I know that Christ saved me. That happened 10, 20, 30 years ago. I know that Christ will save me. That may happen tomorrow, next year, or the next millennia. What I need to know is Christ is with me now. And he is because Jesus declared, “I AM”. How do these two words, “I AM”, assure us of his presence?
Hi, my name is Terence and I’m your host for Reading and Readers, a podcast where I review Christian books for you. Today I review “He Walks with Me: Enjoying the Abiding Presence of God” by Warren Wiersbe. 192 pages, published by David C. Cook in June 2016. You can get it via Amazon Kindle for USD9.99 or for the low, low price of USD1.99 via Faithlife and only in July.
Warren W. Wiersbe is a famous Bible teacher and writer. He wrote that commentary series that proves you can summarise any book in the Bible into two words. The commentary on Psalms is titled, “Be Worshipful”. Galatians, “Be Free”. Nehemiah, “Be Determined” and this goes for all 50 books. It tickles me that the name Wiersbe gives birth to 50 “Be …” books.
Today we are not looking at any of the “Be …” books. Instead, we look an “I AM” book. Are you familiar with the seven “I AM” statements in the Gospel of John?
If yes, how many can you remember?
- I am the Bread of Life.
- I am the Light of the World.
- I am the Door.
- I am the Good Shepherd.
- I am the Resurrection and the Life.
- I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
- I am the True Vine.
That’s 7 “I AMs”. But the book has 12 chapters.
Chapter 1 is titled “Moses Asks a Question”.
Chapter 2 is “The Apostle John Provides Some Answers”.
Chapters 3 to 9 is the 7 “I AMs”.
Chapter 10 has the most enticing title of “The Neglected I AM”.
Chapter 11 is “I am Jesus”.
Chapter 12, the last chapter, is Living and Serving in the Present Tense. This title explains the purpose of the book.
A purpose Wiersbe states way early in the preface. He writes:
My past may discourage me and my future may frighten me, but “the life I now live” today can be enriching and encouraging because “Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).
I Am The Door
I am familiar with the 7 “I AM” statements, having taught it in Youth Bible Studies. But I look forward to reading what Wiersbe has to offer. I hope to re-learn familiar truths and to discover new insights. And I did.
Let’s look at one of the statements that is often neglected.
John 10:7-10 reads:
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Twice Jesus says, “I am the door.” But most people focus on what he says in verse 11, which is “I am the good shepherd.”
The Good Shepherd is personal, picturesque, he is the assuring figure in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd.”
Whereas a door… everyday we open a door. Be it our bedroom door, house door, car door and we have doors that open themselves. Doors are commonplace, mundane, and so absent from our Christian meditation.
Yet Wiersbe dedicates a whole chapter to “I am the Door”. Listen to this:
Let’s consider first the physical aspects of the sheepfold, and then we will better understand the spiritual lessons Jesus wants to convey to us. The sheepfold was an enclosure surrounded by a wall of rocks that was too high for the sheep to jump over. The shepherds sometimes put thorny branches on the tops of the walls to deter thieves from trying to climb over. An opening in the wall allowed the sheep to enter and exit; and at night, the shepherd lay across that opening and became the door of the sheepfold.
Just picture it. The Lord lies across that opening bordering life and death. The Lord has placed you and I on this side. He is the door of the sheepfold. Truth leads to praise. Praise the Lord!
Now, there are people who can take that picture and run amok with it. To them preaching is creative writing and “I am the door” is a passageway to wherever the mind brings. Jesus said, “I am the door”. And we all know that a door must open for it to be useful. There Jesus is telling us to be open-minded to all sorts of teaching. That’s not what it says and that’s not what Jesus meant. You can’t just pick any Bible verse to be a doorway into whatever you want to say.
By saying, “I am”, Jesus is revealing who he is, and we can know who he is, by reading what else the Bible says.
And that’s what Wiersbe did. He models it for us. After describing how a shepherd becomes a door for his sheep, tapping into what it means for people in those times, he draws upon more than 20 Bible verses to show how the door means separation.
John 7:43 reads:
Thus the people were divided because of Jesus.
