The difference between knowing and obeying the Bible

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you (Psalm 119:9–11, ESV).

I’ll never forget being a young pastor and having my first experience of meeting a person who claimed to be a Christian, but who wasn’t actually under the authority of God’s Word.

I sat down with this man one day, along with another pastor from our church, just to talk about some problematic things in his life that were becoming obvious to others. We began to show him the Scriptures, thinking he would see the truth as well as our love for him in being concerned about his life and family. We prayed he’d see that we wanted to help.

And he did. He saw it. He understood what the Word was saying, and he admitted to what he was doing. But “Bible or not,” he said, “I’m not changing.”

I didn’t know anyone would actually say that. I couldn’t imagine it.

But I’ve looked in the mirror plenty of times since then, as I’m inviting you to do today, to challenge myself on whether the Bible is indeed my total, complete authority. Three questions can help us discern the answer to this all-important question.

Read this: What does it actually mean to be a Christian 

1. Can the Bible change your mind? Standard procedure is to think we’re pretty good people, able to save ourselves, able to change ourselves. But the Bible says, “All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6, NKJV). “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy” (Titus 3:5, ESV). It’s no minor theme in Scripture that “whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life”(1 John 5:12). It’s cover to cover. The only question is: does this clear line of thinking change your mind about who you really are and the extent of what you can do on your own?

2. Can the Bible melt your heart? You may feel waves of anger sometimes at your boss, a parent, or simply a guy who cut you off in traffic. But when you hear, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31), how quickly and deeply is it able to influence your heart? When you see the unforgiving servant in Jesus’ parable handed over to the jailers and you hear Jesus say, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35), does it change you? Does the truth melt your angry heart?

3. Can the Bible change your direction? Anyone of us can get turned around on the road of life. But how many times has your testimony been, “I was living for sin, for self, for sex, for stuff, for success”—whatever it was—“and the Word got through to me and challenged me, changing my direction”? The psalm writer said, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. . . . I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” When you hear a verse that seriously stops you in your tracks, is the next step you take in a different direction from the one you were previously traveling?

I’m not asking if you like the Bible. I’m not asking if you enjoy studying the Bible. I’m asking if you’re under the authority of the Bible.

Can it change your mind?

Can it change your heart?

Can it change your direction?

Now read this: Do you need a fresh start?

This post originally appeared on Dr. James MacDonald’s daily devotional Our Journey and was republished with permission. 

James MacDonald (D. Min. Phoenix Seminary) is the founding senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, leads the church-planting ministry of Harvest Bible Fellowship, teaches the practical application of God’s Word on the Walk in the Word radio and television programs, and is a gifted author and speaker. You can find out more about James and his ministries at



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