The Legacy I Want to Leave
UPDATE: Look at the Book is now live.
For most of my pastoral life, I heralded the wonders of what I saw in the Bible.
I tried to do this in such a way that people could see that the wonders really did come from the Bible, and not from me. But I seldom focused on how I saw the spectacular truths of Scripture. My preaching and writing aimed mainly to bring people to a banquet, not take them into the kitchen.
When I think of the coming generations, I am not content to only leave them a deposit of books and sermons that celebrate the glories of God and the wonders of Christian Hedonism. A great teacher once told me to ignore the conclusions of commentaries, and only look for their arguments. I have tried to give good arguments.
But underneath all the arguments is the Book. The Bible. If future generations only learn what we saw, and not how to see it for themselves, they will be second-handers. And second-handers cannot last. They grow bored and boring. Powerful, truth-preserving, God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, soul-ravishing, mission-advancing ministry is sustained by the power to see for yourself the glories of God’s word.
So I have a new and focused passion to help people really see the riches of God’s word for themselves, and that has new and exciting implications for me and for the ministry of Desiring God.
Learn to Read the Bible for Yourself
First, I will be devoting significant energy and time myself to guiding others into how I find meaning in the Bible. I will not be preaching every weekend, but rather taking students in Minneapolis, and thousands more of you through desiringGod.org, deeper with me into the joys of biblical discovery. For the students in town, this will happen through my teaching at Bethlehem College and Seminary. It’s a significant change for me, from weekly herald of the banquet to weekly coach in the kitchen.
But what about others of you who won’t ever go to seminary? At Desiring God, we’ve developed two new answers that feel really exciting to me.
This fall we plan to launch Look at the Book, a new online method of teaching the Bible. Look at the Book is an ongoing series of 5–8 minute video interactions with the Bible in which the camera is on the text, not the teacher. You will hear my voice and watch my pen work its way into the meaning of the text. I’ll point and circle and underline in the passage, all the while talking through how I’m seeing what I’m seeing.
Our main aim will be to create habits of mind and ways of seeing the Bible that help you find the riches of Scripture for yourselves. We really believe that serious Christians can see more wonders in God’s word than they ever thought they could. Look at the Book is our effort to bring that belief to life for you.
The Look at the Book Launch Event
With this new dream — this invitation to come with me into the kitchen — we are transitioning our Desiring God National Conference into an ongoing series of regional, church-based Look at the Book events.
Our National Conference, this September 26–28, here in Minneapolis, will be the twelfth and final conference, at least as we have known them. We are calling it Look at the Book: Reading the Bible for Yourself.
Unlike past conferences, I will be doing five sessions: three in which I will model the method of Look at the Book, taking Romans 8 — the greatest chapter in the Bible — as my text; and two in which I unfold the biblical foundations and fruit of seeing the Bible in this way. Then, in the coming years, we hope to take Look at the Book on the road, for weekend regional events that will focus on different passages of Scripture.
[UPDATE: All audio and video from the conference is now available.]
A Simple Habit That Could Change Your Life
I owe my theology, my ministry, and my life to this simple habit: Looking at the Book. Of course it is all of grace. God gives the desire. God gives the eyes. God gives the mind. And when all our work of careful, expectant study is done, it was God who gave the work and the riches.
But that doesn’t make us lazy or inattentive. Knowing that God himself has spoken fully and inerrantly in the Bible leads us to look and look and look — undistractingly, assiduously, persistently, prayerfully, desperately — until we see, and until our hearts burn. As Martin Luther said, we beat on the text with our eyes and our mind and our heart and our prayer until it yields what God made it to yield. We wrestle with it, like Jacob and the angel, “I won’t let you go till you bless me.”
We believe one key to the strength of the church — the authenticity of her worship, the depth of her fellowship, and the courage of global mission — is that the people of God get steel in their spiritual spine, which is forged in the furnace of their own first-hand dealing with God in the Bible. Second-handers will not do in these trying times.