DESIGN FOR DISCIPLESHIP
This study material is from the first book published by the Navigators in their seven book series on discipleship and basic Christian life Foundation Series. The subject headings to consider in the first book in the series of the seven books are -
- God Cares for You.
- The Person of Jesus Christ
- The work of Christ
- The Spirit Within You
Billions of people go through life spiritually dead and undernourished and the words Jesus spoke and taught centuries ago are still true. Let us read the words of Jesus found in the gospel of Matthew 4:4. "Man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God".
Living in the United States all these years, I am more convinced that only God can fully satisfy our deep spiritual needs. These writings are an encouragement to all to read and study the Bible and for those who have faith in Christ Jesus and even those who have known Him for many years. Christian spiritual discipline, is one of the least mentioned and least taught life-style that makes the true disciple of Jesus Christ, a distinct person from all those around. Cultivating this life changing truth myself continues to help me walk in the narrow pilgrim pathway I have chosen.
Therefore, what does this imply in action?
- It establishes a program of personal study of the Scriptures.
- Examine the great truths of the Bible and our response to them.
- It aids in learning and practice of the essentials of discipleship.
So do prayerfully proceed with the "texts and substance" and like me, you are in for an adventure that will deepen your life with Christ, steering you clear of all the deceptions and delusions that are so rampant in Christianity. Let us then begin this pilgrim journey.
To begin, keep in mind that God cares for you.
He is concerned about what happens to you. Why is this so?
Because God created you
God is present and knows you
God loves you
God adopted you into His family
If you think about the first three statements, they are "immutable," which means they cannot be changed.
In the last statement, adoption becomes possible only by the Sovereign Act of God's will. It is His choosing that made this possible through the reconciling death of Jesus Christ and His substituting death on the cross. Jesus Christ and He alone fulfilled Divine Justice for sin and three passages to read in this context are – The fulfillment of Divine Justice(Acts 4:11-12).The triumph of faith-(Romans 5:1-5). The Life Giving Spirit - (Romans 8:1-11). Some background texts would be appropriate to keep in focus, God's grace and His mercy.
God created each of us in a body – (Genesis 1:26-27).
In the scope of Biblical revelation, we were created in this body, to be holy and our bodies to be the temple of God (1Corinthians 10).
Adam and the Woman were seduced by the devil, to aspire to be gods in the body, so the body is very important.
Therefore, temptation, sin seduction, rebellion are not just "spiritual matters" they are resident in the "body" containing the whole person that sins (1Corrinthians 6:13-20. Romans8:1-13, 12:1-2. 2Corinthians 7:1 and Galatians 5:24). Sin is carried out in the body and likewise spirituality is contained and carried out in the body by the "new birth" (Ephesians 2:1-10).
God created you and me
How awesome and joyous that all beginnings flow from God and His cosmic plan and specific design. He Himself is infinite and amazing in Power, Knowledge and Creativity. How refreshing to know that there is order in the creation and that you and I were not from a blog, bog or some conjured up "cell" and most certainly not from the Apes or monkeys.
1. The very first chapter of Genesis the Bible tells us that God created the universe out of nothingness. As you read (Genesis 1:1-5) you may notice three things which can be listed, but I have listed much more.
a. Creation was ex-nihilo meaning out of nothing. b. God is the prime and supreme being. c. God spoke, and it was so (Psalm 102:25-27) is a text that reminds us of Divine Sovereignty. d. The Spirit of God is like an eagle hovering over all in His presence. e. Light is commanded into being and this light was of such quality that it sustains life. Two passages that would be very helpful here are (Isaiah 24 and Jeremiah 4:22-26).
2. Through what forces did God create the world? (Hebrews 11:3).
The world, was prepared by the word of God and this word of God is not a power
In some abstract "of mother nature" or some force field as many may assume, it is a
Power inherent in the Moral Character of God and His word are revealed in the
Moral Order of creation and it is precise in its spoken word, with all the intended
results, therefore, out of chaos arose, order, beauty, form and distinctiveness.
Thus, Light and Life are the moral products of His creation. Man and Woman represent the highest completion in His creation to respond to the creator in that moral capacity.
3. Out of God's infinite wisdom and capacity, He designed and created you, why?
God created all things for His own glory, especially Man and Woman to have fellowship and communion with Him and worship Him. The basis of this is in righteousness, holiness and purity. As created moral beings, this fellowship, worship and communion were to be lived from the place and position of "rest." The prophet Isaiah reminds us of such a disposition (Isaiah 46:10).
The apostle Paul writes about the majesty of Divine Purpose in the revelation he received in describing the joyful purpose for our creation (Ephesians 1:3-4). Ponder upon this text and you may catch the apostle's awe, joy and vision of the new life he enjoyed.
