FIRST, HOW NOT TO
Knowing without doing is not knowing. Reading the Book goes beyond knowledge to transformation. God’s passion is for us to look like Christ. Application of the Scripture can be tricky. How?
- Make it too general. “We should win the world for Christ.”
- Apply it to someone else. “Sure wish Harvey were here.” Or “Sharon could use this.”
- Not applying it at all. Think that knowing is doing. A professor asked us, “Do you have a desire to know the Word of God?” We responded affirmatively. Then he asked, “Do you have an equal desire to do it?”
- Apply it where you don’t need it. Craig says, “My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so I don’t smoke.” But he abuses his body by not getting sleep. He says a strong “amen” when the pastor preaches against adultery. He is quieter when he talks about judging.
- Make excuses for where you are not applying. “I don’t give; I’m still in college.” “I am far from perfect. I could be doing more, but I’m doing better than most.”
- Mistake emotional response for change. Jim says, “You really convicted me this morning about not witnessing, Pastor. I feel terrible because of my lack of concern for the lost.” Fortunately for Jim, the guilt wears off in time for Sunday afternoon football.
- Use the Scripture to argue your case. Ken doesn’t realize that his knowledge of the Word has puffed him up. He loves to debate. The Word never moves from his head to his heart. He keeps it from touching his prejudices, and people are not interested in his God.
HOW TO APPLY THE WORD OF GOD
- Let the application flow out of interpretation, from truths you see as you read and study. The more you know what it means, the easier you will apply it personally. The Bible can speak for itself—if you let it.
- Make sure it applies to time and culture. Universal principles need personal application. We don’t face the issue of food offered to idols, but we do deal with doubtful things. Paul gives us principles that apply in the 21st century. The better we understand what Paul is saying to the Corinthians, the more accurately we will apply it to our setting. The Scriptures say nothing about movies, but they do speak about the use of time and the importance of letting our minds be transformed by truth. It is one thing to hear what Paul wrote to the Galatians in Asia; what does it mean for Christians in Minnesota?
- Application must flow in harmony with the whole message of the Bible. It must not do harm to any other portion of Scripture. It doesn’t contradict itself.
- Application should lead to action. Prayers of confession may start the process, but take heed: God is after change. Billy Graham once said, “Don’t ask me about what I don’t understand. I have enough trouble behaving what I do understand.” Scripture “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Let it judge you. Like a friend says, “Don’t just read the Word. Let it read you.” Or like a Chinese student, a young believer, said: “I am now reading the Bible and behaving it.” (Ideas here come from a lecture by Dr. H. Hendricks.)