Having had the privilege of hearing James Bryan Smith speak, share his vision for spiritual formation, and read his "The Good and Beautiful..." series, there is one conclusion I have come to regarding Dr. Smith:
You can't be exposed to his work and not be empowered by an explosive vision for transformation into Christlikeness.
Smith's most recent book, Hidden In Christ, is no different. Written in a daily-chapter style format, Dr. Smith engages various words and phrases in Colossians 3:1-17. Each chapter addresses a specific word or phrase, and gives both commentary on the text and insight into how this relates to our everyday quest to be like Jesus. His comment at the beginning of the book beautifully frames the passage:
Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians not to give them an academic treatise on Christian theology, but to tell his readers a story - the greatest story the world has ever heard. It is a story about love, self-sacrifice, new life, victory over evil, transformation, compassion, forgiveness and glory. (14)
From that point on, Smith uses his engaging and descriptive writing style to draw the reader into deep reflection and uses each chapter to challenge the reader to take action on what they are hearing.
Personally, the high point of the book is the chapter on "Wrath" - a touchy subject in the Scriptures - and Smith's analysis gave me a great deal to think about:
God set up an order, a good order, and if we rebel from that order, we suffer. That is what the wrath of God is. Wrath is not God's disposition toward us; wrath is God's arrangement regarding sin. (85, emphasis his)
The one drawback of the book is that due to its format, some of the ideas lose their momentum from chapter to chapter. It is probably best to re-read Colossians 3:1-17 before reading each chapter of the book, to maintain consistency between the ideas.
I believe this book functions well for a daily reading guide and would serve a small group or mentoring relationship very well. I highly recommend this book and pray that God uses it to draw you through grace into an intense time of spiritual transformation in Christ.
PS - I recently used this book in my preparation for a message over Colossians 3 called "The Good, Beautiful and True God" which you can check out here.