Updated: May 31, 2019
“Now the Lord had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him.” Genesis 12:1-4
Thus begins one of the great stories of friendship, adventure and transformation in the Bible: a word from God lovingly obeyed.
Abraham didn’t always get it right, but he loved God and cared about the things that mattered to Him. He believed God’s promises and took responsibility to live in accordance with them. In the process, he was transformed into the father of the faithful.
Consider what it took for Abraham to act on God’s word. He needed to understand the application to his life (move my family away from Ur), surrender his own desires (for a simple life in Ur, perhaps), decide to obey (we’re leaving , evaluate what changes would be necessary (pack up and leave), and then follow-through by doing what God had commanded (leave Ur).
It couldn’t have been easy. But it was faith in action. That’s why the Bible calls him “the friend of God”.
“Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.” James 2:23. (See also Isaiah 41:8 and 2 Chronicles 20:7)
“If you love me, keep my commandments,” Jesus told His disciples shortly before His death. John 14:15. This wasn’t about Him demanding obedience. He was simply stating a cause and effect relationship: If you love Me, you will trust me and delight to do the things I ask of you. That will lead to your transformation into my likeness.
Applying Scripture to Our Lives
Abraham’s life demonstrates the role that God’s Word should play in our lives. God’s call was the catalyst for total life transformation, one that changed him from Abram to Abraham.
“Application is the action of putting something into operation” (Oxford Dictionary). Thus, application of Scripture is putting into action in our lives what God shows us in our Bible study. It’s where the transformation happens in our lives.
“A true knowledge of the Bible can be gained only through the aid of that Spirit by whom the word was given. And in order to gain this knowledge we must live by it. All that God’s word commands, we are to obey. All that it promises, we may claim. The life which it enjoins is the life that, through its power, we are to live. Only as the Bible is thus held can it be studied effectively.” Ellen White, Education, p. 189.
The keys for enjoying Bible study that we’ve been studying are simply stepping stones to get us to this point of personally applying God’s Word to our lives. Having a dedicated time and place to study, studying with faith and a willing heart, reading carefully, systematically and contexually, using tools for deeper study, and asking God questions are all to bring us to transformation through obedience to God’s revealed will.
You see, it’s not how much I know that matters. but what I do with what I know. God doesn’t want us to just be informed Christians. He wants us to be transformed Christians. “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.” Colossians 3:10 NLT.
The Process of Transformation
God’s Word serves as the catalyst for transformation in our lives, just as it did for Abraham. Here’s how it works: The Holy Spirit guides us as we carefully and systematically study the Bible. When we understand God’s ideas as revealed in Scripture, the Spirit convicts us of how those ideas should apply to our lives. Sometimes His applications confirm ways in which we are currently living, but often they run counter to our established thought patterns and ways of living. God brings us to a place of conflict through His Word.
It’s at this point of conflict that we must surrender our will to God and decide to obey. When we make that decision, God gives us His power, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, to act on what He has shown us. He enables our obedience as we choose to do what He has asked.
The “great and precious promises” in the Bible make us “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). God’s Word literally becomes our spiritual nutrition so that we have the strength to follow-through and do what God has asked us to do.
Do you see how through it all, God is leading and enabling? Yet you and I have an important part to play. Our choices matter! Let’s explore the steps in this process of transformation in more depth:
Understand: Understanding comes as we yield ourselves to God in faith and apply ourselves to thoughtful, daily study of His Word. Careful, systematic study and Biblical research tools help us grasp the context of the passage and its original application. The Holy Spirit guides us as we ask God questions and listen to His answers. He unpacks God’s Word and shows us its application to our lives. “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” Psalm 119:130.
Surrender: We always have to let something go in order to let God in. We must give up our own ideas and current ways of living. You cannot put new wine into old wine skins. (Matthew 9:17). “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise.” Psalm 51:17.
Choose: We must daily, hourly and every minute choose to obey. This is something only we can do. God cannot choose for us. We must put our will on God’s side. “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20.
Evaluate: Our choice to obey must be followed by evaluation, for those who “fail to plan, plan to fail.” We need to take time to evaluate our lives consistently and see what may need to change in order to do what God has asked. For Abraham, that meant making plans to move and keep moving. For you and I, it could mean something as simple as waking up 15 minutes earlier to read the Bible. Whatever it is, ask God for guidance, then make a plan for how you will obey. “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9
Follow-through: This is essential! We have to discipline ourselves to actually do the things God has asked of us. This is what it means to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” But we need not despair, even when we misstep, for “it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13. God has promised to complete the work in you (Philippians 1:9) for “He who calls you is faithful, and He also will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24. His promises enable us to be “partakers of the Divine nature… and escape the corruption that is in the world.” 2 Peter 1:4.
The Adventure Begins
Abraham embarked on a great adventure of transformation when he left Ur in obedience to God’s call. His life was never the same again, but the blessings of his obedience were great as he walked with God. Not only was his immediate family blessed, but all succeeding generations have been strengthened by his story. He truly became the father of the faithful.
Your adventure of transformation with God begins, and continues daily, the moment you decide to study the Bible and step out in obedience to God’s truth. It may mean a phone call to a friend in need, or an overhaul of your spending habits. It might be a change in your eating habits or a move across the country. But one thing is certain, the study of God’s Word will change your thinking and set you on the path to a face to face meeting with God that will last for eternity.
God doesn’t ask you to take this adventure of transformation alone. He has promised to walk with you. The more you depend upon Him, the greater will be your transformation. “The secret of success is the union of divine power with human effort.” Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 509.
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18.
What has the Holy Spirit been convicting you of through your Bible study? Determine today to walk in obedience, no matter the cost. For encouragement, read 1 John 2:3-6. For a greater understanding of the role of God’s Word in our lives, read chapter 37, “The Scriptures a Safeguard”, in the Great Controversy by Ellen White. It is available online at https://egwwritings.org.
Note: This devotional is part of a 10 part series on 5 Keys to Enjoying God’s Word. If you have not already, please take time to read the devotionals in the series. How to Turn on God’s Alarm Clock, Finding a Quiet Place Alone with God, Faith – Essential Preparation for Bible Study, A Willing Heart for Bible Study, How to Read the Bible, and Tools for Bible Study, Conversation with God, How to be Transformed by God’s Word, God’s Seven Tools for Remembering, Why God Wants You to Share What You Learn. Also, please see the related video devotionals with Pastor McKenzie.