“What are 5 things that impacted you the most from the people who studied the bible with you?” I was asked that once by a minister and it stumped me for a second. I wanted to answer that question with authenticity and from a real place, fighting off the temptation of looking for the best or correct answers as my brain often does automatically.
What were the characteristics or values that inspired me the most? I know I definitely wasn’t looking for God’s word let alone applying them to my life and seeking change. I know I was extremely prideful, cold, and shut down emotionally when it came to a relationship with God. At times, if I’m honest, I can still be prideful, cold, and shut down emotionally with my relationship with God. Just being honest
God pursued me and His words will not return empty, but what were the things that really broke through the walls in my heart and how did the disciples around me play a part in all of that?
This is what I’ve come up with. My 5 things that impacted me the most with the people who studied the bible with me all those years ago. This is part of God’s story in how He sought me out and won my heart, mind, soul, and strength for the rest of my life.
1. Friendship Before Conversion
In my case, the old adage was very true to my story: People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. This was probably one of the biggest single factors that influenced me to surrender my life to God.
One brother in particular was brave enough to love me as a friend over trying to convert me to the faith. Living in Los Angeles, CA for two years at that point, authenticity of character and friendship were something that I desired. I don’t have this jaded perception that LA is full of shady people, but in my case, I did run into quite a few personalities that I didn’t care to surround myself with if I didn’t have to. For someone who was my age with an authentic and genuine character, willing to offer his friendship to me even though I was explicitly clear that I was not looking to be “part of his church;” this broke through my defenses and meant more to me than anything anyone could have said to me at the time.
“They made me feel safe and accepted whether or not I wanted to become a disciple at the moment. It felt very real.”
Some people were more concerned about “getting me to the waters” than how I was really doing and who I really am. At least, that is how it came off as I was asked that question almost on a daily basis.
It took me struggling through the discouragement of being asked when I was going to get baptized over my general well-being, and having a balance of different people who just wanted me to feel like I belong, to help me funnel through my insecurities and want to pursue a relationship with God.
They wanted to genuinely spend time with me. They showed me they cared for me just as much as they cared about me becoming a disciple. They welcomed me into their homes, to celebrate holidays and special occasions with their families, and truly loved me and extended grace to me just as much as God had done for them. They made me feel safe and accepted whether or not i wanted to become a disciple at the time. It felt very real.
2. Their Personal Relationship With Jesus
They shared their relationship with Jesus with me along with all that came with it: struggles, encouragements, failures, victories, amazement, challenges, etc. This helped me to see what it would mean for me to have my own relationship with Jesus and ultimately develop a desire to have a relationship with Him.
It’s hard to be an authentic example. We always want to be as best of an example as we could be in our relationships with people. The men and women who were around me weren’t concerned too much about being “good” examples, at least they did a good job of not showing it.
“The openness and realness of their day-to-day relationship with Christ has changed the eternal trajectory of my life.”
They believed in being an authentic example whether they were aware of it or not. Even a “bad” example of a disciple is still an “example” that tells it’s own story and can have an everlasting impact. At least it did for me! These men and women tried their very best to please God in everything they did, but they weren’t afraid to be real about the process. If they weren’t doing so well, they weren’t afraid to talk about it, in some cases, weren’t afraid to show it.
Of course, I don’t condone running wild and openly being disobedient to the Lord under the name of “struggling spiritually,” but what I learned from their genuine example is to trust God and be faithful to Him. I learned that even though we might not be doing so hot at different points in our discipleship, it’s not up to me to do everything right all the time. If I believe that God is sovereign, then I shouldn’t walk around thinking that my “good” examples are the only thing that can help someone become a disciple. The bible is full of “good” and “bad” examples and both examples serve a larger purpose in God’s story. Neither is more than the other and neither can be as impactful without the other.
I’m grateful, blessed, and honored to have grown up spiritually in an environment of disciples who weren’t afraid of being real about their relationship with Jesus. I already had anxieties and a negative attitude of fake people especially being someone who was hyper-sensitive to the negative stereotypes of Christians; the openness and realness of their day-to-day relationship with Christ has changed the eternal trajectory of my life.
