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Understanding The Theological Context of Biblical Discipleship

We saw in the first lecture that being a disciple of Christ involves being called to be with him and to know him, as well as to follow him, and to make disciples of other people. Now, it is reasonable to ask for a broader context for this duty. Where does it fit in God’s overall plan? In the next two lectures we will look at the broader theological and relational contexts for Christ’s call to discipleship. It is crucial to understand this so that when times get tough—and they will—we do not get unnecessarily confused and disheartened about God’s work in our lives and in the world. You will need to spend time teaching your disciples this. Like you and me, they too need to understand and believe it.

IA. Theological Context: The Plan of God—”A People for His Name”

1B. The Progress of the Kingdom of God and Discipleship

1C. Abrahamic Covenant

The point of mentioning the Abrahamic covenant here is that it demonstrates that God’s plan centers on blessing people; that’s what He’s about. That’s what discipleship is all about. It involves blessing people with intentionality.

God promised Abraham many wonderful things, including (1) seed (a nation to come from his loins); (2) a land to live in; (3) the personal blessing of an esteemed name and reputation, and (4) universal blessing (i.e., blessing to the entire world through Abraham). Thus, from the very beginning of creation God’s plan has been to bless people. His choice of Abraham reveals the personal and universal nature of that plan.

Genesis 12:1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go out from your country, your relatives, and your father’s household to the land that I will show you. 12:2 Then I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great, in order that you might be a prime example of divine blessing. 12:3 I will bless those who bless you, but the one who treats you lightly I must curse, and all the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”

The Abrahamic covenant prepares us for all God’s future dealings with people, setting forth in seedbed form the foundation of the Davidic and New covenants, as we shall see. Before we look at them, however, and how they relate to the Abrahamic covenant, the Davidic covenant, and discipleship, we need to say a brief word about the Mosaic Law.

2C. The Mosaic Covenant

Some time after God had given Abraham and his posterity the Abrahamic covenant, he established the Law in Israel through Moses. It is important to note that to be in relationship with God, through his grace, implies that we live a certain way (e.g., Titus 2:1-15, esp. vv. 11-12). We cannot live any way we please and at the same time claim to know God (Titus 1:16). Our lives betray the lie. So, in keeping with his eternal holiness, God in his grace revealed the Law to Moses so that the children of Israel might understand what it means to walk with and live for God. The Law did not give them a relationship with God, but was rather given to them because they were in relationship with God—the God who had redeemed them from Egypt. All its ceremonial and social orientations were temporary until the sacrifice of Christ and it itself—as a whole—points to Christ (Rom 3:21; Gal 3:23-25). The holy standards of the law are still in effect though interpreted and applied by our Lord and his apostles in light of the new covenant (Matt 5:18-20; Rom 8:3-4; 13:8-10). For example, the demand to “have no other Gods before me,” as spoken in Exodus 20:3, and the prohibition against idolatry (Exodus 20:4) are applied in discipleship in terms of the Lordship of Christ and the exclusive worship due to Him alone. We saw in lecture one that we, as adherents of our Lord, are to cling to Him and follow him only. We are not to chase after other gods. We do not have to sacrifice goats, lambs, etc. nor are we to separate from people on an ethnic basis, but we are to live holy lives to the Lord. We are not to steal, lie, covet, murder, commit adultery, or misuse the name of the Lord.

1D. Deuteronomy 4:12-13

4:13 And he revealed to you the covenant he has commanded you to keep, the ten commandments, writing them on two stone tablets. 4:14 Moreover, at that same time the Lord commanded me to teach you statutes and ordinances for you to keep in the land to which you are going as your inheritance.

2D. Galatians 3:21-25

3:21 Is the law therefore opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 3:22 But the scripture imprisoned everything and everyone under sin so that the promise could be given—because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ—to those who believe. 3:23 Now before faith came we were held in custody under the law, being kept as prisoners until the coming faith would be revealed. 3:24 Thus the law had become our guardian until Christ, so that we could be declared righteous by faith. 3:25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

3D. Hebrews 8:13

When he speaks of a new covenant, he makes the first obsolete. Now what is growing obsolete and aging is about to disappear.

4D. Romans 8:3-4

For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened , God did by sending his own son in the likeness of sinful man to be s sinful offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according tot he sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

5D. Romans 13:8-10

13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 13:9 For the commandments, “do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet,” (and if there is any other commandment) are summed up in this, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

3C. The Davidic Covenant

The promise given to David concerns seed, the guarantee of a throne, and the promise that a house/temple would be built for Yahweh. Thus the Davidic covenant is really an expansion and development of the Abrahamic covenant, in particular, the seed aspect. It guarantees that the blessing God promised to the world will always be available through His chosen or anointed king. The question is, will the people be able to receive it? The Jeremiah or New covenant answers that question.

1D. 2 Samuel 7:12-13, 16

7:12 When the time comes for you to die, I will raise up your descendant, one of your own sons, to succeed you, and I will establish his kingdom. 7:13 He will build a house for my name, and I will make his dynasty permanent7:16 Your house and your kingdom will stand before me permanently; your dynasty will be permanent.”

2D. Psalm 89:29

I will give him an eternal dynasty, and make his throne as enduring as the skies above.

3D. Acts 13:32-33

13:32 And we proclaim to you the good news about the promise to our ancestors, 13:33 that this promise God has fulfilled to us, their children, by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second psalm, ‘You are my Son; today I have fathered you.’

4C. The New Covenant

The Israelites, and all men by extension (cf. Romans 3:19-20), are completely unable to keep God’s holy Law. The Mosaic covenant did not answer the question of sin once and for all. Therefore, God established a new and different covenant with his people. In this covenant, often referred to as the new covenant, God promises to do several things, including forgive sin, write his law on the heart of his people, put his Spirit in our hearts, and abide with us as his people forever. This is the way in which he will fulfill his promise to Abraham that he would bless the world through him.

1D. Jeremiah 31:31-34

31:31 “Indeed, a time is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 31:32 It will not be like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. For they violated that agreement, even though I was a faithful husband to them,” says the Lord. 31:33 “But I will make a new covenant with the whole nation of Israel after I plant them back in the land,” says the Lord. “I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds. And I will be their God and they will be my people. 31:34 “People will no longer need to teach their neighbors and relatives to know me. That is because all of them, from the least important to the most important, will know me,” says the Lord. “All of this is based on the fact that I will forgive their sin and will no longer call to mind the wrong they have done.”

2D. Ezekiel 26:26-27

36:26 I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh. 36:27 I will put my spirit within you, and I will make you walk in my statutes and keep my ordinances, and you will do them.

5C. The Coming of Christ and the Pouring Out of the Spirit at Pentecost: The New Covenant Fulfilled in Inaugural Fashion

The New Testament repeatedly teaches, by explicit statement, allusion, and example, that through Christ—the divinely anointed Davidic Messiah—God has fulfilled the New Covenant in at least an inaugural way and has, once and for all, answered the problem of man’s sin and Satan. Certainly the first coming, with Christ’s death and resurrection, fulfills all the necessary, foundational requirements for the New Covenant. The promised blessings have been instituted though their full realization awaits the millennium and the eternal state. He has found an eternal basis upon which to forgive our sin (i.e., the cross and resurrection), write his law on our heart, and give us the Holy Spirit in a new and powerful way. He has found an eternal basis upon which to bless his people forever. The new covenant does not lower God’s holy standards in any way, nor does it reduce the need for our participation in God’s work. Rather, it calls us to the place where we are forgiven, cleansed, empowered, and sent out with the knowledge of his presence and his constant work in the hearts of other people. By the power of the Spirit we labor with him in the ministry of the gospel and discipleship (1 Cor 3:9-11).

1D. Luke 22:15-20

22:20 And in the same way he took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

2D. Acts 2:1-4, 33

2:1 Now when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2:2 Suddenly a sound like a violent wind blowing came from heaven and filled the entire house where they were sitting. 2:3 And tongues spreading out like a fire appeared to them and came to rest on each one of them. 2:4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them…2:33 So then, exalted to the right hand of God, and having received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he [Jesus] has poured out what you both see and hear.

3D. 1 Corinthians 3:9-10

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds.

4D. 2 Corinthians 3:5-6

3:5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as if it were coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, 3:6 who made us adequate to be servants of a new covenant not based on the letter but on the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

6C. The Consummation

The Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and New Covenants all point in one direction: they affirm the idea that God has always wanted a people for himself, whom he could call his own, love, and bless. His people, on the other hand, have always needed him and desired to know, love, and enjoy their God forever. This thought runs throughout Scripture culminating in its ultimate realization in the eternal state.

1D. Exodus 19:5-6

19:5 And now, if you will diligently obey me and keep my covenant, then you will be my special possession out of all the nations, for all the earth is mine. 19:6 And you will be my kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’

2D. Leviticus 26:12

26:12 I will walk about among you, and I will be your God and you will be my people.

3D. Jeremiah 32:38

32:38 They will be my people, and I will be their God.

4D. Ezekiel 37:27

37:27 My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.

5D. 2 Corinthians 6:16

6:16 And what mutual agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said, “I will live in them and will walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

6D. Revelation 21:3-4

21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Look! The residence of God is among men and women. He will live among them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more—or mourning, or crying, or pain; the former things have ceased to exist.”

2B. The Incarnation and Cross: Kingdom Discipleship in Action

Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, became man and pitched his tent among us (John 1:14). God did not yell from heaven, but rather sent his Son into the world to be with us. He was full of grace and truth and as such he teaches us about love for God and proper relationships with people. Indeed, his greatest act of love involved going to the cross to secure our salvation. He became obedient to the point of suffering death by a cross. Then God highly exalted him and gave him a name that is above every name.

Jesus, then, provides the quintessential pattern of discipleship and its ultimate theological backdrop: humble obedience and service followed by exaltation. Notice the order; first, sacrificial service, then eternal exaltation. It’s not the other way around. Therefore, discipleship is all about love for God and love for people: loving and serving God by sacrificially loving and serving people. The discipler has a servant’s heart for that is what he/she really is!

1C. John 1:14-18—Jesus: God Dwelling with His People

1:14 Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory—the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father. 1:15 John testified about him and cried out, “This one was the one about whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than I am, because he existed before me.’” 1:16 For we have all received from his fullness one gracious gift after another. 1:17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ. 1:18 No one has ever seen God. The only one, himself God, who is in the presence of the Father, has made God known.

2C. Philippians 2:6-11—The Example of Discipleship

2:6 who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, 2:7 but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. 2:8 He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross! 2:9 As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 2:10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow—in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 2:11 and every tongue confess to the glory of God the Father that Jesus Christ is Lord.

3B. Our Triune God and the Great Commission

In light of New Testament revelation, we now know that it was the Triune God who was at work in the life of Abraham, promising blessing to the ends of the earth. We know that it was He who chose David as His king and the vehicle through which He would bless his people. We also know that it was He who promised his Spirit as the One who would regenerate His people, sanctify them, and equip them for His service. All along it has been the divine community working out His plan for the world. And now we too are called to know the Father, through the Son, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit. The God who promises to bless the ends of the earth is a Trinity and we have come to know him as such. And, it is in His Trinitarian name that we have been commissioned to go out and be His instruments for the fulfillment of his plan of blessing, i.e., the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). We make disciples “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” We are thus sent out to establish a community on earth after the fashion of the divine community in heaven.

IIA. Summary

In the first lecture we focused on understanding what the term “disciple” means and how it relates—in an introductory sort of way—to being a disciple of Christ. But when Christ commanded discipleship from his followers, as he also does today, it is helpful to understand the broad theological context in which he utters that command. It is helpful to know how God’s work today relates to what he has done before and will do in the future.

We saw that discipleship, as God’s plan for the church, is the way he has ordained to bring the blessing promised to Abraham to the world. He has given us a permanent king in the Lord Jesus who has bestowed on us the Spirit. Through the Spirit we are transformed into the image of Christ, grow in our commitment to personal discipleship, and are empowered to love, serve, and disciple others—even the nations.

Thus, understanding the broad theological context will strengthen your personal commitment to discipleship and discipling others. You will go forth in humble confidence, knowing you are right in the middle of God’s will and plan for your life and the world. You will get a clear picture of where you fit in the unfolding of God’s plan to bless the nations. And, learning the theological backdrop for Christ’s call to make disciples of all nations helps you to better understand the Bible, how it relates to your ministry, and how to teach it to others.

Remember, God’s plan of blessing the world is wrapped up in securing a people for himself. As you go and minister to others you contribute to His plans to bless the world and call out of darkness a people for himself.

IIIA. Questions for Thought

1. What were the four Biblical covenants we looked at in this lesson? How do the Davidic and New covenants relate to the Abrahamic?

2. How does the Mosaic covenant relate to the other three covenants?

3. In relation to these covenants, what is the one theme that runs throughout Scripture?

4. How does the Great Commission relate to each of these covenants?

5. Where does the incarnation and cross fit into the covenants we studied and how does it relate to discipleship?

6. How has studying the plan of God throughout Scripture helped you regarding your personal commitment to Christ in discipleship? Your commitment to discipling others?

Related Topics: Discipleship

Understanding The Relational Context of Biblical Discipleship

In the first lecture we defined what it means to be a disciple of Christ. We discovered that the idea of discipleship involves understanding both its theological context as well as its relational context. So, in lecture two, we explored the broad theological and scriptural context for Christ’s mandate to make disciples. We learned that from the very beginning it has been God’s plan to secure a people for himself and recreate them in Christ’s image. According to his covenantal promises, he has done just that and continues to do just that today. As we disciple people we participate in his great plan. But there is another context in which to look at this process of discipleship and disciplemaking. It is the relational context. I want to stress relationships because so often this is neglected in favor of stressing the legitimate demands of discipleship. When we stress the demands of discipleship apart from good relationships we often reduce it to nothing more than human effort and following rules. The theological context gives us a mental picture of God’s work, while the relational context unveils the personal orientation of discipleship. Christianity is not primarily an ethic, but a relationship—a relationship with God and with our fellow man.

IA. The Relational Context: The Greatest Commandments

1B. The Greatest Commandments

Mark 12:28 Now one of the experts in the law came and heard them debating. When he saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is: ‘Listen, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 12:31 The second is: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

2B. Discipleship and Love for God

We have seen in lecture one that Christian discipleship involves the idea of complete and unreserved dedication to Christ, his will, work, and ways. This, of course, is consonant with the Great commandment to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We must put discipleship together with the greatest commandment to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. They are essentially one and the same. Discipleship is a relational affair, from beginning to end. It is not Stoic dedication, or mere commitment to a certain morality—no matter how exalted or sublime. We need to experience Christ firsthand, abide in Him continually, and teach our disciples that this is the essence of the Christian life. In this way they will be somewhat freer to be in a healthier relationship with you—as a discipler; there will be interdependence, not co-dependence. This leads me to the second and closely related commandment.

3B. Discipleship, Different People, and Love for Our Neighbor

The second commandment is related linguistically to the first through the use of the term “love.” Conceptually, however, the first logically gives rise to the second when properly understood and obeyed; those who love God also love their neighbor. You cannot claim to love God and at the same time hate your neighbor. John also relates the two commandments. He says, “For anyone who does not love his brother whom he can see, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (cf. 1 John 4:20). But sometimes it is hard to love people, especially when they’re different in some way from us. What it means to be human has never changed and is the same for all human beings who have ever lived. But, while people are essentially the same, they differ in many ways relating to tastes, habits, ideas, approaches to problems, dispositions, backgrounds, knowledge, etc. The discipler must appreciate this, realizing that God has called him/her to love all men and to allow them sanctified differences.

Therefore, the goal in discipleship is not uniformity, but rather conformity to the image of Christ and harmony in the body of Christ. It involves a lively, redeemed diversity, not a dead, monolithic sameness. The gospel does not confine, per se; it liberates people, to feel, think, and act along Christ-like lines. Just as there is diversity and unity in the Godhead, so there should be diversity and unity among those who claim to belong to this God. Please appreciate this, but do not think, therefore, because people are different in many ways, that some can be discipled and some cannot. All can and must be his disciples.

1C. Relationships with Brothers and Sisters in the Christian Community
1D. Seek Unity—Ephesians 4:1-6

4:1 I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called, 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 4:3 making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling, 4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 4:6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

In the letter to the Ephesians the apostle is thinking, not just about the church in Ephesus, but the worldwide church, or the church universal. He thinks of the churches in Rome, throughout Asia Minor, Palestine, etc. as really comprising one church, not many disparate churches.

