JR Vassar on Bible Study

Bible Study Magazine's November-December '16 feature interview is with JR Vassar, pastor of Church at the Cross in Grapevine, Texas. Here's a bit of bonus content from that interview:

I have deep convictions about daily devotional reading. I think that we have to be listening to the Lord daily. For me that means having a no-compromise time and place where I meet with the Lord early in the morning. I have three children, so I try to get up before the rest of the house does. I read through my Bible reading plan, conversing with the Lord as I read. I don't simply want to read it like a newspaper, and then close it and walk away from it. But I want to really converse and engage with the Lord while I read.

When it comes to in-depth Bible study, I treat that as is something different from my devotional reading. It’s an exploration: getting into the nooks and crannies of a text, and trying to understand it on a broader level. My Bible study time is typically linked to sermon prep—I want my sermon prep to be a personal exercise before it's a pastoral one. I study through books, or large sections of Scripture, and I'll do multiple readings through various translations. I like to give attention to how propositions are arranged, and how the arguments are presented in a passage of Scripture. I mark my text with color codings to understand how the text is outlined, how it flows, and what the argument is.

The biggest key for Bible study for me—it’s really two things: the first is context, context, context. Early on I read the Bible out of context a lot. I would isolate certain Scriptures and focus on them, but never really broaden the context of that Scripture. Sort of like athletes who write Philippians 4:13 on their baseball bat or their shoes. The broader context of that verse doesn't mean, “Hey, Jesus will help you win.” It means that Jesus frees you from your necessity to win, so that win or lose, you're content in him. That brings me to the second thing: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. When Jesus rises from the dead, and appears to his disciples, the passage says he shows them from the law, and from the prophets, and the writings, everything that was written about him. And that forgiveness of sins had to be preached in his name to the nations. Jesus says all that is in the Old Testament. So I learned to read scripture, looking for Jesus, and it totally changed the way I read the Bible.

Tim Keller gives a great illustration about seeing Jesus in scripture. In the story of David and Goliath, you might see yourself as David in the Scripture, and you might walk away from that saying, “I need to be courageous. I need to face my giants.” But a Christ-centered look at that passage is to say, “We’re not David, we're Israel.” We need an anointed king to step forward, and by humble means win a victory for us we could never win on our own. So we get to walk away from that passage celebrating that Jesus is the greater David, who slew a greater enemy—Satan, sin, death—so that I could rise up in faith and follow him just as Israel follows David.

Find our conversation with JR Vassar here, and for more interviews, devotionals and Bible study content, subscribe to Bible Study Magazine today!