One of my desires for the last couple of years has been to produce a disciple curriculum that is not only Anabaptist in thought, but applicable across a wide section of the faith journey. This means, in short, that I am attempting to answer basic questions like ‘what is faith in Jesus?’ while also prompting older believers who have never been discipled to take their faith more seriously. This is not something that has been easy, but is something that I have done with great delight. Many conversations with people, hours in prayer, Bible studies and sermons have been in some form or another, research and analysis for such a task. I have written one rough draft in its entirety and am now on to a second revision. Below, you will find lesson one. Since the first draft a year ago, it has undergone some pretty serious revisions and outside of a basic framework and desire, is almost completely new.
Before we get to the post, first, a couple of disclaimers:
- This is still in rough draft form. It is not final and probably contains errors. If you see any, please let me know.
- Except where noted, everything is original, and therefore under copyright, by me. Please do not reproduce or redistribute this in any form (Not quite yet anyway. When a full release happens I will let you know).
- That being said, I am also extremely indebted to those authors, speakers, teachers and theologians that have continued to help me grow as a pastor and discipler. If you fear that I have plagiarized something, please know that it is completely unintentional. Please let me know what phrase or sentence you find troublesome and how I might make adaptations.
- Because this is still a rough draft, I do invite feedback. Like I said above, my intention is two-fold: both people exploring the possibility of a faith in Jesus and those that have been a Christian for quite sometime but wanting to grow. This is an enormously difficult task and am well aware of some deficiencies that are present. If you have a suggestion for how to improve something, fill out the form on the Contact Me page with your suggestion and let me know.
- This is only one lesson of a much larger work, so maybe it will be helpful, in light of the above comment, to let you know a bit more about the series as a whole. Unit one (right now it is tentatively four lessons) looks at laying foundations for our understanding of faith and God. We will look at God’s plan for salvation (lesson 1), theological and practical implications of the cross (lesson 2), understanding our relationship with God (lesson three) and then the connection we have to God in prayer (lesson four). The next unit focuses more on understanding Mission Dei (the Mission of God) and how to live missionally/incarnationally where God has placed us. The third and final unit is practical examples and skills that need to be acquired to go out and be a missional disciple maker with the skills and understandings that have been gained through the series.
Enough disclaimers, here it is.
Introduction: As we start on the journey of discipleship, it is important to first get our bearings. As people of the Word, this means a proper understanding of God’s story and our part in it. This week, we will be looking at the biblical story and God’s plan of redemption (German: Heilsgeschichte or salvation history).
Since the very beginning of time, God has been writing a story. The very first words of our existence were, ‘light’, ‘water’, ‘land’ and ‘It is good!’ The culmination of God’s creation is us, humanity. With us, God looked down proudly and boasted at his work. “It is very good!” he said.
For a time, people lived in this harmony and peace. Adam and Eve, together with God, walked around paradise, the Garden of Eden, having conversations face to face. The days were beautiful and everything was as it should be. The Hebrew idea for this is shalom, it means a deep and abiding peace, all conflict, hurt and disease are absent. Humanity lived at peace with each other, with nature and with God.
Unfortunately, by looking around at our world, we can tell that that is no longer the case. We are all too familiar with hurt and pain. We ache and long for something different. We were created in (and for) one circumstance, but find ourselves in an entirely different one. The Bible refers to this as sin.
Genesis chapter three records the first sins of humanity: arrogance, pride and self-reliance. They believed the lie that God was somehow holding back on them and chose a different path. They doubted God’s all encompassing goodness and it has cost them (and us) dearly.
Now, because of that initial break in relationship, all humanity has suffered. We all feel the effects of that arrogance and pride.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, God atoned for this wrongdoing through animal sacrifice. It was a substitute for the wrong doing and restored the relationship and brokenness felt between God and humanity. The sacrifice of an animal meant that the person could live holistically again with God.
Unfortunately, because of the current state of our brokenness, keeping restored, or ‘ritually clean’ as the Hebrews called it, was an all too uncommon experience. The reality is that they would spend most of their lives unclean. It was impossible to keep up with every sacrifice that had to be offered. The people did their best, but it didn’t create the desired change of the heart that God desired.
Enter religious legalism.
People would identify the commands of God and then try to define them. God issued the command of, “Do no work on the Sabbath.” People wanted to know what work was. So they would define it. Spitting was work, because it would fall to the ground and make mud. Walking too far was work because you might start to sweat. Helping someone was work so that was out too.
In the midst of this enters Jesus, God’s final choice for humanity’s sin problem. Jesus, God in the flesh, stood up and showed people a different way to live. One that was not only free from the deathtrap of sin, but from the rigidity of legalism. Instead of defining work on the Sabbath, Jesus would say, “ The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” and then heal someone in need. By doing this, he took the emphasis off of the negative (don’t do work) and placed it on the positive (our rest and relationship in God).
Jesus, called the Christ (or Messiah) was the long awaited promise from God to the Hebrew people. He appeared, in fulfillment with the Scriptures and has done everything necessary for people to have a relationship with God. In him we find the pinnacle not only of humanity, but of the entire story of the human race. Everything before Jesus looks forward to him and everything after looks back. It is in him that we find the completion of God’s story.
The New Testament also speaks of the promise that came with Jesus. Yes, in him, we find all our necessities met and can have all of our hopes and dreams filled; yet we are also aware that it hasn’t changed the current reality that we experience in our everyday lives. We still experience strife, pain, hurt, anger and disappointment.
While Jesus was on the earth, he spoke a lot about the Kingdom of Heaven. It is, in a nutshell, God’s chosen way to live. He not only inaugurated it, he is now inviting others to join in that movement. Jesus would teach his disciples to pray, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” and it is more than a prayer, it is also an invitation.
It serves as our official notice that God’s kingdom and rule are breaking into this world here and now and he wants us to not only experience it but help advance it further. Later in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul would speak of Jesus followers as “God’s ambassadors.” We, as members of the Jesus movement, represent Christ in all we do, say and think in this world. Everything, our entire life has been given over to him and his purposes.
We await the fulfillment of the promise in Jesus, that one day he will return and usher in God’s kingdom in all of it’s authority, power and majesty; and work in the daily moments to bring that reality a little more true for those around.
Key Biblical Passages:
- Genesis 1-3
- Leviticus 6 and 7
- John 1
- Matthew 5-7
- Mark 4
- Luke 6
- Hebrews 10
Questions for Reflection and Growth:
- What in the opening reading stood out to you? What did you learn? How has it changed your understanding?
- What in the Bible passages, stood out to you? What did you learn? How has it shaped your understanding of God and faith?
- Pick one of the above Gospel passages and reread it a few times. Spend 15 minutes meditating and reflecting on it. What greater insight have you gained?
- Now that we have laid a biblical foundation for salvation, we will begin to look at your place and calling it. What questions do you have regarding who God has made you to be?
- Os Guinness writes, “Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.” (The Call, page 4) Reflect on this quote. What does this mean to you? Can you commit to being ‘all in’ for Christ and his purposes?
- What questions remain? What needs further exploration?
Thoughts? Questions? Comments? How has this unit helped you? Please Enter the Discussion below…