A good disciplemaker humbly recognizes that he is part of Christ’s body. He strives to maintain unity in the body and encourages his disciples to that end. He is not off, over in a corner somewhere, “doing his own thing” and criticizing the rest of the body. Rather, he seeks to live out the unity produced by the Spirit. He is trying to develop disciples who contribute to unity, peace, and the growth of the body rather than those who tear it apart. There is no room for evil competition in the process of making disciples (cf. Phil 2:3-4).

2D. Celebrate Diversity—Ephesians 4:7

4:7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ… 4:11 It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 4:12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ…

In the midst of striving for unity and peace in the body of Christ, comes the corresponding need to recognize the natural and Spirit sponsored differences that exist among the people of God. The Palestinian Christians had a different outlook from the Asian Christians. This is readably discernible from the pages of the New Testament (cf. Acts 15). We must realize that people are different and come to the table with different perspectives. Someone with the gift of mercy discipling another with the gift of administration will need to recognize and appreciate the differences if they are to be successful together. This, of course, does not involve condoning obvious or blatant sin, but people’s gifts, temperaments, and abilities all affect their learning of discipleship. Give them room to grow.

3D. Celebrate Diversity—1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 11

12:4 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. 12:5 And there are different ministries, but the same Lord. 12:6 And there are different results, but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. 12:7 To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the benefit of all… 12:11 It is one and the same Spirit, distributing to each person as he decides, who produces all these things.

We will talk later about the relationship of the gifts to discipleship, but again, suffice it to say here that people and their Spirit given gifts come in all shapes and sizes. But it is important to note that a person’s gift(s) has been given to them by the Spirit for the common good. Whether we appreciate them or not, the Spirit has gifted them for our good. We need to remember that. So, just as there is diversity in the God-head, so there will be diversity in any community he establishes. But this is for the growth of the community.

4D. The Twelve Apostles

Jesus chose twelve very diverse men. I wonder how Matthew and Simon got along? The former was a tax-collector, the latter, probably a zealot. Peter was headstrong and daring, Thomas was probably strong at times, but could be quite reserved and doubting. Some, like James and Thaddaeus, may have frustrated Peter’s compulsive tendencies with their willingness to fade into the background and apparently do little. Then there was Judas, whose cunning deceit allowed his growing greed to go undetected by everyone (except Jesus) until the very end. Further, in Marks’s gospel, the disciples are not pictured in a favorable light, never really understanding what Jesus was about. They were a diverse and difficult lot, to say the least. Yet Jesus could rally them together for ministry. Try that on for size.

2C. Relationships with People in the Larger Non-Christian Community

Jesus called twelve men to come and follow him. He promised that he would make them “fishers of men.” Thus, the call on their lives was lived out in the context of a mission to the lost. Our discipling of other people should also be done in the context of a ministry to the lost. We are to help our people live as light in a dark world—upright and loving in a fallen and ugly world—and as those committed to manifesting the glory of their Father in heaven, by perseverance in works. Generally speaking, and there are exceptions, our disciples are to maintain their relationships with their pre-conversion friends who do not know the Lord (in the hope of loving them and leading them to Christ).

1D. Matthew 4:19

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”

2D. Matthew 5:13-16

5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its flavor, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people. 5:14 You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden. 5:15 People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven.

3D. Colossians 4:5-6

4:5 Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunities. 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer everyone.

4D. Titus 3:8

This saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on such truths, so that those who have placed their faith in God may be intent on engaging in good works. These things are good and beneficial for all people.

IIA. Summary

So discipleship involves being unreservedly committed to Christ. It is lived out in the context of a relationship with God and with our fellow man. Understanding this is key to growing as a disciple and discipling others as well. The process of discipleship is not like making hamburgers at McDonalds; we are not trying to make each person the same. Rather, we value and appreciate the differences people bring to the process and we celebrate God-ordained uniqueness. In saying this, however, we are not encouraging sinful habits which clearly violate the standard of holiness laid out for us in His Word and bring swift division into Christ’s body. But we are, instead, attempting to produce genuine unity in a context of a rich and necessary diversity.

We will try to flesh this principle out in all that remains in this course; we will keep the following material relationally oriented. Relationships are key. They are the ambience in which all the formal training of another disciple takes place. If relationships are strained, your effectiveness as a discipler is minimized.

IIIA. Questions for Thought

1. Why is it important when talking about discipleship and discipling another to keep in mind the primacy of relationships over tasks, no matter how beneficial and necessary the tasks are? At what point do you decide that a task must be done whether another person agrees or not?

2. How will you approach your disciple(s) when they do certain things that irritate you or don’t do certain things the way you taught them or the way you think they should be done (e.g., prayer)?

3. Take some time to meditate on Ephesians 4:1-6 and 1 Cor 12:4-7. What are some principles the Lord has impressed on you as you worked your way through these important passages?

4. When we think about discipleship, we often think primarily of one person helping another person. And this is good. But, according to Ephesians 4:1-6 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, what is the larger context in which we experience discipleship? How important is this larger context? (cf. 2 Tim 2:2)

5. How important do you think it is to consistently have your disciples relate well to the rest of the body of Christ? How will you help them if they are struggling in their relationships with other Christians?

6. Discipleship not only entails relating to Christians in the church, but also Christians relating to those in the world (We will talk about the Christian’s relationship to the world more in later lectures). According to Matthew 5:16 and Titus 3:8 what is key in our relationship to our friends in the world?

7. According to Matthew 5:13-15, what does it mean to be the salt of the earth? The light of the world?

8. In Colossians 4:5-6 Paul talks about relating to those in the world. What do you think it means to conduct yourself with wisdom toward outsiders? To make the most of every opportunity? Why is our speech so important?

Related Topics: Discipleship

Beliefs Leading to Christlikeness—Basic Theology

IA. Basic Theology: A Biblical Framework for Christlikeness

1B. God

The God of the Bible is the infinitely majestic, wise, sovereign and free Creator of the universe. He stands outside creation, yet upholds its very existence. He is not bound to it, but presides over it and carries it along to His appointed ends. He has deliberately chosen to sustain an intimate relation with all that goes on in His world. He is holy and loving toward all he has made. He is righteous and faithful in his dealings with us and, as a Father pities his children, so he is infinitely gracious toward us. He exists as one God, yet subsists as three eternal, separate persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the God who has summoned us to his side and who has called us to serve him in the joy and struggle of making disciples of all nations. This is the God we encourage people to worship, adore, reverence, imitate, preach, and follow, and this is the God with whom we will someday make our permanent home (Rev 21:3-4).

1C. Genesis 1:1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

2C. Jeremiah 32:17

Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.

3C. Hebrews 1:3

The Son is the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence, and he sustains all things by his powerful word, and so when he had accomplished cleansing for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

4C. Ephesians 1:11

In Christ we too have been claimed as God’s own possession, since we were predestined according to the one purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will.

5C. 1 Peter 1:15-16

1;15 but, like the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in all of your conduct, 1:16 for it is written, “You shall be holy, because I am holy.”

6C. 1 John 4:10

In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

7C. Psalm 86:15

But you, O sovereign Master, are a compassionate and merciful God. You are slow to anger, abounding in loyal love and faithfulness.

8C. 2 Corinthians 13:13 (14)

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

2B. The Bible

The Bible is the Word of God revealed through the words of men. Therefore, it is our final authority in matters of faith and life and forms the foundation upon which a discipling relationship can take place. We are not primarily calling people to our own opinions of God and life, but rather to the truth of Scripture which is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). The function of Scripture as God’s word to us, is, therefore, in keeping with our call to holiness and orients us in helping others to that end (2 Cor 7:1). Thus it is one of the key tools in disciplemaking. As the very words of God it should not play a peripheral role, but must be given central importance.

1C. Deuteronomy 29:29

The secret things belong to the Lord our God but those that are revealed belong to us and our descendants forever and are shown to us so that we might obey all the words of this law.

2C. Isaiah 66:2

This is the one I [the Lord] show regard for: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and who trembles at my word.

3C. Psalm 119:9-11

119:9 How can a young person maintain a pure lifestyle? By following (לִשְׁמֹר) your words! 119:10 With all my heart I seek you. Do not allow me to stray from your commands! 119:11 In my heart I store up your words, so that I might not sin against you.

4C. Matthew 4:4
But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5C. Matthew 22:29

Jesus answered them, “You are deceived, because you don’t know the scriptures (τὰς γραφὰς) or the power of God (τὴν δύναμιν τοῦ θεοῦ).

6C. 1 Thessalonians 2:13

And so we too constantly thank God that when you received God’s message that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human message, but as it truly is, God’s message, that is at work (ἐνεργεῖται) among you who believe.

7C. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

3:16 Every [all] scripture is inspired by God (θεόπνευστος) and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 3:17 so that (ἵνα) the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.

8C. 2 Peter 1:20-21

1:20 Above all, you do well if you recognize this: no prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, 1:21 for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along (φερόμενοι) by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

3B. Man

Man was created by God in his image, according to his likeness (Gen 1:26-27). This means that he is like God in many ways. He can reason, feel, act, enter relationships, be holy, take dominion of the earth, etc. It also accounts for a lot of the diversity we see among people. But men are also fallen sinners whose tendency to rebellion, self-centeredness, and evil is great. Thus, we are, at present anyway, “a glorious ruin” in the process of restoration.

The image of God, however, was not totally erased in the Fall, but rather it was seriously effaced (cf. James 3:9). In light of this, a disciplemaker needs to keep two things in mind: First, since all people were created by God and remain in his image, even after the fall, all people are valuable to Him (cf. Mark 12:13-17). Thus, all people, irrespective of sin’s grip on their lives, possess dignity. We cannot pick and choose who’s more valuable, yet people will often select themselves for further training and discipleship. Second, people are deceitful and we must be aware of this in the process of discipling others. All people are depraved, including the one discipling another, as well as the one being discipled. The word, prayer, humility, self-examination, and above all, love, must be integral to every relationship in which we engage. This is why discipleship must also take place in the context of a larger, deeply integrated, church community.

1C. Genesis 1:26-27

1:26 Then God said, “Let us make (עשׂה) mankind in our image (צֶלֶם), after our likeness (דְּמוּת), so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the earth.” 1:27 So God created (בּרא) mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created (בּרא) them, male and female he created them.

2C. Psalm 8:-6

8:4 I think, “Of what importance is the human race, that you should notice them? Of what importance is mankind, that you should pay attention to them, 8:5 and make them almost like the heavenly beings?” You grant mankind honor and majesty; 8:6 you allow them to rule over your creation; you have placed everything under their authority…

3C. Romans 3:10-18

3:10 just as it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one, 3:11 there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. 3:12 All have turned away, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, not even one.” 3:13 “Their throats are open graves, they deceive with their tongues, the poison of asps is under their lips.” 3:14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” 3:15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood, 3:16 ruin and misery are in their paths, 3:17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 3:18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

4C. 1 John 3:4

3:4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; indeed, sin is lawlessness.

5C. Mark 12:15-17

12:15 But he saw through their hypocrisy and said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 12:16 So they brought one, and he said to them, “Whose likeness (εἰκὼν) is this, and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” 12:17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him.

6C. James 3:9

3:9 With it we bless the Lord and Father and with it we curse people made in God’s image (ὁμοίωσιν).

IIA. Summary

The person desiring to grow in Christlikeness needs to prayerfully dwell on, nourish, and cultivate beliefs that give rise to Christlikeness. He/she needs a Biblical framework in which to understand God, man, sin, the Bible, salvation, church, etc. Such was the point of this lecture. In this lecture we touched on the nature of God and his sovereign control of all things as well the importance of the Bible in discipleship. We also looked briefly at how we are to understand man before and after the fall. These are important ideas in building a Christian worldview and every disciplemaker should have them coursing through her/his veins.

IIIA. Questions for Thought

1. As a disciplemaker, why is it important to believe that God is in control of all things? See Romans 8:28. Then read 8:29-30. Notice the connection between events and God’s plan in our lives.

2. Why is it crucial, when you’re helping people through their struggles, to know that God is both loving, patient, and gracious, as well as holy and righteous?

3. What place should the Bible have in helping others grow in the imitation of Christ? What should happen when two people disagree on the interpretation of a Biblical passage?

4. How does 1 Thess 2:13 help us understand the role of the Bible in making disciples?

5. What is the significance for us today of the fact that man has been created in God’s image and still, after the fall, retains that image?

6. Theologically speaking, according to Mark 12:17-19, who owns the image of God? What implications does this have for discipleship?

7. What implications does the fact that man is a sinner have for a discipling relationship? How can specific sins affect all people involved? See Romans 3:10-18.

Related Topics: Theology, Christology, Discipleship

Beliefs Leading to Christlikeness—Basic Theology (cont’d)

IA. Basic Theology: A Biblical Framework for Christlikeness

1B. Salvation

Salvation, broadly conceived, is a Trinitarian work. The Father chose certain ones in eternity past, the Son died for them, and the Holy Spirit now personally applies the benefits of Christ’s death to those whom the Father has chosen (Eph 1:3-14). Salvation, therefore, involves being brought from sin, death, and certain judgment, into mercy, grace, and an eternal relationship with God through the Son in the power and personalized ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is totally and completely a work of God’s grace from beginning to end. His wrath is satiated in the death of His Son and he is free to love and embrace the sinner, justifying him/her according to Christ’s atoning merits and not by any works, religious or otherwise, done by the sinner. The human response to what God has done is called conversion, where the sinner repents from sin and turns to God in faith. Even this decision—since all men are dead in sin and cannot under their own guidance or locomotion turn in repentance to God—is motivated, guided, and brought to fruition by the convicting and regenerating work of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).

To the disciplemaker there is no greater message in all the universe. There is joy in meditating on God’s gracious saving work in Christ and we are blessed when we emphasize this truth to those we disciple; we are wise to encourage them to prayerfully think long and hard about it as well. Conversely, we invite God’s judgment should we depart or teach others to depart from the message of his grace (Gal 1:6ff).

Finally, the work of salvation is both a past, present, and future work: We were saved, are being saved, and someday will be saved. What we mean is that when we were received by the Father at conversion, we were declared free from the penalty of sin. At the present time in our Christian experience we are being set free from the power of sin, and someday, when we join our great God in eternal bliss, we will be free from even the presence of sin. When the future becomes the present we will know God in ways we can only dream of now (1 Cor 2:9). It may be winter now, but Christmas is coming!

The present experience of our Christian life is called sanctification; we are being progressively transformed into to the image of Christ, in the here and now. The process is carried on by the Spirit (2 Cor 3:18) and our responsibility is to cooperate with the Spirit in his work. This is an exciting prospect for it means that we can count on the Spirit, as did the apostle Paul, when we’re working with people. He will lead them into the truth and into the life of discipleship. We are to co-labor with Him as He works out his plan in the life of each believer.

Let’s turn now to get the big picture of the doctrine of salvation.

1C. The Panorama of the Plan

The plan of God to save people began in eternity past, is carried out in history, and will someday culminate in glorification for believers. Romans 8:30 gives us this panoramic view of salvation throughout eternity and time.

Romans 8:30 And those God predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.

2C. Unconditional Election (predestination)

The doctrine of unconditional election refers to God’s sovereign and free choice—in eternity past and according to his good pleasure—of certain persons to salvation and eternal glory on the basis of no foreseen merit in them. The end result is that they should praise him for his condescension, mercy, and power.

Ephesians 1:4 For he lovingly chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight.

3C. Effective or Special Calling

Special calling refers to an act of God the Father whereby he efficaciously summons people to himself through the human proclamation of the gospel. It is 100% effective with respect to those whom the Father has chosen for salvation. Those whom he has not chosen hear the gospel with their ears, perhaps, but it is accompanied by no internal conviction wrought by the Spirit. They cannot understand or “welcome” that which is being taught to them (1 Cor 2:14).

1 Corinthians 1:9 God, who has called us into fellowship with His son Jesus Christ our Lord is faithful.

4C. Regeneration—Titus 3:5

Regeneration is a secret act of God—and done totally by him—whereby he implants spiritual life in us.

Titus 3:5 He saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit…

5C. Repentance—Luke 24:46-47

Biblical repentance involves an understanding of the “wrongness” of my sin, an emotional sorrow for it, and a turning from it with the conviction never to return, but instead to submit to the Lordship of Christ (Luke 24:46-47; Acts 3:19; 5:39; 17:30). It is a process that continues throughout all of my Christian life (Rev 3:19).

