There is one place in the gospels where Jesus explicitly defines what is required to “truly be my disciple” – John 8:31 Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham, and have never been in bondage to any one. How is it that you say, ‘You will be made free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not continue in the house for ever; the son continues for ever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
What does it mean to you for you to “continue is my word”?
What would it be like if we took this verse of Jesus literally? What would that mean?
To me, it would mean for us to continue in the words of Jesus in a similar way to the disciples as they heard him speak everyday. In other words, we would take time everyday to listen to the words of Jesus in order that from those words we might learn what we are to do and what we are to know. We would listen every day in order to learn what we should obey. This is reinforced by Matthew 28:20 where are the disciples are commanded to teach others to observe all the commands of Jesus.
To me this would mean that we would daily wish to consult the scripture and look for instructions for our daily life and learning. Rather than merely studying the Bible for a sermon or to prepare a Bible study, our goal is to listen to our Lord and Savior and hear from his word about our day. The disciples could hear his voice, but we can read his words in the Bible.
To me, taking this verse literally – continue in my word – it would mean that we would consult the literal words of Jesus. Certainly every part of the Bible has a blessing associated with reading it, but I personally believe we need to become experts on what Jesus taught and commanded before we move on to the rest of the Bible. What seems too frequently to happen is that people are driven by their curiosity to have what is less than a shallow understanding of a lot of the Bible in a way that cannot really specifically help them with their daily life. I believe it’s important to become experts first in what Jesus said and then move forward to become experts in the rest of the Bible.
So, what sort of reading is this? Could it be similar to listening to the words of Jesus as the disciples did, live and in real time? Could it be reading that is like listening to every word of Jesus rather than studying somes words in great detail while skipping over other sections to get to what we think is an important point? Rather than listening, do we focus more on our notes or on how we would later teach the material? The end result of study is a summary, which may reduce what Jesus is saying because we are only hearing what we consider to be the main point rather than hearing the word in context?
One way to listen to the words of Jesus are to read them aloud, or listen to them read by another. (There are good, free audio bibles online – my favorite is the RSV at https://www.biblegateway.com/audio/dramatized/niv/matthew.1
I believe in listening to the words of Jesus in context, but also listening for a “spiritiual highlight” represented by a single verse, or several verses, that we feel in our spirit is for our meditation today.
Neil Cole encourages this sort of reading in his three person “Life Transformation Groups” (LTGs) groups for discipleship. LTGs are based on John Wesley’s Bands and the Band quesitons. I call my “UMC friendly” version of the LTG a “J.U.M.P. Group” (Jesus Understands My Problems):
Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:31-32
Members of Jump Groups set a goal to read 28+ chapters of the Bible each week, an average of 4 per day. (At first this simple goal will seem impossible to achieve.) Most groups choose a book of the Bible and attempt to read it at this pace. The goal is to read these chapters every week – some weeks you might read less, but read the same chapters over and over again. Groups of 2-4 persons stay with the same book of the Bible until everyone has completed the reading. In one week with this plan you can read Matthew once (28 chapters long) or Colossians 7 times (4 chapters long).
This method of reading the same section of Scripture over and over has several advantages. First, you can read it like a newspaper – read over it all, but you don’t need to concentrate on every word. Second, by reading the same chapters over and over you will eventually memorize them without any significant effort. Third, your familiarity over multiple readings will result in sudden insights as God opens up deeper meanings and connects the various ideas together. Fourth, you are building a good habit of reading God’s word regularly.
Some people don’t enjoy reading, so even one chapter a day is a challenge for them. Yet even one chapter read daily until it is familiar can make a tremendous difference in our spiritual life. Don’t worry about it . . . just do it!
And as your pastor, I am always available to partners to answer questions about a Bible passage and its meaning. Just ask – but you’ll be surprised how much you learn in several weeks of reading.
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How will you read scripture and “continue” in the words of Jesus?
Search & Rescue: Becoming a Disciple Who Makes a Difference, Hardcover – April 1, 2008, by Neil Cole. From Amazon.com:
A Tool for Rescue: Neil Cole has discovered a simple and powerful tool for accomplishing the task of making and multiplying committed disciples. He calls this method the Life Transformation Group (LTG). The LTG is a group of two or three people who meet together weekly for three essential disciplines: confession of sin, steady intake of Scripture, and prayer for others who need Christ. The genius of the LTG is that it is simple and transferable, making it naturally self-proliferating and an appropriate tool for any cultural or church context. Outlining this system, Search & Rescue will benefit pastors, church leaders, and anyone interested in fulfilling the Great Commission.
Quote from CULTIVATING A LIFE FOR GOD: MULTIPLYING DISCIPLES THROUGH
LIFE TRANSFORMATION GROUPS (1999)
CHAPTER EIGHT: The Life Transformation Group System
See also: https://www.cmaresources.org/article/ltg
David Kueker’s “UMC friendly” version of the LTG can be downloaded here:
OPW5 Class #5 – The “J.U.M.P. Group” Discipleship Pathway
All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Please review the page How and Why We Use Quotes.
Level: First Draft. Last revision: 11/28/2019.
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