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Intro to Jesus #4: HOW CAN WE FOLLOW JESUS?

Updated: May 20



[This study is organized into three sections, and it is probably best to cover this material over three sessions.]


You’re gonna have to serve somebody. ~ Bob Dylan


Follow the way of love. ~ The apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 14:1)


SUMMARY: Read this and skip the rest (if you want)


  • Following Jesus can be as simple as "ABC"...

    • Ask God for more of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Welcome his presence, power, and guidance.

    • Believe (or trust or have faith) that Jesus is worth following. We don't have to have it all figured out to become a believer; we simply have to trust Jesus enough to begin to learn from and walk with him.

    • Coming together in Community is the best way to learn, to love, and to live. Joining a "church" (of any size or style) is the best way to practice living the teachings of Jesus and a place to engage in meaningful experiences like baptism, communion, and serving.

  • We don't have to wait until we have all the answers to begin sharing what we're learning with others. Learning and teaching are mutually enhancing activities. Who can you begin to share what you are learning with?



INTRODUCTION: First Thoughts


Welcome to our final study in this series. We’ve been learning all about Jesus, but this last study is really all about you.


Humans are inescapably social and we become ourselves through the influence of others. Even the person who says to themself, "I will think completely independently of anyone else's influence" has already been influenced by someone's (ludacris) idea that we can think independently of others. Who we have become and who we are becoming is largely due to who we follow. This four-part series has built the case that there is no one worth following more than Jesus. But what does following Jesus look like?


We will lay out the “A.B.C.s” of following Jesus. But note: although we’re listing these aspects of the Jesus Way in an orderly structure for clarity, this is not a linear list. For instance, joining together with Christian community is listed last, but for many this will be a good first step. And asking for more of the Holy Spirit is listed first, and yet this is also an expression of faith, or believing, which is listed separately second. There is overlap since we are describing one spiritual continuum from different angles.


Your journey with Jesus will be unique to you, but it will thrive when it includes the following aspects:


“A” is for ASK (Inviting more of the Holy Spirit into our lives)

“B” is for BELIEVE (God’s gift of grace is received by faith)

“C” is for COMMUNITY (Finding our sense of belonging in God’s family)




“A” is for ASK





A ... ASK, SEEK, KNOCK


1. Reaching out for more of God. Jesus encourages his followers to ask, seek, and knock as a way of inviting us to pursue more of God in our lives. He wants us to ask questions, seek answers, and knock on the door of heaven with confident boldness, knowing that our loving God wants to engage with us. We can all participate in this asking, seeking, and knocking – even those of us who don’t yet have any faith in God. As we said in our first study, when we walk into a house and we don’t yet know if anyone is home, one of the best ways to find out is to shout: “Hello? Is anybody home?” Calling out doesn’t make us believers that someone IS home, but we won’t find out without asking. So it is with God.


[Matthew 7:7-11; John 4:10; Hebrews 4:16]


Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. ~ JESUS (Matthew 7:7-8)


2. The Holy Spirit. When Jesus invites us to ask, seek, and knock, he is ultimately inviting us to reach out for more of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God’s very own personal, powerful, and purifying presence that we can experience here and now. He manifests God’s love and Christ’s character to our hearts in ways we can really experience. The Holy Spirit is always with us and around us, but he wants to come and make his home within us.


[Luke 11:5-13; John 7:37-39]


On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. ~ The apostle John (John 7:37-39)


In the Bible, the Holy Spirit is sometimes pictured as a dove and sometimes as fire.


3. God is Triune. In the great drama that is the universe, God the Father is the writer/director, Jesus is the star in the spotlight, revealing the will and way of the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the spotlight itself, shining on Jesus. He (not “it”, the personal pronoun is used to emphasize personhood, not gender) is somehow distinct from the Father and Son, yet is considered equally God. We call this the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is that aspect of God that comes to us, lives in us, and gives us the mind of Christ. We pray to God the Father. We follow Jesus the Son. And we are cleansed, renewed, and energized by the Holy Spirit. Jesus speaks of the “name” (singular identity) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (plural persons). The concept of the Trinity has a coherence to it, since God is love, and love is relational. If God were a single undifferentiated monad, one personhood alone for eternity past, we could say “God is potentially loving”, and eventually after he created other beings “God is now actually loving”, but we could not say “God IS love”. But in and of God’s own self, God is Relationship-in-Harmony. Our hearts resonate with this truth: God is love.


