Many people are eager to accept the salvation that Jesus gives. However, they often have questions about living as a Christian. Some wonder whether they will be able to live a Christian life. Others aren’t sure that they are willing to do all that Jesus might ask of them. Still others are afraid that Christianity will take all the fun out of their lives.
What does it mean to live as a Christian? Can anyone really live a life that is pleasing to God? Does Christianity really take all the fun and joy out of life?
Before trying to answer those questions, it is important for us to reflect on Jesus’ own life. Jesus’ life was never easy! He had no home of his own, he had very few personal possessions, and he likely had no personal means of transportation (such as a donkey on which to ride). He was often rejected, misunderstood, ridiculed, falsely accused, and mistreated. Even though he performed many wonderful miracles of healing, fed multitudes of people when they were hungry, showed love and compassion to the poor, showed grace to people whom others ignored and forgave people whom others condemned, there were still many people who hated and despised him and tried to find fault with him. Most of the members of his own family misunderstood him at first. One of his closest followers denied him. Another betrayed him. And the rest deserted him when he was confronted by a mob of people in the middle of the night. If we want to be true followers of Jesus, therefore, we should not expect that our lives will always be easy or pleasant or free from pain. Our blessings will be greater than any we have ever had before, but our challenges and trials may be greater, too. But whatever our circumstances may be—times of exceptional joy or times of suffering and sorrow, Jesus has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us. He will graciously forgive us when we fail, uphold us when we are weak, comfort us when we are rejected or hurt, and continue to shower us with his mercy, grace, and love.
Read thoughtfully and humbly what the Bible says about both the challenges and the blessings of living as a follower of Jesus.
1. What challenge does Jesus give to those who want to follow him?
Jesus challenges us to give up everything for him—even our lives, if necessary.
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. (Mark 8:34-35)
Whoever who does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:27)
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37-38)
2. What will motivate us to live for Christ?
We can never repay Jesus for all that he has done for us, but when we humbly reflect on his great love and his incredible sacrifice, we should gratefully seek to live every moment in a way that pleases him. When we think about the wonderful home he is preparing for us in glory, it should not be difficult to give up any earthly treasure or pleasure which does not please him or honor him. Jesus is truly a priceless treasure, and nothing on earth can compare with him. If we truly love him with all our heart, we will not get swept away with the concerns and pleasures of this world.
If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23)
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. . . . Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of
God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
3. Who makes it possible for us to live a Christian life?
God himself does. We are not able to live a consistent Christian life on our own—and, thankfully, we do not have to. God dwells within us through the Holy Spirit who empowers us to live the kind of life that pleases him.
It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)
Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)
May the God of peace . . . equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)
4. How can we show that God is truly at work in our lives?
We should live in such a way that others can see our changed lives. If there is no significant difference between our lives and the lives of those who are not believers, our witness will likely have very little effect. People are much more impressed by how we live than by what we say. If they are able to see that we have truly been transformed by God’s grace and power, they will often be eager to know what has happened in our lives.
Paul wrote: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:15-16)
The grace of God . . . [trains us] to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. . . . [Jesus Christ] gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own
possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-12, 14)
We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures. . . . But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. I [Paul] want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful . . . to devote themselves to good works. (Titus 3:3-5,8)
5. Is it important for Christians to show genuine love to one another?
Yes. The two greatest commandments in both the Old Testament and the New Testament are these: Love God above all, and love others as yourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). As Jesus himself said, others will know that you are his disciple if you have genuine love for others— even for people who might be considered unlovable. Since God loved us when we ourselves were unlovable, our lives demonstrate what God can do in any life that is committed to him.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. . . . if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:11-12)
Jesus said: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:9-10)
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you . . . For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? . . . And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? (Matthew 5:44-47)
6. What is Christian love like?
Genuine Christian love is self-giving, consistent, helpful, thoughtful, and often sacrificial. It is primarily love in action rather than simply love in words or feelings. It is basically a reflection of Christ’s love for us and within us. Without Christ’s love and the power of the Holy Spirit within us, it would impossible for us to love others in the way that God commands and which the Bible describes.
