Study 1 – Charting our Course

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Image ¸ gigi 62 ~ Flickr.com (CC BY- 3.0)

Small Group Studies

The Big Journey’s Small Group studies take you right through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation in just sixteen studies. Though written with small groups in view, they would also, of course, be useable for individual study.

Each study could comfortably be completed in a week’s study. At this pace, in just 4 months your group would go right through the Bible, getting to grips with its big picture and learning about some key themes and doctrines.

Each study consists of:

BAn introduction followed by Bible passages to read and around half a dozen questions to think about. The questions in this series of studies are designed primarily to help you learn about the Bible’s big picture and some key Bible doctrines.

BA Leader’s Guide – this gives guidance in answering each of the questions.

BA study guide, which goes more deeply into the subject area covered by the introduction.

The first Small Group Study follows. This introduces the whole Bible story. This study is also available in PDF form HERE. The Leader’s Guide is available HERE as a PDF document. The accompanying full study guide (it’s 12 pages long and goes into more detail) is available HERE as a PDF document.

Why this course?

BFirstly, we hope it will make the Bible story clearer. Many things in the Bible seem rather haphazard and obscure – especially in the Old Testament. But when we see them in the context of the whole story that the Bible tells, we see their true significance.

BWe hope it will help you to understand the Bible in a new way. We want to teach more than simply the Bible’s storyline. We hope that this course opens up a larger, richer understanding of the Bible – and of God, of ourselves as His people, and of the Universe He created.

BWe hope it will help you to explain to others what you believe and why you believe it – the Bible makes sense of life, the Universe and everything!

BWe hope it will help you in your personal walk with God. The stories of our own individual lives are part of God’s big story – the story that the Bible tells. So our lives only really make sense in the context of that story. From conception to dying moment and beyond, God has a purpose for us. God’s plans for His creation involve us, His people! And when we see how faithfully and purposefully God has dealt with His people through history, we can trust Him to do the same for each of us.

The Bible is, at its heart, a story. Its 66 books were written by around 40 authors over 1,500 years. It includes all kinds of literature – history and biographies, genealogies, legal codes and moral guidelines, songs and poems, prophecies and letters. But through them all runs a single story – a story that begins at Creation and continues into the New Creation.

And you’ve never heard a story like the one the Bible tells. Dorothy Sayers pronounced the Christian faith to be “the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man . . . .” It’s a drama played out on a cosmic stage, a drama that spans all eternity.

A Hindu scholar captured the wonder of the Bible’s message when he commented to the Christian missionary Lesslie Newbigin: “I can’t understand why you missionaries present the Bible to us in India as a book of religion. It is not a book of religion – and anyway we have plenty of books of religion in India. We don’t need any more! I find in your Bible a unique interpretation of universal history, the history of the whole of creation and the history of the human race. And therefore a unique interpretation of the human person as a responsible actor in history. That is unique. There is nothing else in the whole religious literature of the world to put alongside it.”

The Bible tells us how things came into being. It explains what’s gone wrong with this world, and how God is going to put it all right. The Bible shows me who I really am, why I am here, and where I am going.

Bernard Bell comments: “Psychologists know that a sense of purpose is essential to emotional and psychological health. We look for . . . an overarching story that makes sense of all of the little stories of our lives.” In the Bible I discover that my life has meaning and purpose and significance beyond what I could ever dream of. We can only really make sense of the stories of our individual lives in the context of God?s great Story, the Story we read in the Bible.

A map for the journey

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gi dad plans the route ¸ nick farnhill on Flickr.com (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Planning the route.

A party of tourists arrives in Britain for the very first time. They decide to travel throughout the island from Land’s End to John O’Groats. What kind of map do they need to plan their journey? The standard-scale maps aren’t much use to begin with. What they need first of all is a map covering the whole of Britain – showing where they’re starting from and their destination in the far north of Scotland.

Genesis to Revelation is a very long journey. Like that tourist, we need a map that shows the whole journey from beginning to end. This series of studies aims to be that map. We’ll view the whole Bible story in one great panorama – taking us the whole way from creation to the glorious new creation.

In the preface to his series Unlocking the Bible pastor and writer David Pawson said this: “I suppose this all started in Arabia, in 1957. I was then a chaplain in the Royal Air Force, . . . . . . . How could I get these men interested in the Christian faith and then committed to it? Something (I would now say: Someone) prompted me to announce that I would give a series of talks over a few months, which would take us right through the Bible . . . . It was to prove a voyage of discovery for all of us. The Bible became a new book when seen as a whole. To use a well-worn clich‚, we had failed to see the wood for the trees. Now God’s plan and purpose were unfolding in a fresh way. The men were getting something big enough to sink their teeth into. . . . . . . . the results surpassed my expectations and set the course for the rest of my life and ministry.” To travel through the whole Bible was a voyage of discovery for David Pawson and his hearers. We hope that you, too, will catch the thrill of this great adventure as we journey from creation to New Creation!

