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Called to Follow Jesus

God values availability over ability.
Lesson 46 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

And walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And they immediately left the nets, and followed Him. And going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. And they immediately left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

– Matthew 4:18–22

And having summoned His twelve disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax–gatherer; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.

– Matthew 10:1–4

After resisting Satan, Jesus came out of the wilderness in the power of the Spirit. Soon, people began to follow after Jesus. Most of these followers were common, ordinary people. But they saw something very uncommon and extraordinary in Jesus. Some left the security of their livelihoods to be with Jesus. Some of these were fishermen, to whom Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” From those who followed Him, Jesus chose an inner group of twelve. These became known as His disciples, and for nearly three years, they traveled with Him and learned from Him. They began to see the world through His eyes. As with everyone who follows Jesus, these men were being prepared for something far beyond anything they could imagine.

– The HOPE, Chapter 9

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

After resisting the temptation of Satan, Jesus came out of the wilderness in the power of the Spirit. He was ready for His earthly ministry. It wasn’t long before people started following Him. From among these followers, Jesus eventually chose a smaller group who became known as His disciples.1 Jesus lived with these men. Day after day He taught them, by word and example. He invested His life in their lives. He shaped their souls. And through this inner circle of men, God started a work and a movement (namely, the Church) that is literally unparalleled in all of history.

Now if you were going to assemble a group to start such a movement to change the world, then you might look for some extraordinarily gifted and accomplished people. But once again, we see that God often does things very differently from the way we would do them. The men that Jesus called to be among His inner circle were not the most educated or influential men that He could have found. By all appearances these were common ordinary men. Several of them were fishermen. One was a tax collector. And one was a revolutionary. But Jesus saw the potential in each of them, and ultimately God used them to give birth to something very remarkable, something that is alive today and will live for eternity. Continue reading


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The Temptation of Jesus

The difference between a test and a temptation.
Lesson 45 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

— Matthew 4:1

And when the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.

— Luke 4:13

Jesus then departed to the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. But Jesus would resist and Satan would flee. This wilderness encounter was a test. And just as a precious metal is tested to prove its nature, this test was further proof that Jesus was indeed the Son of the God come to earth to do the will of His Father. After resisting Satan, Jesus came out of the wilderness in the power of the Spirit.

— The HOPE, Chapter 8

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

After Jesus was baptized, He was then led by the Spirit (of God) into the wilderness to be tempted. This temptation is described in Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, and Luke 4:1-2. Notice that the Matthew 4:1 passage says the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, but it does not say that the Spirit tempted Jesus. That is an important distinction because the Bible also says in James 1:13 that, “God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” Satan (who is called the tempter in Matthew 4:3 and 1 Thessalonians 3:5) is the one who does the tempting.

Based upon the James 1:13 passage, notice also that it was futile for Satan to tempt Jesus, for “God cannot be tempted.” In the end, the temptation of Jesus served only to further the purposes of God. It was all part of His plan. This will become even more evident as we consider the word “tempt.”

“Tempt” (or tempted) comes from the Greek word “peirazo,” which is actually a legal term meaning “to make proof of.”1 In light of this root definition, we could say that Satan was tempting Jesus in order to prove that He was no different than any other man that had ever lived; that He was just like Adam and that He would fold under pressure. Ultimately, the same way that a prosecuting attorney seeks to disqualify the testimony of a defendant, Satan wanted to disqualify Jesus as the Deliverer who would free mankind from Satan, sin, and death. Continue reading


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The Baptism of Jesus

Jesus declares His intention to die in our place.

Lesson 44 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him. And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well–pleased.”

– Matthew 3:13–17

Proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven was near, John called the people to live according to the ways of God. When people accepted John’s challenge to live for God, they participated in a practice called baptism, in which they were covered with water. This was done to express purification and commitment to live according to God’s laws. And so it was one day, that Jesus came to John. Knowing who Jesus was, John asked to be baptized by Him. But the time for baptism in the name of Jesus had not yet come, and Jesus was baptized by John. And when Jesus came up from the water, the Spirit of God descended upon Him. And a voice came from Heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”

– The HOPE, Chapter 8

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

The practice of baptism1 as observed in this lesson had its roots in the washings that God instructed the Hebrew people to do for the purpose of purification (Leviticus 16:26, Leviticus 28, Leviticus 22:6,Numbers 19:7 and Numbers 19). Jesus, however, did not need to be purified. Perhaps this is why John, who knew Jesus from childhood, tried to prevent Jesus from being baptized and said to Him, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” (Matthew 3:14).

So if purification was unnecessary, what was the purpose of this baptism in the life of Jesus?

Most theologians agree that at least three things were accomplished by this event: identification, anointing and confirmation.2 In regard to identification, many believe that Jesus, the One who came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17), was identifying with John’s call to righteousness – to live according to the ways of God. Some, however, see yet another identification taking place in this event.