Greater love has no one than this that someone lays down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
Love does no wrong to a neighbor. (Romans 13:10)
Love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
7. What does the Bible teach about worldliness?
“Worldliness” is thinking and living according to the standards and desires of the sinful and unbelieving world rather than living according to the teachings of the Word of God. Those who live by the world’s goals and standards are not living in a way that pleases God. Friendship with the world makes a person an enemy of God.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. (1 John 2:15- 16)
The grace of God . . . [trains] us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. (Titus 2:11-12)
Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
8. What are some of the specific sins which the Bible warns against?
The Bible warns against sins of every kind—sins of thought, word or deed. Some of the specific sins listed in the New Testament include idol worship, disobeying parents, murder, lying, stealing, fighting, bad language, immorality, drunkenness, uncontrolled anger, greed,
bitterness, and many others.
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. . . . Do not let the sun go down on your anger and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal . . . Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up . . . Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you … Sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. . . . Do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 4:25-31; 5:3-5, 17- 18)
In the last days . . . people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with deceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
9. Is it possible for us to overcome temptation and live a holy life?
Yes. God provides a way out of each trial and temptation if we sincerely look for it and desire it. But if we do not sincerely look for a way out of the temptation, we very likely will not find it.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Our Lord Jesus Christ . . . will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:7-9)
To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God our Savior . . . be glory before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24-25)
10. Is God willing to forgive us if we fall into sin even after confessing Christ?
Yes. God will graciously forgive us if we sincerely confess our sins and humbly ask him to forgive us. However, that does not mean that we should take our sins lightly. God is indeed gracious and merciful, but our sins and failures grieve the Holy Spirit who lives within us. Our sins also dishonor the name of God and may also diminish the effectiveness of our personal testimony.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)
I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. (Psalm 32:5)
11. How can we help each other live a Christian life?
We should worship together, encourage one another, pray for each other, and be careful never to tempt one another or lead one another into sin.
Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints [believers]. (Ephesians 6:18)
Take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. (1 Corinthians 8:9)
Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. (1 Peter 3:8-9)
12. What attitude should we have toward money and possessions?
It is a wonderful blessing to have sufficient funds and resources for daily living. We should be very careful, however, not to put too much emphasis on material things or value them too highly. We should be grateful for all that the Lord entrusts to us, be content with what we have, and not be envious of others who have more than we do. We should also recognize that we are only stewards of the things the Lord has entrusted to us. Everything we call our own really belongs to him. When possible, we should also use our possessions to serve the poor and the homeless in the name of the Lord so that he is glorified while we help to meet the needs of others. And we should also use our financial resources to help spread the good news of the Gospel around the world.
Be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. (Luke 12:15)
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have. (Hebrews 13:5)
If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? (1 John 3:17)
We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare . . . For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:7-10)
13. What does the Bible teach about giving?
We should give generously, regularly, and cheerfully. A special object of our giving should be believers who are in need, though we should also remember the needs of others.
As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10)
As you excel in everything . . . see that you excel in this act of grace also. . . . For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:7,9)
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)
14. What are the results of generous and cheerful giving?
Those who give are blessed, the needs of others are met, and God is honored and praised.
Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed. (Proverbs 19:17)
Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor. (Proverbs 22:9)
Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail. (Luke 12:33)
Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. (2 Corinthians 9:6)
The ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints [believers] but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. (2 Corinthians 9:12)
15. Doesn’t living as a Christian take the fun and joy out of life?
Not at all. Living as an obedient Christian in a non-Christian world can certainly be challenging and difficult at times. But the blessings of living for Christ far outweigh any difficulties involved. Not only has Jesus promised that we will live with him forever in glory, but he also promised that our Father in heaven will graciously meet all our needs in our present life. In fact, God often gives us material and physical blessings which go far beyond what we actually need. In addition, he also gives us gifts of love and joy and peace which the world can never give. Even though we may experience trials or difficulties in this life because we are Christians, God promises that whatever suffering and difficulties we experience as believers will eventually turn out for our spiritual and eternal good.
