All Christians want “depth” in the preaching they hear, the books they read, the Bible studies they attend. I’ve never once heard a Christian say to me, “I just wish I could get more shallow preaching.” But what exactly is “depth”? It’s a nebulous term that almost nobody knows how to define. “Give me the deep stuff, pastor,” I hear. Does that mean he wants a series on systematic theology or an exegesis of the culture of the ancient near-east in Genesis or does it mean a more nuanced application to daily life?
It’s good to want depth. The writer of Hebrews (Hebrews 5:12) called out his hearers for not being teachers, for continuing to ask the same questions they had years before. At this point in their journey, they should have been chewing on the meatier passages of the Word rather than continuing the lazy intake of spiritual milk.
So depth is a good desire. But we must remind ourselves what depth is not. Here are five things:
1) Depth is not getting past the simple things.
Depth is not rolling your eyes and saying, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve heard that” when you hear the same stories you heard in Sunday School. The Bible is simple and complex. Simple in that it takes the faith of a child, desperate dependence on the Savior, to enter the Kingdom. It takes that same faith to sustain the Christian life. You should grow deep in your knowledge of God, but never lose the wonder of the things about the salvation story you’ve always known. In other words, you don’t get over the gospel. You don’t move past it. Jeremiah said that it was the “old paths” that continually need revisiting (Jeremiah 6:16).
2) Depth is not accumulating knowledge so everyone can say, “Ooh, isn’t he smart.”
There will be no Bible trivia in Heaven, no sword drills, or boasting of Bible knowledge (Ephesians 2:10). The most knowledgeable and profound theologian will only have, in his life, scratched the surface of the knowledge of the grace of God (Romans 11:33). This isn’t to diminish the importance of knowing truth. We should worship God with our minds. We should read widely and study deeply. We should continually mine the Scriptures for more, but this more should lead us to greater humility, greater awareness of our own depravity, and greater faithfulness to the God who loves us.
3) Depth is not getting past the church.
There is a certain subset of Christians who live for the next Bible study. Please don’t misunderstand me here. I think it’s great people attend Bible studies and earnestly seek to learn and grow in the Word. But this should never come at the expense of committed, faithful, sacrificial involvement in the local church. You never get “deeper” than the local church. You never get “deeper” than your faithful pastor and shepherd.
In fact, if you’re version of depth is five Bible studies in the week, but little or no commitment to church, on Sundays, you’re not really deep at all. Because you don’t have to plum very far down into the depths of Scripture to find Christ’s love for His church.
4) Depth is not more than faithfulness
Spiritual maturity should lead to faithfulness. The knowledge you accumulate about God, about your mission, about the role of the church only becomes wisdom when you apply it to your life. There’s no reward for memorizing Calvin’s Institutes if you welsh on your monthly spot in the nursery or usher corps. Some of the most faithful, godly men I know serve at church and they’ve never heard of Tim Keller or Don Carson or Scot McKnight. They don’t blog or tweet or write books. But, they live out the gospel daily. They know the Word and can teach it. I know faithful women who are active in teaching children the Bible and shepherding other woman. When I see these men and I see these women, I see a spiritual depth. I see years of Bible knowledge soaked down into the soul and flowing out into the life of our congregation. I see men and women of prayer.
This, my friends is depth. If your idea of depth doesn’t include faithfulness, it is something much less than spiritual maturity.
5) Depth is not arrogance about everyone else’s seeming biblical illiteracy.
We are to search the Scriptures, not to feed our ego, but to find Jesus (John 5:39). If your idea of depth, leads you to critique every pastor in town for preaching that just “doesn’t feed you,” that’s not spiritual maturity, it’s arrogance. If your idea of depth leads you to find the fault in every Christian book you read, that’s not depth, that’s arrogance. There is a place for discernment, but much of what passes for discernment these days is simple arrogance.