Luke 24:46 “Thus it stands written that the Messiah would suffer and would rise from the dead on the third day, 24:47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

6C. Faith—John 3:16

Biblical faith involves three related elements: knowledge, agreement, and personal trust. We must understand the gospel, agree with it, and personally trust in Christ. Anything short of this is not genuine or saving faith. As far as it depends upon us, we ought to ensure that those whom we disciple understand what faith is, not confusing it with mere assent to a creed, or attendance at a certain kind of church. Rather, we want our folks to understand that they must personally commit themselves to Christ himself, having understood his promise of pardoning all who come. As with repentance, so also faith must be exercised and continue to grow our whole lives (Heb 11:6).

John 3:16 For this is the way God loved the world: he gave his one and only Son that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

7C. Union with Christ

Union with Christ is a favorite expression used by the apostle Paul to describe the many facets of our relationship to Christ and the blessings we have received as a result of being chosen “in Him” (Eph 1:3-4). It relates to our new sphere of existence “in Him” where righteousness, life, and peace reign and is to be seen over against our old mode of existence in Adam where sin, death, and judgment went unchecked (Rom 6:1-11). We now live, move, and breathe in Christ and he lives in us through his Holy Spirit (John 14:23; 15:26; Rom 8:9).

Ephesians 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, 2:5 even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you are saved!—2:6 and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

8C. Justification—Romans 5:1

Justification is an instantaneous legal act of God in which he (1) thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us, and (2) declares us legally righteous in his sight.13

3:21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed—3:22 namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 3:24 But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

9C. Adoption

Adoption is the act whereby God, having chose us in Christ and justified us by faith—even when we were by nature children of wrath—now considers us as one of his family. This includes privileges of access to God, his loving fatherly presence and help, his discipline for sin and his “presence in blessing” throughout eternity.

Galatians 4:4 But when the appropriate time had come, God sent out his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 4:5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights. 4:6 And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, who calls “Abba! Father!” 4:7 So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if you are a son, then you are also an heir through God.

10C. Sanctification

Sanctification is the ongoing process of being progressively set free from sin and living to God’s glory in greater degrees of Christlikeness. It refers to growing in holiness and therefore intimacy with, and usefulness to, the Lord (cf. 2 Tim 2:20-21). There are three stages to sanctification. Positional, which occurs at the moment of salvation (involving justification); practical which is ongoing until death, and perfect (glorification), which occurs at death (1 Cor 6:11; Acts 20:32; Rom 6:12-13; 2 Cor 7:1; 1 Thess 5:23; Heb 12:14).

Philippians 2:12 So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, 2:13 for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort—for the sake of his good pleasure—is God.

11C. Perseverance—John 10:28-30

The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints means that all those who are truly believers and indwelt by the Spirit of God will by God’s power persevere in the Christian life until their death and that only those who do persevere are truly born again.

John 10:28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand. 10:29 My Father who has given them to me is greater than all, and no one can snatch them from my Father’s hand. 10:30 The Father and I are one.”

12C. Glorification—Romans 8:23

Glorification is the final step in the outworking of God’s plan of saving us in which, at his coming, he gives us (every saint who has ever lived) our resurrected bodies and we are like him in untainted holiness (1 John 3:2-3).

8:23 Not only this, but we ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

2B. The Church

The one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church is the community of those who are saved according to the gracious purposes of the Father, through the merits of Son and His work, in the power and personal ministry of the Spirit. The church is holy in that it possesses the Holy Spirit and human in that it is made up of redeemed human beings. Thus there are many local churches, but there is one universal or catholic church which can flow into any culture, yet at the same time stand opposed to the those elements in culture that repudiate God. The church is apostolic in that it stands on, and adheres to, the inscripturated apostolic interpretation of Christ and his work and also in the sense that it is sent into the world as witness to God’s saving work. In general, there are numerous metaphors in scripture which describe the church. It is known as the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, the Vine and the branches, Shepherd and the flock, cornerstone and the building, a holy priesthood, a father and his family, etc.

The church comes into existence through the preaching of the gospel and God’s calling of people from darkness to light (Col 1:7, 13-14). The church is His idea and he will ensure her victory over all the forces of evil. Indeed, the gates of hell will not overcome her. Though the church is not the kingdom of God, the kingdom of God, i.e., God’s kingly reign, gives rise to the church and the church in turn witnesses to the power and glory of that kingdom.

1C. A People from All Nations—Romans 9:23-26

9:23 And what if he is willing to make known the wealth of his glory on the objects of mercy that he has prepared beforehand for glory— 9:24 even us, whom he has called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 9:25 As he also says in Hosea: “I will call those who were not my people, ‘My people,’ and I will call her who was unloved, ‘My beloved.’” 9:26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

2C. Baptized into One Body—1 Corinthians 12:13

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether we are Jews or Greeks or slaves or free we were all made to drink of the one Spirit.

3C. Gifting for Ministry—Ephesians 4:11-12

4:11 It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 4:12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ…

4C. Baptism—Acts 10:48

10:48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

5C. The Lord’s Supper—1 Corinthians 11:23-25

11:23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, 11:24 and after he had given thanks he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 11:25 In the same way, he also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, every time you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

6C. The Worship of God—Romans 12:1

12:1 Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God—which is your spiritual act of worship.

7C. Mission to the World—Acts 1:8

1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.”

3B. The Enemy

1C. Christ, the Cross, and Satan’s Demise—John 12:31

12:31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.

2C. The Devil’s Works: Destroyed—1 John 3:8

3:8 The one who practices sin is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was revealed: to destroy the works of the devil.

3C. Spiritual Warfare—Ephesians 6:12-18

6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 6:13 For this reason, take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand your ground on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand. 6:14 Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist, by putting on the breastplate of righteousness, 6:15 by fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace, 6:16 and in all of this, by taking up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 6:18 With every prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and to this end be alert, with all perseverance and requests for all the saints.

4C. Be Prepared for Battle—1 Peter 5:8

5:8 Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour. 5:9 Resist him, strong in your faith…

5C. Resist the Devil and Draw Near to God—James 4:7-8

4:7 So submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you. 4:8 Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and make your hearts pure, you double-minded.

4B. The End

1C. Personal Eschatology
1D. Death for All

Hebrews 9:27 And just as people are appointed to die once, and then to face judgment…

2D. The Intermediate State

2 Corinthians 5:8 Thus we (i.e., Christians) are full of courage and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

The intermediate state for unbelievers, i.e., what happens to them after death, seems to involve conscious punishment in Hades where they await a future, bodily resurrection to eternal punishment in Hell, the final place of the Devil, his angels, and the wicked (Matthew 25:41; Luke 16:19-31; 2 Thess 1:8-9).

2C. Corporate Eschatology
1D. The Second Coming

Acts 1:11 “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven.”

Matthew 24:30 “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

2D. Resurrection for All

John 5:28 “Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 5:29 and will come out—the ones who have done what is good to the resurrection resulting in life, and the ones who have done what is evil to the resurrection resulting in condemnation.

3D. Judgment for All: Eternal Consequences

Matthew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 25:32 All the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate people one from another like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 25:33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 25:34 Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world… 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels! …25:46 And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

4D. The Millennium

Revelation 20:4 …They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 20:5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were finished.) This is the first resurrection. 20:6 Blessed and holy is the one who takes part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

5D. The Eternal State

Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Look! The residence of God is among men and women. He will live among them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more—or mourning, or crying, or pain; the former things have ceased to exist.”

IIA. Summary

In lectures four and five we dealt with some basic beliefs and doctrinal knowledge each disciplemaker and disciple should possess. We started with our understanding of God and then moved to the Bible and Man. In this lecture we discussed Salvation, the Church, Spiritual Warfare, and End Times. It is important to possess this Biblical or Christian “worldview” because our goal is not to make disciples that look like us, per se, but those who look, feel, and act like Christ. These are truths by which we can evaluate our practice of discipleship. For example, if we realize that in our discipleship plan we are simply not using Scripture very much or helping our friends “get into” the Bible in a responsible and meaningful way, then to that degree we are falling short, as it were, of Christ’s standard for us (Matt 13:52; Acts 2:42). We know that we must do something about that. Or, if someone feels that involvement with other Christians, i.e. church, is not that important, we can see from this brief Biblical overview that such reasoning is not from the Lord and therefore not correct or helpful.. With patience and love we can confidently move them in the direction of thinking about their need for fellowship, both to receive from others and to contribute to others’ lives.

IIIA. Questions for Thought

1. Do you see the train of thought in the section on salvation? Why is it important to have this “bird’s eye-view” of God’s plan of salvation? Why would Paul tell us that?

2. How does “justification” help with feelings of insecurity and unbelief regarding the struggle that God can use you? How do the other areas of salvation relate to discipleship?

3. We will deal with the doctrine of the spiritual life in the next couple of lectures. For the meantime, however, how does the doctrine of perseverance relate to discipleship?

4. How do spiritual gifts relate to discipling another? What if the person you’re helping is spiritually gifted in an area in which you as a disciplemaker are not?

5. How does the Devil relate to the task of making disciples?

6. How will you help your disciples get a balanced, biblical, and spiritually realistic view in this area?

7. Someday we will all die. How does this relate to discipleship and helping others to love God and people? What about rewards?

13 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 723.

Related Topics: Theology, Christology, Discipleship

Beliefs Leading to Christlikeness—The Spiritual Life

IA. Theological Synthesis of the Spiritual Life: Growth in Christlikeness/Holiness14

In chapters one through three we learned what a disciple is, the theological context for discipleship (i.e., God’s plan to bless the world), as well as the importance of understanding the relational context of discipleship. In short, we said that a disciplemaker is a committed follower of Jesus Christ who loves other people by bringing God’s truth and blessing to them; he/she, by the power of Spirit, models Christ and helps others to do the same in their own lives, contexts, and relationships.

In chapters four and five we outlined a basic, Biblical worldview that can be used to evaluate your discipleship relationships, goals, and strategies. In chapters six and seven we are going to deepen our understanding of the theology of the spiritual life; we are going to focus on the area of sanctification. What we said by way of brief introduction in chapter five, we are now going to flesh out somewhat. There is perhaps no more confusion in any area of the Christian experience than our thinking about how a person grows spiritually once they become a Christian. There are many voices, but no consensus.

We hope to bring together several strands of Biblical teaching and put them together in a coherent whole that is biblically accurate, realistic, and hopeful. It is crucial that we understand this doctrine from the beginning: (1) so that we can live it out; and (2) so that we pass on a Biblical model in this area. We do people a great deal of disservice when we pass on either an unrealistic or watered down version of the Bible’s teaching concerning sanctification. A great deal of time in your discipling relationships will be spent on this issue. Your disciples need to understand God’s truth here, and you need to teach them. So let’s dig in.

1B. The Ground and Goal of the Spiritual Life

The Spiritual life has to be seen within the larger context of God’s work in creation and redemption. We have been created in God’s image and salvation is designed to recreate that image; it is designed by God to conform us to the image of Christ (Rom 8:28-29). Therefore, our election, calling, justification, regeneration, spiritual growth, and glorification are all preplanned to move us in that direction. Thus the unshakeable ground upon which the spiritual life is built is the unconditional election, calling and justification of God. We have been permanently adopted into his family and now he moves in us, initiating, prodding, strengthening, and carrying on his work of making us look like a real family member, i.e., like His Son. We have been called to Christlikeness and that’s the same thing as saying that we have been chosen, called, and destined for holiness. Any teaching on the spiritual life that does not have this as the focus is errant for it is not in keeping with our election, calling, the work of the Spirit, and our glorification. To the degree that any strategy for discipleship does not place this at the center, is to that degree quenching the Spirit of God.

2B. The Nature of Holiness: Personal Transformation through Consecration

The nature of holiness is spiritual and moral transformation that comes from dedication or consecration to God. He has sanctified us, made us acceptable to him and set us apart for his use. We, for our part, sanctify ourselves through confession and a Spirit-inspired determination to trust and obey Him.

1C. Positional Sanctification

1 Corinthians 6:11 Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

2C. Determined Effort and the Initiating Work of God

Philippians 2:12-13 So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, 2:13 for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort—for the sake of his good pleasure—is God. See my commentary on this passage on the website (www.bible.org )

3C. The Result: Sanctification

Romans 6:22 But now, freed from sin and enslaved to God, you have your benefit leading to sanctification, and the end is eternal life.

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Romans 12:1 Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God—which is your reasonable service. 12:2 Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.

3B. The Context of Holiness: Justification

The context of sanctification is justification—the forgiveness of sin and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Through faith in Christ we have been legally declared righteous. We are not working for grace, but from grace. We are not striving to attain standing before the Judge of all the earth; He has already granted us both a full pardon and perfect standing with the law. The call to take up arms to holiness (e.g., Rom 6:12-14), then, must be seen in this context, lest it denigrate into a work’s righteousness laden with guilt, shame, and failure (Rom 3:25).

Romans 4:3 For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4:4 Now to the one who works, his pay is not credited due to grace but due to obligation. 4:5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in the one who declares the ungodly righteous, his faith is credited as righteousness.

4B. The Root of Holiness: Co-crucifixion and Co-Resurrection with Christ

The root of holiness, that is, the wellspring from which it flows is our union with Christ in his death and resurrection. We were co-crucified with Christ in order that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, to be completely eradicated after death (only). We have been co-resurrected with him that we might live in newness of life, i.e., resurrection life.

6:4 Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in new life. 6:5 For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of his resurrection. 6:6 We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

5B. The Agent of Holiness Is The Holy Spirit

The One who produces holiness in us is the Holy Spirit of God and he works at both the level of motivation and impulse, as well as at the level of the will and actual living. His desire is to reproduce the life of Christ in us. In fact, his primary ministry centers on mediating the presence of Christ to us. It is in the context of making Christ and our sonship known to the heart, i.e., a relational context, that the Spirit uses several means, i.e., the Bible, prayer, Christian community (e.g., godly counsel, sermons), the sacraments, etc., to transform our mind, emotions, and will into Christlikeness. The way in which he builds these things into our lives is through habits of holiness and over time he works his transformation in us. Thus discipleship is fundamentally a call to become, through the work of the Spirit, an example of Christ-like holiness.

John 16:13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but will speak whatever he hears, and will tell you what is to come. 16:14 He will glorify me, because he will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you. 16:15 Everything that the Father has is mine; that is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you.

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Phil 2:12 So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, 2:13 for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort—for the sake of his good pleasure—is God.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 5:23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

6B. The Experience of Holiness Is One of Conflict

There are many errors that people fall into regarding the NT truth that our experience of holiness is one of conflict and struggle. Some say that there is a higher life for the totally surrendered such that they can rise above the conflict. In short, not every Christian, they claim, has to go through this turmoil, but only those who as of yet, for whatever reason, have not hit that “place” of total surrender. In keeping with this idea, these believers generally have a pacifistic approach to holiness: “just let go and let God” is often their motto. The problem with this view is that it appears to go far beyond what Scripture promises in this life (cf. Rom 7:14-25; 8:23).

Still others suggest that the Christian life is simply one of inner turmoil and conflict all our days, with virtually little or no hope of any real experience of peace, growth, and transformation. For many thoughtful Bible readers, however, this model seems to stop far short of their experience, let alone what the Bible/Spirit seems to clearly teach; Scripture encourages us to rejoice, put sin to death, and celebrate God’s goodness.

All sides undoubtedly capture an element of the truth, but taken in themselves—as complete ways of viewing sanctification—they represent serious errors. We need to carefully explain this area of discipleship to our disciples. Untold harm is done if we do not keep in the circle of truth in this area. Let me explain the balance found in the Bible.

The substructure of New Testament thought regarding our present and future experience of salvation (i.e., our sanctification) has been categorized as a “now/not-yet” reality. We possess the Spirit now, but we still live in mortal, fallen bodies (i.e., they are “not-yet” glorified). We will someday, however, be completely glorified with no “remainders” whatsoever of indwelling sin: we have been saved, are being saved and will someday be completely saved from the penalty, power, and even presence of sin.

