5 Ways to Read the Bible for Personal Application

Joe Carter

The Bible is a book about God, not a book about us. And yet as Paul says, everything in the Bible was written for us:

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. (Roman 15:4, NIV)

How can the Bible be about God and yet be written to teach us? As David Powlison explains,

The Bible was written to others—but speaks to you. The Bible is about God—but draws you in. Your challenge is always to reapply Scripture afresh, because God’s purpose is always to rescript your life.

When we reapply Scripture to our own lives, the Holy Spirit is rescripting our lives so that we may become more like Jesus.

What Spiritual Formation Is (And Is For)

Every day we are becoming either more like Jesus or less like him. The direction we move is largely up to us, for we don't drift into Christ-likeness. Becoming more like Jeuss takes effort and intention; it takes spirtual formation. 

Christ-like spiritual formation is the name for that process by which Christians in union with Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, become conformed both internally and externally to the character of Christ for the purpose of communion with God.

Learning how to personally apply the Bible to our own lives is therefore essential to our spiritual formation.

How then do we personally apply the Bible to our own lives? We generally apply the Bible through five ways:

1. Direct commands

The most obvious passages for personal application are those in which God gives direct commands. For example, Jesus’s command to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:43) is not an optional requirement. When we find such clear, direct commands in Scripture we know they are intended to directly “rescript” our lives.

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