We like things to come easy. Packages need to be easy to open. Instant food needs to be easy to microwave. Solving social or psychological problems is as easy as a twelve-step program. Computers need to be easy to operate and understand. We are always “on the go” or looking for the fastest, easiest, simplest, cheapest method of accomplishing anything. If something is too difficult, it often fails. So, naturally, the way to Heaven should be easy too, shouldn’t it?
That is what many “Christians” often think. An example of this attitude is found in Luke 9:57-62. For all three of these men, serving God came at an inopportune time. It was not easy, necessarily, to give up home, family, and wealth to follow Christ into His work. The same is true today. It is not always easy following Christ. Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 10:22 that “you will be hated by all on account of my name. . .”
How easy is it for us to risk being hated by everybody in the world for the sake of serving Christ appropriately? How easy is it for us to risk alienation by every other apostate religious body just to follow the simply Truth of the Gospel? How easy would it be for us to give up everything for Him? The key to Heaven is not found in the easy, no-risk, “no assembly required”, “pre-packaged for your convenience” religion!
Rather, the key to eternal salvation is in our daily determination to serve God. What we do every day, not just Easter Sunday, or when the “preacher” comes over for dinner, is what determines our spiritual standing. How we live, how we act, how we work, how we pray; this is true religion! I want to spend some time looking at daily religion, and how it is that we must serve God in our lives every day from now until Judgment. Each section of this sermon will examine one daily activity that is expected of Christian living. My purpose is not to define each of these daily activities, but rather to show how each one makes our spiritual lives better when we participate in them every day.
The absolute importance of prayer in a healthy spiritual life is exemplified by the Bible in numerous passages. We find that prayer is the vehicle by which our entreaties and requests are taken to God. It is our outlet for expressing deep, spiritual thoughts to the only One who can understand. It is a thoughtful, meaningful, powerful mode of mental catharsis. There are truly some things that we feel that cannot even be expressed by human words, but are capable of being expressed in meditation (Romans 8:26-27). Turn with me to James 5:13-16. Notice how many problems can be solved by the simple act of prayer! And notice the results, too (James 5:17-18)!
It has become common to take prayer for granted. We tend to only pray when we need something, or when we feel guilty about a sin. Remember Jonah in Jonah 2:7, how he said, “While I was fainting away I remembered the Lord.” It took being swallowed by a whale for Jonah to finally remember God and pray for help.
Traditionally, prayer is only practiced at night, often because we tend to forget about praying for most of the day and only remember it on our beds. But prayer cannot be limited to only once before bed. In fact, prayer at the last moments of the day may just be the worst time to make our requests known to God! Does it make any sense to save your most precious words for the time when you are the most exhausted, most prone to distraction, or most mentally unprepared? The night is a time for sleep, and it makes very little sense to “save up” all your prayers for the time just prior to this inactivity! Of course, a prayer before bed is important. In fact, the psalmist writes in Psalm 119:148, “My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I may meditate on Thy word.” But prayer all day is important, too! Limiting prayer to only the time before bed is not the most effective way to pray. I appreciate what the writer says in Psalm 86:3, “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to Thee I cry all day long.” It is not simply when he needs something from God that he cries to Him. “All day long” he prays!
Part of daily Christian living is daily Christian prayer. God expects us to pray to Him for all our needs. In fact, He commands us to pray for everything! Philippians 4:6 reads, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” This is a direct command to pray about everything! When we are worried about a job interview, pray about it. When we are concerned for the safety of our children, pray about it. When we walk out of our homes every morning and drive to work, pray about it. Prayer is an essential part of daily Christian living.
Consider the story of the lepers in Luke 17:11-19. Do we tend to think of the daily gifts of God in the same way as the nine ungrateful lepers? While God may not necessarily heal us of leprosy, as the Lord Jesus does in this story, He does provide innumerable gifts every day that we live. Many of these gifts simply go unnoticed or unappreciated by us! Therefore, the lesson that we can learn from the grateful leper should be valuable to us.