[Genesis 1:1-3; Matthew 28:19; Luke 4:1 Acts 5:3-4, 9; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 John 4:8, 16]


All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. ~ JESUS (Matthew 28:18-19)


God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


4. The Holy Spirit is the Mother-Heart of Father God. Sometimes people hunger for a feminine spirituality that they feel Christianity (and other traditional religions) lack. So they turn to mother earth adoration, goddess worship, or attribute more spiritual significance to the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God than the Bible describes. When religious people paint a picture of God as predominantly male, we may leave a void in our spirits, a hunger for connection with the eternal feminine, forgetting that this is also found in the God Jesus shows us. The Bible takes a clear and strong stand here: human maleness and femaleness both come equally from God (Genesis 1:26-27). As we read on in this study, notice that the ministry of the Holy Spirit manifests in distinctly and beautifully motherly ways: the Spirit gives birth to us, nurtures us, comforts us, and guides us as we grow. Ultimately, God is spirit and beyond sex as we conceive it (John 4:24; also Exodus 3:14; Deuteronomy 4:15-17), but God does manifest his presence in ways that reflect human gender, male and female (Genesis 1:26-27; Isaiah 42:14; 49:15; Hosea 13:8; Matthew 13:33; 23:37; Luke 15:8-10). In the Bible, although male pronouns are used for the Spirit (as is always the case for God), the actual Bible words used for the "Spirit" are either feminine (Hebrew, ruah) or neuter (Greek, pneuma). In the Hebrew Bible, one name used for God is El Shaddai (e.g., Genesis 17:1, 28:3, 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; 49:25). "El" means God, and "Shaddai" comes either from the Akkadian word sadu (meaning mountains or breasts) or the Hebrew word shad (meaning only breasts). As "God of the Mountains", God is masculine, strong, and sturdy. As "God of the Breasts", God is motherly, life-giving, and life-nurturing. (Interestingly, most English Bibles translate El Shaddai as "God Almighty" exclusively, drawing from the power imagery of the mountains, rather than "God All Nurturing", drawing from the motherly imagery of breasts. Masculine bias is a real issue in religion.)


The apostle Peter tells all believers they have been born again (1 Peter 1:23), and then develops the imagery of us breastfeeding in the arms of God:


Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. ~ The apostle Peter (2 Peter 2:2-3)


5. The Holy Spirit Brings Us To Jesus and Jesus To Us. Although the Holy Spirit is always at work in our world convicting people and drawing us to Jesus, Jesus promised he would specifically send the Holy Spirit to his followers to manifest Jesus’ own presence to us, remind us of his teachings, and illuminate our understanding. Even though through his Ascension, Jesus returned to heaven, the Holy Spirit brings the mind and heart and presence of Jesus to us. Jesus calls the Holy Spirit "another advocate to help you" (John 14:16). In Greek there are two words for "another" - another of the same thing, or another thing that is different. The word here is the first kind - the Holy Spirit is another, deeper, richer, spiritual experience of Jesus, which is why the Holy Spirit is sometimes called “the Spirit of Christ” and other times "the Spirit of grace". In a word, the Holy Spirit is the "closeness" of Christ.


[Matthew 18:20; 28:20; John 14:16-18, 26; 15:26; 16:7-15; Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 2:16; Galatians 4:19; Colossians 1:27; 1 Peter 1:11]


But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. ~ JESUS (John 14:26)

When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. ~ JESUS (John 15:26)


6. The Fellowship of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit not only connects us with Christ, but also connects us to one another. If the same Spirit of God is in me and in you, then we are bonded together spiritually. We can sense the presence of God in fellow believers and our hearts are drawn into an experience of togetherness. The Greek word for fellowship is koinónia, meaning to be in communion or a committed partnership. The Holy Spirit bonds us with God and with one another.


[2 Corinthians 13:14; Ephesians 4:3; Philippians 2:1]


May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. ~ The apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 2:14]


7. Born of the Spirit. When we trust Christ, we are renewed, remade, and reborn by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit actually brings into being to a new, purified version of ourselves. We find our life in him, and he lives in us. Just as we draw life-giving oxygen from all around us into our lungs, so it is with the Holy Spirit. From inside us the Holy Spirit guides, encourages, and helps us commune with God.


