Exploring the Bible Course - 27


Having  completed  the  course  you  may  have  wished that  more  time  was  spent  on  the  practical outworking of the “new life in Christ” in this 21st century. One could ask—“How does the genuine follower of Jesus Christ convert the lessons of the Bible which were written so long ago into daily life  today?”  That  certainly  is  a  very  logical  and  sensible  question.  We  all  have  to  give  serious  thought to this if we are to be disciples of Jesus Christ.  

Let us commence with a very simple touchstone quotation

— “Be not Conformed to this World”
When the apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Rome, the capital of the great Roman Empire and the  hub  of  all  that  was  fashionable  and  corrupt,  he  said  to  them:  “I  beseech  you  therefore, brethren,  by  the  mercies  of  God, that  ye  present  your  bodies  a  living  sacrifice,  holy,  
acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-3).  

What did Paul mean by this? 

• They were to present their bodies as a live sacrifice to God
• Their whole being was to be given to God in holiness so that it was acceptable to Him.  
• They were not to be “conformed  to  this  world”— that is, their way of life/ behaviour was to be totally different from the way the world about them lived.  
• They were to be “transformed  by  the  renewing  of  their  mind”.  The  Bible  had  opened  up  an entirely new way of thinking, which changed their whole outlook on life. By having their minds enlightened  by  the  will  of  God  and  now  having  a  great  desire  to  follow  His  way  they  would   strive to be like Jesus—and “follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).  

This  idea  of  living  a  life  that  is  different  from  the  ways  of  the  world  is  summarised  by  Jesus himself in that wonderful prayer he uttered just before his death. He said:  “I have given them [the disciples] thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I  am  not  of  the  world. I  pray  not  that  thou  shouldest  take  them  out  of  the  world,  but  that  thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:14-17). Jesus saw a great gulf between the ways God wanted His children to walk and the ways of the world. Like Paul he knew that it was only by reading and meditating on the word of God that his disciples would be changed. Thus he said, “I have given them thy word”, and again, “Sanctify them [or make them holy through thy truth”. It is the power of the word of God understood and believed that will strengthen our faith to overcome the ways of the world. “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the  victory  that  overcometh  the  world,  even  our  faith” (1  John  5:4).  The  greatest  example  in  this overcoming is the Lord himself who said just before he died: “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)—and we are called to follow him. To befriend the world and its ways has a  very  serious  consequence: “Know  ye  not  that  the  friendship  of  the  world  is  enmity  with  God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).

What is this “world” that we must not be conformed to as disciples of Jesus Christ?  
The answer is given clearly by John: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust  of  the  flesh,  and  the  lust  of  the  eyes,  and  the  pride  of  life,  is  not  of  the  Father,  but  is  of  the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15-17).  

“The  world”,  in  Bible  terms,  covers  all  those  evil  things that  come  from  the  lusts  or  desires  of  men’s hearts— “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life”. It was summarised in these words just prior to the judgment of the flood in Noah’s day: “GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).  
So John put the matter very pointedly when, in effect, he said that if we love “the world” then we don’t love God. It is little wonder that Paul urged the Roman believers: “Be  not  conformed  to  this  world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind”. To do this he told them to “present
your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Romans 12:1-2).

How can the disciple of Christ today present his body  “a living sacrifice, holy,  acceptable unto God”?
Just as in the days of the apostles, our time is divided into two fundamental areas. One portion we can call “our work time” which is spent to provide those necessary things for ourselves and our families to be fed and clothed. The other portion of our time we will call “our free time”. By
this we mean that portion of time we spend following activities we choose for ourselves. 

We will first look at “our work time” as followers of Christ.

Our Daily Employment
The disciple of Christ should work to provide for himself and, if he has a family, for the members of that family. There was a difficulty that arose in Thessalonica where some believers thought that they did not need to work. Paul’s instructions are clear:

“When  we  were  with  you,  this  we  commanded  you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they  work,  and  eat  their  own  bread.”  (2  Thessalonians  3:10-12).  Paul  obviously  expected the brethren and sisters to be committed to their daily employment. Being members of the family of God did not entitle them to free meals or monetary support.

