Follow Jesus Week 1
The article below digs deep into Week 1 of a 3-Week Course called Follow Jesus offered by our Emmaus Institute in January 2020. You can listen to the podcast or read the article.
To follow along with the audio, download this participants guide.
1 Timothy 4:7 says, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness.” The word for “train” could also be translated discipline, and it is what our word gymnasium is derived from. As believers, we are commanded throughout Scripture to grow in godliness, or Christlikeness. As Paul says in this verse the way we do that is through discipline or training. The Bible gives us many things we can do to help us grow in godliness, and theologians have called these spiritual disciplines. There are many spiritual disciplines, but this series will focus on three: reading and studying the Bible, Scripture meditation, and prayer.
Why these three? Because I believe these are the three components we need to craft a personal devotional time that will lead to growth in godliness.
First we will cover reading and studying our Bible. Knowing our Bible is the most important thing we can do to grow in godliness. This is because Scripture is how God reveals himself to us, and God uses Scripture to make us more like him (2 Timothy 3:14-17).
There are three steps for reading and studying our Bible: observation, interpretation, and application. This first session will go over observation.
When studying our Bible the first step is observation. The goal with observation is to answer the question, “What does the text say?” To answer this question, you need to read it, read it slowly, and read it again and again. The more you read the more familiar you will become with the text and notice more details.
There are two parts to observation:
- Historical Context
Historical context helps you put the book or passage you are studying back into the world of the original audience. As you begin your study of any book you need to try to find answers to these questions:
- Who is the author?
- When did the author write?
- Who was the book written to?
- Where did the original audience live?
- Why was it written? (Purpose or occasion for writing)
When first trying to answer these questions, see if you can find them in the book or passage you are studying. It is helpful to read all of the book in one sitting before you study individual passages.
If you are having trouble finding the answers consult a good Study Bible (I recommend the ESV Study Bible), a commentary on the book, or an Old Testament or New Testament survey. One of the best places to find information about historical context is www.bibleproject.com. Check this video out for help navigating and using this website: https://youtu.be/IMcLbpu2Tgg
In this step, the goal is to understand the content of the book or passage you are studying.
Here are some helpful tips for understanding the content:
- Read the book in its entirety
- As you do make note of recurring words, themes, and ideas.
- Try to build your own outline for the book. Pay attention to how the author structured the book. When are new topics introduced? How does the author develop his idea or argument.
- Study one section or passage at a time. Take your time going through a book, focus on small parts and sections each time you read.
- Pay attention to details. Look for:
- Figures of speech or symbolic language
- Motives or emotions of people involved in the passage
- How sentences are constructed. Pay attention to pronouns (try to identify each one), verb tenses, conjunctions.
- Cultural/historical/background details given
- Read in multiple translations
- My recommendation: use a good literal/word-for-word translation of the Bible. My preference is the ESV. Other good options would be the NASB or CSB.
- Look up any words you don’t know in a dictionary
- Be aware of preconceptions and your own theology or spiritual baggage you bring to the passage.
- Everyone carries their own thoughts, religious/cultural background, and theological leanings to the passage. It is important to be aware of these and try to read the passage with “fresh eyes.”
- Let the Bible be your primary influence on your theology, thoughts, ideas, and convictions, not your background or preference.
Other tools to assist in comprehension:
- Read your Bible daily. There is no substitute for consistent time in the Word.
- Take notes while you read.
- Underline, circle, highlight
- A good Study Bible, Bible dictionary, and regular dictionary
Click here to go to Week 2.