Reading the Bible can be a tricky thing if you don’t always know what you’re looking for. In Welcome to the Story, Stephen J. Nichols surveys the grand storyline of the Bible and offers insights for getting the most out of our reading of Scripture.
Nichols breaks down the the big story of Scripture into four acts—Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration—and carefully teases out a few helpful implications of each of the important truths. Most helpful when discussing creation is Nichols’ reminder that “embracing the doctrine of creation is the antidote to boredom.” He explains:
When we realize that God made us, that God made everything, life is set in a whole new light. How can we yawn at what God made? When we acknowledge God as Creator of all things, we regain our sense of wonder, we regain our sense of appreciation, and we regain our sense of gratitude. We say thank you. We stop yawning through life. (p. 39)
Think about for a moment—do we look around at all that is and ever really stop to consider the complexity and the beauty that simply is? I confess that I rarely do, except when something forces me to slow down long enough to actually pay attention (like my oldest daughter wanting me to take her for a walk through the forest that’s down the street from our townhouse complex. Which reminds me, I need to do that with her…).
Perhaps the most helpful chapter of Welcome to the Story is the tenth, Digging Deeper. Naturally, after reading 130 plus pages of reading about the plot line of the Bible and why it matters so much to the Christian life, readers want to know, “now what?” Here, he again emphasizes the need for Christians to be diligent in their reading, study and application of the Word while providing some critical tips and cheats for doing so. He reminds us to find a plan that works for the individual reader. Some people really love chronological plans, others like to read cover-to-cover, other still like plans that have you reading a bit of the Old and New Testaments every day. Nichols doesn’t suggest one plan is better than any other. His primary concern is that we read the Word—and that we be sure to read the whole Bible.
We can easily get a little, if not very, unbalanced in our lives and theology if we read only certain books and neglect others. By reading “the whole counsel of God” we can be sure that we are hearing the whole story, and we can be better assured of developing a balanced spirituality and a balanced theology. (pp. 155-156)
He also wisely offers a second strong warning—pay attention:
If we’re reading the Bible, even on a daily basis, merely to check something off n our to-do-lists, then we’re not really reading the Bible at all. it is highly likely that God is not at all that impressed by our checking off the list. So as we read the Bible, we need to pay attention to the big picture, to the context, and to our lives. (p. 159)
These two warnings are ones that we all must heed. It is very easy and tempting to avoid books like Leviticus and… okay, Leviticus. There are so many rules and regulations that it can be nearly unbearable to wade through. Yet there is still much that can be learned from this book of the Bible. At a minimum, we can learn about the precision and particularity of God’s character and holiness, and allow that knowledge press us into deeper gratitude for the finished work of Christ.
Nichols’ greatest strength in this book, aside from his strong understanding of the storyline of Scripture, is his ability to focus. Because there is so much that can be covered, it’s easy to overwhelm readers with too much information. For more seasoned students of the Word, this could be frustrating in that it’s almost too basic. However, Nichols excels at getting right to the most fundamental things readers need to know and doing so in a way that’s enjoyable and informative.
Whether you’re a brand new Christian or one who’s been in the faith for several years but never really grasped the big picture of the Bible, Welcome to the Story is an excellent resource to help you begin to develop a stronger understanding of how to read the Scriptures and grow in your love for God’s Word.
Title: Welcome to the Story: Reading, Loving, & Living God’s Word
Author: Stephen J. Nichols
Publisher: Crossway (2011)
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes by the publisher.