Applying the Bible (Part 2)

In our prior feature lesson we started talking about the need to apply the things we learn from God's word in our lives everyday. When studying a passage of Scripture, we need to be asking ourselves: "What do these truths mean for my life?" We must remember that we don't study God's word merely to acquire knowledge. We study the Bible so that we may put into practice what we learn! It's not good enough to be a hearer and not a doer (James 1:22), but that's all you are if you don't personally make the effort to implement God's truth in your life.

Our lesson today is the conclusion to our previous feature lesson. In regards to any moral issue, the first step in making a proper decision is to possess a thorough knowledge of God's word. But, proper knowledge alone will not always lead to the correct action unless the individual is fully committed to the Lord's way. People often know that something is wrong, but they, through weakness, give in to their lusts anyway. If we possess a thorough knowledge of God's word then we will be equipped to make the proper decision. We introduced seven questions that we should ask ourselves when we're faced with a moral issue and we're trying to determine what we should do. Let us review those questions at this time:

  1. Am I commanded not to do this?
  2. Is this of the world?
  3. Will this be a spiritual burden for me?
  4. Is there any doubt in my mind as to whether this is right?
  5. Could this become a stumbling block to someone else?
  6. Is this a form of evil?
  7. Will this cause me to be conformed to the world?

Regardless of the moral issue you are contemplating, if you answer any of those questions with a "yes," then you can know with certainty that you should not participate in the action under consideration. However, answering all of those questions with a "no" does not automatically mean that the action is proper for a Christian. We're going to consider thirteen other questions at this time for a total of twenty. If you ask yourself these questions every time you make a moral decision--and answer them honestly--you should be confident that you have ascertained the proper or best course of action. But, admittedly, you may as well not even bother with these questions if you've already got your mind made up as to what you're going to do, regardless of what God says in His word. That is definitely not the proper attitude to have, but some have sadly adopted such a disposition nonetheless.

That being said, on to the questions! Please realize there is much that could be said regarding any of these questions, but, since we're looking at thirteen of them, I'm not going to spend a great deal of time on any of them. For most points I'll try to mention one example of a moral issue that relates to the question. It should be understood that there are thousands of moral issues that could apply to any of these questions, but it is up to you to make the application. These principles apply to any moral question for any person. The examples I will mention in this lesson are ones that I know are relevant to many in general, perhaps even to you.

8. Would Jesus do this?
Several years ago there were bracelets that sprung up everywhere with the inscription: WWJD (what would Jesus do?). That question is always a good one to ask. As Paul wrote in I Corinthians 11:1 - "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." Paul labored at imitating the Lord, so certainly he asked himself regarding moral issues: "Would Jesus do this?" In our fast-paced world, there may be times when you are tempted to drive your vehicle above the speed limit because you are late, but don't give in to that temptation! What would Jesus do? Well, I assure you He certainly wouldn't break the law by speeding if He was behind the wheel. He would subject Himself to the laws of the land (Rom. 13:1). Friends, if the action under consideration won't help me follow in the steps of Jesus, why should I be involved in it? I Peter 2:21 teaches - "For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving for us an example, that you should follow His steps."

9. Can I do this knowing that the Holy Spirit dwells in me?
The Scriptures plainly teach that the Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian. Consider I Corinthians 6:19,20 - "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." If the action I'm considering doing is harmful to my body, then I know that I should abstain from it. Although society may have been ignorant in the past regarding the correlation between smoking and damage of the body, everyone is aware of it today. Can I rightfully smoke as a Christian? No, because this body is given to me by God and the Holy Spirit dwells in me. What right do I have to intentionally cause damage to my body by smoking? Christians who are enslaved to anything that is harmful to their health must realize that they can and must quit. It's ultimately just a matter of willpower. Do I have the willpower to quit even if it means suffering severe withdrawal symptoms for days or weeks? Am I willing to suffer immensely for doing the right thing? Jesus was willing to suffer in the flesh--are we?

10. Am I a good example of a believer when I do this?
As Paul said to Timothy - " an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (I Tim. 4:12). Not only should we be examples to the believers, but we should also be examples to the world! We need to let our lights shine that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16). Consider this: Am I a good example of a believer when I use profanity? If I take the Lord's name in vain or tell an off-colored joke, am I being the good example the Lord desires me to be?

11. Would I want my children to do this?
Solomon once wrote - "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6). If we are endeavoring to train our children properly, we won't tell them one thing and then hypocritically do something else ourselves. For instance, how consistent is it to tell a teenager that he can't watch an "R" rated movie because of the sexual content and then we later watch it ourselves? That doesn't make any sense at all! If something is inappropriate for our teens to put into their minds, why is it appropriate for us to do so? Jesus wants us to be pure and innocent like children (Matt. 18:4). Children don't need to see movies that are tainted with sexual innuendo and vulgarity. Adults who are trying to live as faithful Christians don't need to be ingesting such filth either.

