Chad, Keith, and David Daniels discuss the importance of proper study, interpretation, and application of Scripture in the daily life of a believer.
Intro (Keith): Welcome to the Kanakuk Institute Podcast, where we continue to equip leaders with biblical skills for a lifetime of ministry.
Chad (00:13): And welcome back into the Kanakuk Institute Podcast. With me, as always, the president of the Kanakuk Institute, Keith Chancey, and our special guest, one of our teachers here at the Kanakuk Institute, David Daniels from Central Bible Church. Thank you guys for being with us once again. We are talking today about the importance of truth and our desire as believers to know the Word of God, and yet, some of the traps that are out there, some of the dangers are when we don’t do the heavy lifting of digging in and understanding what the scriptures are actually saying in context. So, we’re going to hopefully, just practically give y’all some tools that might help you in your approach to scripture. So Keith, give us just a framework. What do we need to think about when we approach scripture in studying scripture, not just for reading, but beyond that, for understanding.
Keith (01:03): You know, that’s a great question, and right off the bat I just think of James 1:5. It says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all people generously and without reproach.” And so we open up the Word with prayer and we begin to look at the scriptures and go, “What in context is it saying here?” So what I do, Chad, is I go to the Word, I begin to read the Word. Say, for instance, if I’m about to study the book of Philippians. What’s the best thing for me to do? Go verse by verse? Or read the whole, all four chapters before I even pull out my pencil? You see? And I would say you need to read all four chapters first. Then, after I’ve read it, you know, two or three times, then I understand in context what it’s saying. And now, I begin to make my observations. And in my observations, I go, “This is who the author was, this is the timeline, this is who he’s speaking to.” I’m answering those who, what, where, when, why questions. As I begin to answer those questions in my observation, now I move to the interpretation part. Now I start looking for key words, key phrases, contrasts, comparisons. And from that, now I go, “I feel like in context I understand this is actually written to Philippians, to the people of Philippi. I’ve seen back in Acts 16 this is where we see this. This is Paul’s journey, it was on the second missionary journey that he went there, and now I go, “Wow, now I can begin to apply this to my life here in Branson today.”
Chad (02:24): That’s good. David, why is it so important for us to have context? You know, we all want to apply scripture. We all want to experience that life change. It seems like we often skip some steps to get there. Why is that so important?
David (02:37): Yeah there’s a very common phrase that’s used in, kind of, Bible study circles that a text without a context is a pretext, and what that means is that if I open up my Bible and I read a verse, I lift it out and I read that verse, not taking into consideration the verses that are around it, the context, and what the author was intending, I’m very likely going to misuse that text in a way that it wasn’t intended to be read. Now some people say, “Well why does that really matter? That’s not really a big deal. I mean, you didn’t use the text rightly, but that was a great slogan that you came up with, or that was a great teaching that you used.” I think we have a responsibility to have the highest level of integrity when we open up the Word of God. This is not the word of Plato. This is not the word of John Maxwell, great writer. This is the Word of God, and so when we open up the Word of God, I think we want to have the highest integrity. I read a little book on preaching and the author said this. He said, “Every time you open your Bible, you must ask the question: Who will be king?” Either I will be king over the text, reading it out of context and telling it what I want it to mean, and then using it and creating a social media meme and putting it on posters and that sort of thing. Or, I’m going to come to the text humbly, bow under the authority of God’s Word, and ask it to tell me what it means. You gotta have context to do that.
Chad (04:04): Yeah, you guys both touched on this idea, and I’m not sure who wants to go first answering this one, but how do I approach Bible study, but not simply bring all of my stuff: I heard a sermon, I align with this teacher, all of the stuff that I know about. How do I not bring that with me, but kind of like die to it so that I’m actually allowing, you know, God’s Word to be king in my life?
David (04:32): Well I would say the inductive Bible study that Keith highlighted really is designed to protect me from that. All of us bring baggage. All of us have heard previous sermons that we loved, all of us have seen quotes that we wrote down, we’ve read books, we bring all of that baggage, and some of it’s good baggage. Praise the Lord, there’s great preaching, there’s great books, there’s all of that that are constantly filling our toolbox with things that we know. But we, sometimes we don’t know that what we heard last Sunday was not spot on with the text, or the sermon that we loved from three years ago really isn’t the, doesn’t really do justice to the text. So it really does take a conscious effort to open up my Bible and say, instead of saying, “Oh I know what this verse is all about.” To really take the discipline and say, “Lord, there may be something you want to show me new in this text. Maybe I haven’t seen it right.” And so I’m going to enter a journey of observing and interpreting and applying this text, that either is going to joyfully confirm what I already knew, or it’s going to redirect my thinking, sometimes radically, to discover, “Woah, this text is far different than I ever thought it was.”
