Friday, January 22, 2010

Who's the Story About?

It’s unfortunate that we’ve taught children that the great heroes of the Bible stories are ultimately men and women – when these great men women are there to teach us first and foremost who God is. It's natural for us to "exchange the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man" [Romans 1:23]. And it's natural for us to elevate ourselves from the best supporting actor category to the best actor category where God alone deserves to be the only nominee. So when we read the stories of the Bible, it's foundational for those of us in Christ to see the God-centeredness of God saturating the narratives of Scripture.

I mean it's eye-catching, for example in Genesis 41, that Pharaoh dreams of 7 plump and attractive cows who are eaten by 7 thin and ugly cows, all standing on the banks of the Nile. There's also sort of a movie-like action picture thrill we experience when discovering that Pharaoh's baker is hanged while his cup-bearer is saved from walking the Green Mile.

But these interesting but ancillary details are directing us to God who "oversees the course of human action to achieve His good and set purpose [RSB, p. 81].

Notice that the purpose of Genesis 41 is ultimately about getting us to see God Himself:

41:16 "It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer."

41:25 "God has revealed to Pharaoh . . ."

41:32 " . . . the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about."

41:39 "Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'Since God has shown you all this, [see now even Pharaoh is getting the point] there is none so discerning and wise as you are."

41:51 "Jospeh called the name of his firstborn Manasseh. 'For,' he said, 'God has made me forget all my hardship.'"

41:52 "The name of the second he called Ephraim, 'For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction."

In his book, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, Graeme Goldsworthy writes:

“That the Bible is first and foremost a book about God as he reveals himself in Jesus Christ means that the preacher must be absolutely scrupulous in making this clear. The further away from a gospel-oriented mindset people are, the harder it will be to motivate them to listen to the exposition of God’s word. Thus we frequently begin by ‘scratching where it itches.’ We start with a commonly felt need or problem, which may be anything from low self-esteem to animal rights or global warming. There is nothing wrong with such an approach, and, indeed, it may be necessary is some situations. But unless the problem is redefined by the gospel, we are in danger of reducing the Christian message to a pragmatic one of helping us feel better or make the world a better place to live in."

May we see more and more and preach and teach our children more and more that the great men and women of the Bible are there to teach us first and foremost who God is. Soli Deo Gloria!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

"Stunning, disarming, overwhelming"

Brothers and Sisters,

I'm really enjoying Alister McGrath's history of Protestantism. Here's an excerpt, in hopes that you might read it.

“Luther found when Paul . . . speaks of the ‘righteousness of God’ being revealed in the gospel, he does not mean that we are told what standards of righteousness we must meet in order to be saved. Rather we are confronted with the stunning, disarming, overwhelming declaration that God himself provides the righteousness required for salvation as a free, unmerited gift. God’s love is not conditional upon transformation; rather, personal transformation follows divine acceptance.” Alister McGrath, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution—A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First [2007]