It is easy to open the bible, read a passage, keep going with whatever the day brings and not take the time to meditate on the Word at all. This is a choice we make. We either skim read the Bible or we meditate on it. We either we move closer to God, become more Christlike, or we kid ourselves that we have done what we need to do for the day. Bible reading box ticked.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” James 1:22-25
Do we walk past the mirror and forget immediately what we look like? It’s a good question James asks his readers.
Do we read God’s Word, immediately forget what God is saying and do nothing with it? This is a good question to ask ourselves!
The attitude of ‘not listening and not doing’ is something James warns us about in his epistle.
There are clear commands contained in these verses:
Do not only listen to the Word.
Do what the Word says.
And there is a clear blessing in verse 25 if we heed these commands:
Whoever looks at the word and does what it says will be blessed.
David Mathis (in an article for Desiring God) wrote about the process God wants us to experience when we read His Word:
‘This is the pathway to flourishing we catch a glimpse of in the old covenant in — meditation, then application, then blessing: ‘This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.’ Joshua 1:8 When Bible reading first aims at astonishment (meditation and worship), it works first on our hearts and changes our person, which then prepares us for application, and application to God’s blessing: ‘your way [will be] prosperous, and then you will have good success.’ So applying God’s words to our lives is not only an effect of his grace to us, but also a means of his ongoing grace.’
In her book “Disciplines of a Godly Woman”, Barbara Hughes states that ‘Knowledge without application is lethal.’ Hughes goes on to talk about how applying God’s Word is the key to contentment – a state of being we should all seek after, strive for. ‘But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.’ 1 Timothy 6:6-7
She continues, ‘Knowledge without application is one of the greatest dangers in the Christian community – following close behind a loss of confidence in God’s Word. Knowledge for the sake of accumulated information leads only to pride and arrogance, both of which are the enemies of God. Applying our knowledge of God to our circumstances is the key to contentment… The rare jewel of Christian contentment will be yours when all that God is, and all that He has done in Christ Jesus fills your heart. We may lack many things in this world, but as godly women we must worth to develop the discipline of contentment. For this is God’s will in the Gospel.’
Applying the Word will look different for everyone. However it looks for you, it is an essential part of our Bible reading and meditation. Learning who God is and what He does for us is a constant reminder of how God’s grace plays out in our lives. Spending time using His Word will result in a continual outpouring of this grace. Listening to God’s Word centres us, reminds us of who we are created to be and most importantly pulls us back to His purpose and His plan.
Whether or not you apply God’s Word should probably come down to the questions: Do I want to flourish? Do I choose to become more Christlike in my behaviour and life?
Using words once again from David Mathis, ‘take every word as spoken to yourself, with this essential anchor in place: Seek to understand first how God’s words fell on the original hearers, and how it relates to Jesus’s person and work, and then bring them home to yourself. Expect application to your life as God speaks to us today through the Spirit-illumined understanding of what the inspired human author said to his original readers in the biblical text.’
Make the Scriptures yours. Use them in your daily life. See the extraordinary in the stories of people long ago. Relish and take in line-by-line the poetry written by God’s servants. It is God’s story written for you.
Application Questions: (Taken from a COMA Study by David Helm)
How does this passage challenge (or confirm) your understanding?
Is there some attitude you need to change?
How does this passage call on you to change the way you live?
How does this passage lead you to trust God and his promises in Jesus?
How is your situation similar to or different from those being addressed?