3. Love of Knowledge
They shared things that they were learning. Not only was my spiritual family studying the word of God, but they were also studying many other subjects and non-Christian material such as politics, poetry, history, culture, etc. They saw how knowledge informed their faith and wisdom helped them be more compassionate as Christ was when He looked into the crowds and saw the people were harassed and helpless (Matthew 9:36).
“Those with enough humility to pursue knowledge led me to want to learn what it meant to be humble before God.”
Through their sharing with me what they were learning and how it was impacting their life, I was able to see the passion and zeal behind what they believed in which inspired me to want to have something to be just as passionate for.
They weren’t always right nor did they always figure things out, but just seeing their passion for what they were studying was very inspiring to me. I think as Christians we add this pressure onto ourselves to have it all figured out or to know more than the next guy. But when I look back to my spiritual upbringing as well as in the infancy stages of my discipleship, those with the “right” answers weren’t the ones who necessarily inspired and influenced my faith. Those with enough humility to pursue knowledge led me to want to learn what it meant to be humble before God.
4. Shared The Bible With Me
You might think this is an obvious, no-brainer, but watching how other people question, learn, wonder, and transform because of the scriptures on their own had a profound impact on my relationship with God. Watching how my new friends revered, honored, respected, and applied the scriptures to their lives on a personal level – rather than direction from someone in leadership – inspired me to want to dig into the bible and build my own convictions and relationship with God.
“Their lives made following Jesus a possibility for me and that I can be a disciple despite what I’ve done and who I thought I was.”
They shared their intellect as a Christian with me. Showing me the good, the bad, and the ugly about their walk with God and being a part of this church through the guidance and obedience to God’s word. That helped me to make sense of my own feelings toward “church” and “God.” They didn’t have it all figured out, but sharing what they learned and how passionate they were about what they were talking about helped to soften my heart toward christ.
They weren’t scholars of the bible. They weren’t experts in the law. They weren’t teachers or ordained clergy of a secret society. They were ordinary, young people who desired to know Jesus and discover what His sacrifice means to them and their lives. Making Jesus Lord of their lives and continuing that proclamation by training themselves to be obedient to the bible in all circumstances helped me see who Jesus is in real life and helped me realize that I don’t need to be afraid of following Him, their lives made following Jesus a possibility for me and that I can be a disciple despite what I’ve done and who I thought I was.
5. Strong, Deep Convictions
‘Til this day, I’m still amazed at the convictions of some of my friends, at such a young age, with all that the world has to throw at young men and women. I’m still struggling to have the kind of conviction on godliness, purity, holiness, integrity, etc. that the disciples had around me when I was growing up spiritually.
“What it took back then to make a disciple is still what it takes to make a disciple today.”
If I’m honest with myself, I didn’t want to understand it and had little respect for it as a young Christian. Now that I’m older in the faith, their example and devotion to God’s heart and thoughts back then, cuts deep in my heart today and continues to challenge me to be a man of my word to my Lord.
The convictions that they had for their lives and the realness of their daily struggles helped me to desire convictions for my own life. If it weren’t for men and women like them living out their faith in Christ as if their very lives depended on it, regardless if I agreed with them at the time or not, I would not be the man or disciple that I am today and I would not have the heart for God’s kingdom and his righteousness that I do either.
Teach People How To Make Jesus Lord
If there’s anything that I’ve learned from those who studied the bible with me all those years ago, along with the disciples who were living out their Christianity around me, it’s that what it took back then to make a disciple is still what it takes to make a disciple today.
Spending some time to remember what impacted me the most about the men and women who helped me develop my relationship with Jesus has been inspiring for my soul. It challenges my character to consider if my life is making the same kind of impact and it humbles me to wonder if I’m now, nine years later, anywhere near the convictions that my older spiritual siblings were when I was first coming around.
This is part of my story. Hopefully you can relate to some of it or maybe have completely different characteristics that inspired and impacted you on your journey to a faith in Jesus Christ. I would love to hear about the 5 things that impacted you the most from the people who studied the bible with you!
My goal this year is to help people tell their story about their relationship with God. Our testimonies are one of the most powerful stories that anyone can hear no matter how dull you might think it is. Our lives tell God’s story in his relentless pursuit of our hearts and a saving relationship with us. I would love to hear your story and help you find ways to share your faith with anyone that you meet in any creative way that you would like to.
Leave a comment below of your 5 things or feel free to email me your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.