Adapted from Personal Disciplemaking by Chris Adsit (used with permission)
The disciple has a basic understanding of the importance of biblical input, is familiar with the physical layout of the Bible, and has begun to read the Bible on his own.
BIBLICAL BASIS FOR THIS OBJECTIVE
Just as a newborn baby has an almost immediate, instinctive craving for its mother’s milk, so a newborn spiritual baby craves spiritual food. He may not know that’s what he wants, but then, neither does a physical baby when he’s only ten minutes out of his mother’s womb. Go ahead and ask him. All he’ll do is cry and holler; he won’t give you anything close to a civil answer (the real baby, that is). The reason both types of babies crave this food is that their Creator put that desire in them. He knows that, in order for them to stay healthy and grow, their little bodies need nourishment. Physical babies grow through the intake of food; spiritual babies grow through the intake of the Word.
The following references depict the Bible as equivalent to food in the spiritual realm, and without it a new Christian (or an old Christian, for that matter) cannot grow. Look up each reference and write a short summary of the verse in your disciplemaker’s notebook.
PEP TALK FOR THE DISCIPLEMAKER
A physical newborn can do almost nothing for himself. Oh, he can nurse, breathe, pump blood, cry, sweat, support diaper company executives, but that’s about it. He’s dependent on his parents for almost everything else. But can you blame him? All he knows of life was either part of the package deal he got when God gave him a brain or what he learned in the womb—and there weren’t a lot of instructional materials there. Not only that, he had no previous contact with the outer world that would give him an idea of what it was like, no “womb with a view” (hoo-boy!). So it was scary when he suddenly found himself in a room filled with light and noise and people wearing masks. It’s the same way, to a certain degree, with a spiritual newborn. They’ve been born into an entirely different realm, and they are a little bewildered, and somewhat dependent on you to show them the ropes.
However, we shouldn’t carry this too far. Your primary objective in all of this disciplemaking activity is to bring your disciple to the point where he can “dig his own well,” and lose his dependence on you.
Now, we know that it takes most humans sixteen to twenty years to reach physical maturity, so we don’t get too uptight when our kid is two years old and still hasn’t figured out Euclidean geometry. He’s got plenty of time. He needs to master the art of drool prevention first. But a spiritual baby’s growth rate should be much faster, so, while we recognize that he will be dependent on us for a while in many areas, we need to start moving him toward independent functioning as soon as possible.
I’m not saying that a mature Christian should be independent of everybody and everything; no one can be a Lone Ranger in the spiritual realm. It’s our nature as the body of Christ to need our brothers and sisters around us for us to function properly. But just like a physical baby needs to learn to walk, communicate, feed himself, go to the bathroom and pay taxes on his own, so a spiritual baby must gain the ability to stand on his own. In the kingdom of God, no man is an island, nor is he totally land-locked. I guess he’s more like a peninsula than anything else.
When our daughter Jessica was just a little snip, we administered all of her meals via spoon. Much of it reached its intended destination, while the rest met with a tragic fate, crashing on her high-chair table. The perplexing outgrowth of this was that Jessica seemed to get more satisfaction from scooping up the wreckage and finishing it off, rather than taking what we had for her on the nice, neat spoon. So we let her pursue her own designs. She was not an instant expert, and often confused her mouth with her nostrils, eyes, ears, and chest. I could have fed her with a much higher degree of efficiency. My major was biological sciences in college, and I can distinguish all cranial orifices with almost no difficulty at all. Was she impressed? No way. She was determined to continue in her folly, despite her low percentage of direct hits. But as time went on, her marksmanship improved to the point where she now feeds herself completely.
I hope you get the picture. Our disciple needs to learn how to feed himself early. He needs to get into the Bible and discover truths in there for himself. He may not be real good at it at first, but he’ll get a lot more satisfaction and excitement out of experiencing for himself what it’s like when the Holy Spirit illumines Scripture than he would experiencing it second-hand from you. What he discovers will stick with him longer, too. For a while, he’ll still be getting the bulk of his nourishment from your spoon-feeding, but encourage his urge to feed himself.
