Panorama of the Bible is a 12 session class taught as a part of BiLD (Biblical Institute of Leadership Development). This class focuses on walking through the whole of scripture and getting an understanding of The Bible from Genesis to Revelation. This can be used as a great discipleship tool and a study to take students through, as well as an excellent tool for personal growth.
Personal Bible Study is a 6 session class taught as a part of BiLD (Biblical Institute of Leadership Development). This class focuses on learning to engage the scriptures for ourselves, seeking a deeper understand and a closer relationship with God. This can be used as a great discipleship tool and a study to take students through, as well as an excellent tool for personal growth.
We have compiled the following post from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology podcast (all of which is available for free on iTunes!), a series of lectures he gave to Scottsdale Bible Church teaching through every chapter of his Systematic Theology book. You may find it helpful in your own Bible study or even as a discipleship tool with students. This is part 2 of 2. Click here for part 1.
6 big picture considerations when interpreting the Bible
The Bible is a historical document. To find out the original intent of the authors, remember that the Bible wasn’t written today. Although it speaks to us today like nothing else, consider the original setting. Avoid “fanciful allegorization.” Example: 1 Samuel 17:38-40. Fanciful allegory turns David’s stones into 5 elements of successful ministry and Saul’s sword into liberal theology. The plain, true meaning makes David’s stones stones and Saul’s sword a sword.
We have compiled the following post from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology podcast (all of which is available for free on iTunes!), a series of lectures he gave to Scottsdale Bible Church teaching through every chapter of his Systematic Theology book. You may find it helpful in your own Bible study or even as a discipleship tool with students. This is part 1 of 2. Click here for part 2.
General principles for interpreting the Bible
Read it, read it, read it. Read all the way through the Bible regularly to get the full scope. Also, read any one text many times to gain additional insight. Only after you have read much and studied much should you consult commentaries. Read the whole Bible in light of any single text and read any single text in light of the whole Bible.
Remember the Bible was written by ordinary people to ordinary people in the ordinary language of the day. Though it was fully inspired by God, it was written so that ordinary people (like us) could profit from it.
Young men and women are often not the most patient people on the planet. I’ve found myself on countless occasions sitting and listening to older, wise, faithful disciples of Christ (either in person or via podcast) desperately envying their wealth of biblical knowledge, spiritual insight, or apparent intimacy with Jesus. These encounters always leave me wanting the sort of spiritual maturity they have and wanting it immediately.
I am impatient. In my weaker moments (that are far too frequent for my tastes) I find myself thinking that if I just read my Bible for a little bit longer each day (or just read a few more theology books each month or just went to that one Christian conference or just began learning to read Greek, etc.) I would have that sort of spiritual walk in a short amount of time.
This is not the case.
The work of sanctification which God initiates and we work alongside (Phil. 2:12-13) begins the moment we place our faith and trust in Christ and what he has done for us on the cross, but it won’t end until his glorious appearing:
“Beloved, we are god’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 3:2-3)
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
It is a lifelong process. The Christian life, from the moment we receive Christ to His eventual return is a long, slow, painstaking process by which he refines us–chipping away at our sin and building us up in knowledge of and love for him.
To myself and to anyone else looking for a quick fix to spiritual maturity, I offer a saying I heard from Robert Cupp:
If someone wants to grow a squash, it takes six months.
If someone wants to grow a mighty Oak, it takes 40 years.
If God is going to build something great in your life, it will most likely take a lifetime of slow, incremental change as a result of daily, faithfully, and unglamorously abiding in Him.
So the question is this for us as leaders and students: What habits and disciplines can I implement now that might produce an abundant harvest of spiritual fruit and maturity not tomorrow, but when I’m 60 years old? That I might be a spiritual Oak?
Hendricks tells a story about a young man taking him out to dinner and asking him a simple question:
“What keeps you studying? You never seem to stop!”
“Son, I would rather have my students drink from a running stream than a stagnant pool.”
A few statements from Hendricks:
- “The effective teacher always teaches from the overflow of a full life.”
- “If you stop growing today, you stop teaching tomorrow.”
- “You cannot impart what you do not possess.”
Cell Leader Challenge
To put some of Hendricks statements in different words, I’ve often said “You can’t give away what you don’t have.” As a spiritual leader I know that I can’t give biblical truth and Godly grace if I don’t have them as a part of my life.
If a friend or student asks for wisdom and I’m not equipped with God’s word, then I’m merely speaking human words. When I encounter theological error, I need to be ready with a proper portrayal of God. Can I lead students down a trail that I have no knowledge of at all?
A life of gospel centered ministry produces spiritual fruit that we are able to feed to those people around us. Are you growing? Is your fruit evident and healthy? Are you a reservoir of living water and a refreshing source of life for your family, friends, and students?
