The Great Commission

TABLETALK DEVOTIONS WITH R.C. SPROUL – TUESDAY, DECEMBER 25, 2018

Matthew 28:16–20  
“Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (vv. 19–20).

After His resurrection, Jesus visited with His disciples and instructed them for forty days before ascending into heaven (Luke 24:36–49John 21Acts 1:1–11). The only event Matthew records following the resurrection, besides the payoff of the Roman guards (28:11–15), is the commission Christ gave His followers on a mountain in Galilee (vv. 16–20).

We are not sure when this event occurred during those forty days, but its precise chronological placement is unimportant. Apparently, our Lord told His followers to meet Him in Galilee after His resurrection, and the eleven remaining disciples found Him there (vv. 1016). Seeing Christ, many of them worshiped Him, though others doubted (v. 17). This doubt, however, is not to be confused with rejection. Distazein, the Greek verb translated “doubted,” reflects hesitation, not a refusal of truth. The doubting disciples did not doubt whether or not Jesus was the Messiah, they were just unsure how to respond to Him. Being notoriously slow to understand, it may be that some of them had not yet come to grips with the fact that Jesus was (and is) the incarnate God Himself.

In Galilee Jesus announced that all authority in heaven and earth was given to Him in His resurrection (28:18). Vindicated as God’s spotless lamb, the atonement for the sins of His people, the Father makes plain even today to all with eyes to see that His Son is the Messiah — whose kingdom has no end. Seated at God’s right hand, the Christ exercises His dominion, subduing His enemies through the preaching of the gospel, proving that He, the God-man, received the name above all names in His resurrection (Phil. 2:5–11Heb. 1:1–4).

John Calvin comments that by nothing other than divine authority could Jesus “command us to promise eternal life in his name, to reduce the whole world under his sway, and to publish a doctrine which subdues all pride, and lays prostrate the whole of the human race.” Only the authority of God Almighty, revealed to us in Jesus and with us by the Holy Spirit, enables us to obey the Great Commission, teaching people to cast off self-reliance and put all their hope for salvation in Jesus alone (Matt. 28:18–20).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

According to His promise, Christ is with us to the end of the age; thus, we may confidently go forth to fulfill the Great Commission, knowing that He will ensure its success. What is your role in His plan? Are you a gifted teacher who builds up disciples? Do your talents lie in producing goods that enable people to be sent? Are you sharing the gospel with friends and family? Let us go out and obey Christ’s command to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.

For further study: Joshua 1:1–9

FROM: INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

Domesticating Jesus

TABLETALK DEVOTIONS WITH R.C. SPROUL
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2018

Luke 4:16–30 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…to proclaim good news to the poor. …to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (vv. 18–19).

Even those who have not formally studied the doctrine of Christ have constructed some kind of Christology. Many Americans think Jesus came to give them a “better life” in the here and now and to help them make friends and win influence. Others say Jesus would join movements to protect and conserve the earth’s resources or engage in other “environmentally-friendly” practices. Innumerable people understand Jesus to be the supreme ethical teacher who is concerned with accepting all into His kingdom even if they never repent of sin.

Friendship, the stewardship of creation, and the love of others are all praised in Scripture (Gen. 1:28Prov. 17:171 John 3:16); however, reducing the purpose and teaching of our Lord to any of these things ends up domesticating Him. A domesticated Jesus embraces the culture’s values without challenging them; He is a “safe” Jesus who is no threat to the established way of doing things.

Yet Christ did not come into the world to be “nice” or “safe,” and the Jesus we find in the Gospels cannot be domesticated. He brings a salvation that turns our values upside-down. Instead of the proud and arrogant, He exalts those of humble estate (Luke 1:52). Christ’s coming produces peace among His people, but it also sets the fallen world against His own (4:16–30). The scandal of the cross brings with it the promise of a final, cosmic redemption that will include all who believe. At the same time it becomes a stumbling block to unrepentant Jews and foolishness to hardened Gentiles (1 Cor. 1:18–31).

Though we know these truths, we also run the risk of domesticating Jesus, albeit in a different way. Often we limit His work to giving us a clean heart so that we may live forever in heaven. Certainly, our Savior is concerned with individual redemption, and only individuals who put their faith in Christ alone will be saved, But individual redemption is only part of His intent to redeem all creation. Our Lord’s full purpose is to bring a new heavens and earth in which we will dwell with Him forever (Isa. 65:17–252 Peter 3:13). A Christology that does not take into account the reality of future, resurrected life and the renewal of all things is one that is severely lacking.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

The Christian faith does not believe in an ethereal kind of salvation that only encompasses a world we cannot see. Instead, because God created everything good and because He purposes to redeem His creation, we know that the final redemption He brings will encompass all things. We are therefore concerned to be good stewards of the earth, not because we worship nature, but because they are gifts of God that will one day be restored to their fullness.

