Answering this question—why should we apply the Bible?—is almost like explaining why lovers should kiss or why children should open birthday presents. Good things delight the soul, and true delight can’t be captured in a numbered list. There’s something magical and beautiful here, and I wish I could simply say, “It’s more fun than a prepaid Amazon shopping spree,” and be done with it.
But this important question warrants at least a few concrete answers. Too much rides on it.
1. Apply the Bible because you know God.
Your allegiance to the lover of your soul prevents you from continuing in old habits, values, or patterns of thinking. “Now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more” (Gal 4:9)?
2. Apply the Bible because God knows you.
He knew you before you ever knew him, and he vowed to make you more like Jesus. “Those whom [God] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom 8:29).
3. Apply the Bible because you are free from sin.
You’re not stuck in the old way of doing things. You don’t have to keep hurting yourself and the people you love. You’re free to do what God wants you to do, which is always the best thing you could do. “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (Rom 6:17-18).
4. Apply the Bible because you are a Christian.
A static life is inconsistent with true faith. According to 1 John, you’ll know you have eternal life by three pieces of evidence: confessing Christ, loving others, and keeping God’s commandments. These pieces of evidence don’t mandate sinlessness—John expects us to repent often and be forgiven (1 John 1:8-2:2)—but they mean that our lives should change over time to reflect what God wants for us.
“By this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:3-6)
Many people know these four truths, but still struggle to apply the Bible to their lives. For those who simply don’t know how, there’s a way to get started. For those who can’t find the motivation, something more is needed.
I saw that “something” illustrated a few years ago when I attended a marriage conference taught by Paul Tripp, author of What Did You Expect? Tripp spoke the word of God powerfully, and he paved the road of application with dozens of vivid personal stories. Few stories made him look good; most were about his epic failures as a husband. During a break, I overheard an attendee ask Tripp how he could be so frank and vulnerable in public, and his answer captured the essence of good Bible application: “Jesus died for me, so I have nothing left to prove.” Here was a man living and leading others as though he really believed Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Here’s the magic. Here’s the beauty. God offers you your freedom. He knows you better than you know yourself, and he’ll make you more useful than you dreamed possible. He wants what’s best for you, and he makes his best available to you. You have nothing left to prove, so you’re free to admit you were wrong and try something else.
Jesus often answered a question with a question, and I want to be like him, so ask me why you should apply the Bible, and I’ll ask you why on earth you would want to stay the same.
Question: What motivates you to apply the Bible to your life?
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