As you prompt your disciple to get into the Word on his own, remember that the things God will teach him, the things he’ll excitedly report back to you on, will be kid stuff. Plan ahead as to how you will react. One bright morning, your disciple may come to you and say:
“Hey, Frank! Listen to this! I was reading the Bible this morning, and WHAM! It hit me like a bolt out of the blue! It says right here in John 1:12 that we actually have the right—now get this—the right to be called children of God! Can you believe it? Children of GOD! Doesn’t that just blow you right out of the tub? CHILDREN OF GOD!”
“Yeah, Ron. Everybody knows that. I already told you that myself over a month ago. You mean to tell me it’s taken this long for it to finally sink in?”
The sound you just heard was that of a rather large bubble bursting. Can you remember when you finally grasped some basic truth of the Christian life? Didn’t you feel like doing a triple back-flip right out your bedroom window? Well, let’s show a little excitement and enthusiasm when our disciples reach that same spot. Frank could have responded more like this:
“Ron, I think you’ve hit upon one of the most incredible truths in the whole Bible. It kinda gives me goose-bumps just thinking about it. Children of GOD! There we are, in rebellion against God, and yet He pursues us, redeems us, and decides to make us His sons! Whew! Makes you wonder about the vastness of God’s love for us, doesn’t it?”
The people who have put together most of the tracts and booklets have drawn on many years of experience, wisdom and knowledge, and they know just what a new Christian needs. But the tracts and booklets are not enough. Don’t disregard them, but don’t rely on them totally, either. Don’t disregard them, but don’t rely on them totally, either. Get your disciple into the Word of God—that’s where the most nourishing food of all can be found.
BROACHING THE SUBJECT
Once again in this training objective, we really have two objectives: (1) We want our disciple to gain a basic understanding of what the Bible is and why it’s so important for him to study it; and (2) we want to see our disciples in the Book, gaining nourishment from it. Just as in the fellowship objective (Training Objective #6, chapter 14), the idea is to get him into the Word on his own within the first week or so of conversion, and later, as we expand on the Wheel Illustration, fill in the details about how vital the Word is to him. If you’ve been following the training objectives in sequence and following my suggestions as to homework for your disciple, by now he has already spent quite a bit of time wandering through the Scriptures. I’m assuming, therefore, that you’ve passed on some of the concepts covered in this training objective in the early days of your disciple’s walk with God. Others you’ve saved until you could cover them in greater depth, which would be about now.
I’m not dogmatic about when you should first prompt your disciple to read the Bible on his own. Some disciplers might feel convictions about getting a new Christian into the Word immediately after conversion (many new Christians will do this whether you come up with the idea or not). Others will want to spoon-feed for a few days or weeks before urging their disciple to read on their own. They want to make sure the disciple understands a few of the ground rules of Bible study before they dive in. Once again, I’ll have to say that it’s up to you. When do you think is the best time?
Here’s an idea about introducing Bible reading to your disciple:
YOU: Sharon, if you wanted to learn all about Prince Charles, how would you go about it?
DISCIPLE: Well, I guess the best thing to do would be to go to England, and try to get in to see him, and ask a lot of questions.
YOU: But wait a minute. You’re hardly making your tuition payments here at college. How are you going to afford a trip to Great Britain?
DISCIPLE: Hmmm. Guess you’re right. I suppose I could read some books about him.
YOU: That sounds a lot easier—and less expensive. But how will you know which books to buy? Some might be giving you an accurate description, while others could have been written by charlatans who don’t really know anything about him.
DISCIPLE: I’d look at the author’s references; I’d try to find one that was written by someone who had spent a lot of time studying the Prince, or, better yet, someone who knew him personally.
YOU: I’ll buy that. Well, what if you wanted to learn about God? How would you find out more about Him?
DISCIPLE: I guess I’d get some books about God.
YOU: I’ll ask the same question again: Which ones? How will you know which ones are right, and which ones might be trying to pull a fast one on you?
YOU: I’ve got a suggestion. One book is the source book of all books written about God, and that’s the Bible. It was written by people who were very close to God, and in fact, 2 Timothy 3:16 says that each of the writers of the Bible wrote down things that were actually directed by God Himself. If you want to find out about God, you should go to the one book that claims to be the direct revelation of God to man. Have you started reading the Bible on your own yet?