God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)
Rejoice in the Lord always . . . and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
According to his great mercy he [God] has caused us to be born again to a living hope . . . to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. . . . Though you have not seen him [Jesus], you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. (1 Peter 1: 3-8)
This slight and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. (2 Corinthians 4:17)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. . . . Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:28,35,37)
16. Should believers witness to unbelievers about Jesus Christ?
Definitely. We should be prepared to witness to others whenever possible. However, we should also be wise and humble as we talk to people who are not yet believers. If we have an attitude of superiority when we talk to them, this will often turn them away from both us and Christ. Also, we must be very careful to make sure that our lives reflect what we profess. If our lives are not consistent with our testimony, our witnessing will usually produce little fruit. We must continually seek to live in the love of Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit so that our witness will be meaningful and effective.
Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)
Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders; making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:5-6)
The apostle Paul wrote: “I have become all things to all people, that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22)
Whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:20)
17. Where can we get the wisdom and power we need to witness effectively to others?
We can receive all the wisdom and power we need from the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come up on you, and you will be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Jesus said: “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)
Jesus said: “When the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16:13)
Jesus said: “Do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:11- 12)
18. What general guidelines should we follow as we seek to live a Christian life?
We should always seek to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, obey the Bible, live lives of thankfulness, do all things in the name of Jesus, and seek to do all things to the glory of God.
Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)
Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11)
1. Since we are saved by grace and not by our works, what difference does it make how we live?
There are several things that are important to remember in this regard. (a) If we are truly saved, we will want to live in a way that honors and glorifies our Savior. If we are careless about the way we live, we clearly demonstrate that Christ does not really live within us. And if Christ does not live within us, we are not truly saved. (b) God has saved us not only for our own benefit but also so that we may live for his glory and be a blessing to others. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that God has prepared good works for us to do, and in gratitude, humility, and thankfulness we will sincerely want to do these works. (c) If we are not living in a way that honors God and blesses others, our lives will have a negative impact rather than a positive one. (d) There will be a judgment day in which God will call us to give an account for all that we have done. Those who have sincerely sought to please him will be richly rewarded for the things they have done in the name and in the power of the Lord. Those who have not honored and served the Lord will find that their works were totally worthless. (Read Matthew 25:31- 46; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Matthew 12:36; 1 Peter 1:17; 1 Peter 4:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; Romans 14:12; Hebrews 13:16; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.)
2. If we do not give up everything for Jesus (Mark 8:34-35), does that mean we are not really Christians?
Not necessarily. In some places, Christians do give up everything or almost everything for the sake of Jesus because they live in an area where Christians are persecuted for their faith. Other believers live in areas and under circumstances where the practice of their faith actually results in greater material benefits. People trust them to be honest, hard-working, dependable, and competent and reward them for their integrity. These believers seem to give up very little for the sake of Jesus. Are these people less honorable, less faithful, and less Christian than other believers whose lives are so very difficult?
The key to answering this question would seem to be the willingness of people to give up anything and everything that would stand in the way of living as a believer who honors Christ in everything. All believers should evaluate their lives to make sure that they are using all their gifts and abilities and possessions in the service of Christ without focusing too much on material things or personal benefits. We should all be careful not to judge others too quickly without knowing their hearts and motives. Having riches is not wrong for a Christian, but the “love of money” is clearly a source of many evils in our world. See 1 Timothy 6:6- 10; Matthew 6:19-20; Luke 12:33; Philippians 3:8; Ecclesiastes 2:26; James 2:5.
3. If others cannot see in our daily walk that we are truly followers of Christ, does that mean that we probably are not true Christians—no matter what we say or believe?
