This study guide examines the idea that before we can follow Jesus in our own lives, we must first understand the amazing love and grace shown to us through His sacrifice of dying for our sins.
The study moves through five steps to aid us in our understanding and further our relationship with Jesus and how to consistently follow him.
Message from Marsh: “May your personal walk with the Lord lead you to be transformed, renewed and blessed.”
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How to Consistently Follow Jesus
(www.mensgroup.org – “Original Study”)
The message of the Bible is that man is born a sinner and therefore, man naturally sins. God absolutely hates sin and if we continue sinning, we become estranged from God and the good news of the Gospel. The fact is that God hates sin so much, he sent his only son to die for our sins. When Jesus died on the cross, our sins were buried with Him. He arose from the dead in three days and now sits at the right hand of God interceding for us as sinners because we are believers.
Before we can work toward consistently following Jesus in our lives, we first have to understand the amazing love and infinite grace exhibited when Jesus paid the penalty for our sins on the cross. The love of Jesus is unconditional and everlasting. Our love for Him should be so strong there is nothing, nothing in the world we would not do for Him.
A simple prayer before reading Scripture searching for answers that will comfort and guide us: “Lord, our prayer is that you help us to have an eternal perspective of your amazing love for us. We need your help in consistently loving and following you as we face daily trials and other forces in the world that can draw us apart from Jesus.”
Scripture Reference Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV) As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, ² in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. ³ All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. ⁴ But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, ⁵ made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. ⁶ And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, ⁷ in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. ⁸ For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— ⁹ not by works, so that no one can boast. ¹⁰ For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:1-10 can be broken into three parts. Verses 1-3 talk about our appalling state of sin before Jesus saved us. Verses 4-7 explain our present circumstances on earth. Verses 8 and 9 describe the truth of how we are saved. Verse 10 addresses how we should live our life.
This study will focus on Verse 10 but before proceeding, some study questions regarding Verses 1- 3. What do you think about these three verses that outlines the bad news of our sin? Because of our natural tendency as human beings to sin, what do you think about the fact that God needed to save us by sending his only son to die for us on the cross? Why do you believe what you are saying?
Verses 4-7 describes and wonderfully illuminates that we are saved from our sin by the grace of God. We are not saved by what we do or by our good works on earth. We are saved by God’s grace and mercy. It is only through our faith in Him we are saved. Do you believe this? Why or why not?
Verses 8 and 9 describe the truth of how we are saved. How are we saved? Is it through works (what we do) or a gift from God? Why do you believe or why not?
Verse 10 says we are God’s handiwork, created to do good works for which God has prepared us in advance. But, how can we better grasp this concept to help us live the lives intended for us going forward? Are there any simple ideas or approaches that will insure we live the life intended for us by God and support us in consistently following Jesus for the rest of our lives?
Christian leaders for centuries have struggled with this same problem. More recently, Pastor John Piper put these steps into an acronym, APTAT* which stands for; Admit, Pray, Trust, Act and Thank. This simple approach can be used multiple times a day to keep us engaged with our Lord.
A-Admit: I must admit that without Jesus I can do nothing. John 15:5 (NIV) says; I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. We must admit and believe we are helpless to do anything of significance or spiritual worth in any way without Jesus. What do you think about this? Do you believe this?
P-Pray: If I admit I can do nothing without God’s help, then, I must ask myself for His help and direction. This is called prayer. The Bible says in John 16:24 (NIV), Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. Check out James 4:2 and Psalm 50:15 where like hundreds of other places in the Bible, it stresses the power of prayer.
T-Trust: In reality, trust is at the heart of the matter. We must trust the promises of God in our lives and have absolute trust in God. This is called faith. As we love God at a deeper and deeper level, we learn to trust him more and more and develop faith in Him that no matter what we face in our lives today and in the future, everything will work out as He has planned.
Regarding trust in the Lord there are two verses in the Bible that clearly state the criticality of both trust and faith. In Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) it says, Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
What do you think about trust and faith? Do you trust God and do you have a strong enough faith to let go and trust Him every day, every week, every month and every year for the rest of your life?
Do you believe trust is such an important cornerstone of faith? Explain why you believe this.
A-Act: Finally, we get to the “act” part where we normally have a tendency to start. As human beings living in a stressful and demanding world, we can be conditioned to skip the first three steps and go directly to the “action” step. When we do this we operate on our own power and initiative, not God’s power. We haven’t paused, thought out or prayed for God’s guidance. When we do this it clearly means we trust our own initiative and wisdom, not God’s.
What do you think regarding the statement “jumping to the act stage?” Do you do that and why?
As we are thinking about this “act” stage, John Piper brings up a very critical point regarding the part God’s grace plays in how we learn to consistently follow Jesus for the rest of our lives. God’s grace is something we might not normally think much about. Many times we automatically think about “amazing grace” as something that has happened in the past.
God’s grace is much, much bigger than that. His grace is “always” with us in the past, in the present, the future and for eternity. Think about this for a moment. We will actually experience future grace. This means as we go about our daily lives and know that God’s grace is “always” with us.
For guidance and support read 1 Corinthians 15:10 (NIV) “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” We learn that through His grace God has prepared us for the future and fulfills what he has promised us. Does this knowledge of His grace help in trusting and having faith you will be able to consistently follow Jesus? If yes, why does this help you?
T-Thank: Thank God profusely for whatever comes to you. Sometimes when things are going well, we forget to thank God. Be sure to always thank Him and give Him all the glory. It says in Ephesians 5:20 (NIV) to “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
We have been studying how each of us can consistently follow Jesus and lead an authentic Christian life. As we have progressed through this study it has become readily apparent there are a multitude of daily and living life distractions that can detour us from our good intentions of following Jesus faithfully.
As we learned earlier there are many proven approaches derived over many centuries that can help us. One of the most recent is the APTAT * method by John Piper. The APTAT approach sums up what has worked for centuries and has helped individuals achieve both consistency and sustainability in following Jesus.
To succeed, the five steps of APTAT (Admit, Pray, Trust, Act and Thank) need to become a habit for us. It means we have to learn and practice the five steps every day for three to six months. Only by practicing the steps until they become second nature to us will this evolve into a daily habit and becomes key to consistently following Jesus year after year.
As stated earlier in this study, we have the propensity to jump directly to the “act” stage. But, if APTAT becomes a habit for us, we will learn to Admit, Pray and Trust before jumping into action. What are four ways you can start training yourself to pre-empt the rush to action? Be specific.
As APTAT becomes a habit, we will find ourselves falling in love with Jesus deeper and deeper every day. We will be walking with Him hand in hand and thus his wisdom, guidance and love will enable is to realize the life God planned for us, fulfilling our purpose on Earth.
All our Blessings,
Men’s Group Foundation, Inc.
(A mensgroup.org - “Original Study”)
Suggested Additional Resource:
* John Piper: https://www.desiringgod.org/a-p-t-a-t
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