Beliefs Leading to Christlikeness—Basic Theology
IA. Basic Theology: A Biblical Framework for Christlikeness
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.
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).
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.