Digging Deeper

Last summer I did 8 miserable weeks with a workout called Insanity.  It was awful.  It was the best shape I’ve been in for at least 20 years.  Was it worth it?  Yeah.  Should I go back?  Yeah, I guess.  Leave me alone.  Why are you nagging me?  I know I’m not working out like I need to be.  Get off my back.  It’s been quite a transition, ok?  I’ll get into some good routines when we get out of this apartment.  What do you mean, “no excuses?”  I’m starting to not like you.  And by “you,” I of course mean the voices in my head.  Yes, I’ll get on with it.  Stupid voices.

The guy that was leading these workout DVDs had an inspirational catch phrase (Don’t they all?).  It was “dig deeper.”  He didn’t say it every time I wanted to quit, because that would fill each DVD, but he did use it at strategic times to inspire us.

I have heard many times in my years in ministry from people that they wanted to go deep, dig deep into the Bible, that they wish the study, sermon, etc. would be deeper.  I have often been a little put off by that, because often I wonder what they really mean and what they are really looking for.  What do we/they mean when we say we want to go deeper into the Bible or we wish sermons were deeper?

Now what I’m going to say next has been deemed controversial by some.  I don’t know that it is, but some consider it so.  In fact, I was once accused of being a heretic that didn’t believe in the Bible.  I’ve got your attention now, don’t I?  It was during a small group leaders meeting, one of my first at this particular church (if you are trying to guess, you have a 1 in 5 chance, I suppose).  We had done a pretty basic study on what community is and how to build it in your group.  Some from the groups and some of the leaders said they wanted something “deeper” next.  Here is what I said (paraphrased).  “When we think of going deeper, I don’t want us to think of going deeper in knowledge and trying to learn more facts.  I would like for us to think of our groups going deeper in how we apply God’s word in our lives.”  The words of a heretic apparently.  I bring this up now, because I brought it up yesterday a little bit at the Grove as we kicked off our series on the parables.

Honestly, I didn’t think it was that controversial at the time, but I have come to realize that for a lot of people it is.  There is a culture out there in some Christian circles and churches that the sign of depth is knowledge of relatively obscure Bible facts and Greek verb tenses.  My overwhelming concern is not that we learn new facts as much as that we deeply and fully apply the truths that many of us consider “basic.”  “Forgive as God in Christ has forgiven you.”  “Let no unwholesome word pass from your mouth.”  “Be anxious for nothing.” “You are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works.”  “Let you light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Most “basically,” “Love God with your heart, soul, mind and strength,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Before you petition to reinstitute heresy panels, let me say this.  We need to know the Bible well.  Too many of us don’t know the basic chronology/story of the Bible.  We don’t deeply understand the depth of the Gospel and why Jesus died for us.  We can’t even begin to explain the complexity of  the dual truths that God loves you unconditionally and God expects holiness from you or similarly, God is sovereign and we must choose to follow after God.

However, if we constantly appeal to the mind and fail to drill deeply into our hearts, our walks with God become an intellectual exercise, where the person who can win Bible Trivia is deemed the most spiritual.  It is easier, much easier, to learn a new fact than it is to ask how “Love my neighbor” applies to my boss whom I don’t like and don’t trust or how forgiveness applies to that person that wounded me so deeply so many years ago.

When we gain new knowledge, let’s just be on guard to let our hearts also learn new patterns of feeling and our lives new ways of behaving.  When we think of going deep, let’s think about giving God deep access into our hearts, minds, souls and lives.  Let him drill deeply into those parts of our lives where if I were honest, I wish he wouldn’t meddle.

Let’s dig deeper.


8 Responses to “Digging Deeper”
  1. Calvin Hill says:

    Good post! I agree that you have to have both. If you only have knowledge what really have you gain except for some facts. The question is “what do you do with those facts?” If you only apply the same thing over and over again, but never learn something new, what have you gain. Well, I guess you are good at one thing (or maybe two :) . In some ways I can see the heresy on both sides. It is great to learn and can be difficult but it is harder to apply those truths (At least for me). Almost always, I need His helping hand to figure out how to take that new found knowledge and apply it in my daily life. It isn’t something that happens over night. There are truths and knowledge that I know of but still struggle to apply it. Yes, dig deeper. Thanks!

