The Jesus Story Book Bible, A Story of God’s Love

We and the children of our church need to know we’re loved first. Rules dont’ have the power to change your heart, but God’s love will. When our hearts are changed then we will fulfill the law of love to God and our neighbors. Our children come into this world in sin and spend all their time malfunctioning as image bearers. But when their humanity is changed by the love of God in Christ, then their lives function by faith in Christ walking in love to God and others.

We need to trust God to get his love into the hearts of our children. God demonstrates his love in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we need to use resources in sharing the good news of God with our children that will bring them before the love of God in Christ. I think one of the best resources to use with our children is the The Jesus Storybook Bible.

This book celebrates it’s 10th anniversary in print this March. It was written by Sally Lloyd-Jones. She said she was inspired to write the stories for The Storybook Bible by two important figures of our past, German reformer, Martin Luther and C.S. Lewis. When Luther began translating the Bible into his native German tongue he believed he should use language that mimicked a mother talking to her children. Lloyd-Jones inspired by this tale decided to narrate as a mother talking to her children. And to bring art into her storytelling she asked, “How would C.S. Lewis tell this story?” She said this sparked her imagination and caused her to work hard and dig deep at retelling the Bible’s stories artistically.

The Storybook Bible is not a Bible and should not substitute for one as we disciple our children. Every child should learn to feed themselves on God’s Word written in their own language. Yet this book is an essential tool to use in teaching the story of the Bible to our children. I presently use it in teaching my grandson. He knows where this book is on the shelf and will take it down and bring it to me to read. We typically only get through a page together, but I am always riveted by and exposed to God’s “never ending, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.”, in it’s pages.

Our children are born into this world believing the lies of sin, ‘we don’t have to be saved’, or ‘I can save myself.’ Their lives will progress through stages and seasons under the cloud of this lie. Therefore, in the early seasons of childhood I agree with Donald Guthrie when he says, “we want them to understand the bigness of God, and the wonder of his love, and to start getting a taste of the idea that God loves me and I’m part of a huge story. I don’t think many kids get that.” The Jesus Storybook Bible delivers to this end. As parents and church leaders we need to take every opportunity to teach our children of the love of God in Christ, which we trust they will never be separated from.

The following is an excerpt from the Introduction that I hope will lead to you purchase the book, or to take the one you have off the shelf to take up and read with your children, grandchildren or the church’s children.

“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 isn’t 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’re 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 country 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 ones he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!
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 the puzzle – the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.
Tolle Lege,
Pastor Jim Wilkerson

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The Weight of Glory

Some works are worth reading more than once. One such work I would recommend to you is The Weight of Glory. It is an address or sermon that C.S. Lewis gave at Oxford University Church June 8, 1941. It was transcribed and published in a book of essays entitled Theology. It can now be found in a book, The Weight of Glory, compiled with other essays by Lewis, and edited by Walter Hooper.
Lewis addressed the church during wartime with this wonderful sermon encouraging the church to look by faith to their eternal inheritance in Christ. I would encourage reading simply based on the fact that we do not think enough about the love of God revealed in the glory that awaits those in Christ, and how that affects our lives of love in the present.

As the apostle Paul prays for the church that she would comprehend the breadth and length, and height, and depth, length and to know the love of God in Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that she would be filled with all the fullness of God (Eph.3:18-19); so also, I think Lewis addresses the church that she may discover that love of God in Christ and display the fullness of it in the present, even in such times of suffering.

He said in the beginning of the address, “If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love. You see a negative term has been substituted for a positive…The negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point.” He goes on to demonstrate the love of God in Christ revealed as an eternal weight of glory for all those in Christ Jesus.

However it is at the end of this address that he ends what he began. He tells us who God is and what he does for those who hope in him, so that he may leave us as image bearers reflecting the fullness of God in love to our neighbors. I hope you find this excerpt from the end of the address a delight and a reason for you to take up and read. Lewis says,
“Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is Monday morning. A cleft has opened in this pitiless world, and we are invited to follow our great Captain inside. The following him, of course, is the essential point. That being so, it may be asked what practical use there is in the speculations which I have been indulging. I can think of at least one such use. It may be possible for us to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think to deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you say it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations, these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals who we joke with, work with, marry, snub, exploit, immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously, no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner, no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbor, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat, the glorifier and the glorified, Glory himself, is truly hidden.”

Tolle Lege, Take Up & Read

Marriage By Grace for Grace

The apostle Paul gave the church in Galatia this great statement regarding the doctrine of justification,
yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” – Galatians 2:16 

This is the doctrine on which the church is built and continues to stand. If the church forsakes this doctrine as the soil out of which she grows, she will become a fruitless vine. The same can be said of our marriages.

