One of the portions of the Nativity story that I find most beautiful and meaningful is when the angel appeared to the shepherds and announced Jesus’ birth, followed by a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God. It’s such a fitting entrance for the birth of the Son of God:
Becoming more Christlike is about becoming a better Christian through a more committed application of the Bible, coupled with the guidance and grace of the Holy Spirit. This application of Scripture cuts two ways. First, it calls for doing away with ungodliness, for resisting and overcoming sin as much as possible. Second, it calls for us to put on Christ,1 to embrace the godly virtues spoken of in Scripture, and live in a manner that strengthens these virtues within our lives.
Jesus opened the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes, which provide an overview of how He intends for those who follow Him to live their faith. Throughout the rest of the Sermon, He expressed further and more detailed principles which build on the Beatitudes.
One of those principles, following right after the Beatitudes, is:
After you have asked God for something, take action. Act on your faith. Put feet to your prayers by taking steps toward your goal.
When I was the pastor of a church in Wagoner, Oklahoma, there was a girl named Etta, who wanted very much to go to college to prepare for Christian service. For two years she prayed for money to pay her tuition. The situation looked impossible.
A pastor once said, “Living right financially isn’t complicated; it may be difficult, but it isn’t complicated.” It’s difficult because living right financially is more than simply learning financial strategy and management techniques; living right financially has spiritual components as well. It’s important to have a godly view of money and to use it in the correct way.
Matthew chapter 7, the last chapter of the Sermon on the Mount, contains a number of succinct statements, which make important points for believers. The focus is on prayer, continued from earlier in the Sermon: not praying like the hypocrites who want to be seen by others1 or like the pagans who babble on, thinking their prayers will be answered if they repeat them over and over;2 but rather praying with the understanding that our Father loves and cares for us.3
The Bible covers God’s revelation about Himself, His love for humanity, the means of salvation, and the relationship He wishes to have with humankind. It also contains instruction on how to live in a manner that is pleasing to Him, which is the foundation for a happy, fulfilling, and productive life in harmony with God and others.
I don’t think that God intended any relationships to be perfect. I think of it as the “thorn” factor that He allows into the equation—that element that we shrink from, but that He knows we need. You may wonder, Why would we need differences of opinion, sensitivities, misunderstandings, jealousies, resentments, comparing, sacrificing, arguments, emotional upsets, fears, heartbreaks, and adversity? Those things don’t sound like they would build a very strong relationship.