In most situations a true believer will demonstrate his faith by his life. If he doesn’t, there is probably something wrong in his life. There may be times, of course, when believers are very careful about what they say and do since they know others are watching them in order to find grounds for punishing them or persecuting them. These believers do not deny their faith or live a careless or thoughtless life. They simply do not have the freedom that Christians in other lands have to speak about Jesus or the Bible or their faith.
All believers should also remember, however, that there may be some people who are looking at them to see whether their Christian faith really does make a meaningful difference in their lives. If it doesn’t, the non-believers who are watching them may not want to have anything to do with Christianity. However, if believers quietly and consistently demonstrate love, genuine concern for others, patience, holiness, thoughtfulness, consistency, and other positive virtues, people who are carefully watching them may well want to learn more about their faith and the God they worship. We should never be ashamed of our faith, but we should also be wise as we seek to live out our faith in a way that most honors and pleases God and also blesses others. Read the following passages from the New Testament: Luke 9:23-26; Mark 8:38; Matthew 28:19-20; John 15:27; Acts 1:8; 5:20; 22:15; Titus 2:15; 2 Timothy 1:8; 1 Peter 4:16.
4. What does Paul teach about Christian love in 1 Corinthians 13?
Though the Bible discusses Christian love in various places, 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most important passages in the entire Bible on this subject. You can learn much from this chapter by reading it, memorizing it, and meditating on the following questions: (1) Do most Christians exhibit the kind of love described in this chapter? (2) How does a person acquire this kind of love? Is this something we have to work at or do we simply pray and ask God for it? (3) Can we learn from others how to acquire and exhibit Christian love? (4) What should we do if we are members of a church which is definitely not known for its Christian love? (5) Should Christians show the kind of love discussed in this chapter only to other Christians, or should they show love also to those who are not Christians and may even hate or oppress them?
5. What is meant by “worldliness”? Is it possible to be a “worldly Christian”?
Worldliness can be described as thinking and living according to the standards, goals and desires of people who do not know Christ as Lord and Savior. If that description is correct, then it really is not possible to be a “worldly Christian.” It is regrettably true, however, that some believers seem to live as close to the world as they can without losing their faith. And most believers seem to be tempted at least once in a while to enjoy worldly pleasures instead of doing what is most pleasing to God and most beneficial for their personal and spiritual lives. Sincere Christians should always seek to live as close to Christ as they can, learning and doing what is most pleasing to him and seeking to honor him in all the choices they make. Read the following passages which teach us important things about worldliness. Matthew 16:26; Luke 21:34; Romans 12:2; Colossians 3:2; Titus 2:12; James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17; Ephesians 2:2.
Though believers should not be worldly in a negative sense, Christians should definitely be concerned about demonstrating the Lordship of Jesus in every area of their lives. They should not focus only on so-called “spiritual things,” but they should also seek to show the importance of their Christian faith in the world of business, government, work, recreation, leisure, industry, the arts and every other area of human activity. The Bible speaks of “the world” in two very different senses. (1) Positively, sometimes “the world” means God’s beloved earth. (2) Negatively, sometimes “the world” means anti-God culture and society dominated by non-Christian powers. Christians should seek to claim for Christ every element of the world (understood positively as various aspects of life on God’s beloved earth) without being contaminated by the world (understood negatively as anti-God culture expressed in those practices and activities that dishonor the One who is truly Lord of All.)
6. Will the Lord continue to forgive us even if we commit the same sins over and over again?
Thankfully, YES! God’s mercy and grace are far greater than our failures and sins (Psalm 103:2-3, 8-14, 17; Micah 7:18-19; Isaiah 1:18; Ephesians1:7; Matthew 6:14; 1 John 1:9). However, we should never take our sins lightly or think that it doesn’t matter very much whether we keep sinning or not. God is grieved by our sins (Ephesians 4:30; Genesis 6:6; Isaiah 63:10), and our sins also diminish the effectiveness of our witness and reduce the joy of our salvation. If there are certain sins or weaknesses that continually gain a victory over us, we should not only pray earnestly to the Lord for deliverance, but we should also seek the help of mature Christians to help us gain a victory over them. Many believers find that it is very helpful to have one or more mature Christians to whom they are regularly accountable for how they are living—particularly in those areas where they are spiritually and morally weak.
