Challenge 19 Following Jesus

CONTENTS

The story shown in bold is explored in full in the Big Bible Challenge book www.scriptureunion.org.uk/shop

Stories in this challenge

God’s love                              1 Corinthians 13:1–13

A new person                      2 Corinthians 5:14–21

Come to Jesus                      1 Peter 2:1–10

Believe it: do it!                     James 2:14–26

Love one another                  1 John 4:7–21

 

COMMON tips for this and every challenge

  • Always have a Bible in a child-friendly translation available, as you take the Big Bible Challenge. Even when the Bible verses are printed in the Big Bible Challenge book, find them in a Bible as well. This will help the child gain confidence in handling the Bible and become familiar with its size and number of pages.
  • Finding your way around the Bible can be a challenge in itself! Each reading from the Bible is shown in a certain way, like this:

Genesis 2:15–22.

  • Use the Index or Contents page of the Bible to help you find the book (or books) in the Bible for the readings in this challenge. In this example, the book title is ‘Genesis’.
  • Each book of the Bible is in chapters. In this example, the reading is in chapter 2.
  • Each chapter is split into verses. In this example, the verses are 15–22. In most Bibles, the verse numbers are printed very small.
  • Many of the challenges have five readings from the same part of the Bible, so use a bookmark to keep your place and it will be easier to find the Bible reading next time.
  • The Bible consists of many ‘books’ collected together and presented as one. See if you can work out what sort of ‘book’ you are exploring: is it history or is it a letter? Are you reading words spoken by a prophet or written as a song?
  • Spend time looking at and chatting about the artwork in the Big Bible Challenge. Find out more online in ‘How does the Big Bible Challenge work?’
  • When you have finished this challenge, use the simple evaluation sheet [here: hyperlink]. Find out more online in ‘How does the Big Bible Challenge work?’

 

COMMENCE: your introduction to this part of the Bible

Paul’s poem of love in 1 Corinthians 13 answers the question: ‘What is love?’ and then goes on to outline how following such a path is the most excellent way. As loved people, believers are to be people who show love to others. Paul extols the virtues of love – primarily in the context of the church and the way in which we relate to brothers and sisters. But even here he has an eye to those outside.

In 2 Corinthians Paul highlights the connection between our status as new creations, flowing from our reconciliation with God, and the subsequent responsibility to be ministers of reconciliation as we share the good news and hope of Jesus with those around us. God chose to place ‘this treasure’ (the good news of Jesus) in a very vulnerable container: our lives, clay jars. We may be weak, but we are called to share the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:11 – 6:2).

One of the issues that the early church faced was how they lived in relationship to those around. How were they to establish their identity as the people of God? In one sense, as Peter puts it, they were ‘aliens and strangers’ (1 Peter 2:11). And yet God had placed them in the world with a mission. They were people with a distinctive hope – unlike so many of those amongst whom they lived. In a world of uncertainty they could rest assured in the love of God, knowing that their future was secure. This was because they, like Old Testament Israel, were God’s chosen and special people.

For James, the practical outworking of faith is they key. Unless faith makes a difference in the way that we live and relate to others it is of no value.

John is primarily concerned with the love that we have for one another – but this love, as he well knows, is the primary evidence that we are disciples of Jesus.

Each of these letters underlines how God’s new covenant people are called to live in a needy but hostile world.

 

 CONNECT: the five stories in this challenge

All of the passages in this challenge are taken from letters (often called ‘epistles’ from the Greek word for ‘sent news’) written to young churches by their Christian leaders. Letters were often written in answer to queries, to deal with disputes, or to encourage in times of difficulty or persecution. In these sections of the letters, Paul (who wrote the two letters to the Corinthians), Peter, James and John focus on the new life we have in Jesus when we become Christians and how we should show this in our daily lives.

Peter and John were two of Jesus’ first disciples (see Matthew 4:18-21) and witnessed at first hand his love and compassion towards others.

James is likely to have been the James who was Jesus’ brother and who, presumably, spent much time with him as they grew up together. Although he does not seem to have been amongst Jesus’ close circle of followers during his life on earth, after Pentecost he became one of the church leaders (see Matthew 13:55 and Acts 15:13).

We have no evidence that Paul ever saw Jesus during his earthly life, but he became a Christian following his dramatic conversion on the Damascus road, when Jesus spoke to him personally (Acts 9).

These four men, therefore, are well qualified to teach us what ‘the Jesus life’ should be like. The passage from 2 Corinthians gives an overall view and would be a good place to begin this challenge. Follow this with 1 Peter, then 1 John and James. All this teaching will be summed up in the first passage from 1 Corinthians.

