Bible Stuff: Life Application


Last time I said we would talk more about the importance of, and methods for, getting Biblical scripture in into yourself. So today we’ll be focusing on the point and purpose of scripture study… Life Application.

If you haven’t yet read Look At Your Fish and A Text Without a Context Is a Pretext as this is a continuation of those two articles.

The Bible seems clear on the point that what you believe matters, but what you do matters more. James 2:19 says that even the demons believe in God (and it freaks them out). They naturally don’t allow that knowledge to affect their lives or put into practice anything they learn of him. James doesn’t equate a person with no actions with a demon, but he does say “You want ‘Christian-Cred’ for believing? Heck, the devil believes.” Believing only apparently doesn’t give you something that I’ve now coined as Christian-cred.

We downplay life application. Works don’t save us, we say, and that is true, but works are how we show our faith. I often say that works won’t save you, but they’ll keep you saved.

What we have in America is a country full of Christians that believe that seeking a closer relationship with God is the ultimate calling they can have. My pointing it out as if it’s a problem actually seems wrong. We’ve heard it all our lives. Though I believe there is no higher calling than to have a relationship with God, I do not think it is our ultimate purpose on earth.

The Great Commission, we all know it. “Go and make disciples of every nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to obey all that I have commanded and I will be with you until the end of the age” (from memory). This is our commandment. Our job. This is the Gospel of Kennison, but I like to call it The Great Goal. I may not be fulfilling it now, but that’s the goal. Our calling as Christians is to make disciples and that the command to make them supersedes all others. It doesn’t wipe them away, but it demands the top spot.

The first step in making a disciple is becoming one yourself. A disciple is a follower. Someone who follows someone else. We become followers of Christ by learning from him and applying that knowledge to our lives, allowing it to change who we are and becoming more of who God made us to be. Naturally we need to know what Jesus said and did in order to do that. Far to many of us are coasting spiritually on the fumes of stories we learned in Sunday School, truths gleaned from books, tapes and conferences, or even just the scraps we’ve picked up here and there in the case of the unchurched.

We have been preached to so much that we accept the sermon as our primary spiritual input without question. I’m a preacher. Preaching is good stuff but without learning first hand what the Bible says, you may be more a disciple of your pastor than a disciple of Christ.

In our last two installments we discussed how to pull truth from scripture, moving past just reading and into study. We saw how it’s not rocket science. It’s not something reserved for the spiritual elite. It only requires a basic ability to read, a bible (preferably one that is easy for you to read and understand) and the desire to do so (though desire is not required).

The Bible has a bad reputation. Most of us believe that it is long, boring and incomprehensible. It is long. There are roughly 774, 746 words total. (The first five Harry Potter books have a total of 717,020, 301,583 in the Hunger Games trilogy, and roughly 575,710 words in the Twilight series.) There are parts which can be extremely boring (Yes, all scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching and all that… but not all of it is as applicable or as interesting as other parts.), but the Bible is not is complicated and hard to understand.

We believe this because we’ve heard very smart people talk from it using very big words. We’ve seen books used to study it that are larger than the thing itself. We’ve read versions which communicate to us as if we are squires trying to become a knight on the Round Table. So let’s start there.

Step One: Get Yourself a Bible You and Read and Understand

If you’re reading level isn’t great or English is your second language, or you are a child between 1st and 6th grade I suggest the Contemporary English Version (CEV), the New International Reader’s Version (NIRV), or Everyday Reading Bible (ERB). They are all written at a 3rd grade reading level. I enjoy the CEV myself for light devotional reading.

If reading level isn’t an issue the New International Version (NIV) appeals to many. I might also suggest the New King James Version (NKJV). The best translation for study in my opinion is the New American Standard Bible (NASB). I suggest reading the text in several versions. Short of learning Greek and Hebrew, it is a great to catch more of the meaning of the original text.

Some people really, really, really get in a fuss over Bible translations. Most of them say the KJV is the only translation. It was written in Greek and Hebrew, not English. If anyone should be rooting for a version it should be the original text. There’s nothing wrong with KJV, if you can read it, use it. I find it hard to understand and I just don’t talk that way. Those who claim it is the only translation lose more than just my support when you take into account that written in English. Only 27% of the world even speaks English and how many of those folks can actually read it? KJV Only is a very narrow minded, America-centered belief. So enjoy the version of your choice.

That being said. There is a difference between a Bible translation and a Bible paraphrase. The Message is great, but it’s a paraphrase, a restatement of the original text in different words. Paraphrases are best saved for light devotional reading, not for scripture study. You want a translation for that.

