Category: Food for Thought

The Message of the Reformers

Posted by on 10/23/2017 in: ,

Did you know that John Calvin made a point to write very little about himself—which is one reason why we don’t know much about his personal life? He isn’t the only one. The reformers didn’t write too many captivating memoirs, despite their brave and dangerous lives.

Why didn’t the reformers write about themselves, and what were they writing instead?

The reason the reformers wrote so little about themselves was that they were not focused on themselves; they were focused on the message. We may best remember Luther for nailing up his theses or Tyndale praying “Lord! Open the King of England’s eyes.” But I believe the reformers would be deeply saddened if we remembered only their brave actions and not their important message.

So, for those of us who are celebrating the anniversary of the Reformation, we should make it our aim to pick up something the reformers penned.

READING THEIR MESSAGE

Of course, it’s slightly impossible to read everything the reformers penned. Even picking up Calvin’s Institutes alone is a daunting task. Plus, without being familiar with their writing styles and historical context, their writings can be difficult to understand.

Thankfully, the second generation of reformers was aware of this issue. They summarized reformation teachings into bite-sized pieces. Their intent was not to replace the works of the reformers, but to give people like us, who may never go to seminary, a place to get started. These summaries are contained in the confessions and catechisms of the reformed churches.

START READING NOW FOR FREE

At Olive Tree, our goal is similar to that of the second generation of reformers. We want to make it easier to access the Scriptures and biblical teachings. That’s why we’ve released The Westminster Confession of Faith with the Shorter and Larger Catechisms for free. These resources line-up closely with the teachings of men like John Calvin and John Knox, expressing the most important parts of their message.

Wondering where to start? The authors recommend first reading through and becoming familiar with the Shorter Catechism. Then, read the Larger Catechism, which builds on the shorter. Lastly, study the Westminster Confession of Faith. When combined, these three relatively short documents provide an excellent summary of reformed teaching on faith, life, and worship. We hope that you’ll enjoy these free resources and grow in your understanding of church history.

LEARN MORE

We’ve released more than a few free resources recently, so we thought it would be a good idea to remind you all. Here are the other releases:

Luther’s 95 Theses
The Psalms of David in Metre
London Baptist Confession of Faith & Catechism

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Paul and Meditation

Posted by on 10/06/2017 in:

This week, we are focusing on teaching others how to study the Bible. One of our favorite methods is the SOAP study: Scripture, observation, application, and prayer. Here’s our findings from our study on Philippians 4:8-9 while using the Blackaby Study Bible.

SCRIPTURE

Philippians 4:8-9 NKJV

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

OBSERVATION

Taken from the Blackaby Study Bible introductory notes on the book of Philippians.

The early church accepted Philippians as an authentic letter written by the apostle Paul (Phil. 1:1), and modern scholars agree. Paul wrote the letter from prison (1:13, 14), almost certainly in Rome (Acts 28:16–31) in A.D. 61–62. His situation confined him, but it did not keep him from communicating with churches and preaching the gospel to his captors (Phil. 1:12–14).

A notable feature is Paul’s sensitivity to the Christian mind. He challenged believers to strive together “with one mind” (Phil. 1:27), to be “like-minded” (2:2), to be “in lowliness of mind” (2:3), and to “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ” (2:5). Other statements include: “as many as are mature, have this mind” (3:15), and the peace of God will “guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (4:7).

Paul asserted that the Philippians’ enemies “set their mind on earthly things” (3:19). He was concerned that Christians have a godly perspective as protection against false and corrupt teachers. This defense was found in knowing Christ personally (3:8–10) and meditating on that which is from God (4:8). In particular, Paul used the life of Christ as the ultimate example of how Christians ought to think and act (2:5–11).

APPLICATION

Taken from the Blackaby Study Bible notes on this passage.

The Greek word logizomai, translated “meditate,” has various nuances. It can mean to account, consider, or let one’s mind dwell on something. Paul’s focus was not indifferent examination, but practical consideration that leads to action. We are not merely to reflect on a principle, but we are to live according to all the implications of God’s great salvation. That takes energy, striving to know fully all of what God desires for our life. When we consider what God has promised His children and meditate on the truth revealed in His Word, the Holy Spirit works those truths into our lives.

