Believers today are bombarded with different Bible Study strategies and plans. And it can be confusing! But there's only one method that leads to real life transformation--and learning that method should be our top priority. In this week's memo I'll tell you more about it...
Transformational StudyBy Dan Vis
May 14, 2018
Most Christians recognize the importance of study, and in most congregations, believers are encouraged to spend regular time in the Bible. We're urged to imitate the Bereans, who "received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily" (Acts 17:11These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.). And we all try, with one degree of consistency or another.
Our desire to grow in the Word is complicated by the fact there are multiple methods for taking in Scripture. These include listening to sermons, filling out study guides, simple Bible reading, in-depth study, Scripture memorization, and more. Each is both biblical and valid.
Bible study methods can be further categorized into inductive and deductive approaches. And there are specific strategies for passage studies, topical studies, biographical studies, and word studies, to name just a few. In fact, we at FAST have an entire course, called Mighty in the Word, devoted to teaching study methods.
Throw in the impact of our modern day information explosion, and we sometimes feel like we are drowning in a virtual sea of websites, ebooks, videos, sermons, commentaries, and more. A lifetime is barely long enough to even scratch the surface!
What's a believer to do?
One Thing Is NeededI want to let you in on a secret. Each of these study methods and strategies and resources have their place. Learning a new approach keeps our time in the Word interesting, and can lead to fresh insights we might otherwise miss. But there's only one skill you need to experience true life transformation--and that's learning to make personal application.
Or to put it differently, what you do with the information you glean is far more important than how you get it.
Learning to connect Scripture to one's personal life has been at the core of our training at FAST for decades. The process of going from the points of a passage, to its principles, and ultimately to specific projects (a plan of action) is essential if we are ever to grow into a mature disciple. Furthermore, a failure to apply Scripture personally can seriously undermine our witness to others.
Learn this skill successfully, first, and it will enrich every other approach after. You can make applications from the sermons you listen to, the devotional book you read, the study guides you fill out, the verses you memorize. Everything becomes richer and more exciting when you learn to connect Scripture to your daily life!
And the converse is also true. Without good mastery of the art of application, every other study approach will be impoverished. A wealth of information may be coming in, but until it is made personal and practical, it remains theoretical. Don't we all know someone with plenty of Bible knowledge, but not much of a Christlike character?
Four Reasons for ApplicationI'd like to suggest 4 reasons learning to make personal applications should be given priority focus in our life:
1) Application unleashes the Holy Spirit in our life. The Bible is clear that the work of the Holy Spirit is to bring conviction to our hearts (John 16:8And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:). And often our heart burns within us when we study. But if we fail to act on those impressions, we risk dulling the voice of the Spirit. According to Acts 5:32And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him., the Holy Spirit is given to those who obey God. If you want more of the Spirit, focus more on obedience.
2) Application leads to spiritual insights. Many think the ability to interpret Scripture is a function of intellect or theological training. But the Bible makes it clear, it's actually a function of personal obedience. Jesus made it clear we will know the truth, if we will simply focus on doing His will (John 7:17If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.). Similarly, James warns that those who are mere hearers, and not doers of the Word, risk ending up being deceived (James 1:22But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.). In my experience teaching others, it's rarely the complexity of the Bible that trips people up--it is almost always rooted in an unwillingness to do what God asks.
3) Application can direct your study. The Bible actually gives important instruction on what study topics to avoid, and which to pursue. When Paul urged Timothy to become a skilled Bible worker, he wrapped the call to study with verses before and after about the kind of study to avoid (II Timothy 2:14-1614 Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. 15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.). Verses like II Timothy 2:23But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. and Titus 3:9But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. give even more specific counsel. Learning the areas of your life God wants to work on most, and then focusing in on those specific areas gives direction and purpose to your study. Or as Solomon put it, "much study" (ie, information without action) is a "weariness of the flesh" (Ecclesiastes 12:12And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.).
4) Application leads to transformation. Actually, that's the purpose of Bible study. In speaking to the disciples, Jesus promised continuing in the Word would make them free (John 8:32And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.). Later, He described them as clean through His Word (John 15:3Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.). And His prayer was that ultimately they would be fully sanctified by the Word (John 17:17Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.). The Bible is all about change! But that process requires the Word to be translated into action. Information may change our thinking, but application changes our choices, actions, habits, and ultimately our character. Regardless of the method used to glean biblical insights, if it is not further connected to one's daily life in terms of practical, concrete steps of action--there will be little real life change.
ConclusionThere are countless methods for studying the Bible, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Like keys on a key chain, each can open a different lock. But what matters more is what we do with the information we acquire. Learning the art of application should be our top priority.
Focus your efforts, first, on learning the skills required to discover the points of a passage, to draw out its principles, and ultimately to develop projects for personal implementation. It will enrich every other approach to Bible study and unleash the Holy Spirit in our life, to give insights, direction, and true change.