“All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17).
Regardless of one’s pedigree, at some point every human being on the planet has been asked a question to which they did not know the answer. Whether it be from an opponent to the faith, someone exploring the faith, or a fellow believer, at some point any follower of Christ will be asked such a question. For a cell group leader, this will likely be frequent.
I want to make three suggestions about how to deal with these questions.
- Be honest
- Be aware of the resources available to you
- Be growing
Oftentimes as leaders we feel the need to present ourselves as “having all the answers.” This typically leads to giving rushed, incomplete, or incorrect answers that we regret afterward. In my own life, I’ve found that the desire to always have an answer is rooted in pride. It is rooted in the desire to be perceived as knowledgeable and spiritual. Paul urges us to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility…” in Eph 4:1-2. When we are confident in Christ’s work on the cross, he will empower us to walk in this humility.
Having all of the answers can’t add a drop to the blood of Christ. In light of this, I suggest that we all be honest with our students. Oftentimes they can tell when you are shooting from the hip, and will lose trust if they don’t believe you are confident in the things you say. When you are asked one of these questions, a good response is “I actually am not sure about that. Let me look into that and get back to you next week.” Admitting when you don’t know the answer will set a beautiful precedent of honesty and humility for them.
Be aware of the resources available to you
After telling a student that you will look for an answer, it’s very important to know where to look to find the answer. Oftentimes all it takes is some thought, meditation, and prayer over the scripture in question. Other times it might take going to some Biblical resources like commentaries, theological resources, or apologetic resources. One resource that can sometimes be overlooked is other people in the body. Be they pastors, other staff members, or cell group leaders, we are blessed with a great deal of knowledgeable men and women who would love to provide insight or opinion. No leader should feel the burden of trying to answer every question by themselves. Different members of the body of Christ serve different functions (Rom 12:4-8), and we should look to take advantage of different individuals’ skills and knowledge. We should feel free to view the entire church body as a great resource to help us lead.
In light of the fact that we will all undoubtedly face difficult questions, we should be excited about every opportunity we have to grow and prepare. Just as the early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42), so should we. All small group leadership (and any Biblical teaching at all, for that matter) should come out of the overflow of one’s personal time with and teachings from God. If you are growing and learning on your own, you will be better equipped to answer more questions as they are brought to you. Abide in Christ. Spend time in prayer. Spend time in the word. The word of God is “able to build you up” (Acts 20:32). Let it do it’s work.
May we be challenged by Paul’s words to Timothy:
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing to his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim 4:1-5).
In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Heb 12:4)
I have been pondering this truth lately and wondering why I choose to take sin so lightly. The verse above (which immediately follows our theme from Fall Retreat this past year (Heb 12:1-2), issues a significant challenge to me and my daily battle with my flesh. Why do I not hate sin the way that God does?
The truth remains, if sin wasn’t fun or seemingly profitable, I wouldn’t do it. However, I easily forget the destruction that it causes not to mention the separation that it creates between myself and my Savior. Yet sin has a strong power over me! Romans 7:21-22 always rings true in my life.
In Romans 6 and 7, Paul talks of the captivity and enslavement that sin has in lives of people. I’ve only read about those who’ve been forced into human slavery, but I imagine that not one of them would have chosen that life over one of freedom. The truth is, we are slaves either way! Slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness.
Think for just a moment. Out of all the themes of the Bible, which one can be seen in all sixty six books?
SIN! It is everywhere. Present throughout all the pages of Scripture is the presence of God and the sinfulness of man. God takes sin with absolute seriousness, and so should we.
CELL LEADER THOUGHTS
- Do know your sins of both heart and hand? Can you name them?
- Are you struggling against that sin or are you content living in slavery to it?
- Is putting sin to death a passion of yours that affects how you lead your family and cell group?
- Do you hate sin the way that God does or is it a small speed bump to your daily life?
When Jesus walked the earth, different groups of people reacted in ways that were contrary to what would be expected. The religious elite of the time, who were supposed to be preparing for his arrival and maintaining the church, were angered at Jesus’ countercultural teachings. And the people who you would think would be intimidated by him (i.e. prostitutes, thieves, and other disreputable people), were strangely drawn to him. Yet, somehow he always made these kinds of people feel loved and valued. The more disreputable the person, the more comfortable they felt around Jesus. Phillip Yancey comments in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew:
The more unsavory the characters, the more at ease they seemed to feel around Jesus. People like these found Jesus appealing: a Samaritan social outcast, a military officer of the tyrant Herod, a quisling tax collector, a recent hostess to seven demons.