For further study: Isaiah 25

INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

Beware of Apostasy

Deuteronomy 13“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams…says, ‘Let us go after other gods’…you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams”(vv. 1–3).

Advanced technology has brought many benefits in the form of easier travel and communications. It is now relatively easy for those of us in the West to go anywhere in the world. Thus we can easily keep ourselves up to date on world events and what is going on in the lives of our friends and family who live far away. Yet there has been a downside to this progress. Television lets us see what is happening in other countries, but it also lets false teaching from Mormons, New Age gurus, and the health-and-wealth gospel into our homes. The Internet allows us to do research with greater ease and speed, but it exposes us to misinformation as well. In our day, aberrant teaching is far too accessible to people across the globe. Erroneous teaching has been a problem for the covenant community from almost the very beginning. We read in today’s passage the warning Moses gave the people of Israel about false prophets just before the nation entered the land of Canaan. Even if the person who claims to speak for God is able to do great signs, Moses says, the people are not to follow the “prophet” if he wants to worship other gods (Deut. 13:1–3). The priority of sound teaching is a principle that we find throughout Scripture. As fallen human beings we are normally inclined to follow the gifted and charismatic teacher. The Lord, however, places a priority on the truth, not the abilities of the instructor. People might do great things, but they are never to be followed into the service of a different god. In fact, even if an angel himself were to preach another gospel, we must never follow it (Gal. 1:8–9). A teacher whose message consistently fails to line up with the essential doctrines of the Word of God must be rejected. False teaching is dangerous to the Lord’s people because it can lead people into apostasy. An apostate is one who has committed the deadly sin of professing faith in the one, true creator God and then later denying His profession. The problem of apostasy was so bad in ancient Israel that the Lord eventually brought the curse of exile upon the nation. Let us beware of error lest we too succumb and suffer the same fate (Rev. 2:12–17).
Coram deo: Living before the face of God
Of course, we realize that anyone who abandons Christ did not ever have saving faith to begin with (1 John 2:19). Nevertheless, this truth should not make us complacent; rather, it should encourage us to demonstrate the reality of our faith and pursue earnestly the truths of God that we may “inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:11–12). Take time today to pray for your soul, asking the Lord to keep you in the truth and preserve your faith until the end. For further study: Jeremiah 2
INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

Weightier Matters of the Law

Matthew 23:23–24 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees…you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness” (v. 23).

The Social Gospel movement, which arose in America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries under the inspiration of theological liberalism, downplayed sin and reduced Christianity to feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and other acts of social justice. There was a justifiable backlash against this movement in the churches and an exodus of people who affirmed the essential truths of the Christian faith. Unfortunately, some theological conservatives were so afraid of falling prey to the Social Gospel that works of charity ranked at the bottom of their priority list, if they were done at all.

Those who neglected acts of social welfare for fear of looking like liberals were guilty of throwing out the baby with the bath water. Though the parallels between this historical example and today’s passage are inexact, Matthew 23:23–24 warns us that it is possible to become focused on one set of God’s demands at the expense of another. The scribes and Pharisees tried to obey God’s law scrupulously; they tithed their herbs even though the Torah did not specifically require the giving of such (Deut. 14:22–23). However, their obedience did not include the weightier, and more difficult, matters of the Law. It is easy to count out a tenth of one’s cumin seeds, but it is much harder to help needy people in a substantial way. Sacrifice of time and leisure might be required to show mercy to the one who is downtrodden. Faithfulness may mean the loss of one’s job or reputation as the result of bearing witness to Christ.

The scribes and Pharisees were not wrong to tithe their smallest things; in fact, they rightly gave God a portion of all they had (Matt. 23:23–24). They erred in following the Law superficially, concerned with its letter, not its spirit, and mistakenly focused on minutiae at the expense of the duties to which tithing, and every other commandment, pointed: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). Bishop Hilary of Poitiers, a fourth-century defender of Trinitarian orthodoxy, warns us: “God laughs at the superficial diligence of those who measure cucumbers” (On Matthew 24.7).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

John Calvin writes, “The Law is kept only when men are just, and kind, and true, towards each other; for thus they testify that they love and fear God, and give proper and sufficient evidence of sincere piety.” Commitment to justice, mercy, and faithfulness demonstrates commitment to Christ (James 2:14–26). Thus, our care for the poor and oppressed must be as evident as our concern for doctrine. What sacrifices are you making to help the poor and marginalized?

