Path for Mere Christians – Module One
Teach them to observe all that I commanded you.
A true athlete longing to finish the race and run to victory over all the competition must have a comprehensive overview of every aspect of the event. It is not enough to know how far one has to run or what kind of shoes to wear. Running is an art that requires discipline, passion, a knowledge of the rules of engagement, an understanding of pace, a commitment to training, a study of the human body, and many other factors which contribute to ultimate success and victory. Winners gradually see the entire scope of the race that is set before them, after which they may begin the long and arduous journey of preparation and training.
The Purpose of Module 1
Module One Objectives
Recommended Yearly Schedule
The Pilgrim’s Progress
|Week – Topic/Chapters
|To encourage believers to learn how to adore God and live solely for His glory
|1 – God’s Glory
|Man’s Chief End: God’s Glory by Thomas Watson
|First Semester: Knowing God by J. I. Packer
|To prepare believers for the process of personal transformation into the image of Jesus Christ
|2 – God’s Word
3 – Spiritual Disciplines
4 – Accountability
5 – Life Together
6 – Prayer
7 – Great Commission
|To prepare believers to uncover the rich spiritual insights present in The Pilgrim’s Progress
|8 – Allegory
|How to Read The Pilgrim’s Progress
|Second Semester: True Spirituality by Francis Schaeffer
|The Christian Life
|To understand the true nature of the Christian life and how to live by grace in the power of the Holy Spirit
|9-33 – Chapters 1-25
|The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
Summer Reading Topic: Spiritual Disciplines.
The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard. Optional: Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
The idea of a comprehensive overview was important to the Apostle Paul. “Do you not know,” he writes to the Corinthians, “that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win” (I Cor. 9:24). Using familiar athletic terms from the Olympic and Isthmian Games of his day, he urges his readers to lift their eyes to see beyond the physical and temporal races of this world to an infinitely more important one: the race for eternal life. For the winner of the earthly race, the prize consists of a perishable wreath, while the victor in the race for eternal life secures an imperishable one (vs. 25). The participants in the athletic competitions of any generation are limited to those who are endowed with certain physical attributes, unusual talents, and drive. However, in the race toward eternity, every person, without exception, must participate in the race. Paul understands his audience and their knowledge of the Greek games and exhorts them to embrace a worldview that corresponds to reality, namely, to admit that their race is spiritual, that they will not live forever in the flesh, and that what they do in this life really counts for all eternity.
Consider John the Baptist. In speaking to the Jews at Pisidian Antioch on his first missionary journey, Paul mentions John. He tells them that “while John was completing his course, he kept saying, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not He. But behold, one is coming after me the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie’” (Acts 13:25). John’s life and mission was tied to the mission of the Messiah. Upon Jesus’ arrival, John’s work – the course of his life – ended. His life was coterminous with his mission. Paul uses the same language when speaking about his own life. “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). And near the end of his life, Paul spoke in the past tense: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4:7). By using the same language in all three references, Paul is clearly representing the life we have been given to live on earth as our course. Once we have completed our course, or fulfilled our God-given purpose, the Psalmist confirms that life as we have known it comes to an end. He euphemistically sums up our departure from this world by writing, “we fly away” (Ps. 90:10).
We only have one life to live, one race to run. Everyone knows this. It is a short race, as James reminded us: “You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). During these brief years, we are called upon to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, to “lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us,” and “run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of faith…” (Heb. 12:1-2).
The Purpose of Module 1
Module One is designed to help you gain a comprehensive overview of the Christian life and to prepare you to run the race the Lord has given you to run for His ultimate glory. Once you have gained a clear, biblical understanding of the true nature of the Christian life, you will be better equipped to live out each part of your daily story in the light of God’s revealed Word and by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit.
Module One Objectives
There are four established objectives for Module One:
- To encourage believers to learn how to adore God and live solely for His glory;
- To prepare believers for the process of personal transformation into the image of Jesus Christ;
- To prepare believers to uncover the rich spiritual insights present in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress; and
- To understand the true nature of the Christian life and how to live by grace in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Recommended Yearly Schedule
By meeting once per week, Module One may be completed in 33 weeks, 63% of the 52 weeks each of us has been given each year. This schedule assumes a nine-month calendar and, historically, is a proven pattern for learning and growth, beginning in September and extending through May of the following year. During this period, one break occurs in the fall, two at Christmas, and one in the spring. The summers are available for further development and growth opportunities.
This pattern for discipleship should be amended according to national or local concerns.
In Module One, the Orientation is eight weeks long and is designed to help each believer build a solid biblical foundation for immediate and long-term spiritual growth. The importance of each of these weeks may be briefly summarized as follows:
- Week 1: God’s Glory. Using Thomas Watson’s Man’s Chief End: God’s Glory, the sole purpose of every person’s life, as shown in Scripture, is demonstrated with great clarity and grace. From the very beginning of the discipling process, believers should learn how to live God-centered (theocentric) and Christ-centered (Christocentric) lives rather than living for self (man-centered).
