Tag Archives: Discipleship

Rocky’s Ramblings Christian Discipleship Course

GREETINGS! Welcome to my ministry website, where I hope your desire is to learn more about what it means to be a Christian. Whether you are a new Christian, have been a Christian for some time, or someone thinking about God’s invitation to accept Jesus Christ, the daily lessons of this course will give you a firm understanding of Christianity.


YOU ARE WELCOME TO DOWNLOAD AND STUDY THE COURSE FREE OF CHARGE or use it to teach your own discipleship class (more on that below). My most recent update was to add an appendix of all of the Bible references complete with the passages from NASB, and I fixed a few hyperlink errors. So, if you’ve been here before, and it has been a while since you downloaded a copy, you may want to download a new copy.

Let’s get started! Choose one of the following large green buttons to download a copy of the course and save it where you can access it daily.

The first is labeled INTERNET PDF. It is formatted to run on a smartphone, tablet or computer, and will allow you to click on links that will take you directly to Bible passages, articles, and such.

The second is labeled PRINTABLE COPY. If you do not have a smartphone or tablet that you can access daily, the printable copy has been formatted to print on standard letter-size paper (8.5″ x 11″). Let me warn you ahead of time that if you print the whole course all at once, it will print out on 203 pages, so printing double-sided will save you a lot of paper. If you don’t need the written Bible references, you can avoid printing Appendix B by printing only pages 1-147, saving a substantial amount of paper. This copy does have all of the hyperlinks, which of course will do you no good once you print it on paper. So, you will need to have a Bible at your side.

OUR PRIMARY TEXT: You will see in the introduction to the course that it is based on The Christian Life New Testament with Master Outlines & Study Notes (ISBN 9780840721785) available from a number of retail outlets. Use the button above to find one for yourself. NOTE that having a copy of this New Testament with the outlines is not absolutely necessary; the course is written to teach the specific topics without having to rely on the outline. But, I encourage you to get a copy for yourself and use it as a guide to launch beyond what you can learn in the daily lessons of this course.

LANGUAGE TRANSLATOR: I have written this in English. But, through the wonders of the internet, you can put it through this translator to translate it into your language. Just download whichever copy fits your needs and then come back to this translator:

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN TEACHING YOUR OWN SESSION:

I have a discussion guide for you should you desire to use this course to teach your own discipleship class – which I highly recommend as part of our Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20)

Let me suggest that you keep it simple. Direct your group to this website so that they can download the course. Then, encourage them to go through the lessons, one each day, and get the group together once a week to discuss the 7 lessons of the previous week (perhaps over coffee and dessert). As your students get through the first two sections of the course, start encouraging them to get out and share what they are learning through their own personal evangelism. That’s the key that unlocks the door to the multiplication that Jesus taught His disciples! If you have any questions, suggestions, or want to discuss moving forward, please contact me at RockysRamblings@gmail.com. I would also love to hear your success stories and the creative ways that you are using this course.

Matthias or Paul – Who was God’s Choice to Replace Judas? Did the Eleven Apostles Get It Wrong With Matthias?

When Judas hung himself after betraying Jesus Christ unto His crucifixion, the remaining eleven apostles were left to choose a replacement to return their circle to the number twelve, which represented the twelve Tribes of the Jewish nation (Israel and Judah). God’s plan was to take the Gospel to the entire world, beginning with the Jewish people (God’s chosen), as we see in Acts 1:8. Jesus told His disciples to wait for the power of the Holy Spirit to descend to them, and then, “you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Paul emphasized it this way, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Romans 1:16) The turning point – the point at which God made it clear that the time had come to reach out to the gentile (non-Jew) world with the Gospel – was the dream that God gave Peter, which led him to meet with and convert Cornelius of Caesarea to be a follower of Christ; the first gentile to be so converted. You can read this whole story in Acts 10.

So, the apostles went about selecting a replacement for Judas – not choosing of their own accord – but determining whom God would choose to fill the vacancy in the twelve. As we see in the story of this selection process in Acts 1:15-26, Peter quoted David’s prophecy of this moment in Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8. David had prophesied this moment with amazing accuracy, especially when realizing that the chief priests took the money that Judas threw back at them, after realizing what he had done, and purchased the field in which he hung himself, and called it Akel-dama, the Field of Blood. In using that prophecy, Peter was saying that there should be a replacement for Judas.

