I’ve been reading Keswick year books ever since I got a stack for a bargain price at LST’s wonderful bookshop in Northwood. These oft-overlooked little books collect the best parts of each year’s Keswick convention, gathering them under one cover in order to edify and encourage those of us who aren’t there. As someone who has not (Yet?) been to a Keswick event, I’ve appreciated these books as a source of helpful nuggets of encouragement and challenge. The 2017 edition, published earlier this year by IVP, is themed around ‘Captivated: hearing God’s word’. In the 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, this book includes a range of perspectives on what it might mean to be shaped by ‘sola scriptura’, echoing Luther’s great challenge that our consciences should be captive to God’s Word.
The first half of the book, pretty much, are the edited transcripts of 5 excellent Bible readings on the Psalms by Alistair Begg. Carefully and faithfully examining Psalms 19, 1, 119, 130 and 100, these are heart-warming and encouraging examples of bible exposition. If I’m ever in the position of preaching on any of these Psalms, I’ll be sure to have these chapters close to hand. Also in the theme of helpful bible exposition are the Evening Celebrations talks, by a range of speakers, covering a range of New Testament texts. My favourite of these was Steve Midgely on Luke 7:36-53, ‘The Sinful Woman’. This is a helpful and encouraging, nay, empowering examination of the text, related to real life. Steve closes with a reflection on the words of an elderly woman in his church, with the news that an older man had died:
“I phoned another elderly woman in our congregation to let her know the news. ‘I’m sorry to let you know’, I said, ‘but Colin has died’. ‘Oh I’m so glad’, she said. ‘So glad’. Now he is with his Jesus and with his lovely Joan’.
‘I’m so glad.’ Those weren’t theologically considered words; this-is-what-I-am-supposed-to-believe-words. Those were the words of a woman who loves Christ and knows that being with him is the very best thing. It took my breath away.”
Two chapters that particularly stuck out to me were actually ones that were not based on expository sermons. Mike Reeves gave the Keswick Lecture: ‘Why the Reformation Still Matters’, which very helpfully and practically summarised his book with Tim Chester of the same title. Fundamentally, Mike celebrates the Gospel by explaining it’s core:
“For justification by faith alone means we who are aware that we are a sea of failures – we who are sloshing around with sin inside – can approach a holy God with absolute honesty about our failure and with absolute boldness because of Christ and not because of anything we’ve done. It’s hard to have both honesty and boldness before God, isn’t it? But that’s what justification by faith alone gives. We can approach God with honesty and boldness – a God who calls us his, who gives all that is his to us, and declares us, who are sinners, righteous”
The second of these chapters is by Dan Strange, and he helpfully unpacks the beautiful truth of ‘Sola Scriptura’. Emphasizing the need to love God by loving God’s Word, interpret the world through the word, and recognise the comprehensiveness of Scripture, Dan closes with an inspirational rallying cry:
“we need to have courage and confidence in God’s words… Life is tough and a lot of us are really scared about what is going on. Who do we trust? God know’s what’s happening, he’s not fazed by it. God’s words are ethically pure and truthful, you can rely on them. God’s words are effective and that should give us amazing confidence. Yes the world is scary, yes the world is complex, but God is greater and his word is greater.”
I hope this brief review gets across my positivity toward this little book. A collection of great teaching, distilled into a readable, pocketable form. A helpful gallery of excellent sermons – fully of encouragement. I would warmly recommend this book to anyone seeking to understand the Bible, and apply it to their lives today.