Jesus > Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough

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Abandon dead, dry, rule-keeping and embrace the promise of being truly known and deeply loved.
Jefferson Bethke burst into the cultural conversation in 2012 with a passionate, provocative poem titled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” The 4-minute video literally became an overnight sensation, with 7 million YouTube views in its first 48 hours (and 23+ million in a year). The message blew up on social-media, triggering an avalanche of responses running the gamut from encouraged to enraged.
In Jesus > Religion, Bethke unpacks similar contrasts that he drew in the poem—highlighting the difference between teeth gritting and grace, law and love, performance and peace, despair and hope. With refreshing candor he delves into the motivation behind his message, beginning with the unvarnished tale of his own plunge from the pinnacle of a works-based, fake-smile existence that sapped his strength and led him down a path of destructive behavior.Bethke is quick to acknowledge that he’s not a pastor or theologian, but simply a regular, twenty-something who cried out for a life greater than the one for which he had settled. Along his journey, Bethke discovered the real Jesus, who beckoned him beyond the props of false religion.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (October 14, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400205395
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400205394
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13 ounces

Customer Reviews


 on September 21, 2017
By TheMessyRoom
I have never read a book this spiritually enriching. I was worried about this book being too “teenager y”, it is far from so. This book takes picturesque Christianity and smashes it to the ground. I can’t even put into words how great this book is, it gets to the core and focuses on Jesus, the way it should be. I’m about 3/4 through this book and it continues to be a simple style conversational writing. I’m learning so many things I have not ever thought of from this book. My world is full of stress and chaos right now and this book and Jesus are the only thing that seem to ease my anxieties. Great book, a must read. Thank you Jeff for writing this, it is really helping my walk.

Life Changing

One person found this helpful.
 on March 3, 2014
By Sheri
I bought this for my 19 yr old son who has enjoyed following Bethke on You Tube. My son has experienced a time of reflection concerning his faith and kept mentioning this book. As soon as I surprised him with it, he began reading and didn’t slow down until he reached the last chapter…and then, because he “didn’t want it to end.” My son is now excited about his faith. His life, behaviors and love for self and others are showing positive changes. I still haven’t personally been able to read this book as my son loaned it out as soon as he finished it. (He apologized as he knows I want to read it, but he knows my faith is settled and feels it will be helpful to this next person. Somehow, I think there will be another person after this one. I’ll probably have to buy my own copy!) I think Bethke has a gift for speaking to this younger generation. I couldn’t be happier with the results, enthusiasm and growth I’ve seen in my son.

I always thought this

One person found this helpful.
 on October 16, 2013
By Austin
I had always thought that something wasn’t quite right with the churches we were going to. Something felt missing. Many times I didn’t see the love we were called to live out. Coming out of a divorce family with two extreme belief ideas, God has given me a balance between them. My dad is very religious and zealous, while my mom was nonreligious yet I had seen love in her and not in my dad. She was a universalism and believe that everyone had some truth, every religion was right( not saying I agree with this, nor do I believe that. How can one say the door is open and one say no it’s shut both be right, it’s either or.) Anyway she had always told us that she didn’t care what religion we were part of or what we believe. She just want us to think for ourselves and believe something because that’s what somebody says to do. She said she would accept us regardless and still love us as our children. She didn’t see the importance of going to the “church” and stop going altogether. She thought it was more important to visit your grandparents and to help out the needy. My mom isn’t perfect but I have learn much from her. My dad was extremely strict and it had to be done such a way. With many rules and regulations No Halloween No NonChristian Music No Harry Potter and so on. On the other hand he did bring up into a “Christian family” and taught me about Jesus early on. We often had to do prayer chair (where one goes on to the chair and everyone prays for him. I really appreciate them and always felt good about them), “praise and worship time” where we would sing his made up songs to God, and daily bible reading times. Even though at the time I didn’t like those and always thought they were boring, they help me with my foundations with Christ. So I have learn things that were good and things that were not with both of them, helping shaping me. One time I was arguing with my dad about not going to church on Wednesdays (which was super important for him. You can’t miss church) I told how the youth group was dead and how I wanted to go to a different church one instead, but he refuse to listen and I had to go. This went on for awhile. I was also 18, a junior in high school. So one Wednesday evening when we were getting ready to leave, I told him I wasn’t going and walk out. He was furious and said I command you to come back and if you don’t obey than you are breaking the scriptures (or something like that, super controlling and manipulative, changing the words out of the context for his will) so ignore him and drove to my moms (since they were divorce) My mom told me how proud she was since I stood up for myself. Later he told me I couldn’t go back to his house unless I go to Wednesday church with him again. I never did so I was kick out of his house. The thing was I was still responsible for my younger siblings and to drop then off but I was unable to go inside. Talk about pain. Not only that but a few weeks later I got into a pretty bad car crash but both the driver and me were safe. Our cars were pretty mess up. I would normally call my mom for help but she wasn’t in town so I had to call my dad for help. I was terrified, but I eventually call him and him and my step mother came. I told him what happen and he offered to drive my car home(it was still drivable) and I got to ride home with my stepmother. I’m glad too because I was so shaken up that I couldn’t drive even if I wanted too. So we went home (first time for me in weeks) and we ate dinner. Thinking everything was back to normal he ask me again if I was going to church on Wednesday. I said no and we both knew what that meant and I went more weeks with out seeing them. Eventually he realize how dumb it was and change the “punishment” to no watching tv or such and such, which I didn’t really watch a whole too much. So I got to go back to the house. And eventually the “punishment” was completely remove. Right now we are good with each other and a side note we had a pretty good relationship with each other before the whole thing started. Another thing was I was going to church on my own and many times I was alone since I didn’t knew a whole lot of people. I was extremely thankful the situation and trusted in God that everything was going to be okay. Because before that I didn’t really had a way to understand those who had it worst than me and I could understand what my cousins where feeling a lot better.

A great reminder that life is not about what we can get out of it, but how God can get the glory for everything we do.

 on August 6, 2017
By Bethany Larson
I loved the way Jeff tied his personal experiences such as with the college baseball team and his ministry there, and his struggle with lust into how God was able to shape his life into one used for God’s glory. It really showed authenticity, which is what there needs to be more of in the church, especially with people who may be struggling and choose not to come forward with their struggles. Life is too short to be living in a box when we should be out making disciples, and Jeff really demonstrated that through this book. I recommend it to anyone wanting to be more committed in their walk with God.

Jeff Bethke is AWESOME

2 people found this helpful.
 on May 25, 2016
By Amazon Customer
This book, like Bethke’s other, is wonderful and thought provoking. It’s an easy read. It feels like he is just having a conversation with you, the reader. His books have transformed the way I view Christianity and Jesus and have altered how I live my life. I highly recommend this book. It’s great for people no matter where they are on their faith journey.

Instant Heart Changer

One person found this helpful.
 on October 11, 2013
By Jimbo
The real Jesus destroys lives and presents a new completely remade person in light of the true gospel. Bethke makes this book so simple yet profound. STOP PLAYING RELIGION! Get done to serving the LORD God Almighty. The One who every knee shall bow and tongue confess on the day of Judgement. I strongly recommend this book to any one- skeptic, believer, or sit fencer. It leaves you humbly coming to the cross where the broken can find rest. Having Bethke’s personal story flow freely through the pages adds meaning and depth as he states, ‘he’s just a regular dude, glorifying Jesus.’ Do you what to know Christ? Do you want Christ to know you? When your encounter the real Jesus, your life will become transformed! That’s what my story was. I was dead, dry and religious trying to follow the rules not my LORD.

Every person in the world needs this book.

One person found this helpful.
 on October 7, 2013
By Jackson Woodard
This book is a must have for every living person on this planet.


2 people found this helpful.
 on June 7, 2016
By ChristianMomToFiveInSD
Oh, my, this book is so very good! It needs to be read by every Christian. It will shake your world, in the best way, and get you back to (or ‘to’) the bedrock of the love the Father has for each of us. Read it! You will NOT regret it, will probably highlight and mark it all the way through, and keep it to re-read and loan to others!

Loved it!

2 people found this helpful.
 on April 3, 2016
By tracy
There are so many “religious” people who have missed the message of the BIBLE. I love that this book helps restore the correct perspective. Being a disciple of Christ means so much more than being a rule “imposer”. Jesus is grace, mercy and love. I pray every one see that message reflected by the Church. Thank you Jefferson for a great book.

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