Those who think that this life, if lived with so-called complete surrender, will result in unmitigated inner peace, are misinformed about what the New Testament promises in the “now time” and therefore they are misinterpreting their own experience. They have brought too much of the future into their thinking about the present. The longing for such a peaceful existence is, in itself, good, but we must remember that the reality awaits God’s timing and glorification. Struggles from without and within, hand designed by God himself, have been divinely woven into the fabric of our present experience of salvation. Paul makes this clear in Romans 5:1-5.15

On the other hand, those who suggest that a Christian can expect little growth and change, do a great disservice to the gospel’s power and the present, liberating ministry of the Spirit. Many of us can testify to having tasted that the Lord is good and the peace that passes understanding (Phil 4:6-7). The balance then lies in the middle. This life is filled with conflict and peace, comfort and struggle, growth and periods of apparent stagnation. The key is twofold: (1) trust Christ to sanctify us, and (2) pursue holy obedience with zeal, not letting struggles stop us, but rather allowing them to confirm (if we’re following His commands) that we’re on the right track. Have a look at the following texts.

Romans 7:20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer me doing it but sin that lives in me.

1 Corinthians 9:23 Do you not know that all the runners in a stadium compete, but only one receives the prize? So run to win. 9:25 Each competitor must exercise self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. 9:26 So I do not run uncertainly or box like one who hits only air. 9:27 Instead I subdue my body and make it my slave, so that after preaching to others I myself will not be disqualified.

2 Corinthians 7:1 Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that could defile the body and the spirit, and thus accomplish holiness (ἐπιτελοῦντες ἁγιωσύνην) out of reverence for God.

Galatians 5:17 For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition (ἀντίκειται) to each other, so that you cannot do what you want.

Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived. God will not be made a fool. For a person will reap what he sows, 6:8 because the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.

Philippians 3:13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead I am single-minded: forgetting the things that behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, 3:14 with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

7B. The Personal and Community Standard of Holiness Is the Law of Christ

The standard of holiness for the Christian is expressed in “the Law of Christ.” The Law of Christ is the moral Law as found in the Old Testament, preached by the prophets, and interpreted, lived, and applied by our Lord and His apostles—only now in a new covenant context. Like everything in the New Testament, the law too comes through Christ and is therefore, in a post “first-coming” setting, often referred to as the Law of Christ. The term “law” here refers to the commandments Jesus and His apostles give us and which constitute a holy life, pleasing to God and beneficial to men and women. The Law of Christ is the standard for the Christian and Christian community, not our feelings or uninformed ideas. It calls us to a righteous and holy life. Holiness has particular reference to our relationship with God and righteousness involves the living out of that relationship with those in the world.

It is important at this point to take note of two problems. First, there are those who suggest that there is absolutely no Law in the New Testament. Any mention of Law in a post-cross setting is not Biblical to them; again, Law was only for the Old Testament, or so they protest. But Romans 13:8-10 reveals the inadequacy of such a position. So then, there is “moral” Law in the New Testament as well, and it is spelled out in the imperative, i.e., commands that are to be followed. It is, however, to be understood and applied according to Jesus’ teaching and life; he was the perfect example of Law incarnate. We understand what the command “to love” looks like by looking at him. After all, it’s into his image that we are being transformed.

Second, there are those who claim that bringing Law into a sanctification context leads inextricably to legalism. This is no more true of the New Testament saint than it was of the Old. We are not to obey His commands in order to secure a relationship with God (Pharisaism), but rather as a way of living rightly in our relationship with Him—a relationship he initiated (election, calling), sustains, and will carry on forever, by grace. And, all obedience to his commands springs from humility and personal trust, or it is of no value; the very nature of God’s holy commands requires that we trust him as we seek to obey. On the other hand, legalism is the attempt of a darkened heart, through doing “good works” or demanding a certain lifestyle from others, to merit favor with God, either for salvation or Christian growth. Legalism is ugly and springs from a heart unacquainted with God’s marvelous presence and grace. It is proud that it has accomplished so much “growth” for God, but is ignorant of the cross. Those who abide in Christ by obeying his commands, however, know the difference.

John 14:21 The person who has my commandments and obeys them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will reveal myself to him.”

Ephesians 4:22 You were taught with reference to your former life to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires, 4:23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 4:24 and to put on the new man who has been created in God’s image—in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth.

1 Corinthians 9:21 To those free from the law I became like one free from the law (though I am not free from God’s law but under the law of Christ) to gain those free from the law.

Romans 7:12-14 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good.

8B. The Heart of Holiness Is Love

Jesus is the one and only example of a man who kept the Law perfectly. He lived a life of holy love. He is Law incarnate. Therefore, there is no room in the Bible for a brand of holiness that stands aloof from people and their needs or is condemning, self-congratulating, arrogant, or stern and inflexible in relationships. We need to be careful in our discipling others, that as we grow in holiness, we are actually loving people more not less. We must learn to hate sin and love the sinner and therefore we must be patient with others in their spiritual journey. The heart of holiness is love; love for God and love for people.

Romans 13:10 Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 13:9 For the commandments, “do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet,” (and if there is any other commandment) are summed up in this, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Galatians 6:2 Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

IIA. Summary

It is important that we get our disciples off on the right foot in this area of the spiritual life. We have outlined eight basic ideas for understanding the spiritual life and which form the foundation for the development of the virtues and habits of a disciple of Christ. They are to be “seen” together, each one balancing the others. Our people must learn to reflect on these truths long and hard so that the Spirit of God, like a master builder, might grab each truth and drive it home in the construction of a fit house for his dwelling.

IIIA. Questions for Thought

1. What do you think it means to be personally transformed into the image of Christ?

2. What areas of your life, right now, do you think God wants to transform, according to the Christlikeness? What areas of your disciples’ lives? Are you praying for both them and yourself? Have you shared your concern for your spiritual growth with them and others?

3. Why is it important to understand and to help our disciples understand justification?

4. How is the Holy Spirit the agent of holiness in our lives? What is his primary role and how does that relate to sanctification?

5. What does Paul mean by the “flesh”? (See also Galatians 5:16-26)

6. Does inner struggle necessarily indicate that we have done something wrong or that God is displeased with us? How do you view the war that goes on within you sometimes (1 Peter 2:11-12)? Do you think that someday, before you’re glorification, the “war” will suddenly come to an end? How do these passages relate to this idea? On the other hand, do you often feel yourself wondering whether you’ll ever have victory over some besetting sin? Do people you are discipling struggle with certain sins? How does Paul’s advice in Galatians 6:1-2 relate to this?

7. How important is it to clearly understand that the heart of holiness is love? What are some versions of holiness that fail the test in light of the criterion of love?

14 The outline for this material and a large measure of its substance is indebted to J. I. Packer, Keeping in Step with Spirit (Fleming H. Revell, 1984), 94-120. I also owe a great debt to Sinclair B. Ferguson, “The Reformed View,” in Christian Spirituality: Five View of Sanctification, ed. Donald L. Alexander (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1988), 47-76 and John Owen, Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers, and The Nature, Power, Deceit, and Prevalency of the Remainders of Indwelling Sin in Believers (see The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold [Avon: Banner of Truth, 1967: VI]). See our website at www.bible.org for an outline and exposition of Owen’s Mortification.

15 See our website for my article on this passage: “Romans 5:1-5: Our Relationship with God—Experiencing the Future Now.” (http://www.bible.org/docs/nt/books/rom/rom5.htm )

Related Topics: Christology, Spiritual Life, Discipleship

Virtues Leading to Christlikeness

IA. The Concept of Virtue

1B. A Definition of Virtue

The term “virtue” in Greek often refers to “moral excellence” and “goodness.” Arthur F. Holmes describes “virtues” in the following way:

A virtue is a right inner disposition, and a disposition is a tendency to act in certain ways. Disposition is more basic, lasting and pervasive than the particular motive or intention behind a certain action. It differs from a sudden impulse in being a settled habit of mind, an internalized and often reflective trait. Virtues are general character traits that provide inner sanctions on our particular motives, intentions and outward conduct.16

There are many key ideas in this definition, but for our purposes here I want to focus on two. First, a virtue is a tendency, stemming from who you are at your core level, to act in certain ways. Second, it is not simply, therefore, an impulse, good or bad, but rather a settled habit of mind. Third, it has a function of providing judgment on motives and outward actions. Virtues, then, relate to who we are as people; our character.

2B. Virtue in Greek Thought

Plato’s concept of moral virtue or excellence (ἀρετή) centered on four inherent virtues: wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice. Garcia comments:

In Plato’s Republic, Socrates explains them through a doctrine of the three parts of the soul, suggesting that a person is prudent when knowledge of how to live (wisdom) informs her reason, courageous when informed reason governs her capacity for wrath, temperate when it also governs her appetites, and just when each part performs its proper tasks with informed reason in control.17

Aristotle added to this number and taught that such virtues were learned. The Stoics generally agreed with Plato. The Septuagint and the New Testament do not appear to use the word ἀρετή in the same way.18 Augustine was apparently the first one who began in earnest to bring Greek thought into theology and baptize it for Christian use.19 He developed the concept of the four virtues in relation to loving God and he added to them—and explained them—in light of the “theological” virtues of faith, hope, and love. For him the virtues were firstly theocentric, not anthropocentric.

3B. Relevant New Testament Passages Using the Term ἀρετή 20

1C. Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things.21

2C. 2 Peter 1:3-5

1:3 I can pray this because his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence. 1:4 Through these things he has bestowed on us his precious and most magnificent promises, so that by means of what was promised you may become partakers of the divine nature, after escaping the worldly corruption that is produced by evil desire. 1:5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge…

IIA. Two Overarching Christian Virtues

The two central attributes of God are his holiness (expressed in his justice) and his love. These two characteristics, then, should characterize those who claim to believe in Him and follow Christ.

1B. Holiness (Righteousness/Justice/Goodness)

God is holy in the sense that he is both unique, i.e., there is no one else like him, and he is completely free of evil and infinitely good. From this character flows his righteousness wherein he always acts consistently with his moral nature (i.e., his holiness). He never breaks the standard of his own holy Law. Finally, he is just and his justice requires that all men live in accordance with the Law which he established. Thus, holiness, righteousness and justice—in a “creaturely” and derivative sense—should characterize the Christian’s disposition: “Be holy as I am holy,” says Peter, quoting the Old Testament (1 Peter 1:15-16). The one who claims to follow Jesus must be constantly growing in holiness, righteousness, and justice. The disposition of justice and goodness must permeate all other moral attributes, such as joy, conscientiousness, faithfulness, peace, kindness, gentleness; thus, I must be mixed with love, i.e., the best interests of the people involved. For example, gentleness is not a very admirable trait if it stems from a heart seeking immoral things. But if holiness and justice are its origin and permeate its presence, it is a beautiful thing. It is Christlikeness in action.

2B. Love

God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). The Bible preaches this message both by explicit and implicit means, through direct statement and a plethora of examples. Indeed, the cross of Christ demonstrates once and for all that God loves people (John 3:16). Love is at the very heart of God and motivates him to seek the welfare of lost and rebellious sinners. Love acts with the interests of others at heart. And it is precisely at this point that one must see it as needing: (1) holiness lest it go astray in determining what is best for someone and, (2) wisdom to know when and how to carry out the best actions. Thus, in Christian ethics, love is to be permeated with holiness and holiness with love and they find their fullest expression according to the wisdom that God gives us (e.g., Col 1:9-10). Holiness keeps love from turning into idolatry and codependence and love keeps holiness from turning into an aloof, austere judgmentalism. Holy love, therefore, must characterize the Christian who claims to be a disciple of Christ. We also aim to see it developed in the people God uses us to help. Finally, and just by way of note, the NT idea of love as oriented toward sacrifice for others is not really found among the pagans, but is a distinctively Christian development.

So holiness and love, that to which we have been chosen and called by God—the two overarching virtues—must undergird all other virtues giving them their motive and fire, contours, mode of operation, and goals.

IIIA. A Triad of Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope, and Love

The theological virtues are so-named because they relate primarily to the inner disposition of the heart toward God. But, of course, they are also intimately connected to and find their expression in our relationships with others (1 Cor 13:1-13). Faith in Christ gives rise to love for others and both of them are animated and strengthened by the hope we have in Christ (Col 1:4-5).

1B. Passages with All Three Mentioned

1C. 1 Corinthians 13:13

And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

2C. 1 Thessalonians 1:3

1:3 because we recall in the presence of our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

3C. Galatians 5:5-6

5:5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait expectantly for the hope of righteousness. 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision carries any weight—the only thing that matters is faith working through love.

4C. Colossians 1:4-5

1:4 since we heard about your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the saints. 1:5 Your faith and love have arisen from the hope laid up for you in heaven, which you have heard about in the message of truth, the gospel.

2B. Passages on Faith, Hope, and Love

1C. Faith
1D. Romans 4:20-21

4:20 He did not waver in unbelief about the promise of God but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God. 4:21 He was fully convinced that what God promised he was also able to do.

2D. Hebrews 11:6

11:6 Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

3C. Hope
1D. Romans 5:5

5:5 And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

2D. Galatians 5:5

5:5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait expectantly for the hope of righteousness.

4C. Love
1D. 1 Corinthians 13:4-6

13:4 Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. 13:5 It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered, or resentful. 13:6 It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. 13:7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

2D. 1 Peter 1:22-23

1:22 You have purified your souls by obeying the truth in order to show sincere mutual love. So love one another earnestly from a pure heart.

3B. The Theological Context of the Christian Virtues: God and His Work

Many of the Greeks including Aristotle and the Stoics argued that moral virtue was developed according to human achievement and that the goal in mind was personal happiness.22 Others argued that moral virtue was inherent, the natural disposition of the soul. But both of these ideas, while sharing some similarities with Christianity, are in fact at odds with Christianity’s essential ethical orientation. The “virtues” which the NT espouses have God’s character as their source, the Spirit as their efficient cause in the believer, Christ as their model, and love as their goal. They are developed in the context of the spiritual life as chapter 6 explained. They are certainly not inherent and they can be learned, but not apart from Christ.

4B. The Relational Context

The Christian virtues of faith, hope, love, wisdom, temperance, joy, courage, faithfulness, peace, and whatever other virtue there is, are learned in relationships with God (and the circumstances he brings into our lives) and others. By their very nature Christian virtues are relational; they cannot be learned in a vacuum. We learn to trust God deeper by joyfully going through the trials of life; wisdom by dealing with difficult people, courage by facing dangerous circumstances and people, faithfulness by constancy in promise keeping, patience by restraining anger, and humility by serving others. God has called us both into his body and to be salt and light in the world; he has called us into an interesting set of relationships which he uses and will always use to grow us. Personal discipleship of another person is one particular kind of relationship in which dispositions of faithfulness, gentleness, truth telling, patience, courage, etc should be esteemed and encouraged.

VA. Other Specific Christ-Like Virtues

1B. Wisdom and Discernment

Wisdom is the virtue of discerning the true nature of people and circumstance, how these relate to the salvation Christ offers, and therefore what to do in any situation. It is given by God himself, acquired through the word and prayer, and serious reflection and seeking over time. Christ himself is said to be the very wisdom of God, in that he is God’s solution to the problem of sin and the Christian is commanded to ask for wisdom (James 1:5) realizing that all wisdom from God is more ethical in nature than it is speculative (Matthew 11:29; James 3:17-18). Wisdom is applied holiness and love.

1C. Philippians 1:9-11

1:9 And I pray this, that your love may abound even more and more in knowledge and every kind of insight 1:10 so that you can decide what is best, and thus be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ, 1:11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.

2C. Proverbs 2:1-10

2:1 My child, if you receive my words, and store up my commands within you, 2:2 by making your ear attentive to wisdom, and by turning your heart to understanding, 2:3 indeed, if you call out for understanding, and raise your voice for understanding, 2:4 if you seek it like silver, and search for it like hidden treasure, 2:5 then you will understand how to fear the Lord, and you will discover knowledge about God. 2:6 For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding. 2:7 He stores up effective counsel for the upright, and is like a shield for those who live with integrity, 2:8 to guard the paths of the righteous and to protect the way of his pious ones. 2:9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity—every good way. 2:10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and moral knowledge will be attractive to you.

2B. Temperance and Self Control

The Christian virtue of self-control is the consistent ability to say “no” to our appetites and to live in moderation. It is motivated by a desire for single-minded worship of God and holiness (for it helps guard against greed and idolatry—a holiness which itself springs from a love for God and is accompanied by joy, not a hatred for all desire and passion.

1C. Galatians 5:23

5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 5:23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

2C. 2 Peter 1:5-7

1:5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge; 1:6 to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; 1:7 to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love.

3B. Courage

The virtue of courage involves doing difficult and dangerous things in light of keeping God’s word and for the welfare of other people. Thus it is motivated by the realization of God’s holiness, and that I must obey him no matter what, but it is expressed in love toward other people, sometimes whether they receive it as love or not. It is most endangered by the peril of death, but is intimately related to hope—a hope founded on our unbreakable connection to a person who has overcome death.

