March 3, 2014

Deeper Still: Application

I remember driving in my car a couple years ago re-listening to an old favorite conference-message-series-thing from Lauren Chandler, when she asked a question that caught my attention:
"How can I put feet to this?"
Essentially, this is the question we ask when it comes to the next step of studying scripture (application): How do I put feet to what I've just read and studied? How does this apply to my life or this season of life I'm in? 

This is where change and transformation happen.

Here's the thing, there's really no such thing as useless Bible knowledge. However, there is such a thing as a broke down application process (and wrong motivation as well); ineffective utilization does happen. What we observe and what we interpret is much like the gathering of evidence, facts, and ideas; it's harvesting. Wisdom is having the ability to take knowledge and act upon it. It's the application process; the taking of the fruits of harvest and using them to nourish ourselves.

Howard and William Hendricks break down the application process into four important portions:
  1. Know the text and know yourself (1 Timothy 4:16). Hopefully we come to know the text through the previous two steps, observation and interpretation. Now we have to know ourselves, because all to often we come to scripture foggy... not sure what kind of nourishment we need (not want, need). The Hendricks offer up this tip: list your assets, then your liabilities. Assets are what God has already done in and for you; liabilities are what God needs to grow in you... what you struggle with. This is where a gospel-church community can be of help, because most of us would still struggle to list these on our own. 
  2. Relate it to experience and grow. Scripture is supposed to transform us. It's of no help to read scripture and then keep repeating the same sin patterns, instead of repenting. That's faulty application. We also need to be relating to Jesus and growing in our affection through Him, because scripture that doesn't feed that relationship is again, faulty application. We read scripture to deepen and relate to Christ. 
  3. Meditate. Think of ways to "weave scripture into the fabric" of your life. That could play out in a myriad of creative ways.
  4. Practice! Put action (or feet) to the truth that you read somewhere in your life. 
Once we combine these four principles of application, then we can examine what we've read and prayerfully ask and answer these questions:
  • Can I follow this example? In reading, we come across many people in the Bible: Is there something about them (some character quality) that I can look to as an example and reflect in my own life? For instance, I love how Abigail is such an example that I can look to in learning and practicing humility and discernment.
  • Is there a sin I need to repent of or a command I need to obey? Remember, some commands are clear-cut and still in place in the New Testament, others (many levitical laws) Christ fulfilled at the cross and we no longer practice.
  • Is there a promise for me here? The Bible doesn't promise you'll be healthy or wealthy, but God does promise us many other things, like He will never leave us, that He is faithful, that He is good, He is compassionate... and many more, which we can take comfort and assurance in.
  • Is there a verse here I can memorize or mediate on?
  • Is there an error to correct? Have we been replacing truth with lies? Or is there some theology framework that I need to reconstruct (i.e. what do I need to re-align my thinking with)?
  • Is there something I need to do? This applies to our strengthening, encouraging, healing, and reconciling of our other relationships. We may need to apologize and ask for forgiveness from someone we hurt. God may be calling us to encourage or help someone in need in a very practical way. Do I need to give thanks and praise God for something in my life that just occurred? On and on the list could go.

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