Believers

* Believers should provide for the needy

The Bible supports an organized system believers need to care for the poor.  God told his believers to use their tithe every third year for those who were helpless, hungry, or poor.  These regulations were designed to prevent the country from sinking under crushing poverty and oppression.  It was every believers responsibility to care for those less fortunate.  Families were to help other family members, and towns were to help members of their community.  National laws protected the rights of the poor, but helping the poor was also an active part of believers religious life.  God counts on believers to provide for the needy, and we should use what God has given us to aid those less fortunate.  Look beyond your regular giving and think of ways to help the needy.  This will help you show your regard for God as Creator of all people, share God’s goodness with others, and draw them to him.  It is a practical and essential way for believers to make faith work in everyday life. (NLT)

Deuteronomy 14:28-29 – “At the end of every third year bring the tithe of all your crops and store it in the nearest town.  Give it to the Levites, who have no inheritance among you, as well as to the foreigners living among you, the orphans, and the widows in your towns, so they can eat and be satisfied.  Then the Lord your God will bless you in all your work.”

* Believers must support each other in difficult times 

“Save your own skin” and “Watch out for number one” are mottoes that reflect our world’s selfish outlook on life.  Esther’s attitude stands in bold contrast to this.  She knew what she had to do, and she knew it could cost her her life.  And yet she responded, “If I must die, I am willing to die.”  We should have the same commitment to do what is right despite the possible consequences.  Do you try to save yourself by remaining silent rather than standing up for what is right?  Decide to do what God wants, and trust him for the outcome. (NLT)

Esther 4:16 – “Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me.  Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day.  My maids and I will do the same.  And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king.  If I must die, I am willing to die.”

* Believers must trust God in adversity too

Satan attacked Job’s motives, saying that Job was blameless and had integrity only because he had no reason to turn against God.  Ever since he had started following God, everything had gone well for Job.  Satan wanted to prove that Job worshiped God, not out of love, but because God had given him so much.

Satan accurately analyzed why many people trust God.  They are fair-weather believers, following God only when everything is going well or for what they can get.  Adversity destroys this superficial faith.  But adversity strengthens real faith by causing believers to dig their roots deeper into God in order to withstand the storms.  How deep does your faith go?  Put the roots of your faith down deep into God so that you can withstand any storm you may face. (NLT)

Job 1:9 – Satan replied to the Lord, “Yes, Job fears God, but not without good reason!

* All believers are God’s chosen people

God chose Israel through Abraham because he wanted to, not because the people deserved it.  Although God chose the Israelites to represent him to the world, they failed to do this; so God punished them and sent them into captivity.  Now all believers are God’s chosen people, and all share the responsibility of representing him to the world.  One day God will bring all his faithful people together.  We need not fear because (1) God is with us (“I am with you”), (2) God has established a relationship with us (“I am your God”), and (3) God gives us assurance of his strength, help, and victory over sin and death.  Are you aware of all the ways God has helped you? (NLT)

Isaiah 41:8-10 – “But as for you, Israel my servant, Jacob my chosen one, descended from my friend Abraham, I have called you back from the ends of the earth so you can serve me.  For I have chosen you and will not throw you away.  Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you.  I will help you.  I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

* People will be judged by how they treat believers

Why will God’s judgment fall on all the nations?  Edom was not the only nation to rejoice at Judah’s fall.  All nations and individuals will be judged for the way they have treated God’s people.  Some nations today treat God’s people favorably, while others are hostile toward them, God will judge all people according to the way they treat others, especially believers. (NLT)

Obadiah 1:15 – “The day is near when I, the Lord, will judge the godless nations!  As you have done to Israel, so it will be done to you.  All your evil deeds will fall back on your own heads.

* Many who claim to be believers will be rejected by God

Some self-professed athletes can “talk” a great game, but that tells you nothing about their athletic skills.  And not everyone who talks about heaven belongs to God’s Kingdom.  Jesus is more concerned about our walk than our talk.  He wants us to do right, not just say the right words.  Your house (which represents your life,) will withstand the storms of life only if you do what is right instead of just talking about it.  What you do cannot be separated from what you believe. (NLT)

Matthew 7:21 – [Jesus said] “Not all people who sound religious are really godly.  They may refer to me as ‘Lord,’ but they still won’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  The decisive issue is whether they obey my Father in heaven.”