An example of courage in a discipling relationship is telling the truth in love (Eph 4:15), even when it hurts. It is done out of obedience to God (though it may cost you the relationship with the other person) and for the growth of the other person. Sometimes this expression of courage isn’t well received (Prov 9:8), but sometimes it is (Prov 9:9). Of course, the greatest act of courage was Christ’s obedient death on the cross. There we see courage lived out in obedience to God’s holy demand (Matt 26:42) and for the ultimate welfare of lost sinners. Thus, courage is not foolhardiness and reckless abandon. Rather, courage aims at God’s holiness and the welfare of people, with a full realization of both the actual and potential danger and cost involved.

1C. Joshua 1:6-9

1:6 Be strong and brave! You must lead these people in the conquest of this land that I solemnly promised their ancestors I would hand over to them. 1:7 Make sure you are very strong and brave! Carefully obey all the law my servant Moses charged you to keep! Do not swerve from it to the right or the left, so you may be successful in all you do. 1:8 This law scroll must not leave your lips! You must meditate it day and night so you can carefully obey all that is written in it. Then you will prosper and be successful. 1:9 I repeat, be strong and brave! Don’t be afraid and don’t panic, for I, the Lord your God, am with you in all you do.”

2C. John 16:33

16:33 I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but have courage—I have conquered the world.”

3C. 1 Corinthians 16:13

16:13 Stay alert, stand firm in the faith, show courage, be strong.

4B. Faithfulness

Faithfulness often has to do with doing what we say we’re going to do and not doing what we say we don’t do. It is being in practice what we claim to be and it involves doing it over long periods of time. The person who shows up for a meeting on time all semester long is a faithful person. But again, the virtue of faithfulness must be ungirded by holiness and love. Are we faithful at something in an attempt to bring God glory and the greatest good to others, i.e., loving them buy demonstrating long term commitment to them? Or are we faithful only to what we want and striving after that? There is nothing necessarily evil with wanting something, and let’s say, working hard over a long period of time to get it. But what about faithfulness to other people and their legitimate needs?

1C. Galatians 5:22-23

5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 5:23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

2C. 3 John 1:3

1:3 I was overjoyed when some of the friends arrived and testified to your faithfulness to the truth, namely how you walk in the truth (NRSV).

5B. Peace

Peace as a Christian virtue includes the idea of being at rest and harmony on the inside, irrespective of what’s happening on the outside. It is the opposite of being in turmoil and emotionally upset, and even further, being restless. It is available to those who live a holy and loving life and is centered in the knowledge of God’s sovereignty and faithfulness. It rests on the knowledge of his kind disposition toward us and the truth that we know that he works all things together for our good, according to his predetermined plan to conform us to the image of Christ (Rom 8:28-39). Therefore, we can still have peace—harmony and well-being in our soul—even when we’re suffering in difficult circumstances. We cannot, however, expect God’s peace when we’ve not dealt properly with known sin. And, we must also realize that there are times when he withholds his peace, even after we’ve confessed, in order to deepen our confession and give us more zeal in the mortification of sin (cf. Rom 8:13). From our peace with God we are to exhibit peace with other people. Indeed, as far as it depends on us, we are to be at peace with all men (Rom 12:18; Col 3:15).

Peace, like other virtues, is not an end in itself nor the highest virtue. It is not more important than “truth” rightly understood and held, nor is it more important than “truthfulness.” Thus it too must be informed by God’s holiness and lived out under the watchful eye of genuine love.

1C. John 14:27

14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage.

2C. Colossians 3:15

3:15 Let the peace of Christ be in control in your heart, for you were in fact called to this peace, and be thankful.

6B. Gentleness

Gentleness as a Christian virtue is often closely related to kindness and is the opposite of being intrusive and obnoxious. It is exhibited in tenderness, softness, and the conscious exercise of loving caution in dealing with people. It is very concerned about “where other people are at” and seeks to befriend and come along side to help. It is not cowardly, however, but strong and caring. It shares the truth, listens attentively, and asks permission before blindly speaking into someone’s life.

1C. Philippians 4:5

4:5 Let your gentleness be seen by all. The Lord is near!

2C. James 3:13

3:13 Which of you is wise and understanding? By his good conduct he should show his works done in the gentleness that wisdom brings.

VIA. Summary

Christian virtues are settled dispositions that cause us to act in certain ways—ways that are Christ-like. All godly virtues are integrally related to the overarching Christian virtues of holiness and love and are produced by the Spirit as we strive to see them matured in our lives.

VIIA. Questions for Thought

1. What is a virtue? Restate the thoughts in the notes in a different and memorable way.

2. What are the overarching Christian virtues and how do they relate to other virtues. Give some example that explain the connections and relations.

3. How do the virtues relate to knowing God’s will? See Romans 12:1-2.

4. How do the virtues contrast with momentary attitudes, emotions, or responses to situations.

4. Discuss at least three virtues (other than love and holiness) and relate them to corresponding vices. See Galatians 5:16-24 for help.

16 Ethics: Approving Moral Decisions, Contours of Christian Philosophy, ed. C. Stephen Evans (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1984), 116.

17 Jorge L. A. Garcia, “Cardinal Virtues,” in The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, ed. Robert Audi (Cambridge: CUP, 1995), 103; Plato, Republic, bk. 4.

18 See O. Bauernfeind, TDNT, I: 457-60. In the LXX the term ἀρετή means “excellence” or “fame.”

19 See R. H. Mounce, “Cardinal Virtues, Seven,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 193; W. N. Kerr, “Virtue, Virtues,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 1146.

20 The only other passage to use the term, besides Philippians 4:8 and 2 Peter 1:3, 5 is 1 Peter 2:9.

21 See Gerald F. Hawthorne, Philippians, The Word Biblical Commentary, ed. David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker, vol. 33 (Dallas: Word, 1983), in loc. elec. version. He says, “Very likely Paul, in using this word, had in mind the Stoic sense of “moral excellence or goodness” in spite of the fact that for the Stoic ἀρετή tended to focus attention on the excellence, merits and achievement of mankind rather than upon God’s deeds.”

22 Happiness, in much of Greek ethical thought, however, was understood differently than we think of it today. We think of it primarily as a psychological state of mind. Many Greek philosophers understood it more in line with a deep seated contentment resulting from a life well lived.

Related Topics: Christology, Spiritual Life, Discipleship

Habits Leading to Christlikeness

IA. The Purpose and Struggle for Christ-Like Habits

1B. The Idea of a “Habit”

The term “habit” refers to a settled or regular tendency or practice.23 It can be used in a negative way in reference to bad habits, such as ignoring people when they’re talking and consistently failing to do what one has promised. We say, “he/she has the bad habit of never following through”; in Paul’s language such as person has a habit of being “unfaithful.” But the term “habit” can also be used in a positive way, in reference to good exercise habits as well as good eating habits and a host of other attitudes and practices. Obviously we want to develop the latter and forsake the former. For here we are talking about building good habits and practices into our lives. We are talking about forsaking the acts of the flesh and cooperating with the Spirit in his quest to transform us. It is largely through “habits of holiness” that the Spirit transforms us.24 But you may ask, where is this truth taught in Scripture? Let’s look at two passages:

1C. Galatians 6:7-10

6:7 Do not be deceived. God will not be made a fool. For a person will reap what he sows, 6:8 because the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 6:9 So we must not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not give up. 6:10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who belong to the family of faith.

2C. James 1:22-25

1:22 But be sure you live out the message and do not merely listen to it and so deceive yourselves. 1:23 For if someone merely listens to the message and does not live it out, he is like someone who gazes at his own face in a mirror. 1:24 For he gazes at himself and then goes out and immediately forgets what sort of person he was. 1:25 But the one who peers into the perfect law of liberty and fixes his attention there, and does not become a forgetful listener but one who lives it outhe will be blessed in what he does.

Habits of holiness or spiritual disciplines as they are sometimes called, are not, however, the mere product of human strength and desire. Godly habits are initiated, carried on, and matured through the sanctifying work of the Spirit who indwells us. They are the fruit of the Spirit, but they are worked out in our lives—not as erratic psychological and sudden impulses, but growing, settled dispositions and attitudes, showing forth and leading to the transformation of character. We are to cooperate with the Spirit in striving to see these traits developed in us.

2B. Purpose for Developing Christ-Like Habits

Paul is very clear about why we discipline ourselves to live out certain godly habits. There is a goal. It is not just drudgery, as one author put it.

1C. 1 Timothy 4:7

4:7 But reject those myths fit only for the godless and gullible, and train yourself for godliness (Γύμναζε δὲ σεαυτὸν πρὸς εὐσέβειαν). 4:8 For “physical exercise has some value, but godliness is valuable in every way. It holds promise for the present life and for the life to come.” 4:9 This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance. 4:10 In fact this is why we work hard and struggle, because we have set our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.

2C. Titus 2:11-12

2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. 2:12 It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,

Thus the reason we develop and struggle with habits of holiness is to cooperate with the Spirit in the development of a holy and Christ-like character—”godliness” as Paul refers to it here. In short, this is what the grace of God aims at, as Titus 2:11-12 makes clear. Further, the quest for godliness and Christ-like virtues, through the practice of the disciplines, is the only logical response to God’s mercy and grace (cf. also Rom 12:1-2; 2 Cor 7:1).

3B. Three Sources of Struggle against Christ-Like Habits

1C. The World

When we refer to the “world,” we are not thinking about people only, but rather sinful habits, relationships and systems which fallen people erect in opposition to the will, works, and ways of a holy God. The world system, which lies in the lap of the evil one, is often used by him to lure and arouse us to sin. We are to realize that the death of Christ is God’s judgment on unregenerate man’s sin and sinful systems. We are to have no part in it, lest we become a “friend of the world and an enemy of God” (James 4:4). But note, we are not talking about ceasing relations with non-Christian people (1 Cor 5:9-10). God, just like he showed us in Christ, wants us to be in the world as salt and light, just not of the world, lest we lose our saltiness and no longer be any good to the Master (1 John 2:15-16)..

2C. The Flesh

The “flesh” in Scripture is used several times to indicate “physical flesh,” “frail humanity,” etc., without necessarily referring or alluding to, sinfulness. But it is also used numerous times by Paul to refer to that fallen power living within us, that anti-God impulse that powerfully drags us down into sin. In fact, the “flesh” lusts against the Spirit in order to bring us into bondage to the reign of sin and death. Paul makes several very derogatory comments about the flesh in Romans 7. He says that nothing good lives in him, that is, in his flesh (7:18); that it rears its ugly head right at the point that he would do good (7:21), and that it is so powerful that it is as a law to him (7:23). The good news is that the flesh with its desires and lusts has been crucified with Christ (Rom 6:6).

3C. The Devil

The Devil is a personal, spiritual being (a fallen angel) who tempts the saints to sin. He uses the propensity of the flesh and the evil in the world to harden our hearts and lead us astray. Some sins he is particularly famous for inciting, include: (1) the sin of pride, leading to divisions of all sorts among God’s people, and (2) the damning sin of changing the gospel and /or detaching it from a lifestyle which adorns it. He also works strenuously with non-Christians in order to blind their minds to the truth of the gospel (2 Cor 4:4).

4B. The Divine Assurance of Victory

We are told in Scripture that God has crucified the flesh with its desires and lusts. Now, insofar as the flesh was the touch point for temptation and sin, he has thus freed us from sin’s reign (Rom 6:4-5). The saints, quickened by the Spirit and armed with the sword of the Spirit and faith in Christ must daily resist Satan. James promises us that if we do resist the Devil, he will flee (James 4:7-8). And, because he who lives in us is greater than he who lives in the world, we have victory over the Devil and the evil, rebellious systems he sponsors. Some of the primary means by which the Spirit gives us victory over the three enemies of the world, the flesh, and the Devil, include: (1) the Spirit of God; (2) the word of God, and (3) the people of God.

IIA. Christ-Like Habits with A Primarily Godward Focus

Our objective in this section is simply to outline some habits of holiness, not to delve into them in great detail. We will do that later. For now it is sufficient simply to mention them and include a few brief comments.

1B. The Bible

The habit of holiness that the Spirit wants to lead us into here involves an understanding of the sufficiency, authority, clarity, and necessity of Scripture through regular and meaningful exposure to the Word he inspired. His goal is to deepen our pleasure in God’s word and give us an ability to rightly understand and apply it. He wants to train us to consistently turn there to nourish our souls, orient our lives under Christ’s Lordship, and equip ourselves for fruitful ministry (2 Tim 3:14-17). We will seek to develop a regular and systematic intake of God’s word including reading, hearing, studying, meditating, and applying the Bible.

2B. Prayer

Through prayer we enjoy vital communion with God. To pray consistently is a habit of holiness. We strive to pray and the Spirit works the virtue of faithfulness and godly desire in us. He must enable us to see our dependence and total need to be with the Father. The disciple of Christ needs to understand, then, the necessity of prayer and its relation to growth in the Christian life and fruitful ministry in Christ’s name. He/she also needs to appreciate the power of prayer by praying and watching God answer according to his will and in his timing. Most importantly, as a habit of holiness, the disciple will need to understand that prayer, like any discipline or habit, must be developed and strengthened. Therefore, the maturing disciple of Christ will seek to invest consistent time in prayer, to pray relying on the Spirit, and to pray according to a pattern (Matthew 6:9-13).25 We are urged to pray in all circumstances and to make this a habit. We are also urged to make daily prayer a habit of holiness in our lives.

3B. Worship

Worship is the natural expression of the regenerate heart. It involves love and single minded devotion to God and is as natural and necessary in the spiritual life as breathing in the physical life. Indeed, where there is physical life, there is breath; where there is spiritual life, there is worship. All of our lives are to be seen in the context of the service and sacrifice of the worship of our tenderhearted Father, “Abba” as Paul refers to him (Gal 4:6). It involves a Scripturally informed recognition and a Spirit wrought, settled disposition concerning the worthiness of God. He alone is to be joyfully worshiped and exalted. The Christian is to persevere in the discipline of worshiping God alone, for this is a habit springing from a holy heart and one that is clearly led by the Spirit.

4B. The Quiet Time

The habit of holiness referred to as the Quiet Time is related to, but distinct from prayer and Bible reading. Both of them can be done without a set time each day to be with God, but both of them are integral to a meaningful Quiet Time.

The quiet time involves living with intention in a “hurry-up” world. It is the habit of quieting your soul before God for an extended period of time (more than just saying a prayer or reading a verse). People who lack virtue can never be quiet long enough for they are at odds with themselves and the world. They often lack the Spirit inspired virtue of inner peace and to come before a holy God is a troublesome (meddlesome?) thought. This habit, however, is designed, after the model of Jesus himself who often withdrew alone to be with God (Mark 1:35). In these “quiet times” we receive grace from God’s presence, clarity of calling, a sense of commission, and new found perspective and strength. Therefore, we are going to develop a plan in order to sit at the Master’s feet each day.

5B. Fasting

Fasting food and other good and necessary things is an excellent discipline that, when done out of love for God and animated by the Spirit, develops the Christ-like virtue of temperance and self-control. We do not do it—or any of the habits of holiness, for that matter—in order to gain favor with God, but rather as an expression of our love for him and our desire to remain free from idolatry. We also do it in times of major decisions because we want to experience our dependence on God in the process of seeking guidance. And, since character is key to receiving and understanding God’s guidance, fasting helps in this regard. Again, a regular habit of fasting develops the excellent virtue of self- restraint. The Spirit uses it in order to transform us.

IIIA. Christ-Like Habits with A Primarily People Focus

1B. Serving and Spiritual Giftedness

Jesus describes his life as that of a willing and obedient servant (Mark 10:45). If we call him Lord and Master, we too must follow in his path as willing and obedient servants. By the power of the indwelling Spirit, we must strive to nurture the virtue of others-centeredness and service. Let us become known as other-centered “givers” and not self-centered “takers.” I am not saying that it is always wrong to receive; it certainly is not. But, let us also be known as those who consistently make a contribution.

Our lives should not only be characterized by an overall servant attitude, but they must also be characterized by service in specific areas—areas consistent with the gifts the Sovereign Spirit has willed to give us. We serve others in a variety of ways, but we also strive to develop our spiritual gifts in order to better serve the body in specific roles. The habit of serving others in a general fashion, as well as specifically through our Spirit given gift(s), stems from and nurtures the virtues of humility, wisdom, and conscientiousness.

2B. Fellowship

Christ-like disciples realize and value the fact that they have not been called to be lone rangers, but instead to interrelate within the body of Christ. They have been called to loving, nurturing relationships that transcend spiritual gifts and are given by God for encouragement, protection and discipline. Thus we are to learn to make deep and satisfying relationships—through wise transparency—for it is in this context, i.e., being rooted and grounded in love (a love that is increasingly knowledgeable about its object) that we personally grow in Christlikeness, encourage others to do the same, and come to understand the breadth and profundity of Christ’s love for us (Eph 3:14-20). Thus, it is both a responsibility and blessing to share all things in common with God’s people. Therefore, the virtuous Christian seeks to fellowship with other Christians on a regular basis, opening his/her life to trusted friends, expectant about what God wants to do through them by way of love, encouragement, rebuke, and instruction (Rom 15:14).

3B. Evangelism

The consistent discipline of sharing the gospel is foundational in the Christian life and is a key expression of the virtues of faithfulness, wisdom, and thankfulness. Therefore, the virtuous Christian makes it a habit to be sharing the gospel with various people, doing it with graciousness and love and in a variety of ways suitable to the circumstances. Thus a maturing disciple of Christ has a clear understanding of what the gospel is and what it is not. Further, he/she has experienced the gospel’s life transforming power and are constantly learning new methods for sharing it. They have disciplined themselves to search the scriptures so as to give careful answers in evangelistic discussions. They have a habit of thinking through the gospel and its relationship to unbelievers.

4B. Giving

Another key “habit of holiness” is the spiritual discipline of “giving.” Again, the Christian virtue of graciousness, others centeredness, mercy, and faithful stewardship of all that God has entrusted to a person, come into play here. Very few activities in the Christian life demonstrate and unveil the true heart of a person more than his/her willingness to freely give of their time, money, and resources to see another person helped, encouraged, sustained and strengthened. Indeed, very few disciplines more clearly demonstrate a person’s command of the gospel—and its control of them. Giving of ourselves, our money, time, etc. is to be a foundational attitude, virtue, and practice in the Christian life. It is generated by thankfulness for Christ’s grace and mercy, exercised in holiness (i.e., we are to give freely and not to hold people in our debt), and consistently practiced according to godly wisdom (2 Cor 9:6-8).

IVA. Summary

The normal way in which God develops holiness in and through us is as we, by the Spirit, establish “habits of holiness” in our lives—habits that reflect the godly virtues found in Christ himself. The “bread and butter” of spiritual growth, then, is the development of Christ-like character through the heartfelt, sincere, and ongoing practice of certain God-centered disciplines (Gal 5:22-24). These disciplines do not exhaust Christian responsibility, but are a Scripturally oriented, practical response to the grace of God in our lives (Titus 2:11-12). Some of the most important include the disciplines of worship, the word, prayer, quiet time, fasting, serving and intentionally using our spiritual gift(s), sincere and truthful fellowship, evangelism, and giving.

VA. Questions for Thought

1. Before you studied this lecture, what did you perceive Christian growth to be? Was it more mystical? Less ethical?

2. Define a habit and relate this to Galatians 6:7-8.

3. What are the three sources of struggle and temptation in our lives? How important then is it to know ourselves well and the schemes of Satan? Can we live well in the world and not think about the relationship we sustain to it?

4. In a couple of sentences each, define the various “habits of holiness.” Think about how you could practice each one. Applications will very greatly from person to person.

5. How is the practice of the spiritual disciplines or “habits of holiness” related to growth as a Christian? Do they automatically cause us to grow? How are they related to the Spirit’s ministry of transformation (2 Cor 3:18; Gal 6:7-8)?

23 The Oxford Dictionary of Current English.

24 Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, 5:20 idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, 5:21 envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice [i.e., habitually do] such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!

25 We are not to repeat this prayer, necessarily, though if done with understanding and love for God that is fine. But really the prayer Jesus outlines is a model of how to pray, beginning with a recognition of the holiness of God and a seeking after his kingdom, and then followed with requests for others and ourselves.

Related Topics: Christology, Spiritual Life, Discipleship

Two Key Components and Mastering A Plan

IA. Two Key Components

1B. Praying for Our Disciples

1C. The Example of Jesus

Undoubtedly Jesus prayed for his disciples on many occasions (cf. Luke 6:12ff.), but John 17 stands out as the longest, most complete, and instructive of his prayers. In this High Priestly prayer our Lord petitions his Father on behalf of the disciples. First, He humbly asks that the Father protect these 11 men after he departs. This protection concerns their unity as well as their eternal security. Indeed, it concerns the unity and eternal safe-keeping of all those who would later believe in Christ through the disciples’ message (17:11, 20). Second, and in keeping with his prayer for the disciples’ protection, Jesus also asks the Father not to take the disciples out of the world, but rather to protect them from the Devil (17:15). Third, the great “High Priest” also prays for his disciples’ sanctification through the word of God (17:17) and that they will go into the world as he himself did. Fourth, Jesus asks God to make his followers “one” so that the world would know that he had been sent by God and that God loves those who believe in Christ (17:23). Fifth and final, Jesus prays that those who love him might be with him in eternity (17:24).

So we find in John 17 the twin blessing of the knowledge of how Jesus prays for us as well as a model of how we ought to pray for those whom we disciple in the Lord. In other words, we too should pray that God will protect our disciples while they journey in this world-protection from the world and the devil. We should also pray for their unity with other believers, that they would seek to preserve the bond of unity among brothers and sisters of different persuasions. Pray too that they not seek to be separate from the world, but instead live in the world as Jesus, the master, did. Finally, we should ask God to give our disciples and friends a longing for heaven, i.e., to be with Jesus; such a longing will properly orient and focus the rest of their lives and service here on earth.

2C. The Example of Paul

Paul, following his master in particular, prayed extensively for his children in the faith. His prayers are very instructive and we would do well to study them, reflect on them, and then imitate them with sincerity of heart. Let’s look at just a couple of them.

1D. Ephesians 1:15-23

1:15 For this reason, since I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 1:16 I do not cease to give thanks for you when I remember you in my prayers. 1:17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you spiritual wisdom and revelation in your growing knowledge of him, 1:18—since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened—so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 1:19 and what is the incomparable greatness of his power toward us who believe, as displayed in the exercise of his immense strength. 1:20 This power he exercised in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms 1:21 far above every rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 1:22 And God put all things under Christ’s feet and he gave him to the church as head over all things. 1:23 Now the church is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

In this passage Paul teaches us, by way of example, that prayer for Christians is a necessity and that it begins with thankfulness. We are to give thanks to God when we see His people exercising faith in Christ and love for one another. After all, this is precisely what Jesus prayed for in John 17: faith in him and love for each other. We are then to pray, asking the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ to give them (and us) spiritual wisdom and revelation. Our people need to receive great insight into God’s character, will, and ways so that they might see how their life connects with Christ and how it is now to be lived through him in a way that honors God. This is spiritual wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God.

Having prayed for wisdom and revelation, then, we are to continue, asking God so that our people (disciples) might know three things: (1) the ultimate end, certainty, and direction (hope) of their calling (Rom 5:3-5; 1 Cor 2:9; Titus 2:13); (2) the wealth of God’s inheritance in the saints and their place as a hand-picked member of that inheritance, and (3) the experience of His incomparably great power toward us, the same power that raised Christ from the dead, secured us for himself, freed us from sin, and now enables us daily to submit to His Lordship (vv. 21-23), love others, and walk worthily of the salvation we have received. When we pray as Paul does here, we must remember—as he demonstrates—that every good thing we have is through Christ Jesus our Lord (cf. Rom 11:36).

2D. Ephesians 3:14-20

3:14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 3:15 from whom every family in heaven and on the earth is named. 3:16 I pray that according to the wealth of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner man, 3:17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, so that, by being rooted and grounded in love, 3:18 you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 3:19 and thus to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. 3:20 Now to him who by the power that is working within us is able to do far beyond all that we ask or think, 3:21 to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

The ultimate goal for which Paul is praying here is that the Ephesians and the church worldwide would be filled up to all the fullness of God. The expression “fullness of God” refers to God’s “presence and power, his life and rule”26 in all its Trinitarian glory. Paul realizes that there are several things God will have to do before this prayer can ever be answered. First, and we should pray this for our people, Paul prays for strength in their inner man so that Christ might dwell in their hearts through faith. Second, he prays (assumes in prayer) that the community will be rooted and grounded in love for Christ and each other, and in that context will come to know the greatness, magnificence, and supra-rational nature of Christ’s love. This will lead to the church being filled up to all the fullness of God. And, Paul says, we should pray with confidence because God is able to do it beyond our wildest dreams! These are the kinds of prayers we ought to utter for our disciples.

2B. Befriending and Loving Our Disciples

1C. Informal Times Together

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of time that we spend with people whom we’re helping: informal and formal. Informal time is any and all time together when we’re not doing a specific task such as Bible study, evangelism, etc. It’s just family time! Ideally, the bulk of your time should be informal so that these younger Christians can see you around your family, work, friends, hobbies, etc. This is where they see the “best” and the “worst.” “More is caught than taught” (cf. “imitators” in 1 Thess 1:6). Remember, the best context for real impact is friendship. Don’t hide behind 1 hour meetings. When asked where he was going, Jesus told Andrew and Peter, “come, and see!” (John 1:39).

2C. Formal Times Together

Given that your friendship is deepening, you have an excellent context for some structured time together. It is during these times that your disciple/friends will come prepared, having done a study, etc., and you will invest concentrated time together working through issues of the “heart, head, and hands.”

IIA. Mastering A Plan—The Use of the Formal Time: Starting with “Lessons on Assurance”

When someone first becomes a Christian they need help. Just like a newborn coming into the world needs its mother’s milk, so the new Christian needs to immediately feed their souls on God’s word and prayer (1 Peter 2:1-3). The “Lessons on Assurance” are designed to get a new believer into the word and strengthen them in their faith. These studies can be done in 30 to 60 minutes. You should give these to new Christians (e.g., one per week) and then meet with them after they’ve completed the study in order to find out how everything went. Though they’re designed at a basic and foundational level, they have proven very helpful to countless numbers of Christians. The five studies are: (1) Assurance of God’s Love; (2) Assurance of God’s Forgiveness and Cleansing; (3) Assurance of Answered Prayer; (4) Assurance of God’s Strength for Victory; and (5) Assurance of God’s Presence and Guidance.

1B. Assurance of God’s Unconditional Love

1C. Read Romans 5:6-8

5:6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 5:7 (For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die.) 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Questions for Thought and Meditation

1. How did God prove his love for us? (How does God continue to prove his love to us? E.g., Matthew 6:32)

2. What condition were we in when Christ died for us? What do you think it means to be helpless? In what sense or in respect to what?

3. What is the difference between God’s love and the love people have in the world?

4. How many of your sins were future when Christ died for you? What is this saying about his love for you?

5. Read Romans 5:5. How has God made his love known to you personally?

6. Summarize what this passages teaches about God’s love for you.

2C. Read Lamentations 3:22-24

3:22 The Lord’s many kindnesses never cease, for his great compassion never comes to an end. 3:23 They are renewed every morning; your faithfulness is abundant! 3:24 I said to myself, “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance; therefore, I will put my hope in him.”

Questions for Thought and Meditation

1. What does the word kindness mean? What does it mean to you that it is in the plural, i.e., kindnesses?

2. According to this passage will there ever come a time when God no longer desires to be kind and compassionate to you, i.e. to stop loving you dearly?

3. Why is it significant, do you think, that Jeremiah says that God’s kindnesses are renewed every morning? How does that create hope in a person?

4. What does the word faithful mean? What kind of faithfulness does God demonstrate?

5. Why do you think the Psalmist puts his hope in God? Why should you put your hope in God?

6. Summarize this passage and relate how it has helped you today.

3C. Meditate on Hebrews 12:4-10

12:4 You have not yet resisted to the point of bloodshed in your struggle against sin. 12:5 And have you forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons? “My son, do not scorn the Lord’s discipline or give up when he corrects you. 12:6For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts.12:7 Endure your suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? 12:8 But if you do not experience discipline, something all sons have shared in, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 12:9 Besides, we have experienced discipline from our earthly fathers and we respected them; shall we not submit ourselves all the more to the Father of spirits and receive life? 12:10 For they disciplined us for a little while as seemed good to them, but he does so for our benefit, that we may share his holiness. 12:11 Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it.

Questions for Thought and Meditation

1. What does it mean to struggle with sin?

2. Does loving your children entail the idea that you will never discipline them when they err?

3. What relationship are we to God? How do you treat your children when they err?

4. Summarize in your own words the thought in vv. 7-8. Certainly you disciple your own children. Would you really love them if you simply let them carry on in their folly and waywardness? But do you do the same for other people’s children?

5. What, in verse 9, is the ultimate goal for which God disciplines us as his children?

6. What is our experience of discipline? Is it fun? Read v. 11. But when God disciplines us what is the outcome, according to v. 11?

4C. Summary

Summarize this study on God’s love bringing together His work on the cross, your need, and the way he treats you now as a Father. How has this study impacted you; how has it deepened and changed the way you view your relationship with God? What are some questions that you still have that you would like to discuss with someone at some time?

2B. Assurance of God’s Forgiveness and Cleansing

1C. Read 1 John 1:7-9

1:7 But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1:8 If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 1:9 But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.

Questions for Thought and Meditation

1. What do you think John means by walk? Light?

2. What is the condition for fellowship in v. 7?

3. On what basis are believers cleansed from their sin? How much of their sin is cleansed?

4. What is the problem with claiming that we have never sinned or that there isn’t sin in our lives any more?

5. What is guilt? Think for a moment. If a person breaks the law, they are in a state of guilt whether they “feel” guilty or not. But, when John mentions “bear the guilt of sin” is he talking about the state as well as our condition (e.g., the experience of a stricken conscious)?

6. Two things are true about those who deny the presence of sin in their lives. What are they according to v. 8?

7. To confess our sins means “to acknowledge our sins before God himself.” We do not hide them; he knows each and every one. What are the two attributes or characteristics of God that John mentions? How do they relate to what God says he will do when we confess our sins?

8. What does God promise to do if we confess our sins to him? Will he cleanse us from only certain sins? What sin have you committed that makes it hard for you to believe that God will forgive you when you confess it (or, has forgiven you when you did confess it)?

9. What things make it hard for you to believe that God not only wants to forgive you, but that he already has? How does verse 9 help you with this?

2C. Read Psalm 103:11-12

103:11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 103:12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 103:13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him…

Questions for Thought and Meditation

1. How far are the heavens above the earth? The east from the west? How far has he removed our transgressions from us?

2. How does a father have compassion on his children?

3. Think through some positive examples of fathers and their children and relate them to God’s “fathering” of his children.

4. How does the Father image of God help you relate to him and believe that your sins are forgiven?

5. Summarize this passage and how it relates to your experience of God’s forgiveness.

3C. Summary

Summarize the ideas in these verses. Note the foundation of forgiveness and its extent.

3B. Assurance of Answered Prayer

1C. John 16:24

16:24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive it, so that your joy may be complete.

Questions for Thought and Meditation

1. What had the disciples never experienced before? Is that true for you as well?

2. What did Jesus tell them to do?

3. What promise did Jesus give the disciples if they asked? What does this tell you about the heart of God?

4. Read Matthew 6:25-34. What does Jesus tell us about God’s understanding of our needs? Why then do you suppose, if God knows our needs, he still commands us to pray?

5. Why does God answer our prayers, according to John 16:24? How does answered prayer relate to joy in our lives? Have you experienced this in answer to a prayer?

6. Try writing out a prayer and begin to pray it daily. Watch for God’s answer. Then share your joy with someone and write it down for future encouragement. Remembering God’s faithfulness is a key source of encouragement in difficult times.

2C. 1 John 5:14-15

5:14 And this is the confidence that we have before him: that whenever we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 5:15 And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, then we know that we have the requests that we have asked from him.

Questions for Thought and Meditation

1. What does the term confidence mean? Give an illustration.

2. What does anything mean? What is the one limitation put on the anything?

3. What is the key source for learning about God’s will so that we begin to think like he does and therefore ask things that are really on his heart?

4. What does John say it means when God hears us?

5. Summarize what this passage teaches about prayer. Relate it to John 15:7.

6. How could you apply this passage in your life this week?

3C. Summary

Summarize what you think these verses teach about the assurance of answered prayer.

