Welcome to FaithTrack where you will find ways to apply your faith to your daily life.
The Bible is rich in encouraging and uplifting words of life. In it we find God's hope in every page describing the miraculous events of the Old Testament, the poetry of Psalms, or the parables or Jesus - and more! It is the very source of all that we share with others. Pastor Sam teaches us in this session of FaithTrack ways to bring the Bible to life for others around you.
Hi, and welcome to Faith Track. We have been exploring what it means to be a disciple and how the term disciple is just another word for dedicated student. So as we seek to follow Jesus with intention and dedication, we become His disciples. In our times together, we will look at a good number of passages from the Bible, and I will encourage you to take what we discuss into conversations with others. For this, we have created a notes page PDF with all of the Bible verses and discussion questions. You can access this notes page at cornerstonesf.org/notes during the original showing of this or cornerstonesf.org/faithtrack anytime afterward.
In our last session, we looked at the idea of engaging our culture by serving as ambassadors for God as we put our faith into action. In this session, we are going to be looking at another important aspect of being a disciple; how to study and teach the Bible, teach what you know. If you’re like me, studying the Bible makes sense. Since the Bible is God’s very Word, His message of reconciliation, redemption, hope, and love to the world, I want to study His words. I want to live amongst His words. I want His words to change and shape me. But I can’t say that I’ve always wanted to teach His words. Despite being here, I’m much more comfortable behind the scenes than I am in front of a crowd or a camera. However, I have seen and believe God can use us in powerful ways when we are willing to step out of our comfort zones in response to His prompting. So here I am teaching.
But who should teach? Let’s look at Jesus’ words and what is referred to as the Great Commission. Remember, these are Jesus’s final words to his disciples that are recorded in the gospel of Matthew. So Matthew 28:18-20, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We’re going to focus on this, “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age.” Jesus called His disciples to make disciples of all nations. In particular, to teach them to observe all that He had commanded them. His disciples were to make disciples and teach them how to live out His commands, His words.
As we look at passages of scripture, one of the things that is helpful to do is to discern whether something is descriptive or prescriptive. So let’s dig into that a little bit. A descriptive passage of scripture is one that has recorded important events. It is a historical account that we can learn from, but isn’t really meant to be applied exactly as it happened outside of that specific context. A prescriptive passage of scripture is one that provides guidance towards what is, good, right, and beneficial. This should be considered within its original context and then be explored for how the readers are being guided to apply it in their own context.
Some passages of scripture are both descriptive and prescriptive. While others are clearly one or the other. Here in the Great Commission, we should consider whether Jesus’ words were only for His 11 remaining disciples or whether they were meant to extend beyond them. Did Jesus expect those 11 men to make disciples of all nations, baptize them and teach them to observe all He commanded? Even considering the slightly smaller size of the known world at that time, it would have taken many lifetimes for those 11 men to try to reach all of Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Thus, it makes much more sense that the Great Commission is prescriptive and that Jesus was giving His disciples the model to expand and grow this Kingdom of Heaven that he had come to establish. Because 11 disciples were to make disciples, make sure they were baptized, and then teach them to observe all He commanded them. Then those new disciples were to go make disciples, make sure they’re baptized, and then teach them to observe all that He commanded His original disciples. It was a prescriptive solution to make disciples of all the nations.
So part of learning to be a disciple is learning how to make disciples. A large part of that is teaching people to observe what Jesus commanded. Thankfully, Jesus’s words were carefully passed on and recorded by his disciples and early followers. As disciples, we are called to teach to others Jesus’ words and how to observe them. Those of us who know our Bibles well might say, “But what about James 3:1?” Aah, yes. James 3:1. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” Ooh. Talk about the opposite of recruiting.
This is where study and careful reading come into play. James was Jesus’ half-brother, same mother, Mary, but James was fathered by Joseph, whereas Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Thus, fathered by God. James wrote this letter as one of the key leaders of the Christian Church in Jerusalem. He was writing to believers who were amongst the dispersed tribes of Israel. They were living all over the place with varying degrees of access to direct disciples. James wrote to help guide them and how best to observe what Jesus taught to and through His disciples. Most scholars seem to agree that James was not trying to dissuade people from making disciples and teaching the observance of Jesus’ teaching. However, he was trying to reduce the number of people who were putting themselves forward, as teachers like Paul, but lacked the training and maturity that Paul had in order to teach rightly.