DISCIPLE: I haven’t known where to start. A few years ago I tried to read it, but got kinda bogged down in all these “thou shalt’s” and “thou shalt not’s” in the book of Levictopus, or whatever it’s called.
YOU: I know what you mean. The Old Testament has a lot of laws that were meant for the nation of Israel, and though pages and pages of important passages that pertain to us today are in there, they’re sometimes hard to find among all the heavy-duty theology. As you learn more about God and the Bible, those passages will be a lot easier to find and will start to become more interesting. You’ll be able to understand them better. But when you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to begin in the New Testament. Would you mind if I gave you some suggestions about where to start reading?
DISCIPLE: Well, OK. But why do I need to start reading the Bible? I’m learning about all I can handle right now just from meeting with you.
YOU: I’m glad you’re learning a lot—that’s what I’m here for. But the Bible is kind of like “food” for your spirit. Look here at Matthew 4:4: “Jesus answered, ‘It is written: Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” From now on, as a Christian, you’ll need to keep feeding yourself continuously with this spiritual food in order to stay healthy and to grow. And just like a baby needs to learn to feed herself, so do we, as spiritual beings, need to learn to feed ourselves.
Besides, this way, you’ll be going straight to the source, the Bible. I study hard to be sure that the things I pass on to you are accurate, but there’s always a chance I could make a mistake. If you get into the habit of depending on the Bible as your ultimate source, rather than on me or some other person, it’s a lot less likely that you’ll ever be led astray.
Here are the major points covered in that interchange:
- The knowledge you receive (on any subject) is only as good as your sources, so check your sources first.
- The ultimate source for knowledge about God and Christ is the Bible.
- While books about God are useful, they are no substitute for the Bible itself.
- The sources of the Bible are unimpeachable, men who knew God well—and ultimately, God Himself, since He superintended the writing of the Bible.
- Parts of the Bible are difficult to understand and are somewhat uninteresting to a new believer. Other parts will be very interesting and helpful. He should concentrate on these passages first.
- Bible intake is essential for growth.
- Every Christian should be able to study the Bible on his own, and not have to rely totally on others for spiritual feeding.
SUGGESTIONS FOR GROWTH
I. First, Introduce Your Disciple to the Bible
Following are a few concepts that you should cover with your disciple. I’ve included a little narrative with each one to give you an idea how I might address them. Adapt or adopt as you see fit.
A. What the Bible is.
If you look at the Bible in its broadest sense, it’s simply a history book, a record of the times God has interjected Himself into human history. People are always saying, “Oh, if God would only show Himself, then we’d have no trouble believing in Him.” Well, that’s what this book is—God showing Himself to man, telling us what He’s like, what’s in store for us, what pleases Him, what displeases Him, where we came from, where we’re going, etc. God has said and done some pretty incredible things through the years, and the Bible is where people have written those things down so we’ll never forget them.
B. Old Testament/New Testament.
The Old Testament was written before Jesus Christ was born (b.c. = “before Christ”), while the New Testament was written after He died and rose again (a.d. = “anno Domini” or “year of our Lord”). They are called the Old and New Testaments because they refer to the agreements existing between God and man before and after the sacrifice of Christ. During Old Testament days, people who wanted to follow God had to obey hundreds of laws that had been set down by God through Moses. Another word for Testament is covenant or agreement. The people kept their part of the bargain, to protect them, bless them and make them a great nation. It was like a “deal” they had between them. During those days, if a person sinned, there was an elaborate system of animal sacrifices that would “cover” the sin of that person with the blood of an innocent animal.
But when Jesus was sacrificed on the cross, He ushered in the period of the Now Testament or “New Agreement.” He was the perfect, innocent sacrifice, and while the blood of the animal sacrifices was capable of only covering the peoples’ sin from God’s eyes, Jesus’ blood actually took it away—paid for our sin. Under this New Agreement, we no longer are subject to all of those nit-pickin’ laws. Instead, we have God Himself, in the form of the Holy Spirit, living right inside of us helping us do right instead of wrong. And it’s our faith in Christ, not how well we can follow all of the laws, that makes us righteous in God’s eyes.
