Living Like a Christian In a Non-Christian World

I have been writing on the subject of worry. We are still on that subject, from Matthew 6; this time our emphasis is on not living like a Gentile (a non-Christian), but rather like a Christian. In Matthew 6:31 through 33 Jesus said,

“Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ 32 “For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.

We Are Not to Live Like the Non-Christian

In verse 32 Jesus mentions that the Gentiles (non-Christians) are always seeking food, drink, and clothing, and yet they always seem to be worried over it. It is because they have a wrong view of life, a view that leaves open the door to worry. Here are two life views of the non-Christian.

1. The theory of contingency. This view holds that everything in life is accidental, that things happen without rhyme or reason and we never know what will happen next.

2. The theory of fatalism. This is the idea that whatever happens we can’t do anything about it. It is the belief that there are unknow powers, good and bad, controlling things, but we can’t do anything about it—whatever happens, happens; whatever will be will be. Doris Day use to sing that song, remember?

When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother, what will I be
Will I be pretty
Will I be rich
Here’s what she said to me

Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be

The non-Christian still has these views about life, and so you can see why they worry. And many will try to overcome worry by one of two way.

1. Party it up. They say, we don’t know what’s going to happen, so we might as well live it up now, for tomorrow we may die.

2. Suicide. There are all kinds of suicide. There is drug overuse, or immorality, both are used to blot out a depressed life. And some go crazy and just flip out, killing others and themselves.

Living by Faith

The Christian view of life is quite different than the non-Christian view. We could call it…

The doctrine of certainty. In this view things are certain because we are in the hands of the living God.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that l all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  Therefore, we believe that God has a perfect plan for our lives, and much of that plan we see from day to day as we read His word and walk in His Spirit.

But why do so many Christians still worry (like me)? The answer is easy. Though they are believers and have the Holy Spirit, they unknowingly live not by the Christian view of life, but by the non-Christian view. And sometimes what they may say in ordinary conversation betrays them. They may say something like, “Well, we never know what the future holds.”

The answer to a worried life, of course, is to build up our faith; to constantly remind ourselves that we are a child of God and that we were meant to live by faith. Here are four things you can do to build up your faith in God.

1. Put every crisis in the context of your faith.

2. When faced with a crisis ask yourself, will my conduct show me and others that I am a Christian and that I belong to a higher realm.

3. Know that you will never be in any situation that is outside of God’s love and care.

4. When faced with any situation in life, know that you should seek first His kingdom and righteousness, and then believe that all other things will be taken care of by God (read Matthew 6:33).

Moving on from Little Faith to Great Faith

In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus talks about how we ought not to worry or be anxious in life; and He talks about how we should look at the birds and the flowers to see how God our Father takes care of them and how He will even more take care of us. Then in Matthew 6:30 Jesus points out to us what the ultimate problem is that is causing us to worry. We have a lack of faith. He said, “O ye of little faith.”

What does He mean by little faith? He does not say “no faith,” but little faith, or not enough faith. And Jesus is not speaking to unbelievers, but to believers—those who began a life of faith in Him.

But we must proceed on from the faith we began with—from the faith that saved us. Let us desire a larger, deeper faith. Or let me say this: if we don’t move on to a larger faith, we may always have trouble with worries and doubts—and along the way, some may even doubt their salvation!

What is a larger faith? It is a faith that believes on God for more than salvation; for our entire life—for every little thing; for food and drink and clothing, and also that He will care for you in everything you do.

To be of little faith means that we are mastered by our circumstances. This should not happen to a Christian! We as Christians should be above our circumstances. We can even rejoice in tribulation.

Another way of looking at it is that we as Christians who are of great faith learn to be thinkers not just responders. Hence, the trouble with the one of little faith is that he does not think; he does not think of the truth and the promises of God. He is just blown around by the wind of circumstances.

We must spend more time studying the bible and thinking of on the lessons that the Lord gives us, and on His promises, and to believe them. This is the essence of faith. And conversely, little faith is not to open the bible but rather to cling to a vague memory of our salvation.

I am not saying that our salvation is not important. But we must go on and build on that salvation. A larger faith realizes the full implication of our salvation. It sees who we are as Christians; that we are children of our heavenly Father and that we have a great inheritance in Christ. All the promises of God are meant for us. Paul wrote, “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things (Ro. 8:32).