To help strengthen this assertion, let’s continue in James 3. In verse 2, “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.” James is noting that one who is formally presented as a teacher must live an exemplary life. In our last session, we looked at the earlier part of this letter in James 1, in which he urged believers to be doers of the word, not just hearers of the word. We talked about the importance of not pretending our lives are perfect in the destructive nature of hypocrisy when we misrepresent ourselves as we try to share our faith with others. That’s one of the most powerful teaching tools in our life. Is our life and how we live out our faith while we acknowledged that we are still in process.
As disciples, we can teach others to observe and to live out of Jesus’ teachings through our example and with humility. As we think about this, let’s build on our last two sessions. We can best teach what we are currently living. We discussed that our testimonies are powerful as they truly happened. In the last session, we noted the importance of being honest when sharing what our lives look like in Christ even with our current challenges and problems. How our faith brings peace in a different way to engage our challenges and problems. As we open ourselves to teach and share, we must consider what each of our specific experiences qualifies us to share. Obviously, we won’t all be expected to teach in a formal way, but like with apologetics, we should be ready to teach from our own experiences and what God has done in our own lives.
What we don’t want to do and what James was urging against, is to build ourselves up as experts in everything and teach something that we do not understand or are not qualified to teach. Jesus addresses this with the Pharisees after healing the blind man as recorded in John 9. In verse 39, “Jesus said, ‘For judgment, I came into the world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.’ Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things and said to him, ‘Are we also blind?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no guilt, but now that you say, we see, your guilt remains.’”
Jesus held the Pharisees to a higher standard because they claim to see and know God’s commandments. They claim to have the right teaching from God’s perspective. Their pride not only blinded them from recognizing Jesus as the Messiah that they were waiting for but also caused them to lead and teach others to do some of the right things in the wrong way or even the wrong things. Thus, a better approach is to humbly come alongside people rather than claiming to be the sole proprietors of truth.
As disciples, we are able to teach while still being teachable. A key to this is knowing what we know and have the ability to speak towards where we need to exercise humility and transparency. There are some subjects in which the best thing we can say is, “I don’t know. I’m studying the Bible and growing in these things as well, but here’s what I do know. And here’s what my experience has been.” A key part of this is also that we need to make sure that we’re making time for studying consistently so that we are equipped to share what we learn with others, not simply an unfounded opinion. This is where it is helpful to build relationships with others who are studying the Bible as well and why the disciples were sent in pairs.
In the famous chapter about love, 1 Corinthians 13, the apostle Paul knows something important. In verses 11 and 12, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now, we see in a mirror dimly, but then face-to-face. Now in part, then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” It is common for children to think they know it all, so it’s common for us when we’re young in our faith to kind of feel that way as well. One of the benchmarks of education is often learning what we don’t know.
Recently, I was asked to help teach a class on Revelation. The book of Revelation in our Bibles is one of the most beautiful and most confusing books. Part of the reason for this is that a lot of it is descriptive. It’s descriptive of heavenly visions, things that are vastly different than what we encounter on a daily basis on earth. John wrote Revelation to record what was shown to him by Jesus. Overall, it’s a beautiful account of God’s promises to those who will turn to Him and are reconciled through Jesus. It describes the eventual removal of all sin, loss, pain, and brokenness, and God’s final and perfect justice being applied. Spoiler alert. It ends with the earth and heaven being combined into an eternal idyllic existence in which God and his people dwell together forever. Beautiful.
However, there are also symbols and visions that are hard to interpret or to figure out definitively what they are meant to communicate. Thus, in going into the study, I expressed many disclaimers. I acknowledge that I am not an expert in the study and interpretation of Revelation. I acknowledged that there are strong disagreements even among theologians who are experts about what is literal and what is figurative. I acknowledge that I would be answering a lot of questions with, “I don’t know, but we can research it and dig into it some more.” But I also encourage the class that we can marvel at the unknowns while embracing the overarching theme. God has a plan and it is good news for all who will receive this gift of grace that Jesus offers to everyone.