Now that we’ve explored why the eleven felt the need to replace Judas, let’s look at who Matthias was, and why he was selected. We know that the twelve apostles were not the only disciples of Jesus Christ. Several times, the Bible talks about the 70, and some about the 150. What this says is that Jesus had his inner circle of followers, the twelve apostles, including Simon Peter, John (son of Zebedee), James (the brother of John), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas (the doubter), Matthew, James (son of Alpheus), Thaddeus (son of James), Simon (the Zealot), Judas. Then, He had another concentric ring of 70 followers which grew to 150 and then to about 500. The total number of followers continued to grow until Jesus started talking about the price of discipleship, at which many fell away.

According to tradition (from writers of non-canonized texts), Matthias was part of the 70 and had been with the twelve from the beginning of Christ’s ministry, and even lived with them. Lastly, it is surmised that when the apostles started reaching out to specific regions, Matthias ended up in Aethiopia (modern Georgia – north of Turkey and Armenia), where he was stoned to death.  

Next, let’s look at how Matthias was chosen. Peter established the qualifications in Acts 1:21-26, which included having been with Jesus Christ through his entire 3 1/2 year ministry, personally witnessing His baptism by John the Baptist, His teachings and miracles, and His crucifixion. He also had to have witnessed Jesus after His resurrection. Given those factors, there seemed to be only two men who qualified: Matthias and a man named Joseph Barsabas. So, the apostles sought God on how to proceed. They settled on a the common method of casting lots, similar in nature to flipping a coin, something that they could not manipulate, but God could. The lots fell to Matthias.

Now, we can go back and look at whether Paul was the one God had chosen as His replacement for Judas, and the apostles somehow got it wrong. Or, was there another reason God called Paul? Paul was not with Jesus during His ministry on earth, and never witnessed His baptism, His teachings and miracles, nor His death or resurrection. In fact, he was a pharisee who zealously persecuted Christians to stop what the Jewish hierarchy considered a religion of blasphemy. It was during Paul’s encounter with the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus that he was called to his apostleship. Because he did not meet the other qualifications, Paul considered himself to be the least of the apostles (Ephesians 3:7-8), but one chosen not by man but by God.

So did the eleven apostles get it wrong when they chose Matthias? There is no Biblical evidence to suggest that, and Matthias ended up dying for his efforts to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, just like the other eleven (save John who miraculously survived being boiled in oil, only to spend the rest of his days in exile on the Island of Patmos). No wonder so many fell away when they heard Christ teaching of the cost of discipleship. There is a lesson for each of us in that story (but, for another time).

Let me end with this speculation on my part. The reason for the number of apostles to be twelve was to honor the traditions of the Jewish nation, representing the twelve tribes. Once God decided that it was time to share the Gospel with the rest of the world, Paul was chosen above and beyond the twelve, specifically to take the Gospel to the people beyond those of the Jewish faith. So, God arranged a personal encounter with the resurrected Jesus Christ, and called him to his apostleship. This is further supported by the fact that as the Gospel was taken beyond Jerusalem in obedience to Jesus Christ’s instructions in Acts 1:8, more of the 70 were sent (in fact, Jesus had already begun this during His earthly ministry – Luke 10:1). The apostles did not, in my opinion, get it wrong. God just kicked His plan into high gear to send the Gospel to the rest of the world. Who better for that than Paul?

Here’s a post-script on Joseph Barsabas: As the Gospel was sent to specific regions, Joseph was included. He ended up as the Bishop of Eleutheropolis, a Byzantine city south of Jerusalem, where he too died a martyr’s death.

How to Answer Questions About What Happens to People Who Have Never Heard of Jesus Christ, and Are Miracles possible

Following the question of whether or not Jesus is the only way to salvation, comes the question about what happens to those who have never heard of Jesus Christ, the next tough question answered in Bobby Conway’s video series on the Tough Questions Christians Face. We know that the Bible says that all creation shows the glory of God (Psalm 19) so that all people are without an excuse (Romans 1:20). But, we also know that the Bible calls upon all Christians to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people everywhere, because God’s will is that none should perish, but that all would come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), and Jesus, Himself, said that no one can come to the Father but through Him (John 14:6). So, we, who are called by His name have a job to do. God has entrusted us with the most important message that could come into anyone’s life, the story of Jesus and how He wants t give everyone the free gift of eternal life. Christ gave His Great Commission, to His disciples (present and future), “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20). Why would he have admonished us to do so if people could come to salvation without the Gospel? It is true that we, humans, do not have the power to save. But, God has ordained us as His ambassadors, to speak on His behalf to a world that is desperate for His salvation.