I hear a lot of folks say, “The church today is biblically illiterate” and that may be true, but if you’re the one saying it, make sure you’re not saying it from a lofty position of superiority. The best Bible teachers I’ve met have not boasted about their knowledge and the lack of knowledge of others. They’ve been humble, egoless men whose only desire is to feed the flock of God, to teach the Word faithfully. Biblical knowledge can be a slippery thing to possess. If we’re not careful, we’ll skip out on the worship and awe that should accompany it and instead use what we know as a cudgel against our fellow brother and sister.
Depth is not arrogance. It’s not having exalted opinions on the nonessentials of the Word. It’s not finally figuring out who those weird half-angel, half-man giants that existed in Noah’s day.
Depth is humility. Depth is worship. Depth is spiritual maturity. Depth is love and service in action.
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Editors note: The purpose of this series is to help our readers understand what sin is, how serious sin is, and how great the grace of God, who offers redemption to sinners from sin and new life in Christ.
Andrew Bonar once wrote in his diary:
“This day 20 years ago I preached for the first time as an ordained minister. It is amazing that the Lord has spared me and used me at all. I have no reason to wonder that He used others far more than He does me. Yet envy is my hurt, and today I have been seeking grace to rejoice exceedingly over the usefulness of others, even where it cast me into the shade. Lord, take away this envy from me!”
After reading 1 Samuel 18, I wrote something similar. I wish I could see myself as more like David and less like Saul, but alas I see envy entangling my heart.
John Owen rightly pointed out that “Sin always aims at the utmost: every time it rises up to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out to the utmost sin of that kind…” Sin never seems all that terrible when we see it in its first motions, but if given full vent it will aim to destroy us and dethrone God. As such, it is often a wise practice to pull sin out and consider where it aims to take you.
Because God has opened my eyes to envy I thought it’d be wise to look at where it aims to take me. Here are 7 things (from 1 Samuel 18) I’ll sacrifice if I succumb to envy.
1. I’ll sacrifice satisfaction in the work God is doing in my life.
Saul couldn’t celebrate his thousands because he was fixated on David’s ten thousands. In the same way, if I succumb to envy I’ll lose sight of the good things God is doing in my life.
2. I’ll sacrifice gentleness and replace it with anger.
Immediately after hearing the little ditty about David’s success Saul was moved to anger. When I am envious of someone it is unlikely that I’ll have a posture of gentleness towards them. In fact, my whole posture towards life will be one consumed with anger.
3. I’ll sacrifice protection from a host of others sins.
Once anger filled Saul’s heart the door was open for a host of others sins. I don’t doubt that this “harmful spirit” was a response to his anger. Likewise in the New Testament we see that the love of money (which is like envy) is the root of all kinds of evil. Envy will cause me to do things that I’d never think of doing.
4. I’ll sacrifice joy and relationships and replace it with fear.
David was a great asset to Saul. From all appearances he had little thought of being made king. Saul could have gotten great joy and a helpful relationship with this young man. Instead he was consumed with fear. The same will happen with me. Rather than embracing people I’ll fear them and distance myself.
5. I’ll sacrifice joy in God’s good plan.
Saul knew better than to overtly kick against God’s plan. But he foolishly thought he could get around God’s favor of David—he’d use his enemies to kill this young man. When I’m envious of someone else I’m telling God that His plan stinks. Rather than enjoying God’s good plan I pout. That’s a terrible exchange.
6. I’ll sacrifice existing relationships.
Saul was so consumed with his hatred of David that he ended up losing a son and a daughter in the process (and eventually the whole kingdom). Being so consumed by something—and opening the door to a host of other sins—will take a toll on my relationships. If I succumb to envy I’m sacrificing my family.
7. I’ll ultimately sacrifice even the things that I do have now.
Ultimately, the favor of God left Saul and he lost the kingdom to David. He wasn’t content with God’s gift to him and so God gave it to someone else. If I succumb to envy eventually those things that I so despise now (the blessings I have at present) will be sacrificed.
