In parts one and two we looked at inductive bible study’s first two major parts, Observation and Interpretation. Now let’s look at the last and most difficult (although simple) step, Application.
Application: How should I respond?
Application is action-learning that involves two steps:
1. How the truths discovered should affect our behavior and beliefs, and
2. Putting those truths into daily practice.
Summarize truths that seem to apply to you and look for ways that it applies to your daily life. Meditate on it, and pick out a verse or two in the passage that best summarizes the truth(s) you have learned and memorize it (or them).
Then actually practice living that lesson, keeping a journal as a reminder of God’s faithfulness “both to will and to do” what His word tells you to do.
The bible is God’s word, and it was given to be obeyed, not just understood. The only thing missing is me!
Of course, it isn’t me, in “Christ in me!” So I’m not going off to apply God’s impossible standards of behavior in my own strength. Without Him I am nothing and can do nothing. Applying God’s word to real life is a patently supernatural thing – and completely normal for the follower of Christ!
Have a look at James 1:22
But prove yourselves to be doers of the word and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
James 1:22 tells us that hearing the word without doing what it says is self-deception. How so? I think that one way hearing-only is self-deception is this: When we think of bible study as our religious duty, then merely reading it satisfies the requirement. When it is our duty and obligation to read our bible every day, then we can “do our duty” merely by reading it. There, see? “I’ve done my duty to God today. I spent 30 whole minutes reading the bible. Now that I have satisfied my religious obligation, I can get on with the rest of my day.”
I know that line of reasoning seems silly to some of you, but believe it or not that is exactly the way I looked at bible study (and “devotional” reading) for years! It was a chore to me. It was dead, tedious, and meaningless most of the time. If I skipped it, I got this foreboding feeling that God was not going to be with me that day because I had failed Him.
Think it over. Application is the goal of all the other work we have done in inductive bible study! It’s the simplest, yet hardest of the three steps.
Think of this in another way. Studying the beatitudes, I come across Matt 5:3. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” What does poor in spirit mean? Why is poverty of spirit a desirable thing?
As I read on, I see the Lord’s impossibly high standards for mercy, gratitude, humility, gentleness, and even grace under persecution, and because I know that this is what He actually expects of me, I think, “Wow, I can never get there! That’s impossible!”
All of a sudden I know what poverty of spirit is, simply because I read God’s word knowing that it is meant to be obeyed! I’m not just poor, I’m bankrupt! Completely helpless. Being poor in spirit means that I mourn for my sin, I depend so completely on my Lord to literally carry me through temptation and lend me His strength to do every little thing He asks of me. This is meekness. This is humility. This gentleness. This is how I will handle persecution when it comes my way.
The biggest secret to knowing what a passage of scripture means, is simply to read with the intention of doing what it says.
In next week’s exciting episode of Theology Thursday, I’ll offer a few ways of outlining various scripture forms. Stay tuned!