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Sabbath School Lessons on Discipleship
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 40 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 4: Lessons From Would-be Disciples *
Introduction: Admit it. Sometimes you just feel lazy. Sometimes you
feel comfortable and don't want to change. Sometimes change seems too
complicated. Sometimes change seems not to be worthwhile. Recently, I
have made some very big changes. After 30 years of litigation, I
started as a new teacher in law school. After decades, the Holy
Spirit broke through my logic to show an area of sin in my life. I
repented and changed. My work change has been costly. It costs me
much of my free time, it costs me a lot of money because I now have
to rent a second home. It costs me time with my wife. As I write this
I'm laying in bed with a physical injury that I doubt I would have
had at my old office. Is the change worth it? Oh, yes! Jesus' call to
us as disciples is a call to change. Let's jump into our lesson and
study a group of men who were reluctant to change and follow Jesus.
- The Scribe
- Read Matthew 8:18-20. This man volunteers to be a disciple
of Jesus. Why does Jesus respond by talking about animals?
(Jesus informs the scribe that He does not have a home.)
- What does Jesus' reply have to do with the scribe's
offer? The scribe did not ask Jesus about living
accommodations. (Jesus wants the man to see the full
picture involved in this change. The scribe was
probably delighted to hear the teachings of Jesus.
But, before he impulsively changed to become a
disciple, Jesus wants him to understand that this is
not a luxury tour.)
- The Bible does not record how the scribe responded. What
do you think, did he follow Jesus? (I doubt it. Jesus knew
his heart and knew the scribe would decide the change was
not worth while.)
- The Digger
- Read Matthew 8:21-22. This fellow had already made some
sort of decision to follow Jesus because he is referred to
as "another disciple." Do you think Jesus is being a
- The IVP Bible Background Commentary on the New
Testament notes that one of the eldest son's most
basic responsibilities was to bury his father. Is
Jesus telling this son not to honor his father by
being sure the father is properly buried?
- Read Ephesians 6:2-3. Is Jesus opposing one of the
Ten Commandments and the writings of Paul? (We should
not assume the father is dead. The Jewish culture
buries its dead immediately. If this fellow's father
had just died, he would not be hanging around
listening to Jesus. Instead, the most likely story is
that this disciple wants to wait to follow Jesus
until after his father dies. This was an issue with
Abraham. See Genesis 11:31-12:5)
- Read John 3:1. What does this tell you about the social
status of Nicodemus? (He was a prominent fellow. A
religious and political leader.)
- Read John 3:2. Nicodemus says nice things about Jesus, but
does not reveal why he wants to meet. Why do you think
Nicodemus wanted to have a private meeting with Jesus?
Was he considering becoming a disciple of Jesus?
- Was Nicodemus considering a change in his life?
- Look at John 3:2 again. Should Jesus have been insulted or
complimented by Nicodemus' opening line? (This is a
"damned by faint praise" problem. Nicodemus meant it as a
compliment. But, it is a compliment for a prophet, not the
- Read John 3:3. Wait a minute! This verse starts out, "In
reply Jesus declared." How is this statement a reply to
Nicodemus' statement Jesus was from God?
- Step back from this just a moment. What reasons did
you decide Nicodemus came to see Jesus? Did he show
up to tell Jesus "we know you are a teacher from
God?" (No. I doubt that handing out compliments to
people he did not know was very high on Nicodemus'
list of priorities. Nicodemus wanted to find out if
Jesus was the Messiah. He wanted to find out if Jesus
was the one to follow.)
- Now, let me ask again, is Jesus' statement in verse 3
a "reply?" (Yes. Jesus is "cutting to the chase." He
knows Nicodemus is there to find out more about the
kingdom of God and Jesus' role in it. Jesus goes
straight to the point by saying "You must change. You
are not part of the Kingdom of God unless you are
"born again." No need for us to be discussing the
finer points of the Kingdom if you are not part of
- Let's continue and add verse 4. Read John 3:3-4. Put
yourself in Nicodemus' place again. Would you be insulted
by Jesus' reply? (Irritated, if not insulted. Certainly,
the conversation is not going the right way. You are a
very important person. Jesus should be delighted to have
a conference with you. Instead, Jesus seems to be
questioning your adequacy. He says change is needed for
salvation and discipleship.)
- Do you think Nicodemus is serious in his question?
(It is so obvious that a person could not literally
be born again. I think Nicodemus is being defensive.
According to several commentaries, Nicodemus would
have understood the need for a "new birth" for
Gentiles who wanted to be converted to Judaism, but
it would not make any sense for Jews. The suggestion
would be particularly inappropriate for an important
Jewish leader like him. He did not see that he needed
- Read John 3:5. Jesus now makes plain what He means by
being "born again." What is it? (To be "born of water and
- Do you think Nicodemus understood what Jesus was
saying? (Read John 4:1-2. Since Nicodemus had been
keeping up with Jesus' miracles, he surely kept up
with the reports of Jesus' conversions. My bet is
that Nicodemus knew that being "born of water" meant
- Read John 3:6. Would Nicodemus want to be baptized? (No.
This would seem to be a huge admission he was unworthy. He
was a religious leader, not part of the rabble. His proud
heart would resist this. This is why "flesh gives birth to
flesh." Human hearts naturally resist the gospel.)
- Let's touch base with the theme of this series -
discipleship. Nicodemus believes he is on the right
course, he is just looking for more information to
determine if Jesus is the Messiah. Nicodemus wants to
refine his Godly life. Instead, Jesus tells him he needs
to change! This is not what Nicodemus expected to hear.
- Read John 3:7. What does this tell us about the way
Nicodemus was looking at the moment? (He must have looked
shocked, or Jesus would not have commented on his
- Read John 3:8. Is the Holy Spirit logical? (In God's great
Creation we see order. Therefore, I'm reluctant to say
that part of the Godhead is not logical. However, this
text at least says the Holy Spirit is not predictable by
humans. The Holy Spirit does what it wants, humans can
sense the Spirit's presence, but they cannot tell if the
Spirit is coming or going.)
- Read John 3:9-10. Can you sympathize with Nicodemus? He
wants to know why logic and obedience are insufficient!
- Israel's teacher did not understand this idea of
being "born again" into discipleship involves baptism
and regeneration(rebirth)by the Holy Spirit. Do you
understand this? (Simply knowing the Bible and
following the rules is not enough. It is the Holy
Spirit that brings us to repentance. Forgiveness
comes from the unmerited grace of God. We cannot earn
these things. Pride is a barrier to accepting these
- What new approach to making disciples do we find in
this encounter with Nicodemus?(All the logic in the
world and all the insight into human behavior, will
simply not convert the heart. It is all "flesh." The
essential ingredient is the Holy Spirit.)
- Read John 3:14-16. Why would Jesus compare Himself to a
snake - the first symbol of evil (see Genesis 3)? Except
for the "lifting up" analogy to the cross, doesn't this
comparison seem all wrong? (Just like the people needed to
look at the serpent, so we need to face our sins. We need
to face the fact that we need to change. In Luke 13:3
Jesus tells us that unless we repent we will perish.)
- Friend, even if you are an honored religious leader you
may not understand discipleship. You may not understand
the change that needs to come in your life. Through the
power of the Holy Spirit we come face to face with our
sins, acknowledge them, repent of them and change. Will
- Next week: Gender and Discipleship.
* Copr. 2008, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.