Perhaps I am a wishful thinking bibliophile, but I just don’t think the physical book is going the way of the dodo bird. No doubt, many scholars and students will house parts of their reference libraries on an electronic device. Some frequent flyers will stick books on their tablets instead of in their brief cases. And some techno-geeks will conclude that everything is better on an Apple product. I’m sure ereaders will make inroads. They serve a useful purpose. But only to a point.
Old books are like old friends. They love to be revisited. They stick around to give advice. They remind you of days gone by. Books, like friends, hang around.
And they prefer not to be invisible.
“To understand Jesus, we must begin where His thinking begins: not with John 3:16, but with Genesis 1:1, and on through all that follows. There we find the truth that forms the basis of Jesus’ teaching, truth that we would never find within our own deceptive, incurably sick hearts. To understand who Jesus says that we are, we must understand who we were, and what we became, and how we got there” (p. 37).
It is incredibly important that Christians have a full view of Scripture. God gave us 66 books for a reason, not just a handful of verses. As glorious and life-giving as John 3:16 is, taken out of the context of the rest of the Bible, it makes very little sense. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans who profess Christianity cannot get far beyond explaining that Jesus died on the cross for their sins, but they don’t really know why or what actually happened.
“Dogs have puppies, cats have kittens, and large sinners give birth to little sinners” (p. 57).
We do not learn sin, we are not influenced by our environment to sin, we are not even simply born into sin – it’s far worse than that. All men everywhere, except Jesus, were conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5). It’s a tragic story.
“Jesus’ first word, ‘Repent,’ translates the Greek word metanoeite (meta-no-AY-teh), which indicates a change of mind so fundamental, so root-to-branch, that the life changes as a consequence. ‘God’s kingdom is hanging over your heads like an anvil about to drop,’ Jesus says in effect. ‘So everything about the way you think has got to change'” (p. 60).
A true believer in Christ can be identified by a radically changed life. So much of what Jesus and the Apostles say is related to life change because of Gospel transformation, not so that one might experience gospel transformation. A transformed life is evidence of true repentance and belief. To claim to be a Christian, but to never show evidence of a transformed life is good reason to question whether or not one is in the faith. “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
“Notice that the word dead doesn’t admit any modifiers. Someone might be ‘a bit lively,’ or he might be ‘very lively.’ But nobody is ‘a bit dead’ or ‘very dead.’ There are not degrees of death. Death is an absolute. It is a toggle switch, not a dimmer” (p. 66).
Dead men (all of mankind) cannot repent and believe. It is a total and complete work of God (cf. Ephesians 2:1-10).
“The tremendous reality of God’s holiness gives us a glimpse of our massive dilemma. It is easy to sum up our dismal predicament in two succinct points: 1. God is holy. 2. We aren’t. And there is our nightmarish quandary. We are unholy. How can unholy creatures have a relationship with such a holy God?” (pp. 85-86).
A great reminder of why we so desperately need the gospel of Christ who, while we were yet sinners, died for us (Romans 5:8).
“Love defines. A person is defined by his loves. We think that someone who loves entertainment above all is shallow and silly; someone who loves child pornography at all is sick and evil; someone who loves money above all is materialistic and grasping. God is the infinitely majestic one. Whom or what should God love above all? What worthier object of His love is there than Himself? What object of affection does God have that is worthier than God Himself? After all, God’s laws flow from His being, and His prime law is to love God with our all, then to love our neighbor (Matt. 22:36–40). We are to imitate God in our love (Matt. 5:44–45; Eph. 5:1–2). If we are to love Him first, can it shock us to learn that He does the same? If we were to love any creature more than God, it would be idolatry for us. Would it not be the same for God?” (pp. 87-88).
The Baptist Catechism says, “God is the highest and chiefest being” (Question 1). Therefore, God must love Himself above all others lest He be an idolator. For God to love anyone or anything else more than Himself would be to love lesser things greater than the greatest thing. God will not break His own commandment, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).
“When you watch those marvelous nature specials, you are beholding an exhibition of God’s wisdom. Though the narrator blathers on about ‘Mother Nature,’ you should know better: These are the works of God’s hands, and He made them all in wisdom (Ps. 104:24)” (p. 90).
Undeniable to even the most vehement non-believer is the reality that “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). A denial of God’s work and existence revealed in creation is only denied through unrighteous suppression (cf. Romans 1-2).
“God’s plan will bring us into the most intimate relationship with Himself. He will not merely make us servants or subjects—which would be a terrific privilege—but sons, reconciled to Him, adopted into His family with full rights and privileges (John 1:12–13; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:5)” (p. 98).
God always gives far more than we deserve. To be a servant is great. To be a son is far greater.
“Remember, when Jesus announced His coming death to the apostles, Peter was so aghast at the thought that he forgot himself, and actually took it on himself to rebuke Jesus for saying such an appalling thing (Matt. 16:22). What Peter says in Greek is hard to bring over to English; too literally, it is ‘Propitious to You, Lord!’ The idea actually drips with unintended irony: Peter is saying, ‘May God be propitious to You, Lord! May God turn His wrath from You and spare You!’ Yet ‘spare Jesus’ is precisely what God the Father did not do. Had God done that, had God been propitious to Jesus, then His wrath would remain unpropitiated. All humanity would continue forever helplessly and hopelessly under His wrath. We would face an eternity of unrelieved suffering, paying the unpayable and infinite debt of our sins. But God was unpropitious toward Jesus, that He might be propitious toward us” (p. 125).
Embracing a Biblical Worldview and Hanging on Tight
The first generation of Christians were not popular. They were ridiculed, persecuted, yet according to Acts 17:6-7, they “turned the world upside down.” As a result, their message was communicated louder and clearer than any message before or since. Even with today’s social medias, big-name celebrities, and shiny evangelism techniques that add glitz and glamour to the gospel, today’s Christians fail to communicate as effectively as the first followers of Christ. Simply put, the early church turned the world upside down, but today’s church has been turned upside down by the world.