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The Greatest Story Never Told: part 5 by Ron Habermas
How Jesus’ Human Example Empowers Us to be Fully Human Today
Blog #5 (of 5): "How Do We Start Emulating Jesus’ Example of Maturity?"
Jean Piaget, a mid-twentieth century Swiss psychologist noted for his theories on cognitive development, concluded that children tend to progress through four sequential phases of mental maturity. Whenever he came to the United States, he was invariable asked what became known as The American Question (actually it was two related inquires): First, can we accelerate the pace of a child’s learning? Second, can we skip a learning phase? Piaget assured his listeners that neither could happen.
In the same way, comprehensive godly maturity takes time. We can never fast-forward quality development. Jesus’ entire life modeled this fact.
But where do we start? How do we begin the lifelong process of emulating Jesus’ humanity? This last blog opens with key questions based upon the first four days, by way of summary. Next, a model from Jesus’ maturing life is introduced, followed by a related curriculum example. Finally, a closing challenge is offered.
Key Questions for Creating a Game Plan of Maturity
The sum of the following questions—and your personalized answers—are intended to frame the primary issues related to securing Christian maturity in your particular location.
Questions Based Upon Blog #1
1. Paraphrase the first half of Athanasius’ wisdom: "Jesus because like us…" Avoid church jargon by only using terms that "the person on the street" understands.
2. List two or three areas of Jesus’ (sin-free) human life with which you struggle. Be specific. Why do you think you have these struggles?
3. What do you tend to do when these struggles resurface?
4. Explain what you think the Apostle Paul means in I Corinthians 11:1.
Questions Based Upon Blog #2
6. Pretend you were explaining Jesus’ total Example to another believer. How would you accomplish this task, by using Ted Ward’s Hand Model?
7. Put the doctrine of kenosis in your own words.
8. Give one specific illustration of how the kenosis doctrine enables you to understand and to confront your personal task of Christlikeness.
Questions Based Upon Blog #3
9. How would you explain the value of the Biblical concept "age-appropriate" to a Christian young couple, who have just had their first child? Provide at least two illustrations within your explanation.
10. Repeat the ninth question, inserting the concept "holism" for "age-appropriate".
11. Provide one reason why each (of four) discipline may assist in your own maturation.
12. Review the four sources of learning, then list one potential danger (for each source) that may actually prevent maturity within a Christ-follower.
Questions Based Upon Blog #4
13. Select one of the three sets of influential authority for Christian maturity discussed. In three sentences, describe your selection and its relevance. Be specific.
14. In light of your comments from #13, what practical suggestion would you make to leaders of your church or fellowship, pertaining to maturity? Give at least one particular suggestion.
15. Paraphrase your understanding of the second (of three) base of influential authority.
16. How did this second base of authority promote Jesus’ maturity?
17. Why is the third base of authority especially valuable to Christian maturity? Give at least three or four reasons.
18. Practically-speaking, what are some qualities within an environment of nurture that encourage personal ownership (e.g., interpersonal trust)? Provide at least four qualities and explain each in one sentence.
A Particular Model for Emulation
From Blog #4, recall that the three bases of influential authority are linked with (but are not restricted to) three life cycles: once-per-lifetime; once-per-year; and once-per-week. When merged with the three major age groups, a 3x3 matrix chart is generated like the one below, in order to plan for nurture within Christian community. (The "youth" age was inserted to be more culturally-appropriate for today’s Western Church):
A.I.M. Plans for Christian Maturity
As an acrostic, A.I.M. symbolizes an "activity-instruction-maturity" statement. That is, A.I.M. is a pertinent event that introduces appropriate teaching prompting godly maturity.
Three Authorities and Life Cycles
Mentoring and Once-per-Year
Ownership and Once-per-Week
It may be helpful for you to select one of the three age groups and fill in the three connected (horizontal) boxes. That is, provide a meaningful "activity-instruction-maturity" (A.I.M.) statement per box, which attempts to nurture the individual for whom it is designed. Or you might want to read the example below and then complete your three boxes.
One Curriculum Example of Activity–Instruction–Maturity (A.I.M.)
