B I B L E S T U D Y C O U R S E L E S S O N 1 1 Christianity: AWay of Life hristianity has been Western civilization 9s princi- pal religion for centuries. Yet its inNuence doesn 9t seem to have noticeably reduced the ravages of war or curtailed man 9s inhumanity to man. As a result, millions of people regard Jesus Christ 9s teachings as impractical and unworkable in the real world.
Is their conclusion a valid view of the way of life Jesus taught? Not at all! On the contrary, statistics gathered through surveys reveal an obvious reason popular Christianity is so ineffective: Few who profess to follow Christ actually practice what He preached.
To this day the vast majority of professing Christians are followers of Christ in name only. They simply do not live the way Jesus taught. America is the most religious of the nations that profess to be mostly Chris- tian.
But notice this admission by an educator acquainted with the country 9s religious trends. In a Dec. 25, 1995, interview 4con- ducted by the Public Broadcasting System 9s Margaret Warner 4Robert Franklin, director of black-church studies at the Candler School of ... more. less.
Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, remarked: c.<br><br> . . Although we learned [from a Gallup Poll] that 96 percent of Americans claim to believe in God .<br><br> . . I 9m not sure that it 9s bankable information .<br><br> . . I think that people express belief in God as a kind of badge of mem- bership, a very cheap badge of membership in the civi- lized society.<br><br> Americans, in my assessment, have a very high valuation of the aesthetic dimension of religion. We love Handel 9s Messiah, we listen to the Negro spirituals, [admire] the art in the Sistine Chapel, but when it comes to adhering to the Ten Commandments, to the Sermon on the Mount, to the ethics of religion, I Mnd that we 9ve still got a long way to go. d People hold varying ideas about what constitutes Christianity. But few of them are based solidly on what the Bible teaches.<br><br> Many polls and surveys of professing Christians indicate they think that as long as they believe in Jesus, attend church occasionally and are basically good people, they are pleasing God. Religion, to them, is more or less whatever they want it to be. They think that any personal religious preference or practice, as long as it is motivated by good intentions, is acceptable to God.<br><br> Furthermore, many religious leaders teach their Nocks to believe that any effort on their part to practice good works as a way of life based on the Scriptures, beyond that of simply cbelieving, d could be an effrontery toward God. Some even claim that God expects nothing of them beyond believing in Jesus 9existence, or cbelieving on Christ 9s name. d The belief that Christianity should be a way of life 4that God expects us to do something to meet His approval 4has practically disappeared. Is it acceptable to believe we are free to worship God as we wish, to refashion God in our own image?<br><br> Or has God revealed an approach to life that He expects us to follow? Does He care about what we do and how we conduct ourselves? Is He concerned about the way we live?<br><br> Does His Word deMne a way of life that He expects us to practice? If so, what is it? Does it make any differ- ence in the relationship we are supposed to have with Him?<br><br> In this lesson we examine the answers to these questions from the Scriptures. THE GODLY WAY OF LIFE Is merely believing on Jesus as Lord and Savior suf-cient to receive eternal life? cNot everyone who says to Me, 8Lord, Lord, 9shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.<br><br> Many will say to Me in that day, 8Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? 9And then I will declare to them, 8I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness! 9 d (Matthew 7:21-23; compare Luke 9:23). Although the acceptance and honor of Christ 9s role in our salvation is essential, Jesus said merely believing on His name does not fulMll all of God 9s requirements regarding the way we should live. We must also do the will of the Father.<br><br> Jesus explained that He expects much more from His followers than simply believing that He is the Christ 4 the Messiah 4and calling Him Lord. He also requires that we change the way we live. How did Christ describe the way we should live?<br><br> cEnter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difMcult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who Mnd it d (Matthew 7:13-14; com- pare Luke 13:23-25; emphasis added throughout). Christianity: A Way of Life 2 Bible Study Course Lesson 11 C Christianity 9s in)uence doesn 9t seem to have noticeably reduced the ravages of war or curtailed man 9s inhumanity to man.<br><br> Cover, clockwise from top left: © 2000 PhotoDisc, Inc., Scott Ashley, © 2000 PhotoDisc, Inc., Scott Ashley. This page: © 2000 PhotoDisc, Inc. George Barna, an American pollster who specializes in observing and cataloging religious trends and behav- ior, says modern Christianity is a mile wide and an inch deep.<br><br> But mile-wide Christianity is not the path to God 9s Kingdom. Rather, according to Jesus, it is the highway to destruction. The way leading to eternal life is the way of living within the boundaries deMned in God 9s law.<br><br> It is not the broad and popular way that approves of any behavioral preference and practice. What is the source of most people 9s views on the way they should serve and worship God? cThese people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.<br><br> And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doc- trines the commandments of men d (Matthew 15:8-9). cI have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.<br><br> But if they had stood in My counsel, and had caused My people to hear My words, then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings d (Jeremiah 23:21-22; compare 2 Corinthians 11:13-15). As it was in the days of Jesus and the biblical prophets, so is it today! Most people put their faith in the words and opinions of the religious teachers they like the most.<br><br> Few look Mrst to God 9s words in the Scriptures as the primary basis of their beliefs. What should be the source of our beliefs and the guide for our behavior? cSo then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God d (Romans 10:17; compare verses 15-16).<br><br> cTo the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them d (Isaiah 8:20). If we really want to follow God according to His instructions, we must honestly evaluate the origins of our present worship habits and way of life.<br><br> We need to ask ourselves whether they are derived from the Scrip- tures. Are our teachers faithful to God 9s Word? Or are they merely disseminating the ideas and teachings of men?<br><br> The answer to these questions make an enormous difference in whether God will work with us as His servants or whether He will reject us. Is worshiping God in vain a recent trend? cHypocrites!<br><br> Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 8These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teach- ing as doctrines the commandments of men 9 d (Matthew 15:7-9). cMy people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice.<br><br> With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice d (Ezekiel 33:31- 32, New International Version). More than 2,500 years ago the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel described the self- serving and ulti- mately worthless approach to wor- ship the Israelites had taken.<br><br> The people heard the words of God 9s messengers, but they did not practice what they heard. Later, in New Testament times, Jesus said this approach amounted to worship of God in vain 4 ultimately fruitless and worth- less . Little has changed.<br><br> Our age is the age of disbelief. How do the Scriptures describe the beliefs and conduct of the earliest Christians? c.<br><br> . . When Priscilla and Aquila heard [Apollos], they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately d (Acts 18:26, New Revised Standard Version).<br><br> cAnd about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way d (Acts 19:23). cBut when Felix heard these things, having more accurate knowledge of the Way, he adjourned the proceedings and said, 8When Lysias the commander comes down, I will make a decision on your case 9 d (Acts 24:22; compare Acts 9:1-2; 19:1-2, 9-10). Members of the early Church often referred to them- selves as those who followed the Way.<br><br> Paul refers to their way of life as cthe way of the Lord d and cthe way of God d (Acts 18:25-26). In other words, the early Christians, directly taught by Christ 9s apostles, were rec- ognized by their deeds and actions. Their godly way of life distinguished them from the society around them.<br><br> The way of life of the early Christians was called the Way because they lived the way Christ lived. They fol- lowed His example. They obeyed His instructions.<br><br> The cWay d was then, and still is, a way of living and think- ing that is profoundly different from that followed by the vast majority of humanity. THE FOUNDATION When Christ came to earth He explained that this dif- ferent way of thinking would 4through the power of the Christianity: A Way of Life 3 c. .<br><br> . Narrow is the gate and dif(- cult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who (nd it. d © 2000 PhotoDisc, Inc. Holy Spirit 4produce the fruit of righteous actions and deeds.<br><br> He taught that God 9s way is the way of giving rather than the normal, selMsh human way of getting (Luke 6:38; Acts 20:35). How did Paul contrast these two ways of thinking and living? cFor those who live according to the Nesh set their minds on the things of the Nesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.<br><br> For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiri- tually minded is life and peace d (Romans 8:5-6). cLet nothing be done through selMsh ambi- tion or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.<br><br> Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus d (Philippians 2:3-5). The key to living a way of life different from the ways of the world is to allow God 9s Spirit to work in us so we think like Jesus Christ. Through His Spirit God not only leads us in a different way of thinking, He helps us change the motivations that govern our actions.<br><br> This focus on unselMshness rather than the self-serving approach produced by our natural way of thinking brings, in turn, a dramatic change in the way we live and everything we do. What are the greatest priorities of our new way of life? cThe thing you should want most is God 9s kingdom and doing what God wants.<br><br> Then all these other things you need will be given to you d (Matthew 6:33, New Century Version). cFor whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother d (Matthew 12:50). c.<br><br> . . He who does the will of God abides forever d (1 John 2:17).<br><br> God asks that we reorder our priorities, allowing His Spirit to help us change our thinking. Serving God by doing His will and desiring to be in His Kingdom should be our highest priority. When we put God Mrst He promises to provide ways for us to meet our needs.<br><br> That, of itself, is a wonderful promise that should give us conMdence and comfort. Living a godly life is much more than merely calling on God 9s name as though that alone will excuse us for doing whatever we please. Living a godly life is doing what pleases God.<br><br> It is practicing what He tells us to do 4living a way of life deMned by His Word. We need to clearly understand the basics of that way of life! What other foundational principles did Christ and His apostles teach?<br><br> cAnd behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him [Jesus], saying, 8Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 9He said to him, 8What is writ- ten in the law? What is your reading of it? 9So he answered and said, 8You shall love the L ORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, 9and 8your neighbor as yourself. 9And He said to him, 8You have answered rightly; do this and you will live 9 d (Luke 10:25-28). cFor this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.<br><br> And His commandments are not burdensome d (1 John 5:3). cGreater love has no one than this, than to lay down one 9s life for his friends d (John 15:13; compare verses 15-17). Jesus and His apostles taught a way of life based on observing God 9s commandments from a heart of love that willingly makes personal sacriMces for the sake of others 4focusing on giving rather than getting.<br><br> It is the way of concern about the well-being of others. A true Christian cannot base his way of life 4his new way of living 4on his own ideas about right and wrong. The basics of the way we should live are deMned by God in the Scriptures.<br><br> God 9s laws, and Christ 9s example of perfect obedience to those laws, set the standards for the genuinely Christian way of life. Let 9s be sure we understand the role of God 9s law in our lives. Paul forcefully explains in his letters that no law can ever justify us 4that is, it cannot remove the guilt we incurred through our past transgressions (Romans 3:23-25).<br><br> JustiMcation 4the removal of guilt from sins previously committed 4is a gift God freely gives when we repent and place our faith in Christ 9s sac- riMcial death as payment for our sins. cTherefore, d says Paul, cwe conclude that a man is justiMed by faith apart from the deeds of the law d (verse 28) 4that is, through faith in Christ 9s death in our stead. But Paul then explains the role the law still plays in our lives.<br><br> cDo we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law d (verse 31).<br><br> The law 9s purpose is not to provide forgive- ness of sin but to deMne sin 4 cfor by the law is the knowledge of sin d (verse 20). God 9s law reveals the principles and standards of the godly way of life. Paul explained the foundation of the life he person- ally lived: c.<br><br> . . I confess to you, that according to the Way which they [unbelievers] call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are 4 Bible Study Course Lesson 11 The basics of the way we should live are clearly de(ned by God in the Scriptures.