Bible Study and Prayer

Practical applications abound

Tonight’s counseling session was a marathon. Arriving home at 10:58 p.m., I found homemade tacos awaiting me on the stove as my wife who was watching TV welcomed me home. Inspiration for tomorrow’s Forthright article abounded from throughout the day.

How can some people seem to view the Bible as irrelevant to life? Scripture’s subtle and obvious practical applications saturate our days.

Consider the counseling session.  The session was congenial. Nevertheless, the self-centered nature of conflict, not the power of love, shaped their perspective and words.  “Here is how I was hurt.” “You don’t realize how much I have suffered.”

Applying 1 Corinthians 13:4 and 5’s,  “Love is patient, love is kind, … it is not self-serving, … or resentful” jumps out.  Each of them possessed the opportunity to seek the other’s wellbeing by validating his or her pain and affirming one’s own desire for the other to be healed. Yet, this remained beyond their vision. Self-centeredness, not love, motivated pointing out how the other had failed – even though it was presented in a civil manner.

When dealing with a congregation suffering tensions from within and without Paul counseled, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition … Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). Scripture abounds with practical applications.

Earlier in the day a conversation about the religious landscape revolved around viewing it through human categories. How common is it, regardless of whether a person is extremely ecumenical or sectarian, to try to describe what constitutes the church by appealing to human designations?

Since God’s viewpoint, not the grand claims from humans, is determinative regarding what constitutes the church, wouldn’t it be practical to define the church through how God sees it? After all, God places people into the church (Acts 2:47), knows those who are his (2 Timothy 2:19) and if we can accurately claim a relationship with God it is only because God knows us (Galatians 4:9).

So, who does God claim as his people?  Throughout scripture God  identifies those within covenant as being his people (Genesis 17:7; Exodus 19:5-6; Jeremiah 11:4). Through Christ, God offers the world a new covenant, a relationship with us wherein God promises to claim us as his people and forgive us (Hebrews 8:6,10-12).

The gospel describes those who rely upon Christ through baptism as receiving these two covenant promises and entering the Lord’s church (Acts 2:38, 42; Galatians 3:26-27; Hebrews 10:22). Can you imagine the practical transformative power which would result if from the pulpit to the pew people did not start with the human framework of phone book titles to describe God’s people, but rather spoke of the church as those within Christ’s covenant as a result of relying upon Christ through baptism?

As for the couple, they ended up taking steps of love.  Applying the scripture, “Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church” (Ephesians 5:25) also has application for my late arrival.  Fourteen hour days should be the exception if I am going to care for my wife’s wellbeing.

Meditating on God’s word leads to applying it (Psalms 1:2).

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Barry Newton

Married to his wonderful wife Sofia and a former missionary in Brazil, Barry enjoys trying to express old truths in fresh ways. They have two boys attending university.

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