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'Open the Bible in 30 Days' by Colin S Smith

'Open the Bible in 30 Days' by Colin S Smith

 

A review of the book  'Open the Bible in 30 Days'   

Previously published in 2004 as Unlock the Bible in 30 Days, author Colin S Smith (formerly pastor of Enfield EFC but now a senior pastor in Illinois) offers an accessible overview of the whole Bible and a compelling introduction to the Christian faith. The reader is invited on a thirty-day journey through the three sections: Knowing God the Father, Trusting Christ the Son and Living in the Spirit. This journey passes through a magnificent landscape of high mountains and deep valleys – views we are familiar with from our own experiences – at which we are encouraged to pause and reflect, to allow time to respond.

Throughout, Smith emphasises the importance of knowing God and understanding how we fit together with Him. For example, from the account of creation, Smith points out that ‘the first thing God wants you to know is that He is your creator’. Immediately, the Bible story becomes relevant and invitational.

Many Christians struggle to understand (and enjoy) the Old Testament but Smith’s guided tour highlights the key themes and offers helpful insight and explanation. Regarding the overarching concept of the law, he suggests ‘Keeping the law does not make us God’s people, but being God’s people means that we are called to reflect His character by living according to His law’.

When it comes to the accounts of kings and leaders in the historical section of the OT, it wasn’t hard for me to compare these to our current world events, which fit into the kind of framework Smith describes. Poor choices still lead to painful consequences. As for the Babylonian exile, the bleakest period of Israel’s history, he concludes, ‘far from being in a backwater, these people were right in the centre of the will of God’. What a refreshing perspective!

In part two, the author considers the life and death of Jesus, with another set of mountains and valleys to explore. I found Smith’s description of Jesus more satisfying than the standard ‘He was without sin’. He says, ‘[Jesus] was not drawn to sin and He has no inner propensity to sin’. He is, moreover, the bringer of jubilee. This was a principle that was established in the OT to cancel old debts and restore lost inheritance, but never exercised until Jesus came – something I hadn’t spotted before. Nevertheless, we know that His unique and extraordinary claims provoked intense opposition. Smith asserts that, if Jesus came today, we would crucify Him all over again – ‘[not using] a cross and nails. We would do it with ridicule on talk shows. The hate would be the same’.

Smith has the crucifixion as being a mountain, not a valley, since the cross reveals the glory of Jesus Christ. It is His descent into darkness that is the deepest valley of all, leading to the very highest mountain, His resurrection. He overcame the deadliest of enemies: death itself, with a victory that reunited body and soul in the power of a new life.

The author goes on to address the challenges that faced the early believers, including their doubts. He asserts it was good that Thomas asked the risen Jesus for physical proof as he wouldn’t have qualified as an apostle unless he had directly witnessed the resurrection. Faith, he continues, belongs in the valley rather than the mountain top because there are many things we cannot see clearly.

Considering the role of the Holy Spirit, Smith describes the Trinity like this: ‘The Spirit draws you to the Son. The Son brings you to the Father. The Father and the Son pour out the Spirit into your heart. No one can know the Father apart from the Son and no one can come to the Son except by the Spirit’. He stresses the power and effectiveness that come through having the Holy Spirit within us. At a deep level, we experience new desires to follow Christ which transcend mere obedience and observation of duty.

In the final section, Smith considers some of the more practical, day-to-day aspects of being a Spirit-filled Christian, touching on themes such as peace, joy, conflict and suffering. As those who are constantly swimming against the cultural tide, it is normal for the Christian to struggle. ‘A message that ignores the valleys is not big enough for life. It raises false expectations and it has nothing to say to a suffering world.’

In conclusion, I would thoroughly recommend this book to those new to the Christian faith, or seeking to understand it more deeply. The study guide at the end is a useful additional resource for small groups. Smith’s undertaking to summarise the Bible is a bold one, yet one I found as compelling as the biblical text itself, drawing its readers closer to God.

 

Book review by Jane Walters, author and active member of ACW (Association of Christian Writers)

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Open the Bible in 30 Days (Paperback)
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