In our previous lesson, we began a search of the material contained within the New Testament that speaks about the topic of REMAINING FAITHFUL TO THE END. In that study, we focused our attention upon on the INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY of being a citizen of the Kingdom of God. We discovered the serious reality of God’s expectations in the areas of FAITHFULNESS, and LOYALTY. It is important to remember that these expectations are not more than we can accomplish because God knows our limitation and he is careful to protect us from being forced to do things against our will. WE WILL ALWAYS HAVE A CHOICE and so living faithfully to God involves making good and careful choices!
In this lesson, we will continue our study by looking at WHAT God expects from us if we join the NEW AGREEMENT, and HOW we can accomplish those things!
Please read 1 Peter 1:22-2:3 and record the main points on your paper. We know that Peter is speaking to people who are already Christians because he refers to them as people who had their souls purified, which can only mean Christians! How did these people get their souls purified? They did so by obeying the truth! Can this possibly mean anything other than following the instructions we discovered in Lessons 6 and 7? No! His next point is that they must fulfill their commitment to change, by putting away all the things in their lives that God does not like, and GROW! He tells them that they must become like newborn babies! Newborn babies CRAVE1 milk so that they can survive and so, in the same way, we learn that we must also crave milk if WE want to survive and grow! However, context tells us that this milk is not the kind that a person drinks; it is the message of the Bible! We are told to CRAVE THIS MESSAGE so that we can GROW UP! If growing requires us to FEED on God’s message then Bible study becomes the key to growth, and if we do not study then we will not grow! That is a simple idea that we can understand but what are we supposed to grow up to be?
Back in Jesus: Man Of The Bible, we saw the answer to this when we studied about the word METAMORPHOSIS, commonly used in Biology to represent the life cycles of certain animals and insects. It represents the idea of change that takes place in stages and to illustrate the point we used the example of the life cycle of a BUTTERFLY! As the diagram at the right shows, a butterfly starts its life as an egg. When it hatches out of the egg, does it come out as a butterfly? No, it comes out as a caterpillar. This small worm crawls around eating leaves and growing until it gets big, then it goes to sleep in a special house until it comes out as a beautiful butterfly! As a butterfly, it no longer eats leaves, but instead drinks sweet juices inside flowers. It no longer crawls from place to place, but flies! Its form and abilities as an adult are very different from what it was just after it hatched from its egg. It experiences major changes as it goes through each of the stages until it reaches the final result, which is nothing like the way it was when it started. This is how growing as a member of the NEW AGREEMENT will be!
If you will remember that study of metamorphosis, we looked at TWO passages in the New Testament that use this word. One was 2 Corinthians 3:18, where we found that the TARGET of our growth is NOT being a butterfly, but becoming like Jesus! The point is simple. IF we study about him a little each day, and we copy what we find into our lives, THEN we will slowly change to become like Jesus – “from one degree of glory to another!” The second passage we looked at was Romans 12:1-2, where we learned more details about the change God is expecting from us. He expects us to change the way we think. Back in Lesson 3 of this course, we discussed this matter when we were trying to understand how God could write the laws of the NEW AGREEMENT on the hearts of people! We concluded that this means God emphasizes changing the thoughts2 of people because changing the way people think will bring about a sincere change in their actions.
However, no one can deny that there MUST be a change of action in the life of a person in the NEW AGREEMENT. Please turn to Colossians 3:9-11, and record the main points. Paul writes to people who are already Christians and tells them of the need to change THEIR ACTIONS. This fits together with all that we learned about FAITH, REPENTANCE, and BEING FAITHFUL TO THE END. Unless we CHANGE OUR ACTIONS, then WE HAVE NO METAMORPHOSIS and we are NOT BECOMING LIKE JESUS! However, changing our thoughts and attitudes is a necessary starting point if we ever hope to change our actions!
Change taking place in stages is the LIVING SACRIFICE we must offer to God and it is LOGICAL for God to expect it!
One of the most interesting and important passages about GROWTH is Hebrews 5:11-6:2. Please read this passage and record the main points. It is interesting because of the background of the passage. Not only was this written to people, who were already Christians, but they also had been Christians for some time and the writer is upset because they had not grown. Notice how he says that “by this time” they should have become teachers, but instead they needed to go back and start over. Then he goes into a discussion about MILK and SOLID FOOD. Notice how each of these refers to a kind of teaching. Milk refers to BASIC TEACHINGS and solid food refers to ADVANCED TEACHINGS. He closes by encouraging the readers to go on to more advanced teachings leaving behind the “elementary doctrines” as some Bibles say. Then he gives a list of these basic teachings and please notice how all of the things we have been studying in this course are included in his list. This means that even though we have studied some great things and learned so much, these things are ONLY THE BEGINNING OF WHAT God wants us to learn!