If marriage is a picture of the relationship of Christ and his church (Eph.5:32), then the way a husband and wife conduct themselves in this drama depicts God’s covenant love for his church and her glad hearted loving response. Yet no matter how many rehearsals a husband and wife experience, the play acted before a watching world is worthy of the critics every word. Therefore, our marriages need the doctrine of justification. The glory of God’s love is displayed to us and lived through us in this doctrine. It is not all we need, for we must have sanctification and glorification. But we will have neither of these until we first have justification. Therefore, it must come first, and it must be the foundation of the displaying of God’s covenant love in our marriages.

Listen to John Piper as he defends this doctrine as the bedrock of our marriages for the sake of God’s glory in our marriages:

“My own experience has been that the doctrine of justification by faith, in the imputed righteousness of Christ, is a great marriage saver and sweetener. What makes marriage almost impossible at times is that both partners feel so self-justified in their expectations that are not being fulfilled. There is a horrible emotional dead end street in the words, “But it’s just plain wrong for you to act that way,” followed by, “That’s your perfectionistic perspective,” or “Do you think you do everything right?” Or hopeless, resigned silence. The cycle of self justified pity and anger seems unbreakable.”

“But what if one or both the partners becomes overwhelmed with the truth of justification by faith alone, and with the particular truth that in Christ Jesus God credits me, for Christ’s sake, as fulfilling all his expectations? What would happen if this doctrine so mastered our souls that we began to bend it from the vertical to the horizontal? What if we applied it to our marriages?”

“….It is possible, for Christ’s sake, to say, “I will no longer think merely in terms of whether my expectations are met in practice. I will, for Christ’s sake, regard my spouse the way God regards me – complete and accepted in Christ – and to be helped and blessed and nurtured and cherished, even if in practice there are shortcomings…I believe there is more healing for marriage in the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness than many of us have ever begun to discover.”

(Counted Righteous in Christ, John Piper. Pg.27-28)

The Cross of Jesus Christ

The cross of Jesus Christ is the intersection of the wisdom, justice, and mercy of God. If a person wants to know what the Scriptures mean when they say, “God is love.” (1Jn.4:8), then they can look to the cross of Christ. The overarching aim in all of the apostle Paul’s preaching was Christ and him crucified (1 Cor.2:2), and it should be the overarching aim of every preacher and every hearer of the Word of God. The cross of Christ is not all the Scriptures tell us about, but the cross of Christ is the central message of the Scriptures.

Therefore, it is imperative that every Christian learn about the cross of Christ. It is important to learn about the atonement at the beginning and throughout the Christian life. One way we can do this is by hearing it preached. Another way is by reading it in the Scriptures as revealed in bud form in the Old Testament, and in full bloom in the gospels and letters of the New Testament. Yet another way is by standing on the shoulders of others who have written about the atoning work of God by the cross of Christ.

One book I would suggest reading is The Truth of the Cross, by R.C. Sproul. It is a faith building book that founds the reader’s heart and mind on the Scriptures as they reveal the holy God’s work of redemption to lovingly seek and save the lost. Here is a sample of the text as Dr. Sproul tells the reader how Christ’s atoning work on the cross accomplishes a secure faith,

“One of the sweetest statements from the lips of Jesus in the New Testaments this: “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34b). There is a p,an of God designed for your salvation. It is not an afterthought or an attempt to correct a mistake. Rather from all eternity, God determined that he would redeem for himself a people, and that which he determined to do was, in fact, accomplished in the work of Jesus Christ, his atonement on the cross…He is your Suret, your Mediator, your Substitute, your Redeemer. He atoned for your sins on the cross.” (p.153)

Dr. Sproul’s book is short and simple read. The Cross of Christ, by John Stott is a longer read, but a classic work on the atonement. Another classic text is Redemption Accomplished and Applied, by John Murray. This work is fairly short and not only leads the reader down the road of Christ’s historical work on the cross, but also helps you understand how the finished work of Christ is applied to the believer for their salvation. If you would like to read something more devotional with two to three page chapters, but sounded securely on the Scriptures, pick up John Piper’s, Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. Finally, if you are looking for a good book that helps you apply the atoning work of Christ to your everyday life read , C.J. Mahaney’s, Living the Cross Centered Life.

These are some ideas I hope will be helpful to you as you take up and read on the cross of Jesus Christ. However, if you want a fuller reading list along with an annotated bibliography check out Ligon Duncan’s post here.

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