For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
The Wrong Application: God loves you and has an adventurous plan for your life. Quit living the same-old boring life of just going to church, and go do something great for God.
The Problem: If you zoom out and look at this verse in context, you see the background. Look at verse 4: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon…” These verse are not written about you. They are written about the Jews during the exile in Babylon and thus when God says that he knows the plans he has for “you” he was not speaking about the general reader of the book of Jeremiah.
The Right Application: God disciplines his covenant people when they engage in idolatry by delivering them into the hands of their enemies, yet faithfully promises to rescue them according to his predestined plans to bring them to repentance and bless them by grace.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
The Wrong Application: Your marriage, your finances, your relationships, your children, your health and everything else in your life may be ok, but couldn’t it all stand to be a lot better? The enemy wants you to give up and give in to just living the normal life, but God doesn’t want you to be mediocre. He wants to give you life abundantly. By applying biblical principles to our lives we can learn from Jesus how to quit being average and live the abundant life God has for us.
The Problem: With Jeremiah 29:11 we saw that the context and the audience make a big difference when it comes to biblical interpretation. Based on the wrong application above, who would you guess Jesus is speaking to? His disciples? A blind, lame, or leprous person that Jesus is about to heal? No, at this point Jesus is arguing with the Pharisees. If anyone applied biblical principles to their lives, it was the Pharisees. They also were rich, in places of honor, and seemed to generally maintain decent relationships with people. By most people’s standards, the Pharisees applied biblical principles to their lives and were living the abundant life as a result. Yet Jesus is in the middle of arguing with them.
The Right Application: Jesus is the great shepherd of his people. He lays down his life in order to save his sheep, because he knows his sheep, he loves his sheep, he gathers his sheep, and he has received the charge from his Father to lay down his life for his sheep. Jesus wants to give his people abundant, eternal life where he may dwell with all who have entered through the door: faith in himself. Any who enter another way have come to steal people away from the joy of life with Jesus.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
The Wrong Application: If you have never accepted Jesus into your heart to be your personal Lord and Savior, know this: Jesus is knocking on the door of your heart, asking you, begging you to let him in. If you have never done that before in your life, I want you to pray this prayer with me. Just repeat after me. “Lord Jesus…”
The Problem: In chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Revelation, Jesus is dictating letters that are to be sent to the churches of Asia. This particular portion is written to the church in Laodicea, a church with a reputation for well-being. By all appearances Laodicea would be a church where Jesus had been invited in a long time ago. Jesus is not knocking on the door of anyone’s heart, but knocking on the door of the church.
The Right Application: The reason that Jesus is at the door knocking is because the church has effectively removed Jesus. He is no longer present at the church and they are only keeping up appearances. Jesus is highlighting the irony that a church with a reputation of spirituality is a church where he needs to knock on the door and wait for it to be answered. Therefore, today we must recognize that outward growth and spiritual reputation can be present when Jesus is not. We need to bring Jesus back into our church by preaching the gospel and performing works that are worthy of the gospel of God.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
The Wrong Application: The Bible is not a book all about rule-following and keeping every “i” dotted or every “t” crossed. The Pharisees were experts with their traditions and kept thousands of man-made laws thinking that this made them right with God. God says this, “You want to know what the whole Bible is about? You want to know how to please God? You want to know how to live a life of meaning and purpose? Love God, love people. That’s it. This is the whole Bible whittled down to 4 verses.”
The Problem: It is certainly true that the entire law is summarized and fulfilled by the two commandments to love God and love people. In fact, it is even perceptive to notice that the commandment for us to love our neighbor is in fact a commandment to love mankind in general considering that Jesus told the parable of the good Samaritan in response to the question “who is my neighbor” and furthermore Jesus has also said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Having stated this, the problem with the wrong interpretation is that the commands “Love God, Love People” are an adequate summary of the law, but not the gospel! See Romans 3:20 – “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” So the incorrect application of this passage actually teaches salvation by works rather that salvation by faith!
The Right Application: Since the entire law is summarized by the commandments “Love God and Love People,” consider the full scope of how gravely we break this every day. The requirement of this law is absolute, uninterrupted love for God. That is a terrifying thought. With or every action that does not stem from absolute love of God we are guilty of breaking the greatest commandment. The very commandment that seemed to be life-giving has actually condemned us! Yet thanks be to Jesus, who did in fact keep this commandment perfectly! Jesus always loved his Father and neighbor with perfect and unfailing love. Meditate on 1 John 4:10 – “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Through faith in Jesus, we are counted as if we lived Jesus’ life of perfect love. We are counted as if we loved God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. From this righteousness that comes from outside of us we can learn to actually obey Jesus. We learn that there is no sin that loves God and there is no good work without loving God.
Where there is no vision the people perish.
The Wrong Application:Your local mega-church pastor has been reading books by business gurus again and announces the newest topic of a sermon series: Vision-casting. When you totally surrender your life to God he will make a vision for your life to well up within you until you just can’t help but do something about it. This church was born from a vision we had a few years ago and if you’re not on board with the mission and vision of this church then it’s not you who is going to perish, but everybody else. This is a church for the unchurched, and if you’re not on-board with the vision of this church, you need to leave and find another church. Preferably one who doesn’t care about reaching the lost.
The Problem: Most fundamentally, the verse itself is quoted wrong. The verse actually says, “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” The proverb is not talking about a church’s vision or mission statement but about God’s legal revelations.
The Right Application: If you are familiar with the Book of Concord’s three primary uses of the law, the correct use for this proverb would be the first: to curb sin in society. When there is no revelation from God concerning his moral law sinful human beings do whatever they consider right in their own eyes causing absolute havoc. When the God of Love reveals a law, it truly is good for society for that the law be kept and enforced.