<br><br> Corbis Digital Stock written in the Law and in the Prophets d (Acts 24:14- 17). Paul 9s way of life was based on what he had learned from the Holy Scriptures. This is what our lives should reNect 4the highest standards of loving behavior according to those same Scriptures.<br><br> Our behavior should reNect the attitude of wanting to be cooperative and respectful servants of both God and our fellow human beings. As true Christians we are supposed to be a caring and serving people who are uncompromisingly loyal to the principles taught in the Scriptures. PRACTICING LOVE, HONOR AND RESPECT Do the Scriptures summarize the way we should interact with other people?<br><br> cHonor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God.<br><br> Honor the king. Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh d (1 Peter 2:17-18). cHe who does not love does not know God, for God is love d (1 John 4:8; compare 1 John 2:9-11).<br><br> As John tells us, God is love. Love sums up God 9s character, His motivation, how He lives and how He deals with us. He wants us to show love in all our dealings with others.<br><br> How should we regard those over us in positions of authority? cRemind them to be subject to rulers and authori- ties, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, show- ing all humility to all men d (Titus 3:1-2; compare Ephesians 6:5-7). cFirst, I tell you to pray for all people, asking God for what they need and being thankful to him.<br><br> Pray for rulers and for all who have authority so that we can have quiet and peaceful lives full of worship and respect for God. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to know the truth d (1 Timothy 2:1-4, NCV). cAll of you must yield to the government rulers.<br><br> No one rules unless God has given him the power to rule, and no one rules now without that power from God. So those who are against the government are really against what God has commanded. And they will bring punishment on themselves.<br><br> Those who do right do not have to fear the rulers; only those who do wrong fear them. Do you want to be unafraid of the rulers? Then do what is right, and they will praise you d (Romans 13:1-3, NCV).<br><br> How should husbands and wives interact with each other? cHusbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her d (Ephesians 5:25). cHusbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them d (Colossians 3:19).<br><br> c. . .<br><br> You husbands should live with your wives in an understanding way, since they are [physically] weaker than you. But show them respect, because God gives them the same blessing he gives you 4the grace that gives true life. Do this so that nothing will stop your prayers d (1 Peter 3:7-8, NCV).<br><br> cIn the same way, you wives should yield to your husbands. Then, if some husbands do not obey God 9s teaching, they will be persuaded to believe without anyone 9s saying a word to them. They will be persuaded by the way their wives live.<br><br> Your hus- bands will see the pure lives you live with your respect for God d (1 Peter 3:1-2, NCV). Do the Scriptures reveal that children should show and receive respect? c 8Honor your father and mother 9 4which is the Mrst commandment with a promise 4 8that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth. 9Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord d (Ephesians 6:2-4, NIV).<br><br> cChildren, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your chil- dren, lest they become discouraged d (Colossians 3:20-21). cFor the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children d (2 Corinthians 12:14).<br><br> It is just as important that parents be considerate, loving, gentle and encouraging to their children as it is for children to learn to respect, honor and love their parents. Mutual love and respect produce good charac- ter in children and build lasting bonds between them and their parents. Respect learned in the home carries over into adult life.<br><br> One of the causes of the anger and violence in soci- eties is the sharp decline in genuine respect for others in the family 4especially for the feelings and achievements of children. Does God expect us to respond to everyone with kindness and gentleness? cAnd a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all .<br><br> . . d (2 Timothy 2:24). cBe completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love d (Ephesians 4:2, NIV; compare 1 Thessalonians 4:6-8).<br><br> The godly way of life begins in our attitude toward others. In every area of life we should treat others with kindness, love and respect. How vital is it that we also sincerely love and honor God the Father and His Son?<br><br> cJesus said to him, 8You shall love the Lord your Christianity: A Way of Life 5 God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 9This is the Mrst and great commandment d (Matthew 22:37-38; compare Malachi 1:6). cAnd now . .<br><br> . what does the L ORD your God require of you, but to fear the L ORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the L ORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul? d (Deuteronomy 10:12). cGrace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity d (Ephesians 6:24; compare John 5:22-23).<br><br> Respecting, honoring and loving God the Father and His Son, Jesus the Messiah, is an essential aspect of our living the way of life God wants us to live. All successful relationships require a degree of respect and honor for the parties involved. Add appreciation 4the beginning of love 4 for each other and a lasting and close per- sonal relationship may begin.<br><br> But take away any of these essentials and the relationship will begin to wither. Take them all away and it will collapse. Marriage, for exam- ple, can succeed only if each party loves, honors and respects the other.<br><br> It is impossible to imagine a genuinely happy marriage in which one partner habitually disregards the feelings and desires of the other. Yet many professing Christians try to conduct their relationship with God in precisely that manner. They expect God to respond with love and respect of their feelings and needs.<br><br> But they see no need to respond to God with the same honor and respect. They disregard His Word, spurn His teachings and ignore His com- mands. They fail to comprehend the mutual obligations that must be present in the relationship God expects us to have with Him and with the converted spiritual family He is creating.<br><br> How does God view His relationship with those who truly are converted? c 8I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, 9says the Lord Almighty d (2 Corinthians 6:18). cHe who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son d (Revelation 21:7).<br><br> cBut as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name d (John 1:12; compare Romans 8:14-17). What was God 9s relationship with ancient Israel? cI will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people d (Leviticus 26:12).<br><br> cDo you thus deal with the L ORD , O foolish and unwise people? Is He not your Father, who bought you? Has He not made you and established you? d (Deuteronomy 32:6).<br><br> c. . .<br><br> You [Israel] will call me, 8My husband, 9and . . .