I run at least three Bible studies/Growth Groups every week. I think the hardest part is the ‘application’ part. We’ve studied a passage together, thought about what it means, and then we start discussing how this Bible text applies to us today. How should we change in light of this passage? What do I do now?
We face a few dangers at this ‘application’ point:
1) We run out of time, and don’t think about application at all!
2) We mis-apply the passage. For example, we think that Jesus telling his disciples to go out two-by-two, and not to take supplies, is how our church must do evangelism today.
3) We make general/vague application that won’t really change much. For example, “I think we should all just read our Bible and pray more…”
Reading the Bible carefully is hard work. Applying the Bible carefully is hard work. That’s okay – it’s worth the effort! But I thought in this blog post I would throw out one idea that might help at application time. We use it in almost all of the Bible studies I’m part of. It involves asking three basic questions.
i) First of all, we need to step back. Look again at the passage and ask this important question: What am I learning about God here? (By the way, I think this is THE most important question in Bible study).
ii) Secondly, consider whether this fact about God is still true today. How so?
iii) Finally, think about how to complete this sentence: “If this fact about God is still true today, how does this impact people now, and impact our relationship with him”.
That’s it. Pretty basic, but it just may help move the group discussion forward. So let’s try it out on a passage: Psalm 1.
i) What am I learning about God here? Well, Psalm 1 teaches me that God delights in those who do not walk in the company of sinners and mockers, but instead delight in his law/words. He offers such a person blessing and security because he is ‘watching over’ them. Those who reject God’s ways and God’s law will perish.
ii) Is this fact about God still true today? Yes, I think so. Jesus is just as clear that all people face a choice – we are for God or we are against him. In Mark 8:34-38 Jesus similarly outlines two paths before his hearers. And God still ‘watches over’ his people today – which doesn’t mean everything is smooth sailing! The rest of the Psalms and Jesus are honest about that. But he does offer them blessing and security in Jesus. Likewise, those who stand opposed to Jesus, those who reject and mock, still face God’s judgement in the end.
iii) Since this is still true, how does this impact people today and our relationship with God? Well, for God’s people, it means we find assurance in God’s ‘watching over’ us. When we suffer for doing God’s will, obeying his words and law, we need to see that God ‘watches’. He knows our situation, and he will put every wrong right. So we don’t need to take matters into our own hands and become vengeful. For non-Christians, they need to see that there is a very real choice to make. Psalm 1 motivates us to choose by outlining both the rewards as well as the dangers of rejecting God’s ways. As a church we should be honest both about the blessings for God’s people, as well as the dangers of rejecting God and his words.