  2. Peter Freund says:

    I agree with your points 95%. But, first, I think if a person wants to go deep theologically, I think we need to respect this desire, rather than say “what you really need is deep application.” Second, I think we should emphasize the “both/and” more than the “either/or” in mind vs. application.

    If we don’t understand truth and if we are not ABLE to discern truth from error then what we apply to our daily lives will not matter, and in some situations will be dangerous. This might require Biblical Greek and it might require thinking very deeply about some things. We can’t just expect God to hand us all truths on a platter. In fact, that cannot be the kind of world we live in as it is clear that born again Christians disagree on really important issues all the time.

    We also need to know how to apply that truth. We need really solid application! But, there are some more subtle issues under the surface here. First, even application is something done in the mind. It isn’t like digestion or emotion. It happens as we think and process. Thinking in a really integrative way is another way of describing practicality. So both head knowledge and application are both intellectual activities, although we tend to think there is more action involved in the second. Second is the whole idea of “practicality”. Even rocket science is incredibly practical, and any knowledge that is going to be taught has practical application. We often think of practicality as a separate step that has to be taken. But, if I truly believe that a train is fast approaching, I’m going to automatically get out the way. I don’t need to be told “apply this truth to your life”. Likewise, I tend to think that as we grow in our knowledge of God and the world, we WILL live differently, and if we don’t, then we may not really believe what we think we believe.

    However, this kind of warning, which I hear often, I think, is kind of misplaced. It’s like telling a bunch of soldiers to be strong, or a bunch of Oxford scholars to use your heads more. Telling this younger generation of Christians to “not be so heady” isn’t what they need to hear. Alarming statistics abound about the lack of a Christian worldview among this younger generation.

    I often hear about the danger of unapplied knowledge and over-theologizing, but the problem is that when I look at our younger churches, I don’t see younger Christians filled to the brim with “head” knowledge, unable to apply truth in any practical way. What I see is Christians who, precisely because they lack the “head” knowledge, are unable to function in life as healthy Christians, unable to apply truth and live the full life.

    It is precisely because they haven’t really thought about Christian truth FOR THEMSELVES and sometimes in its complexity that they are not able to apply Christian truth FOR THEMSELVES. Young Christians can be buoyed up by tradition and their parents’ faith to the point that they haven’t learned how to own it for themselves. The problem is that you can’t just tell someone to have faith or be loving and get results. Any results will be short-lived. This is why Paul said we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, not by charisma and good examples. Biola University (where I went to seminary) was an experience for me. There we had people of incredible depth of thought as well as depth of relationship. There was no dichotomy. Add to this the problem of a secular world bombarding us with its own messages and beliefs, and if we haven’t learned to actually think for ourselves, then we are going to be tossed this way and that by every wind of doctrine.

    I do think there is such a thing as heady or doctrinal preaching, where God’s truths aren’t seen as mattering to the rest of life. So, there is a way to show how the deepest truths integrate with Christian life and really matter. Unfortunately, this is rarely seen today.

    When people ask to go deep, give them both! I think spiritual poverty comes when we lack both. Matthew 10:16 gets it right: be both wise and innocent. So when people ask for depth, give both profound insight but profoundly simple and meaningful application.

    It’s the job of all Christian leaders, I think, to not only model, but teaching how to do both equally well. I’ve seen bright Christian scholars with big warm hearts. This younger generation needs to see that, too. Jesus was like this:

    See article “Jesus as a Philosopher”: http://www.equip.org/articles/jesus-philosopher-and-apologist


  3. cloften says:

    Good word Peter. If you agree with me 95%, you are about the same as me. I rarely agree with me more than 95%. Seriously though, that’s a great word of balance.

  4. Scott Sutton says:

    Charlie – I agree with 96% of what you say and am therefore holier than Peter ;-)

    Maybe we say things like “digging deeper” because our understanding of how church should be “done” really only lends itself to that end. We show up. Worship. Pass the plate. Sermon. (optional: pass the plate again). Worship more. Socialize. Clear out before the next service begins or the band tears down.

