Following Jesus: Focus On The Message

 

Last Updated on by Rocklyn Clarke

This page is being updated frequently. Check back regularly for updates!

Description and Purpose

This web page supports “Focus On The Message” – the first component of our “Following Jesus” discipleship program. Here you will learn how to help other believers develop a lifestyle of understanding and obeying the Bible – God’s Word. Helping to train other believers is the best way for you to ensure your own spiritual growth.

Check back here frequently for updates. It contains both general resources for the class and ideas and resources specific to each of the chapters of Matthew that we will work through during the class

Goals

See the Following Jesus class goals.


Habits and Ministries

As your disciple works his/her way through our “Following Jesus” discipleship curriculum you will help him/her to:

  1. Develop godly habits
  2. Turn godly habits into skills.
  3. Turn godly habits and skills into his/her ministry.

Assignments

Assignment for training your crew (using this material to bring others to spiritual maturity):

Throughout this material you will find sections titled “Assignments for training your crew”. They are designed to assist you with training others. Use the assignments to guide the people you’re discipling into a deeper understanding of God’s Kingdom and the life of following Jesus. The will typically involve the following:

  • Listen to God.
    • Set aside a daily time to spend with God when you won’t be disturbed.
    • Use this time to pray. Ask your discipler to teach you how if necessary.
    • Keep a notebook that you can use to write down what the Lord says to you during this and other times.
    • Review what God says to you with the person who is discipling you.
  • Read some Bible passages.
  • Watch some videos.
  • Discuss answers to some relevant questions.
    The discussion is an important part of the growth process. The relevant questions will often include the following:
    Standard Discussion Questions:

    • What did this passage teach you about God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)?
    • What did this passage teach you about people?
    • In what ways does this passage apply to your own life?
    • How are you measuring up to what God is requiring of you?
    • How can we help you in this area?

Try to pace the assignments at about one per week.


 

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The Bible

Doing the Bible is the first of our Core Values at Life Church and in order to do the Bible we have to learn the Bible and teach it to others. If you want to get the most out of this material then make a commitment to do the following:

  • Find a group or at least a partner with whom you can engage this material.
  • Read the Bible passages that are linked here.
  • Watch the videos. Watch the short Bible Project videos several times so that the teaching becomes a part of you.
  • Teach this to others as you are learning it. This, more than anything else, will deepen your own understanding!
    • Start with a friend or family member (including your spouse and/or your children). – Deuteronomy 6:1-9 NIV – Bible Gateway
    • Find others who are hungry to learn and have no one with whom to study.

Habits

Now is the right time to prepare your disciple for what’s coming next by coaching him/her in developing the following habits:

  • Prayer
    • Set aside a daily time to spend with God when you won’t be disturbed.
    • Use this time to pray. Ask your disciples to teach you how if necessary.
    • Keep a notebook that you can use to write down what the Lord says to you during this and other times.
    • Review what God says to you with the person who is discipling you.
    • Read “My Heart Christ’s Home”.

Approaching the Bible

Some background for urban disciples:

  • Christianity is not a western religion! It is a middle-eastern religion that has had a significant, yet sadly inadequate influence on the west.
  • Christianity is “revealed” religion – it is entirely about God taking an initiative to communicate specific truths to us and our response to his initiative. It is NOT about our finding our way to God. If God did not exist, Christianity would be meaningless. If it turned out that God exists, but hasn’t actually communicated anything, then Christianity would be meaningless. We are entirely dependent on God’s desire to make himself known. If God did not want to reveal himself to us we would have no hope of finding him or figuring him out.
  • No Europeans were involved in writing the Bible!
  • When you read the Bible you are eavesdropping on a conversation that God had with someone else. You are eavesdropping with his permission, indeed his encouragement, but you are still eavesdropping and you need to interpret everything from the perspective of the initial audience. The Bible was written for us, but not directly to us.

Understanding the Bible

Perhaps the best way to understand the Bible is by approaching it the way the founders of The Bible Project do:

The Bible is a small library of books telling a unified story that leads to Jesus.

Assignment for training your crew (using this material to bring others to spiritual maturity):

    • Watch each of the 3 videos above.
    • Discussion Questions:
      • What questions have you had about the Bible, Jesus, Christianity?
      • What do your family members and friends believe about these subjects?
      • Where have you looked for answers? Have you found the answers you needed?

Let’s add some more detail to each of these:

A Small Library of Books

Assignment for training your crew (using this material to bring others to spiritual maturity):

    • Watch the entire “How To Read The Bible” video series above.
    • Discussion Questions:
      • Has the material you’ve seen so far been helpful?
      • What remaining questions have you had about the Bible, Jesus, Christianity?

Telling a Unified Story

Assignment for training your crew (using this material to bring others to spiritual maturity):

    • Watch the “When Heaven Meets Earth” Bible Project video above.
    • Watch the “Big Picture” video with N. T. Wright above.
    • Discussion Questions:
      • What did you believe about the Bible’s story before you looked at this material?
      • Has your understanding of the Bible changed? If so, how?

Leading To Jesus

  • Our Approach
    • Starting from scratch

Assignment for training your crew (using this material to bring others to spiritual maturity):

    • Read the Bible passages above.
    • Watch the “The Gospel” and “The Gospel of the Kingdom” Bible Project videos above.
    • Review the scriptures in the “good news” and “follow me” keyword searches above.
    • Discussion Questions
      • Review what you, your family, and your friends have believe about Jesus.
      • What do you believe about Jesus now? Who is he to you?
      • Are you a follower of Jesus? If so, how did you become one?

Bible Versions

We strongly recommend that you read or listen to the Bible in a modern word for word translation such as one of the following:

We do not use the King James Version (KJV) since it uses outdated English that will get in the way of your understanding of the text. We also do not recommend using paraphrase, or idiomatic versions such (The Message, The Living Bible, etc.) since these make it harder to directly engage the words from the original languages. We do not recommend using the Amplified Bible since it can give the misleading impression that all of the potential meanings of various Biblical words are actually intended at any given point at which that word appears. Finally, you should never use the New World Translation by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (The Jehovah’s Witnesses).

Assignment for training your crew (using this material to bring others to spiritual maturity):

    • If you haven’t done so already, begin using a modern English translation (e.g. NIV, ESV, etc.) of the Bible.
    • Put your King James Version of the Bible away.
    • Discussion Questions
      • What versions of the Bible, if any, have you used?
      • Have you found the Bible difficult to read, easy to read, or somewhere in between?
      • If you have any favorite Bible passages, compare them one or two of the versions that you are now aware of.
      • How do you feel reading a modern English version of the Bible?

Online Bible Resources

The Bible Project

The Bible Project is an amazing resource that includes dozens of excellently produced videos and study guides that will greatly enhance your understanding of the Bible. There are links to videos from The Bible Project in the section above and throughout this web page.

The site also includes a 1 year Bible reading plan that you can download.

The One Year Bible Online

This Bible reading plan is the online version of the One Year Bibles available in print in various versions (NIV, ESV, etc.). From this web site you can do your Bible reading on the standard plan (January 1 – December 31) or you can create a plan with a start date of your own choice. You can even order the One Year Bible in print!

Bible Gateway

Bible Apps

    • Bible Gateway

Other Online Resources

Assignment for training your crew (using this material to bring others to spiritual maturity):

    • Review the resources above and choose a plan for reading through the Bible in 1, 2, or 3 years.
    • Discussion Questions:
      • Have you ever read through the entire Bible before? If so, how many times have you done this?
      • Do you like to read? What types of reading, if any, do you enjoy?
      • What Bible software/apps have you installed on your computer and mobile devices?
      • How much of the Bible do you think you can faithfully read per day?
      • What will you do when you run into problem or have questions about your Bible reading? How comfortable are you with asking for help?
      • What’s the best way for me to help you grow in faithfulness in your Bible reading?

Habits

Here are the habits that your disciple should develop next:

    • Review the resources above and choose a plan for reading through the Bible in 1, 2, or 3 years.
    • Establish a regular time for reading through the Bible. You may choose to combine this with your prayer time.

