“If anyone wants to serve me, he must follow me, and where I am, my servant will be too. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:26)
Those who trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (“believers”) are called to become “disciples.” A disciple is an active follower or learner. A disciple studies the teachings of another person whom they respect and applies those teachings to her life. For example, the movie Julie & Julia portrays the young woman Julie Powell becoming a disciple of master chef Julia Child through Julia’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julie studies the recipes and follows the procedures. As a result, she experiences the joy of cooking and eating delicious food as Julia has taught her through a book. Towards the end, one realizes that Julie got to know Julia Child “personally” though they never met.
Jesus Christ calls you to intentionally follow him as his disciple. This means committing to learning from him and becoming like him as you obediently apply what he teaches you through his book, the Bible, and what he allows into your life.
1. Read Mark 5:18 and 10:52. What do those who have been healed want to do? Is this a typical response for those who have been healed of their sin and given new life today? Why or why not? Should it be?
2. Read Matthew 11:28-30. What does Jesus promise to those who follow him as his disciple?
Historical Insight: “Yoke” refers to the harness that connected a pair of animals, usually oxen, to a plow. The yoke linked them together so they could work efficiently. Often a young animal was paired with an older one, allowing the younger one to learn “on the job” from the experienced animal. In New Testament times, the phrase “take the yoke of” was used by the Jewish rabbis to mean, “become the pupil of a certain teacher,” in this case the disciple of Jesus. (Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible, page 1066)
As we have seen so far in this study, the rest Jesus offers is from the work of the Law (plus all the additional burdens Israel’s spiritual leaders had loaded onto the people) in order to maintain a right standing with God. This invitation recalls Jeremiah 31:25 where Yahweh offered his people rest in the New Covenant (“I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint”). Jesus, the revealer of God, invites those who long to know God and be refreshed in life to come to him. Jesus’ burden is light compared to the loads Israel’s religious leaders imposed on their disciples.
3. Learning from Jesus involves being a student of his Word (our Bible) and choosing to put God’s truth into practice as a lifestyle. What do the following say are the benefits of doing so?
4. Jesus knew the Old Testament Scriptures (the revealed Word of God) well and used them in his life and ministry. [Note: the New Testament was not yet written.] Read the following verses. How did Jesus use the Old Testament?
5. Read the following verses. What else is revealed about the Word of God?
Historical Insight: The Bible is an amazing book. It was written over a 1,500-year period by about 40 different authors living in several different countries. It was written in three different languages—Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Yet the Bible is consistent in its central theme and key figure—it focuses upon Jesus Christ. Such a feat would be impossible without one supreme Author—the Holy Spirit of God.
6. Read 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:20-21. What did Paul and Peter both conclude about the scriptures? Why is this important?
Focus on the Meaning: Inspired means literally “God-breathed” in the Greek. “The meaning, then, is not that God breathed into the writers, nor that he somehow breathed into the writings to give them their special character, but that what was written by men was breathed out by God. He spoke though them. They were His spokesmen.” (John R. W. Stott, Understanding the Bible)
“God-breathed doesn’t mean that the writers of the Scriptures were sleep-walking. What it means is that God used their personalities, their abilities, their understanding, their talents and the real-life situations they were in to bring forth the Scripture that he wanted. Most of the New Testament letters were written to deal with circumstances. God is perfectly able to work through real-life circumstances in a real-life person like Paul, for example, to bring about the end result that he intends to use for the next however many centuries for us.” (Tim Stevenson, TEAM Training, Session 3)
7. Graceful Living: In 1 Peter 2:2, we are encouraged to "long for the pure milk of the Word." Is this how you view the Scriptures—as essential food for growth as a baby must have milk to grow and develop properly? Do you long for the Word every day? Ask God to give you an insatiable longing for his Word and to draw you to himself through reading it.
God and the devil agree on one thing: Both want to capture your mind, because whoever captures your mind will direct the course of your life. Everyone maintains a number of premises for living, both consciously and unconsciously. Premises are assumptions that form the foundation and shape of your thinking. They are important because of a universal law of logic and behavior: “If your premise is off, your findings will be off.” The actions you take will not likely succeed.
God wants your values, beliefs, and convictions to be formed by his Word. Biblical convictions can be compared to the policies of an organization. Like policies:
Because biblical convictions are based on an objective standard of truth (the Word of God), they provide an objective standard for daily decision-making, as opposed to living by fickle emotions.
8. Read Colossians 2:8.
9. Do you want to be taken captive by such things? Of course not! So, what do you do?
Biblical convictions are based upon what God has revealed about himself. From our study so far, we know that the Bible asserts that man can truly know God and know truth about him. However, because man is finite, his knowledge of God can never be comprehensive. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” We can know what has been revealed.
10. According to John 14:26 and John 16:12-15, what was the Holy Spirit’s role in supervising the apostles’ teaching and writing so that we may have confidence in the reliability of the New Testament?