PRAYER

Set a goal for yourself this week! Pray and meditate on God’s promises for 5 minutes before bed—or any other goal you can think of to help you apply this information to your life.

LEARN MORE

The Blackaby Study Bible notes give great snippets of information to enrich your Bible study: historical notes, encouragement, and word studies. You can currently get this resource for only $10! Grow in your understanding and application of God’s Word. Learn more on our website!

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Why Does God Allow Trials?

Posted by on 09/16/2017 in: ,

JAMES 1:2-3

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

Have you ever wondered why God allows us to experience trials? Here are eight purposes for trials in the life of the Christian:

1. TO TEST THE STRENGTH OF OUR FAITH

Trials help us take inventory of our faith and see how strong or weak it truly is. God tested the children of Israel (Ex. 16:4), Hezekiah (2 Chron. 32:31), and many others in Scripture.

2. TO HUMBLE US

As we grow spiritually, sometimes we can become proud and puffed up because of what we know. Thus, trials are meant to humble us and prevent such spiritual pride. Paul was humbled because of the things God had shown him (2 Cor. 12:7).

3. TO WEAN US FROM OUR DEPENDENCE ON WORLDLY THINGS

Too often we trust in ourselves and our own means. Trials remind us that we need to depend on God alone for spiritual strength and satisfaction. This is why Jesus challenged the disciples when it came time to feed five thousand followers (John 6:5-6).

4. TO CALL US TO ETERNAL AND HEAVENLY HOPE

The more we experience trials and the longer they become, they cause us to yearn for heaven. Paul understood this truth well in his own life & ministry (Rom. 8:18-25; Phil. 1:23-24).

5. TO REVEAL WHAT WE REALLY LOVE

God commands us to love him first and foremost. Trials come to both prove and reveal whether this is true. Abraham was tested when he was asked to sacrifice Isaac (Gen. 22). Jesus uses hyperbole to express the devotion we’re to have for God (Luke 14:26).

6. TO TEACH US TO VALUE GOD’S BLESSINGS

Trials are difficult and often result in loss. These losses help us see the blessings that God does provide for his children. Truly our greatest blessings are spiritual. The heroes in Hebrews 11 knew this well as they looked to the goodness of God’s gifts.

7. TO DEVELOP ENDURING STRENGTH FOR GREATER USEFULNESS

Faith is like a muscle, unless it is put to use and exercised, it will not get stronger. Trials strengthen our faith so that it is strong at the times when we need it most. By faith God’s children have endured trials & done great deeds (Heb. 11:33-34). Paul also understood that trials are what made his faith strong (2 Cor. 12:10).

8. TO ENABLE US TO BETTER HELP OTHERS IN THEIR TRIALS

Sometimes the trials we experience are not for us, but for others. God allows trials to happen to us so we can help others through their own trials and seasons of difficulty. Peter experienced trials, which he later used to encourage other believers (Luke 22:31-32). Even Jesus suffered so that he could intercede on our behalf (Heb. 2:18).

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This content is adapted from the MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Learn more by visiting our website, where this entire set is discounted 50%.

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The Evil of Favoritism

Posted by on 09/15/2017 in: ,

JAMES 2:1-4

“My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?”

GOD DOES NOT SHOW PARTIALITY

When we think of the attributes of God, His divine nature and characteristics, we usually think of such things as His holiness and righteousness and His omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. We think of His immutability (changelessness), His eternality, His sovereignty, His justice, and His perfect grace, love, mercy, faithfulness, and goodness. But another attribute of God that is not thought or spoken of so often is His impartiality. Yet that is a serious and recurring theme throughout Scripture. God is absolutely impartial in His dealings with people. And in that way, as with His other attributes, He is unlike us.

HUMANS ARE JUDGEMENTAL

Human beings, even Christians, are not naturally inclined to be impartial. We tend to put people in pigeonholes, in predetermined, stratified categories, ranking them by their looks, their clothes, their race or ethnicity, their social status, their personality, their intelligence, their wealth and power, by the kind of car they drive, and by the type of house and neighborhood they live in.

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?

But all of those things are non-issues with God, of no significance or meaning to Him whatever. Moses declared,” For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God.” He then added that this great and awesome God, who has the right to be however He wants to be,” does not show partiality nor take a bribe” (Deut. 10:17), and He expects his people to reflect that same impartiality.

