This book made me fall in love with Scripture. This book changed the way I view my relationship with God, and honestly, God himself. It is a work that I highly recommend all those who profess to follow Christ should read. If you have been struggling with reading the Word consistently, or even having a desire to know more about God, THIS is the book you need to read. It was a pivotal point in my walk with Christ when I picked this book up and I can honestly say it helped grow me into a more mature follower of the Lord.
It is a long book, I will say that. Me, being the quick consumer of information that I am, finished it in a little less than a month. But I think it could take a lot longer than that because it is dense. He splits it up into three parts and that is how I will attempt to review this book. A quick overview of the message is that reading Scripture should be a foundational part of your life, that we must allow the Holy Spirit to move in our lives through the Word and recognize the true power and weight of the glory of God in these written words. He explains in his book how to do that. “How is the glory of God seen? To be sure, the natural eyes and ears and brains are part of the process. Without them we cannot even see or hear or construe the natural things that reveal God’s glory-creation, incarnation, gospel, Scripture. But this natural seeing is not decisive in seeing the glory of God. ‘Seeing they do not see,’ Jesus said (Matt. 13:13). Something more than the use of the natural eyes and ears and brains must happen…. There is a spiritual seeing through and beyond natural seeing. There is a spiritual hearing through and beyond natural hearing. There is spiritual discerning through and beyond natural reasoning” (Piper 23). And to be able to fully experience the written word of God, one must understand what this all means.
Part One: The Ultimate Goal of Reading the Bible
He begins with the “proposal” which is that “The Bible itself shows that our ultimate goal in reading the bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation” (Piper 39). He then splits this into six sections of what this means and how to live it out. A key excerpt (at least one that stood out in my life from part one) is the following:
“A key phrase is ‘long for.’ “Long for the pure spiritual milk.” He is not simply telling us to develop the discipline of reading the Bible. He is telling us to develop a yearning for the word. Hunger for it. Crave it. Desire it. This is the language of savoring. And the object of our savoring is the worth and beauty of God’s goodness offered to us in the word of God. Therefore, Peter is telling us-commanding us-to read the Scriptures not just for doctrine and guidance, but in order to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’ (Ps. 34:8). He wants our experience of the word to be such that we go beyond testing to tasting. Beyond knowing to loving. Beyond doctrine to delight. Beyond seeing to savoring” (Piper 126).
Part Two: The Supernatural Act of Reading the Bible
With the same proposal, he now splits it into six different sections under this title. Yes, he splits the book up into lots of little chunks but trust me, it is a lot more helpful this way. This second part all adds up to say that “therefore, reading the Bible is God’s indispensable means of bringing about his ultimate purpose for creation and redemption” (Piper 180). This part of the book is intended to test whether we are reading the way God means for his book to be read. Two key excerpts from part two are as follows:
“Let it not be missed that the specific focus of Satan’s blinding work is the gospel. That is, his focus is on our reading-or hearing-the heart of the message of the Christian Scriptures. Satan ‘has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.’ Satan would be happy for people to believe ten thousand true facts, as long as they are blind to ‘the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.’ Let them make A’s on a hundred Bible-fact quizzes as long as they can’t see the glory of Christ in the gospel- that is, as long as they can’t read (or listen) with the ability to see what is really there” (Piper 185).
“It seems clear to me that from that first day on, the Thessalonians-and every Christian with them! -should thank God that there is, in fact, a word from God. And we should thank God that we have received this word as the very word of God, even though it comes to us in human words. And we should thank God that it is at work in us by the Spirit, opening our eyes to the all-surpassing treasure of the glory of Christ and filling us with joy. And we should thank God that this divine word is so wonderfully powerful that we are willing to suffer the loss of anything in this world rather than lose Christ. In other words, from start to finish the Christian encounter with the word of God-which includes all of our reading of the Bible-is a work of God. God is to be thanked. Reading the bible is intended by God to be supernatural” (Piper 218).
Part Three: The Natural Act of Reading the Bible Supernaturally
This last part is a practical way to apply all that you have learned so far in the book. He does a quick summary of all the main points so far and then dives right in to the final point he wishes to make. I am sorry to have thrown so many quotes in here thus far, but Piper writes much better than I ever could hope to.
“Reading becomes a passive habit of drifting through texts unless we form the habit of asking questions, that is, unless we habitually spot things that at first don’t make complete sense, feel a disturbance in our minds, and then dig our way down to the beauty of truth. I think the apostle Paul confirms this when he says to Timothy, ‘Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything’ (2 Tim. 2:7). What does it mean to think something over? It means that we ask questions about it and try to answer them by seeing connections and relationships. Most of us do this so intuitively that we don’t realize that is what we are doing. But to read actively is to turn this intuitive habit into a conscious and vigorous one” (Piper 340).
And that is the wake-up call at the end of the book. He calls you out, because you do not read your bible supernaturally, and you are only living life at 50% because of it. It convicted me, and I know it will convict you too.
I could only fit so much into this book review because this is a monster of a book to try and create a summary of (I mean, at a whopping 413 pages, its hard to capture all within a 1200-word blog post). But, I hope what I have shared sparks an interest because YOU MUST READ THIS! It will change your life for the better. So, I end with this miniature prayer:
“O, Lord, here’s my heart-my drifting, cooling, wavering, fickle, hardening heart. Take it! Do whatever you must do to seal it for yourself forever. Keep it alive and yearning and loving and delighting and treasuring…Lord, keep me from drifting away from your word” (Piper 254).
NOTE: To read up more on how this played into my own life, check out my other posts “Affections of the Heart” and “A Cause for Wonder”
SECOND NOTE: photo above is my personal copy of the book (not exactly photogenic) but shows you just how amazing it was. It has stains and dirt all over the outside and tabs, highlighter, and notes all over the inside. Worth the read. I promise.