* Believers must coexist with unbelievers

The young weeds and the young blades of wheat look the same and can’t be distinguished until they are grown and ready for harvest.  Weeds (unbelievers) and wheat (believers) must live side by side in this world.  God allows unbelievers to remain for a while, just as a farmer allows weeds to remain in his field so the surrounding wheat isn’t uprooted with them.  At the harvest, however, the weeds will be uprooted and thrown away.  God’s harvest (judgment) of all people is coming.  We are to make ourselves ready by making sure that our faith is sincere. (NLT)

Matthew 13:30 – [Jesus said] “Let both grow together until the harvest.  Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds and burn them and to put the wheat in the barn.’ “

* Believers now have direct access to God 

Jesus is talking about a new relationship between the believer and God.  Previously, people approached God through priests.  After Jesus’ resurrection, any believer could approach God directly.  A new day has dawned and now all believers are priests, talking with God personally and directly.  We approach God, not because of our own merit, but because Jesus, our great High Priest, has made us acceptable to God. (NLT)

John 16:23-27 – [Jesus said] “At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything.  The truth is, you can go directly to the Father and ask him, and he will grant your request because you use my name.  You haven’t done this before.  Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.

“I have spoken of these matters in parables, but the time will come when this will not be necessary, and I will tell you plainly all about the Father.  Then you will ask in my name.  I’m not saying I will ask the Father on your behalf, for the Father himself loves you dearly because you love me and believe that I came from God.”

* Essential for believers to be united

Jesus’ great desire for his disciples was that they would become one.  He wanted them unified as a powerful witness to the reality of God’s love.  Are you helping to unify the body of Christ, the church?  You can pray for other Christians, avoid gossip, build others up, work together in humility, give your time and money, exalt Christ, and refuse to get sidetracked arguing over divisive matters.

Jesus prayed for unity among believers based on the believers’ unity with him and the Father.  Christians can know unity among themselves if they are living in union with God.  For example, each branch living in union with the vine is united with all other branches doing the same. (NLT)

John 17:21-23 – [Jesus said] “My prayer for all of them is that they will be one, just as you and I are one, Father–that just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent me.

“I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are–I in them and you in me, all being perfected into one.  Then the world will know that you sent me and will understand that you love them as much as you love me.”

* Secret believers

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were secret followers of Jesus.  They were afraid to make this allegiance known because of their positions in the Jewish community.  Joseph was a leader and honored member of the Jewish high council.  Nicodemus, also a member of the high council, had come to Jesus by night and later tried to defend him before the other religious leaders.  Yet they risked their reputations to provide for Jesus’ burial.  Are you a secret believer?  Do you hide your faith from your friends and fellow workers?  This is an appropriate time to step out of hiding and let others know whom you follow. (NLT)

John 19:38-42 – Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take Jesus’ body down.  When Pilate gave him permission, he came and took the body away.  Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night, also came, bringing about seventy-five pounds of embalming ointment made from myrrh and aloes.  Together they wrapped Jesus’ body in a long linen cloth with the spices, as is the Jewish custom of burial.  The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before.  And so, because it was the day of preparation before the Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

* Importance of helping new believers

Barnabas and Saul stayed at Antioch for a full year, teaching the new believers.  They could have left for other cities, but they saw the importance of follow-up and training.  Have you helped someone believe in God?  Spend time teaching and encouraging that person.  Are you a new believer?  Remember, you are just beginning your Christian life.  Your faith needs to grow and mature through consistent Bible study and teaching. (NLT)

Acts 11:26 – When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch.  Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching great numbers of people.  (It was there at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)

* Paul genuinely loved Onesimus.  Paul showed his love by personally guaranteeing payment for any stolen goods or wrongs for which Onesimus might be responsible.  Paul’s investment in the life of this new believer certainly encouraged and strengthened Onesiumus’s faith.  Are there young believers who need you to demonstrate such self-sacrifice toward them?  Be grateful when you can invest in the lives of others, helping them with Bible study, prayer, encouragement, support, and friendship. (NLT)

Philemon 1:17-19 – So if you consider me your partner, give him the same welcome you would give me if I were coming.  If he has harmed you in any way or stolen anything form you, charge me for it.  I, Paul, write this in my own handwriting: “I will repay it.” and I won’t mention that you owe me your very soul!

