On Sunday, we were encouraged by Paul to go to God’s Word when we’re going through the kind of hard times we’re experiencing right now. If you’re looking for a simple way to dig into the Scriptures, the Daily Boost written by the Harbor staff will help you apply a passage of the Bible every day (currently we’re in the Psalms). Our ultimate goal is to help you study, understand, and apply God’s word for yourself.
Here are four simple questions to ask about any passage you happen to be reading:
A. What does this teach me about God?
Does God speak in this passage? What does he say about himself? What do other people say about God? What pictures are used to describe God? What characteristics are most evident? God’s power? His love? His holiness?
B. What does this teach me about myself?
Does this passage condemn certain people? Does it praise certain people? What does it say about our weakness? Our foolishness? Our lack of knowledge? What does it say about the idols we worship (like security, comfort, prosperity)? What does it say about our superstitions? Our habits? Our culture? What does it say about our self-righteousness? Our legalism What does it say about our laziness? Our selfishness?
C. What does this teach me about the gospel?
The entire Bible is one long story of God’s grace overcoming our sin. That’s the gospel! The gospel is not just John 3:16, the gospel is the entire story of how God fulfilled his promises. He promised to send a savior, to rescue broken people, and to restore creation. He promised to rule with compassion and justice. And he has fulfilled all those promises! So there’s some aspect of the gospel you can find in every part of the Bible, you just have to dig a little bit to find it. There are three things you can look for to find the gospel.
- Look for God’s provision. The whole Bible is the story of God’s provision for his people. He provided animal skins for Adam and Eve. He provided a boat for Noah. He provided mana for the Israelites. He provided Queen Esther to save the Jews. He provided the Holy Spirit for the church. Most importantly, he provided his son for the world. Every part of the Bible tells us something about God’s provision.
- Look for God’s judgment. This is something we usually don’t like to think about. Many Christians avoid the Old Testament because they think it’s all about God’s judgment and the New Testament is all about God’s love. But guess who talked about hell more than anyone else in the Bible? Jesus! Because Jesus knew that the good news isn’t good if we don’t understand the bad news. We need to feel the weight of the bad news of God’s judgment before we can appreciate the good news of God’s grace. And God’s judgment is all through the Bible. It’s a crucial part of the gospel.
- Look for God’s grace. Every book of the Bible has some picture of God’s grace, especially during the worst parts of human history. Think about the story of David and Bathsheba.When many people read that story, they focus on what David should have done. He was at home when he should have been at war. He looked at an uncovered woman when he should have looked away. All of those things are true, but they aren’t the main part of the story. The main point is what happens after the sin: David is confronted by Nathan, and then he is forgiven by God! There are earthly consequences — David loses his baby — but he doesn’t lose his anointing. He doesn’t lose the Holy Spirit. God is the hero of that story because of his grace.
D. What does this call me to change?
Every verse of the Bible was written because there’s something God wanted to change. Something in the world, in your church, in your family, in your life, or in your heart. So when you read a passage, ask yourself, “What does God want to change?” Sometimes that’s easy to figure out. When God says, do not steal, he wants us to stop stealing. But that still doesn’t tell us how we will stop stealing.
So in order to faithfully understand and apply God’s word, take your answers to these four questions and put them in an equation:
(A – B) * C = D
You need to compare God to yourself. That’s the part of the equation where you subtract (A-B). This tells you what needs to change (D). But you can’t just take that bare knowledge and go to work on yourself. You might change for a little while, but it won’t last. If the Word convicts you that you need to stop doing something (yelling at your kids, gossiping about friends, looking at inappropriate websites, arguing with people on social media), you’ll feel bad and you’ll stop. But for how long? A month? A week?
You don’t have the power to change. You need the power of God to change! That’s the power of the gospel. Only God’s grace can bring lasting change. So that’s why you need to bring the gospel (C) into the equation. Until you’ve found all four parts of the equation in each passage you’re reading, the Bible won’t make much of a difference in your life.
Read your Bible with the goal of bringing lasting change, through the power of God’s grace.