As Bible teacher Dr. H. A. Ironside put it, “We are like paupers who have accumulated so many debts that we cannot pay them. These are our sins. These tremendous claims are made against us, and we cannot possibly meet them. But when Jesus came, he took all these mortgages and notes and agreements we could not meet and endorsed them with His own name, thereby saying that He intended to pay them, He would meet them. This is what His baptism signifies, and is why Jesus said to John the Baptist, ‘…it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness’ (Matthew 3:15). He declared His intention to meet the righteous demands of God by undertaking Himself to pay the debts of men.”3 Continue reading


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Jesus as a Child – Fully Human and Fully God

The Father was pleased because of “Whose” He was.
Lesson 43 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

And the Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.

– Luke 2:40

And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.

– Luke 2:47

And immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; and a voice came out of the heavens: “Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well–pleased.”

– Mark 1:10–11

As a boy, Jesus grew in strength and wisdom. Even the Hebrew teachers were amazed at His understanding of the things of God. And when Jesus spoke of God, He called Him Father! The grace of God was upon Jesus, and He had favor with those who knew Him.

– The HOPE, Chapter 8

And when Jesus came up from the water, the Spirit of God descended upon Him. And a voice came from Heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”

– The HOPE, Chapter 8

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

Not much is known about Jesus as a boy or as a young man. Thirty years passed from the time of His birth to the beginning of His public ministry, and the Bible says little about those years. As the Son of God, He was unlike other people. As the Son of Mary, He was not unlike every person that ever lived. So what was it like to grow up as God in human form? We are left with many questions.

What was it like to be the Creator of the universe, and yet depend upon the creation the same as every other child nursed as an infant? What were His first words? Was there ever a time when the children were choosing sides to play a game, and He was left out? How did He feel? When He hit those awkward years of pimples and puberty, did He feel awkward? Was there ever a young girl who thought Jesus was cute? How did He handle that? Was there ever a bully who tried to intimidate Him? How did He handle that?

Somehow, it would be easier for us to dismiss those years, to skip over them, but Jesus didn’t skip them. He experienced them, and He experienced them fully. From the verses above, there are some specific things we can know about the Son of God as He grew up and became a man.

We know that even as a boy, Jesus had a thirst for the things of His heavenly Father. The passage above from Luke 2:47 took place in the temple. Joseph and Mary had taken Jesus to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, an event that foreshadowed the sacrifice Jesus would ultimately make to conquer sin and death. Somehow Jesus had become separated from His parents. After three days His parents finally found Him in the temple dialoging with the religious leaders of the day. The Bible says that people were “amazed at His understanding and His answers.” And when His mother scolded Him for causing His parents to worry, Jesus answered, “Did you not know that I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).

About 18 years passed in obscurity from the incident in the temple to the baptism of Jesus cited in Mark 1:10 above. We’ll spend more time dealing with Jesus’ baptism in the next lesson, but for now pay special attention to the words of His heavenly Father as Jesus came out of the water, “Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well–pleased.” Continue reading


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How Could Jesus Be Born Without Sin?

How sin is transmitted
Lesson 42 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

…just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…

— Romans 5:12

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.

— Genesis 3:15

God’s plan was unfolding. But who could have ever imagined it would happen like this? From the ancient promises of God, one might have considered that to overcome sin, the Deliverer would be without sin, just as God is without sin. But who would have expected that the Deliverer, promised by God throughout the ages, would be God Himself in human form?

— The HOPE, Chapter 8

And through Adam, sin would be passed down from generation to generation, infecting all humankind to this very day.

— The HOPE, Chapter 3

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the previous lesson we said that we would revisit the issue of a holy God putting on flesh. How could a sinless God enter this sin infected world as a human and yet remain sinless? First, let’s deal with why this is important, and then we’ll deal with how it is possible.

As we see from the Chapter 8 HOPE excerpt above, in order for the Deliverer to free mankind from sin, He would need to be sinless Himself. This line from The HOPE summarizes the truth of a key theological doctrine. The Deliverer had to fulfill the Law in order to be the mediator and reconciler between God and man. In order to fulfill the Law, He had to be without sin.

Many verses in the Bible state that the Deliverer was without sin (Hebrews 4:15, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:22, 1 John 3:5). But how is this possible? Repeatedly in our study of The HOPE we have read about the sin that has infected all mankind (see Chapter 3, Lesson 18). And from Romans 5:12 above we read that “just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” How then could the Deliverer be born of a human and not be infected with sin? Let’s consider two possibilities.

First, we must acknowledge that if God can do whatever He pleases, then He could certainly have miraculously protected Jesus from being polluted by sin while He was inside Mary’s womb.1

Second, we must consider carefully Romans 5:12. Notice that the verse says that “through one man sin entered the world” and so death spread to “all men.” The verse does not say through “one man and one woman” sin entered the world. Sin entered the world through Adam, not through Eve. It was Adam, not Eve, who passed sin on to their descendants.2 Perhaps this is why in Genesis 3:15, God promises that the One who will bruise (literally “crush”) Satan on the head will be One who comes from the seed of woman, not from the seed of man. Continue reading