Monday, May 21, 2018

Applying the Word

A teacher told her students to clear off their desks and get ready for the test. One girl said, “I didn’t know we were having a test today.” The teacher said, “I told the whole class yesterday.” “But you didn’t tell me!”

When we fail to make personal application of an inclusive statement we are the ones who suffer the loss of the benefits of that statement.

Watch people drive and you realize, though all of them know the rules of the road, many feel somehow exempt from obeying them. A stop sign doesn’t necessarily mean stop. The speed limit is a suggested speed. Not texting while driving applies to others, not them.

For some reason we have a disconnect between general statements and whether those statements apply to us. Rules are simply guidelines and not absolutes.

A man, after putting the finishing touches on a fresh concrete driveway, went inside to enjoy a glass of lemonade when his little neighbor boy walked across the new driveway. He yelled at the boy. His wife said, “Why did you yell at him? I thought you liked little boys.” “I like little boys in the abstract, I just don’t like them in the concrete.”

That’s like Linus saying, “I love mankind; it’s the people I can’t stand!”

The Bible is full of broad, inclusive commands and promises that are true of everyone. But though they include everyone, they are intended to be applied individually.

Like an antibiotic cream that can cure skin infections, but must be applied to your infection to do you any good. Or like filling a prescription your doctor gave you but not taking it to get its benefits.

Ex 12:22-23 You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning. For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you.

Truth: Blood on the lintel and doorposts will protect you from the death angel passing by. But it you don’t apply it, you won’t get the advantage of that truth.

Jonah 3:4-6 Then Jonah began to go through the city one day's walk; and he cried out and said, "Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown." Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes.

Reached – apply – touched – the moment when the general message became specific to their lives. What God said affects me.

Neh 8:2-9 Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of men and women, those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law. Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, "Amen, Amen!" while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading. Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, "This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep." For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law.

Key: they were reading (or listening) with understanding. They understood what God said applied to them.

Pro 4:7 The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; And with all your acquiring, get understanding.
Wisdom – knowledge
Understanding – insight
I know what it says. What do I do with it?

When I was growing up I was told to read the Bible for knowledge, don’t mark in the Bible, don’t throw the Bible. I remember the moment I first understood something in the Bible. I was reading the Prodigal Son Story in Luke 15 and suddenly I had this insight: we’re all prodigals. We’ve all wandered away from God. Then it hit me: I’m a prodigal. It was my first experience of applying Scripture to my own life.

Apply: make personal – taking truths and fitting them into our lives. If God said…how then shall I live?

Apply means we intentionally connect what the Bible says with what that means to us. We choose to close the gap between hearing truth and doing what it says.

James 1:22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
Delude: to convince ourselves to believe a lie – that what we hear has no bearing on our personal lives.

An older lady went out the door one Sunday and said to her pastor, “That was a wonderful sermon, Pastor. Everything you said applies to someone I know.”

James 1:25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

Vs. 22 – plural          vs. 25 – singular

In Scripture, God will make a statement which is true of everyone, then touch us with the insight that that truth is for us. Here is a word for everyone. What are you going to do about it?

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
World – all-inclusive       Whoever – specific individuals

Because God so loved the whole world, He made salvation available to all, but only those who accept the gift will get the gift. Which means the general statement is true but to benefit by it requires personal response. I must place my name into the promise.

John 8:2-12 Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees *brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?" They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, "Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more."
Speculation: Context: without sin. So, He wrote something relative to sins. Then, likely, wrote their names beside each one they had committed.

Vs. 12 Then Jesus again spoke to them [crowd], saying, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life."

Spoke to them, is plural, the one following me, he, is singular. The general invitation became a personal invitation. I provide the way out of darkness. Want out of the darkness? You, come follow Me.

John 8:30-32 As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him. So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."

Speaking to all who believed with a general invitation, but knowing all who believed will not take the steps toward this freedom by continuing in His word.

The promise of freedom is real, but only with the application of that promise does it become real in each one’s life.

John 8:43 Why do you not understand what I am saying? [Answer] Because you cannot hear My word.

Understand – where’s your insight?

Hear – doesn’t mean they cannot receive the sounds of His voice but will not receive the message of what He’s saying.

Literal idea: Swindoll: "My Word makes no progress in you." Has no effect on you. The seed of the word that has been scattered into your heart is bearing no fruit. You are not applying what I say to your life. You are not letting My Word touch you.

Why did Jesus touch so many people? To make His healing specific.

Mat 8:3 Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

Mat 8:15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she got up and waited on Him.

Mat 20:34 Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.

Luke 4:40 While the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on each one of them, He was healing them. [Healing all He had touched.]

He could have healed all within a certain radius. But by His touch He was applying His healing power to meet specific needs.

Touching made His ability to heal personal. It turned the promise that all who come to Him can be healed, into a message that when they come to Him they will be healed.

In high school, my Algebra teacher said the process was as important as getting the right answer. So she graded the answer and how we got to that answer. We read Scripture and know the answer. What’s the process for that answer becoming our answer?

Seek to understand: 
  1. Is this a general statement true to everyone or is it localized to a unique time and place in the past? [Some laws no longer apply.]
  2. If it is a general statement for everyone, can I change the pronouns from plural to singular and make it a statement for me?
  3. If I make this statement personal, what must I do differently in my life if for this truth to touch my need? How do I do this word?
  4. Why would I want to do this? Is my ultimate desire to honor God by doing His Word or am I just wanting Him to fix a problem? If all I want is just the benefit and not the benefactor, I should not count on the benefit.
  5. What if I do nothing?

This is not an exercise in gaining some kind of religious blessing. It is trusting in the privilege of God’s word accomplishing in our lives what He has sent it to accomplish.

What is behind this privilege? God has called me to trust Him specifically. But if I don’t, I will be refusing my ultimate help and may end up with greater needs than the one that started the whole process.

To find out if an inclusive Scripture has a personal application to me, I must ask:
  • Do I sense God is speaking to me through this verse?
  • Is there something in this verse that connects with my need?
  • Is there a promise to accept?
  • Is there a sin to avoid?
  • Is there a lie to deny?
  • Is there a hope to hang onto?
  • Is there a change required?
  • Is there something I must do for the promise to be enacted in my situation?

When God touches me with His Word, He often takes a general statement and makes it a specific message for me. When He does, that message becomes my personal word to cling to, rely on, hope in and count on.

  1. A promise in Scripture remains true whether we accept it or not.
  2. If we accept it, the advantages it claims become ours and we can count on them.
  3. If we reject it, the advantages remain true but we gain no benefit from them.
  4. Applying Scripture to our lives begins with believing what God said holds a personal message to us today.
  5. When we apply Scripture, we invite God to touch us personally with the benefits of what He has promised.

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