Paul reminds the believers of his own example in this, saying: “I have coveted no man's silver, or gold,  or  apparel.  Yea,  ye  yourselves  know,  that these  hands  have  ministered  unto  my  necessities,  and  to  them  that  were  with  me. I  have  shewed  you  all  things,  how  that  so  
labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It  is  more  blessed  to  give  than  to  receive” (Acts  20:33-35).  Paul  was  a  tent-maker  by  trade  (Acts 18:3), and was prepared to work with his hands to provide not only for himself but also for others who may have been unable to obtain work. This is the spirit that each of us should follow. He said he did not covet other people’s gold or silver—he did not want their money.

Again Paul puts the matter very clearly: “If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his  own  house,  he  hath  denied  the  faith,  and  is  worse  than  an  infidel [or  unbeliever]” (1  Timothy  5:8).

Having seen that we are to be responsible for providing those necessary daily needs of life, we are also told that we should do this with diligence,
as if we are serving the Lord Jesus Christ. Again consider the instructions Paul gave to the believers in the first century.

“Be  obedient  to  them  that  are  your  masters  according  to  the  flesh,  with  fear  and  trembling,  in singleness  of  your  heart,  as  unto  Christ;  not  with  eyeservice,  as  menpleasers;  but  as  the servants  of  Christ,  doing  the  will  of  God  from  the  heart;  with  good  will  doing  service,  
as  to  the Lord , and not to men” (Ephesians 6:5-7; see also Colossians 3:22-25 and Titus 2:9-10). We must give of our best in our daily work as if we are serving Christ.  

In the work place today there is often unrest that leads to strikes, but the servant of the Lord will not  partake  in  such  activities  where  men  are  demanding  more  privileges  for  themselves.  We  are called  upon  to  do  our  work  faithfully,  trusting  in  God  to  overshadow  our  lives.  The  thoughtful disciple can live by these guidelines as he goes about his daily work, and lifts his mind to view his daily duties as service to Christ.

However there are times when one may be unable to obtain employment or through illness cannot work. What is the responsibility of brethren towards each other in this situation? Paul urges that the brother who is employed should be “working  with  his  hands  the  thing  which  is  good,  that  he may have to give to him that needeth” (Ephesians 4:28). We need to be observant and endeavour to help those in such need—and those in genuine need must be able to ask for help.

Unwise Employment for the Disciple of Christ  
When  seeking  employment  the  disciple  of  Christ  should  not  place  himself  in  any  position  that would conflict with the ways of Christ. He must remember at all times that the Master he serves is in heaven— “for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:24). There are some jobs therefore that he would immediately avoid. It would be wrong, for example, to join the army, airforce or navy for the obvious reason that he could be called upon to kill people should war or disturbance break out. Jesus  has  given  the  answer  on  this  matter:  “All  they  that  take  the  sword  shall  perish  with  the sword” (Matthew 26:52; John 18:36).  

Some positions are clearly unacceptable, such as the armed forces, as mentioned above, but there are others also that fall into the same area where conflict could arise. These include being a police officer,  security  guard,  prison  officer,  bouncer  or  any  occupation  that  requires  placing  physical restraint upon people. Christ told his disciples: “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21).  

There are other areas that would not be suitable to work in because of the ungodly environment. These would include such places as bars or nightclubs—no true disciple who is seeking to lead a holy way of life would frequent such places. Nor would it be seemly for the disciple of Christ to be employed in the entertainment industry, such as in picture theatres or gambling places and the like.  

Finally, any business venture that is not honest or avoids the legal responsibilities of the country is no place for the disciple of Christ to seek empl
oyment. Related to this is the matter of being in partnership  with  an  unbeliever  because,  unfortunately,  a  conflict  of  interests  is  bound  to  arise due to the disciple’s different perspective on life. Paul puts it this way: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

The  disciple  who  comes  to  a  knowledge  of  God’s  truth  while  employed  in  an  unsuitable  position will seek means to be freed from that position if possible.

Responsibilities to the Laws of the Land
Although the disciple lives as “a stranger and pilgrim” in his country (Hebrews 11:13–14), looking for the day when the Kingdom will be established, he does have a duty to abide by the laws of the land with a willing spirit. In fact, this is the exact guidance given in the Scriptures.
Paul gives Titus the following advice for the believers in Crete: “Put them in mind to be in subjection to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready unto every good work” (Titus 3:1 ASV)

Peter’s advice is: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the  king,  as  supreme;  or  unto  governors,  as  unto  them  that  are  sent  by  him  for  the  punishment  of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Peter 2:13-15).  