Luke 12:51 reads:
Do you think I come to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.
John 15:18-19 reads:
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
This is a Bible saturated book. You come away knowing that if you want to understand what the Bible says, you have to read more of the Bible and it is possible to access that understanding without specialist knowledge.
But enjoying the presence of God is not just about understanding the historical and cultural context or connecting multiple Bible verses together.
In the “I am the Door” chapter, he shares a children’s Sunday School song:
One door and only one, and yet its sides are two.
Inside and outside—on which side are you?
One door and only one, and yet its sides are two.
I’m on the inside—on which side are you?
I have never heard of this song before. There is no waffling. No ifs, buts, and maybes. On which side are you.
He closes that section by writing:
To stand before Jesus Christ, the Door, and make no decision at all is to stay on the outside of salvation! It means not entering the “one flock” of which Jesus is the Savior and the Good Shepherd. At the door you are in a place of decision, and to make no decision is to make a decision—the wrong one.
The message is received loud and clear. Wiersbe takes what the Bible says and brings it right out to you.
I Am a Worm
As I read the book, one chapter after another, I was in familiar territory up till chapter 10. The mysteriously titled, “The Neglected I AM”.
The chapter opens with Psalm 22:6:
But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
Wiersbe says it well:
Up to this point, the I AM statements we have considered have all carried some dignity. There is nothing dishonorable about bread or light, shepherds or sheepfolds, resurrection or life, truth or vines; but worms are quite another matter.
He then writes that he has meditated on this over the years and we have his thoughts in four sections: astonishment, adoration, shame and gratitude.
Before this book, I have never thought of this “I AM” statement. But now I cannot forget it. In Genesis, God says “I AM”. In Psalms, our Saviour says, “I am a worm”. One is so high, one is so low.
This is an example of what I love of the Bible and being a Christian. You can almost think you know enough of the Bible to no longer be surprised, but just by merely positioning one verse alongside the famous seven “I AM” verses and it opens up thought and wonder. Or as Wiersbe puts it astonishment, adoration, shame and gratitude.
I wished I read this book when I was teaching that series on the “I am” statements to my youth group. It’s a great resource for any Bible teacher and Wiersbe never fails to land the lesson with an exhortation towards Christ. Love it.
This is also an easy book for a group to read together. I think every Christian should study the “I am” statements. And this book might be the best book next to the Bible for that study.
However, if I can make one small criticism, the title of the book does not convey what the book is about. “He Walks with Me: Enjoying the Abiding Presence of God” is not wrong but it does not tell us that this is a book about the “I am” statements. The title fails to distinguish itself from the many devotional books around.
A better title is, “Jesus in the Present Tense: The I AM Statements of Christ”. I didn’t think of that title myself. That is the title of another Warren Wiersbe book, also published by David C. Cook. It’s actually the same book with a different title. Can they do that? What happens if someone loved this book so much and he went out to buy another one, not realising it’s the same book with a different title!
The title “He Walks with Me: Enjoying the Abiding Presence of God” appeals to a wide range of readers, Christian or non-Christian. It’s good marketing.
On the other hand, “Jesus in the Present Tense: The I AM Statements of the Christ” is a title that only a Christian would love. I prefer this title. I think this title would attract the serious Christian who wants to dig deep into the I AM statements, because the life we live today is all the more richer, all the more encouraging because Christ lives in us.
This is a Reading and Readers review of “He Walks with Me: Enjoying the Abiding Presence of God” by Warren Wiersbe. 192 pages, published by David C. Cook in June 2016. You can get it via Amazon Kindle for USD9.99 or for the low, low price of USD1.99 via Faithlife and only in June.
I am a bit behind in my reviews. For the month of July, Logos is giving away Peter Wagner’s commentary on Acts. I read this book more than ten years ago and was entranced, spellbound even!, by what I read. Re-reading it now, the spell has been broken. I am now somewhat annoyed, disturbed, with some of what he writes. After listening to my soon to come scathing review, you might want to read the book for yourself. So go download the July free book now in logos.com before August comes and takes it away.
Thank you for listening. Bye bye.