Ive heard it many times and from the most unexpected sources:
I try to read the Bible, but . . . it doesnt seem to say anything to me. I dont understand what Im reading. It doesnt help me, so I end up quitting . .
Set this response beside Davids 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.
Its the feeling and the doing components that are missing in their lives.
Theres no delight: My soul keeps Your testimonies, and I love them exceedingly, (Psalm 110:167).
Theres no desire: Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law, (Psalm 119:18).
Theres no dependency: I cling to Your testimonies! (Psalm 119:31).
It is Kevin DeYoungs 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 its worth your minds attention and your hearts 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 its not a matter of aggravating people. (Remember Anne Lamotts great quote: Its 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 Pauls 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 dont 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 Pauls 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.
I have long enjoyed the books that Kevin DeYoung has written. He has such a passion for the Lord and His Word and doesn't sugarcoat anything to make it easier to hear. I appreciate that about His writing. It's easy to do in today's culture where many want to hear things that make them feel better about themselves.
I appreciate the topic of this book because I know many who feel that the Bible is irrelevant to today. This whole book centers around what the Bible is, why it can be trusted, and it is relevant to us and our lives.
The other thing I greatly appreciated about this book was that Kevin DeYoung didn't spend time telling you why, in his opinion, we should take God at His Word. He uses God's Word to show you the importance of reading, knowing, loving, understanding, and applying His Word in our life.
I also liked how I didn't feel as if I was reading a theological book. It flowed easily and I found myself anxious to get back into reading the book. It also had me thinking about His Word constantly within the pages and I love anything that can take me back to the Bible.
Can't wait to see what topic is written about next!
I received this book free from Crossway Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion of this book.
Kevin DeYoung is one of a rising corp of young reformed pastors who God is using to call the church back to its theological moorings. He is a clear communicator of God's truth both from the pulpit and by means of the printed page. The author of several books, none of which are lengthy or of great depth, DeYoung's latest product is a testimony to the sufficiency, clarity, and necessity of the Bible. Millennials will like his light and conversational approach. In fact, this volume would serve as a helpful "get started" text to hand to those who are just beginning to consider the Scriptures. I personally found the last two chapters, "Christ's Unbreakable Bible" and "Stick With the Scriptures" to be the most practical. Although the content of this book is solid, it is at the same time sketchy and incomplete (as I have found all of DeYoung's books to be). That criticism is not meant to be negative as much as to serve as a caution to those who may feel that they will be getting more from the book than is actually there. I was left with the sense that the author had much more to say and that this book was rushed to press before it was ready. DeYoung provides a helpful annotated bibliography at the end of the book, but it too is incomplete. If the target audience happens to be those who like "fast-food doctrine," then this book will likely achieve its aim. But for those who prefer more substantial "theological fare," they will find themselves still hungry by the time they are finished.