Spiritual transformation has some significant advantages, particularly in our relationships. These benefits come over time, but we can speed up the process using the right focus in our quiet time. This article provides a method to focus on relationships in our quiet time so we can fast track change.
First, this article from last week is foundational since it explains the foundation of how these relationships change. In a nutshell, we can’t change others, but the way we relate to God, ourselves and others will significantly impact the relationships we have. If we change, our relationships will change. I recommend you go back and read this previous article then return here.
Bridging the gap to change
The change that we need is a change in holiness. Holiness comes about as we allow the Word of God to inform and transform our thoughts, affections, and commitments. We need a bridge to bring this change about in ourselves. The series of questions below are a bridge that draws out the meaning of the text and helps us apply it to our hearts and the three key relationships (God, ourselves and others).
Note to self
Here are some guidelines for answering the questions below:
- Not every question will be as useful as other questions. You might not be able to answer all the questions from your text.
- Keep your answers short – one sentence per question should be enough.
- It should take 10-15 minutes to answer these questions.
- You might not want to use these questions for every quiet time.
What is the main point in the text?
Ask questions as part of your regular Bible reading time. Once you’ve read a passage, summarize in a single sentence the main point of the text you’ve read. This summary will help you focus the response to these questions. The questions may still work if you don’t write a summary, but it is likely to diminish the value of this exercise.
What area of knowledge does it fall into?
Next, consider which of the three areas of knowledge this lesson falls into. Does it focus on the knowledge of God and His Word, or the sinfulness of sin or my sinfulness? The answer to this question will give you an important focal point as you prepare to respond to the questions. If you’re not sure which area it falls into, this article should help. It often helps to explain why you think it falls into this area of knowledge, so I encourage you to use a simple sentence such as:
- This reveals the [area of knowledge] because [why you think this]
What does this passage teach about the heart?
As you think about the passage, pick out at least one thing that the passage teaches or implies concerning the heart. There are three possible questions to answer for this:
- This teaches me to believe:
- This teaches me to desire or feel:
- This teaches me to commit to:
Simply complete each line that you can. You may not be able to answer each question, but answer each one where possible from the text. We’ll re-use these later on.
Often one of these may suggest an answer to one or more of the others. For example, if a text teaches you to believe that all people are corrupted, then it may be that it also teaches us to should feel compassion for others because we all struggle together and what I struggle with is felt and perhaps even more so by others. This may lead to a commitment I can make – perhaps to be more sensitive when others are telling me their struggles.
It may be that by answering only this question, you have enough application. It is possible to go deeper using these follow-up questions.
Focus on relationships
I should interpret…
When we consider our thoughts and beliefs (or any of these areas), the issue is not what we currently think or believe (at least not yet) but what we *should* think or believe.
What should I think or believe about myself? If the realm of knowledge we identified above is my own sinfulness, then considering how this passage relates to how I consider myself could cut close to the bone. Do I disobey in any measure? Am I tempted to disobey?
On the other hand, if the area of knowledge is the sinfulness of sin, then it reveals something about me at a more general level. This will likely mean recognizing that I have the same corruption in me that I see at work in this passage, even if I’m not tempted directly by the particular sin referenced in this text.
It could also be that as I see something about God and His plan that I should understand something about my creatureliness. Perhaps an attribute of the Lord that we share or don’t share or a distinction between God and me as His creature.
Regarding the Lord
The what I think or believe about God has huge ramifications on our relationships. The scriptures often teach us things about God that don’t align with what we want to think of God. Consider for example, “God is love” from 1 John 4:8. Some people allow this verse alone be their definition of God, and they believe that love somehow overrules all the other aspects of God’s character. But this is selective since the Bible also says that God is holy (1 Pet 1:16), righteous and just (Deut 32:4), and avenges righteously (Ps 58:10-11). Sometimes we don’t want to know about other aspects of God’s character or will, but these are important for a right understanding of God.
What does this text teach me to believe about God and His plans? Answering this question should provide a simple truth about the Lord, His person, plans, and desire.
