The Declarations That Define Us

One of our favorite Bible teachers, Lisa Harper, is coming to FaithGateway for our next community Online Bible Study (OBS) – Believing Jesus: A Journey Through the Book of Acts – and we’re thrilled to give you an early glimpse today of the first session. You’re going to love it! In this OBS you’ll dive into studying what it means to believe Jesus… not just believe in Jesus, but actually believe what He said. How would that affect the choices we make? The way we see the world? The way we conduct ourselves with other Christians?

In Believing Jesus, Lisa Harper invites you to answer these questions by looking at the lives of the believers in Acts and how Jesus’ command to spread the gospel forever shaped their lives. You will hear how Peter turned tables on his Benedict-Arnold behavior and became a church-building saint when the power of the Holy Spirit came over him. How the first believers were so gifted at giving they made Santa look bush league. How it cost Stephen and other early believers their very lives to follow Christ. And how Paul’s case proves God’s grace can change the worst of sinners, making us willing to have our lives interrupted by God and boldly share the gospel to the world.

Do you have a Bible Study for the New Year? It’s not too late to join ours! The OBS starts next week, so now’s the time to sign up and get your free downloads to get started! We’re going to have such a great time together!

>> Learn more and get your FREE downloads

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Now hear from Lisa…

Introduction: Session One

(Luke 24:1-53; Acts 1:1-26)

Fear and disillusionment. Courage and commitment. Intense emotion and unbridled passion. The ultimate risk of life in exchange for undeserved grace and a treasured spot in eternity. An example for billions of people who would follow the same road centuries and millennia later. An all-out quest by a growing number of believers to risk everything to spread Jesus Christ’s message around the world. The Book of Acts. Wow. 

Yes, that’s it. That is the book we are about to dig into for the next eight weeks, and it embodies all of those things.

This study is called Believing Jesus, because from Acts 1:1 to 28:31, believing Jesus is the core value that marked every believer in the first church. At the end of this journey together, not only will you have studied an amazing book of the Bible, but you will also see how God supernaturally orchestrated the events in Scripture — from the Old Testament to the New Testament — to bring about the message of salvation that the early believers preached in the book of Acts. You will also see how so much of the gospel that is preached in Acts, and continues to be preached today, has had such a profound impact on our culture.

When you choose to believe Jesus — and act on those beliefs — things begin to shift, lives change, and the world is never the same.

The stories you read on every page of the book of Acts begin to become your own. So let’s journey together through the stories of the first church — the first gathering of “The Way” (as Christianity was called back then) — and see what kind of wild adventures await those who truly believe Jesus.

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Welcome 

Welcome to the first session of Believing Jesus: A Journey Through the Book of Acts.

To get things started, consider the following question…

The book of Acts is about choosing risk over comfort. What are some examples of doing that in our everyday lives?

Watch the Video: Session One 

Play the video teaching segment for Session 1. As you watch, use the following outline to record any thoughts or concepts that stand out to you.

Notes

The book of Acts is not “relaxing” — it is a wild, adventurous, and risk-taking kind of book.

Luke, a first-century physician, wrote both the gospel that bears his name and the book of Acts. He is the only known non-Jewish (or “Gentile”) writer in the Bible.

The gospel of Luke and the book of Acts were originally one book and were meant to be read as two parts of the same story. The gospel of Luke ends with the story of Jesus’ resurrection, which sets up the events that follow in Acts.

Three days after Jesus’ physical death, Mary Magdalene — a devoted follower of Christ whom Jesus had healed completely of demons — went to the tomb and discovered it empty. She talked to a man she at first thought was the gardener but then realized was Christ. She went back to tell the disciples that Jesus was alive, but they thought it was an “idle” tale.

Luke tells us that Jesus didn’t immediately go back to heaven after His resurrection but hung out on the earth for forty days. During this time, the Gospels record ten separate occurrences of Jesus appearing to the disciples and to more than a hundred people.

In Acts 1, Luke tells us that before Jesus went up (or “ascended”) into heaven, He made two declarative statements to His followers: (1) they would receive power from the Holy Spirit, and (2) they would be His witnesses.

These statements became the foundation of the early church and the scaffolding that frames the rest of the New Testament.

Jesus didn’t qualify these statements. He said that everyone who puts their hope in Him would receive the power of the Holy Spirit, and this power would compel them to be His witnesses and impact the world around them.

If we could just rest in the reality that Jesus loves us — that we have been given power from the Holy Spirit and can be His witnesses to this lost and dying world — it will change everything.

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Discussion Questions

Take some time to consider what you just watched and explore these concepts in Scripture.

1. Why is it significant that Luke, the writer of Acts, was a Gentile?

2. What does Luke tell us about Mary Magdalene? Why was she so committed to Jesus?

3. Why didn’t the disciples believe Mary and the other women when they told them that Jesus had risen from the dead?

4. What was Peter’s reaction to the news? What do we learn about him in Luke 24?

5. What kind of kingdom did the disciples expect Jesus to bring? How was that different from what He actually brought?

6. Why are Jesus’ two declarations in Acts 1 — that those who follow Him would receive power from the Holy Spirit and be His witnesses — so central to our faith?

7. When you hear “receive the power from the Holy Spirit,” what does that mean to you? What qualification did Jesus make about those who could receive this power?

8. What would it look like in your life today to be Jesus’ witness to this world?

Read or skim through some of the gospel of Luke, the book that shares an author with Acts. What stories of Jesus on earth are most interesting to you? Before the crucifixion and resurrection, what miracles stand out to you? Write down which stories are your favorites.

Prayer for Today

God, thank you for Your written Word. We are grateful for people like Dr. Luke who took time to write down details about the life of Jesus and the early church. Give us ears to hear Your truths in the pages of Acts and eyes to see what it looks like to believe Jesus.

Recommended Reading

Read chapter 1, “The Cost of Discipleship,” in Believing Jesus. 

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Your Turn

Share some of your answers and observations with us on our blog! We would love to hear from you!

Lisa Harper

Rarely are the terms hilarious storyteller and theological scholar used in the same sentence, much less used to describe the same person... but then again, Lisa Harper is anything but stereotypical! She has been lauded as a gifted communicator, whose writing and speaking overflows with colorful pop culture references that connect the dots between the Bible era and modern life. Her style combines sound scriptural exposition with easy-to-relate to anecdotes and comedic wit. For six years Lisa was the national women’s ministry director at Focus on the Family, followed by six years as the women’s ministry director at a large church. The author of nine books, with a Masters of Theological Studies from Covenant Seminary, Lisa is a featured speaker with Women of Faith.

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