Discipleship and spiritual formation curriculum for new believers, new Christians

2. Disciple - Following Jesus Daily

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
 

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Disciple, Christian, Christ-follower, believer with a coffee cup Jesus had a way of calling people to follow him. Picture this scene:

"As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 'Come, follow me,' Jesus said, 'and I will make you fishers of men.' At once they left their nets and followed him." (Matthew 4:18-20)

Jesus has called you, too. You have begun the journey to follow Jesus. How do you nurture this new relationship so that it grows stronger and richer rather than becoming stagnant? In this lesson, we will talk about several ways to grow in your relationship to Christ: through your own self-image, through reading the Bible, and through prayer.

The Disciple Concept

Part of being a follower of Jesus is the way you think about and understand yourself in relation to Jesus. Here are some common terms that describe this:

Christian means, literally, "little Christ." It refers to people who identify themselves with Christ's teaching and lifestyle. Unfortunately, "Christian" has been defined so broadly that it is sometimes used to refer to people who are not serious about putting their faith into practice.

Believer is a great word. It talks about putting your faith and trust in Jesus.

Disciple is the term used in the Bible to describe Christ followers. Literally, "disciple" means, "learner." It refers to those who have left their former way of life to follow Jesus and learn from him, who have a trust in him and a commitment to follow his teachings.

Christ-follower or Jesus-follower indicates a committed follower of Christ. The big advantage of these terms is that they are understood positively by our culture, yet with clarity, to describe a person who identifies strongly with Jesus.

Since you have decided to follow Jesus, I encourage you to think of yourself as a Christian, a believer, a disciple, a Christ-follower. You are someone who is really committed to walk Jesus' path and learn from him.

Your understanding of yourself, your self-image, has a lot to do with how you will live out this commitment.

Read the Bible Daily

Following Jesus as his disciple means learning from him so that your life begins to conform itself to his teaching and value system. Since Jesus is not here in the flesh, the best way to learn from Jesus is to read his teachings in the Bible.

I realize that the Bible is a foreign book to many, so let me explain some basics.

The Bible has two parts:

  1. Old Testament is the part of the Bible written before Christ, literally "B.C." It explains how God revealed himself to ancient followers of God, such as Abraham, Moses, and the various prophets.
  2. New Testament is the part of the Bible that records Jesus' own teachings, provides a history of how Christianity spread in the earliest days, and includes instructive letters written by Jesus' authorized spokesmen -- his apostles. I recommend that you start with the New Testament first, then read the Old Testament later.

In particular, I recommend that you begin your reading of the New Testament in the Gospels, which tell the story of Jesus' life. They appear right at the beginning of the New Testament. The Gospel of Mark or the Gospel of John is a great place to start.

If you have a Bible already, great! If not, ask your mentor for guidance on how to get a Bible. Some churches give a Bible to a new Christian. You can also find a Bible at a Christian bookstore. I have two recommendations here:

  1. Get a newer translation, one translated in the last 50 years. You will find it much easier to read and understand.
  2. Get a study Bible, one with footnotes that explain different aspects of what you are reading.

For more information on this, see Lesson 11, Bible--Guidebook for Living and Appendix 3, "How to Select a Bible."

Chapters and Verses

In these lessons you will see Bible references like this: Heb. 4:12. Let me explain. Heb. is an abbreviation for Hebrews, a book in the New Testament. You will find its location by looking it up in the Table of Contents in the front of your Bible, which will show the page number on which Hebrews begins. The numbers 4:12 refer to the chapter and verse. Books are divided into chapters -- this would be chapter 4. Each chapter has many verses, usually only a sentence or two long. This refers to verse 12 of chapter 4 in the book of Hebrews.

Learning to Pray

Besides reading the Bible, you will want to pray each day. Praying is talking directly to God. Some people seem to use very formal and eloquent words in their prayers. This can be very intimidating to a new Christian. The good news is that God wants you to pray in your own words. He wants you to talk to him about what is going on in your life.

Some people think that prayer is asking God for things -- a pretty selfish basis for a relationship. That is only part of prayer. Prayer is much broader than that. Let me give you an easy way to remember how you can pray:

ACTS

ACTS is an acronym that can remind you of different kinds of prayer -- even a good order in which to pray to God.