In contrast, Jesus got a chilly response from the more respectable types. Pious Pharisees thought him uncouth and worldly, a rich young ruler walked away shaking his head, and even the open-minded Nicodemus sought a meeting under the cover of darkness.
I [Yancey] remarked to the class how strange this pattern seemed, since the Christian church now attracts the people most suspicious of Jesus on earth. What has happened to reverse the pattern of Jesus’ day? Why don’t sinners like being around us?
I think that is an extremely interesting and important question. Why don’t sinners like being around us? Could it be that we’ve turned the great love story written to us by God into a moral checklist, which we can then use to count how many items we have checked off? Maybe we’ve turned in our love relationships with Jesus Christ for a simple system of morals. Because then, we can look out of the church and see unbelievers with fewer items checked off of their lists and shout “I’M MORE VALUABLE BECAUSE OF THIS…” We can easily tell unbelievers “or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor the idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality…” (1Corinthians 6:9). But we can sometimes forget the true message behind this scripture. After saying this, Paul taught this truth: that he would gladly take the wrath of God upon himself and go to hell for these people. This is how God felt too. He loved us so much that He sent his son to willingly die for our sins, so that we could have a close personal relationship though him. I think that this is the key: to stop focusing our attentions on things that make us look spiritual, cool, successful, or righteous and start focusing our love and effort on things with eternal value, like loving our neighbors, even the unbelieving ones, and loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Cells groups are a great forum to live this out. Keep these things in mind when you think about your small group this week:
1. Showing our students the need of maintaining a dependent, love relationship with Jesus Christ here in affluent Northwest Arkansas.
2. Not just loving the students that are easy to get along with, but seeking out the hurt and broken ones that God has placed in your group.
3. 1 John 4:9-11 -This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Here are some things to can pray for:
1. How can I love people, specifically unbelievers, more?
2. That God would reveal students in your small group that need your time.
3. That the church as a whole would continue to become the ambassador to the world for Jesus Christ, showing mercy and love to ALL people.
4. That unbelievers would see you as different and seek you out.
As an FSM staff, our chief desire is to see God transform students into world changing followers of Christ. Out of their personal walks with Christ, we want our students to experience radical life change, to root in authentic biblical community, and to develop a clear sense of mission.
Jesus makes it clear in John 15 that it is impossible to bear spiritual fruit of any kind without abiding in him.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (John 15:4-6, ESV)
It’s evident that if we want FSM students to truly be transformed, we need to teach them how to abide. Below we have highlighted several spiritual disciplines that we want to challenge ourselves and our students to partake in regularly. These have been taken from Richard Foster’s 1978 book Celebration of Discipline, a wonderful resource on the subject. This is not a comprehensive list, but rather a few ideas to get us and our students thinking:
- Meditation – Foster defines Christian meditation simply as “the ability to hear God’s voice and obey his word.” In practice, it looks like simply dwelling on the revealed word of God in the Bible, thinking about it, and asking the Holy Spirit to illuminate it and help you put it into practice. If studying Scripture is focused on distilling the original meaning of the text, then meditating on Scripture is focused on relating the text to your own life. We typically associate this discipline with our quiet times.
- Prayer – Disciples of Christ should look to spend significant time in prayer, which is possibly the most central discipline of the faith. Prayer is simply talking to God. Setting aside times to pray through scripture, to pray for yourself, and to intercede for others is key. Additionally, we are told in Scripture to “pray without ceasing,” throughout our days (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
- Study – Romans 12:2-3 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” According to Foster, “The mind is renewed by applying it to those things that will transform it.” Spending time studying primarily the Bible (and secondarily other books), working diligently to understanding it’s original meaning, is extremely important. It’s here that you’ll build your doctrine.
- Solitude – The discipline of solitude is the act of getting away from all people and distraction and sitting in genuine silence before God, listening to him, in need of nothing but him. Take these times early in the mornings when you wake up, during the commute to school or work, on a free Saturday afternoon, etc.
- Service – “Genuine service causes us to experience the many little deaths of going beyond ourselves. Service banishes us to the mundane, the ordinary, the trivial… nothing disciplines the inordinate desires of the flesh like service, and nothing transforms the desires of the flesh like serving in hiddenness.” says Foster. Service builds humility into us. When it is done in secret, without praise, it puts the sinful flesh in it’s place. Look for opportunities to serve those around you frequently.
- Confession – James 5:16 urges us as believers to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” While Christ is the only mediator between man and God now (1 Timothy 2:5), the discipline of confessing sin to other believers brings humility and an end to pretense. This kind of authenticity will bring about healing and will make much of the cross of Jesus in your life.
Let us as leaders implement these disciplines into our lives, that we might be able to lead out as examples to our students.