This lesson challenges students to understand a discipleship demand: we must allow Jesus to change our view of him. It is easier to alter our discipleship concept than to change our understanding of Jesus' identity. A genuine desire to be Jesus' disciple must include a desire to see Jesus for who and what he is.
Christians use many concepts in an attempt to determine the boundaries of God's concerns in our lives. Though discipleship is one of those concepts, it often is unpopular, modified, or rejected. Often other concepts are substituted for the concept of discipleship in attempts to evade discipleship's challenges. This statement is not a suggestion that those holding other concepts are insincere. It suggests that those holding these concepts may not consider the implications of those concepts. Many alternate concepts declare God is concerned about people placing only parts of life under Jesus' control. Many alternate concepts imply God is not concerned about a person's total life, just the "spiritual" portions of his or her life.
The basic discipleship concept declares God is interested in the whole person, in every aspect of his or her life. It understands that every aspect of human existence is spiritual. In the discipleship concept, attempts to remove any area of human life or concern from God's revelation through Jesus' life, death, and resurrection is unacceptable. Again, it is easier to alter one's discipleship concept than to surrender life completely to God's rule.
Separating "material concerns" from "spiritual concerns" is an alternate concept. In this concept, efforts are made to separate all things into two categories: the material and the spiritual. Commonly, those who hold this concept declare that God is interested in spiritual things, but not in material things. When this concept is taken to its ultimate conclusion, the person declares, "Church is church, and business is business." In this concept, anything classified as a church concern is spiritual. Anything classified as a business concern is not spiritual. Poorly informed Christians using this view may [and have] conclude that they can use ungodly behaviors in business as long as they use godly behaviors in matters pertaining to the church.
In America, this is likely the most common alteration of the discipleship concept. If a religious person can delegate his or her treasured matters to the "material column" and by doing that eliminate God's interest in those matters, he or she can eliminate the agony of surrendering all of his or her life to God. This concept/approach permits a religious person to be materialistic and "keep the faith" at the same time.
Technical correctness versus godly living is another alternate concept. In this view, this is God's primary concern: God's people must follow technically correct procedures in worship, must be technically correct in church organization, and must respect technicalities in determining church positions. Godliness is a matter of enforcing [or adopting] technicalities, not a matter of personal behavior. Stated in another way, the primary Christian concern must be doing right things in right ways in the church. For example, what occurs in worship procedures is essential. What happens all day Tuesday in personal behavior is not essential. Thus, if one's worship procedures are technically correct, one's lifestyle is unimportant. Godliness becomes a matter of procedures on essential occasions, not a matter of righteous living.
This also is a popular way of altering the discipleship concept. One of the most difficult discipleship challenges is the challenge to transform behavior. To live a righteous, godly life in an evil society or culture is an enormous, complex challenge. If a religious person concludes God is more concerned about procedures than about behavior, he or she removes a difficult challenge. It is much easier to adopt correct procedures than it is to transform one' s behavior.
Maintaining traditions versus possessing a heart based faith is an alternate concept. In this concept it is critical to know and accept "how we always did things." "Spiritual acts" must be performed as they were performed in the past. The concern is not focused on the inner person's involvement in what occurs. How one feels or what one thinks is unimportant. For example, when one is immersed, the faith in his or her heart is immaterial. If the immersion occurs in the traditional manner using traditional phrases, it is effective. The feelings, the thoughts, the faith of the person being immersed are immaterial.
This is a third popular means of altering the discipleship concept. It's focus is on keeping the traditions. Unfortunately, the traditions emphasized and kept often are just a few generations old. Because "that is what I always was told," and because selected scriptures are used to "document" a tradition, it is assumed [without question] that "I am doing what God wants done the way God wants it done." This alters the discipleship concept by controlling the way the person approaches scripture. What the person accepts as tradition closes his or her mind to parts of God's revelation in His word. It places his or her confidence in "doing things as they always were done" rather than placing his or her confidence in God's achievements through Jesus the Christ. In this approach, spirituality often is more a matter of performance than a matter of faith.
Discipleship concerns the inner person [emotions, attitudes, motives, faith, repentance] as well as the outer person [physical acts, behavior, habits]. Discipleship is dedicated to God's balance between the inner person's motivations and the outer person's obedience. Discipleship understands all of life is spiritual. Discipleship is dedicated to doing correct things in correct ways, but it is equally dedicated to right attitudes, emotions, and motives. The right motive and right attitude are just as important as the right act. Separating the internal motivations from the external behavior is spiritually deceptive and artificial.