Chad (05:43): Keith, same question, just from your perspective.
Keith (05:46): You know, right off the bad, I’ve watched a lot of people, myself included, where I will jump into a passage and I will start thinking I know what it says, and I’ll start interpreting it exactly the way, and I think of the words of James in James 4, “God is opposed to the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.” I’ve got to approach the Word with great humility and allowing the Holy Spirit to allow me to navigate it properly, and so it takes time. And what we will do sometimes is we won’t spend the effort to get to know the text, but we’ll say what we’ve heard somebody else say, and as a result, it’s not contextually right and now we spread this bad stuff out there. I think of it like this, you know, a lot of people say they want to be a great football player, but they never put on the pads. People want to dig for gold, but they don’t have a pick and shovel. We want the fruit of something without paying any price to get it. And so that’s why when God’s word, when you dig into it, and you begin to do the observation and you begin to do the interpretation, when you find that application, it is life changing. All of a sudden you go, “It’s no longer what David or Chad said. It’s what God said to me.” And there is nothing that pumps you up more than that.
David (07:03): That’s right, you know, and I, if I could add to that, I think the discovery of treasure is far more enjoyable than you discovered the treasure and you gave it to me. I’d rather have the experience of discovering it for myself. You know, I’d encourage listeners today to go read Jeremiah 23. It’s a profound text. And in Jeremiah 23, the prophet talks about these false prophets who were saying “thus sayeth the Lord (x3).” And, but he mentions two places where they got their interpretations, their messages. Number 1, he says they God it from their own minds. They just had interesting thoughts that came to mind, and they elevated it as, “This is the Word of God.” It was their opinion. And God goes, God responds and goes, “I didn’t say that. That wasn’t what I meant.” Then the second one, and this is very inditing. He says that they got their messages from one another. They listened to the sermons, the podcasts – not this podcast of course – but they listened or they read the book, and they just assumed that was the correct interpretation, this is what the Lord must be saying, and here’s the problem is, as Keith mentions, because the Lord didn’t say it to the first person, and that person passed it on to the next person, and the next person passed it on to the next person, it continued to perpetuate an untruth all the way down the line, and I suspect that’s happened to all of us. We heard a sermon where that pastor had heard it from another pastor and it just got perpetuated down the line, and if we are good students of the Bible, we can stop that, we can say, “No, no, no, what I’m passing along is the treasure that I have discovered for myself.”
Chad (08:49): So good, and you know, I think for a lot of our listeners, maybe not the churches they attend, but they see what’s going on culturally and that is that they see the majority of the churches in America are New Testament churches, right? They’re primarily teaching the New Testament. Obviously you guys have been doing this a long time and have seen the fruit of teaching the Old Testament and for us understanding the continuity between the Old and the New Testament. What advice would you have for people to know the whole of Scripture, not just the 30 years of Jesus’ life in the New Testament?
Keith (09:18): You know, there’s a great book, Chad, and it’s by Max Anders, you know, 30 Days to Understanding Your Bible. And it’s a great place to start, because what it does is it begins to help you with the eras and it begins to help you with the important details. And it helps you understand that contextually, that the Bible wasn’t written like Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, you know, and people don’t even get that. And so a great way to read your Bible, what I love to… I have a Bible that I read out of, and it’s called The Bible in Chronological Order. And I’m just reading through that and I go, “Man, that helps me a lot,” because now, I’m understanding that Kings, there was Solomon and the passages parallel each other and it’s the same story, rather than it’s like 15 different stories. And so, one of the things, I like to make the Bible reading simple, and I want to read it in context, and I didn’t know how to do that for many years. And when I began to understand how to do that, Oh! It made my time in the morning, I couldn’t wait ‘til tomorrow to finish the story. And so, I would just say it’s, keep it simple, you know, read in context, Max Anders’ book is a great one, but there’s a lot of other ones out there, but that’s just a simple book right there, and it helps you knowing that. And then, as you read, the chronological Bible also helps. And I think it will have an impact on how you read.