[John 3:1-7; Romans 8:1-27; 1 Peter 1:23; 1 John 4:7; 5:1]


Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. ~ JESUS (John 3:5-6)

(Note: Jesus’ “born of water” line may mean physical birth, baptism, or even the Old Covenant. Jesus is speaking here to a Jewish religious leader, and Israel was “born of water” out of slavery in Egypt when they crossed through the Red Sea. Jesus may be saying, it’s not enough to rely on your ethnic and religious history, good as it is. You must also be born of the Spirit.)



8. The Spirit-Filled Life. While all believers receive the Holy Spirit’s presence and power when we first believe (called the “baptism of the Spirit”), it is still our responsibility to “be filled with the Spirit”, which means to let his thoughts and attitudes fill our minds and hearts. The Holy Spirit will equip us with gifts, help us grow in Jesus’ own character qualities, help us pray when we don’t know what to say, and empower us with boldness to share the message of Jesus with others.


[Acts 1:4-8; 2:1-21; 15:7-9; Romans 8:26-27; 1 Corinthians 2:10-16; 3:16-17; 6:11, 19; 12-13; Galatians 5:22-25; Ephesians 1:13-19; 5:18-20; Colossians 1:9-14]


Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to recklessness. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. ~ The apostle Paul (Ephesians 5:18)
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. ~ The apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 3:18)

The word for "contemplate" in the above verse means to stare intently, but here's the thing - it means to stare intently into a mirror. We are to contemplate the Lord's glory shining brightly in our own lives. This is a promise: God IS at work in your life, so take time to look for it.



9. Abiding in Christ. "A" is for "Ask", but also for "Abide". (This is a different metaphor to help us understand the same experience as #8 above.) In the gospel of John, Jesus talks about abiding (that is, remaining, staying, dwelling, or resting) in Jesus himself. We all "abide" in something or someone. Where does your mind go in the small moments in between tasks, or when you first wake up, or fall asleep at night? What emotions bubble up when you slow down enough to become aware of your inner world? The good news is that we can choose to cultivate new mental and emotional habits regarding our focus throughout our day. We can also create daily time to intentionally "be with" Jesus. Eastern meditation focuses on emptying the mind; Jesus invites us to fill it with an awareness of his love for us. The practice of mindfulness helps us become more present in the present moment; Jesus invites us to become present to God's love for us in every moment. When we abide in Christ, we are awakening to the atmosphere around us at all times: God's unconditional agape love. Abiding in Christ means looking at him, looking at us, in love. And this love can be experienced most profoundly through three types of prayer:

  • In CONFESSIONAL prayer, we use our words to praise God and declare what we know to be true. We also confess our sins, accept God's cleansing, and ask God to help us with our needs. (This is the kind of praying we most think of when we think of prayer.)

  • In CONVERSATIONAL prayer, we dialogue with God. We let God speak to us by reading Scripture, and we speak to God by reflecting on each verse and talking to God about what we are learning.

  • In CONTEMPLATIVE prayer, we move beyond words to merely and consciously be with God. In one sense, this is the romantic and intimate aspect of our spirituality - communing with the Spirit and soaking in God's love. We can practice this way of abiding in Christ during specific quiet times and throughout our day.


[Psalm 16:8; 23:2-3; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17]


Abide in me as I abide in you. ~ JESUS (John 15:4)
Focus your minds on things above, not on earthly things. ~ The apostle Paul (Colossians 3:1-2)


Do you want more of the Holy Spirit in your life? He is always with you, surrounding you like the air we breathe. So, stop holding your breath. Welcome the Holy Spirit inside you and breathe deep. In fact, you might want to pause right now and physically take some deep breaths while praying:


“Holy Spirit, if you are real, I welcome you into my life. Cleanse me, convict me, change me, and give me life. I am ready to fall in love with Jesus.”


Now you are Asking, Seeking, and Knocking.







“B” is for BELIEVE





B ... BELIEVE, RECEIVE, REPENT


At some point in our journey toward and with Jesus, faith will form. We don’t have to force it, but neither should we resist it.


1. What is faith? Faith is a foundational idea in following Jesus. In the Bible, the same word is translated faith, belief, or trust. It’s all the same. To believe in God or to have faith in God means more than just thinking he exists; it means to trust God with our lives. Faith is how we receive God’s gift of salvation. Because God offers us his unconditional love and spiritual life as a free gift of grace, there is nothing left for us to do to qualify for or achieve salvation. We accept this gift by simply trusting that this Good News is true – this is faith.


