One thing that every Christian could work on more would be the proper application of Scripture. If one desires to understand the Bible correctly and in turn apply it properly, then they need to labor through rigorous research and study concerning what God intended the human author of the text to say to the specific audience addressed and what it means. One cannot just replace every "you" in Scripture with his or her self and view what is being said as being directed to them. Such a practice would lead to some interesting decisions in one's life. We all have heard the story of someone who prayed that God would show them what they should do and opens his Bible first to Matthew 27:5 which states that Judas went away and hanged himself. Then he turns in his Bible to Luke 10:37, Go and do likewise. Neither one of those statements were directed specifically to him and his ignoring their context led to dangerous peril. The following are some helpful things to remember to aid you in discerning God's Word rightly.
The Bible is A Book About God
The very first thing we need to realize about Scripture is that it is not about us. The Bible does not tell us "our story" but "His story." It is the written revelation of God to humans. Through it, God shows us Who He is and what He has done. It communicates God's work of redemption through His Son's death on the cross, subsequent resurrection, and the new life and restoration that brings. It does not serve as a self help book that tells us every single decision that we should make. Too often we treat that Bible as some sort of magical talisman or an 8-ball. Such is the mistake the man in the example in the opening paragraph makes. We should not ask simply "what does this say I should do" but instead "where does my life fit in with this story?" "How am I the sinner spoken of who has offended the Holy God?" "What has Christ done so that I can worship God as He created man to do?" "How does the new life that Christ gives to those who trust in Him enable me to be obedient to His commands?" We cannot forget that the Bible is a book about God and our study of it basically then is a study of God and man's relationship towards Him. To ignore this truth would lead to several misapplications of what God says in His Word.
The Bible is a Book That Points to Jesus
Again, the Bible is not about us. It points to Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself acknowledged this. He stated that the Scriptures, referencing what we call the "Old Testament," testify about Me (John 5:39). The Law pointed to His coming in that He can be said to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17). He explained to the two men on the road to Emmaus the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures, again referencing the Old Testament (Luke 24:27). Paul says that all of the promises of God find their yes in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). Many passages that we try to apply to us actually apply to Christ. I love Matt Chandler's example of how several like to take the narrative of David defeating Goliath and make that out to convey that we can defeat the "giants" in our own lives. But we are not the point, Jesus is. David serves as a type of Christ; the one through whom the Messiah would come. It is about Jesus. We relate more to the cowering and fearful Israelites who did not have the nerve to stand up to the giant. We need to pay attention to how the Scriptures point to Christ to guard against misapplying something to ourselves that instead speaks of Him.
The Bible is a Book That Redirects Our Focus
David Powlison describes the Bible as "rescripting" our lives. He states, "Application today experiences how the Spirit 'rescripts' our lives by teaching us who God is and what He is doing." Our original focus revolves around ourselves. We are born viewing ourselves as the center of the universe. We think that everything is about us, we are okay, and we know what is right for us. There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death (Proverbs 16:25). If we are truly studying what Scripture says, it will move us away from ourselves and redirect us to God. It will show us that it is not about us but about Him. That we are God's and that He demands our obedience and not the other way around. It is through the Bible's doctrinal teachings about God and His work that shifts this perspective. This is why doctrine is so practical and necessary. Having the right focus leads us to living the right way. We cannot know how to please God unless we know Who He is and what pleases Him. Our spiritual growth comes from our growing knowledge about Christ. That is doctrine! Peter instructs us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Recognizing that the Bible is about God and centers on Christ can dramatically "rescript" our lives by redirecting our focus from ourselves and our ways to Christ and His ways.
The Bible is a Book That Has a Context
One of the biggest reasons for our misapplication of God's Word is our failure to examine the context. It was reported that when asked about the most important thing to take into account when studying Scripture, that Augustine said the following: "I answer three things: context, context, and context." We must always take into account the context of the passage studied to ensure that we do not misapply it. Our goal as Bible students always is to seek to understand the original inspired meaning of the original author's words. To do this necessitates that we take what is written in its historical context (when it was written), its cultural context (where it was written), its literary context (how it was written), its authorial context (why it was written), and the congregational context (whom it was written). Neglecting to examine such contexts will leave one without a fuller picture of what the text is teaching and then lost when it comes to the appropriate application of it. We need to thoroughly study these contexts so that we understand what the text is saying and what it means. We can't have a clear picture of what it means and its application in our lives without it.
To understand Scripture and properly apply it to our lives takes rigorous work and time. But it is well worth it if we truly desire to know God and live to glorify Him. We cannot know Him if we do not study His Word in its appropriate context and we can't glorify Him without first studying to know what glorifies Him. We also need the "rescripting" that Scripture does when studied in its original context to understand its original meaning. I encourage all who read this to strive, with the grace that God gives, to be better students of the Word. To labor, with the Spirit's guidance and direction, to seek to understand what He has said and what it means, so that you may love Him more and live to glorify Him.
Soli Deo Gloria!!!