For further study: Zechariah 7:8–14

For the weekend: Isaiah 31–34

INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

Church Member

“For a Christian to be a Christian, he must first be a sinner. Being a sinner is a prerequisite for being a church member. The Christian church is one of the few organizations in the world that requires a public acknowledgement of sin as a condition for membership.”

R.C. Sproul, Reason to Believe: A Response to Common Objections to Christianity

Reblogged via Church Member

Nothing Could Be More Arrogant

Nothing Could Be More Arrogant

by Steve Rebus

“It is fashionable in some academic circles to exercise scholarly criticism of the Bible. In so doing, scholars place themselves above the Bible and seek to correct it. If indeed the Bible is the Word of God, nothing could be more arrogant. It is God who corrects us; we don’t correct Him. We do not stand over God but under Him.”

R.C. Sproul, Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow

 

Source: Nothing Could Be More Arrogant

Rebuilding a Future Nehemiah Part X

clip_image002

 

And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence.

2 Wherefore the king said unto me, why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? This is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid,

3 And said unto the king, Let the king live forever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?        

 4 Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven    

                 Nehemiah 2:1-4

 

            Last time we looked Nehemiah was crying out to God for wisdom on what to do about the devastation in Jerusalem. For many of us that is where our story would end. We have recognized that our lives our broken and that only God can fix them. We even pray and ask God for help in correcting our broken lives and then we stop.

 

            I believe the greatest deterrent to men and women moving beyond praying and doing things needed to rebuild their futures is fear. Oh I know men “we don’t fear anything”; yeah right. Sorry I am not convinced.

 

            Fear takes many forms. There is actually a website http://phobialist.com/  dedicated to listing all the things people are afraid of. Some are common like Acrophobia- Fear of heights or how about Agoraphobia- Fear of open spaces or of being in crowded, public places like markets it includes the fear of leaving a safe place. Others like Arachibutyrophobia- Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth would seem rather rare.   This site lists hundreds maybe thousands of know fears, all of which folks can easily use to be indecisive and inactive.

 

            Before I go on let me clarify one point, I do believe that some folks have legitimate medical explanations for having these phobia. But I dare say that number is minimal compared to those who are just looking for an excuse to sit on the side lines.

 

            The Bible on the other hand only defines two forms of fear. First there is what I will call healthy fear. As you may recall in our look at Nehemiah’s prayer he called God “great and terrible”. This was in reverence to God as Nehemiah recognized and clearly acknowledges the Lord God’s exalted position.  The great as in the One who is able to accomplish mighty things and     The Terrible as in the One who is able to impose immense judgments. This first type is righteous and is to be encouraged. It is a fear that requires action. It requires faith and it requires a strong fellowship with God.  It is the fear Nehemiah had when the King asks him what was wrong.

 

            Then of course there is unhealthy fear, this is a crippling fear, filled with weakness and quivering. It leads to inaction and loss. It is what Ray Stedman describes as: Many today find themselves in almost total ruin. They have lost their way and are wide open to the attacks of any destructive or hostile force. Others have severely damaged areas in their lives. They are, perhaps, still held in bondage to wrongful attitudes or habits. It almost goes without saying that if you are praying for help, as Nehemiah prayed for help in the opening chapter of this book, then you should expect an answer: Expect God to do something. Be ready for it when it comes.

 

            I believe that the type of fear most associated with why people do not take action to change or rebuild their lives is the fear of change. This fear of change or changing things is called Metathesiophobia.  We get so used to our rebellious ways that we do not feel comfortable in any other environment or the thought of making moves to improve our lives is far too scary a thought to act upon.

 

            We can come up with all sorts of excuses like, what can I do I am only one person, or resignation like whatever happens, happens. Two modern quotes seem to dispel these notions:  If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room – unknown and from R.S. Sproul No choice is a choice. No choice is to accept things as they are—and they are unacceptable.  

