THE IMPORTANCE OF CHRISTIAN LIVING
In this Bible Correspondence Course we have studied the Patriarchal Age, the Mosaic Age and the Christian Age. We learned that no part of the Bible was written in the Patriarchal
Age; therefore, God spoke directly to the Patriarchs. In the Mosaic Age the law of Moses was God's will by which men worshiped and served the Lord. Both the Patriarchal and Mosaic Age are recorded in the Old Testament. We learned that people now live in the Christian Age and that we must worship and serve God according to the New Testament. The Christian Age began on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ and will continue until Jesus comes again.
We learned that we must rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). This means that we should recognize the difference between the Patriarchal age, the Mosaic Age and the Christian Age. We must recognize the fact that we do not live in the Patriarchal age. We do not live in the Mosaic Age. We live in the Christian Age and God's will for us is found in the New Testament.
We learned when, where and why the church began, how to become a Christian, the importance of church organization, and the importance of worship. All these subjects are basic truths that we need to know to worship and serve God acceptably. Our subject for lesson eight is no less important - in fact, you may accept the basic truths of the first seven lessons but unless you LIVE the Christian life you will still be lost. We must be doers of the word and not hearers only (James 1:22). "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).
A CAUTION UTTERED WITH PRAYER
First, be sure that you become a Christian according to the New Testament. This means that you believe in Christ as God's Son (John 20:30-31). Repent of your sins (Acts 17:30). Confess Christ (Romans 10:9). Be baptized into Christ for the remission of sins (Galatians 3:27; Acts 2:38). When you do this God will add you to the church (Acts 2:47). When God adds you to the church your Christian life begins. If you have not taken the steps mentioned above to become a Christian it is our sincere prayer that you will do so at once. If we can assist you in taking these steps to become a Christian please contact the church or individual that is sending you this course - we will be happy to help you. If you obeyed the gospel before you took this course we hope that the course has given you a clearer understanding of the bible, thereby helping you to be a stronger Christian.
Second, after becoming a Christian be sure to grow spiritually by being active in church work, by being strong in faith.
FIRST STEPS IN CHRISTIAN GROWTH
Beginning the Christian life is compared to beginning the physical life. "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby" (1 Peter 2:2). We begin this physical life as babies; we start on a milk diet. A baby desires food very much and will let you know when feeding time comes. A baby shows displeasure by crying if the feeding time is missed or delayed. If the baby does not desire food this is a sure sign of illness. If the baby cannot keep and digest food this is a sign of illness and must be corrected before growth can take place.
The same principles are true in the Christian life. To grow spiritually we need spiritual food and this spiritual food is "…the sincere milk of the word…" Just as the baby must desire the milk diet, so the young Christian must desire to know and understand God's word. If the baby does not desire food this is a sign of sickness. Just so, if the young Christian does not desire to hear the word of God taught and preached it is a sign of weakness, spiritual illness. Jesus taught, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6). One of the first things that we should develop as a Christian is a hunger for God's word. We need to know God's word, we need to understand God's word.
The infant stage is necessary but it is designed as a brief period of life. We should grow rapidly into childhood, adulthood, and maturity. If the baby does not grow it cannot develop into the well-rounded adult to enjoy life, to take his place in society. This brings the saddest scene, the deepest grief to the home.
We begin as "newborn babes" in Christ but we should not remain in the baby stage. We should grow rapidly into strong, useful Christians. Paul said of the Corinthian Christians, "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able" (1 Corinthians 3:2). The church at Corinth had not grown spiritually. They were divided as some followed Paul, some Apollo, some Cephas (1 Corinthian 1:12). They had moral problems, with one man taking his father's wife (1 Corinthians 5:1). They had personal differences, going to law with fellow members (1 Corinthians 6:1). Their faith was weak in doubting the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). They had not grown out of the baby stage. Let us profit by Paul's exhortation to them, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Corinthians 10:12). We must all start as beginners but let us grow, that we can use what we are taught to teach others. Let us grow that we will not always need a milk diet, but can accept strong meat, the greater responsibilities in the kingdom (Hebrews 5:12). To effect this spiritual growth we suggest some things to do and some things not to do.