<br><br> I [God] will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will take you for my wife in faithfulness . .<br><br> . d (Hosea 2:16, 19-20, NRSV). What relationship with God has Christ made available to us through His sacri-ce? c 8The time is coming, 9declares the L ORD , 8when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.<br><br> It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, 9declares the L ORD . 8This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, 9declares the L ORD . 8I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.<br><br> I will be their God, and they will be my people 9 d (Jeremiah 31:31-33, NIV). c. .<br><br> . He also took the cup after supper, saying, 8This cup is the new covenant in My blood 9 d (1 Corinthians 11:25). As men and women enter into a marriage covenant (Malachi 2:14) in which they promise to cherish one another as husbands and wives, God has promised to enter into a covenant with those who will submit to Him with all their hearts and minds.<br><br> The word new in New Covenant, in both the Old and New Testaments, implies a refreshed or renewed covenant relationship. It does not imply a radically different covenant relationship. The New Covenant is a refreshing, a renewing, of God 9s original covenant.<br><br> We could compare this to the Constitution of the United States. Amendments are added to the original document that explain how the original document is to be interpreted under speciMc conditions. They modify the original, but they do not abolish it.<br><br> In a similar way the Scriptures conMrm that a new 4 6 Bible Study Course Lesson 11 As men and women enter into a marriage covenant in which they promise to cherish one another as husbands and wives, God has promised to enter into a covenant with those who will submit to Him. © 2000 PhotoDisc, Inc. in the sense of a refreshed 4 covenant relationship exists for all who, following repentance and baptism, are transformed by God 9s Spirit (Hebrews 8:6, 10; Ephe- sians 2:11-13).<br><br> That new relationship does not nullify or exclude the original document on which the old relationship was founded. However, some aspects of that original document 4 the Old Testament Scriptures 4must be interpreted and applied according to the spirit of the law as revealed by Christ instead of the precise letter of the law (2 Corin- thians 3:6). For example, an adulterer who repents is forgiven instead of being stoned to death.<br><br> Where there is repentance the old cministry of condemnation d gives place to the much more glorious cministry of justiMcation d by which former sins may be forgiven and forgotten (verse 9, NRSV). The New Testament Scriptures reveal well-deMned guidelines for applying the Old Testament Scriptures to the renewed covenant relationship. No text is deleted from the old with the introduction of the new (Matthew 5:17).<br><br> But some amendments to the old are speciMed in the new. The most notable modiMcations are the inclusion of people from all nations, the addition of better promises 4including the promise of eternal life 4and the active working of God 9s Spirit in those who have entered into the New Covenant relationship with God. These and similar modiMcations dramatically improve the covenant relationship that exists between God and His people.<br><br> How is the future relationship between Christ and His Church described in the Scriptures? cFor I [Paul] have betrothed you [the Church] to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ d (2 Corinthians 11:2; compare Ephesians 5:25-32). c 8Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife [the Church] has made herself ready. 9And to her it was granted to be arrayed in Mne linen, clean and bright, for the Mne linen is the righteous acts of the saints.<br><br> Then he said to me, 8Write: cBlessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb! d 9And he said to me, 8These are the true sayings of God 9 d (Revelation 19:7-9). When He returns to earth as the King of Kings, Jesus 9 relationship with His resurrected saints will be like that of a husband 9s to his wife. This means that the present relationship between Christ and the members of His Church is merely the beginning of an eternal relationship of trust, Mdelity and love.<br><br> Our relationship with God can be compared with a growing family relationship between a father and his children or to an endearing relationship between a hus- band and his wife. Proper nourishment of this special relationship must involve love, respect, honor, action and effort. Like any relationship, its success also requires a major investment of time.<br><br> BUILDING HABITS OF PRAYER AND BIBLE STUDY Good communication is essential to a good relation- ship. A constant plea from many wives to their hus- bands is cTalk to me. dA wise husband understands this need and enjoys communicating with his wife. Children need encouragement and instruction from their parents, and parents need to listen to the requests, questions and opinions of their children.<br><br> The basics of good communication include talking as well as listening . The same principles apply to our relationship with our heavenly Father. Good communication between Him and us is a vital aspect of the godly way of life.<br><br> God speaks to us through His Word, the Holy Scriptures (Jeremiah 10:1; Isaiah 51:7). We talk to Him through prayer. These avenues of communication between God and us should not become one-way streets 4by our merely asking for favors but never listening to advice and instruction.<br><br> They must together become a two-way, interactive communication pathway. How often should we talk to God in prayer? cPray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you d (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).<br><br> God wants us to make praying to Him a regular habit. This doesn 9t mean we will pray without a pause all day every day. It simply means we must not cease making prayer a habit 4we should pray regularly and consistently to maintain contact with God.<br><br> What were the prayer habits of some of God 9s faithful servants? cEvening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice d (Psalm 55:17). cNow when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home.<br><br> And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days d (Daniel 6:10). cNow in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, [Jesus] went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed d (Mark 1:35). The Scriptures indicate it was a fairly common prac- tice among God 9s servants to pray more than once every day.<br><br> On at least one occasion Jesus arose early from His night 9s sleep so He could have some extra time alone to talk to God privately in prayer. Is God really interested in what we have to say to Him? cFor the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers ... d (1 Peter 3:12).<br><br> cThe effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much d (James 5:16). Christianity: A Way of Life 7 The book of Revelation compares our prayers with the smell of sweet incense wafting up to God (Revela- tion 5:8; 8:3-4). He is anxious to hear us express our heartfelt concerns.