Here is an excellent resource for learning the Bible: The Bible Project.
Here is an excellent resource for learning the Bible: The Bible Project.
After learning I would be beginning a new sermon series this week, a study of the book of Galatians, a friend and colleague who is an Army Chaplain asked me if I had read the relatively new book, No Other Gospel. Though I had seen it, I admitted I was not really familiar with it. He suggested it would be a good parallel book to coincide with the series of messages we will be offering at Grace Covenant between now and Easter.
I picked it up, skimmed it this afternoon, and expect to commend it to our congregation – at least to those who want to do a little digging of their own over the next few months. (I’ll read it more thoroughly as well.)
When first reading an article featured in Relevant Magazine by John Pavlovitz, 5 Things I Wish Christians Would Admit About the Bible, I found myself feeling a mixture of mild reactions: chagrined by the banality, and indifferent because of the banality. While the magazine does occasionally publish some thoughtful pieces, the majority seem to be either old fashioned theological liberalism dressed up in contemporary Millennial angst, or shallow pragmatism desperately wanting to be considered poignant and profound. This particular article managed to qualify for both categories, as Pavlovitz offered his handful of wishes that people would understand:
Really going out on a limb there, with such staggering assertions. (Note sarcasm.)
It was not until I read a post by Blake Deal, What We Will Not “Admit” About the Bible, that I even gave it a second thought. What had seemed unworthy to receive much consideration had now been given a thoughtful, appropriate corrective. After reading Deal’s rebuttal, I started thinking to myself: “I wish I’d written that”.
Whether one takes the time to read Pavlovitz’s piece or not, I think Deal’s observations are worth the few minutes it takes to read them, both for their succinct affirmations of the historic faith, and as an example of a good way to address other straw man allegations levied against historic Christian orthodoxy in the name of becoming relevant to this present generation.
Knowing scripture is vital. But it is not the essence of Christianity. That may sound surprising, but it really should not be. Knowing the Bible is foundational, even essential, to vibrant faith and life. But it is also possible to have great knowledge yet have little understanding. The essence of the Faith is not information but formation. It is understanding who God is, what he has done and is doing, and what he expects from you and me. It is, borrowing a good popular phrase, finding your place in God’s story and living it out in light of the gospel.
I started reading D.A. Carson’s The God Who Is There. This is a tremendous resource. Carson does a wonderful job in walking the reader through the narrative of the Bible, or what he calls “the Big Story of Scripture”. He touches on the major themes, comprehensively yet easily readable. And in doing this, Carson helps us understand the grand narrative of scripture, thus assisting and enabling us to more easily find our place in it.
As it so happened, in February 2009 Carson presented a 14-part seminar at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. The book was developed from those messages. And thanks to The Gospel Coalition, the MP3s and videos of the conference that closely correspond with the book are available for all 14 chapters:
- The God Who Made Everything | MP3 | Video
- The God Who Does Not Wipe Out Rebels | MP3 | Video
- The God Who Writes His Own Agreements | MP3 | Video
- The God Who Legislates | MP3 | Video
- The God Who Reigns | MP3 | Video
- The God Who Is Unfathomably Wise | MP3 | Video
- The God Who Becomes a Human Being | MP3 | Video
- The God Who Grants New Birth | MP3 | Video
- The God Who Loves | MP3 | Video
- The God Who Dies—and Lives Again | MP3 | Video
- The God Who Declares the Guilty Just | MP3 | Video
- The God Who Gathers and Transforms His People | MP3 | Video
- The God Who Is Very Angry | MP3 | Video
- The God Who Triumphs | MP3 | Video
Trekking incognito along the Emmaus Road, shortly after his resurrection, unrecognized even by the few of his own disciples who walked with him, Jesus challenged the groans of perplexity and faithlessness:
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24.25-27)
All of the Scriptures speak about Jesus? Really? Yep. And in the video above, this young guy recounts the overarching reflections of the Messiah revealed in every book of the Bible.
In the Preface to Joe Thorn‘s book, Note to Self, Sam Storms penned a paragraph that strikes at the heart of the difference between those with a vital Chrisian faith, and those who show little if any hint of actually being a follower of Jesus Christ. Here is what Storms says about the functional place of Scripture in the life of a Believer:
Merely affirming the Bible is inspired accomplishes very little. Asserting it’s authority isn’t much better. The inspiration and authority of the Scriptures are of value to us only so far as we change our beliefs to conform to its principles and alter our behavior to coincide with its imperatives. The Bible is meant to govern our lives, to fashion our choices, to challenge our cherished traditions, and ultimately make us more like Jesus.
The question for each of us, then, is whether the Bible actually functions in this way.
- Do we submit to its dictates?
- Do we put our confidence in its promises?
- Do we stop living in a certain way in response to its counsel?
- Do we embrace particular truths on its authority?
- Do we set aside traditional practices that conflict with its instruction?
In other words, for the Bible to be of value to us it must actually function to shape how we think, feel, and act, as well as what we believe, value, and teach.
I think Storms nails it here; hits it square on its head.
A number of dialogues I have recently had broached the subject of the differences of maturity levels between professing Christians. What Storms addresses is one of the most vital dynamics that explain the differences. In fact, since we who believe have all been given the same Spirit, perhaps the differences in the way we approach and apprehend the Scripture may be THE most important explanation for such differences.
Some see the Scriptures as they are to be seen, as a revelation of what is good and a mirror to show us what needs addressing in our lives, which in turn drives us to the Cross, where the power of transformation rests. Here they find the promises of God to be true: He is making us beautiful, to become a Bride for the King.
Others also see the Scriptures as a mirror. But, for these folks, this mirror is more like the one used by that witch in the story Snow White, who declared: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?” All she wanted was to hear how good she was; how much better she was than others. Sadly some people look to the mirror of Scripture only willing to see whatever appears to validate them. Failing to see, by the mirror, the ugly-fying effects of sin in their hearts and lives, they see no real need to return to the Cross. Thus they seem to never be changed. They never become truly beautiful.