SIGNS OF SPIRITUAL MATURITY
Physical growth is marked by increase in stature, activity and ability. There are steps or signs along the way to mark progress. The child enters school, finishes high school, enters college, marries, accepts full-time employment or enters into a chosen profession. Each new phase is a step toward maturity. This is also true of spiritual life - there are signs of maturity to mark our growth. Notice some of the things in which we grow.
Paul thanked God for Christians at Thessalonica because their faith grew exceedingly (2 Thessalonians 1:3). At one time the apostles had little faith (Matthew 8:26). This was in the midst of a storm, the time when people are afraid. Why then did Jesus rebuke them for being fearful? He did not rebuke the disciples for disturbing his sleep but for being disturbed themselves. They had seen Jesus perform many miracles but for some reason that did not sustain them at the moment. Their master was aboard the ship, still they cried out, "Lord, save us, we perish." The fact that Jesus had shown his power over nature before did not make them confident when they felt that their lives were in danger. Jesus disclosed the reason for fear - their faith was weak. It is good to know that this weak faith grew strong. Peter and John were strong when they were imprisoned for healing the lame man, when they were threatened by the Jewish council (Acts 4:19-21). It was Paul, an apostle, who encouraged the Roman soldiers in the midst of a storm (Acts 27:33-36).
Like the early Christians, our faith should grow until we are confident in the storm, in illness, even in death. The faith of the early Christians grew because they walked closer with the Lord, they understood his will better, they loved him more. Our faith will grow in the fire of trial. We walk nearest to the Lord when we follow his will revealed in the Bible - this will make our faith grow.
Our knowledge of spiritual things should grow. "…grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). "…add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge" (2 Peter 1:5). Paul desired that the Colossian Christians would "…be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding" (Colossians 1:9). These Scriptures clearly teach that our knowledge of Christ and his will should grow. All we know about Christ is revealed in the Bible. His will is revealed in the Bible. If we are to know of his virgin birth, perfect life, miraculous power, sacrificial death, it must come from studying God's word. For us to grow in knowledge of Christ we must grow in our knowledge of the bible. Surely we cannot know Christ as he is revealed in the Bible without loving him and desiring to follow him.
The Jews and their rulers crucified Jesus through ignorance (Acts 3:17). Paul persecuted the church "…ignorantly in unbelief" (1 Timothy 1:13). If these men committed such great sins from not knowing Christ, are we immune from sin in our lack of knowledge of the Savior? Our need to grow in knowledge of Christ is a real one. To meet this need we must study the Bible. Read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to learn about Christ's life on earth. Read Acts to learn of the establishment and growth of the church. Read Romans through Jude to learn how Christians are to grow spiritually. Read Revelation to learn what did happen to the church in the early centuries and what will happen to the church until Jesus comes again. A sincere study of the New Testament in this manner will enable you to grow spiritually.
In the Old Testament God's people were destroyed for lack of knowledge. Hosea said, "…the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God, in the land" (Hosea 4:1). The prophet showed the result of this lack of knowledge. There was swearing, lying, killing, stealing and adultery in the land and this led Hosea to say, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast reject knowledge, I will also reject thee…" (Hosea 4:6). It was God's will that His law should be taught daily (Deutronomy 6:6-7). Israel was not excused for their failure to know God and his will. This failure led to the complete destruction of the nation of Israel.
Today we have greater opportunity to know God's will than did people in Old Testament times. We have not only the Old Testament but also the New Testament. The Bible has been translated into all languages and into most dialects. We can hear God's word preached over radio and television. There are many tracts and gospel papers for us to read. There are Bible Correspondence Courses for us to study and many Christians are anxious to teach us personally about God's word. If God did not excuse Israel long ago for not knowing His will, surely He can be even more displeased with us for not knowing what He requires of us to become a Christian and to live the Christian life. Surely we can understand why God said to Christians, "Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:17).
