Yesterday, Sally Lloyd-Jones posted this article over at The Gospel Coalition Blog. If you missed it, her post is worth a read. Also worth a read is Lloyd-Jones’ Bible for young children, The Jesus Storybook Bible. While it’s not our absolute favorite children’s Bible (that distinction belongs to The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm), Kristen and I have loved and used this book for years now, and our appreciation of it has only grown over time. For families with toddlers or preschoolers, it’s a great tool for your family’s devotional time. Even if you don’t have young kids, the book might bless you, in fact. Lloyd-Jones’ work “gets” what a lot of Christian literature – both for children and adults – doesn’t. Let me explain.
In my view, The Jesus Storybook Bible has two remarkable strengths. This excerpt from the book’s introduction illustrates both well:
Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible is not mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.
Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you’ll soon find out) most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose). They get afraid and run away. At times they are downright mean.
No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far county to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne – everything – to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!
You see, the best thing about this Story is – it’s true.
There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.
It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every Story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle – the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.
First, notice that Lloyd-Jones subtly-but-firmly refutes what many Christians think about the Bible: that the Old and New Testaments essentially tell two different stories, that the God of the Old Testament is angry and vengeful, while the New Testament God is gracious and forgiving. (This is a heresy that has been around since the second century AD, and though most can’t name it – Marcionism, this false idea has planted itself deeply in the theory and practice of many Christians.) In truth, the God of the Old Testament is just as loving as the God of the New, and the God of the New just as wrathful as that of the Old. But more importantly, both testaments fit together in a critical and beautiful way to tell one story – the story of Jesus Christ, and how God redeemed, reconciled, and restored all things to Himself through Jesus. As Lloyd-Jones says, every story in the Bible fits into the grand story of what God is and has accomplished, by His Spirit, through His Son Jesus. We should read the Bible – the whole Bible! – to be more awed by and enamored with Christ.
Second, notice what follows from this: If the Bible is entirely about Jesus, then it isn’t remotely about me, or you, or anyone else. Many people look to Scripture to see how they should live their lives. But the Bible is truly the story of the one who lived his life perfectly, freeing us from the pressure or need to do so ourselves. Rather than reading of Old Testament heroes or New Testament saints and asking, “How can I live like this?” we should read of those same characters and praise God for sending Jesus to live like (even better than) them on our behalf, liberating us from the inevitable guilt that accompanies failing to do so ourselves. This is the real freedom of the Gospel: If I read about Daniel and insert myself into his story, then all I have is pressure to live like Daniel. And I won’t live like Daniel. But if I read about the life of Daniel in light of the life of Jesus, I’m free from guilt (Jesus bore that guilt on the cross) and full of praise – because I realize just how free I am!