The next tough question In Bobby Conway’s video series is: Are Miracles Possible? In a day when science supposedly has an answer – a natural explanation – for everything that happens, are some of these happenings actually miracles, and does God only exist in things that cannot be explained away by science? Dr. Norman Giesler answered this from CS Lewis who said, simply, ‘If God, then miracles.’ The creation itself was a miracle, a supernatural act of God. Even scientists agree that before creation, there was not time, no space and no matter, and all of a sudden, BANG, we have a universe. Science has all kinds of theory’s about matter colliding with anti-matter to cause this great explosion. But, where did the matter and anti-matter come from? How did nothing become matter and anti-matter? How did all of the finely-tuned reams of data that chromosomes pass on from generation to generation come from? No matter how you believe this universe and all that is in it has come to be, you already believe in miracles. Now, fast forward to the great flood, then on to Moses parting of the Red Sea, the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His raising of Lazarus from the dead. His and His disciples’ raising of other people from the dead, cleansing of lepers, healing the blind, the deaf, the lame, the casting out of demons… Dr. Norman concluded by saying that there is no problem turning water into wine, if you can create water from nothing. Indeed miracles have happened, and still do.

Why Christianity Can Lay Sole Claim to Being the One True Religion

The final videos in Bobby Conway’s series on worldviews in Right Now Media examine the claims that Christianity is the one true religion, based on the evidences of discussed in the videos to this point.

The first point is one that was made a couple postings back. The heart of Christianity is Jesus Christ, God the Son, who descended to us as a human, conceived of God the Holy Spirit, born of a human mother to be the one true mediator between man and God. We see this in scripture in Paul’s teaching of Timothy, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5).

If I could pick one of the videos as the climax of this series, it would be, What is a Four-Point Case for Christianity. Here are the four points, with a few comments from other apologists I’ve studied.

  1. Does truth exist? Obviously the Bible can’t be true if there is no truth. But, then no other religious writings could be true, either. It’s pretty obvious that there is truth. If someone tells you that there is no truth, just ask them if they think that statement is true.
  2. Does God exist? Even the most skeptical scientists have come to the realization that there simply cannot be a world as immense, complex, and well-tuned without having an intelligent creator that is outside of our world. That creator also had to be personal with a desire to create something with meaning. Otherwise, our existence means nothing.
  3. Are miracles possible? If everything has to run that it was designed with no interventions by the creator, then the Bible cannot be true. The greatest miracle is the very first verse of the Bible, “In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) If that verse is true, every other verse in the Bible is at the very least, possible. So, miracles are possible, and if that is not true, then there could be no God, and there wouldn’t be any creation.
  4. Does the Bible tell us the truth about history? In other words, is the Bible historically reliable. As we examined several posts back, the best archaeologists in the Middle East use the Bible as a primary source for their research, because it has never been wrong, and the more we learn, the evidence emerges of just how true the Bible is. One great evidence of the truth of the Bible is what we call ‘embarrassing testimony,’ things that nobody would have admitted to, certainly not written about, if they were not true. Example: at the crucifixion, the disciples all ran away, leaving the women behind. Is any man going to make that up. There is also eye-witness testimony, and what is called excruciating testimony, meaning that these men died, and they knew they would likely die, for what they said and how they continued to teach the Gospel. There is also prophecy, things that were foretold and then happened years later.

We can have faith in the in the Bible because it has proven itself true, accurate, prophetic, and purposeful. No other religion has all of that and a savior who claimed that He was God incarnate and then proved it.

The final video in this series is one that encourages parents to send their kids to Summit Ministries, which is designed to prepare students to take on challenging conversations. In this day of skepticism, we must be prepared to defend our faith – to study to show ourselves approved…rightly dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15) I will end by saying that I know nothing about Summit Ministries, but am certainly going to check it out. Perhaps I’ll write a daily posting on what I find.

Opposing Concepts of Different World Views: Truth &Relativism and Pluralism vs. Particularism

In my last posting, we listed the 7 religious categories of religious worldviews, gave a one-line description of what each holds as their concept of god, and listed a few of the major followers. In the video series, What is a World View, one of the series of The One Minute Apologist on Right Now Media, Bobby Conway goes on to examine each of the 7 in greater depth, and discusses a couple of the most significant opposing concepts between them. I’m going to leave examining the 7 worldviews to you, should that be of particular interest to you, and jump straight to examining a couple of the main opposing concepts between worldviews (which cannot both be true), before moving on to some closing thoughts that make the case for Christianity being the one true religion.