We are no longer under the Old Agreement, but a lot of important things in the Old Testament still apply to us, and we will spend some time on some of them.
C. Who wrote the Bible.
The Bible is not just one book; it’s actually sixty-six books written by over forty different authors over a period of 1500 years. These authors include a spectrum of people, from common laborers to the most powerful world leaders ever to walk the face of the earth: kings, statesmen, the heir to the throne of pharaoh, prophets, rabbis, a physician, a tax collector, a farmer, fishermen and others. Yet the bond of the Holy Spirit ties all of these writings together. Through the centuries, God Himself told each of these writers exactly what to write down. In 2 Timothy 3:16 we read that all Scripture is “God-breathed,” meaning that, though humans wrote it on paper, its ultimate source was God. The prophecies of the Bible never had their origins in the minds of mere men, but “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).
We won’t have time to get into it right now, but I’m convinced that these authors wrote the very words of God. Here are some of the reasons I believe this:
- All of the prophecies have come true exactly as they were prophesied.
- The general structure of today’s world governments, including details concerning which nations would be allied and which would be enemies, was foretold thousands of years ago in the Bible.
- It is historically accurate. The Bible supplies details of history which for hundreds of years were scoffed at by historians because they seemed so inaccurate. Yet as more and more archaeological evidence continues to be unearthed, we continually find more confirmation of the Bible’s historical accuracy, and the scoffers are strangely silent.
- The dietary and health laws in the Old Testament closely approximate what modern science has only just recently found out concerning beneficial and harmful practices. How could Moses have simply figured all of that out by himself in 1350 b.c.?
- The Bible has been transmitted with incredible accuracy through the centuries. We know for a fact that the Bible we have in our hands today is the same as it was during the time of Christ, thanks to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
D. The structure of the Bible.
Take your disciple to the Bible’s table of contents and show him how it is set up. You might even want to draw lines and squares right there in his Bible, so he’ll remember. Better ask first, though.
- The Law:
Genesis; Exodus; Leviticus; Numbers; Deuteronomy
- The Histories:
Joshua; Judges; Ruth; 1 and 2 Samuel; 1 and 2 Kings; 1 and 2 Chronicles; Ezra; Nehemiah; Esther
- The Poets:
Job; Psalms; Proverbs; Ecclesiastes; Song of Solomon
- The Prophets:
- (Major Prophets) Isaiah; Jeremiah; Lamentations; Ezekiel; Daniel
- (Minor Prophets) Hosea; Joel; Amos; Obadiah; Jonah; Micah; Nahum; Habakkuk; Zephaniah; Haggai; Zechariah; Malachi
- The Histories:
- The Gospels—accounts of the life of Jesus—Matthew; Mark; Luke; John
- The Acts of the Apostles—accounts of the early church after Jesus’ resurrection
- The Epistles—“letters” written by various apostles to churches, groups of people or individuals: Romans; 1 and 2 Corinthians; Galatians; Ephesians; Philippians; Colossians; 1 and 2 Thessalonians; 1 and 2 Timothy; Titus; Philemon; Hebrews; James; 1 and 2 Peter; 1, 2 and 3 John; Jude
- The Apocalypse—prophesy concerning the end of the world—Revelation
II. Next, Tell Your Disciple Where to Start Reading
Here are some suggestions.
The Gospel of John. This Gospel presents Jesus in His deity, and we find more proof texts for Jesus as the unique Son of God in this book than in any other Gospel. Plus, Jesus is presented very personally here. We see considerable detail concerning His personal life, His relationships with His disciples and His relationship with His Father. The word believe (and its different forms) is found ninety-seven times in this book, and will give the reader a good sense of the centrality of faith in the Christian life.
The Gospel of Mark. This Gospel is the shortest of the four Gospels and definitely the fastest-moving and most action-packed of them all. It’s like listening to the six o’ clock news on TV. It focuses more on what Jesus did than on what He said. Descriptions of Jesus’ miracles abound in this book. As J. Sidlow Baxter said, “Mark is the camera-man of the four Gospel writers, giving us shot after shot of unforgettable scenes.”
