* Examine Christianity for yourself
Nicodemus came to Jesus personally, although he could have sent one of his assistants. He wanted to examine Jesus for Christianity for himself to separate fact from rumor. Perhaps Nicodemus was afraid of what his peers, the Pharisees, would say about his visit, so he came after dark. Later, when he understood that Jesus was truly the Messiah, he spoke up boldly in his defense. Like Nicodemus, we must examine Jesus for ourselves–others cannot do it for us. Then, if we believe he is who he says, we will want to speak up for him. (NLT)
John 3:1 – After dark one evening, a Jewish religious leader named Nicodemus, a Pharisee, came to speak with Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are proof enough that God is with you.”
* Beatitudes describes Christianity
Each Beatitude tells how to be blessed by God. Blessed means more than happiness. It implies the fortunate or enviable state of those who are in God’s Kingdom. The Beatitudes don’t promise laughter, pleasure, or earthly prosperity. Being “blessed” by God means the experience of hope and joy, independent of outward circumstances. To find hope and joy, the deepest form of happiness, follow Jesus no matter what the cost. (NLT)
Matthew 5:3-12 – [Jesus said] “God blesses those who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them. God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. God blesses those who are gentle and lowly, for the whole earth will belong to them. God blesses those who are hungry and thirsty for justice, for they will receive it in full. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. God blesses those who are persecuted because they live for God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
“God blesses you when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted, too.”
* Not all who talk about heaven belong there
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.”
* Christianity may separate friends or loved ones
Christian commitment may separate friends and loved ones. In saying this, Jesus was not encouraging disobedience to parents or conflict at home. Rather, he was showing that his presence demands a decision. Because some will follow Christ and some won’t, conflict will inevitably arise. As we take up our cross and follow him, our different values, morals, and goals will set us apart from others. Don’t neglect your family, but remember that your commitment to God is even more important than it is. God should be your first priority. (NLT)
Matthew 10:34-39 – [Jesus said] “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! No, I came to bring a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household! If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give it up for me, you will find it.”
* Christianity’s growth from small beginnings
Jesus used this parable to explain that although Christianity had very small beginnings, it would grow into a worldwide community of believers. When you feel alone in your stand for Christ, realize that God is building a worldwide Kingdom. He has faithful followers in every part of the world, and your faith, no matter how small, can join with that of others to accomplish great things. (NLT)
Mark 4:30-32 – Jesus asked, “How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? It is like a tiny mustard seed. Though this is one of the smallest of seeds, it grows to become one of the largest of plants, with long branches where birds can come and find shelter.”
* Chiristianity is ridiculed
People often make fun of Christians for their faith, but believers can take courage from the fact that Jesus himself was mocked more than most people. Taunting may hurt our feelings, but we should never let it change our faith. (NLT)
Matthew 27:29 – They made a crown of long, sharp thorns and put it on his head, and they placed a stick in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mockery, yelling, “Hail! King of the Jews!”
* Why some may resist Christianity
Many people don’t want their lives exposed to God’s light because they are afraid of what will be revealed. They don’t want to be changed. Don’t be surprised when these same people are threatened by your desire to obey God and do what is right, because they are afraid that the light in you may expose some of the darkness in their lives. Rather than giving in to discouragement, keep praying that they will come to see how much better it is to live in light than in darkness. (NLT)
John 3:19-21 – [Jesus said] “Their judgment is based on this fact: The light from heaven came into the world, but they loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. They hate the light because they want to sin in the darkness. They stay away from the light for fear their sins will be exposed and they will be punished. But those who do what is right come to the light gladly, so everyone can see that they are doing what God wants.”
* Christianity for all people
Christianity is not limited to any race or group of people. Christ offers salvation to all people without regard to nationality. Visitors in Jerusalem were surprised to hear the apostles and other believers speaking in languages other than their own, the languages of other nationalities, but they need not have been. God works all kinds of miracles to spread the Good News, using many languages as he calls all kinds of people to become his followers. No matter what your race, color, nationality, or language, God speaks to you. Are you listening? (NLT)
Acts 2:7-8 – They were beside themselves with wonder. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, and yet we hear them speaking the languages of the lands where we were born!
* Can’t have benefits of Christianity while clinging to sin
John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus by preaching that people should turn from their sins. The apostles’ message of salvation also included the call to turn from sin–acknowledging personal sin and repenting of it. Many people want the benefits of being identified with Christ without admitting their own disobedience and turning from sin. The key to forgiveness is confessing your sin and turning from it. (NLT)
Acts 3:19 – Now turn from your sins and turn to God, so you can be cleansed of your sins.
* Are you attracted to Christianity for wrong reasons?
What makes Christianity attractive? It is easy to be drawn to churches because of programs, good speakers, size, beautiful facilities, or fellowship. People were attracted to the early church by expressions of God’s power at work; the generosity, sincerity, honesty, and unity of the members; and the character of the leaders. Have our standards slipped? God wants to add believers to his church, not just newer and better programs or larger and fancier facilities. (NLT)
Acts 5:14 – And more and more people believed and were brought to the Lord–crowds of both men and women.
