Life is messy. But if we apply Scripture to our lives, we can face the issues head on.
By Sam O’Neal
“Just do it.” These days, almost everyone is familiar with Nike’s landmark advertising campaign. The ads first appeared in 1988, and they became so iconic they claimed a spot in the Americana exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum.
What’s interesting is that the advertising executives at Nike had no idea “Just do it” would be so successful, according to Art & Copy, a documentary on advertising.
“None of us really paid that much attention,” Dan Wieden, co-founder of the ad agency that originally produced the campaign, says in the film. “We thought, ‘Yeah, that’d work.’”
So why did “Just do it” become such a cultural phenomenon? Perhaps people responded to the call to action implicit in the phrase. Or, perhaps they appreciated the not-so-subtle reminder to do something with their lives.
Whatever the reasons, the spirit behind Nike’s campaign points to a critical truth for those who actively study God’s Word: application is a must.
Move beyond information
Many followers of Jesus approach the experiences of Bible study and discipleship with the goal of understanding what a specific Scripture passage communicates to us—what it means.
Because there are so many doctrinal conflicts raging throughout the church at any given time, we tend to invest our discipleship resources in a way that produces a “proper” understanding of the text.
Certainly, this is important work. There is much to be gained by “correctly teaching the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Yet we must not stop there. We must push beyond the goal of acquiring information.
Life application is the primary goal of Bible study and discipleship. We don’t study God’s Word simply to understand what it says—we study so we can obey God. Remember these sobering words from the apostle James: “You believe that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe—and they shudder” (2:19).
Similarly, we don’t pour ourselves into the discipleship process simply to produce fellow Christians who know as much about the Bible as we do. We disciple others so they may actively contribute to God’s kingdom in obedience to the King. That was Jesus’ original message in the Great Commission:
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, emphasis added).
As you study God’s Word, remember to move beyond the question, “What does this text mean?” Invest yourself in answering the more important question: “What must I do to obey?”
Make it practical
Given the importance of life application, those who lead groups and participate in discipleship must place a greater priority on helping others actively obey God’s Word. And we must do this in ways that are both helpful and practical.
Unfortunately, life application often gets short shrift in our group experiences. Many times it is left until the very end of a group’s time together—which means the group often runs out of time to discuss how to apply Scripture to their lives. And when we do make room for life application, we often rely on vague questions like:
• How will you apply these truths in your life this week?
• What will you do based on what you’ve learned?
• When will you make time to obey Jesus’ command in this passage?
The problem with these kinds of questions is they put all the stress on the group member to figure things out. Rather than providing clear and practical options for obedience, they force people to come up with their own ideas—something much easier said than done.
To help those we lead and disciple, we must make a concerted effort to offer practical ideas for application. For example, each session of Bible Studies for Life contains three concrete ideas for life application.
Each of these ideas offers a specific action to take based on the material being studied. Users don’t have to think of everything themselves—nor do group leaders.
In addition, the life application ideas included in Bible Studies for Life follow a Walk/Run/Soar approach. One of the application ideas is simple—something any person could accomplish in a given week. The second is more advanced, and the third would be a challenge even for mature Christians.
In this way, we provide clear options for life application that allow group members to confidently obey the Scriptures in ways that fit their level of spiritual maturity. We also provide tools for leaders and disciple-makers to equip those they serve and point them toward obedience.
“Go and make disciples … teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.” These are critical commands from God’s Word and necessary steps for any disciple of Christ. They invite us to move beyond simply learning information to taking action in obedience to God.