Peter Amsterdam has been active in Christian service since 1971. In 1995 he became co-director (together with his wife, Maria Fontaine) of the Christian community of faith known as the Family International. He has authored a variety of articles on Christian faith and theology. (Articles by Peter Amsterdam used in Activated are adapted.)
When I think about how to sum up who God is in a single phrase, “unconditional love” comes to mind. Of course, God is many things and cannot be confined to one phrase or term, but as we know from 1 John 4:8, God is love. That is His very nature; it is intrinsic to who He is. It is one of His fundamental character traits. While that doesn’t mean that He loves everything we do—we are sinners, after all—nor that He overlooks or turns a blind eye to our sin or wrongdoing, nonetheless He loves His children unconditionally and forgives us if we are humble enough to ask Him to.
Life is hard sometimes.
When you’ve worked as hard as you possibly could and yet you failed to make the grade, your dreams remain out of reach, and you feel you just can’t do it anymore, you can feel like giving up.
All of us have probably felt that way at some time or another. Maybe you’ve been in that situation recently. In fact, maybe you feel that way right now.
Anything that we want to do well at in life requires effort, including growing in Christlikeness. It takes work to consciously and deliberately develop godly beliefs, habits, attitudes, thinking, and behavior. It also calls for intentionally letting go of wrong beliefs, harmful habits, ungodly attitudes, erroneous thinking, and bad behavior.
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:
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.
Jesus started the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes,1 which spoke of blessings for the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted. He was teaching what those who were part of the kingdom of God were to be like. Then He moved on to another topic: