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Mable did not grow up in a Christian home. During her first year of college, she learned of Christ’s salvation. Recently she turned thirty, and though it’s been eleven years since God saved her, there has been no transformation in a significant way. She has gained knowledge about the Bible, but transformation by the Bible has been challenging. Mable is learning there is a disconnect between acquiring and applying knowledge, which keeps her from maturing in wisdom.
A basic definition of wisdom is knowledge applied. Knowledge without application can lead to arrogance (1 Corinthians 8:1-2), while application without knowledge can lead to foolishness (Proverbs 14:1). Mable knows much about God’s Word, but she has not been able to apply it transformationally. I would not say she is arrogant, though, but she is frustrated. Mable wants to change; she is sincere, but she does not know how to do it.
This tension point is where the Bible excels; it teaches us how to change (read Psalm 119). It does this because God designed it to do precisely what Mable craves. The Bible is the only divinely given, authoritative book that teaches humans how to find restoration from the inside out. The Bible speaks clearly to all the problems in life (2 Peter 1:3–4) because it is the soul book.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16–17).
The more technical term for the Bible is the psychology book. The word “psyche” means soul, and the word “logos” refers to the study of the soul or the word concerning the soul. God is the Creator of the soul (Genesis 2:7), and He is the Creator of the Word for the soul (2 Timothy 3:16–17). He breathed into man, and man became animated. Years later, He breathed into other men, and we now have God’s inspired Word, which teaches us how to be right with Him, as well as how to overcome our fallenness.
We have the perfect psychology book because it contains God’s words. But here is the problem: Mable has not learned how to profit from the Word of God. She is stuck. The situation in view here is not the ineffectiveness of the Bible but what is going on in Mable’s mind and life that keeps her from being mastered by the Bible. Who would have thought the most popular book ever written, probably the most undervalued and mocked book ever written, has the most transparent and accurate answers to humanity’s problems.
But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man (John 2:24–25).
Many people read their Bibles every day, but there is a difference between reading the Bible and mastering it. The implication here is that we should be doing more than reading it daily. The way for God’s Word to master us is to know how to connect God’s Word to what is inside of us. We must know ourselves (psyche) and God’s Word (logos) and make the appropriate connections. Understanding the soul is where Jesus becomes Exhibit A on how to do this.
He was a master at applying the Word of God to His life (as well as to the lives of others). You see His ability to do this in the last two verses of John, chapter two. The context was Jesus talking to a few Jews about destroying the temple and His eventual resurrection. These Jews were trying to trick Him. As the conversation was winding down in verses 18-22, John gives a commentary on the conversation Jesus was having with the Jews when he reveals why Jesus did not entrust Himself to them.
John said Jesus did not entrust Himself to them because He knew “what was in man.” Did you see that? Jesus’s inside knowledge is incredible. Christ knew exactly what to say and do because He knew what was in those tricky people. Jesus knew individuals because He understood the Bible (the soul book), and He understood how to apply the Bible to the human condition—the souls of men (Luke 2:42).
Having this kind of inside information is your goal: understanding what is in you to change. We can be similar to Jesus in knowledge and practice. The art of discipleship is taking the Bible and applying it to humanity. Because of God’s favor on our lives and by the Spirit’s enabling, we possess all we need (soul book) to figure out the human condition (soul) while bringing solutions to it (2 Peter 1:3–4).
Without pressing the matter to its most technical conclusion, we are “little psychologists,” so to speak. The illuminating and empowering Spirit of God in us (1 Corinthians 2:14) never leaves us in the dark about what to do with our problems (or the problems of others). It is possible to learn how to master God’s Word and for it to master us. Scriptures are clear, after regeneration (John 3:7), we are to grow up (1 Peter 2:2) into Christlikeness (Hebrews 5:12–14).
Mable was not connecting these dots, which her inability to make the appropriate application to her life demonstrated. She had been to numerous Bible studies and diligently read the Bible for eleven years, but a personal transformation was not happening. Knowing and applying the Bible is the difference between heaven and hell, life and death, and maturity and immaturity. Jesus and Mable are the same, as far as being fully human and fully capable. But His ability to understand and apply the Word of God was more transformative.
The most effective Christians are those who have a rich understanding of God’s Word and the ability to apply it accurately to themselves and others. The Word of God and the Spirit of God give us this extraordinary perception and power. This kind of understanding of God’s Book is what released Jesus to speak powerfully and authoritatively into the lives of others.
This twofold gift is why some of the things Jesus said seemed so off the wall. He functioned with greater insight and clarity than most people in His day. You see an illustration of this when He talked to Nicodemus about being born again. His statements completely flabbergasted Nicodemus. The educated Pharisee even asked in response, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4).
Nick knew a lot about the Bible—like Mable, but he did not understand the Bible the way he could have understood it. What appeared odd to him was perfect psychology to Jesus because He knew what was in man: He understood Himself and others.
For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of Spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:12–13).
If you can figure out yourself and bring biblical clarity to your life, you will not have difficulty figuring out and helping others. Each of us comes from the same Adamic human cloth. You do not need to know seven billion different people, nor every malady known to man. You only need to know what’s in you, and the Bible is the book that will accurately give you that information. The Bible is clear, concise, insightful, and essential for sorting things out.
The problem is never a lack of understanding when you examine life through the lens of the Word of God. Nobody is beyond the scope of the Bible’s insight and clarity. Nobody is opaque when viewed through an open Bible, and the Spirit’s light shines on the soul. The problem always exists when we do not want to do what the Bible plainly teaches us to do. Think about yourself. Has there been a time when God gave you clarity through His Word, but you chose not to respond to it (Luke 18:23)? I have done this many times.
But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 5:14).
Here are five simple things that will help you to become a master of the Word of God. If you practice these things, you will have greater insight into people, especially you. In time you will become mastered by the Word of God. Be warned: it will take work, and if you’re not willing to do this kind of heavy lifting, you will not change.
As you make this simple way of studying God’s Word part of your regular practice, you can also add memorization to your daily habits. If the Word of God is what it says it is, what better thing can you do than put it in your brain? Do you need inspiration for memorization? If so, let me ask, “Do you want to stop sinning?” Try this verse on for size: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).
As mysterious as the Bible can be to some people, it is not that complicated to bring soul change, but it takes work. Though you will never fully mine it or fully understand its content, you can find what you need to change. The real question becomes whether you want to put in the effort to change. If you are willing to open your life up to the probing of the Spirit of God and the Word of God, then James says there is something good for you.
“[God] gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded (James 4:6b-8).
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