Chapter OneSESSION 1
Karen and Cindy both have families and full-time jobs. With people and
tasks constantly demanding attention, the two women could easily ignore
their spiritual lives other than church attendance. But Karen and Cindy are
committed to helping each other grow in Christlikeness. So for six years
they've met weekly-in person or on the phone-to talk frankly about their
lives and to pray. Each week brings reasons why they don't have time: the
drive is so long; they're tired after a busy day; there are errands to run and
laundry to wash. But each week when they finish praying, they're grateful
they made the time. Their partnership is costly, but the benefits far outweigh
For example, Karen has chosen Ephesians 4:29 as the prayer focus for
her relationship with her stepdaughters, so she and Cindy are asking God to
give her words that build up and impart grace to her girls. Both women are
convinced that they are more loving, joyful, and faith-filled than they would
be if they weren't making their spiritual partnership a priority.
Much has been written about the cost of discipleship, the price of pursuing
spiritual growth. It's important for you to count the cost, but it's just as
important to know the value of what you get in return. In this session you'll
look at the value of what Christ offers you and decide how much you think
CONNECTING WITH GOD'S FAMILY 20 min.
Christ loves you just the way you are. Spiritual growth won't
earn you any more of his love. But Christ also has a vision for who
you can become: more peaceful as you trust him in stressful circumstances,
more loving toward the difficult people in your life,
more able to overcome your bad habits. Question 1 invites you to
think about the person you are now: a package of strengths and
weaknesses. Don't be embarrassed to say something good about
1. What is one thing you like about who you are today?
What is one thing about yourself you'd like to change?
2. Whether your group is brand new or ongoing, it's always important
to reflect on and review your values together. On pages
74-75 is a sample agreement with the values we've found most
useful in sustaining healthy, balanced groups. We recommend
that you choose one or two values-ones you haven't previously
focused on or have room to grow in-to emphasize during
this study. Choose ones that will take your group to the
next stage of intimacy and spiritual health.
For new groups: You may want to focus on encouraging
each other's growth. If you don't already have spiritual
partners, this is a great time to start. You'll learn more
about spiritual partners in session 2.
For existing groups: We recommend that you rotate host
homes on a regular basis and let the hosts lead the meeting.
We've come to realize that healthy groups rotate
leadership. This helps to develop every member's ability
to shepherd a few people in a safe environment. Even
Jesus gave others the opportunity to serve alongside him
(Mark 6:30-44). Session 3 will explain how to set up a
GROWING TO BE LIKE CHRIST 30 min.
To be a disciple of Jesus is to let the Holy Spirit train and transform
us to do life as he did. We are learning to live in a realm Jesus
called "the kingdom of heaven"-the realm where everyone lives
as God intended.
Of course, God will welcome us after we die based on our faith
in his Son even if we rarely pray and never crack the cover of our
Bibles. If that's the case, we might ask, then why bother learning to
live the way Jesus would have us live? It certainly isn't the path of
The cost of discipleship is high. But Jesus offers a vision for thevalue of discipleship. He knows we will never stay on the path unless
we are passionate about the destination. We need a vision of who
we can become, of what life in God's kingdom can be like.
3. Read Matthew 13:44. How is God's kingdom like a treasure?
4. On page 20, read the study note on "the kingdom of heaven."
What, if anything, surprises you about this information?
5. The man in Jesus' story pays an enormous cost to get the treasure.
If God's gift of salvation is free, why does Jesus portray
God's kingdom as costly?
6. The man in the story feels joy, even though he pays a huge
price. Why should we be thrilled if we have to sell everything
to get God's kingdom?
7. What are the benefits of living in a kingdom where things are
done God's way rather than our way?
8. Life in God's kingdom today is available only to Jesus' disciples.
Read Luke 9:23-27. According to this passage:
What are the costs of discipleship? (You may want to consult
this passage in the Study Notes.)
What are the costs of non-discipleship?
9. What costs of following Jesus have been hardest for you to pay?
10. Do you tend to be more troubled by the costs of following Jesus
or more joyful about the benefits? Why do you think that is the
11. On the next page are some possible steps you could take to let
Jesus become your "personal trainer." Which of them are you
willing to take for the next six weeks?
Prayer. Set aside some time to pray about letting Jesus
train you in how to live. You might try just five minutes
a day when you get up in the morning or when
you arrive at work. You could pray, "Jesus, train me to
live today. Train me to think your thoughts. Train me
to do what you would do." Then review your day with
him. You may find it helpful to write your prayer in a
notebook or on the Reflections page near the end of
Bible Reading. On pages 87-88 is a plan for reading
through the gospel of John in thirty days. We recommend
that you jot down your thoughts on the
Reflections page or in a journal.
Meditation. If you've done a lot of Bible study before,
try meditation as a way of internalizing God's Word
more deeply. Several alternative verses for meditation
are suggested on the Reflections page. Copy the verse
onto a card, and tape it somewhere in your line of
sight, such as your car's dashboard or the kitchen
table. Think about it when you sit at red lights, or
while you're eating a meal. What is God saying to
you, here and now, through these words? On the
Reflections page, write a prayer to God about this
FOR DEEPER STUDY
Read Romans 8:5-6; 14:17. How much is a kingdom of life, peace,
righteousness, and joy worth to you?