What's needed most today, is true transformational study!
CommentsHow important is it to you to study the Bible for life application? Do you find creating projects easy or hard? What tips can you suggest for making Bible study more transformative?
|Posted by Dan Vis on 11/15/22|
|Thanks Colette for your spot on comment. That's what the Bible was given for, that we might have life... That means, it's about how we live! :)
And your applications are excellent!
|Posted by Colette Guthrie on 11/14/22|
|It's super important to study the Bible with a focus on life application because the whole purpose of the book is transformation. As much as it's a history book, a geography book, a science book, a poetry book, it's primarily a book geared at communicating a lifestyle. John 17:3And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
Creating projects has gotten much easier for me since doing a Fast Bible Intensive (FBI). I highly recommend them.💯
|Posted by Dan Vis on 06/09/21|
|Sounds great Qing! See if you can get it to me in the next couple weeks. And thanks for the reminder. I probably need to pick up that book from Amazon!|
|Posted by Qing Ling on 06/09/21|
|Dan yes sure can do that memo.
The triad thing makes me think of that book transformational discipleship we talked about before. Many principles aligned with FAST's method of discipleship.
|Posted by Dan Vis on 06/08/21|
|I'm hoping to run AWE later this year as a live training event. Might bring it back then as it does make a good case for the importance of application. Thanks for the encouragement. Always surprising to see you reading these miscellaneous old posts Qing! :)
But I was super intrigued by your "application triad", and found the idea fascinating. Any chance you could write up a memo on that, perhaps for our big community month in July? I have three articles already, just need one more. And this would be perfect. As I'll probably be doing AWE sometime around then also...
Let me know if it's a possibility. I think this is one of the best ideas I've heard of in a long time...
|Posted by Dan Vis on 05/18/18|
|Great quote Pam, I've used that many times in seminars I've done. So important. And as for blood circulation, it's amazing what a good run on the treadmill can do for you!|
|Posted by Pamela Kendall on 05/16/18|
|Very good point and illustrations Dan and Dan about the easy chair vs the garden/yard work - we don't receive the Spirit (at least not as much of it) in our easy chairs and we don't receive it until we get up and apply what God has already taught us... it reminds me of the following quote:
Only those who are living up to the light they have will receive greater light. Unless we are daily advancing in the exemplification of the active Christian virtues, we shall not recognize the manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the latter rain. It may be falling on hearts all around us, but we shall not discern or receive it. TM 507.1
The life is in the blood ( Leviticus 17:11For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. ) and the blood circulation becomes sluggish when we are sedentary. When we are moving the muscles hasten the circulation and the circulation responds to the increased need of the muscles for oxygen so God's word and his Spirit are our spiritual life blood ( John 6:63It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. ) but their most powerful affect is realized when we are moving and working in God's service. When we are working we recognize our need better so we are more likely to pray for his aid and God's Spirit responds to supply the increased demand by supplying fresh insights and fresh power for application and service.
|Posted by Dan Vis on 05/16/18|
|Great way of thinking about Galatians 5:25If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Dan. Have been doing a big bunch of yardwork this week pulling up shrubs and things. Definitely requires more power than sitting in my office. :)|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 05/15/18|
|What a beautiful word picture you drew Pam, both of the sculpting and the mountain climbing. So much can't wait for heaven!
And great point Ann about knowledge without action actually being dangerous and even potentially fatal. James 4:17Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. is a powerful verse on this point indeed!
|Posted by Ann Lavenburg on 05/15/18|
|Knowledge is next to useless if we don't put it into practice in our daily lives. Actually it is downright dangerous and eventually fatal to our spiritual experience James 4:17Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin., if we don't work at incorporating it. I am thankful that God is patient and helps us grow, not expecting instant maturity in everything immediately. He gives knowledge to us little by little and repeats and enlarges it as we accept and apply it to our lives Isaiah 28:10For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:. It took Moses 40 years to unlearn the "wisdom" of Egypt. So there is hope for us!|
|Posted by Pamela Kendall on 05/15/18|
|Sally I like this line from what you shared:
"Transformation sounds like a big thing but it’s made up of the little things we do and the smallest choices we make along life’s road."
