Editor’s Note:

The purpose of this series is to help Christians think through the doctrine of Scripture and provide practical guidance on not only how to read the Bible but to deal with objections and attacks on the Bible.

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Last Monday I started a five part series on how to hear, read and study the Bible. In the first post I looked at the importance of hearing and studying the Bible for our spiritual growth. Last Tuesday I gave you a few practical tips on how to study God’s Word. Last Wed, I looked at the importance of memorizing and meditating on God’s Word. Last Friday we learned how to mediate on the Word of God and the person and work of Jesus Christ. Today we’ll wrap up this brief series by looking at applying God’s Word– Benefits and Methods.

Applying God’s Word- Benefits and Methods

The Bible promises the blessing of God on those who apply the Word of God to one’s daily life. The classic New Covenant statement on the value of integrating the spiritual with the concrete is James 1:22-25: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” Pithy and powerful is Jesus’ similar statement in John 13:17, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

These verses teach that there can be a delusion in hearing God’s Word. Without minimizing the sufficiency of Scripture nor the power of the Holy Spirit to work through even the most casual brush with the Bible, we can frequently be deluded about Scripture’s impact on our lives. According to James, we can experience God’s truth so powerfully that what the Lord wants us to do becomes as plain as our face in the morning mirror. If we do not apply the truth as we meet it, we delude ourselves by thinking we have gained practical value, regardless of how wonderful the experience of discovering the truth has been. The one who will be blessed in what he does is the one who does what Scripture says.

For someone to be blessed in what he does is the equivalent of the promises of blessing, success and prosperity given in Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:1-3 to those who meditate on God’s Word. That’s because meditation should ultimately lead to application. When God instructed Joshua to meditate on His word day and night, He told him the purpose for meditating was “so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” The promise “then you will be prosperous and successful” would be fulfilled, not as the result of meditation only, but as God’s blessing upon meditation-forged application.

The Lord wants you to be a doer of the Word. One should open the Bible with expectancy and anticipate the discovery of a practical response to the truth of God. It makes a big difference to come to the Bible with the faith that you will find an application for it as opposed to believing you won’t. Thomas Watson was called the nursing mother of the gigantic evangelical divines, and encouraged anticipation about application when he said, “Take every word as spoken to yourselves. When the word thunders against sin, think thus: “God means my sins” when it presents any duty, “God intends me in this.” Many put off Scripture from themselves, as if it only concerned those who lived in the time when it was written but if you intend to profit by the Word bring it home to yourselves, since medicine will do no good, unless it be applied.

Because of God’s inspiration of Scripture, believe that what you are reading was meant for you as well as for the first recipient of the message. Without that attitude you’ll rarely perceive the application of the passage of Scripture to your personal situation. Meditation is not an end in itself. Deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities of Scripture is the key to putting them into practice. It is by means of meditating on the Bible that facts are fleshed out into practical application.

If one reads, hears or studies God’s Word without meditating on it, no wonder “applying Scripture to concrete situations” is difficult. Perhaps we could even train a parrot to memorize every verse of Scripture that we do, but if we don’t apply those verses to life, they won’t be of much lasting value to us or the parrot. How does the Word memorized become the Word applied? It happens through meditation.

Most information, even biblical information, flows through our minds like water through a sieve. There’s usually so much information come in each day and it comes in so quickly that we retain very little. When we meditate the truth remains and percolates. We can smell its aroma more fully and taste it better. As it brews in our brain the insights come. The heart is heated by meditation and cold truth is melted into passionate action.

Psalm 119:15, “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” It was through meditation on God’s Word that the psalmist discerned how to regard God’s ways for living, that is, how to be a doer of them. The way to determine how any Scripture applies to the concrete situations of life is to meditate on that Scripture.

Asking questions is one of the ways to meditate. The more questions you ask and answer about a verse of Scripture the more you will understand it and the more clearly you will see how it applies. Here are some examples of this: Does this text reveal something I should believe about God? Does this text reveal something I should praise or thank or trust God for? Does this text reveal something I should pray about for myself or others? Does this text reveal something I should have a new attitude about? Does this text reveal something I should make a decision about? Does this text reveal something I should do for the sake of Christ, others or myself? There are times when a verse of Scripture will have such evident application for your life that it will virtually jump off the page and plead with you to do what it says. More often than not, however, you must interview the verse, patiently asking questions of it until a down-to-earth response becomes clear.

Respond specifically to Scripture. An encounter with God through His Word should result in at least one specific response. After you have concluded your time of Bible intake you should be able to name at least one definite response you have made or will make to what you have encountered. That response may be an explicit act of faith, worship, praise, thanksgiving or prayer. It may take the form of asking someone’s forgiveness or speaking a word of encouragement. The response may involve the forsaking of sin or showing an act of love. Regardless of the nature of that response, consciously commit yourself to at least one action to take following the intake of God’s Word.

A Final Thought

Will you begin a plan of memorizing God’s Word? If you’ve been a Christian very long you’ve probably memorized more Scripture than you realize. Will you cultivate the discipline of meditating on God’s Word? Occasional Godward thoughts are not meditation. William Bridge said, “A man may think on God every day and meditate on God, no day.” God calls His people throughout the Scriptures to develop the practice of dwelling on Him in our thoughts. When you consider what the Scriptures say about meditation and when you weight the testimonies of some of the most godly men and women of Church history, the importance and value of Christian meditation for progress in Christian growth is undeniable.

Will you prove yourself an applier of the Word? You have read many verses from the Word of God in this series on reading and studying the Bible. What will you do in response to these passages of Scripture? The discipline of Bible intake, especially the discipline of applying God’s Word will often be difficult. The great difficulty in applying the Bible is the opposition to it. Dr. J.I. Packer said this:

“If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folk from digging into the Bible. Knowing that it is the Word of God, teaching men to know and love and serve the God of the Word, I should do all I could to surround it with the spiritual equivalent of pits, thorn hedges and man traps, to frighten people off. At all costs I should want to keep them from using their minds in a disciplined way to get the measure of its message.”

Now that you have learned to read and study the Bible in this series, are you now willing at all costs, to use your mind in a disciplined way to feed on the Word of God for the purpose of godliness? If your answer to that question is yes, then you are ready to grow in the knowledge of the Word of God and the Gospel of God since, “Nobody ever outgrows scripture; the Book widens and deepens with our years” (Charles Spurgeon, The Talking Book, Volume 17, Sermon #1017– Proverbs 6:22).