<br><br> We could compare this to two young people in love conversing often and openly with each other 4attentive to every word the other says. God appreciates our having that same enthusiasm and eager- ness, that same fervent desire, to converse with Him. How responsive is God to us when we pray?<br><br> c. . .<br><br> Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them d (Mark 11:24). cBut let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord d (James 1:6-7).<br><br> cNow this is the conMdence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us d (1 John 5:14). God has promised to hear and respond to us when we pray sincerely and fervently 4 according to His will 4 and genuinely put our trust in Him. Whose prayers will God refuse to consider?<br><br> cThe L ORD is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous d (Proverbs 15:29). cBehold, the L ORD 9s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear d (Isaiah 59:1-2).<br><br> cOne who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination d (Proverbs 28:9; compare Zechariah 7:11-13). cYou ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures d (James 4:3). Good communication is a two-way street.<br><br> Not only must we talk to God through prayer, but we must pay close attention to what He has to say to us. We do this by studying and following His written Word, the Bible (Psalm 1:1-3; 119:97-100). God expects us to pay attention to His written Word 4especially to His foundational principles, the Ten Commandments 4as a prerequisite for His hearing and responding to our prayers.<br><br> The books of the Bible can be compared to letters from Him, each communicat- ing aspects of His will to us. If we won 9t listen to His written Word, our requests of Him are futile. He tells us He will simply refuse to respond (Isaiah 59:1-2).<br><br> A comparison can be drawn to a wife expecting her husband to lavish love and blessings upon her even while she openly participates in an adulterous affair. Such expectation is unrealistic. It is equally unrealistic to expect God to answer the prayers of one who has no interest in being faithful to Him, who persistently refuses to listen to His Word.<br><br> Of course, when anyone repents God will again listen to his prayers. Do the Scriptures explain how to effectively study the Bible? cBe diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth d (2 Timothy 2:15).<br><br> cNow the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true d (Acts 17:11, NIV). cMy son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the L ORD , and Mnd the knowledge of God d (Proverbs 2:1-5). cTrust in the L ORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.<br><br> Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the L ORD and depart from evil d (Proverbs 3:5-7). A child who pays attention to instruction pleases his parents and makes them happy. In like manner, God is pleased with us when we study His Word in a diligent effort to learn how He wants us to live.<br><br> What primary bene-t comes from studying the Scriptures? cAll Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is proMtable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work d (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Through the Bible God provides us with doctrine and instruction in His way of life.<br><br> He reproves and corrects us, showing us where we need to change. He also enables us to grow to spiritual maturity and receive salvation. Bible study is our way of allowing God to talk with us.<br><br> It is our duty to pay attention to His words, to make them a part of our thinking and to act on what we learn. Husbands and wives who have grown close to each other in heart and mind often spend hours in intense con- versation together. They discuss their goals, fears, joys, wants and needs.<br><br> A close relationship with God requires the same type of open, effective two-way communication. Will studying God 9s Word help us better understand our own nature and God 9s will? cFor the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart d (Hebrews 4:12).<br><br> 8 Bible Study Course Lesson 11 cThe entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple d (Psalm 119:130). This Bible Study Course was created to help you understand the Scriptures. But don 9t just take our word for what the Bible teaches.<br><br> Search the Scriptures your- self! Ask questions; become informed. Look up the verses that precede and follow those we quote.<br><br> Make sure you become acquainted with the context. Let God talk for Himself. Prayerfully ask for His guidance, then drink in His words.<br><br> Only then will you know for cer- tain that what you have learned here is the teaching of the living God. (If you have questions you are unable to resolve, please let us know. One of our personal correspondents will be glad to help.) How else does God communicate His will to us?<br><br> cSo Philip ran to him [an Ethiopian ofMcial], and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, 8Do you understand what you are reading? 9And he said, 8How can I, unless someone guides me? 9 And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him d (Acts 8:30-31). cHow then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?<br><br> And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: 8How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things! 9 d (Romans 10:14-15).<br><br> No man is an island. No matter how much we study we need teachers to point us in the right direction. God provides them to edify His people (Ephesians 4:11-13), instructing them in the fundamentals of His Word.<br><br> This is one of the main reasons we should regularly assemble together 4so we can hear spiritually mature elders expound the words of life from the Scriptures. OBSERVING GOD 9S SABBATH Most nations observe holidays to honor national heroes. For example,Americans observe Presidents 9Day, Memorial Day and Veterans 9Day to honor some who have served their country.<br><br> Even in the workplace, respect and honor are displayed through traditions such as employee picnics, Secretaries 9Day and Bosses 9Day. Honoring family members on Mothers 9Day, Fathers 9 Day or their wedding anniversaries contributes to keeping familial relationships alive and healthy. If we love God and desire a close relationship with Him, we need to spend time honoring Him and drawing close to Him.<br><br> M. Scott Peck, in his best-selling The Road Less Traveled , comments on the importance of shared time in loving relationships: cWhen we love something it is of value to us, and when something is of value to us we spend time with it, time enjoying and time taking care of it. Observe a teenager in love with his car and note the time he will spend admiring it, pol- ishing it, repairing it, tuning it.<br><br> Or an older person with a beloved rose garden, and the time spent pruning and mulching and fertilizing and studying it. So it is when we love children; we spend time admiring them and caring for them. We give them our time d (1978, p.<br><br> 22). Since this principle is applicable to the human beings we love, should it not also be applicable to our relationship with our God? Our traditions encourage us to take the time to honor those we respect.