The New Testament is equally clear about the sin of partiality. To a crowd of unbelievers in the temple, Jesus said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Paul specifically emphasizes that God is impartial in regard to social status, occupation, or a person’s being free or enslaved. Like their Lord, believers should treat the lowest-paid laborer with the same basic respect as they do a bank president or the socially elite, and treat those who may work under them with the same impartiality and dignity as they give their boss.

WE SHOULD NOT SHOW PARTIALITY

If we do not treat those in need the way God treats them, then His love is not in us (1 John). Later in that letter the apostle writes,” In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us” (4:10-12). “If someone says, ‘I love God, ‘ and hates his brother,” John goes on to say,” he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also” (vv. 20-21).

LEARN MORE

The content of this blog comes from the MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Learn more by visiting our website, where this entire set is discounted 50%.

QUESTION: When is a time that you were shown impartiality and inclusion when you expected to be judged and neglected? How did that shape you and teach you about God?

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Is Faith Enough?

Posted by on 09/11/2017 in: ,

JAMES 2:14-21

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.”

IS FAITH ENOUGH?

Are we saved by grace through faith alone (Eph. 2:8–9) or do we also need good works?

James does not argue that good works are required for salvation. Nor does he say that deeds are more important than beliefs. Rather, he insists that there are two kinds of faith—one legitimate and the other illegitimate; faith … made complete (v. 22) and faith without deeds (v. 20). Both are “belief” in one sense of the word. But legitimate faith goes deeper than “right thinking” to “right living.”

Confusion may arise, however, when we recall that Paul writes that we cannot earn salvation. He uses Abraham as an example of one who received God’s promise, not through human effort, but through faith (Gal. 3:6–12).

James also uses Abraham as an example, but his focus and emphasis are different than Paul’s. He skips over the futility of human effort to discuss the futility of deficient faith—faith that stops at the intellectual level. Even demons have that kind of “faith,” James exclaims (v. 19)!
James’s point, then, is that Abraham exercised authentic faith—demonstrated by his actions. Abraham’s deeds earned him nothing, but they proved his faith was genuine: Right faith led to right actions. If he had not trusted God, Abraham could never have offered his son—the fulfillment of God’s promise—on the altar (vv. 21–22). Paul uses Abraham to show that people are justified on the basis of real faith; James shows that Abraham’s faith was proven to be real because it worked (compare Gal. 5:6).

So then, we don’t need anything but faith—the right kind of faith—to be saved by God. And our behavior will show what our faith is made of, whether or not it is legitimate.

LEARN MORE

This blog post was adapted from The Quest Study Bible, which you can get this week for only $8. Verse-by-verse, this study Bible asks questions that most Christians ask, and then provides a biblical answer. This tool is priceless as you begin to study God’s Word.

Learn more about The Quest Study Bible.

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7 Reasons to Study the Cultural Backgrounds of the Bible

Posted by on 09/06/2017 in: ,

7 REASONS

1. Understand the audience: Grasping the original audience’s perspective helps us understand the setting to which the inspired authors communicated their message.

2. Understand how the text communicates: A text is ideas linked by threads of writing. Each phrase and each word communicates by the ideas and thoughts that they will trigger in the reader or hearer.

3. Biblical writers made assumptions: Biblical writers normally could take for granted that their audiences shared their language and culture; some matters, therefore, they assumed rather than stated. Think about what happens when later audiences from different cultures read the text without the same un-stated understandings as the original audience.

4. Understand the differences: We can see the differences between [ancient people] and us. To better understand how they would have interpreted what was being shared to them.

5. Understand what issues were being addressed: When we hear the message in its authentic, original cultural setting we can reapply it afresh for our own different setting most fully, because we understand what issues were really being addressed.

6. Prevent imposing your own culture: If we know nothing of the ancient world, we will be inclined to impose our own culture and worldview on the Biblical text. This will always be detrimental to our understanding.

7. Fill in the gaps: As each person hears or reads the text, the message takes for granted underlying gaps that need to be filled with meaning by the audience. It is theologically essential that we fill [the gaps] appropriately.

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This blog was adapted from the NKJV Cultural Background Study Bible! You can see it on sale in our store here.