Here are some things to think about which He has given us:

  • He has put our names in His book (Rev. 20:12). He has many things in store for us for all eternity.
  • Think of His great love for us (John 3:16).
  • He is concerned for us. He cares for us (1 Pt. 5:7).
  • He is so strong for us. His great power is working for us (Eph. 3:16-20).

Don’t Be Anxious

This is a subject that I know I need. It seems that the older I get the more I worry about things. I think it is because I feel weaker and more vulnerable. So, I look forward to what I will learn here. Our text is Matthew 6:25-34.

Matthew 6:25-34

“For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing? 26 “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 “And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span? 28 “And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. 30 “But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith? 31 “Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ 32 “For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

This text follows immediately after Matthew 6: 19-24, having to do with not laying up treasures on earth, but in heaven; and having a single (or a pure) eye, and therefore having only one master, God. The text for this post having to do with not being anxious is a little different, but it has a connection to the previous text in the following ways:

  • The Matthew 6:19-24 passage is about laying up treasures; and the Matthew 6:25-34 text is about worrying over treasures.
  • Those who can’t afford treasures will worry about not having them.
  • Those who have treasures will still worry; they will worry about losing them, or getting more treasures, or over what to do with the treasures they have.

Satan doesn’t care if you have conquered having treasures, because he will get you to think and worry about them. His goal is to get your mind off of God and he will do it one way or another, either to be laying up treasures on earth or to be thinking about them—worrying about them.

Now the theme remains for us to have a single (or pure) eye, and to seek first His kingdom. To do that we are to trust Him and to “take no thought for our life.” This is the King James translation, in the time of Shakespeare, about 1600s; and in that day the meaning of “taking thought” was meant in the sense of being anxious or to worry. We may also understand the term as having a divided mind, or having a doubtful mind or double vision.

If you are using the KJV and the term “take no thought” you must understand that it does not mean that we are not to think about things or not to do anything about our problems except to trust God—to just sit and trust Him. No. We should be busy to provide for ourselves and work out our problems just like the birds do. They are always busy searching for their food. And in their search God rewards them and cares for them. So, the man also must work—or he will not eat. And if you begin to worry you should pray and God will give you peace (Phil. 4:6-7).

Here is one idea that may help you. If God has given you your life as a gift to you, and He has, then He will certainly make sure that your life is sustained for as long as He wills. God has a good plan for every life that He has created.

How to Live the Christian Life in This World – From Matthew 6:19-20

We have been studying Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and following D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones teaching from his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. We have now come to the section following the Disciples Prayer outline, verses 19 -20, where Jesus tells us,

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.

So here, we come to the problem of living the Christian life in the world and therefore how to overcome to world while living in it. Jesus gives us two points to follow: 1) we are not to store up for ourselves treasures upon earth, but 2) we are to store up treasures in heaven.

We Are Not to Store Up for Ourselves Treasures Upon Earth

Here are a few notes from my reading:

Jesus wants us to be concerned not so much with having wealth and possessions, but with our attitude toward them.

We are to be concerned with our whole attitude toward life in this world. That is, we ought not to get our total satisfaction in life from things in this world.

A person’s treasures are the things that mean everything to him—what he is living for.

Here are some things in this world that can become our treasures: love of money, of honor, of position, of status. We are not to be so concerned with these things that they take up our entire life. These things will all pass away in the end.

We Are to Store Up Treasures in Heaven

Use your riches to prophet you for the next life.

Do not labor for what will perish but for what will endure to everlasting life.

Have a right view of life. In this world we are pilgrims.  We walk under the eye of God, toward our everlasting hope.

Our attitude must be that I am not the possessor of my things. They really do not belong to me. I am but a custodian of them.

 I should always be using my things for the glory of God.

I am a child of God placed here for His purpose.

I must hold my things loosely; I am to be in a state of blessed detachment from them; and I should always be considering how I can use the things that God has entrusted to me for His kingdom.

The Lord’s Prayer: The Last Three Petitions

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Matthew 6:11-13

In previous blog posts I first wrote on the invocation, “Our Father.”  And then I wrote on the first three petitions, which have to do with God and His glory: with His character and holiness, with His kingdom, and with His will.

Now we come to the last three petitions that have to do with our needs and desires. Though this prayer outline is quite brief, it is all inclusive: the needs of the body, the soul, and the spirit are all included. Nothing is left out. The needs of the body are termed as “our daily bread.” The needs of the soul are termed as “forgiveness.” And the needs of our spirit are termed as our deliverance from evil.

