness, Ortberg does a marvelous job walking people through basic concepts of spiritual formation, while keeping it grounded in grace rather than self-will; joy rather than obligation; and spiritual formation rather than self-improvement. I hope the quotes above give you the gist.
If it isn't this book, church leaders need to find some resource to help Christians understand what spiritual formation is and how it happens. It occurred to me as I've been preaching through Galatians that expressions like "Free in Christ," "Walking by the Spirit," and "Spiritual Formation," while loaded with meaning to ministers and scholars, need to be better translated into everyday discipleship. What do those mean exactly, how do they happen, and why do they matter? In my humble opinion, John Ortberg does as good a job as can be done in a short book.