While this one man could have easily walked away from Jesus without saying a word, he chose instead to turn around and praise Him. He could have simply gone on with the nine and forgotten immediately about the blessing of having the leprosy removed. But what a grateful person he is! This story shows us a few important things. First, God appreciates our thanksgiving. It pleases the Lord to make us happy. He wants us to live peaceful, enjoyable lives. Christ wanted these lepers to be cleansed. And He wants to be thanked for it, too. Otherwise, it would not have bothered Jesus so much when the nine walked away without a word! Turn to Psalm 147:7-11. Notice verse 11, in particular. The Lord does, indeed, favor those who fear Him. The Lord favors those who thank Him. The Lord favors those who love Him!
Was it too much for the other lepers to turn around and thank Christ? Would it take too much effort to be grateful? Or is it that Christ simply expects too much of us, anyway? Certainly not! Even mankind expects the same thing. When you go out of your way to help another person, do you not expect gratitude? And when your good deeds go unnoticed, does it not disappoint you? Then imagine how much it must disappoint our Lord when we forget to thank Him for all that He does for us every day!
The sun rises every day, there is always enough oxygen on this planet for all of us, we are not rich but we are comfortable, we are happy, and we have salvation in the strength of Jesus Christ our Lord. What more do we need? Paul writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:8, “As long as we have food and covering, with these we shall be happy.” After all, Paul learned to simply be content within whatever situation he was (Philippians 4:11).
Part of daily Christian living is daily gratitude. Every day we wake up, the very first thought to come into our minds should be appreciation to God. Notice what Psalm 68:19 says, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation.” Daily thanksgiving! And as long as God provides for us daily, does it not make sense to thank Him daily?
There is a mentality that exists among many people that is detrimental to a healthy spiritual life. That is that religion and secular life are two separate entities. Essentially, we are supposed to act one way at “church” and however we want away from “church.” It becomes habit, then, to have two personalities, our “Christian” personality, and our “home” personality.
We will find, though, that it is impossible to keep the two lives separate for long. We may think that we can serve God well, in spite of the chaos in our personal lives, but personal problems begin creeping in without warning! Paul makes it clear to Timothy that a good soldier cannot be distracted by problems at home (2 Timothy 2:4), which means he must set his home in order before he heads off to war. We, too, must keep our personal lives [and homes] in order, lest we become entangled in family disputes, financial worries, or child-rearing issues and end up being ineffective servants of God!
An essential part of daily Christian living, then, is the daily pursuit of bread, or quite simply the maintenance of an orderly, peaceful, comfortable life (Romans 12:18). We will find in the Bible that a man must work, or else he shall not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12). Notice in this passage that it is essential for a Christian to work and be able to support himself and his family. Lazy people are not welcome in the Lord’s church, but too often we do nothing about it! If a man is lazy at his job, what prevents him from being lazy in the service of the Lord?
As Christians we have an obligation to treat our families with as much care, respect, and diligence as we would the service of God. How can it be that a Christian thinks he can serve God well if he is neglecting his family? How can it be that a Christian expects to convert others to the church if his life is in disarray, his children are menacing, and his home is dilapidated. There is something to be said for maintaining order in one’s life!
Providing for our families is a reflection of how well we provide for God. Notice what the apostle writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:8. What a mark it leaves to see a Christian neglecting his own family. How does it make us look when one of the elderly women from church is being taken care of by a non-Christian neighbor while being neglected by her own brethren? How does it make a Christian father look when his own children are terrorizing the neighborhood, behaving rudely to other adults or school peers? How does it make us look when, because of a grudge, a Christian will refuse to spend the time or money to take care of a dying parent? It looks bad!
The pursuit of daily bread, the maintenance of our homes, the discipline of our children, and the way we share our belongings are all important ways that we show true daily religion in our lives. “This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27).
