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  • Writer's pictureJem Howe


Philip Greenslade: Voice from the Hills, Costly Grace, Crucial words

As we are going through the Sermon on the Mount and heading towards celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus this is a really timely book to read. Although originally written over 13 years ago it has a lot to say to us at this time, especially as we look to focus on discipleship.

In his preface, Philip Greenslade says about the book:

“ .. I hope it serves my purpose as an urgent call to established and emerging evangelicals both to hear and to practise the still largely untried and radical teaching of Jesus and - at the same time - to hold fast to the tried-and-tested and still radical theology of the cross”

This book focuses on The Sermon on the Mount and the final words of Jesus on the cross, and, as far I am aware, is unique in this combination.

The author emphasises the significance of teaching from “mountains” and relates the Sermon on the Mount and “the mount of Crucifixion” to the teaching of Moses on Must Sinia and the significance of mount Zion in being symbolic of 'revelation, covenant beginning, transcendent glory and royal authority'. It provides a scholarly yet very readable look at what these say about what Christians are to believe and how they should live.

The book is divided in to two parts:

Part one: Costly grace from the sermon on the mount:

Part Two: Crucial words from Skull Hill

There is a really helpful introduction and outline at the beginning of each part.

Part one focuses on how Jesus teaches his followers to be those who demonstrate “Surprising reversals” and Surpassing righteousness “ in the way they live. The structure of the Sermon, the author proposes, is laid out such that the Lord's Prayer is the heart of the Sermon. He writes,

'It's as we pray that “our lives are being bent away from their natural inclinations towards God. We are becoming the very holiness, obedience, forgiveness for with we ask in prayer'.

Part two looks at each of the seven final statements of Jesus that are recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Luke and John and at the end of each chapter links these back to a passage in the Sermon on the Mount. The emphasis is on how these words demonstrate the love, power and grace of God and how what happens on the cross is so essential to the gospel of Jesus Christ,

The book concludes with what the author calls “vantage point”. Here, he comes back to the mountain idea and Jesus' commission to his followers to make disciples of all nations. For me, the challenge here is the dangers of not prioritising discipleship and the need for a commitment to make disciples. Those that hold on to the life-changing teaching of the cross, and live out the change of life it brings.

If you are looking for a book to at this Easter season, I highly recommend this one. Take time to read and reflect on each of the last words of Jesus. They provide a great daily devotional, but also provide a great companion to our current preaching series.

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