Enjoy the NIV more than the NKJV? See the NIV version of the Cultural Background Study Bible by clicking here.

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Community Matters

Posted by on 09/01/2017 in:

IT’S TRUE—COMMUNITY MATTERS

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25

We, here at Olive Tree, take community seriously! You’d definitely see it if you spent a day in our office. We love celebrating birthdays, cheering one another on, and passing around favorite recipes. Every Tuesday we have a team meeting and every Thursday we pray together. We’re not just co-workers. We’re brothers and sisters in Christ!

WE CARE ABOUT YOU

You are so much more than a customer to us. You’re a brother/sister in Christ, too! This truth is what spurs us on to equip you with the right tools for spiritual growth, whether it’s through app development, content acquisition, customer support or marketing.

Because we are so dedicated to spiritual growth and community, we wanted to remind you of our social media channels. Every day we post encouraging, informative content with you in mind. We really do hope that it blesses you!

Below you can find a few ways to begin communicating with us and one another. We hope you take advantage of this fellowship!

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Instagram
Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
Subscribe to Blog

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Read & Study the
Bible in New Ways

Posted by on 08/24/2017 in: ,

The Bible is an ancient text. So, it isn’t surprising when we get a little bored while reading it—especially with our entertainment-saturated culture. The average person watches only 10-seconds of a video on Facebook! If our attention spans can only handle 10-seconds of a video, how can we possibly stay focused while reading a historic text over and over again for our entire lives?

Well, we have a few ideas for you! This blog post will offer five ways to study and read the Bible in a fresh way.

1) READ DIFFERENT TRANSLATIONS

Ever wondered what the difference is between all the English Bible translations? There are so many! The best way to think about this is to imagine a spectrum. One on end, there are Bibles that are translated word-for-word. These are very literal. Then, on the other side, you have Bibles that are paraphrased versions. In the middle, you have Bibles that are translated by sentence or thought.

So, why would you want to read different translations? Languages are complex with idioms and phrases that don’t translate well word-for-word. At the same time, a paraphrase may miss out on key details. Comparing translations will give you the full picture, and also give you a fresh perspective on the verses you have read several times over.

In our app, it’s super easy to read two translations at once. Just pull open another Bible in the split-screen window!

2) CHECK OUT THE CROSS REFERENCES

Have you ever noticed the little green letters that appear in your Bible in our app? Those are cross references! Any time a verse appears that corresponds directly to another verse in the Bible, it gets tagged. Here’s an example:

In John 1, we learn about Jesus being at the beginning of all creation, bringing everything to life. Verse 5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” If you look closely, you’ll see an “h” appear right after the verse number. By tapping this, you’ll pull up the list of cross references, and you can look at the corresponding verses in the pop-up window. This cross reference took us to John 3:19, which talks about light coming into the world, but humanity hating the light because they were evil and loved darkness. Put together, we can now understand that John is foreshadowing Christ’s coming and death in the beginning chapters of his book.

So, how can using cross references help you read the Bible in fresh ways? The Bible is one, big historical narrative that tells the story of God redeeming his people. When we use cross references, we are able to more clearly see the connections between these events, the ways God fulfilled His promises, and the richness of the text.

3) USE GOSPEL HARMONIES

We’ve created Gospel Harmonies to make studying Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John easier. Instead of flipping through your Bible to find the stories that correspond to one another, we’ve made them available in one screen. The best way to explain this is to show you.

Why use Gospel Harmonies? Each Gospel is written by a different author and with a different intention. By comparing all accounts, you can make sure to catch all the details, and perhaps make new connections you wouldn’t have made otherwise. We sell these Gospel Harmonies in several different translations as well: NASB, KJV, ESV, NIV, NKJV, NA28 with Parsings & Dictionary, and Byzantine Greek New Testament. Currently, these are all 50% off!

4) TRY A CHRONOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE

Chronological study Bibles are just what they sound like—Bibles arranged in chronological order with study notes inserted. How does this work? Here’s an example! The Chronological Study Bible (NKJV) starts the New Testament with Matthew 1:25, covering Jesus’ genealogy. There are a few study notes on the culture and society during Jesus’ birth. Verse 25 ends with Joseph believing that Mary is still a virgin and naming his son Jesus… and then the text jumps to Luke 2:1-20, sharing the more detailed account of Mary and Joseph heading to Bethlehem.