4. The dignity, God gave human beings is shown by a person's uniqueness, authority, and purpose. List some of the ideas from (Genesis 1:26-28).
a. The uniqueness of human kind
Man and Woman, were created as moral human beings, with a uniqueness to respond to God's love and worship Him, have fellowship with Him and carry out the stewardship He gave to the first Man and Woman.
Observe, in (Gen.1: 20-23), God blessed all the animals, the birds and all the creatures in the waters, to live and function in their ordered beauty and freedom within those life forms and boundaries.
In (Gen. 1:24-31), God blessed the rest of the creation including the Man and Woman. The Man the Woman share a unique place and position in the creation in that they are provided stewardship, responsibility as caretakers, and the ability to worship and have fellowship with the Creator. Therefore, in these texts, unfold the place, position and uniqueness of human kind. In seeming simplicity lies the profound meaning to those who "hunger and thirst after righteousness."
b. The position or authority of human kind
This position is unique, where Man and Woman can enjoy the very "Life of God" and worship Him in joyful obedience and submission. They were like none other creature that enjoyed this privilege except the angels. It was a world of order, beauty, security for all, hence the blessings that God pronounced was in the greater framework in the "functioning order of things."
c. God's purpose for humankind
The book of Genesis was the first of the five books that consists of the Old Testament known as the Pentateuch or the Hebrew Torah. It was to be, the "charter of freedom," for Israel, who was redeemed from Egypt. In addition, this charter of freedom is also for all people whom God has called and has chosen.
God has communicated His will and purpose very simply and clearly and if you notice in the text, there is a great anthem of joy in the use of the word "teeming" implying the blessings that followed creation.
5. Do you like being part of God's humankind? Why, or why not?
My personal answer to this question is most certainly yes, since my conversion experience I am a human being for the first time. Until the "new birth," I was living with beast like qualities, seduced by culture religion and so called "civilized society". (It is very difficult for human beings in this modern time and point in history to recognize the Biblical estimation of their sinful, depraved nature). Well, just read the apostle Paul' summery of our "Pre-Grace condition" (Ephesians 2:1-4) note particularly (vs.4), where the text reads "But God being rich in mercy," shows mercy to us in this miserable state. The attempt to be "little gods" (vs.1-3) made our lives miserable attempting to live with the giant "ID" or Ego. Taking charge and unwilling to admit our terrible impoverishment, "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, was shown to us.
The word of God set against all this, provides us with the true perspective that "All things were created for God's pleasure," and when we rebelled, we brought upon ourselves God's displeasure and wrath, damaging His creation in the process, brings further displeasure. Yes, now to be part of God's humankind, I would not exchange it for any thing in the world. Praise God!
6. How do you respond to God as your Creator?
I can now respond to God's love since I have been restored into fellowship with Him and be fully human, through, the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross-and His substitutionary sacrifice. Jesus Christ, as the second Adam made this possible (as the sequence of this verse shows), God is worthy to receive – glory recall the (Our Father in Heaven) pattern of prayer the Lord taught His disciples, Jesus, in his humanity is placing the emphasis on God as Supreme.
Yet, in this awesome and beautiful description, there is an anthem of praise and worship that John is witness to. "Worthy are you, our Lord God to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created." It is the "peace with God" where all past, present and future is not only made new, but now, you and I can live life each day, as God the Father and Creator meant it to be lived.
GOD IS PRESENT AND KNOWS YOU
7. In Psalm 139:1-8, David mentions several areas of his personal life that God has "searched and known." List at least four of them. Then place a check mark by the areas you think God knows about your life. (I have noted several of them).
God has searched him and searches you and me. God knew every movement in David's life and it is of great comfort to know this in your life and mine. God knows the thoughts and intentions of David's heart and similarly knows those thoughts and intentions in our hearts. (Which means that we can be free of pretence since we have nothing to hide).God had encircled David and He encircles us too. God had placed His hand upon David and does so in each of our lives. All this is for our own salvation and benefit so we can live life to please God, and fulfill His purpose each day. I also view two important characters of God- Omniscience (vs.1-6) and Omnipresence (vs.7-12).
In God's Omniscience, there are some parallel passages to consider-
Hearts are searched – Matthew 12:36.
Hearts are known - Romans 11:33.
My ways are also known – Matthew 12:36.
In God's Omnipresence, there are some parallel passages to consider-
Omnipresence – Jeremiah 23:24.
In all the scope of creation – Amos 9:2. Job 34:22.
God is still there – sin is made bare – Daniel 2:22.
"Grace means there is nothing I can do to make God love me more and nothing I can do to make God love me less. It means that I, even I who deserve the opposite, am invited to take my place at the table in God's family". ("What's So Amazing About Grace" In the book by Philip Yancey).