The key phrase in the discipleship concept is "God's balance." Perhaps an example best illustrates the problem many religious people confront in discovering God's balance. Prior to becoming a Christian, Paul [Saul] was very devout. Only a minority of Christians today appropriately can compare their devotion to God with Paul's pre-Christian devotion to God (Galatians 1:13-14). Paul precisely did what his extensive study of scripture said he should do, and he was devoted to keeping his ancestral traditions. Yet, his emphasis was determined by Israel's focus, not by God's priorities. Was this a conscious attempt to by-pass God's concerns? No! Was this a deliberate attempt to evade God's will? No! The pre-Christian Paul [Saul] totally was convinced God's concerns were his concerns. He was certain he was devoted to God's will. Was he completely sincere but completely mistaken? Yes. He confessed that he was totally mistaken in 1 Timothy 1:12-16. He needed God's balance, not Israel's focus. He discovered God's balance when he understood two things: (1) Jesus was the Christ, and (2) the meaning of Jesus being the Christ. Remember, many other devout Jews [both those who were and were not Christians] rejected that balance. They said it was Paul's balance, not God's balance.
Jesus' twelve disciples were frequently amazed by Jesus' acts. No matter what they witnessed in the past, often his present deeds astounded them. It was not merely his power. Many godly people in Israel's past had incredible power. It was who he was as a person. It was not merely that he did incredible things. It was: "What kind of man is this?"
As we discover Jesus' full dimensions as he perfectly represents God, we are frequently amazed. Understanding "what kind of man he was" leads us to the constantly maturing understanding that Jesus is actively involved in every area of life.
Consider a specific example. In the Matthew 8:23-27 incident, the disciples witnessed Jesus commanding the wind to stop blowing and calm a stormy sea. If we appreciate the magnitude of this event and see its testimony to Jesus' identity, we must begin by reminding ourselves what the disciples already witnessed. They watched as Jesus healed every kind of disease and all kinds of sickness (Matthew 4:23). No form of disease, no type of sickness were too difficult for Jesus to heal. That definitely included their "impossible" forms of disease and sickness. Diseases, pains, demons, epileptics, and paralytics all responded to Jesus' healing orders. In healing, Jesus literally did the impossible, and his disciples saw him do the impossible.
It is extremely important to understand that Jesus' disciples knew Jesus used incredible power over disease and sickness.
Jesus restored a person in the grip of leprosy (Matthew 8:2,3). The disciples saw this. Jesus healed a suffering, paralyzed slave "long distance" without seeing or touching him (Matthew 8:5-13). The disciples saw this. Jesus ended a fever that put Peter's mother-in-law in bed. The disciples saw this. They knew Jesus had incredible powers to do things no one in that generation of Israelites ever had seen. I am confident they were astounded the first time, but became quite accustomed to Jesus' incredible healing powers over disease and sickness.
Jesus' disciples were accustomed to seeing Jesus use God's incredible power.
One day they are traveling across the Sea of Galilee when they were helplessly caught in a sudden storm. The storm was so severe that they thought death was certain. The waves swamped the boat. The rough water would soon sink the boat, and they certainly would drown.
They faced a "life and death" crisis they had never considered in terms of Jesus' power.
The weary Jesus was asleep. The sight of the unconcerned Jesus sleeping was too much to witness! His lack of fear and anxiety were inappropriate! They woke him up and asked, "Are you unconcerned that we are about to die? Do something!" Ah, the old human insistence on "do something." From the disciples' reaction, either they concluded Jesus could not do something about their situation, or they did not expect him to do what he did.
Evidently they thought that this storm could kill the Jesus' who possessed incredible power. His lack of concern was absolutely inappropriate in that situation.
What did Jesus do? He told the wind to stop blowing and the waves to calm. What happened? A perfect calm enveloped them. The danger stopped.
Ask your students how they would react if a person used words instantly to stop the wind blowing and the waves swelling.
Consider these observations. First, it was their danger, not dangers confronting others. Their lives were at stake. Their death was imminent. They trusted Jesus to help others in life threatening situations. However, helping them in their life threatening situation was an entirely different consideration.
Often there is a decided difference in the way each of us view dangers facing others and dangers facing "me." The meaning of having faith often changes when "my" danger is the subject of concern.
Second, the disciples were confident Jesus could help others with diseases and sickness. However, their need was different. They were not diseased or sick. They were about to be the victims of a drowning. It never occurred to them that if Jesus was superior to disease and sickness, he was superior to wind and waves.
They had not realized this dimension of Jesus' identity. It was one thing to cast out demons with words. It was quite another matter to stop the wind blowing with words. When Jesus did the unexpected, they realized they really did not know who this man was.
Their question: "What kind of man is this?" The issue was not, "How much power does he have?" The issue was, "What kind of man is he?" The foundation of their astonishment was not focused on his power. They had seen his incredible power. The foundation of their astonishment focused on his identify.
Help your students focus on this thought: the issue was not his power. The issue was his identity.
Discussion Question: Often our Christian concern focuses on "can he" issues. What is the basic difference(s) between "can he" issues and the issue of "who is he?"
"Can he" issues focus on Jesus' power. "Who is he?" issues focus on Jesus' identity. He possesses his power because of his identity as God's resurrected Lord, a position God gave him (see 1 Corinthians 15:25-28). Jesus Christ has power because of who He is. His use of power confirmed his identity.
Link to Student Guide Lesson 8
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