Thanks for reading my blog series First Look, where I interview authors about their new books. The goal is to point you to solid, Christ-centered resources by giving you a peek into the author’s mind and heart.
Matt Smethurst is the managing editor of The Gospel Coalition. He and his wife, Maghan, have three children and live in Louisville, KY. They belong to Third Avenue Baptist Church, where Matt serves as an elder. He is author of Before You Open Your Bible: Nine Heart Postures For Approaching God’s Word (10Publishing, 2019).
Tell us what your new book is about.
Before You Open Your Bible is about nine heart postures that will spark a richer experience with the Book—and the God—we claim to love. So many great resources exist on how to read and study the Bible, but I’m actually not aware of any that focus exclusively on how to approach it in the first place. That’s what I’ve aimed to provide in this brief “prelude” or “prequel” of sorts. Because without the right heart postures, we’re not yet ready to start reading.
What prompted you to write Before You Open Your Bible?
I’ve been energized by this neglected topic for some time, and in a 2018 video interview I discussed several “heart postures” for approaching the Word of God. It just so happened that my church’s senior pastor, Greg Gilbert, had recently (and kindly) told the folks at 10ofThose that they should get me to write something. Anyway, they found that interview, saw a book concept in it, invited me to write it, and, after much prayer and fasting, I said yes.
Why do you hope people will read it?
I hope my book will lead people to more satisfying, life-giving encounters with the most important Book they own. The Bible is a bottomless treasure chest of beauty and wonder, strength and joy. The Maker of heaven and earth longs to meet with us over its pages. That’s astonishing. I want people to discover and rediscover not just the joy of being caught up in the greatest story of all time, but the joy of having the central character love them back.
John Newton (1725–1807), the former slave trader who wrote “Amazing Grace,” once said, “Read the Scripture, not as an attorney may read a will, but as the heir reads it, as a description and proof of his interest.” Isn’t that a beautiful image to ponder? (Now that I think of it, I should’ve included this quote in the book!)
What’s your favorite part of the book?
I’m tempted to say chapter 9 (“Approach Your Bible Christocentrically”), since without it my book is not distinctly, or at least not robustly, Christian. If we miss Jesus, we miss it all. But chapter 5 (“Approach Your Bible Obediently”) may be the most relevant to our cultural moment. The mantras of our age tell us to follow our hearts and to be true to ourselves. I tried my best to not only accent the what (“Obey”), but also the why (“It’s what you were made for”). Near the end of the chapter I summarize it like this:
The Bible is not an arbitrary list of prohibitions; it’s an epic story of a Creator more committed to your joy than you could imagine. Entrusting each sphere of your life to him, therefore, is not something you do instead of enjoying him; it’s the way you enjoy him. Following him is not an alternative to your joy; it’s the secret to it.