Not only are we to obey the laws of the land, but we should be thankful for the liberty we have to worship God freely, if we are blessed with this—we do realise that this is not so in all countries. Paul  asked  Timothy  to  encourage  the  believers  at  Ephesus  with  these  words: “I  exhort  therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).  

From  these  quotations  we  see  that  our  responsibility  is  to  live  honestly  and  dutifully  under  the laws of the land with a willing spirit, as serving God in heaven. For this reason we pay our taxes and abide by all the laws of the land, and this, of course, includes minor by-laws and traffic laws that have been imposed to regulate our life. When Jesus was asked about paying certain taxes he replied:  “Render  unto  Caesar  the  things  which  are  Caesar's;  and  unto  God  the  things  that  are God's” (Matthew 22:17-21). Paul repeats this injunction in Romans 13:1-7, concluding with these words: “For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this  very  thing.  Render  therefore  to  all  their  dues:  tribute  to  whom  tribute  is  due;  custom  to  whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour”.

Having  stated  our  responsibilities  to  obey  the  laws  of  the  land,  we  add  that  should  these  laws conflict  with  our  duty  to  God,  then  the  disciple must  always  see  obedience  to  God  of  greater importance than obeying man’s laws. We find an example of this in the New Testament, when the rulers of the Jewish nation forbad the apostles to preach about Jesus and the gospel. Peter and John’s  answer  was:  “Whether  it  be  right  in  the  sight  of  God  to  hearken  unto  you  more  than  unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:18-20). On  another  occasion,  when  again  Peter  and  the  other  apostles  were  before  the  court  accused  of  preaching, they answered, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

One such significant area where the disciple must stand for his faith against the law of the land is where  there  is  compulsory  military  service.  He will  advise  the  authorities  that  his  conscience before God will not allow him to be involved in any form of military service.  

“Let him have thy cloke also”
What does the disciple do if he is owed money by a person who will not meet his obligations? This can  be  a  real  problem  a  disciple  may  face—or  it  may  be  that  he  is  sued  at  law  to  meet  some supposed obligation. We need to follow the direction of our Lord in this too. He wrote, “If any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel  thee  to  go  a  mile,  go  with  him  twain”  (Matthew  5:40-41).  The  disciple  should  always  be prepared  to  meet  his  obligation  and  not  wait  until  he  is  pressed  into  paying  what  he  owes.  If  money is owed to him, and he has asked for it and been refused, the disciple will not take legal proceedings against the person, but will patiently suffer wrong, trusting in God to oversee his life. Paul  reproved  disciples  for  doing  this,  saying:  “Now  therefore  there  is  utterly  a  fault  among  you, because  ye  go  to  law  one  with  another.  Why  do  ye  not  rather  take  wrong?  why  do  ye  not  rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” (1 Corinthians 6:7).  

The  supreme  example  of  one  who  suffered  wrong  against  himself  but  took  no  action  against  his  adversaries is our Lord. He has left us the example to follow. “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us  an  example,  that  ye  should  follow  his  steps:  who  did  no  sin,  neither  was  guile  found  in  his  mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:21-23).

We  will  have  contact  with  many  people  throughout the  day,  particularly  if  we  live  in  an  urban environment.  First  there  are  our neighbours,  and  then  there  are  those  we  meet  as  we  go  about our  daily  routine—at  work,  school,  university  or our  domestic  tasks.  With  some  of  these  we  will become  quite  familiar  because  of  the  regular  as sociation  we  have  with  them.  Our  contact  with them gives us the opportunity to demonstrate our discipleship and to tell them of the great hope of salvation we have in Christ.  

However there will also be challenges put before us. These people may invite us to activities that they enjoy. They may ask us to go to pictures, sporting events, entertainment and parties—places where we know God’s ways are not upheld. This is where the disciple must be prepared to stand aside.  The  warning  of  the  apostle  James  must  be  ever  in  his  mind: “Know  ye  not  that  the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy  of  God” (James  4:4).  Paul  warned  the  Corinthians:  “What  fellowship  hath  righteousness with  unrighteousness?  and  what  communion  hath  light  with  darkness?  And  what  concord  hath Christ  with  Belial?  or  what  part  hath  he  that  believeth  with  an  infidel?  And  what  agreement  hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from  among  them,  and be ye  separate,  saith  the  Lord,  and  touch  not  the  unclean  thing;  and  I  will receive  you” (2  Corinthians  6:14-17).  Paul  teaches  that  there  is  no  way  the  disciple  can  become closely  associated  in  friendship  with  those  who  are  ignorant  of  God’s  ways.  He  will  of  course  be polite,  showing  kindness,  and  offering  help  to  those  he  must  be  associated  with,  but  will  not  become involved with them in their social life.