4B. Assurance of God’s Strength for Victory over Sin

1C. Philippians 4:13

4:13 I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.

Questions for Thought and Meditation

1. How did Paul do all that God had called him to do?

2. How did God strengthen him? How will He strengthen us?

3. Does this mean that Paul didn’t want or need help from other people? Read Philippians 4:14.

2C. 1 Corinthians 10:13

10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: he will not let you be tempted too much, but with the temptation will also provide a way through it so that you may be able to endure.

Questions for Thought and Meditation

1. What does it mean to be overtaken by a temptation?

2. In what way are our trials and temptations no different than other people? How does knowing this help you?

3. What, in this passage, is the key attribute of God to remember when going through temptations? Why would this be important?

4. What do you think, after reading 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 Paul means by “a way through it”? What might that way be?

5 What is the key virtue that temptation is intended by God to bring?

3C. Summary

What does it mean, then, to be assured of God’s strength for victory over sin? Read Romans 6:12-14 to help you flesh this idea out a bit more.

5B. Assurance of God’s Presence and Guidance

1C. Proverbs 3:5-6

3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding. 3:6 Acknowledge him in all your ways, and he will make your paths straight.

Questions for Thought and Meditation

1. What is the key virtue we are to express in the process of seeking guidance from God?

2. With how much of our heart do we need to trust him? Why is this so?

3. What does it mean to not “rely on our own understanding”? Is this the same thing as not using it? Certainly the human decision to trust God with all our hearts implies using our understanding. So what do you think the writer means?

4 According to v. 6, what is a key expression of trust?

5. What is the promise for those who trust God by acknowledging him in everything they do?

2C. Psalm 32:8

32:8 I will instruct and teach you about how you should live. I will advise you as I look you in the eye.

Questions for Thought and Meditation

1. What does God promise to do in this verse? In what area in particular does he promise guidance?

2. What does it mean to “look someone in the eye”? What does this indicate about the way God will guide us?

3C. Summary

Summarize what these verses teach about God’s presence and guidance. How does the issue of guidance relate to the Bible and the work of the Spirit? How does receiving guidance from God relate to our growth in holiness?

NOTE: There are areas of guidance in which God has already spoken and made clear in Scripture, e.g., prayer, giving, etc. There are, however, other areas that pertain specifically to my life, e.g., where to live, vocation, etc. We should not expect God to guide us in these specific areas unless we are obeying what he has already clearly revealed for all Christians in Scripture.

Some basics in receiving God’s guidance include a commitment to His Lordship, obeying his Word and prayerfully seeking his leading. With these in place a person is able to properly interpret and act on the knowledge of his/her gifts, godly counsel, circumstances, desires, peace, and sovereignly placed limitations.

1. What does God promise he will do?

2. How will God instruct us in the truth about how we should live? What role do the Spirit, scriptures, and teachers/godly friends play in this guidance? How about circumstances?

3. What does it mean to advise someone?

4. What is the significance of the phrase: “as I look you in the eye”?

4. After answering all the questions, how do you think God will guide you in the daily affairs of life as well as important and life changing decisions?

IIIA. Process of Disciplemaking: Encouraging the Imitation of Christ

26 See Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, Word Biblical Commentary, ed. David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker, vol. 42 (Dallas: Word, 1990), in loc. elec. version.

Related Topics: Prayer, Discipleship, Assurance

Mastering A Plan for Formal Time Together—The Bible

IA. Developing Habits of Holiness

1B. Plan Meeting for about 1-2 Hours

Plan for your formal meeting times together to be not less than an hour and probably not more than two hours. Obviously needs fluctuate and situations arise, but don’t give the impression that your meetings together will last for hours. Your friend may have a busy schedule and it may be difficult to carve out more than one to two ours. Further, he/she may shrink back from meeting with you if you’re always taking longer than you said you would.

2B. Pursue A Deeper Friendship

Use the first few minutes of your time together to laugh, share, and catch up on each other’s lives. Perhaps you haven’t seen each other for a week or so and it’s time to reconnect. Ask them how they’re doing, how their family is, how things are at work, etc. Listen as they talk because much of their heart will be revealed at this time. You will come to understand their lives, pressures, struggles and successes better. This in turn will give you insight on how to love them better as you help them grow strong in discipleship. On several occasions I spent time with a person, who was supposed to be helping me in the faith, and never once did they ask me a question about my life. This is not good and often leads to bitterness, and in one sense it’s easy to understand why; people hurt each other (sometimes very deeply) when they do not love very well. So move into their lives and empathize with where they’re at.

3B. Pray Together

Ask them to pray with you as you orient them to your time together. Pray for the things they just talked about, for the things on your heart, and for the study you are about to review together. Encourage them to pray as well, and bless their prayers after you’re finished praying together: bless their prayers with a word of encouragement, even if they weren’t that accurate, theologically speaking. You’d be amazed how much God can understand. The heart is key. As long as they’re turning their heart to him in prayer, he’ll teach them more. Remember too, that you will be doing a study on prayer next time. Use that as an opportunity to input in this area.

4B. Review Study Together

1C. Questions about the Study

They should come having completed the Bible study. They’ve already learned how to meditate on Scripture from the Lessons on Assurance” so it is fine to ask them to do the study ahead of time. Do not, however, give them grief if they have not done it or are not finished yet. Bless them and encourage them. Then do the study together right there. Work through as much as you can. Leave the rest for the next meeting and encourage them to finish it on their own.

As you work through the passages together, questions will arise. First, you will be asking questions, but then other questions will develop as well. Generally these will come from obvious points of tension in the Bible itself as well as points of blessing and struggle (in light of the Bible’s teaching) in their own lives.

1D. Questions You Ask

The questions you should ask as you work your way through each passage are questions designed to surface his/her understanding of the text and topic. For example, “What do you think Paul means by ‘always’ in this passage?” “What does Paul mean when he says that we should pray ‘without ceasing’?” Keep the questions focused on the meaning of the passages you’re studying. Direct him into the Bible to get answers to questions. If he answers the questions off the top of his head, help him to go into the passage and its context to find the answers. Help him “hook-and-eye” things together in the Bible. Teach him to relate passages together properly. The purpose of these times together is to help your disciple “search the Scripture” and reason from them. This is a key life long skill that they must develop. NOTE: You are not as concerned with the answers as you are with the way he’s answering them.

2D. Questions Due to Points of Tension in the Bible

Often times the Bible will state something that appears confusing or difficult to understand. This is generally due to the fact that the Bible was completed around 2000 years ago, in a different culture, with different languages from our own and because our spiritual condition often renders us unable to comprehend the significance of what it said. These hurdles are by no means insurmountable, but undoubtedly your disciples will ask questions such as “What does that mean? or “What does that imply?” or “I don’t understand a word of what he’s talking about.” Be patient and try to answer the question from the text as well as other passages that you know in Scripture. If you simply don’t know the answer, then tell him/her: “I don’t know, but I’ll see if I can talk to our pastor (i.e., somebody who might know) to get an answer.” In the process of doing so you are teaching your disciple humility and how to go about getting an answer that he can then compare with Scripture (Acts 17:11). Do not dismiss the question simply because you don’t know the answer or don’t consider it important. All things being equal, if he asked the question, he’s probably interested in an answer. Your effectiveness as a disciplemaker will be severely limited if you do not consider his questions important enough to warrant a thought-through, sincere response.

3D. Questions Due to Points of Blessing and Struggle in Their Lives

During the study your disciple will ask many questions and some of them will reveal that he/she is really struggling with what the Bible appears to be teaching in a certain place. If they are struggling with something, and they have misinterpreted the passage in question, then just point out the error gently, and confirm the proper meaning of the passage. But, if they have really understood the passage well, and they’re struggling with it, you will need to do several things. First, confirm in their minds that they really have understood what the particular text is saying, and how it relates to the rest of the Bible’s teaching on the subject. Then empathize with their struggle and relate it somehow to God’s love for us as displayed in the cross. So no matter what the problem is, they realize that God’s love for them is secure. Then encourage them to put the issue on hold until they learn more. Remind them that great men and women of the faith have had their struggles and have continued to love God with all their heart. In most cases the issue will resolve itself in their minds as the Holy Spirit works in them. If you can, tell them how God has helped you when you’ve struggled with the Bible’s teaching on some issue.

2C. Synthesize and Summarize the Bible’s Teaching

At the end of your study of the topic, after you’ve asked your friend lots of questions about the various passages, it is time to help him with his summary of the Bible’s teaching on the topic. Help them to write a succinct statement on the topic and relate to other teachings from the Bible.

After you have synthesized the Bible’s teaching on the topic you will want to brainstorm on how to apply it to your lives. Keep the applications in line with the text, creative, personal, measurable, and attainable. If the application involves a major issue, such as moving, resigning from a job, etc. more study, prayer, reflection, and counsel should generally be sought. The applications should be thought of in terms of relationship with God, family, Christians in general, the world, and even in terms of the relationship we bear to Satan as our enemy. Humility is the foundation of all application of the Bible and love is the goal.

3C. Verse Memorization

You will want to help your disciple memorize verses from the Bible. They might want to memorize a verse or two that best captures the meaning of the Bible regarding the topic under consideration. Or, they may want to memorize a verse that most encourages them to practice what the Bible is teaching on the topic.

5B. Apply It Together (Accountability)

After you have brainstormed about possible applications for the week coming, take 10-15 minutes of your time and apply the Bible right then and there with your disciple. If the topic is worship, then worship together for 15 minutes. If it is prayer, then pray for 15 minutes together. If it is fasting or giving you may have to seek a later time to apply it together. But make sure you exemplify what the Bible is teaching.

6B. Pray Together and Confirm Next Meeting Time

At the end of the study pray together, blessing God for all he has taught you and blessing one another for the fellowship and encouragement. Briefly discuss the time to meet next week and then talk about any other informal times you want to get together, perhaps your family with his.

7B. Evaluate

When you are alone after the meeting it is time to evaluate how your disciple is doing and to pray for them. There are several things to think about. First, is everything o.k. in their lives or are they in a crisis situation that needs immediate attention. In other words, what is the biggest problem in their life right now and what does God want you to do about it. You may discover that there’s nothing you can do about it, but you may also find significant ways to help. Be sensitive to where they’re at as people.

Second, how are they doing with the Bible study, understanding and applying. Are they developing in the virtues we outlined. If so, how? Where are they weak; where are they strong? Do they show signs of a maturing faith, greater longing and hope, and love for God and others. Are they growing in the moral virtues as well. And the intellectual virtues? All these assignments you will do with them are building as foundation for that kind of life: a life of Christlikeness. Keep praying for them each day, asking God to fill them with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding that they might honor him by fruitful living (Col 1:9-10).

IIA. A Study on the Bible

1B. Why Start with the Bible?

The reason that we do our first study on the Bible is because it opens our disciple’s heart to its importance and how to meditate and think through the Bible. Since all the other lessons involve work in the Bible, it is best to learn how to read, study, and meditate on it right up front.

2B. A Study on the Bible for New Disciples

1C. The Importance of the Bible
1D. Deuteronomy 32:47.

1E. Where were the Israelites? What were they getting ready to do?

2E. How does Moses refer to the Word of God in Deuteronomy 32:47? What does this mean? Is it similar to Jesus’ comments in Matthew 4:4? How?

3E. What does the term “life” mean in Deuteronomy 32:47? How does this relate to what Jesus said in John 6:63?

2D. Isaiah 66:2

1E. Who is the one God esteems or thinks highly of?

2E. What does it mean to tremble at His word?

2C. Nature of the Bible as God’s Word
1D. 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

1E. How much of Scripture is God’s word? What do you think the expression “God breathed” means?

2E. Is there a sequence of thought in the following words: teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness? What then is the goal of Scripture then? How does v. 17 contribute further to this idea?

2D. 2 Peter 1:20-21

1E. Why is it so important to understand that men spoke from God and not from their thoughts only?

2E. What was the Spirit’s role in relation to the writing of scripture? How does that relate to Peter’s experience of Christ and the Transfiguration in Matthew 17?

3D. 1 Corinthians 2:13-14

1E. How does Paul express the idea of being “carried along” by the Holy Spirit?

2E. What does Paul say about the man without the Spirit of God in him? What does he mean by “receive” or better “welcome”? How does this help you understand your non-Christian friends?

3E. Why would unbelievers consider God’s truth foolishness (see Romans 8:7)?

3C. The Bible and Growth in the Christian Life
1D. Deuteronomy 29:29.

1E. What are the secret things that Moses speaks of?

2E. Who do the things revealed belong to? Why does God reveal his thoughts to his people? How does this affect them, their family, their kids’ families, and so on?

2D. John 17:17

1E. What does it mean to be “sanctified”?

2E. What is the relationship between truth and sanctification? What does Jesus say is the “truth”?

3D. James 1:21-25

1E. Sanctification begins with salvation. How is the “word” (i.e., the preaching of the cross) related to salvation?

2E. What happens if we listen to the word but do not do what it says? How could this happen? Give an example.

3E. How is the Bible like a mirror? Explain James’ analogy. What does James mean by “blessing” and under what circumstances does God give it?

4D. What do the following passages teach you about the Bible?

1E. Matthew 24:35

2E. Hebrews 4:12

3E. 2 Peter 1:3-4

4E. Jeremiah 15:16; 23:29

5E. Matthew 4:4

5D. Colossians 3:16

1E. What does it mean to let the word of Christ dwell in you richly?

2E. How is the “word dwelling in us richly” related to the rest of the verse?

4C. Three Good Examples of Bible Oriented Lives
1D. The Example of Joshua (Joshua 1:8)

1E. What two things were Joshua commanded to do?

2E. What does it mean to meditate?

3E. How often was he to meditate on the Book of the Law?

4E. Why was he to meditate on the Book of the Law?

5E. What did God promise him if he obeyed the Book of the Law?

2D. The Example of Ezra (Ezra 7:10)

1E. What does it mean to “set your heart” on something?

2E. What three things was going to do?

3E. What is the significance of the order of the three things?

3D. The Example of the Bereans (Acts 17:11)

1E. How were the Bereans referred to by Luke? Why?

2E. How can they be an example to us in terms of the Bible and listening to preaching and teaching?

5C. The Centrality of Christ in Scripture—John 5:39
1D. What is the context of Jesus’ comment?
2D. What did he say about the Scriptures?
3D. How does this help you in understanding Scripture?
6C. Summarize

Take a few minutes and summarize the Bible’s teaching on itself, it’s importance, and its relationship to spiritual growth. How do the Biblical examples of Joshua, Ezra, and the Bereans illuminate the Bible’s own teaching about itself, its importance, and its relationship to growth and God’s work? Write a summary statement for all of this. Try and relate this to what you’ve learned about the work of the Spirit and the goal of our election, i.e., holiness and usefulness to the Lord.

3B. Memorize A Passage

You will want to encourage the person you’re discipling to memorize a passage of Scripture at this point. He/she can do it by writing it out on a 3” x 5” card or simply underlining it in his Bible. The following is a list of verses that you can use throughout this follow-up plan.

1) The Bible: 2 Timothy 3:16-17

2) Prayer: 1 John 5:14-15

3) Worship: Revelation 4:11

4) The Quiet Time: Mark 1:35

5) Serving: Mark 10:45; 1 Peter 4:10

6) Fellowship: Hebrews 10:24-25

7) Evangelism: Matthew 4:19

8) Giving: 2 Corinthians 9:6-8

9) Fasting: Matthew 6:17-18

4B. Meditation on Scripture

The key to all good Bible study is sweat. Spend time asking the text questions and seeking answers. But in the end, spend much time in prayerful meditation, filling your mind with the text and allowing the Spirit to guide, convict, mold, and encourage you with it (Rom 15:4). Some keys to meditation are: (1) memorize the passage so that you can work through it in your mind’s eye; (2) run through the passage many times in your mind, emphasizing different words each time; (3) always be asking how this particular passage relates to other Scripture and your life.

5B. Application

The application from this lesson is to ask God to deepen your love for Him and His Word, and to spend fifteen minutes in meditation on the text you memorized. Do this together and then spend a few minutes sharing what you’ve found. Always let him/her share what they’ve found and don’t criticize their interpretations at this point. It is enough that they’re in the Bible and that’s what you want to celebrate together. If they ask for help, certainly give it, but do it in such a way that majors on what they did see that was right!