The following illustration is based upon a true story I witnessed, which I have since expanded. It focuses on young teens who are entering their high school education (whether public, private, or home schooling). The reason I selected this specific case for the curriculum example is that it portrays a significant time of life, filled with an unusual increase in challenges, privileges, and responsibilities. This case study also represents boxes #4, #5, and #6. That is, the "activity" is once-in-a-lifetime; it stresses mentoring; and the process involves frequent meetings. The purpose for this once-in-a-lifetime curricular event (called "Piling On") is to honor each young teen’s rite of passage into high school by the local community of believers. It is also designed to provide that teen with useful relational assistance from within the local Body of Christ, throughout his first year.
• Activity: "Piling On"
This name derives from the field of sports, and it is exhibited whenever a major victory occurs. In these instances, team members "pile on" key players, as their celebration begins.
• Instruction: I Timothy 4:11-16
The pastor or church leader identifies all young teens who are starting high school. They are invited to the front of the church and seated. He introduces each person, their family, and their Christian journey. He exegetes the passage above (or one like it), adding personal references from these youth’s lives to illustrate his major points.
• Maturity: Mentoring Match-Up
Because of the significance of mentors in each early adolescent’s life, one mature teen (high school upperclassman or college-aged teen) of the same gender is paired with a young teen. Each mentor’s immediate duty in this public service is to give a brief personal challenge to his/her youth. Then the collective group of mentors lay their hands on their teens (thus the phrase "piling on") and pray aloud for them. Throughout that school year the subsequent relationship of this pair centers on regular meetings (of various kinds) that promote godly nurture. The curricular agenda rotates around the five areas in which youth learn to "set an example," according toI Timothy 4:12:
• in speech
• in life
• in love
• in faith
• in purity
End of the school year assessment of each pair brings accountability, while establishing a means by which future "piling on" plans are strengthened.
Challenge: Where Do We Go From Here?
The first blog on Monday introduced the series’ objective: "to provide a sufficient overview of Jesus’ Example in God’s Image, to encourage Christ-followers to become more like Him." This objective was particularly challenging because it demanded a working knowledge of our Lord’s complete humanity—which is scarcely described in resources and more rarely understood by the saints.
Next, this objective was especially tough to accomplish because the helpful doctrine of kenosis is hardly ever employed to comprehend Jesus’ Example.
Finally, this series’ objective faced several obstacles because we believers infrequently think within the necessary biblical boundaries required to be fully Christlike. For example, when it comes to spiritual disciplines, we seem satisfied to settle for tried-and-true topics from familiar disciplines like prayer, and then effortlessly conclude: "Jesus prayed like this…so we should, too." That’s often the sum of our contemplations and plans for attaining Christlikeness.
But God’s Word features Jesus’ Example of maturity through more and larger categories.
In light of that fact, consider the last five inquiries as topics that may influence your personal response to the closing question, "Where do we go from here?" The future of the Church, as it pertains to the depth of our Christian maturity, never starts with collective decisions but with private choices. It starts with one-person-at-a-time resolutions.
Consequently, to realize how "Jesus became like us" in order that "we might become like Him," we must each ask, "How will I personally emulate Christ’s Example…
# 1 …by creating lifelong maturity models for every age?"
# 2 …by providing insights for nurture and growth in every human domain, integrated by the spiritual life?"
# 3 …by highlighting different, yet complementary, centers of authority for maturation?"
# 4 …by applying kenosis to our Lord’s life, so that each disciple creatively customizes a pertinent plan for maturity?" and
# 5 …by accessing the power the Trinity, just as Christ trusted the enablement of the Father and the Holy Spirit?"
May God bless His obedient and persevering children.
For more information visit www.Zondervan.com/icef
Dr. Ronald Habermas is professor of biblical studies and Christian formation at John Brown University and a member of the North American Professors of Christian Education. He holds degrees from William Tyndale College, North American Baptist Seminary, Wheaton Graduate School, and Michigan State University. Dr. Habermas is the author of many journal articles and several books including The Complete Disciple and Introduction to Christian Education and Formation. He and his family live in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.
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