7. What does 1 Peter 3:8-9 teach us about living a Christian life?
Peter urges us to live in harmony with other believers and to love them as brothers and sisters in Christ. We should be sensitive to the needs of others, and compassionate and humble as we deal with them. We should also be careful not to repay evil for evil but to bless those who curse us or insult us or treat us unkindly. Living as God wants us to live will not only bring a blessing to others but will also result in blessing for ourselves.
It is certainly easier to write these things, however, than to practice them. Peter, at one stage in his life, didn’t follow these teachings himself. When he was in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before Jesus went to the cross, Peter impetuously took out his sword and cut off the ear of one of the men who had come to arrest Jesus. (And he may have tried to do more than just cut off his ear!) All of us have to make a very special effort to be patient and compassionate and humble as we deal with others. Peter wisely points to Jesus rather than himself when looking for a good example. In 1 Peter 2:20-23 we read: If when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. . . .When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. In 1 Peter 2:12 he wrote: Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
8. What are some of the things the Bible teaches about money and possessions?
God knows that we all need certain things—such as food, water, clothing and shelter—in order to live a normal life (Matthew 6:31-32). In his kindness, he provides rain from heaven, crops in their season, food, water and many other things to fill our hearts with joy (Acts 14:17). In addition, God often makes it possible for some people to acquire possessions far beyond what they need for daily living. Already in the Old Testament, for example, many of God’s faithful followers were blessed with great wealth: Abraham (Genesis 13:2), Isaac (Genesis 26:13-14), Jacob (Genesis 30:43), Job (Job 1:3), David (1 Chronicles 29:28), and Solomon (2 Chronicles 1:15). The problem is not having great possessions but how we look upon them and how we use them. Some people feel that their personal worth is determined by the money or possessions they have. Others begin to take their blessings for granted. They may feel that they deserve their wealth because of their personal skills or all the hard work they have done. Still others feel that they may spend their money as they please (unless it clearly and directly violates one of God’s explicit commands).
The Bible therefore clearly and frequently warns against the dangers of putting too much emphasis on material possessions. It also warns against greed, covetousness, selfishness, and pride. See the texts in the Lesson (Luke 12:15; Psalm 62:10; Hebrews 13:5; 1 Timothy 6:10; Luke 16:14; Matthew 19:23; and Matthew 6:31-33). See also such passages as Deuteronomy 8:10-14 and 8:17-18; Mark 4:19; Ecclesiastes 5:10; Psalm 39:6; Psalm 52:7; Luke 12:19-20; James 4:17; and many others.
The Bible teaches us that ALL things ultimately belong to God and that we are simply temporary stewards of the possessions we have. In Old Testament times, God’s people were commanded to give at least one-tenth of all their possessions to the Lord (Leviticus 27:30-33; Numbers 18:21; Malachi 3:10) and often were required to give more. In the New Testament believers are not explicitly commanded to give one tenth of their earnings to the Lord, but they are clearly taught that they should give generously, thoughtfully, and freely. Believers may certainly enjoy the blessings God gives them, but they should also recognize that everything they have comes from the Lord and is to be used in ways that most please and honor him and which also bless others in his name. When people give generously and freely and joyfully to others (especially to fellow believers, Galatians 6:10), not only are others blessed, but God is also glorified. See such passages as 2 Corinthians 8:1-23 and 2 Corinthians 9:6-15.