Everything was taken from Saul and he ended up falling on his own sword (or killed by an Amalekite). That is where envy got him. It aimed to dethrone God in the life of Saul and to ultimately destroy the man.
Prayer: Lord, I don’t want this foolish envy. Make me happy in you. Make me so happy in you that the joy of others becomes my joy. Cause me to be a man who is so satisfied in you that I give my life to making others happy in you.
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The doctrine of Scripture is under attack today. Recently John MacArthur held an Inerrancy Summit with some of the top theological minds in the Church today. At this conference, these theologians instructed us about the doctrine of the Bible. One of the key pieces of the doctrine of Scripture is the sufficiency of the Bible. This is the idea that when the Bible speaks, people are to hear and obey it. In other words, the sufficiency of Scripture relates to the authority of the Bible. Since, the Bible is authoritative, God’s people are to implement what it says into every area of their lives. Yet, often times in the Church we say we believe this. Whether in sermons, books, articles or blog posts we pledge allegiance to the Bible in name but in practice we often minimize it. We think, “I need to give my opinion on that issue” and we may well need to speak to that particular issue, but we need to speak with the Bible. We need to speak what the Bible says and declare what it says. This is one way that the sufficiency of the Bible is under attack today. We also see the Bible under attack in the field of Christian counseling. Often times secular theories of psychology take the place of the Bible in our counseling. As the Church, we are seeing an erosion of the doctrine of Scripture in our generation. Since the pulpit is the spear of the local church’s ministry, the counseling office is the hospital. Both are critical as Scripture and Counseling God’s Word For Life In a Broken World show. As this book shows, Pastors and counselors can work together, and should work together to help people grow in their understanding of the Word (pulpit) and to address real world issues from pulpit with the purpose of seeing healing, deliverance and help (counseling) to aid His people in their spiritual growth and development.
This book has two parts. In part one, we come to learn how we view the Bible for life in a broken world. In the introduction Kevin DeYoung and one of his counselors at University Reformed Church, Pat Quinn demonstrate how the senior pastor and counselors can work together to help the church grow in Christ. In this section, we learn about the richness and relevance of God’s Word, the sufficiency of the Bible for life and godliness truth, psychology, applying the sufficiency of the Bible to our lives, the Christ-centeredness of biblical counseling, the great cloud of witnesses and counseling, a theology of the body, and the relevancy of the Bible in counseling. Part two considers how we use the Bible for life in a broken world. The authors consider the rich relevance of the Word of God. Along with this they consider the practicality of the Bible for becoming a church of biblical counseling, biblical counseling and small groups, speaking the truth in love, the competency of the biblical counseling, relating truth to life, biblical narrative in personal ministry, the place of wisdom literature in the personal ministry of the Word, using the Gospels in the personal ministry of the Word, using the epistles in the personal ministry of the Word, and lessons learned through counseling. The book has three appendixes that including the mission, vision, and passion of the biblical counseling coalition, the confessional statement of the biblical counseling coalition, and the doctrinal statement of the biblical counseling coalition.
Whether you’re a pastor, counselor or lay person this book has something for you. First, this book will help you understand the relationship of the pulpit ministry to the ministry of one another each other. Second, this book will help you to understand how Scripture relates to life. This book will help you to understand how to use the Word of God when helping others. This is no small thing because we all know people who need help but often times don’t know how to help. This book will help you to learn how to help and where to look in the Bible to help address people’s issues. Finally, this excellent book should be on the bookshelf of every pastor and counselor. I highly recommend this book and believe it should be required reading in every pastoral ministry class at every conservative Bible college and seminary in the country. My prayer is that this book and the other book in this series will gain a wide readership for in doing so we’ll see a recovery of the place of biblical counseling in the local church.
Buy the book at Amazon or WTS Books.
Title: Scripture and Counseling God’s Word For Life In A Broken World
Author: Bob Kellemen, General Editor, Jeff Forrey, managing Editor
I received this book for free from Zondervan for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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