Step Two: Read the Bible

I hate reading the Bible. Just sitting and reading it like you would a novel… just knock me in the head. If you can read it like that more power to you. I wish I was more like you. If you’ve ever held your Bible, ready to read but said, “I don’t know what to read?” Then you know where I’m coming from. I have to study it to make it worthwhile to me. There’s nothing wrong with lite reading, but it’s just not my thing.

If you’re new to the Bible I suggest starting with the book of John. It’s a gospel, a story, of the life of Christ. It’s not the most detailed (there are a total of four gospels, each telling the story from different perspectives and different authors) but it’s has a good even coverage of Jesus’ life, miracles, teachings, death and resurrection. In the old days they would tell new believers, “Read the Red and Pray for the Power!” The red parts are Jesus’ words. When I was a kid I thought the black words were bad, like the lava game you play on the sidewalk. I was dumb.

For those looking to start in scripture study, I suggest going a book at a time. Ruth is a fun place to start. Using the techniques mentioned in the previous two articles you can really get a lot out of the story when read from beginning to end. Jonah is also a great one. You’ll feel like you’ve gotten the Special Edition DVD Extras once you’re done reading the whole story. Each scripture has meaning within the chapter. Each chapter has meaning within the context of the book. Read through three or four or more times. Read each time in one sitting. Read it until it’s in your head a bit. Like trying to memorize a phone number.

Step Three: Find the Meaning

Once you’ve plowed through the text a few times you’ll start to get an idea of the book’s Theme. What is it saying overall? Who wrote it? Who’s it written to? What was the purpose? (Most of this can be found in the text itself) Write that down. It doesn’t have to be perfect, you’ll change it as you go along.

Within the book there are Chapters and paragraphs. But there are segments before that. They’re not written in… but you can find them when you’ve become familiar with the book. Especially in Ruth, which reads a bit like a story book. There are different parts that happen then something else happens. Or one topic is spoken of, then the next. Write those down as well in your own words. Write the chapter and verse for each segment. Keep in mind that Chapters and Verses weren’t in the original text and though they are often good guides for the beginner, they are not always exactly in the right place.

Find your own title for each Chapter. Write that down. What is each chapter talking about, saying, communicating. Keeping all of this within the context of the section and the book.

Then we read through each scripture. With the theme of the book in mind, the section it is located in, the chapter and it’s title, the text becomes much easier to interpret and derive meaning from.

Step Four: Life Application

At this point you will naturally have gleaned many bits from the text that have challenged, inspired or completely devastated you. It’s natural. Write these ideas and thoughts down. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. To challenge the text. Along with the things that you pick up while studying naturally, you will also want to go through the text and make observations on the verses as we’ve said in previous articles. What is the verse itself saying without any outside influences. It’s a great way to shake off any false faith you may have. Stuff that’s just not Gospel but we think it is. I believe that if what I believe isn’t applicable anywhere in the world at any time, it’s not the Gospel.

The Bible works on us in several ways. There is the automatic fruit of the Spirit which grows when we read and obey the Word of God (Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control). But it’s not all automatic. Most of it we have to apply ourselves to our own life. I realized recently that for years I’ve been under this misconception that reading the Bible, praying and going to church would magically transform me into the Christian I was supposed to be. So passive. It’s all God, no personal responsibility required. Though I believe that God is the potter and he is shaping us and molding us I also believe we have to do the things the Bible says for us to do. If God is a potter and we are the clay, obedience (faithfulness) keeps us on the potter’s wheel and our willingness (and humility) keep us soft and pliable. Just as I believe we can hinder God’s work in our lives through sin, we enable God’s work in our lives when we make the choice to obey God’s word.

So let’s not be like the guy who looks in the mirror, sees his hair is screwed up and then walks away forgetting to do anything to fix it. There is the stuff only God can do, but I am coming to understand that God has told us what he wants from us, we need to do it and he will enable us as we make the attempt.

Earlier I wrote that having the desire to study scripture isn’t required. I don’t really enjoy the process. I’m not a scholar. But there is a bit of a thrill when you find the connections between chapters, or a truth you didn’t see before, or even better when a truth you already know takes on a deeper meaning. It’s even more thrilling when you see the meaning you’ve placed in your head, and because of your understanding had gotten into your heart, seeing it affect your thoughts, feelings and actions.

If you’re going to make disciples you’ve got to be one yourself. Discipling someone else is you literally duplicating your spiritual life into someone else. That’s why our own spiritual lives have to be in order. It may be fine for us… but is it ready for duplication?

Quick Life Application Exercise

We’re going to break all the rules now and do a super quick life application exercise based on 1 Corinthians 13:4-5. I’ve removed the word “Love” from the text and will ask you to add your name in it’s place. Read the text with your name and ask yourself if it is true in your life.

_____ is patient, ____ is kind and is not jealous; ____ does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; ____ does not seek his/her own, and is not easily provoked to anger, and does not keep score on who did what. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5


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