* The two sides of Christianity, the Christian life
These versus introduce a section that contains some difficult concepts. To understand the next four chapters, it helps to keep in mind the two-sided reality of Christian life. On the one hand, we are complete in Christ (our acceptance with him is secure). On the other hand, we are growing in Christ (we are becoming more and more like him). At one and the same time we have the status of kings and the duties of slaves. We feel both the presence of Christ and the pressure of sin. We enjoy the peace that comes from being made right with God, but we still face daily problems that often help us grow. If we remember these two sides of Christianity, the Christian life, we will not grow discouraged as we face temptations and problems. Instead, we will learn to depend on the power available to us from Christ, who lives in us by the Holy Spirit. (NLT)
Romans 5:1-5 – Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us–they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
* How to know if you’re 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 andyou 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 Christdirects; 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 not 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.)
* Christianity’s relationship to government
Are there times when we should not obey the government? We should never allow government to force us to disobey God. Jesus and his apostles never disobeyed the government for personal reasons; when they disobeyed, it was in order to follow God’s moral standards. Their disobedience was not cheap: They were threatened, beaten, thrown into jail, tortured, and executed for their convictions. Like them, if we are compelled to disobey, we must be ready to accept the consequences. (NLT)
Romans 13:1 – Obey the government, for God is the one who put it there. All governments have been placed in power by God.
* Impact of Christianity to both physical & spiritual
Many of the world’s religious teach that the soul or spirit is important but the body is not; and Christianity has sometimes been influenced by these ideas. In truth, however, Christianity takes very seriously the realm of the physical. We worship a God who created a physical world and pronounced it good. He promises us a new earth, where real people will have transformed physical lives–not a pink cloud where disembodied souls listen to harp music. At the heart of Christianity is the story of God himself taking on flesh and blood and coming to live with us, offering both physical healing and spiritual restoration.
We humans, like Adam, are a combination of dust and spirit. Just as our spirits affect our bodies, so our physical bodies affect our spirits. We cannot commit sin with our bodies without damaging our souls because our bodies and souls are inseparably joined. In the new earth we will have resurrection bodies that are not corrupted by sin. Then we will enjoy the fullness of our salvation. (NLT)
1 Corinthians 6:12-13 – You may say, “I am allowed to do anything.” But I reply, “Not everything is good for you” And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. You say, “Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food.” This is true, though someday God will do away with both of them. But our bodies were not made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies.
* Christianity may bring few earthly benefits
Why does Paul say believers would be miserable if there were only earthly value to Christianity? In Paul’s day, Christianity often brought a person persecution, ostracism from family, and, in many cases, poverty. There were few tangible benefits from being a Christian in that soeciety. It was certainly not a step up the social or career ladder. More important is the fact that if Christ had not been resurrected from the dead, Chrstians would not be forgiven of their sins or have any hope of eternal life. (NLT)
1 Corinthians 15:19 – And if we have hope in Christ only for this life, we are the most miserable people in the world.
* Jesus’ resurrection is key to Christianity
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the central fact of Christian history. On it, the church is built; without it, there would be no Christian church today. Jesus’ resurrection is unique. Other religions have strong ethical systems, concepts about paradise and the afterlife, and various Holy Scriptures. Only Christianity has a God who became human, literally died for his people, and was raised again in power and glory to rule his church forever.
Why is the Resurrection so important? (1) Because Christ was raised from the dead, we know that the Kingdom of Heaven has broken into earth’s history. Our world is now headed for redemption, not disaster god’s mighty power is at work destroying sin, creating new lives, and preparing us for Jesus’ second coming. (2) Because of the Resurrection, we know that death has been conquered and we, too, will be raised from the dead to live forever with Christ. (3) the Resurrect ion gives authority to the church’s witness in the world. Look at the early evangelistic sermons in the book of Acts: The apostles’ most important message was the proclamation that Jesus Christ had been raised from the dead! (4) The Resurrection gives meaning to the church’s sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Like Jesus’ followers on the Emmaus road, we break bread with our risen Lord, who comes in power to save us. (5) The Resurrection helps us find meaning even in great tragedy. No matter what happens to us as we walk with the Lord, the Resurrection gives us hpe for the future. (6) The Resurrection assures us that Christ is alive and ruling his Kingdom. He is not a legend; he is alive and real. (7) God’s power that brought Jesus back from the dead is available to us so that we can live for him in an evil world.
Christians can look very different from one another, and they can hold widely varying beliefs about politics, life-style, and even theology. But one central belief unites and inspires all true Christians: Jesus Christ rose from the dead! (NLT)
Luke 24:6-7 – “He isn’t here! He has risen from the dead! Don’t you remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again the third day?”
* Jesus’ resurrection is the key to the Christian faith. Why? (1) Just as he said, Jesus rose from the dead. We can be confident, therefore, that he will accomplish all he has promised. (2) Jesus’ bodily resurrection shows us that the living Christ, not a false prophet or imposter, is ruler of God’s eternal Kingdom. (3) We can be certain of our own resurrection because Jesus was resurrected. Death is not the end—there is future life. (4) The divine power that brought Jesus back to life is now available to us to bring our spiritually dead selves back to life. (5) The Resurrection is the basis for the church’s witness to the world. (NLT)
John 20:9 – . . . for until then they hadn’t realized that the Scriptures said he would rise from the dead.
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