Adoration

"A" stands for Adoration, that is, offering words of love and praise to God. If you are married or have a boyfriend or girlfriend, then you know how important it is to say, "I love you." Many Christian songs involve telling God how much we love him. It is a great way to begin our prayers.

Confession

"C" stands for Confession, that is, telling God about our sins, rather than pretending that we are perfect. In prayer we ask God to help us not to sin and ask for forgiveness.

Thanksgiving

"T" stands for Thanksgiving, that is, thanking God for all the things he has done for us. Thanksgiving puts us in a proper frame of mind to be able to ask for things later without being either greedy or unbelieving. God supplies our needs and deserves our thanks.

Supplication

"S" stands for Supplication, a word that means "asking for something." For many people, prayer is only asking for help and things we need. That is important, but, as we have seen, should be only one part of our prayer. By all means, when you have problems, bring them to God. Tell God about what you are feeling. Establish this line of communication. If you have needs, ask God to meet them for you. Remember, however, that God is not our errand boy, but our Father, the Creator of the universe. We don't order him about, but with love and trust we bring our needs to him.

Set Aside a "Quiet Time"

I encourage you to set aside a time every day when you can spend some time reading the Bible, praying, and listening to God. Five to ten minutes each day is a good place to start. It is hard to begin this kind of new habit, but you will find it will help you a great deal to grow as a Christian. In fact, I have found that Christians who don't spend this kind of quiet time with God often end up stunted, immature -- kind of like overgrown babies.

But don't confine your prayers only to this quiet time. Talk to God throughout the day, whenever you think of him. Gradually, you will find that you can live every hour of your life conscious of him and in touch with him. And that is the point of being a Jesus-follower.

Ask for Guidance

At the beginning of each day, ask God to guide you through that day. Ask him to direct your steps, guide your actions, and to keep you from temptation.

Then spend some time in quiet, listening. One wonderful truth is that God can speak to our hearts and guide us if we will be quiet before him.

  JesusWalk - Beginning the Journey book cover
Printed books, e-books, and a DVD set are available

As you read Jesus' teachings, you will understand better his values and his lifestyle. Then, when you come to a situation that you are not sure what to do, ask: "What would Jesus do?" To answer this question with accuracy, of course, we must know Jesus' teachings and life. But it is a great question through which God can guide us.

Following Jesus in our day is not a physical following as it was for Jesus' first disciples. Rather, it is a deliberate, spiritual following, through:

  1. Seeing ourselves as Christ's followers,
  2. Reading Jesus' teachings in the Bible,
  3. Praying to him often, and
  4. Seeking his guidance.

This is how we start the journey.

Prayer

Lord, I have begun to follow you. Help me to think of myself every day as your disciple. Teach me more as I build this relationship through reading the Bible and prayer. I don't know where this journey with you will lead, Jesus, but I am trusting and following you. In your name, I pray. Amen.

Memory Verse

"To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, 'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'" (John 8:31-32, NIV)

Questions and Discussion Points

  1. Read aloud five times the new memory verse (John 8:31-32) and write it on a card.
  2. Discuss why it is important how you think of your relationship to God. How will an understanding of yourself as a "disciple," a "Christ-follower," or a "Jesus-follower" help change your actions?
  3. Discuss. How you would describe your relationship to God to someone who did not have the same kind of belief in Jesus that you now have?
  4. Look in the front of a Bible to locate the Table of Contents. Here is where you can find the page numbers of the books contained in the Bible.
  5. Find the two main parts of the Bible. Do you remember what they are called?
  6. Find the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and the book of Acts, all in the New Testament.
  7. Decide which Gospel you will begin to read each day. (Recommendation: John or Mark)
  8. Locate and read Hebrews 4:12 in your Bible.
  9. Discuss how you can obtain a Bible of your own, if you don't have one already.
  10. Plan the time of the day in which you will set aside 5 or 10 minutes to read your Bible and pray. This should be a time that you are awake and, if possible, a time that you can set aside nearly every day.
  11. Say from memory (or try to) last lesson's memory verse: Ephesians 2:8-9. If you can't say it flawlessly yet, take out the card you wrote it on, read it, then try to say it again from memory.
  12. Pray together about your new life in Christ and any problems you are currently having.
  13. Appointment. Set a time and place to meet and go through next week's lesson.

JesusWalk: Beginning the Journey
New Christian, New Believer Discipleship Training and Spiritual Formation

Copyright © 1985-2017, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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