The close friends  of  the  disciple  of  Christ  will  be   fellow  disciples.  He  will  seek  their  company, knowing that they have a similar love for the things of God and a keen desire to please Him. Such friendships  that  develop  between  disciples  will  continue  throughout  their  life  and  be  a  constant source of pleasure and comfort. Likewise the disciple who seeks to marry will choose for his or her life companion a fellow disciple, knowing that they will be united in their desire to serve God.

To those who are unmarried God’s teaching is clear—if they are to marry, then it must be to one who holds the same belief and desire to serve God. Paul’s words are to marry “only in the Lord” (1 Corinthians  7:39).  What  a  disaster  it  is  when a  disciple  forsakes  this  principle  and  befriends  a person  who  is  ignorant  of  the  truth  of  the  Gospel  or  has  not  obeyed  it.  Unless  a  person  has accepted  and  obeyed  the  gospel  in  baptism,  then  a  close  friendship  leading  to  marriage  cannot  please God. Wise parents will guide their children to uphold this principle and ensure that they donot make close friendships in the world.  

Marriage in the Lord
As  you  have  gone  through  the Exploring  the  Bible course  you  will  remember  that  the  basis  of  marriage was established in the beginning when God brought Eve to Adam. God said: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24) This was restated by Jesus when he was asked if a man could put his wife away (that is, divorce her) for any reason. Jesus said: “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain,  but  one  flesh.  What therefore  God  hath  joined  together,  let  not  man  put  asunder” (Matthew 19:4-6). When disciples marry they do so, understanding that they are married for life.  

When  disciples  of  Christ  prepare  to  marry  they  will  carefully  plan  their  life  together  as “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7). They should realise at the outset that their happiness is based on a mutual love of God’s word and see the need to read the Bible together every day. They will pray together too, learning to appreciate daily that God is working in their marriage. If blessed with children, they will plan to bring them up in the ways of God and work together to that end. Altogether their home will be a place of refuge from the world, where God is honoured. They will open their home, where possible, for fellow disciples to come and discuss the word of God and be refreshed.  There  will  be  many  practical  ways,  too,  in  which  they  can  demonstrate  the  love  of Christ  to  their  brethren.  The  apostles  give  advice on  how  we  should  extend  ourselves  for  others   (for example, Romans 12:9–21, James 1:22–27, 2:14–17).

Paul in Ephesians 5:22-29 sets forth the highest example of marriage when he compares it with the love that Christ has shown for us and the r
esponse that his love should engender in us.  

Paul’s guidance for wives who are disciples of Christ is: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church [ecclesia]: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church [ecclesia] is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing”. The motivating principle in marriage  should  teach  us  all,  both male  and  female,  that  Christ  is  our  head  and  we  must  be subject to him in all things.  

Paul’s guidance for husbands is: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church [ecclesia], and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by  the  word,  That  he  might  present  it  to  himself  a  glorious  church [ecclesia], not  having  spot,  or wrinkle,  or  any  such  thing;  but  that  it  should  be holy  and  without  blemish.  So  ought  men  to  love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself”. Where the husband shows this selfless love for his wife after the example of Christ for us, and she responds in love to him, there  will  be  a  truly  harmonious  and  happy  marriage.  However,  where  these  principles  in   marriage  are  not  followed,  anger,  domestic  violence  and  tension  are  often  found  in  the  home, which  soon  destroy  a  marriage  and  bring  sadness  to  both  parties,  and  untold  distress  and  damage to any children involved.