Teaching in the epistles is always broad and deep: Challenge 19 is touching on some of these main themes. Be prepared to share these ideas with your child but let them set the pace: these epistles are full and dense writings – and they do not need to be hurried or grasped all in one go.  Here are some of these important themes:

  • God is the one who has called us. He has always loved us; he died to give us new life. We respond, but only because he made the first move.
  • When we choose to follow him we become new people. We change sides and become God’s friends rather than his enemies, and we encourage others to do the same.
  • Being a new person means having a new way of living. Jesus is our example and helper here. We may have to change radically and immediately; or, we may find that wrong ways from our old life are being challenged gradually by Jesus.
  • Our new life (and especially love) will show in our lifestyle. Love should be the basis of all that we are and do in this new life. Thinking about love is not enough – we must act upon it, too.
  • Living this lifestyle, we will be different from others in the world around us. Sometimes we will be misunderstood and ridiculed but we can rejoice because we are God’s people.

 

CONSIDER: what this challenge means today

Much of what is in the New Testament letters (not least some of the long words!) is difficult even for adults to understand. Yet the broad themes of ‘God helping us to become better people’ and ‘loving and caring for others’ are simple enough for everyone to take in. Help the child to access the passages in ways such as these:

  • How many times does the word ‘love’ appear? Or, listen and clap each time you hear the word ‘love’.
  • Count how many times it tells us that God loves us.
  • Find the verses that say God makes us new.
  • What does it say we could do to help someone?

Remember that the people who wrote these letters knew Jesus personally. They not only met him; they lived with him. Think together of some of Jesus’ actions that they watched, or stories that they listened to. The letter writers were eyewitnesses and we have these messages directly from them. It is like us presenting someone with a slice of cake and saying ‘I know it’s a good cake, because I cooked it myself.’

We can trust the writers’ words because they definitely knew what they were writing about. And, although the world may have changed a good deal in many ways, the way people behave has not. A person may drive a car instead of a donkey cart, but he could be cheerful, grumpy, helpful or disagreeable, now as then. How we behave and react to the world is as relevant today as when the letters were written.

God is still in the business of helping people change. If you have read Challenge 16 about Paul becoming a Christian, you could remind yourselves about that. You may know more up-to-date stories like this one:

Chris was due to appear in court for a minor crime but, as it wasn’t his first offence and the magistrate on duty that day wanted to ‘make an example’ of petty criminals, he was sure he would be jailed. He was very frightened and prayed to God to prevent a prison sentence. Just before he was due to appear before him the magistrate was taken ill with a stomach upset and a more lenient magistrate took over. Chris was given a fine and community service instead, and he was so grateful to God that he had become a follower of Jesus.

Love does not change. It still is and always will be the underlying motive of God’s actions towards us and, therefore, it should be the basis of all our actions, too.

 

CLARIFY: issues that may arise from this challenge

Why does the Bible say turn from your old life and follow Jesus? I’ve always known Jesus and I don’t think I’ve got an old life to turn from.

It’s wonderful when somebody grows up knowing Jesus all their life and that is ideally how God would want it. But even if this is so, each one of us at some time will have to be sure that following Jesus is not just a habit we’ve got into but something we really want to do.

Many people don’t learn about Jesus when they are very young or they forget about him, so to them ‘turning around’ will be more obvious and their new life very different.

 

 COMMUNICATE: talk with God

Challenge 19 gives us opportunities to discover and to realise how our lives can affect, and are affected by, others. This prayer activity will help children visualise these abstract teachings and messages.

Prepare a large (non-breakable) bowl of water and gather a few smallish stones or pebbles or glass marbles. Sit or stand where you can both see into the bowl.

Pick up a stone and drop it gently into the water. Watch what happens. Can you see ripples on the water? Do they spread out? Do they go right to the edge of the bowl? What made the ripples start? Wait until the water is still again.

Invite your child to choose a stone and drop it, carefully, into the water. Again, watch what happens. Can you see the ripples that go to the edge of the bowl? Say that our lives are like that: what we do has an affect somewhere. We have an affect on other people; and other people affect us.

Explain that Jesus wants our lives to have a right affect on others, as we learn to live God’s way: that’s what Challenge 19 is about. Pray that God will use our lives to ‘bless’ others. (The Good News Bible uses the term ‘make happy’: children can be very excited to realise that they can make others happy and that they will be living God’s way when they do so!) Say something like: ‘Lucy, may you make others happy this week.’ Then let your child pray the same ‘blessing’ for you.

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