WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN LIFE?
Last week we started talking about the Christian life. We started out with the parable of the four soils and talked about how every person fits into one of these general four categories when it comes to obeying the gospel:†
I pointed out that living the Christian life is a lifetime commitment and something that we should be happy to pursue. We than began to talk about some of the things that are involved in living the Christian life. We talked about faith, obedience, and repentance. We ended our lesson talking about how a Christian life is a life of worship and devotion to God.
This morning we are going to continue on this same path and discuss more things that are involved in the Christian life.
The Christian life is a life of prayer.
1 Thessalonians 5:16 Rejoice always,† 17 pray without ceasing,† 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.†
A day without prayer is a day without blessing, and a life without prayer is a life without power.Ē ó Edwin Harvey
Prayer should be important to every Christian because it is our avenue to speak to God and thank Him for what He has done for us and we can turn all our problems over to Him knowing that He is listening and that we can draw strength from Him. But sometimes we take prayer for granted and we donít use it as we should.
Throughout the N.T. we can see verse after verse where we are told to pray, and we can see some of the benefits of those prayers such as the one found at the beginning of the church after Peter and John had been arrested, threatened, and let go.
Acts 4:23 And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: "Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 "who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: 'Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things? 26 The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the LORD and against His Christ.' 27 "For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 "to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. 29 "Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 "by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus." 31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.
We can see how they assembled and prayed to God for boldness so they could have the courage to continue to face the opposition they would encounter as they continued to proclaim the good news of Jesus. In this instance, God responding immediately to their prayer in a miraculous way and it caused them to have the courage to speak the Word of God with boldness.
Also in Act 12 when Peter was arrested again and James had already been put to death, we learn in verse 5 that the church offered up constant prayer for him, and their prayers were answered because an angel came into the jail house and freed him. We learn in verse 12 that they were still praying as he came to the house where the church had met.
Without a doubt, prayer is an important part of a Christianís life. These 2 examples I just mentioned shows that God listens to our prayers and He answers them. However, He does not answer them with a miracle, but through His providence. †It will help us to get more our of our prayer life if we remind ourselves that we are not just saying empty words into the air because God listens to everything we say to Him.
As faithful Christian, we realize that praying to God will make something happen that would not have happened if you had not prayed. James says:
James 5:13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
James gives us some great insight about the power of prayer. First, he says that those who are suffering can be made well by the prayer of faith. Of course this is not talking about a miraculous cure, but he is saying that if a prayer is offered in faith and its Godís will that person is to be made well, then that prayer of faith can cause a sick person to become well through the providence of God.
James also says that when a righteous man prays for someone, his prayer will avail much. Then he gives an example of a righteous man and how his prayer availed much. When Elijah prayed for no rain to fall, no rain fell for 3 Ĺ years, but as soon as he prayed for it start again, it did. So, when we pray without doubting great things can happen, lives can be restored, and sicknesses can be overcome all by the power of prayer through the providence of God.
There is much that can be said about the wonderful benefits of prayer and why every faithful Christian embraces it and makes it part of their everyday lives, but I want you to consider the following 6 reasons prayer is part of a Christianís life:
1. Prayer can give us a peace in our life that can only come from God because when we pray and hand our problems over to Him and trust in His judgment, we can stop worrying so much because we know that He will make things work out for the best.
Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
2. Prayers can make a difference in a nation, and our nation can certainly use all the prayers that it can. If our prayers didnít make a difference in our nation then why did Paul instruct us in:
1 Timothy 2:1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
3. Prayer can help give us the strength we need to combat the temptation of this world. As Jesus said:
Matthew 26:41 "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
4. Prayer can cause doors of opportunity to be opened so that the good news can be spread as Paul taught in:
Colossians 4:2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, 4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
5. Prayers can help us and others find the courage to proclaim the good news with boldness as Paul said:
Ephesians 6:18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints -- 19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
6. Finally, one of the most important aspects of prayer to every Christian is that we can ask for forgiveness of our sins and know with all confidence that God forgives those sins we have repented of as John writes:
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
All these things we have briefly looked at about the power of prayer and what a privilege it is to have it should make it clear to everyone why prayer is such an important part of the life of a Christian.
The Christian life is a life of spiritual growth and development.
Whenever we become Christians, we are to begin a transformation in our life.
Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
However this transformation does not happen overnight. It takes times to grow and develop into a strong Christian. As Peter points out:
1 Peter 2:1 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
Peter describes the new Christian as babe. I think everyone in here can understand this concept. When a baby is born it can do little on its own and has to have a lot help along the way. As time goes by, the new baby begins to learn new things. For instance, they usual learn crawl first then to sit up and finally, they learn how to walk on their own. They also move from milk to more solid food as the mature.
This same concept is true with new Christians they must grow in spiritual maturity one day at a time. There are no shortcuts. Being a Christian is a lifetime commitment and every Christian, no matter how young or old they are, must continue to grow. As Peter says:
2 Peter 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Growing is part of the Christian life. We need to be concerned if we see that we are not growing. For example, notice how the writer of Hebrews talks about some Christians that were not growing like they should in:
Hebrews 5: 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
These example found in the Bible are not just there to point out the shame of those whose faith is weak, they are there to show us the results of bad habits and laziness. As Christians, we cannot be lazy when it comes to growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord. It is our responsibility to mature in the way of Christ so we can be prepared to face sin and to be prepared for heaven. As Paul encourages us:
Ephesians 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
The longer we are Christians, the more armor we should have and thicker it should become. While there are many parts to the armor we put on, the foundation of it is laid by us being students of Godís Word.
A faithful Christian will have the same attitude about Godís Word as David did:
Psalm 119: 9 How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.† 10 With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!† 11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!† 12 Blessed are You, O LORD! Teach me Your statutes!† 13 With my lips I have declared All the judgments of Your mouth.† 14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, As much as in all riches.† 15 I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways.† 16 I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.† 17 Deal bountifully with Your servant, That I may live and keep Your word. 18 Open my eyes, that I may see Wondrous things from Your law.
The faithful Christian understands how important it is to love God and His Word. We understand that Godís Word is the power of God to salvation and it can set us free. Godís Word is one of our strongest tools that we can use everyday to help us become more faithful to the Lord.
Since Godís Word is what produces faith and is vital to our spiritual growth, faithful Christians will make sure they make time to read their Bibles every day. If they miss a day, they feel like they have missed out on something important.
Not only will a Christian do their best to read everyday, they will also find time to mediate on what they have learned.
Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;† 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.† 3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.
The more you think about Godís Word and its living message, the more Christ-centered you will become. As part of our growth, this is another area that we can use prayer. As James says :
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
Finally, the last thing I want to point out is that the life of a Christian includes being a doer of Godís Word and not just a hearer. Again, James makes the point for us:
James 1:21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
In this lesson, we have only touched on two important parts of the Christian life: prayer and growing spiritually. I hope that if you have been neglecting the power of prayer or you have not been growing spiritually as you should that you will make the necessary changes because prayer and spiritual growth are vital in the life of a Christian. I do not think any lesson on spiritual growth would be complete without including what Peter says about it, so I will close with His words:
2 Peter 1:5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,† 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness,† 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.† 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.† 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.† 10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;† 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.