<br><br> But how many will take the time to observe the sacred sabbaths and holy convo- cations speciM- cally designated in the Scriptures for honoring God? Are Christians instructed to assemble together regularly? cAnd let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching d (Hebrews 10:24-25).<br><br> Do the Scriptures tell us on which day we should assemble to worship and honor God? cThere are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly d (Leviticus 23:3, NIV). c.<br><br> . . You must observe my Sabbaths.<br><br> This will be a sign between me and you . . .<br><br> so you may know that I am the L ORD , who makes you holy d (Exodus 31:13, NIV). cRemember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy d (Exodus 20:8). God explains to us when we should formally assem- ble to honor Him.<br><br> He has set aside the seventh day of every week for us to come together to improve our rela- tionship with Him. He wants to keep that relationship alive and growing. He has set apart the Sabbath as spe- cial holy time for us to privately draw closer to Him and improve our relationship with Him.<br><br> Yet most people believe that observance of the seventh- day Sabbath is no longer important to God 4that it does not matter which day we observe. By celebrating a day of their own choosing, they ignore that our Creator has speciMcally deMned the day for us to assemble to worship Him. In the Fourth Commandment He tells us to observe the seventh day of each week.<br><br> If we believe we are to live by every word of God, as Christianity: A Way of Life 9 Through the Bible, God provides us with both doctrine and instruction in His way of life. Corbis Digital Stock Jesus commanded (Luke 4:4), we simply cannot ignore this Commandment. We cannot honestly say we believe in keeping the Ten Commandments, then immediately contradict ourselves by discarding or changing the Fourth Commandment, which tells us to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.<br><br> What else does God expect of us on His Sabbath day? cSix days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the L ORD your God. In it you shall do no work .<br><br> . . d (Exodus 20:9-10). c 8If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the L ORD 9s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will Mnd your joy in the L ORD , and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob. 9The mouth of the L ORD has spoken d (Isaiah 58:13-14, NIV).<br><br> The Sabbath is a time when our normal occupa- tional labor should cease. God has set aside the Sabbath as a special time for extra rest, extra personal prayer and more Bible study and a day to assemble for scriptural instruction and fellowship. The Sabbath is often falsely portrayed as a burden that Christ came to remove.<br><br> But God 9s Word never describes His Sabbath as a burden or says that Christ abolished it. Rather, the Scriptures describe it as a delightful time 4a time to build our relationship with God and our brethren in Christ. Those who love God will delight in all of these special Sabbath activities.<br><br> But those who only pretend to love God may indeed consider the Sabbath a burden. Because of their own attitudes, they will consider it an imposition on their own time. Why does God say our observance of the seventh day of the week is important to Him?<br><br> cFor in six days the L ORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the L ORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it d (Exodus 20:11). cMoreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the L ORD who sanctiMes them d (Ezekiel 20:12).<br><br> The seventh-day Sabbath is an identifying sign of the people who worship the Creator God. The Sabbath reminds us every week that the God we worship created the universe and that we must worship only Him 4never the things He created. It provides us with extra and special private time to draw closer to Him.<br><br> Idolatrous religions, in varied ways, worship the cre- ation instead of the Creator (Romans 1:22-25). Through the theory of evolution much of the academic and sci- entiMc world subscribes to and promotes an atheistic religion founded on the premise that the creation is its own creator. It denies the existence of the Creator God.<br><br> (If you would like solid scientiMc evidence demonstrat- ing the impossibility of life spontaneously evolving without a Creator, be sure to request your free copies of the booklets Life 9s Ultimate Question: Does God Exist? and Creation or Evolution: Does It Really Matter What You Believe? ) Did our Creator set us an example of Sabbath observance by resting on it?<br><br> cAnd on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctiMed it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made d (Genesis 2:2-3). Did Jesus Christ, our perfect human example, make it His custom to assemble with others on the Sabbath?<br><br> cSo [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day . .<br><br> . d (Luke 4:16). Does Sabbath observance include a command to assemble with others of like belief? cSix days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation .<br><br> . . d (Leviticus 23:3). The Hebrew word translated cconvocation d here conveys the meaning of a summons to an assembly.<br><br> It implies an ofMcial summons to worship. The New Inter- national Version translates this verse: cThere are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the L ORD . d Is this instruction for God 9s people to regularly assemble repeated in the New Testament?<br><br> cAnd let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together . . . d (Hebrews 10:24-25).<br><br> cFor both He who sanctiMes and those who are being sanctiMed are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: 8I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assem- bly I will sing praise to You 9 d (Hebrews 2:11-12). 10 Bible Study Course Lesson 11 Most people believe that our observing the seventh- day Sabbath is no longer important to God. Scott Ashley Even our relationship with Christ is framed in a setting that includes the assembling of God 9s children.<br><br> Meeting with others of like mind to learn more about God through the study of His Word is one of the ways we show God we are interested in Him and His people. Weekly Sabbath observance is an important part of the kind of life God wants for us. (For a thorough explanation of why and how we should observe the seventh-day Sabbath, be sure to request your free copy of Sunset to Sunset: God 9s Sabbath Rest from our ofMce nearest you.) Does God want us to assemble on other sacred occasions to worship and honor Him?<br><br> cThree times you shall keep a feast to Me in the year:You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread . . .<br><br> ; and the Feast of Harvest, the Mrstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the Meld; and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the Meld d (Exodus 23:14-16). God tells us to meet to worship Him on the feast days He commands. Although it is beyond the scope of this lesson to cover the importance and meaning of God 9s annual festivals, they are covered in the next lesson.