A good devotional is hard to find. At least it is for me. Often devotionals appear to me trite, simplistic, and lacking in helpful application. They are theological shallow and exegetically flawed. Mark Jones, however, offers something different in his latest devotional project. In God Is he offers a theologically rich devotional exploration of the attributes of God. This work brings academic theology down to the level of daily living.
The book consists of 26 short studies on various attributes of God. The goal, as Jones writes it, is to “provide a brief, simple, and clear book on the attributes of god that readers can (hopefully!) read from cover to cover…” with the intent that the reader will find that the study of God and His attributes is highly practical for Christian living (18-19). All of this he intends to do through the lens of Jesus Christ. Jones writes:
We look at God through Christ, who makes the attributes of God more delightful to us. (11)
Each chapter, then, begins with a doctrinal summary. So, ones unpacks the basic components of the primary doctrine of the chapter. He gives clear Scriptural support. He then shifts to exploring the doctrine through the person and work of Jesus Christ. So, he reveals to us how Christ reveals this doctrine uniquely. Then, he wraps up the chapter with a section on application, helping the reader discern how this doctrine makes a difference in their life.
The chapters are, as you can imagine with all that content, longer than the average devotional (6 pages in length), yet they are still accessible and a concise. While there is a primary text that starts the chapter, Jones does not intend to do an exegesis of one passage. The devotional is more doctrinal in nature, and so serves a different format than other texts. It’s a relatively easy read, and yet, it is not a typical devotional work.
God Is deals with some lofty theological concepts. So, chapter two addresses the doctrine of “Divine Simplicity,” and chapter one attempts to navigate the doctrine of the Trinity. These are deep wells and ones that rarely (ever?) get addressed in this kind of format. As a result some of the content will require patience, but Jones does his best to keep the reader engaged. And while he interacts with some of the great theologians of the church, he is not writing a systematic theology. He intends always to drive the reader from doctrine to life application, and always through the person of Jesus Christ.
This is a remarkable work. It is the kind of book that those wanting to grow in their understanding of theology should read. It is not the quick read that many are looking for in devotional studies. It is not the sort of book you read to put a check in a box. This devotional will require some work and effort, but the reward will be worth it. Jones makes the doctrine of God come alive with richness and relevance. He takes readers deep into the character of our God, he demonstrates well the significance of the gospel for knowing God, and he urges us to live in light of God’s character. I have never read a devotional work like this, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. God Is stands as a unique work, but honestly if more devotionals were written like this one the church would be healthier.