My latest book is Bible Matters: Meeting God in His Word is published in the UK by IVP next week as part of the Keswick Foundations Series. There is also a companion study guide entitled Hearing God’s Word. Both the book and the study guide are being published together in one volume in the US from InterVarsity Press in January 2018.
I shall be at the Keswick Convention next week so here’s an introduction to it.
It is, as the title suggests, a book on the Bible and covers a number of the issues you might expect – the authority, sufficiency, clarity and interpretation of the Bible. What’s distinctive is a focus on the relational and intentional (or covenantal) nature of the Bible. The Bible is not simply a book of information about God (though it is that). It is the means by which God through the Spirit meets with us and speaks to us. This relational and intentional nature of the Bible then sheds fresh light on the issues of authority, sufficiency, clarity and interpretation.
What struck me as I wrote it was that people today often pursue extra-biblical words or messages from God. I wonder if this is because too often we have treated the Bible as a lifeless repository of information. When we teach people to come to it expecting to hear God speak to them in a dynamic and relational way through the words its contains then maybe we might undercut the desire the extra-biblical words.
At some point I”ll post come commendations. In te meantime here’s the introduction …
Let me tell you about an amazing experience I had just this morning. Actually ‘amazing’ doesn’t really do it justice. It was out of this world.
This morning God spoke to me. I know that sounds weird, but I’m sure that’s what happened. The living God actually spoke to me. I could hear what he was saying just as clearly as you can understand what you’re reading now.
The words he spoke felt like words of life to me. They resounded deep in my heart. There were words of instruction that helped me know him more and understand his ways. There were words of challenge that called me to follow him better and love him more. There were words of comfort that spoke to my needs and gave me hope. It was like medicine to my soul. It was like a rousing speech before battle. It was like a love song sung to my heart.
What’s more, what happened to me this morning was not a freaky one-off experience. It’s what happens most mornings.
What I did this morning was read my Bible.
At this point you might be feeling like I’ve just pulled a fast one on you (unless, of course, you saw it coming a mile off). You were hoping for a dramatic story and what you got instead was daily Bible reading. ‘Boring!’
My number one aim for this book is this: I want you to realise that every time you read the Bible you’re hearing the voice of God – just as surely, more surely, than if you have some kind of dramatic experience. I want you to come to the Bible, whether you’re hearing it preached on a Sunday morning or reading it on the bus on a Monday morning, with a sense of anticipation and expectancy. Reading the Bible is a dramatic Spirit-filled experience. The God who spoke and brought the universe into existence speaks to you. The God whose voice thundered from Mount Sinai speaks to you. The God in Christ whose words healed the sick speaks to you.
I’ve read lots of things about the Bible that I’ve agreed with. But very few have captured how I feel about the Bible and why. That’s what I’ve tried to do in this book. It’s central premise is that the Bible is an intentional book. God gave it to us with a purpose in mind, and that purpose is to enter into, and live in, a relationship with his people. So the Bible is also a relational book. As we read the Bible, we don’t merely learn information about God – though that’s certainly true. We hear God’s voice and encounter his presence. This is a book about meeting God in his word.
I read my Bible regularly because I have to. Not ‘have to’ in the sense that someone might tell me off if I don’t or God will get miffed with me. But ‘have to’ in the same way I have to eat food everyday. This is how I live. Without God’s word in my life I too readily get preoccupied with myself, my fears, my insecurities, my reputation. Without God’s word I’m so much more vulnerable to temptation. I need God’s word to realign my heart day by day towards Jesus. I need that medicine for the soul, that battle speech, that love song.