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Editorial: Truly being ‘People of the Book’
Nov 7, 2012
By JAMES A. SMITH SR.

Southern Baptists are “People of The Book.” 

By that, this oft-repeated claim contends that Southern Baptists are committed to the Bible. We believe it to be true, “without any mixture of error,” as our Baptist Faith and Message says. We pattern our doctrinal convictions according to the Word of God as the “supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried,” again, according to the BFM.

Indeed, Southern Baptists spent the better part of two decades sorting out exactly what we understand about biblical inspiration and the role that doctrine should play in who leads and works for us, especially at our seminaries and on mission fields.

I’m grateful to God that He blessed us to resolve the matter of the veracity of the Bible by giving us leaders to show us the way on this and pastors and laypersons determined to do the right thing. It’s no small thing that in a post-Christian America (setting aside the question if there really ever was a Christian America) that the nation’s largest Protestant denomination reaffirmed its trust in Scripture against the spirit of the age that has led Christian denominations to jettison commitment to God’s Word.

Still, are we really “People OF the Book”? It’s one thing to assert the truthfulness of Scripture; it’s another thing to actually live in such a way that Scripture permeates our lives in the manner the Psalmist asserts: “I have treasured Your Word in my heart so that I may not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11, HCSB). I have to confess, I’m guilty of being better at the former than the latter.

It’s ironic that in a day in which the Bible has never been more readily available to human beings—in print, online and at our fingertips through phones and digital tablets—fewer and fewer of us, no doubt, have “treasured” God’s Word enough to have in our hearts for our own spiritual well being. With a few key words and few keystrokes, we can find a Scripture reference in seconds (or less), but God’s command is that His Word be imbedded in our hearts so that digital devices are not needed. More critically, when the Word is treasured in our hearts we will have a bulwark against sin that no easily accessible digital device can provide.

Southern Baptist leader O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources, is concerned about the state of Bible memorization and meditation among believers, and has offered a helpful tool in addressing this need.

While recently listening to his seven-year-old grandchild recite an entire Psalm from Scripture, “I realized how few adults give thought, much less are intentional, to the discipline of Scripture memorization,” Hawkins writes in The Joshua Code: 52 Scripture Verses Every Believer Should Know, released in September by Thomas Nelson. 

“Scripture memorization enables us to take God’s Word with us anywhere and everywhere without carrying our Bibles. It enables us to receive the Word into our hearts, retain it in our minds, and recite it with our mouths that we might speak it with power,” he writes.

Hawkins’ book is a Scripture memory plan that is ideal for any Christian—whether you’re a recent follower of Christ or have served the Lord for many years. Structured around 52 chapters to be used each week of the year, The Joshua Code is an ideal for personal devotional use, group Bible studies and Sunday School classes and for a congregation-wide emphasis on Bible memorization and meditation. Each chapter focuses on one verse, with wonderful devotional insights drawn from Hawkins’ many years of pastoral experience. Bulk orders of the book from Thomas Nelson are available at significant discounts (call 800.933.9673).

The title of the book is taken from Joshua 1:8: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (NKJV).

Hawkins explains, “The Joshua Code is a challenge to keep God’s Word in our mouths through memorization and to keep it in our hearts through meditation ‘day and night.’ Many consistent Bible readers today seem to think it is the volume of Scripture they can devour daily that is most important. The fifty-two chapters in this volume are designed to lead readers on a year-long journey, spending a week on one particular Scripture, memorizing it, and meditating on it so that it is incarnated within and becomes a living part of our very being.”

Starting with the first verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:1 (“Everyone Has a Worldview”), and including the last verse of the Bible, Revelation 22:20 (“Famous Last Words), Hawkins includes chapters on 52 Bible verses—some most among well known, like John 3:16 (“The Most Often Quoted Verse in the Bible”), to others less well known. Each verse is foundational for Christian living.

Each chapter is a wonderful devotional ideally suited for preaching or teaching to small groups or entire congregations. Although each spans a few pages, they are rich with spiritual insights and practical applications to benefit all believers.

In his chapter on “The Joshua Code,” Hawkins notes about the verse, “Joshua was the first man to learn the Word of God in the same way that we learn: from the words of a book. Joshua was to keep it in his mouth and in his mind. The emphasis for Joshua—and for us—is upon making Bible study a constant practice.”

He concludes: “Here is true success in life: to stay in the Word of God until we find the will of God so that we can walk in the ways of God.”

One of the best results of this project will be the people impacted beyond those who read and apply the wisdom of Hawkins’ book. All Hawkins’ royalties and any other proceeds from the sale of The Joshua Code will benefit Mission:Dignity, a ministry of GuideStone. 

This worthy program assists about 2,000 retired ministers—and in many cases, their widows—living below the poverty line with assistance for the most basic of needs in their retirement years. These soldiers of the cross often served in less well-off churches that were unable to provide retirement benefits. Mission:Dignity, funded by an endowment raised by GuideStone, is a tangible way to help those who spent their lives serving others. To learn more about Mission:Dignity and how you can play a role in supporting this worthy cause, check-out: www.missiondignitysbc.org

It says much about O.S. Hawkins that he would forgo the financial rewards that would rightly be his from writing this book in order to allow those resources to go to servants who are in need. That this book will benefit persons in need is a great motivation to buy The Joshua Code—and encourage many others to do the same.

Southern Baptists, let’s truly be “People of the Book”—both in what we believe about Scripture and in how Scripture is actually treasured in our hearts. The Joshua Code is a great reminder of this truth and a helpful tool to live it.

 


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