The Gospel of Matthew. The longest Gospel, is recommended only for those who seem to be the studious sort, the type who think nothing of spending an hour at a time reading. It starts with great descriptions of the birth of Christ, John the Baptist, the temptation of Jesus and the calling of the first disciples, all narratives that should easily catch the attention of your disciple. Then comes the Sermon on the Mount, an excellent introduction for the new Christian regarding how radical the Christian lifestyle is meant to be. If your disciple is of Jewish descent, this is the one for him, as it is written by a Jew, for Jewish readers, and strongly presents Jesus as the Messiah. There are 130 quotes from the Old Testament in this book.
The Gospel of Luke. Another long Gospel, but it starts out with the most extensive narrative of Jesus’ birth and childhood days, great for young people and those who are already somewhat familiar with Christianity. The Christmas narrative will probably bring back many pleasant memories for them. It could be compared to watching a motion picture documentary, with a heavy emphasis on factual reporting of historical events. Originally intended to be read by the intellectual, logical Greeks.
The Psalms. I wouldn’t recommend a strong dose of these yet. To us who have walked with Christ for a while, they are among the most precious passages in all of God’s Word. For a new believer, though, they could be a bit tiresome, and he could be confused by some—they could even prompt thoughts like, Why is David praying for God to smash his enemies to smithereens? That doesn’t seem like the Christian thing to do.
You might suggest that your disciple read one a day, in addition to his reading of the Gospels. Consider assigning specific psalms that you know he can grasp with a minimum of confusion and a maximum of inspiration, such as Psalms 1, 2, 8, 18, 19, 23, 24, 25, 32, 34, 37, 42, 46, 47, 49, 51, 52, 53, 56, 62, 63, 66, 67, 71, 84, 86, 91, 92, 96, 100, 101, 103, 107, 111-118, 119, 122, 123, 126, 130, 138, 139, 145-150. (If your favorite isn’t listed above, add it!)
The Proverbs. The same approach applies to Proverbs as to Psalms. Perhaps your disciple could read the chapter in Proverbs that corresponds with the current day of the month (i.e., on May 12, read Proverbs 12).
The Acts. After he has read a Gospel or two, the next logical book would be the Acts. It describes the growth of the early church, and heavily emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians. It’s easy in this book to see the results of living a life of faith, and Paul sets an excellent example of how to live victoriously in the midst of personal trial and affliction, a concept all Christians need to grab early.
The Epistles. After your disciple has read a couple of the Gospels and Acts, you could encourage him to begin reading an epistle. They are a lot more heady, so you should recommend that he limit his intake to a chapter a day.
Start him off with one of the short ones. Ephesians would be excellent, because it covers a lot of the major themes of the Christian walk. Galatians would be good as well, especially since it contains the section contrasting the works of the flesh to the fruit of the Spirit.
Next, a couple of the personal epistles; 1 and 2 Timothy would be good because of the personableness, intimacy and challenging nature of Paul’s writing to his own young disciple.
Follow that up with 1 John. The great “Apostle of Love” can’t help but be a loving influence on your disciple. He should be able to grasp important concepts about the love that exists in the heart of God for us, as well as the love that ought to exist in our hearts for Him and for our brothers and sisters.
Bible Study Notebook. You may want to just say, “Read this; it’ll do you good”; or you may want to go one step further and suggest he begin his own Bible study notebook. His notebook could be a spiral notebook or three-ring binder, and he should allow at least half a page for each day’s entries.
As he begins to read the Gospels, help him keep his notebook simple. Give him three or four things to think about and make notes on after each chapter, such as:
1. The thing that amazes me most in this chapter:
2. The verse I liked the most:
3. Something I need to do in response to reading this chapter:
4. Questions that came to mind as I read it:
You might even consider making him a notebook yourself. Type those four questions out, leaving writing space after each one, then duplicate them, put them in a notebook and give it to him. He’ll be much more likely to carry out the suggestions you made if you do this.