Reading a chronological study Bible can rejuvenate your quiet time by helping you see the story of God’s Word. All of the different historical accounts interact with one another and show God’s faithfulness through time. When you read it in order, you will be able to insert yourself into the story, too.

Other recommended chronological study Bibles:
Chronological Life Application Study Bible NLT (20% off)
KJV Reese Chronological Study Bible (50% off)

5) LOOK AT STUDY NOTES

Study notes provide deeper insights into the text of the Bible. Although they aren’t as developed as commentaries are, they are still very helpful when coming across difficult passages. Here’s a few study Bibles that we recommend:


NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (50% off)
Archaeological Study Bible Notes
NIV Zondervan Study Bible

FIND A NEW BOOK

Sometimes, we just need to be encouraged by another person, a new voice, or a fresh perspective. Right now we have titles on sale that are aimed at helping you read and study the Bible in new ways. You can look through the entire sale here.

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Why Every Christian
Should Study the Bible

Posted by on 08/16/2017 in: ,

This title might seem slightly redundant. Shouldn’t a Christian study the Bible because she (or he) is a Christian? If only that was enough to convince us. I graduated from a Bible college and work for a Bible app—and yet I still find myself procrastinating on reading God’s Word. Somehow, I manage to forget the importance of it all.

So, this blog post is for me just as much as it’s for you. We’re all in need of a reminder now and again. And perhaps you are reading this and you have never, on your own, truly studied the Bible. That’s alright! Let’s chat about three reasons we should study God’s Word.

1. THE BIBLE IS ALIVE

The writer of Hebrews tells us that “the word of God is living and active” (Hebrews 4:12). What does this mean? The Bible pierces our souls. It discerns our thoughts and intentions. It brings our darkness to light.

This can take place without deep, academic study. You don’t need a PhD or a seminary education in order to be changed by God’s Word. Simple meditation can bring about growth because that’s how God works. If you knock, He will answer.

This is the first reason that we should study the Bible. Even if you hold to the word study very loosely–that’s okay. Read the Bible. Even if you struggle to understand, or find it boring at times, or would rather be doing something else… find time to read the Bible. Read the Bible because God desires to communicate with you, encourage you, and make you more like Him. This can only happen when we take time to be in His presence and to read His life-giving words.

2. IT ISN’T ALWAYS ABOUT US

Now, I won’t retract what I’ve said. Simply reading the Bible is better than not reading at all. But there are a few other points we need to consider.

The Bible, being the very Word of God, deserves great respect. We need to treat it better than we would Hamlet and Don Quixote, which means taking the time to understand the author and their intent. It would be wrong to say “This line in Pride and Prejudice reminds me of my sister, so I think that Jane Austen wrote about my sister.” That would be silly! In the same way, the Bible isn’t (always) about us. It is for us and our edification, but more often than not, Scripture is talking about a group of people in an era of time that we have never experienced.

However, one of the neatest accomplishments of our God is that He composed His Word for His people through His people. He included humanity in the process. Although remarkable, this characteristic does make our job of understanding the Bible a bit harder. Scripture is wrapped in history, cultural nuance, assumptions of understanding, and genre differentiations. Leviticus was law for the Israelites, the Epistles were letters to different churches, the Psalms were songs of praise and lament, Song of Solomon… you get the picture.

So, what do we do? For starters, we can read study bible notes, single-volume commentaries, or Bible dictionaries alongside Scripture. As we grow, we could read about Hermeneutics (the study of interpreting Scripture), Systematic Theology, Greek, Hebrew, or any other number of areas of study. That way, we don’t make our own assumptions about the text, but instead listen to those who have dedicated their lives to investigating the history of God’s Word. Then, with a more accurate understanding, we can begin to apply what we have learned about God to our own lives.

3. WE’RE CALLED TO DEFEND OUR FAITH

You’ve probably heard this verse: “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:14-15). What kind of defenses do we need to be able to make today—and to whom?

There may come a time when you need to answer questions such as:

These might be questions that other people ask you, or these might be questions that you ask yourself. How do you answer them? You read.