Our daily bread

This request is for our material needs: everything that is necessary for our living. And notice that this is the first petition having to do with what we need, suggesting that God cares that we be healthy in our life.

And just because He knows all our needs even before we ask, doesn’t mean that we should not ask Him. We should ask Him every morning because He desires us to speak with Him every day. And He also wants us to realize our dependence on Him; that we cannot live for one day without Him.

Forgive us

In the first section, “And forgive us our debts,” we must recognize that “us” is in reference to anyone who is in the family of God; all others are excluded. So, this prayer is only for His children. Next, know that He will give us forgiveness immediately if we ask (look at 1 John 1:9).

In the next part, “as we forgive our debtors,” notice that it says “as” we forgive our debtors, not “because” we forgive them. Hence, our forgiveness is not based on our work of forgiving others. Rather, we should see it altogether. In the family of God, He gives us the desire and the strength to forgive others; and He also forgives us. It is in the new nature of believers to forgive as God forgives.

We could see it this way: the proof that we are forgiven of God is that we forgive others. And if we have not forgiven others than this is an indication that God has not forgiven us—that we are not His children.

Deliverance from evil

The first part, “And lead us not into temptation,” is asking God not to allow us into any situation where we are liable to be tempted by Satan or the flesh. It is the same as in 1 Corinthians 10:13, where we can ask God to give us a way of escape from temptation. The second part, “deliver us from evil,” is asking God to show us that way of escape and then give us the power to get out of there—or He may just remove the power of evil from us, just as He tamed the lion in front of Daniel (you know the story).

Now here are three reasons why we should pray this third petition:

1. So that our fellowship with him may not be broken.

2. So that we will have a right relationship with Him.

3. So that we can get to know Him.

How to Pray Using The Lord’s Prayer

I have been reviewing the sermons of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. I am now covering his chapters on the Lord’s Prayer, from Matthew 6:9-13. So far, from my previous blog post, I wrote shortly on the first line, “Our Father in heaven.” That is the invocation, or we could say, that which takes us into prayer. Those words remind us that He is our Father and a mighty Father-God who is in heaven.

Now we come to the rest of the prayer, which is really an outline that Jesus has given us in order to pray better. And it consists of six petitions as follows:

1. Hallowed be Thy name.

2. Your kingdom come.

3. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

4. Give us this day our daily bread.

5. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

6. And do not lead us unto temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Notice that the first three petitions have regard to God and His glory, and the second three have reference to ourselves. And please take note of this order; for it is the way He wants us to pray. We must never start with ourselves; we must always begin first praying for God and His glory. In this blog, we will examine these first three petitions.

Hallowed be Thy name.

At first glance it doesn’t really appear to be a petition, or request, but more of a statement—that we are sort of willing His name to be hallowed, or holy. But it is definitely a petition, that His name would be hallowed on this earth.

Here are two other translations that may help:

“May your name be honored” (NLT).

“Reveal who you are” (the Message).

Hallowed means to sanctify, or to revere, or to make and keep holy. The petition is that God, in all that is true of Him, would be revered (God has many names, and it would be good to study those names).

Your kingdom come.

This petition is that His kingdom would come into every heart. Then it is also that His kingdom would come into the world and light up the world. His kingdom is His reign, His law, and His rule. This I think is a good missionary prayer. Every Christian should pray this prayer—that all would come to know Him and reign and rule in his or her life.

Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

This is the result of His kingdom coming, that His will would be done on earth just as it is in heaven.

How to Begin Your Prayers

Generally, before we (Christians) go to prayer, it is always good to realize what a privilege we have to be in God’s presence and to be able to talk with Him face to face and soul to soul. Prayer is truly a high activity of the soul—the highest activity of the soul.

When you begin to pray, don’t think that it is okay to just ramble on with your requests or to just say whatever is on you mind. We all tend to do that—me too. But there is a correct way to pray. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, He gave them a skeleton prayer to follow (found in Matthew 6:9-13). We call it “The Lord’s Prayer.” We are not to just recite this prayer, as some do; but we are to use it as a guide, or as an outline. If we do that, we are well on our way to be able to pray correctly; for in this skeleton prayer contains every prayer principle.