We are also asked to grow in God's grace (2 Peter 3:18). Often we think of God's grace as God's favor and we need to grow in God's favor. Noah was selected to build the ark and preserve the human race because he found grace in God's sight (Genesis 6:8). We can understand why a man who was willing to work so many years to build the ark, to preach so long to an unbelieving world, would find grace before the Lord. We need faith like Noah to move with fear toward our salvation (Hebrews 11:7). This kind of faith and obedience will cause us to grow in God's grace.
Paul commended the Christians at Ephesus to "…the word of his grace, which is able to build you up…" (Acts 20:32). We grow in grace when we grow in knowledge of his word and apply this word to our lives. We grow in grace when our speech ministers "…grace unto the hearers" (Ephesians 4:29). We grow in grace when we add virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness and brotherly kindness to our faith (2 Peter 1:5-11). We grow in grace when we "…endure hardiness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Timothy 2:1-3). We grow in grace when we are humble (James 4:6). We grow in grace when we give liberally to God's work (2 Corinthians 8:7). Growing in the virtues mentioned above will assure you of God's favor.
Some fell from grace (Galatians 5:4). Some have done despite or contrary to the spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:29). The Holy Spirit was concerned that some might fail in God’s grace (Hebrews 12:15). We need to grow in grace that we will not fall away, live contrary to God's grace and fail in the end.
THE CHRISTIAN SOLDIER
The Christian life is a fight against the lusts of the flesh which war against the soul (1 Peter 2:11). The Christian is to fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12). Since the Christian is to fight against evil things that seek to destroy the soul he needs an armor for protection. Paul compares the armor of a Christian to the Roman Soldier. Read Ephesians 6:13-17.
Notice that the Roman Soldier was protected at every vital part of the body. The head was protected with the helmet, the heart with the breastplate, the loins and thighs with a girdle, the feet with sandals and the arms with a shield, which could also be used to protect any part of the body. The soldier was given an offensive weapon, the sword. There is a real likeness between this armor and the armor of God.
Note first that the Christian is asked to take the whole armor of God. If a Roman Soldier had gone to battle wearing only one or two parts of the armor he would have been an easy prey for the enemy. Christians sometimes fail because they do not have on the entire armor.
The Christian is asked to stand in the evil day. That is the time when you are severely tempted. Every Christian will be tempted and must be prepared to resist temptation. The armor of god enables the Christian to withstand temptation.
The Christian is asked to do all to stand. The Christian life is not a passive, half-hearted business. One is to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33), to deny self, take up his cross and follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24), to present the body as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God (Roman 12:1), to be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding n the work of the Lord. Such things are characteristic of the one who "…having done all, to stand" STANDS.
Be not deceived, the Christian faces a real enemy in the person of Satan. He walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8), he is transformed into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), he fills the heart with lies (Acts 5:3), he has wiles or devices to deceive (Ephesians 6:11), doctrines that are preached (1 Timothy 4:1), and synagogues to afford a place for their proclamation (Revelation 2:9). The Christian needs the armor of God to meet this enemy. Be assured that if one enters heaven it will be in spite of all the devil can do.
PARTS OF THE ARMOR
Each part of the armor fills a necessary place in the role of the Christian life.
The Roman Soldier had a girdle about the loins to hold the armor tight, to give support to the body and to protect the abdomen from the spear or sword of the enemy. The Christian Soldier has truth for his girdle (Ephesians 6:14). The soul is purified by obeying the truth (1 Peter 1:22). We are sanctified by the truth (John 17:17). It is the mission of the church to support the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). John had no greater joy than to hear that Christians walked in the truth (3 John 4). We are to speak the truth in love as we grow up in Christ (Ephesians 4:15), and it is truth that makes us free in Christ (John 8:32).