12. When Jesus returns, would I want to be found doing this?
I John 2:28 declares - "And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming." There are going to be some Christians who will be ashamed when the Lord returns. They'll be ashamed because of what they'll be found doing at the time. They'll be ashamed because they'll be found unfaithful. I've often wondered if Jesus will return while Christians are assembling for worship (at least in some part of the world). What would a Christian be able to tell his Lord if he decided to skip the assembly to entertain family, friends, or to just stay home to watch television? What would the Lord think about such priorities?

13. Will this make me a better Christian?
Everyday we should strive to improve ourselves spiritually. Thus, we shouldn't do anything that drags us in the wrong direction. When the day is almost over and you haven't had the chance to read the paper or your Bible, which one will make you a better Christian? When you've got the opportunity to spend money on things you don't really need or give the money to the Lord's work, which one will make you a better Christian? We need to use our time, talents, and resources to the best of our ability. II Peter 1:5-8 instructs us how to become better Christians - "But also for this reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."

14. Will this please God?
The question ought not to be: "What do I want to do?" or "What would bring me pleasure?" As Christians, we are God's slaves and should be concerned with what would please Him (cf. Rom. 6:22). Slaves live to serve their master! They don't live to seek their own satisfaction. Is God your Master? There are many things in life that are pleasurable, but some of them are sinful! Enjoying a sexual relationship inside the context of marriage is right and good, but committing adultery is iniquity (Heb. 13:4). We must endeavor to find pleasure in those things that please God. Merely because I enjoy something doesn't mean that God is pleased.

15. Will this help me set my mind on things commanded in the Bible?
Philippians 4:8 reads - "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things." Paul is pretty plain in telling us the things we should be thinking about. What kind of things are you putting into your mind? Are you feeding your brain good, wholesome things to think about or are you filling it with worldliness, lust, and pride? What kind of books do you read and what kind of programs do you watch on television?

16. Is this a wise thing to do?
There are some things in life that are not necessarily wrong for a Christian to do, but they definitely aren't wise. We should strive to acquire wisdom from above (cf. James 3:17) and live in accordance with that wisdom. For example, is it wrong to stay up exceedingly late on Saturday night? No, but it's not a wise thing for a Christian to do. Why not? Well, a faithful Christian will desire to not only attend Bible study and worship with his brethren but also be well-rested so he can concentrate as he praises God and tries to grow in knowledge and understanding.

17. Will this help me remain holy?
Children of God are commanded to be holy because God is holy (I Pet. 1:16). If I participate in something that I'm considering, is it going to help me remain pure and separate from the world, or will it cause me to become more worldly in my actions and way of thinking? For instance, although there is nothing intrinsically wrong with watching a ball game, doing such in a bar is not likely to help me remain holy and committed to Christ.

18. Will this help me place the kingdom of God first in my life and show that Christ is the Lord of my life?
Jesus taught in Matthew 6:33 - "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." Let's say you are offered a job promotion that provides more pay and benefits, but you will be required to work all day almost every Sunday. Will you take the promotion? The question to ask yourself is this: "Will being away from the assembly on Sundays really help me put God's kingdom first in my life?" No, it won't. I need to be gathering with the saints for worship and edification more than I need an increase in income and the prestige of a promotion. Remember, serving God needs to come before serving ourselves.

19. Can I do this to the glory of God?
The apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 10:31 - "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." Whatever it is you are considering, will doing it bring glory to God Almighty? Can a Christian drink alcoholic beverages to God's glory? I don't believe so, and neither did Solomon - "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise" (Prov. 20:1).

20. Can I do this in the name of the Lord?
"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him" (Col. 3:17). To do something in the name of the Lord means to do it by His authority. We should always ask ourselves whether or not the Bible gives us the authority or the right to engage in a certain practice. For example, do I have the right to pray to Mary? Some so affirm, but where is the biblical authority for it? To go beyond the authority of God's word is to be presumptuous and to assume that God will accept my actions simply because I desire to do something.

Now that we've considered the twenty questions, I want to encourage you again to seriously consider your life--are the things you say and do proper for a Christian? Thoughtfully and prayerfully ask these twenty questions and be willing to accept your conclusions. Always be honest with yourself and true to God's word. If you go through these questions and ascertain that the activity being contemplated is not something you should be doing, then don't do it! Even if you have a strong desire to do it or perhaps have been doing it for years, if you conclude that you should abstain from the action in question, then apply God's word and don't engage in the activity!

Let us always remember that the goal of Bible study must be knowledge and application. It is impossible to apply what you don't know, and it is pointless to have knowledge that you're unwilling to put into practice. We must meditate in the word so we can obey it. We must have respect for the Bible, but respecting it is not enough! We must study the Bible, but studying it is not enough! We must believe that the Bible is true, but believing it is not enough! It is only by putting God's word into practice in our lives that we can experience its power and blessings. We must be doers of the word!

Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.