Purchase Bibles

Assignment for training your crew (using this material to bring others to spiritual maturity):

    • Review the Bible vendors above and purchase two modern English hardcover or softcover Bibles:
      • A Study Bible
      • A convenient Bible for mobile use.
    • Set up access to online Bible resources on your computer, and mobile devices.
    • Discussion Questions
      • Do you need help buying an appropriate Bible? When, where, and how will you buy it?

Resource Lists (for your convenience)


Matthew

This section will include notes and resources related to each chapter that we will be reading

Assignment for training your crew (using this material to bring others to spiritual maturity):

    • Read and watch the material in the Bible Project link above.
    • Order the “Matthew for Everyone” commentators above.
    • Discussion Questions:

Matthew 1

Main text and related passages:

  • Matthew 1 NIV – The Genealogy of Jesus the Messiah – Bible Gateway
  • Isaiah 7:1-14 NIV – The Sign of Immanuel – When Ahaz son of – Bible Gateway

Topics to explore in discussion:

    • The backstory to the Gospel.
    • The women in Jesus’ genealogy.

Additional resources to check out:

Assignment for training your crew (using this material to bring others to spiritual maturity):

    • Read the main passage and related passages above.
    • Watch the “Yahweh Saves” video from the Tim Mackie series on Matthew above.
    • Discussion Questions:
      • What does this chapter say about who Jesus is?
      • How does this chapter compare with what you’ve believed about Jesus in the past?
      • How does this chapter compare with what you believe about Jesus now?

Habits

    • Make a list of the people in your sphere of influence (i.e. people you connect with at least once a week) who aren’t followers of Jesus.
    • Begin praying for them regularly.

Matthew 2

Main text and related passages:

Topics to explore:

    • How many Magi were there?
    • Why does God allow tragedies to take place?
    • “Out of Egypt” – redoing Israel’s history the right way.

Additional resources to check out:

Assignment for training your crew (using this material to bring others to spiritual maturity):

    • Read the main passage and related passages above.
    • Watch the “God With Us” video from the Tim Mackie series on Matthew above.

Matthew 3

Main text and related passages:

Topics to explore:

    • Baptism was the onramp for people converting to judaism. By submitting to John’s baptism, repentant Jews were behaving as if they were gentile converts – starting from scratch. What would it look like for “repentant” Americans to renounce their citizenship and voluntarily go through the immigration and naturalization process?
    • Jesus’ baptism is unique. The Father speaks from heaven to make clear what Jesus’ status was – he had nothing to repent for.

Additional resources to check out:

Matthew 4

Main text and related passages:

Topics to explore:

    • Jesus continues to redo Israel’s history the right way. Demonstrating obedience in the wilderness where Israel repeatedly disobeyed.

Additional resources to check out:

Assignment for training your crew (using this material to bring others to spiritual maturity):

    • Read the main passage and related passages above.
    • Watch the “God With Us” video from the Tim Mackie series on Matthew above.
    • Watch the “Overview” video from the “5 thresholds” video. Which of the people in your sphere of influence fit into the “Trust”, “Curiosity”, Openness to Change”, “Seeking”, and “Following” categories?

Assignment for training your crew (using this material to bring others to spiritual maturity):

    • Read the main passage and related passages above.
    • Watch the “God With Us” video from the Tim Mackie series on Matthew above.
    • Watch the “Overview” video from the “5 thresholds” video.

Matthew 5

Main text and related passages:

  • Beatitutes – Matthew 5:1-12; Matthew 5:3; Jeremiah 5:1-5; 2 Corinthians 8:8-9 NIV – Bible Gateway
    • The beatitudes are intended to be understood as characteristics to emulate, but rather as existing categories of people who, though not necessarily admired by society in general, were being welcomed into God’s Kingdom ( Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy – Chapter 4 (New York: Harper Collins e-books, 2009), 111-121.)
    • Poor in Spirit – these were the people who you went to last when you were looking for spiritual insight. You don’t want to be poor in spirit.
    • Those who mourn – these folks are not going to have keep mourning because they will be comforted.
    • The Meek –
    • Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness won’t have to stay that way because they will be filled.
    • The merciful, though not necessarily admired by the surrounding society were welcome in the Kingdom.
    • Pure in Heart:
    • Peacemakers
    • Persecuted because of Righteousness:
  • Salt and Light – Matthew 5:13-16 NIV – Salt and Light – Bible Gateway
    • As followers of Jesus we illuminate the world around us for others and help to preserve it from spoiling.
  • The Fulfillment of the Law – Matthew 5:17-20 NIV – Bible Gateway
    • Jesus now begins to interpret Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) for his disciples.
    • This is a good opportunity to reflect onTorah in general and on the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20) in particular.
    • Review the commandments and reflect on their significance.
    • This is also a good opportunity to reflect on the 4th commandment – The Sabbath. The discipline of keep a sabbath is one worth establishing early in the life of a disciple.
  • Murder – Matthew 5:21-26; Exodus 20:13 NIV – Bible Gateway
  • Adultery – Matthew 5:27-30; Exodus 20:14 NIV – Bible Gateway
  • Divorce – Matthew 5:31-32; Matthew 19:1-12; Exodus 21:1-11; Deuteronomy 24:1-4; Malachi 2:13-16; 1 Corinthians 7 NIV – Bible Gateway
    • The Bible has a lot to say about divorce, so we shouldn’t base our understanding of this difficult topic on this portion of the Sermon on the Mount alone. Additional scriptures are provided above.  The book list also includes two excellent references on the subject: “Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible” and “Divorce and Remarriage in the Church” both by David Instone-Brewer.
  • Oaths – Matthew 5:33-37; Deuteronomy 23:21-23 NIV – Bible Gateway
  • Eye for eye – Matthew 5:38-42; Leviticus 24:17-20; Deuteronomy 19:15-21 NIV – Bible Gateway
    • Most people have had the experience of dealing with people who hurt them, but this passage holds special challenges for people who are subject to systematic oppression. Be prepared to discuss:
      • Racism
      • Sexism/misogyny
      • homophobia
  • Love for Enemies – Matthew 5:43-48; Leviticus 19:15-18; Leviticus 19:33-34; Deuteronomy 23:4-5
    • Jesus assumes (as does the Old Testament) that we love ourselves. He expects us to love our neighbors (as does the Old Testament). This alone however leaves open the question of who is our neighbor (addressed in Luke 10:25-37). Jesus short-circuits this question however by telling us to love our enemies and, by implication, everyone in between. Note that the word translated “love” here is less about warm feelings and more about positive actions of benefit.
    • Most people have had the experience of dealing with people who hurt them, but this passage holds special challenges for people who are subject to systematic oppression. Be prepared to discuss:
      • Racism
      • Sexism/misogyny
      • homophobia

Topics to explore:

    • Did you ever wonder if people like you were welcome in the Kingdom of God? What about the people you are discipling?
    • How effective are you as salt and light?
    • How do you deal with your anger?
    • How do you deal with your sexuality?
    • Has your life been impacted by divorce? If so, how. What is your view of marriage? Are you married? How is your marriage?
    • Does your “yes” mean “yes” and your “no” mean “no”? Do you manipulate people in order to seem more believable?
    • How do you handle insults and attacks? How do you deal with enemies? How do you handle oppression and injustice (racial, sexual, etc.)? What’s God’s attitude to oppression and injustice?

Additional resources to check out:

    • “Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible” by David Instone-Brewer from the book list.
    • “Divorce and Remarriage in the Church” by David Instone-Brewer from the book list.

Assignment for training your crew (using this material to bring others to spiritual maturity):

    • Read the main passage and related passages above.
    • ?

Assignment for training your crew (using this material to bring others to spiritual maturity):

    • Read the main passage and related passages above.
    • ?

Matthew 6

Main text and related passages:

  • Acts of Righteousness – Matthew 6:1
    • The Jews of Jesus’ day acknowledged 3 key “acts of righteousness”: giving, prayer, and fasting. Jesus begins this teaching by explaining that these are not to be done for show.
  • Giving to the Needy – Matthew 6:1, 2-4
  • Prayer – Matthew 6:1,5-15
    • Pray simply so that others can simply pray!
      • Church life subjects you to subtle and not so subtle pressure to pray in ways that result in recognition and affirmation. If you don’t deal with this pressure, you will eventually find yourself praying fancy, religious prayers in church settings.
      • When your prayers are “fancy” new believers who hear you will be inclined to think of public prayer as something that they could never do. This is actually bad for the Kingdom.
      • When you pray publicly, pray simply so that new believers listening to you will think: “I can do that!”
  • Fasting – Matthew 6:1, 16-18
    • In Jesus’ day, food preparation took a lot of time. Fasting potentially freed up some of that time for prayer.
    • Today, food preparation requires much less time, but there are other things that consume our time (entertainment, email/internet, phone, television, radio, etc.). Consider fasting from some of these as well.
    • Be careful not to turn fasting into a quest for human approval.
  • Treasures in Heaven – Matthew 6:19-24
    • Store treasure in heaven, not on earth.
    • “Eyes are good” is an idiomatic way of referring to generosity. “Eyes are bad” is an idiomatic way of referring to stinginess.
  • Do Not Worry – Matthew 6:25-34
    • “Seek fist his Kingdom and his righteousness” is NOT the same as “Seek God first”. IF Jesus had intended to say “seek God first”, he could have done so. The Kingdom (i.e. the Kingdom of Heaven or Kingdom of God) is the reigning activity of God on earth. Although is encompassed God’s rule throughout the universe, for the purpose of the people listening to Jesus, the Kingdom was the movement, led by Jesus, comprising all of the people who were following him. You cannot obey this verse (Matthew 6:33) by yourself. You can only obey this teaching through demonstrated commitment to being part of a local family of believers.

Topics to explore:

    • ?

Additional resources to check out:

    • ?
    • Read the main passage and related passages above.
    • ?

Assignment for training your crew (using this material to bring others to spiritual maturity):

    • Read the main passage and related passages above.
    • ?

Matthew 7

Main text and related passages:

  • Judging Others – Matthew 7:1-6
    • This isn’t the only passage in scripture that deals with judging.
    • The point is not that we should never judge, but rather that we shouldn’t judge hypocritically. We need to assume that our own eyesight may be impaired before trying to fix a problem with someone else.
    • Beyond judging, don’t give share precious truths with people who won’t value them or who can’t appreciate them.
  • Ask, Seek, Knock – Matthew 7:7-12
    • God is loving and wants to provide generously for his children.
  • Narrow and Wide Gates – Matthew 7:13-14
    • Following Jesus requires intentional effort. If we don’t make that effort, we will get carried along with the crowd.
    • Illustrations:
      • Heading south on MA-28 onto I-93 S in order to take MA 23S.
      • Heading onto I-93N from South Short Plaza in order to stay on I-93N.
  • A Tree and its Fruit – Matthew 7:15-23
    • Shepherds wear sheep’s clothing. Wolves in sheep’s clothing are pretending to be shepherds, not sheep.
    • Give people time to show their fruit before you entrust them with responsibility.
    • The manifestation of supernatural gifts is NOT proof that Jesus actually knows you.
  • The Wise and Foolish Builders – Matthew 7:24-29
    • This closing passage plays a key role in framing the Sermon on the Mount.
    • We must put Jesus’ words into practice. In the parable, both the house built on rock and the house built on sand face the same three challenges: rain, flood, and wind.
    • The house collapsing doesn’t necessarily mean death or ultimately going to hell. It is better to think of it as becoming useless for God’s purposes. Sooner or later, you and the people you disciple will face a crisis that has the potential to “take you out of the game” or make you disengage from the Kingdom. The only way to survive is if you have been putting Jesus’ words into practice.
    • Jesus’s words here refers very specifically to the Sermon on the Mount. Of course Jesus said more that just what is found here and we need to put all of his words into practice. In fact we need to put all of the Bible’s teaching (properly understood) into practice. The Sermon on the Mount however is the foundation. We need to start here!
    • You and your disciple need to develop a plan for regularly working through Matthew 5 – 7 to ensure that you make it part of your lifestyle. The isn’t a “lone ranger” operation. It needs to be done as part of a believing community.

Topics to explore:

    • ?

Additional resources to check out:

    • ?

Assignment for training your crew (using this material to bring others to spiritual maturity):

    • Read the main passage and related passages above.
    • ?

Assignment for training your crew (using this material to bring others to spiritual maturity):

    • Read the main passage and related passages above.
    • ?

 

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