[John 3:16; 5:24; 6:28-29; 7:37-39; 20:31; Acts 16:30-31; Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-10; Hebrews 11:1-2, 6]


For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. ~ JESUS (John 3:16)

Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. ~ JESUS (John 7:37-38)

Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved. ~ The apostle Peter (Acts 16:31)



2. Reasonable Faith. Faith is a relational energy that connects us to another person. Faith does not mean believing in irrational, unreasonable, or anti-intellectual things, but seeing enough evidence to invest our trust in a relationship. So, just like a healthy plant may be rooted in soil but must grow beyond the soil and into the sunlight, so it is with faith and reason. Faith remains rooted in the evidence while also moving us beyond the evidence and into an experience. This is true for most committed love relationships. At first, we get to know each other by paying attention to the evidence of who the other person is. We are always observing and learning, including listening to our own intuitions. At some point we may “fall in love” which will include trusting this person whole-heartedly. Then we may choose to get married, which is a significant leap of faith into a future we have never experienced with them before. This leap of faith takes us beyond mere logic and reason, but that does not mean it is illogical or unreasonable. It is relational – a deeper kind of knowing. This is how it is with our connection to Christ. It is a leap of faith, yes, but we run the ramp of reason before we take the leap of faith. Once when John the Baptist was struggling with questions about Jesus, Jesus’ response was simple: look at the evidence! Jesus was the original evidentialist. He believes the evidence he provided is enough to ground our faith in the soil of reason, and he never encourages blind faith. He offers his life, his miracles, his teachings (see study #2), and ultimately his resurrection as evidence to encourage our trust.


[Matthew 11:1-6; Luke 7:18-23]


Facts (intellectual knowing) and feelings (intuitive knowing) work together to help us choose faith (relational knowing).

3. Faith & Doubt. Doubt is different than disbelief or the refusal to consider faith. Doubt is the honest questioning of faith. Yes, the Bible encourages us to have faith without doubt, but when we are filled with doubt our small and struggling faith is still enough. When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, the encounter was so mind-blowing, some of the disciples doubted their own experience – even as they worshipped Jesus! It is to this group of doubting worshippers that Jesus entrusted leadership of his Church. Remember John the Baptists’ doubt? Jesus never rebukes him, but understands him, and offers evidence. The same is true for Thomas, a disciple who found it hard to believe in the resurrection until he had more evidence. Jesus is patient and understanding with our doubts. When you doubt, remind yourself – doubt does not discredit faith!


[Matthew 28:16-17; John 20:24-29]


Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. ~ The apostle Matthew (Matthew 28:16-17)



4. Faith VS Religion. When someone offers us a gift, we don’t reach for our wallet and ask “Okay, now what do I owe you for this?” No, that’s religion. Instead, we simply reach out our hands and say “Thank you.” Picture God’s hands extended out to you with the gift of his love, his forgiveness, and his salvation: that’s grace. And picture you reaching out to accept this gift: that’s faith. Even more, we continue to live by faith when we unwrap the gift we’ve received and put it to good use. If it is a sweater, we put it on. If it is a bicycle, we ride it. We don’t just receive the gift and put it into storage. So it should be with God’s gift of life. God saves us to live lives of good works, but we don’t have to perform good works in order to be saved.


[Romans 1:17; 6:23; Galatians 2:16, 20; 3:11; Ephesians 2:8-10]


For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of Godnot by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. ~ The apostle Paul (Ephesians 2:8-10]
Reaching out to give a gift is grace. Reaching out to receive a gift is faith.

5. What helps our faith grow? Sometimes faith just happens to a person without any action on their part. You may simply become aware, at some point, that you believe. When this happens, you cannot not believe. And yet, for many of us faith is an act of the will that we choose to cultivate and commit to. Either way, here are some things we can do to help our faith take root and grow…


a. Repentance. Repentance is a Bible word meaning to rethink your old ways and commit to walking a new path. Together with faith, repentance is part of conversion, that is, changing our way of thinking, believing, and living. Turning away from our old ways is repentance, and turning toward the new path is faith. This is why repenting and believing are often mentioned together in the Bible, like two sides of the same coin. And sometimes when one word is used, it implies the other as well. You can take steps right now to say “no” to your old ways, and “yes” to the path of Jesus.


[Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15; Luke 5:32; 18:9-14; 24:46-47; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 20:21; Romans 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9]



b. Confession. What are you struggling with? Sin? Shame? Doubt? The act of simply acknowledging our sin and struggles to another person is a concrete step toward healing. Secrecy is a powerful poison – we think we are preserving our lives by keeping our failure private, but this can eat away at us and weaken our spiritual lives. Secret-keeping is draining. Confession is empowering. We don’t confess to receive chastising, finger-wagging, or even advice. The right response to anyone’s confession is simple, non-judgemental prayer.


[James 5:16]


Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. ~ The apostle James (James 5:16)


c. Prayer. Asking God to increase our faith can help our faith grow. God wants to partner with us, to have his power and our desires work together. This applies to our growing faith as well. On one occasion a man with very little faith used what faith he had to ask Jesus for more faith. Clever! He told Jesus: “I believe. Help my unbelief!” You can pray this way too.


[Mark 9:24]



d. Welcoming the message. The Bible also talks about “receiving” or “accepting” Jesus, his message, and his kingdom. This means to welcome his teachings into our hearts and ponder them, considering what a valuable gift they are. Receiving, taking in, welcoming Jesus’ teaching is an act of faith that can then help increase our faith. The Holy Spirit plants faith in us like a seed, even a small amount like a mustard seed (Have you seen mustard seeds? They are really tiny!). We can water it and experience its growth as we read, listen to, study, meditate on and apply the Good News message of Jesus. Helping our faith grow is the reason the Bible was written. We should read it for ourselves and/or listen to people talk about it, explain it, and celebrate the amazing message of grace. (See this post, called "How to Eat The Bible", for more ideas to help us read the Bible for ourselves.)


[Matthew 13:31-32; Luke 18:17; John 1:11-12; 8:31-32; 20:31; Acts 2:41; 11:1; 17:11; Romans 10:17; 15:4; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 2:15; James 1:21-22; 1 John 5:10-11]


But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. ~ The apostle John (John 20:31)

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. ~ The apostle Paul (Romans 10:17)








“C” is for COMMUNITY





C .... COME TOGETHER IN COMMUNITY



1. Lesson from an Ethiopian Official. There is a story in the Bible about a government official from Ethiopia who is reading a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Philip, an early Christian, is passing by and asks the man if he understands what he is reading. The official’s response is humble and helpful: “I need someone to explain it to me”, and he invites Philip to help him understand. If educated officials need help, we shouldn’t feel like we need to figure it all out by ourselves. God wants us to learn and grow through our connection to one another.


[Acts 8:26-39; Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 2:19-22; 3:14-15; 1 Timothy 3:15; 1 John 3:1]



God uses people in partnership with the Bible to help us grow.

2. Hey! You’ve Got My Grace! God wants us to move closer to each other as we draw closer to him. Our Heavenly Father isn’t interested in individual students reading their textbooks by themselves in order to grow spiritually. God wants a family, learning from and alongside one another. So the Holy Spirit intentionally shares God’s grace, not just TO us, but THROUGH us. God gives us all grace for ourselves, but also grace he wants us to share with others. That means we will only receive the full measure of the grace God has for us when we are in relationship with his Church, the body of Christ and our family of faith. We could call this “The Principle of Mixed Up Grace” – I’ve got your grace, and you’ve got mine.


[1 Corinthians 12; 1 Peter 4:10]


Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. ~ The apostle Peter (1 Peter 4:10)


3. Church. Jesus and his first followers used the word “church” (Greek, ecclesia) to refer to his growing movement. The word “church” means a gathering of people with a shared purpose. It can refer to all Christ-followers around the world (the universal “Church”, singular, often with a capital C), or to individual gatherings/communities of believers (local “churches”, plural, usually with a small c). When we choose to follow Jesus, we are automatically part of THE Church, and we are encouraged to become a participating member of one small local church. If you want to grow spiritually, find a community of Jesus-followers who you can meet with, be family together, and bring your questions to.


[Matthew 16:18; 18:17; Acts 9:31; 1 Corinthians 12:27-28; Ephesians 3:10; Colossians 1:18, 24; 1 Timothy 3:15; Hebrews 10:24-25]



4. Kingdom Embassies. When we become Christ-followers, our citizenship in Heaven is added to current country - we have dual citizenship! We are now citizens of a new global society, a new family, and a new way of being human together in relationship. Churches then are meant to be kingdom outposts; places where people can come and experience the kingdom culture, a taste of heaven on earth. Whenever someone walks into a circle of believers-in-fellowship, they are walking into an relational embassy that represents our King and our Kingdom.