Other guidance for marriage is to be found in Colossians 3:18-21 and 1 Peter 3:1-7.  
However some may come to a knowledge of the gospel after they have married. What are they to do?  This  also  happened  in  the  days  of  the  apostles  and  their  guidance  was  that  these  disciples must  remain  faithful  to  their  partners  and  endeavour  to  show  them,  both  by  their  example  and  word,  the  wonderful  hope  of  the  gospel.  Paul  gives  guidance  on  this  in  1  Corinthians  7:12-16, where  he  concludes: “For  what  knowest  thou,  O  wife,  whether  thou  shalt  save  thy  husband?  or how  knowest  thou,  O  man,  whether  thou  shalt  save  thy  wife?”.  
What great joy there will be if the partner also comes to accept the gospel through the quiet example of the disciple of Christ.

Immorality and the Disciple of Christ
We live in a very immoral age. We should not be surprised that this is so, as the Lord himself has told us that the days just prior to his return will be like the days of Noah and Lot (Luke 17:26-33).

In  both  Noah’s  and  Lot’s  days  the  world  was morally  corrupt  and  utterly  perverse—and  the tragedy  was  that  most  people  did  not  believe  it  was  evil  but  were  enjoying  it.  For  example,  Lot  went  to  his  family  with  the  message:  “Up,  get  you  out  of  this  place;  for  the  LORD will  destroy  this   city. But he seemed as one that mocked [joked] unto his sons in law” (Genesis 19:14). They did not believe that God would do such a thing and so perished in the inferno. God destroyed the wicked in the days of Noah and Lot and has said He will do this again. Sadly one of the problems today is that we can become so accustomed to the ways of wickedness that are now accepted in this evil age that we may not see the seriousness of God’s warning of coming judgment.  

Let us list some of the things that should form no part of the life of the disciple, but which are so often accepted in the world about us. In doing this
we will let Paul give the list from 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.  We  will  tabulate  them  and  make  comments but  note  that  Paul  says  that  those  who  do  these things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. It is a serious matter. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: 

neither fornicators— Indulgence in a sexual relationship outside of marriage or before marriage is not permitted for the disciple of Christ. The world today condones this immoral behaviour but it is wrong—it is sin.

nor idolaters— Idolatry can take many forms other than the pagan worship of idols. The disciple of Christ knows that there is one God whom he will love with all his heart. Anything else that takes the  place  of  God  as  a  priority  in  his  life  is  an idol,  whether  a  possession,  job,  sport  or  hobby. Covetousness is a form of idolatry (Colossians 3:5).

nor  adulterers— To  have  sexual  relations  with  another  person’s  wife  or  husband  is  a  serious  sin.  The disciple should not even look on another woman to lust after her, Christ said (Matthew 5:28).

nor  effeminate,  nor  abusers  of  themselves  with  mankind— This  is  referring  to  immoral  behaviour. Such behaviour has become widely accepted in the world today, but the disciple will have nothing to do with such evil practice (Romans 1:26-32).

Nor  thieves,  nor  covetous— Stealing is wrong, and to desire or covet  other  people’s  possessions  is  also a sin. Paul gives good advice to those who have had a problem with theft: “Let him that stole steal  no  more:  but  rather  let  him  labour,  working  with  his  hands  the  thing  which  is  good,  that  he  may have to give to him that needeth” (Ephesians 4:28).

nor drunkards— See note below on drinking, smoking and drugs.

nor  revilers,  nor  extortioners—This  includes  people  who  speak  evil  against  others  and  those  who take from others, usually by force.

shall  inherit  the  kingdom  of  God.  Here  is  the  power  of  Paul’s  comment—if  we  do  these  things  he has listed we will not inherit the Kingdom of God. God will not want people who indulge in such practices to share the blessing and joy of His Kingdom.

And  such  were  some  of  you:  but  ye  are  washed,  but  ye  are  sanctified,  but  ye  are  justified  in  the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.  

Note what Paul is saying in this last comment. Some of the Corinthian disciples had been involved in  these  things  before  they  believed  and  obeyed  the  Gospel.  The  same  is  true  today.  When  a person  comes  to  hear  the  Gospel  he  or  she  may  have  been  involved  in  some  of  this  wrong behaviour. However when they believe, repent of this way of life and are baptised into Christ their past sins are washed away—they are completely forgiven. What a relief to realise that we can be freed from our past sinful ways through Christ. But Paul warns that we must not return to those evil ways again.  