Historical Insight: “There are 5,686 Greek manuscripts in existence today for the New Testament. If we were to compare the number of New Testament manuscripts to other ancient writings, we find that…there are thousands more New Testament Greek manuscripts than any other ancient writing. The internal consistency of the New Testament documents is about 99.5% textually pure. That is an amazing accuracy. In addition, there are over 19,000 copies in the Syriac, Latin, Coptic, and Aramaic languages. The total supporting New Testament manuscript base is over 24,000…The Christian has substantially superior criteria for affirming the New Testament documents than he does for any other ancient writing. It is good evidence on which to base the trust in the reliability of the New Testament.” (Matt Slick, “Manuscript evidence for superior New Testament reliability,” )
The historical reliability of the Scriptures is an important issue, and they (the Scriptures) can be investigated to show that the biblical records are trustworthy. But ultimately, the truth of the Bible as the Word of God is inseparable from the issue of Jesus Christ. Remember that Christianity is Christ!
11. Graceful Living: We live in a world of controversy and diverse worldviews. Having an objective standard of truth can be both a shield and a weapon (Proverbs 30:5, 2 Corinthians 10:5). Do you have confidence in the reliability of the Scriptures? Have you come across certain parts of scripture in which you question its reliability? Why?
Living in intentional cooperation with the Spirit as he transforms us into the image of Christ involves the practice of “taking every thought captive” to Christ as exhorted by Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:4b-5:
“We tear down arguments 10:5 and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ.”
When we begin to understand this verse we discover a few things.
First, we need to pass everything that we believe, or that we think we should believe, through the grid of God’s Word. Does it line up with the truth found in Scripture? God will help us recognize error in thinking.
Second, we do not have to entertain every thought that runs through our head on a daily basis. Because the Holy Spirit lives in us, we have the ability to discern God-pleasing thoughts from thoughts that grieve his heart. We can take those thoughts captive and replace them with truth from his Word.
Third, we do not have to be enslaved to emotions that are influenced by lies. The more we practice taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ the freer we will be from the tyranny of our emotions. Our emotions will then be based on truth and will be beneficial to us.
Fourth, error in thinking will seriously affect our behavior and our relationships. The more we practice taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ, the more we will be transformed by the Spirit into godly women whose lives are filled with love, joy, peace and the rest of the fruit God wants to produce in our lives.
The following are examples of questions commonly asked by people about different issues based on values, beliefs, and convictions. We are exhorted in 1 Peter 3:15 to always be ready to give answers to the hope that is within us, the truths we have learned that produce joy in our lives and more disciples for Jesus as we loyally follow him and tell others about him. Read the question and the common error in thinking. Comment on the effects of that thinking on someone’s life. Look up the verses and determine what the truth is about that issue. Feel free to add other verses to derive your answer. Ask Jesus to help you understand the truth so you can be set free from error and provide answers to each particular question when asked by someone else.
12. Issue #1: Where can I find meaning & purpose in life?
Error in thinking: Find it through people, places and things.
Think About It: “…you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you.” (Augustine of Hippo, The Confessions)
13. Issue #2: Are there objective standards of right and wrong?
Error in thinking: Right and wrong are relative; there are no absolutes.
14. Issue #3: What is the source of human evil?
Error in thinking: It is the fault of others, or of circumstances.
15. Issue #4: What if I choose to do wrong anyway?
Error in thinking: I can do what I want without consequences.
16. Issue #5: Where can I find success and security?
Error in thinking: Find security in money and position. Seek success at any price.
17. Issue #6: How can I become a person of influence?
Error in thinking: Climb the ladder upward over people and circumstances.
18. Graceful Living:
In our society, we have so many options to obtain “knowledge” about how to live life—the education system, internet, television, movies, and books galore. Add to that whatever goes “viral”! Facebook posts, Pinterest boards, and other social media outlets grab our attention. Everyone expresses her own opinion about the latest issue of life, and society says all opinions are equally valuable. From the last section, you realized that thinking not based on scriptural truth can lead to some disastrous results.
Think About It: “Jesus asked the rich young ruler to surrender his fortune in order to know true riches (Mark 10:21). He asked the young boy to surrender his meager lunch so that thousands could feast (John 6:5-13). He asked the disciples to surrender their plans, their dreams, their very lives, to follow him (Matthew 4:18-22, Luke 5:1-22). And He asks us to surrender our rights, our reputation, our possessions, and our security. He wants our dreams and desires, our losses and our loves. Why? Because He knows that what He offers is better by far than anything we are holding onto. He knows that surrendering everything we have and everything we are to him yields joy, purpose and peace that we cannot possess any other way He knows that when we put our pain, loss and regret into his loving hands we will finally begin to experience the healing and the hope we long for.” (Woven, The Truth about Redemption Next Step, “Redeeming Hope: Your journey Toward Surrender”)
To grow spiritually, you must pursue your relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Remember, Christianity is Christ! You make the decision to not only be a believer but also Jesus’ disciple—someone who follows him, learns from him, and leads others to do the same. Choosing to become Jesus’ disciple means you choose to:
19. Graceful Living: Are you willing to respond to the call of God’s grace in your life to be more than just a believer but to become a true disciple of Jesus, learning from him and preparing yourself to lead others as well? Looking at the list above, what can you choose to do this week to become more of Jesus’ disciple?
Think About It: Purposely creating the time and space in our lives to sit with God allows him to nurture who we are, not necessarily instruct us in what to do.