[Acts 22:27-29; Ephesians 2:19; Colossians 1:9-14]


Canada House in London England. Visiting here gives us a taste of Canada away from home.


5. Church as Family. Jesus saw his church as a family, where people who were previously strangers or even enemies would learn to love one another like real sisters and brothers. God is love, and love is life, and life begins and is meant to be lived in families. This is not a random reality, but God’s design for us.


[Psalm 68:5-6; Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; 10:29-31; John 1:12; 19:26-27; Romans 8:15; 12:10; Galatians 3:26-28; Ephesians 1:5; 3:14; 1 Timothy 3:15; 5:1-2]


Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. ~ JESUS (Matthew 12:48-50)

Truly I tell you, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. ~ JESUS (Mark 10:29-31)


6. Intimate and Interactive. Early Christian churches met mostly in homes (and sometimes in larger rented spaces) and were small enough that everyone who attended could be an active contributor. Each person participated in the gathering by bringing a word of encouragement, instruction, or found other ways to use their gifts to serve others. There were leaders in each church to help guide these communities of faith, but the active participation of everyone was the norm. Eventually churches grew larger and all the chairs (or pews) began to face the same direction to listen to the paid professional holy man teach from the front. This isn’t wrong, it is just incomplete. Real church happens when we turn the chairs to face one another.


[Acts 19:8-10; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 12-14; 16:19; Ephesians 4:11-13; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1:2]


A House Church in India.

7. One anothering. Over fifty times in the New Testament, Christians are instructed to do something to or with “one another”: Love one another; Serve one another; Accept one another; Be kind to one another; Forgive one another; Build up one another; Teach one another; Encourage one another; Comfort one another; etc. Obviously God cares about us doing life together, growing spiritually together, and making this world a better place together.


[John 13:34-35; Romans 12:10; 15:7; Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 4:2, 32; 1 John 4:11-12]



8. Church practices. There are a few things that are supposed to happen in church gatherings.


a. Gathering. Getting together regularly, is what the local church does. As we mentioned earlier, the word “church” means a gathering of people with a purpose. Christians debate whether online gathering is sufficient, but we all agree that finding some way to make our faith relational on a regular basis is Christ’s vision for the Church.


[Hebrews 10:24-25]


And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another. (Hebrews 10:24-25)


b. Baptism. Water baptism is like wearing a wedding ring. It doesn’t make you married, but it does show that you are married. Our faith in Christ is all we need to become a Christian, yet baptism is one of those things that Jesus gives us to help us declare to others and remind ourselves that our hearts belong to Jesus. Water baptism is the symbol we use to declare that we have experienced Spirit baptism – that we have buried our old life, been washed by God, and have risen again to a new life. Receiving God's gift of grace through faith is, technically, invisible, intangible, and to our minds can feel purely theoretical. Baptism helps us plant a flag of faith through a tangible experience. It forever sits in our memory as a reminder that we really have reached out in faith to receive God's gift or forgiveness, cleansing, and new life. Interestingly, although technically anyone could baptize themselves (just jump in the pool!), this is never considered a possibility in the Bible. There are always others present doing and/or celebrating every baptism. Even though baptism is an individual decision, it is always a community expression, a welcoming into the family of faith.


[Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12, 36-38; 10:47-48; 16:30-34; 22:16; Romans 6:1-4; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12-13]


Baptism reminds us physically what we believe to be true spiritually..

c. Communion. As we discussed in our last study, the Eucharist (meaning the meal of Thanksgiving) or Lord’s Supper or Communion is a regular ritual of reminding that helps us focus on the meaning of Jesus’ death and on the value of being the body of Christ together. Jesus gave new symbolism to the Passover Seder – an annual meal that reminded Jewish families of their freedom from slavery in Egypt. Now Jesus said the meal would symbolize the freedom that forgiveness brings. It also points to the “cutting of a covenant”, meaning a sacrificial offering that establishes a new way of being in relationship. By dying on the cross, Jesus was cutting the new covenant between God and humankind. Some churches celebrate the Lord’s Supper weekly, some monthly, some quarterly, and some annually. There is no prescribed frequency, but it is a gift we should participate in to help us remember what is most important.


[Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-26; Luke 22:7-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26]


Do this in remembrance of me. ~ JESUS (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24, 25)


d. Confession. When we gather together with fellow believers, we confess the truths we believe and we can also confess the ways we have failed to live up to these truths. Positive and negative confession – professing our beliefs and admitting our failures to follow those beliefs – is one of the best ways to battle hypocrisy. Reinforcing what we believe with our words, spoken or sung, helps us become a whole person inside and out. Confession helps us live lives that are humble, whole, and holy.


[Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; James 5:16; 1 John 1:6-2:2]



e. Serving. One of the fascinating teachings of Jesus is his emphasis on, not just loving God AND loving others, but loving God BY loving others. The New Testament teaches that the primary way we worship, adore, and show our love for God is by serving those around us who bear God’s image. Church is our starting place for cultivating this foundational other-centred (instead of self-centred) love. Jesus demonstrated this kind of humble service through the act of foot washing. Some churches still practice literal foot washing as a regular ceremony, while others see it as a symbol pointing to all humble service.


[John 13:12-17, 34-35; Romans 13:8; 15:7; Galatians 5:13-14; 6:2; James 2:8; 1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 3:14-18; 4:19-21]



Some churches still practice ritual foot washing today as a sign of love and service. (This scene is from the 2023 movie "Jesus Revolution".)


f. Learning, Discerning, and Preserving the Truth. Together we (plural) are the temple (singular) of the Holy Spirit. When we gather together, the Holy Spirit in me and the Holy Spirit in you helps us listen to and learn from one another, and from God. When we really listen to one another we are amplifying the voice of God within us and among us. Together, we practice the ministry of reminding – repeatedly bringing to mind what is most important in life. This is why the Bible calls the Church (not the Bible by itself, but the community gathered around and living out the Bible’s truths) the pillar and foundation of the truth.


[1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19; 15:1; Ephesians 2:19; 3:10; 1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 2:5; 2 Peter 1:3-15]


I am writing in order that you may know how one must conduct oneself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. ~ The apostle Paul (1 Timothy 3:15)



9. Church as the Means AND the Ends! In many ways, the Church can be a means to an end – it helps us grow and thrive spiritually, find friendship socially, and have a sense of belonging in family. But remember: Church is not just a tool to accomplish some greater goal. Church is the goal! God’s desire for all of us is to give and receive love in gracious, accepting, God-honouring, Jesus-following, Spirit-empowered communities that continue to open their arms to new people. Everything else – including our hardships, our careers, our possessions, our debts, and even the Bible itself – are temporary. The Church is forever.


[Matthew 16:18]


On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. ~ JESUS (Matthew 16:18)

Church is meant to be our forever family.


CONCLUSION: Sharing the Good News!


When we find out about something life-changing, it is natural to want to share it with others. And sharing our faith with friends and family (and even strangers!) is one of the best ways for us to grow spiritually as well. It’s win-win! As we pass on what we are learning, not only does the other person have the opportunity to learn, but so do we. In fact, psychologists tell us that tutoring someone else in a subject is the best way to learn that subject better ourselves. It’s called the Protégé Effect. Look it up! So don’t wait until you’ve got it all figured out before talking to others about your spiritual journey. Share as you learn, learn as you share. Repeat!


The Protégé Effect: We learn best when we teach what we're learning to others.


“When we teach, we learn.”

~ Seneca the Younger,

Roman Philosopher

(c. 4 BC – 65 AD)


And don’t be afraid of hard questions you can’t answer. You’re not expected to know everything – you’re just learning! Welcome questions and thank people for pushing you to learn more. Then take those questions back into Christian community to seek out answers. Everybody learns, grows, and benefits from honest and authentic questions.


[Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23; 1 Peter 3:15]



Accept Him with your whole heart

And use your own two hands

With one reach out to Jesus

And with the other, bring a friend

~ Two Hands, by Chuck Girard (Sung by Love Song)



All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. ~ JESUS (Matthew 28:18-20)




A Closing Prayer


For this reason I kneel before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us — to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. ~ The apostle Paul (Ephesians 3:14-21)

May each of us come to know Christ's love that surpasses knowledge. That is, may we move beyond merely knowing about God's love to actually experiencing God's amazing, infinite, unconditional agape.




QUESTIONS FOR CONVERSATION


  1. Does anything in this study stand out as something new to you?

  2. What do you find most exciting about the topic of this study?

  3. What questions still remain for you?

  4. What is your next step? a) Keep investigating and ask more questions? b) Get baptized? c) Commit to community? d) Something else?

  5. Heart check: How do you feel toward Jesus now, the more you learn about him? How do you think Jesus feels toward you?



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