What was the problem with these Christians and why did they fail to grow? Look at what the writer says in verse 11. While the wording may sound strange in your Bible, the original language is very clear. He tells them there is much they need to learn, but at some time in the past they became “lazy to listen” and they are still that way now! We can understand their problem and the lesson for us is very simple. IF Bible study is the key to growth and we become LAZY to study the Bible THEN we will not grow! Let us never forget that once we enter into the NEW AGREEMENT we are under obligation to fulfill our responsibility!
We can easily understand what the writer is saying if we use the example of the difference between elementary school and high school. Elementary school is the place where we learn the most basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic. In high school, we learn the advanced skills that prepare us for surviving in the world. We cannot stay in ELEMENTARTY SCHOOL if we want to get a good job to support ourselves in the world! This is what the writer means when he speaks about leaving behind the “elementary doctrines”, so what are the advanced subjects we must learn?
Please read 2 Peter 1:3-11 and record the main details. Peter starts by saying that everything God has done for us in his PLAN was done so that we might SHARE HIS NATURE. This sounds very much like those places in the Bible where God tells his people that they need to be LIKE HIM – “You will be holy because I am holy!” Because of this, Peter tells his readers to make every effort3 to ADD to their FAITH, GOODNESS, KNOWLEDGE, SELF-CONTROL, ENDURANCE, LOYALTY, BROTHERLY KINDNESS, and LOVE! He continues saying that IF these things are present, and IF they are increasing, THEN THEY will not let any person become USELESS or UNFRUITFUL TO GOD! However, he also says that IF these things are lacking, THEN that person has not understood God’s PLAN and has forgotten that he or she accepted the terms of being in the NEW AGREEMENT!4
His description is similar to the growth of a corn plant, like the one in the diagram on the right. When a corn seed germinates, a single leaf comes out of the ground and then slowly, other leaves are added as the plant grows taller. When the corn plant is fully-grown, a tassel appears at the top of the corn plant and baby ears of corn develop on the stalk below. The pollen from the tassel fertilizes the baby ears of corn and they grow and mature until they are ready to be harvested! We might say that the corn seed is like our FAITH. Peter tells us that once that seed germinates we need to ADD the characteristics he mentioned in his list. Therefore, the first leaf that comes out is GOODNESS, followed by KNOWLEDGE, SELF-CONTROL, ENDURANCE, LOYALTY, and BROTHERLY KINDNESS. Once all the leaves are there, the only thing lacking in our corn plant is the tassel and that tassel is LOVE! This LOVE fertilizes the plant so that it produces fruit! There can be no corn without the whole plant reaching maturity. In the same way, if we do not put these things in our lives, we will never be useful to the Lord!
We know that CHANGE is not easy and earlier in our study we discovered that obstacles are certain to come, and so HOW are we supposed to overcome them? Do you remember what we learned from Matthew 10:34-39? The first Christians suffered in so many ways. They experienced abuse from family members, from the government, and many faced prison and even death, just because they decided to accept the terms of the NEW AGREEMENT! Even though their situation was difficult, we learned that they were told to reject wrong teachings and be FAITHFUL UNTIL DEATH! Was God requiring too much from them? Of course not, because faithfulness has ALWAYS been the most basic requirement of any relationship. The fact that being faithful might require a person to leave behind family, or even die, does not excuse unfaithfulness! Did ALL the ones who were baptized remain faithful to their commitment? No! Throughout the history of the Bible, has God ever relaxed his requirement of faithfulness? NEVER! If this is what God expected from the people living in the Bible, he expects that same thing from us!
HOW then, were the people of the New Testament able to remain faithful in the face of such difficulties? How were they able to die rather than deny Jesus? How were they able to leave behind husbands, wives, children, and go to their deaths when all they would have to do to live was deny Christ when the police asked if they were Christians? Please read 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 and record the main points. Paul speaks of being CONTROLLED by the love that Christ had for us. He speaks of being CONVINCED that Jesus forgot about his own needs and helped us, and now WE should think just as Jesus did! REMEMBERING CHRIST’S LOVE MOTIVATED THOSE PEOPLE TO REMAIN FAITHFUL TO GOD!
Please read Matthew 10:28 and record the main points. This is an amazing passage because of the context and because of what it says! Jesus is speaking about dealing with things and people that oppose a person’s effort to follow God and to make his point very clear, Jesus states that a person who wants to follow him should never be afraid of anyone who might say or do bad things to him or her. Instead, he says that we should be afraid of the one who can kill us and then throw us into HELL! Who is this that Jesus tells us to be afraid of? It is HIS FATHER! The early Christians were CONVINCED who God was and that he punishes unfaithfulness! THIS helped them have the courage to do what had to be done to remain faithful!
However, the REASON FOR THEIR SUCCESS was something that we learned at the beginning of this course. Please read Romans 5:3-11 and record the main points. We KNOW that temptation will come into our lives but we ALSO KNOW that God will never allow us to be tempted more than we can bear. Paul tells the readers that when they are tempted they need to think very carefully about their choices and realize that IF they endure THEN they will grow stronger and this strength will help prepare them for future temptations! However, please do not be confused. This strength only comes if a person does not sin!
