God Speaks - An Excerpt from Visual Theology
We live in a visual culture. Today, people increasingly rely upon visuals to help them understand new and difficult concepts. The rise and stunning popularity of the Internet infographic has given us a new way in which to convey data, concepts and ideas.
Applying a unique blend of writing and infographics, writer Tim Challies and artist Josh Byers have created a fresh, beautiful, and informative presentation of the deepest truths of the Bible. This book will help you see the truth and live the truth. In this excerpt, Challies and Byers get to the core of how a relational God communicates with the relational humans he created. Follow along as the authors unpack this concept using visual graphics and accessible terms.
Visual Theology is available now from Zondervan Academic.
We live today at the dawn of a great technological revolution. For several decades, we have been witnessing a worldwide explosion of digital technologies. Have you ever considered how many of these new technologies are meant to help us communicate? Email is a modern form of postal mail; video chat enables us to extend face-to-face meetings to locations around the world; live-streaming provides the conference experience from afar; online relationships help us to maintain real-world friendships when we cannot be in the same place at the same time. We are relational beings, constantly inventing new ways to communicate with one another.
For a relationship to be genuine, it must be personal. It must involve interaction between two people. This is true of our peer relationships, and it is true of our relationship with God. As Christians, we have the privilege of having a genuine relationship with God in which he speaks to us so we can hear and understand him, and in which we speak to him in turn, trusting that he hears, that he understands, and that he responds. In general, we can say that we hear from God through the Bible, and we speak to God through prayer, but the two are more closely connected than that. As we read, we naturally pray, and as we pray, our minds focus on the truths revealed in Scripture. The more we commit to Bible reading and to prayer, the more of our lives we spend communing with God.
These two elements are the most basic disciplines of the Christian life — Christians are to read and pray — you know this. But though these are the basics, you will never master them and never grow beyond them. Throughout your entire life, you need to find greater joy in the Bible and deeper understanding of it; you need to find more joy in prayer and develop greater dedication to it. As a Christian, you need to be healthy here before you can be healthy anywhere else. In this chapter, we will consider how you hear from God and how he hears from you. In short, we will consider how God speaks and listens, and how you speak and listen in response.
HEARING FROM GOD
Every relationship is built on communication. It is impossible to be friends with a rock, because a rock doesn’t have personality — you cannot communicate with it. You cannot have a relationship with the universe, because the universe is not a who but a what; it’s a thing, not a person. But God is alive. And God is personal; he is a community of persons. Therefore, you can have a genuine relationship with him. Like every other relationship, this one is based on communication and the related practices of speaking and listening.
God wants to speak to you, and God does speak to you. First, God speaks to you and to everyone else through what he has created. The Bible tells us that “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). All that God has created declares that he exists, that he is the Creator, and that he is glorious. God also speaks through our created consciences, which reminds us there are objective standards of right and wrong, of good and evil. The second chapter of Romans speaks of unbelievers who “show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (2:15 – 16).
While God speaks broadly to all humanity through his creation and through our consciences, he also speaks uniquely and personally, and he does this through the Bible. In the Bible, God speaks to us of his purposes and intentions and reveals to us things we cannot learn by looking at the world or listening to our consciences. Where creation and conscience provide general knowledge of God’s existence and God’s law, the Bible provides clear and specific communication about his nature and his plan.
A healthy Christian loves to hear from God through the Bible. He is constantly taking in God’s Word — reading it alone, reading it with friends, reading it with family, reading it as it is woven into good books, hearing it read aloud in worship services, pondering it as he remembers it — consuming it in any way he can.
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