4 Steps to Applying God’s Word

When it comes to the study of the Bible, we occasionally miss the important decision to apply the Scripture to our lives.  Sometimes it may be the result of a rebellious decision: “I don’t care what the Bible says, this is what I am going to do.”  Other times, though, and probably most times, we may not really know how to take what the Bible says and put it into practice.  So let me suggest these 4 steps to take as you hear sermons or attend Bible studies.                             

These ideas are based upon James 1:19-22, 19 My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, 20 for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. 21 Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and evil, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save you. 22 But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

1. Be a Good Listener.  James says to be “swift to hear.”  When the Bible is taught, preached, or read, we often miss what it means because of our short attention span.  In personal Bible study, don’t worry about how many verses you can read in a day.  Focus on how many verses you can assimilate or to which you can pay close attention.  James’ idea here is for us as believers to seize every opportunity to be exposed to and taught the Scripture.  So a part of being a good listener is prioritizing worship and discipleship.  We oftentimes are poor appliers of God’s Word because we haven’t made the commitment enough to learn God’s Word.  So to be a good listener means both to pay attention but also to prioritize chances for worship and discipleship.

2. Make the Bible Personal.  One of the key issues that prevents us from learning God’s Word is that we practice sin.  Think back to what Jesus did.  He obeyed the Father.  He submitted Himself to the Holy Spirit’s filling.  And He applied God’s Word to His temptations.  For us as believers, it demands that we take the Scripture and ask, “What does this verse say to me or about me?” This action is one of the reasons that many struggle with application.  It gets personal.  So ask yourself these questions:

            1. What does this passage teach me about God?
            2. What does this passage teach me about the church?
            3. What does this passage teach me about the world?
            4. What does this passage teach me about myself? About my own desires and motives?
            5. Does this passage require that I take action? If so, what action should I take?
            6. What do I need to confess and/or repent of?
            7. What have I learned from this passage that will help me to focus on God and strive for His glory

3. Keep Your Pride in Check.  The word received is actually the primary verb in these verses.  In other words, everything revolves around us receiving God’s Word.  The one character flaw that prevents us from receiving the Word and applying the Word is pride.  Have you ever heard a sermon and thought, “This sermon really applies to so-n-so,” when we ought to be realizing how it applies to us?  The word humble means gentleness or meekness.  W. E. Vine says that it is “that temper of spirit in which we accept His (God’s) dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting.”  To receive the Word means that you have a teachable spirit.  Since the Word is the implanted Word, it indicates that the Bible is like a seed that takes root in your heart and grows.  Pride leads us to be a know-it-all.  Humility proves to us that we still have much to learn. 

4. Practice What You Have Learned.  We are not just to hear God’s Word, but we are to be doers of God’s Word.  This step takes us back to obedience.  The only thing that keeps us from doing so is when we deceive ourselves into thinking that we either don’t need to do what God says or that it really doesn’t apply to our lives.  True application is far more than just Bible knowledge (which can lead to pride).  One of the ways that we know that the Holy Spirit has taken control of us is because we want to do what God says in His Word.  Application is doing.

Don’t be discouraged if you struggle at times with applying God’s Word.  If it was easy, everyone would do it joyfully.  But our flesh rebels against those verses that really do speak to us.  So don’t give and don’t quit.  Prioritize those times to learn God’s Word and always seek to make God’s Word personal.