We've finally reached the pinnacle of our Inductive Bible Study. We've carefully observed and interpreted the passage, and it's time for some heart work.
Transformation, not information, is the goal of Bible study.
So now we have the million-dollar question: How do we use all of the information we've observed and interpreted to effect transformation in our lives? How do we sing or play a music score? How do we transition from the "Drivers' Ed" classroom to cruising down the highway at 65 mph?
You will probably not choose to meditate on every single thing you've observed. Pray, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you to where He seeks to work in your life right now. Chances are He's already convicted your heart during the observation/interpretation portions of this study.
First: Rules inform, relationships transform.
Our character transforms to that of our companions. Proverbs warns us against friendships with angry, lust-filled, or slothful people, and encourages us to spend time with friends who pursue righteousness. Story after story from both the Bible and History show us that we become the people with whom we spend time. As a teacher, I knew the friendships my students enjoyed held far more sway over their lives than the school's rules. A good kid who fell in with a bad crowd invariably became a rebel, and an impressionable young freshman that got involved with godly kids usually grew by leaps and bounds. They were all restrained by the same set of rules, but they did not all grow into godliness.
A relationship with Christ is the only thing that will transform your life. A list of facts and rules dug out of your study cannot change you on their own. As you meditate on Christ's character, you will learn to value what He values because of your deepening love for Him.
Take a look at a common verse, Ephesians 4:32. "Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." A typical application would be to resolve to be kinder to others and forgive them readily. That may go pretty well for you for a short time, but sooner or later someone is going to really step on your toes, and that resolution is going to go out the window. Now, instead, let's look at how that rule informs us about Christ's person and character.
Second: Place information in the context of relationship
What does this passage reveal about the God (Christ's) character? He values kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness.
What is kindness? Gentle usefulness tenderheartedness? sympathy, empathy forgiveness? freely giving pardon
What else does this passage reveal or do I already know about these attributes of Christ?
It directly states that God has forgiven us for Christ's sake. I know that lovingkindness is one of the traits God values most highly in himself (Jer. 9:24). I know that Christ's office as our high priest is directly related to the sympathy he holds in his heart for us and our troubles (Hebrews). I know that he despises those who will not forgive the petty offenses of a fellow believer after all He has forgiven (Parables). Etc...I often spend days or even weeks on this question.
How does the world display these character qualities differently from the Bible?
If I had a nickel for every time I'd read "I only want to be friends with those who lift me up and make me a better person", I could retire. The world wants friends that are useful, and rejects those who are difficult or demanding. They hold grudges, or simply discard and ignore friends that have hurt them rather than restoring relationships. They want everyone to sympathize with their situation, but they rarely consider another person's troubles when passing judgement. Almost no one is willing to be a friend to a person who is going through an extended difficulty, especially if it's emotionally draining.
Who else in the Bible experienced or demonstrated these character qualities?
The incident with Christ making fish on the coals, instructing his AWOL disciples to let down the nets on the other side of the ship for a large haul, and then confronting and forgiving Peter for his betrayal leaps instantly to mind. David demonstrated all of these qualities on multiple occasions. Hosea. Not Jonah! Dozens of stories in both the Old and New Testaments are flooding my mind. This question is another one that takes a considerable amount of time if you've been saved for a while and a faithful student of God's Word.
Is there another of God's attributes that seems to be in opposition to this one?
Judgement or believer's chastisement. How can a person who freely and readily forgives also judge? Many of God's judgments are extremely harsh. How does that fit in with His lovingkindness? Hmmmm...that's going to need a little more thought and study. (Hint: God shows us the link between lovingkindness and judgement in Jer. 9:24 -- His righteousness.)
At this point you've thought through how this "rule" belongs to Christ and why it's important to Him. You are strongly associating the information with a relationship.
Third: Use the information about the relationship to effect transformation.
There are three questions we can use to transform our lives into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
How have I seen Christ demonstrate ____________ in my life and the lives of those around me?
Write them down. Praise God for showing these aspects of Himself to you.
Have I allowed Christ free reign to demonstrate these aspects of Himself through my life?
Think about this. Write down concrete examples. Write down ideas for how you could demonstrate these qualities more effectively.
If these character qualities have been lacking in my life, what have others been seeing in me instead of the _________ that would have demonstrated a Christ-filled life?
Again, think. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring times that you've struggled or failed in this area to mind and write them down.
Lastly, P.R.A.Y. the passage. Talk with God about it!
(The PRAY acronym was developed and copyrighted by Evangelist Steve Pettit, and is adapted here.)
Praise God for His attributes you've studied and meditated on.
Repent for the areas you've not been following His Word and showing Him to your fellow believers and the world.
Ask Him to show you who needs to see these aspects of Christ in your life or how you can transform your heart and mind in this area.
Yield to the Holy Spirit and allow him to work on these areas of growth on a day-to-day basis.
This information was first presented in Jim Berg's classic, Changed Into His Image, a letter-turned-book written to his daughters. I've used the material for years to teach Bible study and meditation to ladies' groups. If you want the booklet I pass out to my classes with these questions listed, just call me or shoot me an e-mail. My application method is a bit unconventional, and you may want a "hard copy" of the meditation prompts in the LAMP booklet to guide your meditation as you apply your studies and seek to transform into the image of your precious Savior.
Linked up at Raising Homemakers, Good Morning Girls, and Women Living Wisely
Inductive Bible Study, Part 1: Preparation
Inductive Bible Study, Part 2: Read
Inductive Bible Study, Part 3: Seeking the Context
Inductive Bible Study, Part 4: Book Summary Key
Inductive Bible Study, Part 5: The Choice
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6a: Chapter Analysis
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6b: Identifying Key Words
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6C: Finding the 3C's
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6D: It's About Time
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6E: Keep Digging
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6F: Word Studies
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6G: Considering Context
Inductive Bible Study, Part 6H: Application Brings Transformation
Inductive Bible Study, Part 7: Wrap It Up!