The second stage of spiritual development is learning to be a follower. As with the first stage (observer), we will build this material around the same four directions that are illustrated within the children's song, ("in right, out right, up right, down right").
The first direction you must grow within this second stage of development is "in right." Few things are more important to your spiritual growth than constant self-examination and improvement. To bring this about, we will discuss self-examination through study, prayer, and meditation.
On the office wall, next to the telephone, hung a sign that read, "Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread." Just beneath it was a sticky note on which someone had written: "Joe's Pizza 239-5943."
Learning to appreciate God's bread of life is imperative to self-examination. The Apostle Paul wrote in II Timothy 2:15, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Only by learning how to study the Bible for yourself can you become an approved worker who rightly divides and effectively handles the "word of truth." Consider the following self-help guides that can make the Bible easier to handle.
Translations - Most of the Bible was first written in the languages of Hebrew or Greek. Because these languages are much more colorful than the English language, it is often difficult to find corresponding English words to adequately express the meaning of the original word. As an example, the Bible uses three major Greek words for love, yet our language has only one. I do not love God in the same way that I love my wife, yet I am limited to one English word to express my affection for both.
Translations differ because translators often disagree on what English word best relays the Greek or Hebrew meaning. Using various reputable translations can be helpful in understanding the full meaning of a Greek or Hebrew text. Note: Some translations are not reputable and should be avoided. Although paraphrased versions are often easier to read, they do not always communicate the full meaning of the text. We do not recommend paraphrased versions for Bible study.
Concordance - A concordance is much like a dictionary and an index of the Bible. This important tool lists Scripture references according to key words used within the Bible, such as where that verse is found. By looking up one of the key words within this alphabetized volume, you will discover a list of references where this word is used throughout the Bible.
Many Bibles have small concordances at the back, but an exhaustive concordance is highly recommended. Within an exhaustive concordance you will find every word that is used within the Bible along with its Scripture reference. As an added benefit, exhaustive concordances also assign each word a number that corresponds to a Greek and Hebrew dictionary at the back of the resource. This dictionary allows you to test the translators for accuracy.
Commentaries - The first seven letters of the word can best define a commentary - comment. This resource offers comments and explanations of a text. Like translations, not all commentaries are reputable. Commentaries are not inspired or Divinely protected from error. For this reason, resources such as this should always be thoroughly researched and never equated with the authority of Scripture.
Bible study can become the most enjoyable part of your day if you will let it. God does not ask you to write a college level essay or even your own manifesto on life. He simply asks that you hunger and thirst for His message to you. Sit down in a quiet place. Pray that God will open your mind and guide your thoughts. Open the Holy Book and read. As you encounter difficult places in Scripture, turn to the resources mentioned above and to the knowledgeable Christians around you. Learn to search, investigate, and exhaust the meaning of a text. If you will do this, you will become an approved worker who rightly divides and effectively handles the "word of truth." (II Timothy 2:15)
When studying a passage of Scripture, always consider the context. Use the questions who, what, when, where and why.
The Bible is its own best commentary. If one passage seems difficult, look for other passages that address the same topic. Let the Bible define the Bible.
The authority of the Old Testament law was removed at the cross. Study the purpose of the Old Testament message for New Testament Christians.
Take time each day to read the Bible without searching for what you want to find. Instead, read and be alert for the message God wants you to find.
II Timothy 2:15
"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
Define the word "diligent" and tell how it applies to Bible study.
What does Bible study have to do with presenting ourselves to God?
In what way is a good Bible student a "worker"?
Name three occasions when a lack of Bible study can cause one to be "ashamed."
What is meant by the phrase "rightly dividing"?
Read and meditate on the application of James 1:22-25 in your life.
Next time we will look at the second area of self-examination, prayer. Until then, keep the faith!
Missed the beginning of the "Keep the Faith!" series? Check it out!
Keep the Faith! Being an Observer
Want to continue this study? Go to:
Keep the Faith! Being a Follower 1b: Pray
3a: Being Like Him
3b: Being in Awe of Him
3c: Express Feelings for Him
4a: Being a Friend
4b: Being a Witness
4c: Providing a Message
Keep the Faith! Being a Leader - Introduction
Conclusion: Becoming a Complete Christian
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