Chad (10:33): That’s good. David, same question.
David (10:34): You know, well, you know, Paul says to Timothy, “All scripture is God-breathed and profitable.” When Paul was speaking “All scripture” in his context, he was primarily talking about the Old Testament, ok?” So Paul was viewing the Old Testament law and prophets and writings and poetry, he was viewing all of that as profitable for the New Testament church. That’s very encouraging to me. So that means that the Old Testament, my Old Testament, isn’t just archaic history just to tell me about stuff that happened long ago that doesn’t have any bearing. It actually tells me that every text in the Old Testament is profitable for my Spiritual Life today. So, I think the first thing is I’ve got to change my lens. I’ve got to start looking at the Old Testament as beneficial for me more than just information, but also for inspiration. And then I think as we approach each text, I think we ask the question, “What is the spiritual life principle that I’m finding in this text?” Is this text teaching about patience? Is it teaching about trusting God? Is it teaching about being on guard against the enemy? And once I begin to discover, kind of, that main principle that’s being talked about in the text, I can then say, “Well Lord, how do you want to apply that to my own life?” I find that, I think the Old Testament, the stories in the Old Testament incredible, incredibly encouraging for our Spiritual lives today.
Chad (12:00): And what’s amazing that the New Testament, the disciples often tell us the lens that we actually view those Old Testament passages with. They go, “Hey, remember that story?” Let me tell you what that actually means in light of Jesus. And there’s this beautiful continuity, not 66 books, but one story that Jesus really clarifies in that progressive revelation. So, what does mean to be a student of God’s word? We talk about that a lot. And specifically, I might just ask this: What does it look like to read just to feel the closeness of God, just to read for quantity, versus looking for, Keith like you mentioned, those nuggets, to dig and to sit in a passage and to allow it to transform you. How do you separate those things, devotional vs. depth. And both are true, but how would you just encourage people?
Keith (12:54): Yeah, I love that question, because I think I wrestle with this one quite frequently with myself and with others. I’ll start reading my devotional, and it will become my word, rather than the Word. And I wrestle with that, and for years, I did. And I went, “I think the reason it was so nice to read a devotional was because it did all the work for me.” It was someone that had given me thoughts of what it said, it was broken down and I go, “Wow.” And yet, it seemed like after I read it, I was no longer aware of what it said, because it wasn’t mine. And so my own personal time with the Lord when I read and I dig, maybe it’s a Philippians 2 and I’m reading, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty ambition, but with humility of mind, see others as more important than myself.” When I read that and I break it down in context, it’s like now I can get up and I walk away and I’ve observed the text, I’ve interpreted the text, I’ve made the application of the text, And I walk away and I go, “I’ve got it.” And it became alive to me and the Word became alive, and I began to go, “I’m pumped up about that,” and I began to live differently, I saw others more important, I began to have a smile on my face because the Spirit of God moved through me from the Word of God and I began to be different. It was transforming me right before my eyes, whereas before I did no work so I didn’t feel, really see the difference. But once I did that, I could see a difference.
Chad (14:29): Is that a little bit what David was talking about, kind of that joy of discovery? It’s one thing to hear somebody else teach it. It’s another thing to go, “Oh my goodness, I’ve never seen that.” And it seems like you don’t forget those moments.
David (14:41): No, I think when you have those moments where you see the Word of God come alive, I refer to it as it becomes bright. Suddenly it’s just almost like the letters, the words become bright and you’re like, “Oh, this is unbelievable, I never saw this before.” That is incredibly exciting. And I would just add to what Keith’s saying in this discovery. I think it’s ok for Christians to make the distinction between reading their Bible for breath, getting through it, versus reading their Bible for depth. I would say to listeners: Read your Bible. Because I think a lot of tension that we have is not that we aren’t getting into our Bibles the right way, but just that we aren’t getting into our Bibles. And I think there’s a value of “I’m going to read through the Bible in a year.” And some people, you know, I’ve heard people say, “Well you know, what’s the value in that? There’s passages along the way that you don’t understand and passages that are so crazy, and I don’t see any application, what’s the benefit of that?” It reminds me of an old pastor that was asked that question, and he said, “Son, I’ve been married for 50 years, and my wife has fixed me dinner almost every single one of those years. For the life of me I can’t remember the vast majority of those meals, but I’ll tell you. If I hadn’t eaten them, I wouldn’t be alive.” So I think there’s a value just eating, just eating, eating the Word of God, and it may be that you eat the Word of God for 15 minutes this morning and then you get up and you go, “I’m just not sure what that was all about.” That’s ok! Tomorrow, feast again. Feast again. Just keep feasting. And I think that God along the way as you meet him, as you come to meet him in his Word, He will meet you there and begin to change your life.
