The following is the introduction to our newest short-term Bible study release, Follow Me: Learning About Faith, Obedience, and Being Made Holy by Jason Hayes. To learn more about “Follow Me” and purchase your copy, click HERE.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is spreading like wild fire in many places around the world, although it may not seem like it where you live. The evangelization of unreached people groups is speeding up. Thousands of people who have claimed the names of other gods are now turning to Jesus. God is working in our world as He was in the disciples’ lives. And just as their imperfections, insecurities, and fears didn’t stop God from using them to tell the world about Him, ours shouldn’t either. But they often do, don’t they?
Does the advancement of the gospel seem like a distant idea spurred on exclusively by people you’ve never met who seem to have a faith you’ll never attain? Or do you actually see the work of God playing out in and through your life? At times along the way, I’ve asked myself these questions and been disappointed in my findings. But I firmly believe that God never intended for us to sit on the sidelines and entrust a few spiritual giants with the responsibility of telling the world about Him. If you are a part of the body of Christ, you share that responsibility. Still, at times I struggle to live out my responsibility to share the gospel. And I don’t think I’m alone in the struggle.
Can you relate? Are you uncertain how to live out that responsibility in your daily life? If so, I’m glad you’ve picked up this study. I wrote it for you. This is your opportunity to learn what the people who literally walked with Christ learned. You’ll glimpse what they discovered about Jesus that compelled them onward in their commitment to following Him. But let me be clear from the beginning: The goal of this study isn’t to make you a better historian of the encounters between Christ and His disciples. Instead, it is to learn how the things the disciples came to understand about Jesus can strengthen your own relationship with Him and make you want to share His love with everyone around you.
The Gospels’ Timelessness
The Gospels tell us the story of Jesus’ earthly ministry. An integral part of that story was His relationship with the disciples—12 ordinary men hand-picked by Jesus to learn from and serve with Him during His few years on earth. Over the course of those three years, the disciples often found themselves at the crossroads of faith. Would they believe the miracles they saw, impossible though they seemed? Would they trust what Jesus of Nazareth taught them, even though His teachings seemed to invert everything they knew? Would they remain faithful to their commitment to follow Him?
These 12 men weren’t perfect, but, except for one, they remained committed. And God used them in incredibly powerful ways. The stories they told about Jesus and the actions they carried out from to His teachings laid the foundation of the early church. Unbeknownst to them, God used them to change the world.
What little bit of information we have about these men and their time with Jesus comes from the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Throughout each book we see evidence of how God, in His power and sovereignty, took normal moments—having dinner, fishing, climbing a hillside—to teach, mold, and develop these men into the vehicles by which His glory would push forward into future generations.
In this study we’ll look at six specific moments they had with Jesus and the impact those experiences had on their encounters with others. What lessons did they learn in these encounters that propelled them deeper in their relationships with Christ? More importantly, how do the things they learned impact our faith and enhance the gospel-advancing task we’ve been given?
The Scripture passages we’ll look at aren’t once-in-eternity moments pertinent only to those who experienced them. Instead, God has graciously canonized these moments for the entire world to know. In fact, the very idea that we can still learn from these encounters speaks to their magnitude. They were not only intended for those who lived them, but are also meant to impact the lives of the countless people who have and will study God’s Word.
Also, the time and place when these encounters took place doesn’t make them impossible for us to identify with. Sure, Jesus isn’t likely to walk down your street tomorrow, but there is still so much meaning to be found in what you read in Scripture. Each one of this study’s sessions will identify real emotions and circumstances that will be instantly relatable to your life—things such as change, fear, a lack of understanding, doubts and uncertainties, bouts with despair, and periods of growth.
We’re actually much more like the disciples than we realize. They weren’t a group of spiritually elite who never made mistakes, never asked questions, and exemplified an unwavering faith and trust in Jesus. The disciples were common, everyday men who didn’t always have their act together but were faithful in their commitment to following Jesus.
The gospel is worthy of our lives. As Christians, it should be our lives. I pray that you find the joy of committing your life to a cause greater than yourself. I pray that you grow deeper in your understanding of who Jesus is and what it means to advance the gospel in your personal walk. I pray that you move beyond simply consuming the gospel to living and giving of the gospel. And I pray that you begin to see the many opportunities in your day-to-day life to tell the world about Jesus Christ, His love for you, and what it means to follow Him.