All of that to say, we can and should be honest about what we know and don’t know. We are all learning and growing together. If you run into something that you don’t know, it’s okay to tell someone that you aren’t sure, but you’re going to research it and get back to them. Then you can reach out to a pastor or a trusted fellow disciple to better understand. In that process, we get to grow as well. I’ll let you in on a bit of a secret. Pastors and teachers are not perfect, and we don’t know everything either. To avoid the hypocrisy of which the Pharisees were guilty, it is essential that we acknowledge and work on our weaknesses and be honest about what we don’t know. This keeps us humble and in the place of always learning and always growing.
Paul wrote about this in a second letter to the church in Corinth. In 2 Corinthians 12:7, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given to me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me, but He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
As disciples, we should teach from our strengths and acknowledge our weaknesses. Scholars have speculated about Paul’s thorn in the flesh, whether it was his diminishing eyesight, a lingering physical injury from the traumatic events of his life, or an area of sin that he just couldn’t get totally free from. Any of these can be weaknesses for us. But as Paul notes, our weaknesses can also bring strength as we invite him in. This is where our lives and Christ must differ from the facade of a perfect life often portrayed on social media. As we share our past brokenness and current struggles, we are strengthened as our sins are brought into the light and forgiven, and others are invited to come alongside us. As we discussed in our last session, these areas of weakness make room for others to feel capable to come with their known and possibly hidden weaknesses and areas of brokenness as well.
I remember one of the first times that I stepped into this. I shared with a group of men about my struggle with sexual sin and pornography. I had been introduced to it when I was very young and had felt disqualified and unworthy for a long time because of it. After sharing, many men came up to me and shared their own struggles. We were able to set up accountability, relationships, and groups for encouragement to help each of us move into a greater level of freedom in this area. God was redeeming the struggles of my past by using them to help others admit their own struggles and get help.
Let’s not forget, as it says in First Peter 5:5, “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourself, all of you with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time, he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.” So as we teach, may we do so with humility and transparency. May God give us the wisdom to know what we know and to acknowledge what we don’t. As we cast our anxieties on Him, He will lift us up with His grace and love. “Am I doing these things?” We will get to play a role in teaching others with our actions and words, to observe what Jesus commanded His disciples to do.
I’d love to pray, and then we’ll hop over to our Zoom conversation. If you’re watching this after its original airing or if you’re unable to join us for the conversation part of tonight, this is meant to be gone through in community. Faith trackers, disciples, always walk things out and at least in pairs. So join us for the conversation if you can, or find another person or a group of people to embark on this journey together. Our primary goal is that these teachings would be a tool that can help us dig into these key areas of growth as disciples of Jesus, but also be a place in which we can ask questions and grow as we move together as a community. Let’s pray.
Lord, we thank you that you invite us to be part of making disciples of all nations. Lord, we get to learn your word and study what you taught and then be able to pass on what you taught to your disciples to others as we live that out as well. Lord help us to know ourselves as you know us. To be able to acknowledge our strengths, the things that you have brought us victory in already, the things that we’re walking through with confidence, but also to know our weaknesses, the places where we’re still growing, and we’re still trying to reconcile things with you and internally.
Lord, help us to see ourselves as we are, that we’re not disqualified because we’re not perfect. We’re not disqualified because we’re not there yet. We can come alongside people and share what we do know, and then let them know that we are still in process. By just acknowledging that and approaching things with humility, there’s an on-ramp for anybody to come in and receive that grace, that love, and that opportunity. Be in our conversations as we answer these questions, Lord, as we talk about these things. Help us to learn what it means to teach from what we know. May you be the one we know. I just ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
All right. Well, I hope you can join us for the Zoom conversation, but if not, let’s keep talking about these things. Let’s keep growing in him. And we’ll see you next week.