How often do Christians interact with the Bible? Forget the inspirational bookmarks and proof texts—let’s count substantial encounters.
For Christians who regularly attend church, belong to a Bible study, and maintain a personal devotional life, they consult the Bible 5–10 times each week.
Now the uncomfortable question: How many of those encounters with Scripture produce lasting change?
You don’t need an advanced degree to see that the lives of Christians—our lives—rarely carry the fragrance of Christ (2 Cor 2:15). If the Bible has as much power as it claims, why is this?
Why We Resist Change
But application is hard! Much as we don’t like to admit it, we’re fond of our sin. We have the powerful Spirit of God within us, but the flesh is formidable. The world and the devil also sling their arrows, leaving us battle-weary most days.
We’re also ignorant of our sin at times. We have serious blind spots, and we need the help God provides through Christian community.
Further, we lack imagination to change. Sometimes we’ve been walking in a deep, muddy trench for so long we can’t envision life in the nearby meadow. We can’t picture ourselves taking that risk or loving that difficult person.
Why We Must Apply the Bible
But if we don’t carry on to application, we’re fools. That’s what Jesus calls us.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24–27)
And James says that we can know the truth and yet be deceived if we don’t apply it.
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. (James 1:22–25)
We show our love for Jesus by keeping his commandments (John 14:15). And God sent the Spirit to be our Helper in this effort (John 14:16–17). We must apply the Bible.
How to Apply the Bible
We have many articles at Knowable Word on applying the Bible. Here, I’ll mention four strategies to help your application stick.
Be specific. Peter has written about this in detail, but it’s worth repeating. Vague goals and resolutions won’t take you far. If you want to produce real change, list the necessary steps and make your progress measurable.
Be realistic. Your goals should stretch you, but consider your starting place when you set them. Aiming for a four-minute mile isn’t the wisest approach, especially for the out-of-shape father with angry knees.
Enlist help. We need community to apply the Bible. Tell your friends what God is teaching you and how he is leading you to change. Ask them for counsel. Ask them to pray, and encourage them to follow up.
Remember Jesus. The biggest need you have in applying the Bible is not self-control. It isn’t discipline or accountability or time. It’s Jesus. He welcomes all who come to him, whether for the first time or the ten thousandth. Stand as a child of God on the finished work of Christ, and apply the Bible with confidence in his love for you.