III. Provide More Detail About the Importance of the Word
Here we are in the present again. Now it’s time, as you’re expanding on the Wheel Illustration, to wade a little deeper into the central importance of the Word in the life of a growing Christian. You may have already covered much of what I mentioned above on the run—perhaps tacked on to the end of an earlier training objective, as you were talking informally, in response to questions your disciple had, etc. But now you need to set aside a specific time to make sure your disciple has a strangle-hold on how vital it is that he be in the Word. Following are some concepts I suggest you explore with your disciple, with some Scriptures you can study together.
A. Characteristics of God’s Word.
1. Joshua 23:14—Reliable
3. Psalm 18:30—Tried and proven
4. Psalm 19:7-10—Perfect, sure, right, pure, true, more desirable than gold, sweeter than honey
5. Psalm 119:105,130—Enlightening
6. Psalm 119:160—True
8. Isaiah 55:10-11—Accomplishes God’s purposes
9. 2 Timothy 3:16—God-breathed
10. Hebrews 4:12—Alive
11. 1 Peter 1:23-25—Incorruptible, eternal
12. 2 Peter 1:20-21—Initiated by God, not man
B. Benefits of Reading God’s Word.
1. Joshua 1:8—Makes us prosper; gives us success
2. Psalm 19:7—Restores our soul; makes wise the simple
3. Psalm 19:8—Rejoices the heart
4. Psalm 19:11—Provides warnings; provides rewards
5. Psalm 37:31—Keeps us from “slipping”
6. Psalm 119:9,11—Keeps our way pure; keeps us from sin
7. Psalm 119:24—Provides delight; provides counsel
8. Psalm 119:50—Gives comfort in affliction
10. Proverbs 6:22—Guides us; watches over us in unguarded moments
11. Matthew 4:4—Provides spiritual nourishment
12. John 15:3; 17:17—Sanctifies us
13. John 20:30-31—Helps our faith
14. Romans 15:4—Gives us hope for the future
15. 2 Timothy 3:16-17—Teaches, rebukes, corrects, trains in righteousness, thoroughly equips
16. 1 Peter 2:2—Makes us grow to spiritual maturity
C. What we do with God’s Word.
1. Joshua 1:8—Meditate on it
2. Psalm 119:11—Hide it in our hearts
3. Proverbs 6:20-22—Stay in constant contact with it
4. Mark 4:3-20—Sow it
5. Luke 24:25—Believe it
6. John 8:31—Continue in it
7. John 14:21—Obey it
8. Acts 17:11—Study it diligently
9. Colossians 3:16—Let it “dwell” within us
10. 2 Timothy 2:15—Handle it correctly
D. How we can get a “firm grasp” on God’s Word.
The Navigators have an illustration that has been helpful to thousands in giving them a clear picture of how they go about assimilating the Word of God into their lives. It’s known as the “Word Hand.”
These five methods of Scripture intake help you get a firm grasp on God’s Word.
As you can see from the above illustration, there are five ways we can go about getting a firm grasp on God’s Word: hearing, reading, studying, memorizing and meditating. A good way to demonstrate this graphically is to trace the outline of your hand on a sheet of paper, and label each finger appropriately. Be sure to label each finger just as they are above—there is a reason for it, as you will soon see.
Next, take the fingers one by one and look at a Scripture that backs up each method, writing the reference next to its corresponding finger. Choose from the following:
Finally, explain that, if we want to get a strong grip on an object, we use all our fingers, the object is easily grabbed away (demonstrate this as you talk about it). In the same way, we should use each of these methods of biblical intake if we want to get a firm grasp on the Word of God. We need to hear, read, study and memorize it. Then, just as our thumb opposes (can easily touch) each of our fingers, meditation should touch each of the other activities: We should meditate on what we hear, meditate on what we read, meditate on what we study, and meditate on what we memorize. It does no good at all if God’s Word goes in one ear and out the other. We need to let it sink down into our hearts through meditation.
You’ll notice that, in the illustration, the bigger the finger, the harder its corresponding activity is. It’s easier to listen than to read, easier to read than to study, etc. However, it’s also true that the bigger the finger, the more effective the activity is. Experts tell us that after a 24-hour period, we can recall only about 5 percent of what we hear, 15 percent of what we read, 35 percent of what we study, and 100 percent of what we memorize. Since this is true, we would be wise to give special attention to the more effective activities.