<br><br> In the meantime be sure to request your free copy of God 9s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind. FAITH AND FIDELITY How essential is faith in our relationship with God? c.<br><br> . . Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him d (Hebrews 11:6, NIV).<br><br> cHe who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much d (Luke 16:10). Trust and Mdelity 4faith in God and faithfulness to His Word 4are essential aspects of the way of life of the Scriptures. In the New Testament the words faith, faithful and faithfulness are all derived from the Greek word pis- tis.<br><br> Vine 9s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testa- ment Words deMnes pistis as ctrust, . . .<br><br> trust-worthiness, . . .<br><br> what is believed, the contents of belief, the 8faith, . . . 9 a ground for 8faith, 9an assurance, .<br><br> . . a pledge of Mdelity .<br><br> . . d (1985, cFaith, d p. 222).<br><br> InMdelity 4the absence of faithfulness 4is a major cause of broken relationships, especially marriages. In any close relationship faithfulness and trust are vital. Most marriage ceremonies contain a statement from each party promising to be faithful to the other 4often until death.<br><br> FulMlling such a promise involves each demonstrating faithfulness to the other by continual, loving actions. M. Scott Peck, in The Road Less Traveled, concludes that such commitment 4such determination to faithfully perform one 9s vows, promises and relational responsibil- ities 4is essential in all successful relationships.<br><br> He writes, c. . .<br><br> Commitment is the foundation, the bedrock of any genuinely loving relationship d (p. 140). What kind of faith is ineffective?<br><br> cYou believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe 4and tremble!<br><br> But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith with- out works is dead? d (James 2:19-20; compare verses 18, 26). Belief in God is not enough. Such faith without cworks d is dead.<br><br> A living faith is an active faith. cBut be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 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; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.<br><br> But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and con- tinues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does d (James 1:22-25). Does God set us an example by His faithfulness to His commitments and promises? cTherefore know that the L ORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments d (Deuteronomy 7:9).<br><br> cIf we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself d (2 Timothy 2:13; compare Hebrews 10:23). How does God expect us to demonstrate our faith, trust and faithfulness toward Him? cWhat does it proMt, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?<br><br> Can faith save him? . .<br><br> . Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead . .<br><br> . Was not Abraham our father justiMed by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? d (James 2:14-22; compare Matthew 24:45-48).<br><br> Abraham 9s dynamic example shows what living faith in God really is. Abraham not only believed in God, he believed what God said and followed what God commanded. That is the way we also must live.<br><br> Since God is faithful to us, He expects us to be faith- ful to Him. He expects us to believe in His faithfulness 4to trust Him with a loyal heart. How did Abraham demonstrate his faith 4his belief and trust 4in God?<br><br> c. . .<br><br> Abraham obeyed me and kept my require- ments, my commands, my decrees and my laws d (Genesis 26:5, NIV). Because he trusted God,Abraham lived the way of life that pleased God. Since genuine Christianity is a way of Christianity: A Way of Life 11 life, God expects us to prove our faith with our actions and deeds.<br><br> This is the way Abraham lived (Hebrews 11:8-10). What will ultimately happen to those who are willfully unfaithful? cBut as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with Mre and sulfur, which is the second death d (Revelation 21:8, NRSV).<br><br> Must God 9s faithfully obedient servants endure trials and suffering? cFor to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 8Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth 9; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suf- fered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously d (1 Peter 2:21-23). cTherefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator d (1 Peter 4:19).<br><br> cAnd not only that, but we also boast in our suffer- ings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope d (Romans 5:3-4, NRSV). Putting God Mrst can require faith and sacriMce. Christians will face trials and suffering just as Jesus and the apostles did.<br><br> Peter tells us, cTherefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your broth- erhood in the world.<br><br> But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you d (1 Peter 5:6-10). Such suffering is not at all unusual. Almost every- one suffers in one way or another.<br><br> But there is a major difference in a Christian 9s trials. God 9s servants under- stand that their trials and suffering can help them build and strengthen their character. They cknow that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose d (Romans 8:28).<br><br> How should faithful Christians view their trials and suffering? cBeloved, do not think it strange concerning the Mery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ 9s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.<br><br> On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is gloriMed d (1 Peter 4:12-14). cMy brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and com- plete, lacking nothing d (James 1:2-4; compare Matthew 5:10-12).<br><br> Those who have faith in God 9s faithfulness are con- Mdent they can trust Him to act on their behalf. They know that when He intervenes in their trials to deliver them His intervention will be in their best interest according to His great purpose. They trust in God 9s wisdom and fairness and are willing to suffer to prove it (1 Peter 4:19).<br><br> Peter sums up the attitude of trust that God 9s Spirit leads them to have: cIn this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by Mre, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith; the salvation of your souls d (1 Peter 1:6-9). BEING A GOOD NEIGHBOR TO OTHERS One of Christ 9s most famous parables is that of the Good Samaritan.<br><br> In that parable He describes an injured man lying helplessly on a well-traveled road. At different times two people 4both of them religious Mgures 4pass by the injured man and fail to stop to help him. cBut a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was.<br><br> And when he saw him, he had compas- sion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pour- ing on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 8Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you 9 d (Luke 10:33-35).