But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25, ESV)
How easy it is for us to read the Bible, close the pages of this life-changing book…and walk away unchanged. Our response to God’s Word is much like a man who looks at himself in the mirror and forgets what he looks like.
When a man forgets his reflection in the mirror, is it because there something wrong with the image reflected in the mirror? Is the mirror faulty? No, and neither is God’s Word faulty, though we walk away unchanged. The problem is with us. We read but we do not apply; we do not consider what God’s words mean for our everyday lives.
One morning I opened my Bible and read this verse:
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17, ESV)
These were nice words, wise words, good teaching, I thought as I closed my Bible. But then I stopped. What did I read? What did it mean? I went back and looked at each word and tried to imagine what wisdom from above looks like in various situations of my life. What does wisdom that is gentle look like when I am sitting in a staff meeting and I disagree with what someone is saying? What is wisdom that is pure look like when I am advising my daughter about a decision she has to make? As I thought about each word and its application in various situations, I realized that often I do not display wisdom from above. I committed the verse to memory, and in the weeks that followed I thought about this verse in various situations in which I found myself. And slowly, day by day…the Word changed me.
This is what we must teach our children to do when they come to the Word. For every lesson we teach and every small group discussion we lead, we should keep in mind that the Bible is not merely information to be learned, but truths to be lived. Without application, we will not grow, and the Word will not change us.
A simple way to teach children to apply Scripture is to ask the “So What” questions:
- So what does this say about God?
- So what does this say about me?
- So what does this say I should do? Be? Think?
If you can lead a child to ask and answer these questions, that child will gain an understanding of what it means to be a doer of the Word. But application does not stop at understanding.
Application begins with belief, which then results in being and doing.
It is true that we must be transformed in our minds, enlightened by the truth of Scripture. But the next step is testing; putting the Word into practice. When we do that, we are putting our confidence in the truth of God’s Word, we are affirming His ways, we are trusting God…and the Word changes us.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2, ESV)