    It’s been done this way for years. And it is effective. It is perfectly fine.

    With that in mind, the gospel really isn’t all that complicated. A 7-year old could explain it just fine in less time than an average TV commercial break. And yet we feel compelled to expound upon it for 30-40 minutes per week (depending on how long announcements take) every week. It is only natural that within this model of doing church, that we should expect the end to be “deeper knowledge”.

    Let me stop here and add my own obligatory de-heretic-ing. I think this model of church is perfectly fine. It is great. I have absolutely nothing against it. I immensely enjoy every Sunday at The Grove. I am not advocating against it. At all. Good? Good.

    But it shouldn’t surprise us that when we format our services like a classroom with singing that a congregation would expect to progress in their knowledge much like they expect to do in a classroom…”Dude, I know 2+2=4…we cover that exact same topic 17 times every year, each time just putting a slightly different spin on it. Let’s do us some algebra!”

    Even in changing how we teach the application of a topic (”if you had 2 dollars and your friend gave you two more dollars, you would have 4 dollars and still couldn’t afford to drink at Starbucks”, “in order to fill the four seats of your car, you and your spouse would have to invite another couple to ride with you”, “if you have a 2-pound chicken in each hand, well you’ve got yourself 4 pounds of chicken”), we still aren’t guaranteeing that we are digging deeper in the way people expect to dig deeper in a regular teaching setting.

    It could be that it requires a fundamental shift in our thought of what Sunday “looks like” if we want to really move away from a pursuit of knowledge toward a pursuit of application. Arguably, that’s what community groups are for. And while I don’t advocate moving away from how we “do” church, WHICH I FEEL THE NEED TO REITERATE AGAIN, this may help us understand where the “dig deeper” expectation comes from.

    Anyways, great post, Charlie! You are as engaging of a blogger as you are a teacher :-)


  5. Scott Sutton says:

    By the way — in re-reading that, I realize I came across pretty sarcastic in some places. It wasn’t intended to be that way at all. Please don’t misread my tone. Just trying to add some more perspective to this very valid conversation. I’m just wondering aloud if people have a certain expectation because our efforts on Sundays naturally lead them in that direction.

    Thanks again for providing this forum, Charlie :-)

  6. Jennifer Loftin says:

    hmmm, I maybe taking this and possibly launching into a different direction than intended. I hope maybe not so different. :D

    I have been reading the book of John most recently. Great gospel. :) One thing has struck me completely new through this reading it this time that I honestly have never noticed before. The disciples that Jesus chose knew He was the Messiah because they had studied the scriptures!!!! This fisherman guys had done their Sabbath lessons. In the Book of John it says over and over how the disciples recognized He was Christ because of the prophecies they remembered. Wow! Ok, then juxtaposed that against the pharisees and saducees who claimed theological guru status but couldn’t see the truth or refused to see the truth for fear of losing power.

    Ok, so the point. Hey, study is not bad, not bad at all. In fact, there are some test that will not be passed without study. Study to show yourself approved a workman unto God that need not be ashamed but correctly handles the word of truth. Yep! But it is possible to know it all and miss God. Jesus said to the pharisees…”you study the scriptures diligently because you think that by them you have life but you don’t come to me.” Woahhh. So if you think that you have life by studying the scriptures, you might be mistaken. If you read the scripture so that you can come to God and know Him better, you are gonna recognize Him when He shows up. It is so much about the heart. During a short stint at YWAM I met a girl who couldn’t remember what she did yesterday. No short and not much long term memory. Didn’t finish high school. Ran into her at a wedding 4 years later and she was a bible scholar. God had granted her the ability to study and know His word. It was a miracle. She was preaching the gospel and doing bible training down in South America. Wow. This is how God works. :) Study is not bad but the moment it becomes a pride badge, or an exclusive systematic snobology circle then it has set itself up as an idol in a life and may block a person from the very Living God that they are reading about.

  7. Jennifer Loftin says:

    wow, there are a lot of grammar errors in that! sorry so fast an unedited.

  8. Jennifer Loftin says:

    and unedited. ha!

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