Fashion In Dress
The disciple of Christ should also be aware of the world’s influence in this area. Fashion designers have  no  interest  in  God’s  way;  they  focus  on  appealing  to  those  three  basic  desires  inherent  in each one of us—“the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16) — and their advertising is all based upon this principle. The scriptures clearly indicate that anything that is immodest or provocative is not fit apparel for the disciple of Christ. This particularly applies to women’s  clothing.  Paul  gives  guidance  on  this:  “In  like  manner  also  that  the  women  in  decent  deportment  and  dress  adorn  themselves  with  modesty  and  discretion,  not  with  plaited  hair  and gold, or pearls, or costly clothing, but, what becomes women making profession of the fear of God, by good works” (1 Timothy 2:9-10, Darby Translation).

Drinking, Smoking and Mind-Altering Drugs
The greatest faculty we have to serve God is our mind. Any substance which deliberately dulls the senses in any way hinders the disciple’s ability to follow Christ. We need to have a clear mind at all times to devote to meditation on His word, prayer and praise to Him. We need our full mental
faculties to ward off temptation. It is a well established fact that drinking alcohol or taking drugs can alter our mental judgment very readily. In those countries that have “drink-driving laws” the penalties are very severe if a person drives while under the influence of alcohol. The reason is that their judgment is not sharp—they are a danger to the lives of others as well as to themselves. The disciple  of  Christ  will  always  want  to  keep  his mind  sharp  and  clear.  Peter  puts  it  this  way:   “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be  brought  unto  you  at  the  revelation  of  Jesus  Christ;  as  obedient  children,  not  fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so  be  ye  holy  in  all  manner  of  conversation;  Because  it  is  written, Be  ye  holy;  for  I  am  holy” (1  Peter 1:13-16).  

Peter says that we need to have our minds under complete control because we must be striving to be  holy  as  God  is  holy.  To  be  involved  in  drug-taking  or  smoking  certainly  does  not  help  the disciple  to  present  his  body “a  living  sacrifice, holy, acceptable  unto  God”. Likewise  the  disciple will  not  allow  alcohol  to  be  his  master,  and  be  thoughtful  of  the  fact  that  if  he  drinks  he  may cause another disciple to stumble in his walk in Christ.

Many  will  be  aware  of  the  medical  problems  associated  with  these  different  substances.  Most  western countries now have clear warnings stating the dangerous effects that smoking can have on  the  life  of  those  who  smoke—for  example,  one of  those  statements  is  “Smoking  Kills”.  As disciples of Christ we need to examine very thoughtfully and prayerfully why we would smoke if it could shorten the life God has given us to serve Him. To say that we enjoy the feeling we get from it is certainly not a valid answer, as there is no consideration of service or self sacrifice in that.

Wise and faithful disciples will address these problems if they have been involved in them prior to coming to a knowledge of God’s ways of holiness.

We are not, of course, referring to the use of drugs for medical reasons, but to the recreational use, initially indulged in for pleasure.  

Entertainment and Free Time
How does the disciple relax and spend free time? This needs to be given serious consideration as the world has prepared endless ways to entertain people. The disciple needs to take control of the way he uses the time he has been given by God—to spend it wisely and not in a way that will be detrimental to his service to Christ. The warning is: “See  then  that  ye  walk  circumspectly,  not  as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

There are many positive ways to spend such time profitably, which still allow the relaxation which we all need in this busy and often stressful life. If possible it is good to visit others who share the same  hope  of  the  Gospel  and  enjoy  time  together.  The  sick  and  lonely  need  to  be  visited, and letters  written  to  fellow  disciples  to  encourage and  comfort  them.  Physical  activities  can  include walks, gardening, sports or hobbies with others of like mind, and then there is reading of uplifting books.  Times  spent  with  our  family,  playing  with our  children  or  helping  those  in  need  are  very enjoyable and profitable. Indeed there are many activities that give good stimulation to the mind and body in which the disciple can be involved in his free time.

However, as we have said, the world is endeavouring to fill our free time. But the world’s idea of what is a ‘good time’ is far from the disciple of Christ’s ideal. The world will fill our minds with the most  ungodly  thoughts  and  pictures.  It  will  offer  the  most  ungodly  activities.  Invitations  to nightclubs  and  dances,  pubs  and  clubs  or  gambling  places  should  be  refused—these  places  are not a wholesome environment for the disciple of Christ. Would we choose to be there if Jesus were with us?  