- Week 2: God’s Word. During this session, believers will be shown the importance of hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on God’s Word.
- Week 3: Spiritual Disciplines. Introducing the spiritual disciplines at the beginning of one’s spiritual pilgrimage is a vital aspect of learning to walk with Christ. At this stage, a few of the disciplines will be introduced, including Bible study, personal worship, prayer, worship, fellowship, and kingdom service.
- Week 4: Accountability. For too many people, the word accountability has, unfortunately, become synonymous with pressure, fear, and shame. During this session, authentic biblical accountability will be discussed and shown to be the true help and joy it was intended to be for believers who long to be in relationship with others who can assist them as they make their journey to the Celestial City (heaven).
- Week 5: Fellowship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a significant book called Life Together, in which he discussed the richness of Christian fellowship. Noting that God’s people are “held together solely in Jesus Christ,” he demonstrates the privilege believers have “to live in visible fellowship with other Christians.” An important part of the discipling process is encouraging believers to love one another from the heart.
- Week 6: Prayer. During this part of the Orientation, believers will be encouraged to devote themselves to prayer, including praise and adoration, thanksgiving, confession, intercession, and petition. Prayer is one of the means of grace and is necessary for life transformation in Christ.
- Week 7: Evangelism. Once the Samaritan woman had encountered Jesus at the well, she invited the people of her own city to “Come, see a man, who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?” God used her just after her conversion to lead many to the Savior: “And from that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman” (John 4:29,39). It is important to begin encouraging and training believers to share their faith with others – from the very beginning of their relationship with Christ.
- Week 8: How to Read The Pilgrim’s Progress. Anyone who wants more than a surface understanding of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress would benefit greatly from having a working knowledge of allegories and metaphors. In this final week of Orientation, then, each person will be asked to read and discuss a nine-page essay entitled “How to Read The Pilgrim’s Progress.” Leaning on the insights of literary scholars C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, and others, this essay makes the argument that “the story itself carries moral weight and, by the operations of the Holy Spirit, may be used to bring about both inner and outer transformation.” Once the literary vehicle (allegory) Bunyan used to carry his message is understood, the path to the Celestial City will become clearer and the principles of personal transformation by the grace of God made plain.
The Pilgrim’s Progress
From weeks 9 through 33 (25 weeks), believers will read The Pilgrim’s Progress, leaving the City of Destruction with Christian and following him as he makes his way to the Celestial City (heaven). It bears repeating, that the objective of this study is “to understand the true nature of the Christian life and how to live by grace in the power of the Holy Spirit.” Almost every conceivable issue that believers face in this life are raised and addressed by John Bunyan in this classic allegory. Consequently, it offers great insights about personal transformation and succeeds in accomplishing the goal of providing a comprehensive overview of the Christian life. The wisdom and insights gained from this study tend to become lodged in the hearts and minds of believers, like barbed arrows, and accompany them throughout life until they cross over the river and enter into the eternal life that Jesus came to freely give to those who believe on His name.
In addition to the book, the webpage on The Pilgrim’s Progress contains 56 explanatory lectures, a chronology of Bunyan’s life, a brief biography of Bunyan by Frank Boreham, memory verses for each chapter, and more.
Since its publication in 1973, J.I. Packer’s book, Knowing God, has shaped the lives of millions of people around the world. During the first semester of Module One, believers are encouraged to read this classic at their own pace. In the Forward to his book, Packer shares with his readers that “the conviction behind the book is that ignorance of God – ignorance both of his ways and of the practice of communion with him – lies at the root of much of the church’s weakness today.” Reading and studying this work will help any believer know and serve the only living and true God – the self-revealing God of the Scriptures.
The second supplementary reading is True Spirituality by Francis Schaeffer. As the subtitle suggests, it is about “how to live for Jesus moment by moment.” In his opening sentence, Schaeffer states that “the question before us is what the Christian life, true spirituality, really is, and how it may be lived in a twentieth-century (now, 21st) “setting.” This book offers vital insights for every believer who wants to understand how to live for the glory of God.
Module One is specifically designed for any believer who desires to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, a follower of His words and His ways. The primary goal is to help each person grow to maturity in Christ by building a strong biblical foundation that will endure to the end of his or her life. The curriculum is built on several classic works – the best in their fields – in order to foster personal transformation and develop ministry skills for fulfilling the Great Commandment (Mt. 22:37-40), the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20), and the Cultural Mandate (Gen. 1:28). Where these works are unavailable, prayerfully consider substituting other significant books and essays that would be instrumental in establishing a biblical foundation and in shaping the lives of believers into the image of Christ.