Chad (16:18): That’s good.
Keith (16:19): I want to admit a failure in my life. I wish so badly when I first became a Christian, someone would have challenged me just like that and said, “Keith Chancey, you need to read the whole of the Bible.” Because what I learned, and I don’t know if it’s where I went to church, that the pastor didn’t take books of the Bible, he just randomly spoke on topics. And so I would do the same thing, I would have my quiet times in topics. Or, I’d even just open my Bible and wherever it opened, “Oh, well that must be where God wanted me to be.” But I couldn’t tell you what the book was or anything about it. If I had it to do over as a young man, I would have wanted to start reading my Bible from cover to cover and see how many times I could read it every year, and the next year, and the next year. Now, I want you to hear me say, I am not saying that devotionals are bad, I am not saying that at all. I just say the Word of God is the best. And so, stay in it, it’s what transforms you, and it’s what really gives you your theological legs. It’s what changes everything about your decision-making, it’s how you face a culture in which we’re in today. You cannot fight in the culture that we’re in today and not have God’s Word in your heart, because if you do, you’re going to fight the wrong battle. It’s not about being right. It’s about loving people to Jesus, and I cannot tell you how great that is.
Chad (17:39): So I hear you saying really those devotionals are only as valuable as the Word they point you to. They’re valuable to come alongside, but if we don’t take the Word that they’re pointing us to, we’re really missing a layer. Last words. Last thoughts. We’ve got a generation that needs to know the Word of God, and we just want to encourage them to not only with breadth, but with depth, to engage in the Word. What would you encourage with?
David (18:07): Let me tell you, we use a model with our church, and I’ve used it in disciple-making for a long time. It’s a very simple model. Ask four questions. Open up Judges chapter 1, ask four questions. Read the text, ask these questions. Question number 1: What does this teach me about God? Question 2: What does it teach me about people? Question 3, and I like to ask it this way: If this passage were true, how would it change my life? Now, I believe all of the bible is true, but I have to, sometimes, when I read these far-fetched stories, I have to go, “Ok, now I have to remember, this is a true story. This is true truth.” And so, if this passage is true, how would it change my life? I’m now going to bring it home. And then my last question is: So what am I going to do? And in that, I’ve kind of quizzed, I’ve questioned the passage a bit, I’ve discovered some meaning, maybe not all the meaning of the text, but some, a meaning of the text, something from the text, and then I’m set free for the day to go, “Well what am I going to do with that?” And if we did that with every single text, I think we’d become sharp students of the Word.
Chad (19:08): Keith, what would you close with?
Keith (19:11): You know, I remember when I was a young man, I became a Christian, I got this bracelet and it said, “WWJD”. And is says just as the question: What would Jesus do? And I think that’s a great question, what would Jesus do? But the problem was, I didn’t need to know what Jesus would do, I needed to know what I would do. And so I took the bracelet and I remember putting on my bracelet, “WWJDTM”. What would Jesus do through me? And I needed to know God’s Word. And when God’s Word came through me, it was transformational to my life, and I began to love people better. People on the football team said, “You’re different.” And my teachers started to go, “What happened?” My mom, I’ll never forget, she cried when I came home the day I had become a Christian, the week later I went home from Ouachita, and she knew that I became a believer because she goes, “There is just something different about you.” And you know what? I really believe that. You just are different. When the Word of God, you understand it, it is transformational and it is radiated through you, so WWJDTM.
Chad (20:21): That’s good, that’s a good, and a good place for us to be reminded of and to close our time together, you know, for me, I just vividly remember waking up every morning and seeing my Dad in his chair in his Word, and he didn’t have to say anything. That indelible picture in my mind of a man committed to the Word of God, and as we look at church history, you look at the heroes of the faith, and every single one of them had this radical commitment to knowing God through his Word. What an encouragement for us today. Thank you gentlemen for taking the time and just sharing years of Godly wisdom in how we approach God’s word. We thank you for joining us here on the Kanakuk Institute Podcast. We will see you next time.