Remember as we go that the reason we are doing this is to give us ways to defend our faith, as we have been discussing the last few days. If you have missed those postings, you can find them on this website by looking at the topics to the left of this essay – or you can click on the picture of Philpott Lake at the top of my website which will take you ‘home’ to be able to scroll down through them all, most recent first.

Let’s look first at the dichotomy of Truth and Relativism. There either is absolute truth or truth is relative. We live in an age of relativism that says all religions are the same, everything is relative. When Jesus was taken to answer before Pilate, He told Pilate that He came ‘to testify to the truth’ (John 18:37). Pilate with the question, ‘what is truth?’ So, perhaps we are not in the first age of relativism. But, Jesus seemed to be saying that there is A truth for which He was sent to testify.

According to Dr. Norman Geisler, author, professor, theologian, and world-renowned Christian apologist, truth is telling it like it is, and the opposite of truth cannot also be true under the rule of non-contradiction, a basic law of logic. Relativism says that truth is subjective. If someone says they don’t believe in absolute truth, our response should be to ask them if that statement is absolutely true. If someone says they are skeptical about everything, ask them if they are skeptical about that.

We cannot make truth out of what we want to be true; we need to want the truth. He ends the interview that we do not raise our right hand in court and promise to tell the expedient, the whole expedient and nothing but what is expedient, so help me truth through experience. Truth is truth, whether we like it or not.

Now I want to take a quick look at Pluralism vs. Particularism through an interview with Dr. William Lane Craig, author, philosopher and apologist with ReasonableFaith.org. Dr. Craig begins by defining religious particularism as the belief that one religion is fully true. There may be elements of truth in other religions, but there is only one religion that is fully true, and that explains the one way to God. In contrast, pluralism says that there are a diversity of perspectives and all are equally valid; no one religion can claim to be THE way to God or exclusively true. Which brings us to a fundamental and critical question: do all religions lead to God? For this question, Bobby Conway returns to interviewing Dr. Norman Geisler.  He begins by returning to a point he made in a previous video, that they can’t all be true because they teach opposite. Mohammed said there was only one person who is god; Chrisitanity says that the the One True God is made up of three persons, other religions teach that there are multiple gods. All of these statements cannot be true. Scriptures that have opposing views of who god is and how we get to him cannot all be true, reiterating a point that he made in an earlier video that these opposing views are on essential doctrines, not just minor details.

One concept that I was taught many years ago is that if there is a god, which every culture in history has believed is true, and if he made us in such a way as to give us the ability and desire to know him – both of which we have seen are true throughout history – then it stands to reason that this god would reach out to his creation and give us the answers to such essential questions, and would not tell some of us things that are true and other things that oppose his truth. Simply put, God is God and we are not. If we want to reach Him, we must do so on His terms, not the way that seems best to us.

In my next posting, we’ll look at why Christianity is uniquely true, and therefore is the one true religion.

Winning the Battle of Defending Your Faith

Let’s begin by bringing three Bible passages together for us to consider. The first is what we know as The Great Commission, in which Jesus gave His final and most important instructions to His disciples – current and future:

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

The second passage is Peter’s encouragement to:

“…sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Peter 3:15)

The other is from Paul’s mentoring of Timothy:

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

When you put these three passages together, you can see that it has always been that our most important job as Christians – to work in the harvest of souls – is more than simply sharing the Gospel and encouraging non-believers to pray the sinners prayer. It is imperative that Christians be prepared to defend our belief in Biblical truth. This is no easy task today, living in an entire society of competing voices teaching different worldviews, many of which are taught in schools as ‘settled science’.

There are a number of good resources available. One of them is Right Now Media Library, undoubtedly the largest collection of Christian learning/training/research videos and materials on the entire internet. This is not a free resource, but many churches buy a group membership for their members. If your church does not, it is well worth having a discussion with your church leadership to see if there is a way to make that happen. If that is not a possibility, consider joining as an individual member. Go to their main page, by clicking on the link above, and search on the word ‘apologetics’ or ‘defend’. Pay particular attention to the number of series with 1-6 minute videos that address issues that come up in real life, and will give you something with which to answer questions/attacks on our faith.

If you have not been following these posts on my website, go to my posting of January 11, 2021, called INTRODUCTION TO BIBLICAL APOLOGETICS…SHARED UNAPOLOGETICALLY to get an idea of how these short lessons can give you just what you need to help people question their own worldview, and see that perhaps a Biblical worldview is worthy of consideration.

My goal is to give you some of these quick ways to defend our faith with meaningful statements/questions of real consequence.  