Since our spiritual blessings are much greater after the coming of Christ than they were in Old Testament times, our giving should also be greater (when possible). According to 2 Corinthians 9:7, God loves a cheerful giver. Believers, therefore, should be known for their generous, joyful, thoughtful giving and should never be satisfied with giving as little as they can. Among passages to be read and studied in this connection are the following: Leviticus 25:35; Proverbs 3:9; 11:25; 21:13; 28:27; Deuteronomy 15:4, 7; 16:17; 1 Chronicles 29:9; Isaiah 58:10; Matthew 5:42; Matthew 6:3; Luke 6:38; Luke 12:23; Acts 11:29; 1 Corinthians 4:2; and 1 Peter 4:10.
9. Why should we witness to others about our faith? What should we do in situations where friends or family members absolutely do not want to hear about Jesus?
We should witness to others about our faith because Jesus wants us to and even commands us to do so (Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; Matthew 24:14; Acts 1:8; Acts 22:15; Titus 2:15; Romans 10:14). However, we should also witness because we want to. If we do not have a desire to share our faith with others, that may indicate (1) that we do not highly value our faith or (2) that we believe others do not need to hear about Jesus or (3) that we believe our testimony will have little or no positive results, or (4) that we are afraid of the reactions of those with whom we share our faith. None of these four possibilities should keep us from witnessing to others, though there may be specific times or situations when it is not wise or desirable to talk to others about Jesus. For example, a new convert should be wise in choosing the best time and situation in which to witness to family members, friends, or others who might be shocked, grieved or angry when they learn that a trusted friend or loved one has left the cherished faith of the family. Jesus told his followers not to throw their “pearls before pigs” lest “they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you” (Matthew 7:6). When faced with uncertainty about the best time and way to witness to someone else about Jesus, it is important to pray earnestly that God will open up the right opportunity for us to share our faith when our testimony is most likely to have a positive rather than a negative impact. When giving our testimony, we should also be very careful not to unnecessarily say negative things about other faiths or about persons who hold those faiths. Rather, humbly but clearly we should testify about the things which God has done for us and the joy we have found in loving and serving him. We should, of course, also always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15). But, as Peter writes, we should do this with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame (1 Peter 3: 15-16).
10. How would you respond to someone who believes that Christianity takes all the fun and joy out of life?
Sometimes becoming a Christian does involve giving up some things people formerly enjoyed. They must give up things that are sinful and against God’s will. Also, they might miss some of the “good times” they had with friends before they were converted. (The reference here is to genuinely good times which a person gave up because he or she no longer wanted to be identified with a certain group of people.) Some may lose good jobs because their conscience no longer permits them to do some of the things they were required to do in their work situations. Others might lose the loving relationship which they used to have with their families and friends. Still others might spend more time in studying the Bible, helping others, and pursuing other good things related to their new faith and therefore don’t have the time they used to have to pursue some of the fun things they enjoyed doing. However, those who have genuinely experienced the love and grace of God in new and wonderful ways will be able to testify that what they have given up does not begin to compare with the things they have gained. They have found genuine joy, inner peace, and contentment in the present and hope for the future which they never had before. Because they have been born anew by the Holy Spirit and have been washed clean in the blood of Christ, they are new persons who have something more wonderful and more valuable than anything they have given up. In New Testament times, some believers were persecuted because of their faith but counted it a privilege to suffer for the One who gave his life for their salvation. The apostle Paul considered all the “valuable” things of his previous life to be “rubbish” compared with the new life he found in Jesus (Philippians 3:8). When people truly find new joy and peace in serving Christ, others will soon notice that, so it should not be too difficult for them to demonstrate (even without many words) that their new life provides far more genuine joy and delight than anything they experienced in their life without Christ.
It is also important, however, for believers to be honest and realistic in their testimonies. Jesus urged people to count the cost of following him. Paul clearly suffered much more after he became a Christian than he did before he became a Christian, and he definitely did not minimize the hardships or difficulties he experienced (2 Corinthians 11:16-29). However, anyone who knew Paul knew that his new life, in spite of these hardships, was definitely a grateful life of joy, peace, thanksgiving, and praise (Philippians 4:8-9, 11-13; see also Acts 5:41; Hebrews 10:34; and1 Peter 1:8).