Author: Ron Graham
This lesson is about applying our minds to God’s word, applying the word to our lives, and applying our lives to God’s glory..
When the exiles of Judah returned to Jerusalem, (Nehemiah 8:8-12), the Levites helped the people to understand the law of God. The priest read distinctly from the book, and gave the sense. The people wept, but the day was holy, so with encouragement the people went their way to eat and drink, to share portions of food, and they rejoiced greatly because they understood the words of the law. This day of renewal was a landmark in the history of Israel.
History repeated itself centuries later. In the same city, on the day of Pentecost, following our Lord’s ascension into heaven, the apostles preached to devout Jews who had come from afar. They were given to understand the word of God concerning his Christ. The people were upset to learn how they had erred, but through repentance and baptism, they found forgiveness and gladness. Like their forefathers of Ezra’s time, they devoted themselves to God’s teaching, and in their various homes they shared their meals with joy (Acts 2:36-47).
These stories show how devotion to God’s word may at first be painful, but soon brings joy and sweet fellowship. There are three levels of this devotion:
"Apply your mind to my knowledge, for it will be pleasant" (Proverbs 22:17, 23:12). We have ministers who, like the Levites and apostles of old, can help us understand by "giving the sense" (Nehemiah 8:8).
We can also search the scriptures for ourselves just as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11). "Like newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that you my grow thereby" (1Peter 2:2).
Have that all-important "love of the truth" (2Thessalonians 2:10). Out of that love will come the happy fellowship. You've got to apply your mind to God’s word, so that you will be blessed with understanding.
It is hard to get people to search out God’s word for understanding. They would rather state their own personal think-so, than apply their minds to God’s word. But its even harder to get people to take the next step: applying the word to their lives.
Jesus said that people who apply his word to their lives are like the wise man who built his house upon the rock. They not only hear Jesus’s words, but also DO them (Matthew 7:24). Jesus asks, "Why do you call me Lord, yet you don't do what I say?" (Luke 6:46-49).
I knew of a man who was a "walking concordance" and who owned hundreds of books on Bible topics. He was, however, one of the most bitter, petty, arrogant persons I have known. For example, when a young preacher was preaching one of his first sermons, this man, who was hard of hearing, sat in the back row, cupping his hand ostentatiously to his ear.
Afterward, he came up to the young preacher and bawled into his face, "Acts 2:14, Acts 2:14!". Amused at the young preacher’s discomfort, for the young man was uncertain what verse 14 in particular said, the "walking concordance" puffed out his cheeks and roared, "Peter LIFTED UP HIS VOICE!"
This man was eaten up with jealousy that a beardless boy, a novice, had been appointed to preach instead of he who knew so much Bible. This man had applied his mind to the word, but he had not applied the word to his life.
The purpose of applying oneself, and of living God’s way, is sometimes expressed in self-centred terms, for instance: "To be happy, successful, and enrich my life". Doubtless it will have these effects, however its true purpose is to "glorify God in your body" (1Corinthians 6:20).
This is the ultimate purpose of life: "to him be glory in the church and in Jesus Christ to all generations for ever, Amen" (Ephesians 3:21 Revelation 1:6).