Millions of Christians have composed their defenses of the faith in books such as commentaries, apologetic undertakings, topical research, personal testimonies, and more. These, although not perfect like the Bible, are fantastic resources for you to grow in your understanding and trust of God’s Word.

OUR PASSION: INSPIRING PEOPLE TO READ GOD’S WORD

The reason the Olive Tree Bible App exists is to encourage people to read God’s Word. We also want you to study God’s Word, and to apply it to your life. This is why we work very hard with publishers to give you price reductions on titles that we think will help you achieve this goal.

Right now, we have an array of titles on sale with the aim of helping you read and study God’s Word in new ways. Check out what is available by visiting our website.

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How-to Personally Apply the Bible

Posted by on 08/09/2017 in: ,

It is a marvel how personally the Bible applies. The words pointedly address the concerns of long-ago people in faraway places, facing specific problems, many of which no longer exist. They had no difficulty seeing the application. Much of what they read was personal application to actual situations they were facing.

But nothing in the Bible was written directly to you or specifically about what you face. We are reading someone else’s mail. Yet the Bible repeatedly affirms that these words are also written for us: “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction” (Rom. 15:4; cf. Deut. 29:29; 1 Cor. 10:11; 2 Tim. 3:15–17).

Furthermore, the Bible is primarily about God, not you. The essential subject matter is the triune Redeemer Lord, culminating in Jesus Christ. We are reading someone else’s biography. Yet that very story demonstrates how he includes us within his story.

“Personal application” proves wise when you reckon with these marvels. The Bible was written to others—but speaks to you. The Bible is about God—but draws you in. Your challenge is always to reapply Scripture afresh, because God’s purpose is always to rescript your life.

What chunk of Scripture has made the most difference in your life? What verse or passage have you turned to most frequently? What makes these exact words frequently and immediately relevant? Your answer will likely embody four foundational truths about how to read the Bible for wise application.

FIRST, THIS PASSAGE BECOMES YOUR OWN BECAUSE YOU LISTEN.

You remember what God says. He is saying this to you. You need these words. This promise, revelation, or command must be true. You must act on this call to faith and love. When you forget, you drift, stray, and flounder. When you remember and put it to work, bright truth rearranges your life. The foundation of application is always attentive listening to what God says.

SECOND, THE PASSAGE AND YOUR LIFE BECOME FUSED.

It is not simply a passage in the Bible. A specific word from God connects to some pointed struggle inside you and around you. These inner and outer troubles express your experience of the dual evil that plagues every human heart: sin and confusion from within; trouble and beguilement from without (1 Kings 8:37–39; Eccles. 9:3).

But something God says invades your darkness with his light. He meets your actual need with his actual mercies. Your life and God’s words meet. Application depends on honesty about where you need help. Your kind of trouble is everywhere in the Bible.

THIRD, YOUR APPROPRIATION OF THIS PASSAGE REVEALS HOW GOD HIMSELF DOES THE APPLYING.

He meets you before you meet him. The passage arrested you. God arranged your struggle with sin and suffering so that you would need this exact help. Without God’s initiative (“I will write it on their hearts,” Jer. 31:33) you would never make the connection. The Spirit chose to rewrite your inner script, pouring God’s love into your heart, inviting you to live in a new reality. He awakens your sense of need, gives you ears to hear, and freely gives necessary wisdom. Application is a gift, because wisdom is a gift.

FOURTH, THE APPLICATION OF BELOVED PASSAGES IS USALLY QUITE STRAIGHTFORWARD.
  • God states something in general terms. You insert your relevant particulars. For example:
    “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Ps. 23:4). What troubles are you facing? Who is with you?
  • “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). What is your particular way of straying? How does the Lamb of God connect with your situation?
  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). With what are you obsessed? What promises anchor your plea for help (Phil. 4:5, 7-9)?

Such words speak to common human experiences. A passage becomes personal when your details participate in what is said. The gap across centuries and between cultures seems almost to disappear. Your God is a very present help in trouble—this trouble. Application occurs in specifics.

Interested in learning other ways to apply God’s Word to your life? This content was pulled from the ESV Study Bible, available in our store for 50% off. This resource comes with 20,000 notes, 50 articles, maps, charts, and more. It is perfect for daily study of the Bible.

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