Without a doubt, it is important for each individual Christian is TO SERVE AND OBEY GOD and there is NO EXCUSE for giving up no matter what happens! God’s expectation will never change, but we KNOW that he is not asking too much because we read in the Bible about many people who had faith, trusted God, and did whatever he told them to without hesitation and without concern for consequences!
Perhaps more than anything else, the fact that God promises we will never receive a challenge to our commitment that we cannot overcome is the greatest reason why any person who wants to CAN BE FAITHFUL! However, aside from 1 Corinthians 10:13, does God offer any other assistance? YES, there is MUCH more!
If we look back into the various teachings of Jesus we find that God’s PLAN contains other details that are meant to help us succeed in being members of the NEW AGREEMENT. Please turn to and read Mark 10:28-31, get your paper, and record the main points. Notice how Jesus describes the difficulties we discussed in our previous lesson. The reality of LOSS is something each person must struggle with throughout their life, however, notice also, what Jesus says a disciple that experiences loss can receive in return for their continued commitment. It is very remarkable! He promises that anyone that experiences loses for keeping their faith, will receive back 100 times what they lost in this life and, after this life is over, HEAVEN!
Those are comforting words, and most people understand that things will be MUCH BETTER IN HEAVEN, but what does Jesus mean when he speaks about receiving 100 times back IN THIS LIFE?
The answer can be seen by making a historical study of the book of Acts. We begin by looking at Acts 2:37-47. Please read this passage and record the main points. This passage provides us with a description of what life was like for the first Christians. The first portion of the passage tells about how the crowds of people listening to Peter were “convicted” in their hearts and how they were instructed to become Christians by REPENTING and BEING BAPTIZED. The passage also says that on that one day, about 3,000 people responded to the message, were baptized, and were “added” into God’s group of believers.5
Beginning with verse 42, there is a description of how these people related to one another and notice what a close relationship these first Christians had. They became A FAMILY! They spent time with one another and they were very eager to share what they had with those in need, even though they were “strangers” to one another before they became Christians!
The needs of these people were not necessarily easy ones to fill, and as time passed, and Christianity spread, these needs became greater and more difficult to fulfill. Because of persecution, many people lost their homes and their way of making a living. At first, persecution came from the Jews, who considered Jesus as a fraud and anyone who followed him as a traitor to God! Many Christians were disowned by their families just because they believed in Jesus! This happened just as Jesus said that it would!6
How were these new Christians to survive? They survived because in his PLAN, God instructed his children to take care of any of their Christian brothers and sisters who might have a need! This shows that each individual Christian, combined together with every other Christian, is used by God as a tool to fulfill his promise of assistance to those who suffer loss because of their commitment to Christ. The church is the fulfillment of what Jesus meant when he spoke about disciples who experience loss gaining HUNDREDS of mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers!
As the church began to spread outward from Jerusalem, the idea of the church being a “family” spread with it. Please read Acts 4:32-37, get your paper and record the main points. We see the same thing happening here that we found in Acts chapter 2. Once the church expanded outside of the city of Jerusalem the practice of Christians helping one another also spread. When the church spread to new countries, it always carried the same FAMILY attitude!
Several years later, the persecution in Jerusalem became so great that the church there could not satisfy all of the needs of the Christians living there. When we read 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 we discover that an appeal was sent to the Christians living in other countries to help the church in Jerusalem provide assistance for the needs of these Christians. The main point seems to be that whenever and wherever a Christian has a need, the other Christians are called upon to do whatever is necessary to meet that need! In every generation, from that time onward, this is a very important part of being a member of the NEW AGREEMENT because when Christians join together to help other Christians, they are helping God fulfill the promise he made through Jesus in Mark 10:28-31!
A very good summary passage for all we have seen so far is Hebrews 10:19-31. Please read this and record the main points. It tells us that since God has done so much for us, we must hold on to our faith, we must find ways to help one another continue loving and working for God, and we must NOT SIN DELIBERATELY because if we do then we will lose everything and “fall into the hands” of the living God, which is a phrase often used in the Bible to refer to someone receiving a fair punishment for bad things they did.
We can understand what the writer means when he says that we should be very afraid to be punished by God because we KNOW what he will do to those people he punishes! Therefore, we must be careful in the decisions we make. We must be active in our faith! We must GROW! We must study so that we will increase our understanding of what God wants us to do. As our understanding changes, our actions will also change! More than anything else, we must be LOYAL to God, to the promise we made when we stood in the water of our baptism. God is always LOYAL to us in every promise he makes! With the family he gives us, there is no reason why we also cannot be just as loyal to him!
1 The word crave means to want something very much.
2 Review your notes on Matthew 5:27-28 and Romans 8:5-8.
3 The meaning of the original word here includes the idea of doing everything you can AND doing it as quickly as you can.
4 We cannot forget that the source of our growth is the Bible message. Do not forget 2 Timothy 3:16-17!
5 This “group of believers” is what other passages in the New Testament refer to as “the church”.
6 Matthew 10:35-39
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