* How other believers’ life experiences can help you better know how God works

Cornelius and Peter were very different people.  Cornelius was wealthy, a Gentile, and a military man.  Peter was a Jewish fisherman turned preacher.  But God’s plan included both of them.  In Cornelius’s house that day, a new chapter in Christian history was written as a Jewish Christian leader and a Gentile Christian convert each discovered something significant about the other.  Cornelius needed Peter in order to hear the Good News and know the way of salvation.  Peter needed Cornelius in order to know that Gentiles were included in God’s plan.  You and another believer may also need each other to understand how God works! (NLT)

Acts 10:45 – The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles, too.

* Do people know you as a believer? 

Josephus, a respected first-century historian, described Ananias as profane, greedy, and hot-tempered.  Paul’s outburst came as a result of the illegal command that Ananias had given.  Ananias had violated Jewish law by assuming that Paul was guilty without a trial and ordering his punishment.  Paul didn’t recognize Ananias as the high priest, probably because Ananias’s command broke the law he was pledged to represent.  As Christians, we are to represent Christ.  If someone around us says, “I didn’t know you were a Christian,” we have failed to represent him as we should.  We are not merely Christ’s followers; we are his representative to others. (NLT)

Acts 23:2-5 – Instantly Ananias the high priest commanded those close to Paul to slap him on the mouth.  But Paul said to him, “God will slap you, you whitewashed wall!  What kind of judge are you to break the law yourself by ordering me struck like that?”

Those standing near Paul said to him, “Is that the way to talk to God’s high priest?”  “I’m sorry, brothers.  I didn’t realize he was the high priest,” Paul replied, “for the Scriptures say, ‘Do not speak evil of anyone who rules over you.’ “

* How to know if you are a believer

 Have you ever worried about whether or not you really are a Christian?  A Christian is anyone who has the Spirit of God living in him or her.  If you have sincerely trusted Christ for your salvation and acknowledged him as Lord, then the Holy Spirit lives within you and you are a Christian.  You can be assured that you have the Holy Spirit because Jesus promised that he would send him.  Since you now believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son and that eternal life comes through him, you will begin to act as Christ directs; you will find help in your daily problems and in your praying; you will be empowered to serve God and do his will; and you will become part of God’s plan to build up his church. (NLT)

Romans 8:9 – But you are both controlled by your sinful nature.  You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you.  (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them are not Christians at all.)

* Do you act more like an unbeliever?

Paul is describing characteristics of unbelievers.  He doesn’t mean that all those who have indulged in sexual sin or who have been idol worshipers, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, abusers, and swindlers are automatically irrevocably excluded from heaven.  Christians come out of all kinds of different backgrounds, including these.  They may still struggle with evil desires, but they should not continue in these practices.  Paul clearly states that even those who sin in these ways can have their lives changed by Christ.  However, those who say that they are Christians but persist in these practices with no sign of remorse will not inherit the Kingdom of God.  Such people need to reevaluate their lives to see if they truly believe in Christ. (NLT)

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 – Don’t you know that those who do wrong will have no share in the Kingdom of God?  Don’t fool yourselves.  Those who indulge in sexual sin, who are idol worshipers, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, abusers, and swindlers–none of these will have a share in the Kingdom of God.  There was a time when some of you were just like that, but now your sins have been washed away, and you have been set apart for God.  You have been made right with God because of what the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God have done for you.

* Two gifts God gives to believers

The Holy Spirit guarantees that we belong to God and will receive all his benefits.  The Holy Spirit guarantees that salvation is ours now, and that we will receive so much more when Christ returns.  The great comfort and power the Holy Spirit gives in this life is a foretaste or down payment (“first installment”) of the benefits of our eternal life in God’s presence.  With the privilege of belonging to God comes the responsibility of identifying ourselves as his faithful servants.  Don’t be ashamed to let others know that you are his. (NLT)

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 – It is God who gives us, along with you, the ability to stand firm for Christ.  He has commissioned us, and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment of everything he will give us.

* Be wary of binding partnerships with unbelievers

Paul urges believers to not form partnerships with unbelievers because this might weaken their Christian commitment, integrity, or standards.  It would be a mismatch.  Earlier, Paul had explained that this did not mean isolating oneself from unbelievers.  Paul even urges Christians to stay with their unbelieving spouses.  He wanted believers to be active in their witness for Christ to unbelievers but not lock themselves into personal or business relationships that could cause them to compromise their faith.  Believers should do everything in their power to avoid situations that could force them to divide their loyalties. (NLT)

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 – Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers.  How can goodness be a partner with wickedness?  How can light live with darkness?  What harmony can there be between Christ and the Devil?  How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever?  And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols?  For we are the temple of the living God.  As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them.  I will be their God, and they will be my people.  Therefore, come out from them and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord.  Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you.  And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

* No barriers should separate believers

There were many Christians in Rome; some were even in Caesar’s palace.  Perhaps Paul, while awaiting trial, was making converts of the Roman civil service!  Paul sent greetings from these Roman Christians to the believers at Philippi.  The Good News had spread to all strata of society, linking people who had no other bond but Christ.  The Roman Christians and the Philippian Christians were brothers and sisters because of their unity in Christ.  Believers today are also linked to others across cultural, economic, and social barriers.  Because all believers are brothers and sisters in Christ, let us live like God’s true family. (NLT)

Philippians 4:22 – And all the other Christians send their greetings, too, especially those who work in Caesar’s palace.

* All believers are our brothers & sisters

What a difference Onesimus’s status as a Christian made in his relationship to Philemon.  He was no longer merely a slave, but he was also a brother.  That meant that both Onesimus and Philemon were members of God’s family–equals in Christ.  A Christian’s status as a member of God’s family transcends all other distinctions among believers.  Do you look down on any fellow Christians?  Remember, they are your equals before Christ.  How you treat your brothers and sisters in Christ’s family reflects your true Christian commitment. (NLT)

Philemon 1:16 – He is no longer just a slave; he is a beloved brother, especially to me.  Now he will mean much more to you, both as a slave and as a brother in the Lord.

* Need companionship of other believers

To neglect Christian meetings is to give up the encouragement and help of other Christians.  We gather together to share our faith and to strengthen one another in the Lord.  As we get closer to the day when Christ will return, we will face many spiritual struggles, and even times of persecution.  Anti-Christian forces will grow in strength.  Difficulties should never be excuses for missing church services.  Rather, as difficulties arise, we should make an even greater effort to be faithful in attendance. (NLT)

Hebrews 10:25 – And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.

* Elements that should characterize believers

 Peter lists five key elements that should characterize any group of believers: (1) one mind–pursuing the same goals; (2) sympathy–being responsive to others’ needs; (3) love–seeing and treating each other as brothers and sisters; (4) tenderness–being affectionately sensitive and caring; and (5) humility–being willing to encourage one another and rejoice in each other’s successes.  These five qualities go a long way toward helping believers serve God effectively. (NLT)

1 Peter 3:8 – Finally, all of you should be of one mind, full of sympathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts and humble minds.

* The oneness of all believers

Too often believers are separated because of minor differences in doctrine.  But Paul here shows those areas where Christians must agree to attain true unity.  When believers have this unity of spirit, petty differences should never be allowed to dissolve that unity.

Believers are one in Body — Our unity is experienced in: The fellowship of believers–the church.  Believers are one in Spirit — Our unity is experienced in: The Holy Spirit, who activates the fellowship.  Believers are one in Hope — Our unity is experienced in: That glorious future to which we are all called.  Believers are one in Lord — Our unity is experienced in: Christ, to whom we all belong.  Believers are one in Faith — Our unity is experienced in: Our singular commitment to Christ.  Believers are one in Baptism — Our unity is experienced in: Baptism — Our unity is experienced in: the sign of entry into the church.  Believers are one in God — Our unity is experienced in: God, who is our Father who keeps us for eternity. (NLT)

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