To be mastered by the Bible you must do more than read it. Bible knowledge is great, but knowledge without appropriate application is futile. In this article, I’m going to give you five essential tips to be mastered by the Bible.
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Kathryn did not grow up in a Christian home. It was during her first year of college when 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 being transformed by the Bible has been a challenge for her.
There is a disconnect between gaining knowledge and applying knowledge, which is keeping Kathryn 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). Kathryn has knowledge, but she has not been able to apply it in ways that transform her.
I would not say she is arrogant, but she is frustrated. She wants to change, but she does not know how. And this is where the Bible excels; it teaches you how to change. It does this because that is what it was designed to do. (Read Psalm 119.)
The Bible speaks clearly to all the problems in life (2 Peter 1:3–4) because it is the soul book. The more technical term for the Bible is psychology book. The word “psyche” means soul, and the word “logos” refers to the study of the soul or the word concerning the soul. The Bible is the only divinely given, authoritative book that teaches humans how to be restored from the inside out, which begins by being reconciled to God.
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 several 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.
“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).
We have the perfect psychology book because it contains God’s words. But here is the problem: Kathryn has not learned how to profit from the Word of God. She is stuck. The problem in view here is not the ineffectiveness of the Bible but what is going on in Kathryn’s mind and life that keeps her from being mastered by the Bible.
Who would have thought the most popular book ever written, which is probably the most undervalued and mocked book ever written, has the clearest and most accurate answers to the problems of humanity.
- What do you think about the Bible?
- Do you believe the Bible is the clearest and most accurate tool you have to understand the human condition?
The implication here is that you should be doing more than reading it on a daily basis. Many people read their Bibles every day, but there is a difference between reading the Bible and being mastered by the Bible. The way to be mastered by the Bible is to know how to connect God’s Word to what is inside of you. Therefore, you must know yourself (psyche) and God’s Word (logos) and make the appropriate connections.
Know What Is in You
Knowing 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.
“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).
Here is the context. Jesus was having a conversation with some 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.
Jesus’ inside knowledge is incredible. Christ knew exactly what to say and what to do because He knew what was in man. Having this kind of inside information is your goal: to understand what is in you so that you can change. Jesus knew individuals because He understood the Bible (the soul book), and He understood how to apply the Bible to the human condition (or the soul of man) (Luke 2:42).
Become a Psychologist
You can be similar to Jesus in understanding and practice. He was a master psychologist. The art of discipleship, which is what Jesus did, is taking the Bible and applying it to humanity. Because of God’s favor on your life and by the Spirit’s enabling, you possess all you need (soul book) to figure out the human condition (soul), while bringing solutions to it (2 Peter 1:3–4). You are a little psychologist, so to speak.
The illuminating and empowering Spirit of God in you (1 Corinthians 2:14) never leaves you in the dark about what to do with your problems (or the problems of others). After regeneration (John 3:7), you can grow up (1 Peter 2:2) into Christlikeness (Hebrews 5:12–14). It is possible to learn how to master God’s Word and be mastered by it.
Kathryn was not connecting these dots, which her inability to make appropriate application to her life demonstrated. She had been to numerous Bible studies and had been diligently reading the Bible for eleven years, but personal transformation was not happening.
Jesus and Kathryn are the same, as far as being fully human. But His ability to understand and apply the Word of God was more transformative. Knowing and applying the Bible is the difference between heaven and hell, life and death, and maturity and immaturity. This kind of understanding of God’s Book is what released Jesus to speak powerfully and authoritatively into the lives of others.
The most effective Christians are those who have a rich understanding of God’s Word and the ability to apply it accurately to themselves as well as to others. The Word of God and the Spirit of God gives you this extraordinary perception.
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 of the people in His day. You see an illustration of this when He was talking 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, but he did not understand the Bible the way it needed to be understood. What appeared to be odd to him was perfect psychology to Jesus because He knew what was in man: He understood Himself and others.
Know What Is in People
If you can figure out yourself and can bring biblical clarity to your life, you will not have a difficult time figuring out and helping others. Each person is cut from the same Adamic human cloth. You do not need to know seven billion different people. You do not need to know 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.
“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).
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 is never a lack of understanding when you examine life through the lens of the Word of God.
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.
- Was it a clarity problem?
- Was it an unwillingness to change problem?
How to Be Mastered By the Word
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 what is in people, especially what is in 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. “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).
- Pray – Before you start reading your Bible, take the time to pray. Ask God to open your eyes to what you are reading.
- Read – Read expectantly. God will reveal things to you about yourself. Anticipate this. Look for Bible truths like a man mining for gold. Be alert. Resist reading by rote. Read because you want to, not because you have to. Job said, “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food” (Job 23:12b).
- Reflect – When God illuminates your mind, stop reading and start reflecting. Think about what God is showing you in light of the Word you just read.
- Write – Take time to write down what God has shown you. When your thoughts go from a page of the Bible, to your brain, down to your hand, and onto a piece of paper (or computer), you are probably going to own it. It will be yours to keep.
- Teach – Within twelve hours (arbitrary timeframe) tell someone what God taught you. The teacher will learn more than the student; if you can teach what He taught you, it will master you.
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? Then let me ask, “Do you want to stop sinning?” Try this verse: “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 as far as bringing 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).
Call to Action
I guarantee if you take this chapter to heart, ask God to change you through what is written here, implement these practices into your life, you will not only change, but you will learn the Bible the way it was meant to be learned and applied. If you struggle with procrastination, laziness, or other self-hindering sin patterns, I urgently appeal to you to join our community. We will lovingly fuss at you because we are for you.
Also published on Medium.