<br><br> Jesus gave this parable in response to someone who had asked Him, cAnd who is my neighbor? d After giving the parable, Jesus asked, c 8So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves? 9And he said, 8He who showed mercy on him. 9Then Jesus said to him, 8Go and do likewise 9 d (verses 36-37). Is a sincere interest in caring for and serving others essential to the godly way of life? cServe wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, 12 Bible Study Course Lesson 11 whether he is slave or free d (Ephesians 6:7-8, NIV).<br><br> cPure and undeMled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world d (James 1:27; compare Matthew 20:25-28). Jesus did not condemn receiving. But He stressed that a better blessing will come from giving than from receiving (Acts 20:35).<br><br> Notice these statements of Jesus to His disciples: cFreely you have received, freely give d (Matthew 10:8). cAnd whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward d (verse 42). cWho then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his mas- ter made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season?<br><br> Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will Mnd so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods d (Matthew 24:45-47). Giving and serving are simply putting God 9s love into practice.<br><br> Paul wrote: cFor you, brethren, have been called to liberty [from being slaves to sin; Romans 6:20-22]; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the Nesh, but through love serve one another d (Galatians 5:13). Should our concern for others include those who dislike us? cYou have heard that it was said, 8You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 9But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust d (Matthew 5:43-45).<br><br> Where does God reveal to us how to love others? cFor the commandments, 8You shall not commit adultery, 9 8You shall not murder, 9 8You shall not steal, 9 8You shall not bear false witness, 9 8You shall not covet, 9and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, 8You shall love your neighbor as yourself 9 d (Romans 13:9). God 9s commandments 4His laws 4deMne and explain love.<br><br> By developing a deep desire to be a bless- ing to others 4whether they love us or not 4our under- standing and appreciation for God 9s commandments and laws will grow immensely cbecause the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit . . . d (Romans 5:5).<br><br> ACCEPTING PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY In terms of Christian morality, what are some of our fundamental responsibilities? cBut among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God 9s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.<br><br> For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person 4such a man is an idolater 4has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God d (Ephesians 5:3-5, NIV; compare Colossians 3:5-10). cBut since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband d (1 Corinthians 7:2, NIV). cMarriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sex- ually immoral d (Hebrews 13:4, NIV).<br><br> God calls His people from all walks of life. No matter the nature or extent of our past sins, God for- gives us when we repent and forsake them. To please God, however, we must continue to listen to and follow His instructions concerning what is acceptable behavior.<br><br> We need to guard against returning to the evil practices He condemns, to the sins Christ 9s sacriMce has covered. What should we do to avoid the immorality of the world around us? cNo temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it d (1 Corinthians 10:13).<br><br> c. . .<br><br> Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and Mnisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God d (Hebrews 12:1-2; compare 1 Peter 4:3-5). Our best defenses against the temptation to sin are (1) staying away from circumstances that are especially tempting and (2) keeping in close contact with God through prayer. Paul said, cFlee from sexual immorality.<br><br> All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who Christianity: A Way of Life 13 Giving and serving are simply putting God 9s love into practice. Corbis Digital Stock sins sexually sins against his own body d (1 Corinthians 6:18, NIV). To recognize how to avoid being ensnared in sin we need God 9s guidance though His Spirit.<br><br> To receive that help follow Jesus 9advice: cWatch [stay alert] and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the Nesh is weak d (Matthew 26:41). He also said, cPray that you may not enter into temptation d (Luke 22:40).<br><br> Our attitude concerning whether we let sin become attractive to us is important. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Our attitudes, choices and behavior speak volumes about what we are and what we believe.<br><br> They reveal whether we are sincere and genuine or fakes and charlatans. Should we shun unbelievers to avoid sin? cI [Jesus] do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one .<br><br> . . As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world d (John 17:15, 18).<br><br> Jesus never instructed the members of His Church to totally withdraw from those who have not yet repented of their sins. As Paul explained: cI have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people 4not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.<br><br> But now I am writing you that you must not associate with any- one who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler d (1 Corinthians 5:9-11, NIV). We should choose our closest friends and companions from people whose inNuence will not lead us into sin because cevil company corrupts good habits d (1 Corin- thians 15:33). But that should not prevent us from hav- ing good relationships with many people who have not yet been called by God.<br><br> Jesus Himself openly associated with people He knew were sinners. He never participated with them in their sins, but neither did He avoid them or consider it beneath Himself to associate with them. cNow it hap- pened, as He was dining in Levi 9s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they fol- lowed Him.<br><br> And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, 8How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners? 9When Jesus heard it, He said to them, 8Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance 9 d (Mark 2:15-17). Remember that God 9s Word tells us to chonor all peo- ple d (1 Peter 2:17).<br><br> We can avoid situations that call for our participating with them in their sins without reject- ing them as friends. We should always avoid being dis- tant, unconcerned and impolite toward neighbors, rela- tives and associates who believe differently from the way we do. If they wish to associate with us socially we should not discourage them, as long as they do not pressure us to compromise with God 9s laws.<br><br> As a result of our considerate and respectful asso- ciation with them it 9s possible that our example may come to have an impact on their views and behavior (1 Corinthians 7:12-16; 1 Peter 3:1). Should we pressure others to accept our beliefs? cLet your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone d (Colossians 4:6, NRSV).<br><br> cAlways be prepared to give an answer to every- one who asks