We have looked at the first two steps in how to study the Bible: observation, and interpretation.
Here we come to the third and final step in personal Bible study.
This is where we ask that all-important question: “How does it work?”
Application involves four steps: know, relate, meditate, and practice.
You know, many of us Christians are like poor photographs:
–overexposed and underdeveloped—
This is why the step of application is so vital: God wants His truth to transform your life!
So, let’s look into four keys to application:
1. The first step in application is to Know the truth
Never forget, the application is always built on the interpretation
Therefore, if the interpretation is wrong — the application is wrong!
Also, never forgive the principle—there is one interpretation with many applications.
So, if that’s true, I want to make sure that my interpretation is “dead on” accurate.
Otherwise, I’m going to make an incorrect and sometimes even heretical application.
Let me give you an example: snake handling Pentecostals misinterpret Mark Chapter 16 and end up in heresy.
2. The second key is to relate the truth to life.
We all know the verse in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “therefore, if any man be in Christ he is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold, all things are become new.”
So, I want to ask—how do I relate this truth to my marriage, to my family?
I had one Minister tell me he had completely stopped sinning!!
I wanted to say, “I’d sure like 5 minutes with your wife and kids.”
My friend, if your Christianity doesn’t work in your home—it doesn’t work!
That’s the ultimate testing place- where I can tell whether or not I have the real deal.
What about my work?
We probably spend more time at work than we do with our families.
Many times here, Christians are totally silent.
What they fail to understand is that your work is part of your ministry!
God wants us to be salt and light—invading the marketplace and effectively representing Jesus Christ.
How does this relate to my life in the church?
How does this relate to my own personal life?
But then don’t forget, there is a third key:
you not only need to know the truth;
you not only need to relate the truth to your personal life, but,
3. You also need to meditate on the truth.
That’s why our foundation verse in Joshua 1:8 was given:
Let’s read it again:
Joshua 1:8 King James Version (KJV)
8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
Do you want prosperity?
Do you want significance?
Do you want meaning and purpose in your life?
Joshua said that the key is mastery of the Word of God, and it comes by meditating on the Word of God.
Psalm 1:1-3 King James Version (KJV)
1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the unGodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
The Psalmist said:
Psalm 119:97 King James Version (KJV)
97 O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.
These passages are filled with the command to meditate on the word of God day and night.
( Oh, by the way, that’s one reason you want to memorize Scripture, so that you may have it readily available to you to think about and meditate on.)
When you need it in the time of crisis or in the time of temptation—it will be there for you–you’ve got it!
And let me remind you, that when massively tempted by the devil, Jesus said what?
“It is written.”
He went straight to the Word!
Where did every one of His statements come from? From the Book of Deuteronomy.
Let me ask you something: if your spiritual life depended on your knowledge of the book of Deuteronomy—how well would you do?
4. The last key and the most transforming one is practice the truth
Ask God to help you apply these truths today!
But like the old warning—don’t ask God for patience, unless you are prepared for what’s coming! Because He’ll take you very seriously.
I sometimes have people ask me, “Why did this happen to me?”
And I’ll simply ask one question: “How are you praying?”
“Well, I prayed, Lord, use my life and everything in it.”
Well, that’s exactly what He’s doing and when He begins to work—we wonder what in the world He’s doing!
God will give you opportunities. That’s why it’s so exciting to live in this day and age—
For never before in history has this world, our country needed what we have more.
We have innumerable opportunity’s to put to use what we’re learning in the society in which we live.
So, we’ve learned the importance of application and we’ve learned four keys—
- We want to know the truth,
- We want to relate the truth,
- We want to meditate the truth, until
- We begin to practice the truth.
Now with that as a backdrop—let me give you some important questions to ask that will help you in the process of application.
1. Is there an example to follow?
Jot down 1 Corinthians 11:1—where Paul tells us, “Follow me, as I follow Christ.”
The first time I saw that I thought “Yeah, right.”
“Nobody needs to follow my example.”
Folks, whether you know it or not, understand it or not, they are following you—your mate, your children, the people in your church, the people at your work, they are all watching your example.
So, when you come to a passage-ask yourself—is this an example for me—positive or negative?
There’s a second one:
2. Is there a sin to avoid?
In Ephesians 5, Paul tells me to love my wife as Christ loved the church. Every single day I have to ask, “am I doing that?”
See, this word, all of it, needs to be the primary motivation of my life.
3. Is there a promise to claim?
See the thrill in following the lord is that what he promises—he provides!
- “I will never leave you, nor forsake you”
- “I can do all things through Christ”
- “My God shall supply all my needs”
As we claim these promises—God proves himself faithful.
