Have you ever wanted to encourage someone with God’s Word but didn’t have a clue where to turn? Maybe you’ve listened aghast to a story of significant suffering and realized the person in front of you was desperate for more than, “Just remember God works all things together for good.”
Is that promise true? You bet. It’s always true. It’s gloriously true. But I think it’s also hard to actually believe Romans 8:28 apart from understanding how Romans 8:28 fits into the big storyline of the Bible. Experiencing the redemptive effect of Scripture is difficult apart from understanding the redemptive context of Scripture, especially the connection between the verse at hand and the person and work of Jesus.
The reason is simple. The Bible is not a collection of proof-texts designed for isolated application to the manifold maladies of life. To the contrary, the Bible is a united story, a story of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration with Jesus at the center. Failure to understand and apply any part of Scripture in relation to His story, the story of the gospel, is a surefire recipe for serving up random promises that leave a strangely dissatisfying taste in the mouth. Mike Emlet and the folks at CCEF are familiar with the danger. It’s why Mike wrote a book a few years ago called CrossTalk: Where Life and Scripture Meet. Here are two of my favorite quotes.
“People don’t need compartmentalized solutions for compartmentalized problems. They need the liberating story of redemption that gradually reunites the various aspects of their lives to be in line with gospel truth.” (79)
“So the issue is this: Will we answer the fundamental questions of life with the biblical story or some other story (or stories)? We will interpret the events of our lives with some overarching assumptions about the nature of ourselves and the world. The Bible is written to show us the true nature of reality. Scripture will either affirm or confront the stories by which we make sense of the details of our daily lives.” (71)
In less than 200 pages, CrossTalk explains the big storyline of the Bible and how to connect saints, sufferers, and sinners to the gospel from various places in Scripture. Emlet argues that the Bible is not primarily “a book of do’s and don’ts” or “timeless principles for the problems of life.” Nor is it primarily “a casebook of characters to imitate or avoid” or “a system of doctrines.” It is primarily a story about Jesus who is the “living link between the story of Scripture and the stories of our lives.”
If you’re a new Christian trying to understand the cohesion of Scripture or a seasoned Christian looking to grow in gospel-centered counseling, I think you’ll find Emlet’s book a delight to read. I just finished it for the second time with the men going through Community Group Leader training this year. Everyone one of them gave it rave reviews. CrossTalk is available in our Book Shop on Sunday morning or online.