Our Father

As you go to pray, the first thing you should do as you bow your head is to pause and remind yourself of what you are about to do and who you are about to speak to. Remind yourself that you are in the presence of holiness, and that He, your Father, is with you listening and attentive. You may want to have a copy of the Lord’s Prayer before you, and focus first on the first two words of the prayer: Our Father. Yes, He is your Father, and my Father. So, realize that all of us who are believers have the same Father and we are in a wonderful relationship with Him.

Our Father in heaven

At this point in your prayer, you can continue to ruminate on what it means to be in the family of God and to thank and praise Him for who He is and what He has done for you. And then, at some point you will want to move on to the next few words… “in heaven.” He is your and our Father in heaven. What does that mean? It refers to His greatness and that His presence is everywhere. He is almighty God in heaven. He is all knowing, present everywhere, and all powerful.

In your prayers you may at first just be thinking of Him and of your relationship with Him. But at some point, you will also want to start speaking to Him. Thank Him and praise Him for being your Father and for who He is. Praise and worship Him in the best way you know how.

Final comments. If you have been a Christian for a long time maybe what I am teaching here seems too mechanical, or too basic. Believe me, I understand. But especially for a new Christian, I think it is important to get on the right track. I hear too many Christians praying incorrectly. Some of them, all they do is list their needs as if they are talking to Santa Claus. That is so disrespectful. I think it is important to at first follow the outline of the Lord’s Prayer. And then after a while, as it is firm in your mind, your prayers will flow more easily and you, without even realizing it, will be praying correctly, as He taught us.

The next line in the Lord’s Prayer is “hallowed be Your name.” I will save that for the next blog.

Fasting: How to Fast Correctly

In general, fasting is abstinence from food for spiritual reasons; it is that personal discipline that aids us in our spiritual life.

To start, I want to tell you that I am not a regular faster, nor do I enjoy even the thought of it. But as any discipline, I know that it has its purpose; and so, as I present this information—which happens to be in the chapter of the book I am blogging through, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount—I am now trying to follow God’s will if He should guide me to fast. I will now present to you the follow four points:

The Biblical Basis for Fasting

Some would argue that in this day of grace, in this New Testament era, we should not be fasting. But clearly, there is a biblical basis for it, both in the Old and New Testament. As D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out, under the Law of Moses the children of Israel were commanded to fast once a year. And there are several examples of Old Testament fasting. Fasting is also mentioned in the New Testament. It is not directly commanded or taught by Jesus, but is indirectly taught and approved of by Jesus, since He Himself fasted (Matt. 4:2), and so did the early church (Acts13:2-3; 14:23).

Lloyd-Jones points out that the problem many are having now with fasting is clearly an over-reaction against Catholicism; for you recall from history that fasting was a huge part of the Catholic religion and clearly was an incorrect use of it.

The Wrong Use of Fasting

If we stick to what fasting basically is, a discipline that aids us in pray and in our spiritual relationship with God, that will keep us from any wrong use of it. With that being said, here are four wrong uses:

1. Fasting should not be done as a good work in itself.

2. Fasting should not be done to try to make yourself more disciplined or more spiritual.

3. Fasting should not be done to get a blessing from God or to be more prosperous.

4. Fasting should not be done to see if we can achieve some personal fasting goal—for example, to try to fast for a certain length of time. Overall, fasting itself will not please God. It should not be an end it itself. It is always to be regarded as a means to an end and not as an end in itself.

Correct Purposes for Fasting

Again, we will begin with the definition of fasting, which is a discipline to aid us in our spiritual life. From there we derive the following purposes:

1. To aid us in our lack of faith in doing some spiritual work (example: casting out a demon, Matt. 17:19-21).

2. Basically it is to be closer to God. We get this from Mark 2:18-20, where Jesus explains that His disciples did not fast because they were with Him, and so they had no need to fast. But after Jesus would be “taken away from them,” then they would fast—for obvious reasons.

3. As an aid in doing a special work of God, which would require a special spiritual guidance (example: Acts 14:2-3, choosing Barnabas and Saul as missionaries; Acts 14:23, appointing elders).

4. To receive help from God when faith is lacking (Example: the nation of Israel fasted when Moab and Ammon came against them and they were afraid, 2 Chron. 20:3).

