Following Jesus at a Distance
The closer we are to Jesus, the more clearly we hear Him. The more clearly we hear Him, the less likely we are to sin.
Remote Control Car
(You will need an RC car for this discussion starter. If you don’t have one, relax, you can just borrow one from a 7th grade boy in your group.)
At some point or another, we’ve played with radio-controlled cars (RC cars). They’re a lot of fun! You get a car powered by an electric motor that’s wirelessly linked to a handheld remote control. Sure, it takes like 84 batteries to power the things, but they’re a blast! You can set up ramps and jump them. You can crash them into things. You can chase your siblings with them. The only limiter on how much fun you can have with them is how demented you’re willing to become.
But there is one slight drawback. The range on them is somewhat limited. Granted, the more money you’re willing to spend, the greater the range, but all of them have some sort of limit on how far the radio frequency travels.
When the car is out of range of the controller, it ceases to operate correctly. The car doesn’t receive the signal because it’s too far from the controller. When that happens, the car stops, or maybe even crashes into things, because the operator can’t see it. The RC car even risks getting broken if it stops in a dangerous place like the middle of a street.
This is the point you’re trying to make with this discussion starter. Get an RC car and put yourself in a big enough room to be able to demonstrate this problem. For example, get everybody together in one corner of the Fellowship Hall at the church and then send the car to the opposite corner of the room. If the room is big enough, you should have no problem showing the students this truth: the farther the car gets from the signal, the less likely it is to do what the remote control tells it to do.
When you’ve made your point, get everybody together and say….
That’s kinda how our relationship with God is. The closer we are to Him, the more clearly we hear Him. The more clearly we hear Him, the easier it is to understand His will. The easier it is to understand His will, the better chance we have of accomplishing it. But when we follow Jesus at a distance, we can’t clearly discern His will. When that happens, it’s easier for us to sin.
Divide into Small Groups:
Let’s go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.
CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: As we get started, let’s all take a second to share our names and our favorite toy from childhood.
- ASK A FEW: Were you surprised that the car stopped responding to the remote control the further it got away from it? Why or why not?
- ASK A FEW: What are some other examples of this same occurrence in real life? (Leaders – For example, if our parents are trying to shout something to us from across a sports field, we might not hear them very clearly. Just get them thinking about this fact: close proximity always helps communication.)
- ASK A FEW: Do you think we hear God more clearly the closer we are to Him? Why or why not?
- ASK A FEW: What are some of the things that keep us from being close to God?
Read the following passage:
ASK SOMEONE: Go back and read verse 54. How does Luke say Peter was following Jesus? (Leaders – The answer…and the point of this entire lesson…is that Peter followed “at a distance.”)
ASK A FEW: Why do you think Peter was following at a distance?
ASK A FEW: What did Peter end up doing that night? (Leaders – He denied knowing Jesus.)
ASK A FEW: Do you think that Peter’s “following Jesus at a distance” had anything to do with his “denying Jesus”? Why or why not?
ASK A FEW: We’re told how Peter responds to his sin: he wept bitterly. But how do you think Jesus responded to Peter’s sin?
ASK A FEW: By the way, Peter was one of Jesus’ inner circle. In other words, Peter was one of the closest disciples to Jesus. Have you ever wondered how someone could deny Jesus after being with Him so much? How is that even possible?
ASK A FEW: Do we keep a distance between ourselves and Jesus? If so, why?
ASK A FEW: In your own life, do you sin more or less, the closer you are to Jesus? Why is that?
AROUND THE CIRCLE: What do you need to do – or change – that will help you follow Jesus more closely?
Luke 22:54-62 (NIV)
Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
We started off pretty light, just having some fun with a remote controlled car. But in the end, hopefully all of us learned an extremely important lesson: the further we are from our Source, the less clear life becomes. The less clear life becomes, the more likely we are to sin.
Here’s something I’m confident of: If Peter can deny Jesus because he wasn’t following Jesus close enough, we are ALL capable of denying Jesus. Now, I don’t necessarily like having to say that, but it’s the truth. That’s why it’s so important to try to stay close to Jesus.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit that there is a “Peter” in all of us who can hold things back from God. There’s something in us that puts a distance between us and God. But there’s good news for those of us who sometimes follow Jesus at a distance. Let me read it to you from Psalm 73:27-28.
Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.From this simple passage I draw these two conclusions: those who follow God closely are rewarded. Those who don’t will die.
Some of you have big reasons for not following Jesus closely enough. Pay attention to what I said, and what I didn’t say. I said the reasons were big, not necessarily good. Whatever is keeping you from following Jesus closely has to go! Our leaders want to help you with that. In a moment, we’re going to close in prayer; if you have a question or need to talk, we’re here for you. Please see one of us before you leave.
You’ll be glad you did!
Close in Prayer
Written by David R Smith