I’ve heard it many times and from the most unexpected sources:
“I try to read the Bible, but . . . it doesn’t seem to say anything to me. I don’t understand what I’m reading. It doesn’t help me, so I end up quitting . . “
Set this response beside David’s from Psalm 119:
129 Your testimonies are wonderful;
Therefore my soul keeps them.
130 The entrance of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple.
131 I opened my mouth and panted,
For I longed for Your commandments.
The question Kevin DeYoung poses (and rigorously answers) in Taking God at His Word is this: How does one go from Ho Hum (response #1) to Whole Hearted (response #2)? If the goal of life is Psalm 119-zeal, what are the pre-requisites for getting there?
The truth is that, without exception, every woman I have heard confessing her lackluster response to the Word of God would pass any test for orthodoxy. She would affirm that the Word of God is true, that what it demands of us is good, and that what it provides is also good.
It’s the feeling and the doing components that are missing in their lives.
There’s no delight: “My soul keeps Your testimonies, and I love them exceedingly,” (Psalm 110:167).
There’s no desire: “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law,” (Psalm 119:18).
There’s no dependency: “I cling to Your testimonies!” (Psalm 119:31).
It is Kevin DeYoung’s goal to bring belief, feeling, and action together – not with a checklist (heaven, help us!), but with Truth. What does the Bible say about itself that will convince the reluctant and indifferent reader to dig in and spend time in the Word?
For starters, we need a foundation of trust. “You will not find anything more sure” than the written Word of God. Then, using the memorable acronym, S-C-A-N, Taking God at His Word sets forth the attributes of Scripture that demonstrate why it’s worth your mind’s attention and your heart’s affection:
I struggled off and on for years with the high-handed notion that I would rather hear from God through more personal and direct communication than I find in His written Word. Hebrews 1 reveals that God has spoken to us through the Old Testament and, then, gloriously, through His Son, who is His final Word and Revelation. J.I. Packer elaborates:
“While this kind of ‘immediate’ revelation has ceased, we should allow for ‘mediate’ revelation whereby God gives us new insights and applications — sometimes in surprising ways — but always through Scripture.”
This is HUGE in relation to relevance, because the times when I question the relevance of a book which claims to provide all that I need “for life and godliness” (II Peter 1:3) are the times when my life is . . . not exactly focused on godliness. “The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture invites us to open our Bibles to hear the voice of God.”
God has spoken truth in story, in poetry, in apocalyptic style, and even in didactic correspondence. Before Scripture was available as it is today, Moses was reminding Israel that God bends over backwards to communicate with His people. While some portions of the Bible are clearer than others (anyone read Ezekiel lately?), the main teaching points for knowledge, belief, and action are spelled out transparently. Furthermore, if a topic is hazy in one context, it is made plain elsewhere. So, a PhD in theology is a nice thing to have, but certainly not necessary in order to be a student of the Word. “Ordinary people using ordinary means can accurately understand enough of what must be known, believed, and observed for them to be faithful Christians.”
The Bible gets the last word — ahead of science, human experience, church councils — and my cranky observations about life. This dismissal of all conflicting truth claims is politically incorrect and out of step with the culture in sufficient measure to play havoc with your next office party, but it’s not a matter of aggravating people. (Remember Anne Lamott’s great quote: “It’s not always necessary to chop with the sword of truth. It can also be used to point.”) The example of the Bereans in Acts 17 is illustrative. They compared the Apostle Paul’s words with the inspired Word “to see if it was so.” Likewise, it is to be our compass.
“The heavens declare the glory of God,” but they don’t spell out the plan of salvation. Those who would believingly follow God through Christ must know who He is and how to enter into the life He offers. He has made this known through His Word in which “He speaks so that we can begin to know the unknowable and fathom the unfathomable.”
If this is all true, our right response to the Word of God is to harvest its wisdom and share its truth with confidence and boldness. Jesus’ earthly ministry gives a pattern for living in light of a high view of Scripture. He quoted it, referred to Old Testament characters as historical figures, and considered that whatever Scripture said, God had said.
Five words lifted from John 10:35, 36 speak volumes: “The Scripture cannot be broken.” Not because He was out to prove the point, but because He believed it to be true, He simply stated the fact that Scripture could not be dismissed or dissolved. He addressed the matter with more intention in His Sermon on the Mount: Teach it as it stands and obey what it says if you want to be great in my Kingdom!
On the way to assimilating a Psalm 119-level regard for the written Word of God, consider Paul’s words to Timothy. With characteristic practicality, he lays out its uses: teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness. Underlying this is its amazing origin — God-breathed, the very words of the Almighty — and every day, when we open its pages, the Bible offers the privilege of taking God at His Word.
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