Apply Truth Appropriately
Open Your Bible
2 Peter 1:3-8, 2 Peter 1:16-21, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, John 5:39-40
I used to think reading my Bible was about me.
When I was in junior high, I flung open my turquoise Student Study Bible any time I needed a pick me up or some friend advice. I wanted God’s Word to work like a vending machine—just punch in the right letters and numbers, and out pops a little something to satisfy my latest craving. To me, the Bible was full of moral lessons that were immediately useful and directly applicable to my current situation. Context or no context, I wanted everything in the Bible to be either about me, or a direct word to me.
Maybe this is why I arrived at adulthood with an involuntary cringe when the word “apply” was used in reference to the Bible. I have grown weary of extrapolating a pithy moral every time I close my Bible, like cracking open a fortune cookie after enjoying a plate of Kung Pao chicken. As I have grown in relationship with God, I’ve learned that a tidy takeaway isn’t what I’m really after anyway.
The Bible contains all we need to know for godly living, but we would be foolish to approach God’s Word looking only for how it applies to us, or others, and forgetting to find what it says about Him.
Read Romans 8:1–4 and ask yourself, “What does this mean?” and “What does this say about God?”
Another common mistake we make is to take well-known verses or phrases and apply them to people or situations out of context. Gordon Fee says in his book, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, “If you take things out of context enough, you can make almost any part of Scripture say anything you want it to. But at that moment you are no longer reading the Bible, you are abusing it.”
Look up the commonly misquoted or misunderstood verses below, and read them in context (with the verses before and after). For a better, more accurate understanding of what the text is saying, ask, “What does this mean?” instead of “What does this mean for me?”
The LORD will fight for you, and you must be quiet (Exodus 14:14).
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires (Psalm 37:4).
I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).
I admit, I still open my Bible some days seeking to find myself instead of Jesus. I want His Holy Word to serve me rather than rule me. It takes God’s grace to remember that applying His Word to our hearts is a work of the Holy Spirit, and that it must be applied appropriately. Let’s ask Him for that grace today through prayer.