“We want deep Bible study.”
Ever hear that one? If you have ever surveyed your church about Bible study and small group options I almost guarantee you have heard those words. While community is still the number one desire for many when it comes to groups, recent surveys have shown that right on its heels is the desire for “going deeper”.
And you know how we respond to this desire?
We give them studies that go “deeper in the Word.” And what we mean by that is that we rub the nerd sauce on even thicker. We bust our our interlinear. We start talking root words and we do far reaching word studies. Or we go the route of biblical theology and trace a theme throughout the story of the Bible. These are all great practices…but it doesn’t seem to scratch that itch.
One of two things seems to happen. What often happens is that nobody shows up for our super deep Bible study. Or they show up and they get bored and they drop out. And so we conclude that they didn’t actually want deeper Bible study. Or, secondly, people do show up, they devour the Bible study, they really learn their Bibles, they get deeply educated but something is still missing. Sometimes it seems as if knowledge isn’t translating into lifestyle. But more often than not, what is happening is that these folks who are devouring the word studies are still asking for something deeper.
This is because when people say they want deep Bible study they do not mean they want to go deeper into the Word but what they are really desiring (and what I believe the Spirit of God is prompting) is for the Word to go deeper into them. This is what they mean when they say that but we’ve often heard this request the wrong way.
I suppose some you could read this as if I’m saying a deep dive on the meaning of the Bible isn’t necessary. But that’s most certainly not my point. Such a deep dive is a must in order to actually have the word applied to the deep recesses of your heart. This is not a call to go back to the unhelpful small group discussions centered around “what does this verse mean to you.” But do notice Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Notice what is happening here in this verse. The Bible is not a passive instrument which we dissect. You don’t go deep into the Word. The Word goes deep into you. That is what Hebrews is saying. God’s Word will search you out into the depth of your being. It goes deep.
I’m convinced that sometimes our “deep Bible study” is actually a smoke screen to avoid the real deep work of the Spirit. We can puff ourselves up with knowledge and pride ourselves on “knowing truth” but in reality our deep dive is nothing more than learning to use bigger gongs for our clanging cymbals.
What this all means is that we do need to labor to learn what the Word of God means. We absolutely must. We cannot cut corners of interpretation because to do so will mean that the medicine applied to our souls will be diluted. But we must never be satisfied as if that is the end of our labors.
The Spirit of God intends to use the Word of God to go deep into our hearts. We have to learn to ask tough questions. We must learn how to apply the gospel to those deepest and darkest parts of our stories of shame and sin and even victory. That is what people are crying out for when they say, “I want deeper Bible study”. They don’t mean word studies. They mean a different kind of deeper.