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A Book Review - You Are What You Love (The Spiritual Power Of Habit) by James K.A. Smith


“What Do You Want?” This is the first, last, and most fundamental question in Christian discipleship. This is the first question Jesus asked His disciples in John 1:38. Jesus doesn’t ask, “What do you know?” or “What do you believe?” This is the most piercing question Jesus could ask us because we are what we want. Our wants and longings are at the core of our identity, the wellspring from which our actions and behavior flow. Our wants reverberate from our hearts, the epicenter of the human person. Proverbs 4:23 counsels us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” And everything you do, especially on a regular basis, sums up the habits of your life. This book has prompted me to examine what I am actually doing habitually, rather than what I say I believe.

Tim Keller, in his recommendation of this book, says it will help us realize “the transformative possibilities of Christian practices.” That there is actually a way to rehabituate (I love that new word in my vocabulary) your loves to conform more with the habits and practices that God intends for you. St. Augustine in his Confessions pinpoints this for us when he says of God, “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in You.”

There are not many books in the last few years that have impacted me the way this book has. Especially in the way I think about my own discipleship and the way I disciple other men.
Popular speaker and award winning author, James K. A. Smith has opened my eyes to the formative power of culture and the subtle and not-so-subtle influences that the culture is having on me, simply because I am daily walking in it. Without even being aware of it, the various venues I walk in every day, which Smith refers to as “liturgies”, are having a significant effect on me and are channeling my “loves”. I am now referring to most of the venues I interact with daily, which encompass my habits, duties, and responsibilities as “liturgies.”

In this medium sized volume, I am learning that discipleship is more a matter of hungering and thirsting than of knowing and believing. “Jesus’ command to follow him is a command to align our loves and longings with His - to want what God wants, to desire what God desires, to crave a world where He is All in all. Jesus is the teacher who doesn’t just inform our intellect but forms our very loves. He isn’t content to simply deposit new ideas into your mind; He is after nothing less than your wants, your loves, and your longings.” (p. 2)

As one who has planned and led worship services for decades, I was particularly interested in the several chapters that focus on reformative worship. Smith challenges our approach to corporate worship when he says that our worship is not primarily something we do, but it is something that is done to us. God is the initiator and we are responding to all God has done and is doing. This may be a radical change in thinking (and doing) for many worshippers who think (not intentionally) they are doing God a favor by getting up in the morning and coming to and participating in a worship service. Instead, it is a wondrous work of God’s grace and generosity to reveal Himself to us, and through this “liturgy” He helps us screen the many “liturgies” we walk through during the week through this Gospel-shaped, kingdom focused liturgy.

“In this book, James Smith has the audacity to ask the question: Do we love what we think we love? It is not a comfortable question if we strive to answer it honestly. Smith presses us and shows us the renewed and abundant life that awaits Christians whose habits and practices, the liturgies of living, work to open our hearts to our God and our neighbors.”
-Alan Jacobs, Baylor University.

“And so: Come to the feast that is worship so that you can go, renewed and rehabituated by the Spirit, and say ‘Amen’ in everything you love.” - James K. A. Smith

 Book - You Are What You Love