4. Is there a prayer to repeat?
I’m not talking here about “vain repetition”—but taking the prayers of Scripture and making them yours.
Much as we did with the disciple’s prayer in Matthew 6.
The other I like is the true Lord’s Prayer which is found in John 17.
Another prayer many have prayed—the Prayer of Jabez in I Chronicles 4:10.
In each of these cases, I am learning what he tells me to pray, but also, listening to Christ as he prays to the Father.
What an opportunity!
5. Fifthly, Is there a command to obey?
The Bible is full of commands and when you come to the application sections in the word, such as Romans 12-16, and Galatians 5-6, Ephesians 4-6, or Colossians3-4?
Study those! Take your pen and underline each command given to you.
6. The sixth question is this—Is there a condition to meet?
For example, in John 15:7 it says:
7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
That word “if” is so important. God has a condition, doesn’t He?
Then you have to ask yourself, what does it mean to abide?—it simply means to obey!
7. Number 7 – –Is there a condition to meet?
Is there a passage to memorize? We all know Acts 2: 38, but what about Joshua 1: 8? What about Psalm 1, or Isaiah 53, or John 14?
I have to tell you, having been in Church all my life and a Christian for 25 years now, one of my deepest regrets is that I haven’t memorized more Scripture.
Some of the greatest victories in your life will come from Scripture you have memorized.
When the crisis comes, it will be those passages that carry you through.
They become working capital exactly because you have them memorized.
But, we can’t use them if they aren’t there; if we haven’t memorized them.
I’ll also tell you, do it now!
Drill this into your kids.
Not only will it carry them through life, but, as we get older, it becomes harder.
Things you learn leak out faster than before.
8. And the last question I want to give you, as regards Application is this: Is there a challenge to follow?
Let’s look at a challenge.
Ezra 7:10 King James Version (KJV)
10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
Let’s begin by getting the big picture of Ezra.
It falls into two divisions: Ezra 1-6 and Ezra 7-11.
In between is a 58-year time gap. What happened?
Well, what was happening were some of the most important events in Greek history; the Battle of Salamis, the Battle of Thermopylae that determined the entire future of the Greek Empire.
All of this is passed over in silence in Ezra. Why?
Why is it missing?
Because the most important thing happening during those 58 years was that God was preparing a man—that man was Ezra!
Ezra became one of the most important men in the history of Israel!
In the first 6 chapters, we have the re-building of the Temple under Zerubbabel.
But, in Chapters 7-11 we have the re-building of the people, and it took a real man of God with clear-cut objectives to pull that off.
This is why Ezra 7:10 begins with the little connective “For.”
“For Ezra had prepared his heart”—this is the explanation. This is the secret of his success.
But, what does it mean to “prepare” one’s heart?
I’m sure many of you have been asked—particularly if you are in the ministry—“Are you prepared for this?”
And, many would say: “Well, I went to Bible college.”
“I read a book. I was mentored by someone.”
Whatever it may be.
But, let’s look at the preparation God gave to Ezra—which I believe He wants to give to us.
Ezra 7:10 King James Version (KJV)
10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments
If you look in the text, you’ll find that there are three main verbs: Seek, Do, and Teach.
Let’s put those together.
First, Ezra prepared his heart to Seek the Law, that is to study the Scriptures. See, that was his preparation.
He’s doing what we are talking about in this series—he’s studying the Scriptures.
All he had was a portion of the Old Testament—but, what he had, he studied!
We must always keep in mind: You cannot impart what you do not possess. If you don’t have it, you can’t give it!
And it takes time—it takes work—it takes discipline!
And that’s what the Spirit of God is teaching us, is that Ezra was a man willing to pay the price.
See, it’s not available in a bargain basement sale.
It will cost you if you really want a ministry that has impact.
But, notice, he doesn’t stop with simply knowing something.
Because the second verse tells us he not only prepared his heart to see the Word of God—But also to DO the Word of God.
His PREPARATION is followed by his PRACTICE.
Many Christians, oftentimes, know a great deal about the Bible.
That’s all well and good.
But, the real question is: do you live it? Do you practice it?
Because you and I live in a day where people are not so much asking: “is this true?” but rather, “Does this work?”
“What difference does this make in your life?”
“I hear what you’re saying—it sounds good—but, does it work?”
And that’s why Scripture was given—not to satisfy our intellect—but, to transform our lives!
But, don’t miss the next verb—That’s why many of you are listening –you’ve got that passion.
Ezra prepared his heart—not only to SEEK the Law of God—not only to DO the Law of God—but, also to TEACH the Law of God.