The larger and life-long application will be to set a specific time each week for Bible study, meditation, and reflection. This can be any length of time, but it is difficult to get anything accomplished in less than 1 ½ hours. You be the judge of what you need in order to accomplish your goals in this area. But it must be personal, measurable, and attainable. Help the new Christian to begin to learn to set this time apart for the discipline of study and reflection. Do it with him/her for the first few weeks or months so that they can see what you do. It is during this time that you can pass on more about Bible study, interpretation, meditation, and reflection.

When changes come into our lives, like job changes, moves from one city to another, or new children “hit the scene,” this can really throw us off. There is no need to feel unhealthy guilt. Jesus is Lord over our circumstances. Just think through what this “study time” might look like now and when it can happen in light of the new circumstances. Sometimes new mothers have to get up several times each night to the point where they’re simply too tired for a number of months to spend much time thinking about the Bible or anything else for that matter. The verses they have memorized will be a great source of encouragement and strength during such prolonged periods of fatigue. When things begin to change, however, a person should seek to reestablish the life-long “habit of holiness” of study and reflection.

6B. Progressing into Deeper Studies

When a person has gone through all these question and answer Bible studies there are more skills to develop. But this is a good place to get them started digging into Scripture. For more information on how to study the Bible, please see the article on our website entitled “How to Study the Bible: For Beginners—Stage One and Two” (http://www.bible.org/docs/splife/study/toc.htm ). Again, no matter how much a person knows the Bible, in order for that knowledge to be of any practical and conscious use to them, they must meditate on it and give it a chance to hook-and-eye together with their life. Always emphasize meditation. (See our website for the Scripture memory program there as well.)

Related Topics: Discipleship, Bible Study Methods

Mastering A Plan for Formal Time Together—Prayer

IA. A Bible Study on Prayer

1B. The Nature and Foundation of Prayer

1C. Matthew 7:7-11

7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. 7:8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks the door will be opened. 7:9 Is there anyone among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 7:10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 7:11 If you then, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

2C. Acts 4:24-31

4:24 When they heard this, they raised their voices to God with one mind and said, “Master of all, you who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything that is in them, 4:25 who said by the Holy Spirit through your servant David our forefather,

Why do the nations rage, And the peoples plot foolish things? 4:26 The kings of the earth stood together, And the rulers assembled together, Against the Lord and against his Christ.

4:27 “For both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together in this city against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, 4:28 to do as much as your power and your plan had decided beforehand would happen. 4:29 And now, Lord, pay attention to their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your message with great courage, 4:30 while you extend your hand to heal, and to bring about miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 4:31 When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God courageously.

3C. Ephesians 2:17-18

2:17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, 2:18 so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

4C. Hebrews 4:15-16

4:15 For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. 4:16 Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.

5C. Questions

1. In Matthew 7:7-11 what does it mean to “ask,” “seek,” and “knock”? What are the images here? What sense about prayer do you get from them?

2. What do vv. 8-11 teach you about the heart of God, his goodness, and his willingness to give? How does this help you to persevere in prayer?

3. How did Peter, John, and the others “raise their voices to God” in Acts 4:24? What does “one mind” mean? How important is “unity with other Christians” to a prosperous prayer life? Note: You may want to wait until you have completed more of this study before you answer that question. Keep it in your mind for now.

4. How did the early Christians address God in Acts 4:24? Why is God’s sovereignty in creating, sustaining, and guiding all of creation important to recognize in prayer (see Acts 4:28)?

5. What Scripture passage do they pray in Acts 4:25? How does that inform and impact their prayers? What can you learn from this?

6. What do these early Christians pray for in Acts 4:29? What do they ask God to do (Acts 4:30)? What was the result of their prayer (Acts 4:31)?

7. Who gives us access to the Father in Ephesians 2:17-18? How is this the foundation for the possibility and practice of prayer?

8. When we are in need, what does Hebrews 4:15-16 teach us to do? How is God’s throne referred to here? How is that encouraging? What is implied with the use of the verb “find”? NOTE: As a needy creature, you will look somewhere for what only God can offer. Why not come to Him first?

2B. Perseverance in Prayer

1C. Psalm 88:1, 13

88:1 O Lord God who delivers me! By day I cry out and at night I pray before you. 88:13 As for me, I cry out to you, O Lord; in the morning my prayer confronts you.

2C. Luke 18:1

18:1 Then Jesus told them a parable to show them they should always pray and not lose heart.

3C. Questions

1. What emotional state is conveyed by the words, “I cry out” in Psalm 88:13? How do you respond to your suffering? Do you pray? Or, do you quit praying? Why? Read all of Psalm 88 and note the psalmist’s attitudes and struggles.

2. In Luke 18:1 Jesus teaches us that we should always pray. What does it mean, then, to “lose heart”? What things can cause us to become discouraged with prayer and give up? Read the rest of the passage, i.e., from 18:1-8.

3B. The Pattern of Prayer

1C. Matthew 6:9-15

6:9 So pray this way: Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored, 6:10 may your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 6:11 Give us today our daily bread, 6:12 and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors. 6:13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. 6:14 “For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 6:15 But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins.

2C. A.C.T.S.

The “term” A.C.T.S. is an acronym developed to help us mentally focus while we pray; it keeps our minds from wandering. In general, it follows the pattern of prayer Jesus outlined for us in Matthew 6:9-15.

1D. Adoration
2D. Confession
3D. Thanksgiving
4D. Supplication
3C. Questions

1. Why do you think Jesus, who was opposed to the mindless repetition of long prayers, gave this pattern for prayer in Matthew 6:9-13? Why is a pattern for prayer important? NOTE: “pray this way” implies, to some degree, that what follows is a model or pattern for prayer. But notice that while this pattern is followed throughout the NT, the prayer itself is not repeated verbatim anywhere.

2. Who does Jesus tell us to focus on first in prayer (6:9)? How are we to address God? What two things are we to pray concerning God (6:9-10)? Later in the study, come back and relate Matthew 6:9-10 to 1 John 5:14-15.

3. After we’ve addressed God and His concerns, Jesus leads us to pray for ourselves. What three things does he say to pray for in 6:11-13? How would you summarize these things and what conditions are attached in 6:12 and 6:14-15? Why is forgiveness so important to Jesus’ conception of true prayer?

4. Summary: What does A.C.T.S. mean? How is it helpful?

4B. The Preconditions of Prayer

1C. Psalm 66:18

66:18 If I had harbored sin in my heart, the sovereign Master would not have listened.

2C. Mark 11:24-25

11:24 For this reason I tell you, whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 11:25 Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your sins.”

3C. John 16:24

16:24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive it, so that your joy may be complete.

4C. James 4:1-3

4:1 Where do the conflicts and where do the quarrels among you come from? Is it not from this, from your passions that battle inside you? 4:2 You desire and you do not have; you murder and envy and you cannot obtain; you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask; 4:3 you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, so you can spend it on your passions.

5C. 1 John 5:14-15

5:14 And this is the confidence that we have before him: that whenever we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 5:15 And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, then we know that we have the requests that we have asked from him.

6C. Questions

1. What does Psalm 66:18 teach us about the relationship of answered prayer to known sin in our lives?

2. What two conditions are placed upon prayer in Mark 11:24-25? How are they related to each other? Mark 11:24 seems to be a carte blanche or free ticket to get whatever we want. All we need to do is believe! But is this true? How does v. 25 place a restriction, to some degree, upon v. 24 and how do the other passages in this section (i.e., 4B) round out Jesus’ meaning here? What, then, is Jesus’ point about the centrality of faith in our prayer lives?

3. What does it mean to ask for something from God “in the name of Christ” (John 16:24)? What is the result of answered prayer in John 16:24? How does John 16:24 relate to the same author’s words in 1 John 5:14-15? What is the number one delimitation placed upon prayer? How does this relate to some peoples’ concept that God is simply a nickelodeon waiting for someone to put in a nickel’s worth of prayer? On the other hand, what does God say he’ll do if we ask according to his will?

4. According to James 4:1-3, what are some other reasons for God refusing to grant our requests?

5B. The Power of Prayer

1C. 2 Chronicles 7:13-14

7:13 When I close up the sky so that it doesn’t rain, or command locusts to devour the land’s vegetation, or send a plague among my people, 7:14 if my people, who belong to me, humble themselves, pray, seek to please me, and repudiate their sinful practices, then I will respond from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.

2C. James 5:14-16

5:14 Is anyone among you ill? He should summon the elders of the church, and they should pray for him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 5:15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick and the Lord will raise him up—and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 5:16 So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness.

3C. Questions

1. In 2 Chronicles 7:14, the chronicler lists three things that must go with prayer if we want God to respond from heaven, forgive us, and heal our land. What are they and how are they related to each other and other verses in this section? What does 7:14 teach about God’s willingness to respond to sincere and truthful prayer? Do you think the church is currently availing itself, to the degree that it could, of God’s wonderful promise of restoration, forgiveness, provision, and divine enablement?

2. What does James say about prayer in 5:14-16? We have seen all throughout this study that there is an explicit connection made between ethics and prayer in Biblical teaching. Indeed, this was made clear in 2 Chronicles 7:14. Are you surprised to see James make the same connection again at the end of 5:16? What does he say about the relationship of answered prayer and the condition of one’s spiritual and ethical life? We often focus on the power of prayer and forget that God listens to people not prayers, per se.

6B. The Practice of Prayer

1C. Mark 1:35

1:35 Then Jesus got up early in the morning when it was still very dark, departed, and went out to a deserted place, and there he spent time in prayer.

2C. Luke 6:12

6:12 Now it was during this time that he went out to the mountain to pray, and he spent all night in prayer to God.

3C. Acts 1:14

1:14 All these continued together in prayer with one mind, together with the women, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

4C. Romans 12:12

12:12 Rejoice in hope, endure in suffering, persist in prayer.

5C. Colossians 4:2-3

4:2 Be devoted to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. 4:3 At the same time pray for us too, that God may open a door for the message so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.

6C. Colossians 4:12

4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a slave of Christ, greets you. He is always struggling in prayer on your behalf, so that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.

7C. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

5:16 Always rejoice, 5:17 constantly pray, 5:18 in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

8C. Questions

1. What does the example of Jesus teach us about the necessity of focused and regular prayer? Why would the Son of God need to pray so much? What does that imply about us?

2. What is Paul’s basic point about prayer in his letters? How does this relate to Jesus’ teaching in, say, Luke 18:1?

3. How did Paul characterize Epaphroditus’s prayer life on behalf of the Colossians? How does this relate to Luke 18:1 and Paul’s teaching on prayer? Have you ever sustained this kind of ministry for others? What would it be like to do so? Who could you pray constantly for, to see them mature in their Christian faith?

7B. The Petitions of Prayer

1C. Jeremiah 33:3

33:3 ‘Call on me in prayer and I will answer you. I will show you great and mysterious things which you still do not know about.’

2C. Matthew 9:37-38

9:37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 9:38 Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”.

3C. Luke 6:28

6:28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

4C. John 14:13-14

14:13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14:14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

5C. Acts 26:29

26:29 Paul replied, “I pray to God that whether in a short or a long time not only you but also all those who are listening to me today could become such as I am, except for these chains.”

6C. Romans 10:13

10:13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

7C. Ephesians 3:14-20

3:14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 3:15 from whom every family in heaven and on the earth is named. 3:16 I pray that according to the wealth of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner man, 3:17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, so that, by being rooted and grounded in love, 3:18 you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 3:19 and thus to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. 3:20 Now to him who by the power that is working within us is able to do far beyond all that we ask or think, 3:21 to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

8C. Philippians 4:6-7

4:6 Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, tell your requests to God in your every prayer and petition—with thanksgiving. 4:7 And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

9C. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

2:1 First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, 2:2 even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 2:3 Such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior, 2:4 since he wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

9C. James 1:5-8

1:5 But if anyone is deficient in wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without reprimand, and it will be given to him. 1:6 But he must ask in faith without doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed around by the wind. 1:7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, 1:8 since he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

10C. Questions

1. What did God encourage Jeremiah to ask for? What promise did He attach to it? How can that apply to us today? Read the context of Jeremiah 33.

2. What does the Lord encourage us to pray for in Matthew 9:37-38? How is this related to the pattern for prayer he gave us? Cf. Matthew 6:10?

3. According to Luke 6:28 how are we to treat our enemies? Who is an enemy and what would you pray for him/her/them?

4. Why does the Son answer our prayers according to John 14:13? How does that relate to asking in “Christ’s name”?

5. What does Paul pray for King Agrippa? How does this relate to Romans 10:13?=

6. Praying for the growth of believers can be very exciting as we watch God work in their lives. What is the ultimate goal for which Paul prays for churches in Ephesians 3:14-21? How does verse 20 relate to his prayer? We often detach verse 20 from its immediate context, and it is true that God can do amazing things, but what is Paul’s point in verse 20 as it stands in Ephesians 3:14-21? How does this relate to the basic point of 2:11-22 and living with Christians who are in many ways different than we are?

7. According to Philippians 4:6 what attitude does Paul prohibit us from sowing to? What, instead, are we to do? How does “thanksgiving”—a common theme in biblically oriented prayer—relate to anxiety and what do both thanksgiving and anxiety reveal about the nature of our belief concerning God’s goodness and power?

8. What does God promise us in Phil 4:7 and how does it relate to our circumstances and His sovereign control (see Romans 5:1-5 and 8:28-29)?

9. Who are we commanded to pray for in 1 Timothy 2:1-2? Why should we pray for them (2:2b-4)?

10. James says that we can ask God for wisdom to know how to live righteously in any and every circumstance. What is the condition for such a prayer to be answered?

11. We are told by James to ask for wisdom from God and that God will give freely. But people easily doubt the wisdom that comes from God (James 1:6-8). Why is this so? Could it be connected to the nature of God’s wisdom for us (James 3:17)? NOTE: It is fallen human nature to ask for something and then doubt the answer when it seems difficult or unpleasant. For example, James’ advice to “rejoice” in our trials hardly meets with approval among most people, yet it is God’s wisdom. To doubt it is to walk in unbelief and eventual chastisement. To do it is to trust and be rewarded (James 1:22). To rejoice in our trials is to walk in the Spirit wrought conviction that God cares, is wise, and knows what he’s doing.

8B. The Problems of Prayer

1C. Mark 14:38

14:38 Stay awake and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

2C. Luke 20:45-47

20:45 As all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, 20:46 “Beware of the experts in the law. They like walking around in long robes, and they love elaborate greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 20:47 They devour widows’ property, and as a show make long prayers. They will receive a more severe punishment.”

3C. Questions

1. What is the problem in Mark 14:38? Have you ever experienced this? Why is preservation from temptation linked with prayer? What does this teach you about our responsibility in sanctification (see e.g. Phil 2:12-13)?

2. Luke 20:45-47 presents another problem in prayer. What is it? What does Jesus say will happen to those who flaunt their prayers in this way? Why? What do they demonstrate about themselves when they consistently pray with open and flagrant demonstrations of personal religious achievement? Are they stealing the glory due to God alone (Isa 42:8; John 5:44).

IIA. Synthesis, Practical Applications, and Training

1B. Meditate

1C. Review the Truths about Prayer
2C. Organize the Truths in Your Mind

2B. Restate

1C. State the Essential Truth about the Meaning of Prayer
2C. Bring in Other Biblical Ideas about Prayer

3B. Relate

1C. To Other Biblical Doctrines
2C. To Your Life: How? When? Where? Why? Who? What?

4B. Formulate

1C. Ongoing Applications
1D. Daily Prayer in Quiet Time: ACTS (Time, Place)
2D. Developing a Prayer Journal (Attention/Purpose/Watchfulness)
3D. Spontaneous Prayer throughout the Day
4D. Praying Psalms
5D.
6D.
2C. Special Applications
1D. Prayer Map of the World
2D. Praise Prayer (Music)
3D. Prayer Partners
4D. Extended Times in Prayer
5D. Special Family or Church Prayer Times
6D. Read Books on Prayer (e.g., George Muller; Missionaries)
7D.
8D.
3C. Training Objectives and Activities

Objective: To help the person establish the habit of concentrated prayer each day as well as the habit of routinely initiating spontaneous prayer.

1D. Pray with the person you’re helping.
2D. Take the person to a prayer meeting and discuss it later.
3D. Show the person how to pray using Scripture.
4D. Share answered prayer requests with him.
5D. Share struggles with prayer and pray together about them.
6D. Etc.

Related Topics: Prayer, Discipleship

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