What should I believe about others from this passage?
We have a great deal in common with others. For example, when it comes to the sinfulness of sin, we share this weakness. Others are corrupted as I am, and this affects how they live and interact. Recognizing this can help us grow in compassion and love toward others, particularly if we have a clear understanding of our own guilt.
If the area of knowledge of our reading is the purpose and character of God, this also affects others. God’s justice applies to all, just as equally as it does to me and you. So does His mercy. His plans and purposes affect others, and often in different ways. Recognizing and thinking about these things can help us see new perspectives on other people’s lives providing us with fresh ideas for serving and loving them.
I should feel…
Our desires, emotions, and feelings are part of our being, and as part of who we are, they are corrupted. Our corruption varies from person to person, but we all have corrupt desires and emotions. We find that the word of God often commands or exemplifies how we should or do feel about the Lord. This functions as a mirror to tell us what desires and feelings are appropriate and acceptable before God.
How should I feel about myself?
I often feel pretty good about myself. In fact, too good. My continual struggle is to balance a right understanding of the image of God and His glory and the corruption of my flesh. The word of God helps us to evaluate our desires and feelings correctly. We should fear the Lord, not man. We should feel a growing hatred for sin in ourselves and a degree of sadness about that sin. Our joy is not to be in ourselves and our ability or goodness but in the Lord and His sovereign goodness.
How should I feel about myself? Do I hate my sin?
What should I feel or desire toward God from this passage?
The question is not what do we feel or desire about God, but what should I feel or desire based on this passage? Is there a command (e.g. Phil 4:4) or an example (e.g. Ps 42:1) or even a negative example (e.g. Ps 42:5)?
What should I feel toward others from this passage?
What feelings should I have toward others if I know that they, like me suffer from the same corruption? What emotions or feelings should follow to know that they share my weakness? If the realm of knowledge is my sinfulness, perhaps I should feel humble before others who are strong in this area?
I should choose or commit…
Generally, our volition or will follow our desires, and we literally do what we want. Frequently, however, our desires (being corrupt) don’t guide us in the way of truth, and we do what we want, and it is sin. We need to know (think/believe – the rational aspect of the heart) what we should be committed to so that we can
Having considered our thoughts and feelings, we are now in a position to determine the right way of acting before the Lord. This means making a choice and commitment to do or be what the Lord calls us to be because it is what pleases the Lord.
Is there a commitment I need to make to myself today? Our heart commitments should be rooted in our understanding of God and others. Perhaps I need to commit to keep a short account with the Lord throughout today or to trust the Lord and His good and sovereign plan.
What should I choose or commit toward God?
Is there a command God has given to obey? Is there an example to follow (e.g. 2 Sam 12:18-23) or avoid (e.g. 2 Sam 11:3)? What commitments do I need to make for when my desires don’t want to do this? Are there any actions I can take that will help me avoid sin or put myself in a position to minimize doing what the Lord hates? Perhaps I need to let God be God, and commit to stop complaining?
What should I choose or commit toward others?
Having considered how I should think about, believe about and feel toward others, the next step is to commit myself to something specific toward others. Here it could be as simple as changing our thinking about them, or determining to serve them in a specific way. It may be as simple as committing to pray for someone who has sinned against you, that the Lord will help you to love them the way He loves you and the way He loves them.
Training your heart in righteousness
Answering these questions is not necessarily easy. It requires a commitment to examine ourselves from passages of scripture and a determination to grow in holiness. These questions will also take time. I’ve estimated 10-15 minutes, but it may take a little longer. Depending on the length of your quiet time, you may not be able to ask these questions each day. Deep reflection on a passage of scripture and the determination to make it applicable to ourselves will, in time, yield significant changes in the way we relate to God, ourselves and others.
As we change, so too our relationships will change. Relational change should follow personal change. Relational change is an indicator of the Lord’s work in our lives.
Download the Template
If you’d like to try these questions out in your quiet time, I’ve included a template below, along with instructions. Print it off and answer the questions in it. Go ahead and try it out. Let me know what you think!