How to Act When Fasting

Just as with giving and praying, fasting, Jesus said, is a practice of righteousness (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16), and therefore, we should do these things without sounding a trumpet, as to inform those around us what we are doing. For any act of our Christianity should be an act of humility and just between us and God. Fasting therefore should be done in secret, or, without people knowing that we are doing it. Hence, we shouldn’t draw attention to what we are doing by not washing or shaving. We should rather look as normal as possible. And if we are worried that we will not get our proper recognition, we can take comfort in the fact that God sees everything we do and will secretly reward us (Matt. 6:18).

Matthew 6:16-18

“And whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance in order to be seen fasting by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17 “But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face 18 so that you may not be seen fasting by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. NASB

What Do Ye More than Others? – Matthew 5:47

And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same (Matt. 5:47)?

Jesus, in this verse, in the context of verses 44 through 48, is saying to us that we are to be different. The Christian is to be different than the non-Christian. We are to love our enemies (v. 44), not just our friends. And here in verses 46 and 47, He says that if we love and greet our brethren only, what good is that? Everyone does that. Rather, we are to be perfect, just as our Father in heaven is perfect (v. 48). And we can do that because we are His children (v. 45).

I have been blogging from the book, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Today I will relay briefly what he says on this text. Lloyd-Jones starts out by bringing to us Christ’s command that we are to be perfect, even as our Father is perfect.  And we may discern that this command seems impossible; but yet, at the same time, by the very fact that we are commanded to be such, implies that it is possible. It is impossible to the natural man, but very possible for the Christian man, the spiritual man.

Why is that so? What makes the Christian so different? So unique? So powerful? It has to be because we are the children of our Father in heaven, and because we have in us the characteristics of God Himself. We have in our new nature things that are never found in the non-Christian.

Here, from Lloyd-Jones’ book, are nine unique qualities that the true Christian has in contrast to the non-Christian.

1. In His attitude toward the law. The natural man may observe the law and be moral in his behavior, but he never goes beyond it. The Christian is more concerned with the spirit than with mere obedience. And he always delights in the law of God in his inner self.

2. His attitude toward morality. The natural man’s attitude about morality is generally negative in that he is focused on not doing certain things. In contrast, the Christian’s attitude is more positive; he hungers and thirsts to be righteous like God.

3. His attitude toward sin. The natural man thinks of sin in terms of things that are done or not done. The Christian is more interested in his heart—whether he is right with God or not.

4. His attitude toward himself. The natural man admits his sin, but he will never morn over it. Yet the Christian is always sorry for his sin.

5. His attitude toward other sinners. The natural man may regard others with tolerance and pity. But the Christian goes beyond that and sees them as victims of sin and held captive by Satan.

6. His view of God. The natural man may see God as someone to be obeyed and feared. But the Christian loves God because he has come to know Him.

7. His motive for a living. The natural man may desire to do good, but generally like to keep a record of it. The true Christian gives without counting the cost and does it sacrificially.

8. How he faces trials. The natural man may face trials without complaining, and powers through them with an iron will. But the Christian deep down knows that all things work together for good to them that love God. And he even rejoices in trials.

9. His attitude toward his enemies. The natural man may know how to resist striking or expressing anger toward his enemies, but he cannot love them. The Christian, however, by the Spirit of God, can indeed love his enemies genuinely, and even pray for them.

So, we see that the Christian is unique and different than the natural man. He is different because of what God has done in his heart and life. He has made him a new person with a new nature. He indeed has been changed by the work of the gospel; and he understands the gospel: that he is utterly sinful, but that God sent His only Son to die for our sins, and thus bring His forgiveness to us, and a new life. And we live now with hope for a bright future. And His Spirit lives in us, filling us, teaching us His will, even guiding us along the way. And He, from day to day empowers us to love all the people we meet and have dealings with, even our enemies.

Four Ways to Exercise True Christianity – Matthew 5:39-42

Prayer A to Z

Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount gives us four ways to exercise His true teachings by dying to self. In D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ fine exposition of Matthew 5:39-42, he emphasizes that before we make any effort to follow Jesus’ teachings it is important to have an attitude and a mind that is prepared by the Spirit.

1. Instead of resisting an evil person that slaps us on the cheek, we should turn the other cheek also (v. 39). As a Christian we are not to be concerned with our own personal injuries or comfort. We are to be indifferent to self, believing that God will care for us. However, if we believe that the man who struck us is out of control and has a problem with anger, or a drug problem, or any other thing, it may be good to show him his problem and try to restrain…

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