The Roman Soldier wore a breastplate to protect the heart, and the Christian Soldier's breastplate is righteousness. The Scriptures instruct us in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16), and for the Christian righteousness is found in the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:17). As the Christian fills his life with faith, love, patience and meekness, this righteousness keeps the heart from sin.
The Roman Soldier's feet were shod with sandals; the Christian Soldier wears the gospel of peace. The Roman Soldier marched to battle; his victories were won on the offensive. The Christian Soldier is always on the offensive; he is to preach the gospel to all the world. As the Roman Soldier marched forward on foot, the Christian Soldier expands the borders of Christ's Kingdom by preaching the gospel.
The Roman Soldier carried a shield; the Christian Soldier's shield is faith. We walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). Faith works by love (Galatians 5:6). By faith we overcome the world (1 John 5:4). Like Abraham, we must be strong in faith.
The Roman Soldier protected his head with a helmet. The Christian Soldier's helmet is salvation or the hope of eternal salvation. A strong hope for eternal salvation preserves one in the time of severe conflict. The Christian could not contend with all the foes of life without the assurance of eternal salvation - with this assurance he has nothing to dread.
The Roman Soldier had a sword as his offensive weapon and the Christian Soldier has the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. The word of God is quick and powerful (Hebrews 4:12). It is a light to the path (Psalm 119:105). We are to preach the word (2 Timothy 4:2). The word of God is able to save the soul (Acts 11:13-14; James 1:21). The word of God is indestructible (Matthew 24:35), we will be judged by God's word (John 12:48). The books (word of God) will be opened in the judgment (Revelation 20:12). The word of God is the weapon we use to lead sinners to salvation, to guide in Christian living, to instruct in worship, to strengthen in time of need, to comfort in time of sorrow.
Put on the whole armor of God, this will make you strong spiritually, it will enable you to live the Christian life successfully.
SECTION 1 - FILL IN THE BLANKS
In this Bible Correspondence Course I have studied The ______ Age, The ______ Age and The ______ Age.
I live in the ______ Age.
To become a Christian according to the New Testament means to ______ in Christ, ______ of sins, ______ Christ, be ______ into Christ.
When God adds me to the church my ______ life ______.
When one becomes a Christian he needs to grow ______.
One grows spiritually by being active in ______ work.
One grows spiritually by being strong in ______
To grow spiritually one is to desire the sincere milk of the ______ life.
Beginning the Christian life is compared to beginning the ______.
If a Christian does not desire to hear the word of God preached and taught this is a sign of _______.
SECTION 2 - TRUE OR FALSE
Like Christians at Corinth we should remain many years as babes in Christ.
We should refer to becoming a Christian as being added to the church.
We should refer to the Lord's Supper as the sacrament.
The first day of the week is the Lord's Day.
The Scriptures completely furnish us unto every good work.
Christians should give as they have purposed in the heart.
We can love God and not love His people.
Christians are to assemble on the first day of the week to worship.
As Christians we may wear any denominational name we prefer.
We should refer to the preacher as "Reverend".
SECTION 3 - CHOOSE THE CORRECT ANSWER(S).
As Christians we are to grow in:
faith, knowledge, gracepopularity, social prominence
Our faith should grow until:
we can drink socially and not be harmedwe are confident in illness and even in death
To learn how Christians are to grow spiritually, read:
MatthewRomans through Jude
We walk nearest to the Lord when we follow _______.
His will revealed in the Bibleour feelings
Hosea said of Israel, because thou hast rejected knowledge I will:
give another visionsend another prophetreject Thee
Today we have ______ opportunity to know God than the people of the Old Testament.
We grow in grace when we ______.
do not offend the worldgive liberally to God's work
Paul compares the Christian armor to that of a ________.
Greek oratorRoman Soldier
The Christian is to fight _______.
only social evilsthe lust of the flesh that wars against soul
The Christian faces a real enemy in being too strict morally, insisting too strongly that we follow _____.
The Christian Soldier's sword is _______.
miraclespersonal testimonythe word of God
The Christian Soldier's shield is _______.
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