Here’s one to end this posting. I’m using the ‘One Minute Apologist’ with Bobby Conway, available in video form on Right Now Media. The first video in the series is ‘Why is There So Much Doubt?’ The first part of that answer is that it is easier to believe something for which there is critical mass, or stated more bluntly, it’s easier to believe something when it’s popular. The argument is that we are shifting from a pro-Christian culture, to only a remnant of Christians who are seen as believing outdated concepts. Our defense of this is simply that truth does not follow the masses – the truth is often with the minority – the remnant.  

The second part of the answer to why there is so much doubt is the emergence of pluralism. With many people talking about what their God demands, it is easy to become confused as to what the truth is and why there are so many different religions to so many different Gods. Because our Christianity has been relatively safe from criticism and competing philosophies up until recent times, we’re not used to having to find God and God’s truth through the competing noise. Our defense is knowledge, Paul’s admonition to study the Word so well that we can ‘divide it rightly the word of truth’, or ‘accurately handling’ as some versions of the Bible interpret that.  

The third part of the answer to why there is so much doubt is the moral decline that America is experiencing now. The phrase ‘everyone is doing it’ seems like a legitimate excuse. Our defense is knowing that their is fundamental right and wrong; even a thief knows that stealing is wrong; a liar knows that lying is wrong; a murderer knows that killing is wrong.

Well, that’s a look at the basic question of answering why there is so much doubt in this world today. In my next post, I’ll continue on with Bobby Conway’s ‘One Minute Apologist’ videos.

Who Am I To Judge Another When I Myself Walk Imperfectly

A follower of Rocky’s Ramblings asked me to share some thoughts on this topic some time back, and I thought it was particularly appropriate to our current national situation, so I’m re-sharing. At the outset, we need to recognize that this theme actually contains two statements: ‘who am I to judge’ and ‘I walk imperfectly. I’m going to separate the two and then pull them back together at the end.

The first part of that statement sounds like the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.”  At first glance, Jesus seems to be admonishing us to go about living our lives, turning a blind eye to the spiritual needs of others.  After all, would that not require that we judge them as needing spiritual help?  Is Jesus absolving us of any responsibility for lives falling apart around us – to ‘live and let live’ lest we be guilty of judging?  To answer that question, we must understand that ‘to live and let live’, is more accurately ‘to live and let die’…the very opposite of our Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).  Yes, Jesus does tell us here to ‘not judge’.  But, He was not telling us to simply allow immeasurable mayhem and false teaching to go unchecked – in the spiritual or political realm, in our churches or families.  Clearly, Jesus has a deeper message about judging, which requires that we dig deeper to find it.    

Jesus continues in the very next verse with, “For in the way (emphasis added) you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:2)  Drop down a few verses to Matthew 7:6, and see that Jesus, in the same lesson, admonishes us not to give what is holy to dogs and not to throw pearls before swine.  I don’t think he’s talking about tossing valuable jewelry to the family pets or livestock.  So, clearly, we must be able to discern (make a judgment call) as to what or who He is calling dogs and the swine.  Hop on over to John 7:24, also the words of Jesus, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”  So, Jesus teaches us to ‘judge not’ AND to ‘judge rightly’.  So, it is clearly not as simple as saying that we should never make ‘judgments.’ There are good Biblical reasons to use good discernment – to make judgment calls -at some level.

The second part of that theme, ‘…when I myself walk imperfectly’, sounds a lot like Matthew 7:4, again, the words of Jesus Christ, “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?” At first glimpse it seems to agree with the ‘judge not’ doctrine that we just tagged as wrongly applied. But, here’s a quandry: if we are not to judge, and we are to live and let live (die), then what allows us to judge ourselves as walking imperfectly? What does that even mean? But, that’s a much bigger question, and one for another day.

Let’s go back to Matthew 7:4 and look to the very next verse, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  Should we NOT help our brother with the speck in his eye?  Notice that Jesus says, FIRST take the log out of your own eye, THEN you can see to take the speck from your brother’s eye.  What Jesus was actually telling us all through Matthew 7:1-8 is that we SHOULD be working toward helping our brother with their spiritual needs.  But, that begins by cleaning up our own lives, lest we deal with our brother’s as hypocrites.

As Christians, we are to live our lives in accordance to what we say we believe.  In fact, Peter admonishes us by referring back to Leviticus, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:14-16) If we are not striving to do so, we are rightly indicted of hypocrisy when trying to ‘remove the speck’ from our brother’s eye and to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with nonbelievers.  From this perspective, we should take this theme as a challenge to live our lives so that we have proper standing to say, as Paul did in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”

by Rocky Rockwell, RockysRamblings.com