It is true, every choice brings us one step closer or one step further from Jesus. When we choose Jesus in the smallest choices, each choice of faith is us saying "Yes, Lord, add another "brush stroke" in to your painting"... where he paints us into his image... or like giving him permission for another little move of the chisel or another little impression on the lump of clay transforming us step by step into the masterpiece, removing the defects and perfecting ( Jeremiah 18:4And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. ) the sculpture into the form and character of Jesus. With each choice we can here Jesus asking us the question of Jeremiah 18:6O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. "Can I do with you like the potter works the clay? Will you let me make another little correction?" Jesus is the master potter, the master artist... we can trust him to change us for he makes no mistakes and stroke he makes and every move of the chisel is for a beautiful purpose... he is making a beautiful vessel out of us... it is something we can't even imagine, but if we trust him, he will bring it to pass. Psalms 37:5Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. It is so fun to watch a video of an artist painting a picture... each stroke makes the picture stand out more and more... you don't always see at first the purpose of the particular color they are using but, wow... with time it becomes incredible. It is amazing to watch the picture come alive. Jesus is making us "come alive" step by step transforming us into the image of Jesus each time we act in faith to apply his living word through the power of the Holy Spirit. John 6:63It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. ; II Corinthians 3:18But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
I also love your point about God not showing us more things to change than we can handle... reminds me of I Corinthians 10:13There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. - he doesn't give us more than we can bear but leads us step by step and reveals a little more and a little more day by day. If we saw the whole giant mountain to climb we might give up in despair thinking it is way to hard but if we take one step at a time with Jesus looking at him instead of at the mountain we will one day look back and see that he helped us climb to the very top - we shall awake (in heaven) and find to our shock that he has transformed us fully into the likeness of Jesus! Psalms 17:15As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.
|Posted by Dan Vis on 05/15/18|
|I'm gradually beginning to understand that promoting a class is mostly educating people about our need for what the class teaches. So combining introductory content in these articles with more focused, step by step, training in a class makes sense.
And I'm hoping to make the little blue boxes a regular feature. It goes right in line with this week's topic. Every time we learn something we should do some action. IE: Take the Next Step.
And love how you use Psalms 34:8O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.. Guess I hadn't thought about that verse in quite in this way! It puts a really optimistic, positive spin on the principle.
PS. We won't be focusing too much on Time Management in this class Qing, though I do hope to expand our Rocket/Life Focus classes at some point in to a big 30 day program like the BMC... Some day!
|Posted by Qing Ling on 05/15/18|
|Dan thanks for the extra verses that are so relevant. a few new ones for me there.
I really like this topic, Dan. Great little teaser leading up to AWE. love your new little blue box at the end of your memos too. I can really see FAST Missions getting more intentional and focussed, pulling everything together in the one direction. AWEsome! ;)
Yup, application has got to be the powerful key driving the success of any FAST student. Each of the challenges in all the FAST study guides are so straight-forward and easy to follow, it's hard to fail unless one simply doesn't make time for it.
When I spend time in the Word and draw out a principle, I can't say I find it hard to create projects. MAKING time in the day to ACTION the project i've got in mind is where my biggest challenge is. Looking forward to AWE to see if I can finally have a breakthrough with my inconsistent time management.
I like John 7:17If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. - haven't noticed that verse in this context before. Makes me think of Psalms 34:8O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him., one of my favourite verses for challenging people to find out for themselves if God is real or not. And once they find God, they're sure to fall in love with Him. Much like once we actually ACTION a lesson learnt in the bible, we are sure to gain the blessing from it!
|Posted by Suzi Woods on 05/14/18|
|We must learn to live the word!! Thank you for all the tips and reasons for application!|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 05/14/18|
|Thanks for the birthday wishes! I think this is the earliest one I've gotten yet Carole! That's an admirable desire to let God lead even in what you read and study, and to focus on the areas He wants you to focus on. Good post!
You are so right Pam about the Spirit wanting to soften our hearts rather than see it hardened. I am quite sure God withholds insights from us because we are not quite prepared to receive it. (John 16:12I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now., I Corinthians 3:2I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.). I can only imagine the light God would shower on us if our whole heart was set to pursue His will...
PS. AWE shouldn't be too hard. The goal is to make it so simple anyone can start finding applications in a matter of 10 or 15 minutes tops. Just like with the Memory Challenge, what counts most is what happens after the course is over!
|Posted by Dan Vis on 05/14/18|
|Glad you enjoyed this Mary Alice! Make sure you sign up for AWE if you haven't already!
Wow Leslie! That's a beautiful testimony and exactly what we've tried to do. I've always said there's nothing special about our lessons except they help connect people to something special (the Bible).
I hadn't really thought about FAST in terms of quick to learn because it's simple--but that too definitely resonates with our goals! Thanks so much.
|Posted by Mary Alice Holz on 05/14/18|
|This is awesome! Well put, Dan. Thank you for this timely devotion this morning. I have been truly blessed.|
|Posted by Dan Vis on 05/14/18|
|Great verses Dan, and I agree completely. All the knowledge in the world is of little value without practical application. Great post!
Such a blessing to be able to give a word in season to those who are weary, isn't it Lynn? (Isaiah 50:4The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.) The more we develop our ability to apply the word correctly, the more effectively we can counsel others. Without personal experience, any advice we give is just theory.
And yes, I'm also super excited about AWE also!
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