In J-Curve by Paul Miller, we see a pattern brought out through the teachings of Paul and the life of Jesus; a dying to self and a rising in Christ. This is illustrated by following the shape of a J.
Miller writes that the J-curve is meant “to reset your sense of the normal Christian life, freeing you from cynicism and despair. Inhabiting the J-Curve promises to transform your entire vision of how you engage life, freeing you from the world of resentment, touchiness and just plain old grumpiness, and inviting you into Jesus’s world, a world rich with joy, hope and love.”
It’s a dying to our sinful nature, our tendencies and habits, and being replaced with the character and hope of Christ. It’s no journey for the faint of heart. It’s for those sold-out in their walk with Christ, willing to surrender and embrace the best possible life.
The book is organized into 5 parts, where we look at the different aspects of the J-curve. In the first part we take an overall look at the J-curve; how our default action is not to move down, bur rather up. Our flesh longs for pride, success and idolatry, when Jesus’ two greatest commands point us down - into sacrifice, humility and service.
Part two looks at three different kinds of J-curves: suffering, love and repentance. Each of these curves point us to a different way we die to ourselves. The suffering J-curve reminds us that in our suffering, we can learn surrender. In the love J-curve, we see how “every act of love potentially re-enacts the gospel.” as we sacrifice ourselves for someone else. In the repentance J-curve we put to death our sin.
In part three there’s a deeper look at the love J-curve through the life of Jesus, “the only man who never yielded to Satan was accused of being controlled by Satan. One of Scripture’s most basic rules is what happens to Jesus, happens to us.” Jesus’ love for people kept Him pursuing people, teaching, healing and admonishing. He didn’t move away, He moved towards.
Resurrection is the theme of part four. “The J-curve consists of two miracles: the wonder of humility bringing us down and the wonder of the Spirit lifting us up.” After we die to ourselves, we rise in Christ, by His grace, through perseverance, and a greater embodiment of the Gospel. We become more alive.
And lastly, part five talks about building a J-curve community. Our gathering of believers is a messy place. It’s complicated, but we all deeply long for true community. Miller shows us through the life of Paul, that this community is built upon weakness instead of power, sacrifice rather than entitlement and led by the Spirit and not ourselves.
I really appreciate the premise of this book. In a world where we have so much, there is lots to be said for learning surrender and humility. I was reminded deeply of the Gospel, and it’s application to my life through practicing the J-curves. The love curve was most significant for me, reminding me that my marriage, my family and those around me, need my sacrificial love; that love costs me, but only of my own selfishness.
No part of dying to self is easy. But by the grace of God, the work of the Holy Spirit inside us, and the support of the body of Christ around us, we can be empowered by His resurrection, and the work he will do in our lives through our obedience.
I gave this book 3 stars. I really loved one of his previous books, “A Praying Life”, but I found the outline of this book a little harder to follow. However, there’s a whole lot to glean inside the pages, so I do recommend it!
I received a complimentary copy of this book through the Crossway Blog Review Program, in return for an honest review.