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Lesson 10: Discipling the Nations *

Introduction: How would you describe the primary focus of your church? Is it focused inward or outward? How about you - are you primarily focused on yourself or on others? This week we study a huge shift in God's work on earth. Instead of being focused on the Jewish nation, the focus turns outward to the entire world. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn about our personal focus and that of our church!

  1. Change

    1. Read Deuteronomy 23:1-3. What three kinds of people were not allowed to "join the church" of God's people? (Eunuchs, those of illegitimate birth, and those whose ancestors had been unhelpful to God's people.)

    2. Read Isaiah 56:1-2. What is "close at hand?" (God's salvation. His righteousness (Jesus) will soon be revealed.)

    3. Read Isaiah 56:3. What have the foreigners and the eunuchs done that is unexpected? (Bound themselves to the Lord.)

      1. What does that mean? (They have decided to follow the true God.)

    4. Read Isaiah 56:4-5. Previously, eunuchs could not be a part of the church. What has changed? (They have a place within the temple. They have a "memorial and name better than sons and daughters.")

      1. What kind of a memorial could a eunuch have that would be better than "sons and daughters?" (Recall that the eunuch said ( Isaiah 56:3) that he was a "dry tree?" He could not reproduce. When he becomes part of the "church" he produces followers of God - and thus he is more "fertile" than having sons and daughters.)

    5. Read Isaiah 56:6-7. Who else is accepted into fellowship as part of God's people? (The foreigners who were previously excluded.)

      1. Look again at Isaiah 56:7. Who will be welcome in God's house? (All nations.")

      2. What is significant about the reference to "burnt offerings and sacrifices" and "prayer" for these foreigners? (Not only can they converse with God, but they will be able to have their sins forgiven through the sanctuary service.)

    6. Notice that God lays some conditions on accepting those who were not previously acceptable. Re-read Isaiah 56:6. What is required? (They agree to serve, love and worship God. They keep the Sabbath and God's covenant.)

      1. Sounds like righteousness by works! Is it? (Grace is available to all, but it is not accepted by strangers who don't care. Those who were previously excluded want to have a relationship with God. The Sabbath acknowledges God as Creator and Redeemer. The covenant represents what God represents in the world - people who love God and their neighbor. Thus, these people worship, love and serve God.)

    7. As you consider this prophesy as a whole, how would you summarize this good news? (First, I suspect that most of those reading this are not Jewish. So, this is very good news for us. These texts mean that the gospel is available to all who seek it.)

    8. I recently heard a sermon in which the theme was that it was more important to love than to be right. I had two reactions as I sat there and listened: first, that I could learn something from this sermon; second, I thought this sermon is mostly wrong. Are love and having standards inconsistent? (That is the interesting thing going on in these verses in Isaiah. God says the old exclusionary standards are gone, but the formerly excluded need to have a commitment to obedience.)

  2. Short Change

    1. Read Luke 19:1-3. Wealthy people were respected in those days. Why is Zacchaeus climbing trees instead of standing in front where he can see and be seen? (The people hated him because he was the chief tax collector for the Romans.)

    2. Read Luke 19:5-6. Is this an example of what was prophesied in Isaiah 56? (Yes. Those previously not welcomed are now welcome.)

    3. Read Luke 19:7. How did the people react to the idea of accepting Zacchaeus? (Not well.)

    4. Read Luke 19:8. Why did the people think Zacchaeus was a sinner? (No doubt they thought that he was cheating them in collecting taxes.)

      1. How does Zacchaeus fit the prophecy of Isaiah so well? (Zacchaeus understands perfectly the concern about his behavior. He immediately pledges to rectify that.)

      2. What is the lesson for us today? (The doors of God's fellowship are open to everyone - including sinners, but joining the fellowship means, as illustrated by Zacchaeus, a commitment to obedience. Love means having standards.)

  3. Bringing Change

    1. After Jesus rose from the dead, He visited His disciples. Let's read Acts 1:4-5 to learn more about one of these visits. For what were the disciples to wait? (They were to wait in Jerusalem for the gift of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.)

    2. Read Acts 1:6. What different gift did the disciples have in mind? How did remaining in Jerusalem fit their plan? (They thought that Jesus was going to proclaim that He was King of Israel and throw off the Roman yoke. Power would be centered in Jerusalem. They would be at the center of power.)

    3. Read Acts 1:7-8. It turns out the plan for them is much different. Notice that the center is still Jerusalem, but where does the work end? (They were to witness to the ends of the earth.)

      1. Explain why Jerusalem is the center for this? (Notice how this reflects what we are studying. God had a plan to share the gospel with the world, and His plan started with the Jews.)

      2. I have a close Jewish friend who told me that Christians "hijacked" his religion. How much truth is there in that? (Christianity certainly grew out of Judaism. But, Isaiah teaches us that God's people abandoned His plan to reach out to the world.)

    4. Look at Acts 1:6 again. What was the focus of the disciples? (They were looking inward. They would have personal political power. Their nation would rule the world.)

      1. We know that Jesus' immediate plan was much different. How much of an issue is this for your church? Is your church primarily focused on restoring itself, or is it focused on witnessing to all of the earth?

  4. The Power For Change

    1. If your honest answer to the prior question is, "Yes, we primarily have an inward focus," how difficult do you think it would be to change? Where would you start?

    2. Read Acts 2:1. How much time do you think passed between Acts 1:6 and this event? (Read Acts 1:5 - it was at most a few days.)

    3. Read Acts 2:2-4. What do you think was the purpose of speaking in other tongues? (Read Acts 2:5-6. They had been instructed by Jesus to begin in Jerusalem and then spread the gospel to all of the earth. This was a huge step in that direction.)

    4. If you think that your church (and you) are primarily focused inward instead of outward, what does this story teach us? (The change can come very quickly.)

      1. What is essential to a quick change? (The outpouring of the Holy Spirit! Acts 1:4 calls the Holy Spirit a "gift." That means God's sovereign will is involved. Acts 1:14 shows that God's people were in constant prayer for this gift. Joel 2:28-29 suggests that the intensity of the "pour" is also part of God's sovereign will.)

    5. Friend, will you consider the focus of your life and the focus of your church? If you need to be refocused, why not, right now, pray for the Holy Spirit to come in power into your life and into your church?

  5. Next week: Discipling Spiritual Leaders.
* Copr. 2014, 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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