8. How did David respond as he realized that God knew him completely and that God is present everywhere?
1. David surrendered to God to search him – Human hearts searched – (1Chronicles 28:9. Psalm 44:21. Jeremiah 17:10 23:24. Amos 9:3. Zephaniah 1:12 and Romans 8:27.
The secrets of the heart known -
(Matthew 12:25, 22:18, Mark 2:8, Luke 11:17, John 2:25.
Surrendering to the Divine Omnipresence is very important, but with that act comes conviction by the Holy Spirit to Obey Him.
9. How do you feel about God's detailed interest in you as revealed by the Lord Jesus?
Consider the implications involved, as these attributes must be a part of our Christian experience in the context of discipleship.
Discipleship eliminates the fear of people (vs.28).
Discipleship involves Divine Care – example in (1Kings 17:13), supplies in famine.
There is protection in Peril – (2Kings 6:16).
There is strength in weakness – (Isaiah 41:10).
There is companionship in trial – (Isaiah 43:1-3).
There is Gods overshadowing care – (Matthew 10:30-31, Matthew 28:5, Luke 12:32).
There is the continuum of Life Beyond the grave – (Revelation 1:17, 18).
10. What was Gods greatest demonstration of His love? (1 John 4:9, 10).
I would recommend that you read the entire passage rather than just the verse, since it is a good practice to establish. John is writing about God's love, but the backdrop is important. It is "Testing the spirits of the prophets" or those who proclaim or forth tell. Jesus Christ must be the absolute center in the life of the person who is proclaiming the message.
GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD….
WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM but have
Shall not perish everlasting life
HE GAVE HIS ONLY SON JESUS
11. Study John 3:16 in relationship to the previous illustration.
a. What motivated God to sacrifice His Son for us?
I would not use the term "motivated" since God is Sovereign and needs no motivation. The Scripture makes no allowance in the scope of revelation for God to be motivated. All of creation was in the intended purpose of God for His Glory. Since the Man and Woman were created, for His glory, to love, worship and fellowship with Him and serve Him and others around, this "intimacy and communion" is possible only on the grounds that God is Holy and commands us to be Holy.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." Love is the very essence of God, so is Holiness and judgment on sin. Keep in mind the intensity of Love and oneness between the persons in the Trinity. This and many other texts relating to salvation have are used in a careless manner and as these studies unfold, a Godly fear and reverence must affect our lives.
b. How can a person respond to God's offer of eternal life?
Very simple, but many times very difficult too by coming in humility, submission to His person, nature and character in absolute surrender, believing, that from that moment the struggle and rebellion is over. To accept the "free gift of salvation" on God's terms, understanding fully well that "religion the practice of it and belief", cannot cleanse one's soul and transform our "rotten and meaningless lives."
"Jesus offers himself as God's doorway into the life that is truly life. Confidence in him leads us today, as in other times, to become his apprentices in eternal living. "Those who come through me will be safe," he said. "They will go in and out and find all they need. I have come into their world that they may have life, and life to the limit."
- Dallas Willard – In his book "The Divine Conspiracy".
12. In (John 10:9-16), Jesus uses metaphorical language by comparing His love and concern to the love and concern of a shepherd. According to this passage, what are some of the ways Jesus cares for us?
If you read the entire chapter as I recommend, two major paragraph divisions can read in the use of the "IAM" statements used in John's gospel account. In (John 10: 22- 42), Jesus is teaching and revealing to his disciples the intensity of relationship in, "I and the Father Are One". John is presenting Jesus Christ as the "Great Shepherd of Israel", greater than the shepherd king David and the only "True Shepherd." Being non-Jews, the impact of his love, crosses all boundaries to encompass all of who have been called out from the world and its influence of religion, dead rituals, formalities, religious observances, as the apostle Paul describes "holding a form of godliness, but denying its power."
The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. Neither David nor any other monarch laid their lives down for their "sheep" their own people. The opposite was, like "thieves and robbers" they did exactly that, oppressed them and enslaved them, as did Solomon, to build the temple and other palace structures in Jerusalem.
Laying down his life as the "True Shepherd" has more implications, Jesus, bore the Justice and Judicial implications for our sins, since we like sheep had gone astray. Out of animals, sheep have no idea where they are going and will be led either by false or true shepherds. Our lives in reference to sheep is true, since sin and rebellion has led us astray into a Purposeless life. Jesus cares for us as he also has called us into a relationship with him and this is for all eternity. Care involves more than security and comfort, in order to be lead by this True Shepherd, the power held over our lives by following "false shepherds" must be broken. We admit we have gone astray since we were running our lives.
If you go back and read what Dallas Willard has written, it falls right into place
about the care this "Great Shepherd" has for each one of us.