His Preparation was clear!
His Practice was consistent!
But, his Passion was to communicate that truth to others!
After all, if you know the Word of God and it is transforming your life, it’s too good to keep; you want to share it with every person you know so that they too can enjoy these fabulous truths.
So! Put these three together and you get the whole picture.
You show me someone who knows the Word and who is doing the Word and I’ll show you a person imminently capable of communicating the Word of God to others.
The ultimate test of your communication is not simply the impartation of facts but, rather the transformation of lives.
So, we apply it to ourselves first and then to others!
Implementing Personal Bible Study
The final question we want to ask in this series on Personal Bible study is:
“Now what?” or “Where do we go from here?”
I’m sure at this stage you have a lot of good intentions, a lot of hopes; but, ultimately, it all boils down to this: “What are you going to do about it?”
So, I want to leave you with three practical steps to help you implement what we have learned together in these sessions.
#1—First of all, make a quality decision to establish a regular program of personal Bible study.
I made that decision in my second year of Bible College.
Dr. Donald Vestal, Founder of the Bible College of which I am part told me—“Don’t study for a course, a paper or a message—study for a lifetime of ministry.”
I have never recovered from that admonition.
You have to make a quality decision! It’s a choice! Because
Your objective always determines your outcomes.
You achieve that for which you aim.
What you have got to do is set aside some time specifically dedicated to study—and keep it!
Oh, and by the way—don’t bite off more than you can chew! Take a small bite until you are capable of handling more.
Start small—I ask new believers this:
“Will you give me just 15 minutes every morning to study the Word and to pray?”
See, they’ve never done this before. They need to start small.
I know a lot of people who get motivated to study the Bible—so they come up with this grand program: “I’m going to study the Bible an hour a day!” and after two days—it’s gone!
An hour a day of Bible study is easy, and hardly enough—but, you don’t start there—start small with what you can handle and build up over time.
#2—Another suggestion I would like to make to you is this: Make a personal plan.
If you have decided to spend, say, 30 minutes a day with the Lord—how are you going to spend it?
I would suggest that you spend the first 20 minutes in Bible reading and study and the final 10 minutes in prayer.
And, do it regularly!
It’s better to have a shorter program of Bible study and be consistent with it.
If you miss it, you don’t get all stressed out—you haven’t lost your salvation!
Did you miss a day? It’s simply, “Sorry Lord, I’ll be back tomorrow,” And, you do it! Stay consistent.
Eventually, you come to a point where to miss out on your time with God is its own penalty—too much a penalty to pay!
You’ll miss it too much!
Your salvation doesn’t depend on it, but, your anointing and sanctification sure do!
You absolutely must have regular, dedicated time in the Word and in Prayer.
It’s a choice you make!
If it’s a question of discipline? The answer is simple: if you do it once, you can do it twice.
If you can do it twice, you can do it three times.
If you can do it three times, you can do it all week, and if you can do it a week—you can make it a habit.
Once you form a habit, it becomes permanent –something that will stay with you the rest of your life—it becomes a lifestyle.
#3—Here’s a third suggestion I’d like to give you.,
Human beings are social creatures—we crave companionship.
We meet for coffee.
We talk on the phone, chat, text, you name it.
Why not form a Bible study group?
Why not gather with your husband or wife or fellow brothers or sisters, people who share a similar passion for God and begin to meet together—once a week, once a month, whatever, for Bible study.
See, when you meet together as a team of two or three or more—you motivate each other and keep each other accountable.
God will meet you there and show you wondrous things out of His Word.
One of the greatest weaknesses in many Christian lives is an absolute lack of accountability. No one they are submitted to; No one that loves them enough to ask them the hard questions.
I remember mentors in the past, who would corner me and say: “What are you studying? Are you in the Word?” and I would be forced to admit “No I am not.” or “Not nearly enough.” And I was ashamed to admit that!
Some would often say, “Why don’t we meet together and we can help each other stay on track.” A group or a buddy system really helps make a difference.
Those who have college experience already know the power and benefits of a study group!
Finally, one of the things you need to do occasionally is evaluate the process.
Three things I like to ask in any evaluation is:
- What are the strengths in what I am doing?
- What are the weaknesses? And
- What do I need to change?
Don’t forget Church! Be there every time the doors are open.
Maybe with your spouse.
A small group of friends.
A fellow minister.
Whatever the constituency of your group—you have a small group of people who share a passion for the things of God and who are seeking to be changed by the Word.
I cannot think of anything I would encourage you more than this: Don’t just get in the Word—Let the Word get into you!
And get ready to watch the transformation of your life through that Word by the power of the Spirit!