Along the way, we’ll trace some of the Bible’s key themes, such as the covenants and the Messiah. We’ll see how these themes fit together and lead to God?s ultimate purpose – the establishment of His perfect Kingdom on Earth.

And as we travel, we’ll pause from time to time to look at some basic Christian doctrines. For example, what does it really mean that we’re made in God’s image? What really happened on the Cross when Jesus died? And what happens when Jesus returns to Earth? Such questions are too important to hurry by, and we’ll take a little time to look more deeply at them.

Learning for life

On our journey through the Bible, what will we learn?

We’ll learn about God

A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” What we believe shapes our destiny. At the beginning of human history, Satan tempted Adam and Eve to believe lies about God. They believed those lies – with catastrophic consequences for themselves, for us, and for this world.

But God continued to reveal Himself to mankind – His love, His burning holiness, His omniscience and limitless power. Then, one day, God Himself came to earth in the Person of His Son. He revealed Himself in flesh and blood. Jesus Christ is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1.15) and “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1.3). He declared: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14.9). Jesus shows us what God is really like.

And as we travel through the Bible, we’ll see God’s purposefulness, wisdom and faithfulness – and His sovereignty, too – as He works out His master plan for the Universe.

We’ll learn about creation

Secondly, we’ll learn about the universe we live in. We’ll discover how – and why – God created Earth and sun and moon and stars. And we’ll glimpse something of the glorious destiny He has in store for creation.

We’ll discover, too, that Earth and the heavens we see around us are only part of a much bigger created realm. There are heavenly places, too, that we cannot see. What happens in these heavenly places affects us in ways of which we are only dimly aware. And what happens here in our visible world impacts that unseen world, too.

We’ll learn about ourselves

David the psalmist himself asked: “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8.4). We’re all eager to know who we really are, where we come from and what has made us the way we are. Alex Haley’s best-selling book Roots, and the TV series Who Do You Think You Are? are testament to that.

Who are we? Oswald Chambers once pointed out, “the most marvellous thing in the whole of creation” is not the heavens, the moon and the stars – it is ourselves. God created us in His own image and likeness. We’re not actually divine, of course. But we are as like God as it is possible for any created being to be. God has crowned mankind “with glory and honour” (Psalm 8.5). The Psalmist sang: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139.13-14).

Sin, of course, has scarred us. But in our essential nature, we still bear God’s image (see Genesis 9.6, James 3.9). And God is now restoring us, His people, to bear His image perfectly. Our pattern is Jesus. In His selfless love, His unpretentious dignity and calm authority, His penetrating insight, His cloudless fellowship with His Father and His simple unquestioning obedience to Him, we see what God wants us all to be. One day, we shall be like Him! And one day we’ll rule all creation with Him. What an astonishing destiny!

So along our journey, we plan to stop for a while to explore what it really means to be human.

We’ll learn about Satan

Finally, we’ll learn about our enemy, Satan, and his dark kingdom. Neil Cole, in his book Organic Church relates a scene from the film The Two Towers, the second of the trilogy The Lord of the Rings. The nation of Rohan finds itself facing the wicked army of Goblins. When Theoden, king of Rohan, realises the Goblins are determined to wipe out his kingdom, he resolves to avoid war in order to shelter his people from danger. He declares: “I’ll not risk open war with my people”. But Aragorn the warrior warns him: “Open war is upon you whether you would risk it or not”.

Open war is upon us, too. We cannot avoid it. In the heavenly places, as Paul explains, there is a terrific spiritual battle going on between Satan and his forces and Jesus Christ and His people. And we’re involved in this cosmic battle! We’re called to be soldiers. We need to learn how to wage war.

And to wage war, we must know our enemy. Every military commander must understand his enemy – how he thinks, what his strategy is, his strengths and weaknesses. It’s the same for us. In the Bible, God teaches us about our enemy. He reveals Satan’s aims and strategies, and exposes his lies.

pickup crosses mountain road winding in twilight

Image ¸ ollirg on Fotolia.com

Reading and reflecting

Read Genesis 1.1-3.24, Revelation 20.7-22.5.

O?BWhat links are there between these passages in Genesis and in Revelation?

O?BWhat do you find in the new creation described in Revelation 21 and 22 that you don’t find in Genesis chapters 1 to 2?

O?BWhy do you think New Jerusalem is pictured as a Bride (Revelation 21.2, 21.9)?

O?BDorothy Sayers said, “the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man . . . .” What is a drama? In what way is the Bible a drama?

O?BHow does seeing the Bible as a single story help us in evangelism?

O?BIf a non-Christian friend of yours asked you to tell them what the Bible was about in just a couple of minutes, how would you reply?

O?BWhat do these passages in Genesis and Revelation teach us about God?

CREDITS ◆ Text copyright © Robert Gordom Betts. ◆ Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ (ESV™), © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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