Applying God’s Word
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says,” James 1:22 (NIV).
James wrote these words long ago but his challenge still resonates strongly today. The words echo what Jesus himself taught in John 14 that whoever loves him will obey his teachings.
We live in an amazing time where – thanks to technology – we have access to dozens of Bible translations, libraries of biblical wisdom, and can listen to thousands of sermons from preachers around the world. The challenge for us in the Western world isn’t getting access to this information, it’s what we actually do with the information we have. How do we apply it? Let me offer a few simple ideas to you that have the potential to breathe new life into your Bible reading.
After Jesus’ resurrection and before he ascended into heaven, Jesus promises that the church won’t be left alone, that the Holy Spirit will come and be the one to guide the believers into all truth (John 16:13). As believers, that same Holy Spirit lives within us, so while you read God’s Word, ask the Holy Spirit to guide, reveal, and help you apply his word in your life. It’s a prayer that he wants to answer.
The word ‘meditate’ may generate a specific response or picture in your head – either good or bad. Many religions use meditation in one form or another. One of my favorite pictures of what it means to meditate is the idea of ‘chewing.’ Many of us approach reading God’s word with the goal of getting through it in a set time. In contrast, the idea of meditating is to slow down, imagine, consider…or chew. If you’re a ‘get it done’ type of person by nature, try a different approach to reading God’s word. Use your imagination as you think about the setting of Jesus’ teachings or the surroundings of the desert that the Israelites lived in for 40 years. Chew on the implications of Paul’s teachings for the people living in pagan Ephesus – both for them in the first century and for you today. As you meditate, you’ll find that God’s word sticks with you throughout the day.
Sometimes the simple questions you ask every time you read through the Bible can help get the wheels turning on how to apply God’s word. Here are a few easy ones:
- Who was the original audience of this passage?
- What are the timeless truths in this passage?
- What does this passage show me about who God is?
- What do I need to study further in this passage so I can understand it fully?
You may not be able to answer all of these questions easily, depending on the passage you’re reading but these questions will help ensure that your daily reading is applied to your life and can challenge you to go deeper.
As someone once said, “Proclamation, without application, can lead to stagnation.” I trust that these simple ideas for application can become a normal part of your study and that for all of us, the long distance from our head to our heart will become shorter and shorter as the truth of God’s word bears fruit in our lives.