More than simply earning a living, a man must also work to keep his home in order and his life a peaceful one. Turn to Romans 12:18. What a principle! We, too, must try to live peaceably with everybody. Be kind and gentle, especially with your enemies, just as Christ commanded in Matthew 5:44. Try to make friends with those who are trying to sue you, so that, perhaps, your kindness will allay the anger of your opponent in court (Matthew 5:25). Do not be rude to your neighbors, and do not owe money to anybody without diligently paying it off (Romans 13:6-8). If we can do these things, and live a peaceful life, and get along well with our neighbors, then we can feel happy (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20).
The importance and value of daily Bible study cannot be emphasized enough. And there is a distinction between just daily reading and daily studying. The difference is in the attentiveness shown to detail, and in the effort made in applying the lessons of a text to one’s own life. There are plenty of people who simply read the Bible. They read it for fun, they read it to feel good, they read it to impress others, like the Pharisees did (Matthew 23:5). But there are not enough people who study the scriptures, where they pour over them and apply them. There are not enough people who do word studies and consult Greek language books for help in deciphering passages, or use lesson materials. There are not enough people who maintain a strict Bible study schedule, when they read every day at a certain time, and know what they will study before they sit down.
Bible study is discussed often in the Bible. And there are some very positive lessons that can be learned from good study habits. Turn to 1 Peter 2:2-3. We are told to long for the pure milk of the Word. Like babes being fed, we too have a need for spiritual nourishment. Some do not recognize this need and, therefore, never grow. Some, like those to whom the Hebrew letter were written, do not want to mature beyond a certain point (Hebrews 5:11-14). Notice in Hebrews that there is a necessity for growth. One cannot simply reach a certain tier of spiritual maturity and be content. The Bible is not designed in such a way. It is designed to take a thousand lifetimes to completely understand. It is designed to forever hold the mysteries of God. It is designed to be a book of exploration and growth. No one can reach a point where he says he knows all things that can be known about the Word of God!
But that is exactly what makes the Bible so exhilarating! One can read it for a lifetime and still pick it up one day and find something new and amazing. It keeps us coming back for more. Ponder again the metaphor of the babe. Realize that a child longs for more nourishment. It is always growing and always yearning to become something bigger, wiser, and smarter than it already is. “My soul languishes for Thy salvation; I wait for Thy word” (Psalm 119:81).
Notice the attitude of the Christians of Berea in Acts 17:11. They were more noble-minded because of their daily study habits. Imagine how diligent and faithful these Christians must have been to study the scriptures daily, even though they did not have the complete Bible. We have the finished product, and yet we still neglect it. Oh how the Bereans would have longed to look into the fully revealed Bible that we have today!
Some have asked why Bible study is so important. What is in the Bible that is even worth studying? Some admit that the Bible is, at best, a good story. Others will concede that it is a good book by which to live, but it is not to be taken literally. While even fewer see it for what it is: the Word of the Lord, given to His Apostles, who gave it to us in its written form. This is the code of conduct by which we can shape our lives in accordance with God’s will. Following this book is the best way to become like God. What is so valuable about this book? Everything.
This book was written for us. It was written to make our lives better. It surprises me that so few people realize that following the Bible makes life worth living. Truly, all of God’s commandments are meant to make us live happier, more fulfilling lives! Turn to Deuteronomy 10:12-13. All of these laws were given to the Israelites for their good! God did not enact the Law of Moses for His own gain, nor did He enact it to punish the Israelites. Rather, if one completely followed the Old Law, and lived by its standards, that person would reap tremendous benefits.
The same is true of the New Testament. God does not command us to do this or that or to abstain from this or that for His own benefit. He does it for our benefit! Look at Titus 2:11-14. The key here is that God instructs us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires because there is great reward in living righteously every day! He wants us to be saved.
Perhaps there is one here who has not studied the Bible very much until now. What might you find in this book if you picked it up and started reading it today? Well, you just might happen across Romans 5:7-8. Then you might ask yourself the same question that the Jews did in Acts 2:37-38. Christ died for you, now what must you do to repay Him for His sacrifice? “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. . .” And perhaps you keep reading and you come to Acts 17:30-31. Then it might hit you that you have not lived righteously. Remedy the problem right now. Obey.