Then there is the entertainment offered in film and video. Movie producers are well aware of how to  capture  our  interest,  and  play  upon arousing  those  very “lusts” which  the  apostle  John  says are “not of the Father, but of the world”. So much of what they offer is based upon those activities that  Paul  warned  would  prevent  the  disciple  of  Christ  from  inheriting  the  Kingdom  of  God.  The disciple then would be foolish indeed to see a film that placards those evils before his eyes, leaving a lasting impression on his mind. Instead, he is “to gird up the loins of his mind” that he might be holy. The entertainment of this age being “of the world” and “not of the Father”, is “enmity against God”. If we extend this a little further, the disciple of Christ would need to seriously weigh up his use of television, knowing it can bring such evil things into the very heart of his home.  

Whilst on this topic we caution regarding the use of the internet on a computer. The computer is an electronic tool that can be very helpful in many areas. But it can also very easily be the means of allowing the disciple to view things that he ought not to allow his mind to dwell on—shameful
things that are contrary to the holiness he is striving to maintain in thought and action. If there is any  likelihood  of  that,  the  disciple  must  take  drastic  action  to  remove  such  temptation.  Christ  warns: “If  thine  eye  offend  thee,  pluck  it  out:  it  is  better  for  thee  to  enter  into  the  kingdom  of  God   with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire” (Mark 9:47). Note the uncompromising tone—he counsels us to be severe with ourselves, taking stern measures to remove anything that will hinder our whole-hearted and pure service to Him.  

Facing Trials and Adversities
As we have read through the Bible we have seen that all the servants of God have had trials and adversities come upon them in different ways throughout their lives. God uses the circumstances of  our  lives  to  test  our  faith  and  love  for  Him.  Our  trials  may  not  be  as  dramatic  as  those  that  came upon Joseph, when he was sold into Egypt, or David as he was pursued by Saul, or Daniel who  was  cast  to  the  lions,  or  his  three  friends  who  were  cast  into  the  fiery  furnace,  but  all  the servants  of  God will have trials of different kinds. Do we confidently  believe  that  God  is  always watching over us to help us, or will we forsake God when we feel under stress and take some easy option? Paul who suffered much persecution as he went forth preaching the Gospel, spoke to the believers “exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation [Greek thlipsis —pressure, trouble, affliction] enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).  

Our faith may be put to the test through having to make a conscientious stand against laws that seem to compel us to forsake the ways of God. It may be that we have personal problems that  seem  to  overwhelm  us,  or  serious  illness  that  debilitates  us,  or  perhaps  members  of  our  family have problems which weigh heavily upon us. Trials may come at work because of our faith or at home from those who do not believe as we do. It may be we are isolated from other believers and feel  dreadfully  alone  in  the  world.  There  are  many  ways  in  which  our  faith  and  love  of  God  is  seriously  tested.  However  in  every  situation  we must  always  remember  that  God  Himself  knows our problems and will hear our prayers as we struggle to cope and to act in a Christ-like way.  

Trials are an opportunity to demonstrate our faith in God. James wrote: “My brethren, count it all joy  when  ye  fall  into  divers  temptations [or  trials];  knowing  this,  that the  trying  of  your  faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James  1:2-4).  Peter  saw  the  trial  of  faith  as the  purifying  of  gold  and  showed  that  our characters  are  being  refined  by  what  we  endure: “That  the  trial  of  your  faith,  being  much  more precious  than  of  gold  that  perisheth,  though  it  be  tried  with  fire,  might  be  found  unto  praise  and  honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).  

Here are some encouraging quotations that can help whenever we feel burdened or afflicted:

