Behold Your God: Rethinking God biblically
‘The world is famishing for lack of the knowledge of God and the church is famishing for want of his presence.’ With these words A.W. Tozer captures as well as anything the thinking behind ‘Behold Your God’.
It is quite hard to pin this course down. It is not exactly a doctrine course, nor is it evangelism, nor is it discipleship. But then again, it is all three and more.
If you are looking for the next big idea then this course, led by John Snyder of Media Gratiae, is not for you. You could use it like that, and it would make a better fist of it than many, but to do so would be to miss the point. This is a course about the inadequacy of that whole way of thinking. It is not new methods or new ideas we need, but a deeper knowledge of God himself.
The blurb on the website says it all:
Many in our day are tired and disillusioned because they have consistently hoped in the next new idea. It is just this kind of day that makes Christians stop running on their religious hamster-wheels and ask ‘Why are we doing these programs?’ and ‘Why doesn’t God ever really seem to show up and effectively work in our churches?’ Hard questions often lead to right answers. This study is written with the conviction that our fundamental need in Western Christianity is to repent of our low and unworthy views of God, to return to the biblical descriptions of the true God, and to risk it all in order to live upon who He is.
God is bigger than we think
So this is a course about God. It is about him being bigger than we think; about us not knowing him as we should; and, especially, about the fact that it doesn’t have to be that way. Here is a call not to renewed activity, but to a renewed knowledge of God, to a new discovery of the power of repentance and faith, and to a new delight in Christ himself. I think there is depth here – and weight; and orientation; and direction.
The course consists of a workbook and a set of DVDs. It is twelve sessions long and set up to run over twelve weeks. The idea is that each participant does the five studies in the workbook during the week, and then the group comes together to watch the DVD and share their thoughts. It is important to know that the key material is delivered through the five studies in the workbook. The DVD sometimes repeats that material, but it usually assumes it, and is more ‘motivational’ in character.
Each DVD has three sections:
- A 10 minute biographical sketch. The roll call is W. Tozer, Timothy Dwight, George Muller, Samuel Rutherford, George Whitefield, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Charles Spurgeon, Daniel Rowland, Amy Carmichael, Charles Finney, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Jonathan Edwards.
- A 30 minute sermon from John Snyder filmed with an audience in a café setting. John Snyder studied at WEST in the late 90s completing a PhD on the Theology of the eighteenth century revival.
- A 10 minute ‘interview’ section edited from interviews with Andrew Davies, Conrad Mbewe, Eifion Evans, Paul Washer, Richard Owen Roberts, Jordan Thomas, and Anthony Mathenia. These men form a good cross section of ages and contexts and it is nice to see a couple of familiar faces in there.
The list of names involved is useful to know as it conveys sense of the theology and ‘ethos’ of the course. It is setting out what I would call ‘Big Vision Christianity’. Flowing from the Reformation, this vision of the Christian Faith was forged in the fires of the eighteenth century revivals and, more recently, popularised in the twentieth century through the influence of Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
A great help
This course has been a big help to me personally. I was raised in this theological ‘ethos’ but find that nowadays it is strangely out of fashion. It has been a delight to find a resource that presents it so helpfully, powerfully and accessibly. I think it has been a big help to others also. We ran this course in our church every Friday for twelve weeks between Easter and the summer this year with good and consistent attendance and largely positive feedback.
The course is from the USA. That does mean there is some translation work to do – linguistically, culturally and maybe spiritually. But we are used to fielding and indigenising things from the US and, unless you’ve got some personal issues, the problems are minor and the themes being raised run much too deep for any cultural differences to get in the way.
So I would say invest in this course. We ran it as recommended and that worked. But next time I would space out the sessions to really make the most of them. If you ran the sessions once a month people would have time to do justice to the five home studies in the workbook. Once a month would also sit more easily with our crowded church programmes.
The workbook is also worth cannibalising to use parts of it as ‘stand alone’ studies – the five on holiness were especially good in this regard. Also valuable as a ‘stand alone’ resource is the third part of each DVD, the ‘interview’ section. I have used these as discussion starters in other contexts. I think too there could be a way to use this course with teenagers – start with the ten minute ‘interview’ section from the DVD, do your own Bible study drawing on the workbook, then maybe use the relevant biographical slot from the DVD to end. I have also been watching the ‘interview’ sections for my own personal encouragement now and again and can see no reason why they wouldn’t be valuable in family devotions too – assuming any children are not too young.
I’ll give Tozer the last word: ‘How completely satisfying’ he says, ‘to turn from our limitations to a God who has none.’
Ian Parry is pastor of The Bay Church, Cardiff.