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The Simple Message
March 22, 2012
The more I learn of God, the more I marvel at the complexity of his being and purpose—the sheer eternality of it, the otherness of it. He is knowable, but knowable only in the smallest part, he reveals himself to us, but does not reveal all of himself to us; not even close. He truly is transcendent, so far beyond us. His revelation of himself in such that a man may spend his entire life reading it, studying it, pondering it, and uncovering its treasures. He may earn postgraduate degrees and teach systematic theology and lead Bible studies and preach every Sunday for his entire life and still not come close to knowing all there is to know about this God.
And yet that is not the whole story. What God reveals about himself is such that a mere child may know it and believe it and grasp it with childlike hope and confidence. Even a child really can know this God and really can have genuine faith in him.
I find it a strange thing and even an alarming thing that the more I know of God, or the more I think I know of God, the more I am prone to forget the utter simplicity of this message. In the midst of my delight in his complexity, I can so easily forget the simple heart of it all. This matters. This ought to matter.
Sometimes I need to be reminded of the power of the Bible, the simple power of the Bible. I need to be reminded that there have been so many people who have come to faith simply by reading God’s Word. There has been no preacher but the Author, no sermon but the pages of the Bible, and yet many a person has read and seen and understood and trusted and been transformed. No wonder that organizations labor to translate the Bible—or at least parts of the Bible—into every known language and to send these pages into all the world. Every Bible or piece of the Bible goes into the world as a missionary, taking hope, taking life, taking that oh-so-simple message.
Too often I doubt the pure and simple power of the Word of God. How could anyone understand something so complicated as the Bible? Sometimes I doubt the valuing of giving a Bible to someone because I imagine him reading it and, in confusion and despair, throwing it away. “Read the book of John,” I suggest. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Could someone really read this and understand it? Can God really speak from his Word to a person with such little knowledge?
I sometimes wonder if I have these thoughts and grapple with these questions because, say, I have been trying to work toward a precise, measured, complete doctrine of the Trinity—a very good thing to do, I’m sure—and amidst all of the careful nuances and fine distinctions, I have forgotten that the heart of the Christian message is so very simple: Christ died for my sins and was raised. A person does not require a full-orbed, Nicene theology of the Trinity in order to be saved; he needs to know that he is a sinner and that Christ is his Savior. He will not want to stay there all his life, of course; once he knows this Savior he will want to know more of him, to explore the depths of this great God. That will come. But Newton’s dying confession is enough: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.
We who love theology, we who take joy in diving into the deep waters of the person and work of God, we need to be so careful, lest we make the message more difficult than it needs to be, lest we forget the simple word that we believed in. What a shame it would be if our learning hindered our witness, if the depth of our knowledge negated the beautiful simplicity that lies at its heart. Christ died for our sins and was raised. That is the heart of our message, and it is good. It is enough. By God’s grace and with God’s power, it can and it will save.