The Commandments of Christ
1. Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you (Matthew 5:44)
2. Resist  not  evil:  if  a  man  smite  thee  on  one  cheek,  turn  to  him  the  other  also  (Matthew 5:39,40)
3. Avenge not yourselves; rather give place unto wrath; and suffer yourselves to be defrauded (Romans 12:18-19; 1 Corinthians 6:7)
4. If a man take away thy goods, ask them not again (Luke 6:29-30)
5. Agree  with  your  adversary  quickly,  submitting  even  to  wrong  for  the  sake  of  peace  (Matthew 5:25; 1 Corinthians 6:7)
6. Labour  not  to  be  rich;  be  ready  to  every  good  work,  give  to  those  who  ask;  relieve  the   afflicted (1 Timothy 6:8; Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:16; James 1:27)
7. Do  not  your  alms  before  men:  let  not  thy left  hand  know  what  thy  right  hand  doeth (Matthew 6:1-4)
8. Recompense to no man evil for evil: over come evil with good (Romans 12:17)
9. Bless them that curse you: let no cursing come out of your mouth (Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:14)
10. Render not evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing (1 Peter 3:9)
11. Pray for them that despitefully use you and afflict you (Matthew 5:44)
12. Grudge not; judge not; complain not; condemn not (James 5:9; Matthew 7:1)
13. Put away anger, wrath, bitterness, and all evil speaking (Ephesians 4:31; 1 Peter 2:1)
14. Confess your faults one to another (James 5:16)
15. Be not conformed to this world: love not the world (Romans 12:2; 1 John 2:15)
16. Deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:12; Matthew 5:30)
17. Servants, be faithful, even to bad masters (Ephesians 6:5-8).  
18. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate (Romans 12:16)
19. Owe no man anything (Romans 13:7-8)
20. In case of sin (known or heard of), speak not of it to others, but tell the offending brother of the matter between thee and him alone, with a view to recovery (Matthew 18:15; Galatians 6:1)
21. Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart (Matthew 22:37)
22. Pray always; pray with brevity and simplicity; pray secretly (Luke 18:1; Matthew 6:7)
23. In  everything  give  thanks  to  God  and  recognise  Him  in  all  your  ways  (Ephesians  5:20;  Proverbs 3:6).
24. As ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them (Matthew 7:12)
25. Take Christ for an example and follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21)
26. Let Christ dwell in your heart by faith (Ephesians 3:17)
27. Esteem Christ more highly than all earthly things: yea, than your own life (Luke 14:26)
28. Confess Christ freely before men (Luke 12:8).
29. Beware lest the care of life or the allurements of pleasure weaken his hold on your heart (Luke 21:34-36; Matthew 24:44)
30. Love thy neighbour as thyself (Matthew 22:39)
31. Exercise lordship over no one (Matthew 23:10-12)
32. Seek  not  your  own  welfare  only,  nor  bear  your  own  burdens  merely,  but  have  regard  to those of others (Philippians 2:4; Galatians 6:2)
33. Let your light shine before men: hold forth the word of life. Do good to all men as ye have opportunity (Matthew 5:16; Philippians 2:16; Galatians 6:10)
34. Be  blameless  and  harmless,  as  the  sons  of  God  in  the  midst  of  a  crooked  and  perverse generation (Philippians 2:15)
35. Be  gentle,  meek,  kind-hearted,  compassionate, merciful,  forgiving  (2  Timothy  2:24;  Titus 2:2; Ephesians 4:32)
36. Be sober, grave, sincere, temperate (Philippians 4:5; 1 Peter 1:13; 5:8)
37. Speak the truth every man with his neighb our: put away all lying (Ephesians 4:25)
38. Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as unto the Lord, and not unto men (Colossians 3:23)
39. Be   watchful,   vigilant,   brave,   joyful,   courteous,   and   manly   (1   Corinthians   16:13;  Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:6-10)
40. Be clothed with humility: be patient toward all (Colossians 3:12; Romans 12:12)
41. Follow peace with all men (Hebrews 12:14)
42. Sympathise in the joys and sorrows of others (Romans 12:15)
43. Follow after whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseful (Philippians 4:8)
44. Refrain  utterly  from  adultery,  fornication,  uncleanness,  drunkenness,  covetousness, wrath,  strife,  sedition,  hatred,  emulation,  boasting,  vainglory,  envy,  jesting,  and  foolish talking (Ephesians 5:3-4)
45. Whatever  you  do,  consider  the  effect  of  your  action  on  the  honour  of  God’s  Name  among men. Do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31; 3:17)
46. Reckon yourselves dead to all manner of sin. Henceforth live not to yourselves, but to him who died for you, and rose again (Romans 6:11; 2 Corinthians 5:15)
47. Be zealous of good works, always abounding in the work of the Lord, wearying not in well-doing (Titus 2:14; Galatians 6:9)
48. Speak evil of no man (Titus 3:2)
49. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly (Colossians 3:16)
50. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt (Colossians 3:8; 4:6)
51. Obey rulers; submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake (Titus 3:1)
52. Be holy in all manner of conversation (1 Peter 1:15-16)
53. Give no occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully (1 Timothy 5:14)

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