 

            While in the Army I had a 3×5 card with the saying “The max effective range of an excuse is zero meters” on it. It was a daily reminder that inaction equaled failure and where lives matter failure was not an option.  You may have heard the old farm saying “make hay while the sun shines” or how about “never put off tomorrow what you can do today” and any sailor would recognize “Time and tide waits for no man”.  All these sayings have one thing in common they require us to take action to not procrastinate, to get about doing something.

 

            I entitled this sermon Carpe Diem or Seize the Day. While dictionaries define this as meaning:  the enjoyment of the pleasures of the moment without concern for the future. I take it as a battle cry to take every opportunity to make righteous changes in our lives. Note I said righteous changes. In a  believer’s life it is getting about God’s work for us.

 

            Let us look back at Nehemiah for a moment. In Chapter 1 verse one; we are in the month of Chisleu or Kislev which equates to our Nov-Dec. Now look at today’s text in verse one; we have fast forwarded to Nisan or Mar-April time frame.  When I say we must seize the day and make righteous changes to our lives I mean us to be like Nehemiah. He and we must be patient and wait upon the Lord.  Nehemiah did not pray and go off halfcocked without any preparation. No Nehemiah took a lesson from Habakkuk 2:3For the vision [is] yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. I hope you can see it.  Even though the bible is silent on the matter we can extrapolate that Nehemiah waited upon the Lord before taking action. This is not much of a leap since even if we assume Dec 31st and March 1st for the dates referenced in Chapters 1 and 2 we are taking a period of 2 months. What was Nehemiah doing for that period? We do know his countenance {or expression} was sad. One can only guess that he continued on prayer seeking God’s guidance.

           

            It is when God actually reveals to us the chosen path that we must spring into action.  The bible is very clear on this matter it takes a dim view of those who are lazy (slothful)

 

Proverbs Chapter 24:30-32  I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; 31 And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, [and] nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. 32 Then I saw, [and] considered [it] well: I looked upon [it, and] received instruction.

 

2 Thessalonians 3:10 (AMP)  For while we were yet with you, we gave you this rule and charge: If anyone will not work, neither let him eat

 

            Compare that with what the Bible says about working:

 

James 1:23-25 ESV For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

 

James 2:18 ESV But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

 

Colossians 3:23-24 ESV Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

 

            Verse three of our text is very telling:

 

(AMP) And said to the king, Let the king live forever! Why should I not be sad faced when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchers, lies waste, and its [fortified] gates are consumed by fire?

 

One thing that might easily be missed is back in verse 2. The King recognized something was amiss in his servant Nehemiah. I want to tell you this is a trait of a very good leader. I cannot begin to tell you the number of leaders (bosses) I have seen over the years that were clueless. I or one of my fellow employees could be bleeding all over the floor never mind just looking sad and they would never notice. But notice Artaxerxes does recognize something is wrong with Nehemiah. Then Nehemiah, in verse 3, does not hesitate in his response to the King. He clearly and intelligibly points out that he has every reason to be sad. He seizes the opportunity to plead the plight of his people before the King.  Nehemiah had waited (and prayed) for 2 to 4 months for God to give his insight on how to help the people in and the city of Jerusalem. When God provided the occasion to take action he did not waiver. He found the strength in his belief that God is able in His (God’s) time.

 

            The King responds to what Nehemiah has told him in a manner I think most bosses would; what do you want me to do about it? While some would ask this with sarcasm I do not think it the case here. The text would seem to imply genuine concern on the part of the King, Nehemiah’s boss.

 

            The final sentence of our text is the most telling to me. I for one when asked this by the King would probably launch right into suggested courses of action. You know give the King some options on what I think could be done to rectify the problem(s). Yet Nehemiah does something I need to do more of, he: prayed to the God of heaven. Here is a guy who apparently has been praying for 2-4 months and he immediately prays some more. So what’s up with that? Isn’t he prayed up enough? Can’t Nehemiah handle it on his own after all that prayer? An emphatic NO!!!!!  Nehemiah (unlike many of us) does get it. What he gets is he is nothing and God is everything. 

 

            Nehemiah chooses Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. What will you choose when your opportunity for change comes? Will you seize the day or be muddled in fear.  Will you be a Nehemiah fearless in your work for Christ? Or maybe you are unable to “seize the day” and will be more like  the rich young ruler—who was afraid of change and unwilling to give up the comfort of his wealthy lifestyle to follow Jesus (Luke 18:18-23). The choice is coming and it is yours alone to make.

 

In HIS Service.

 

Rebuilding a Future Nehemiah Part IX

clip_image002

PRAYING PART FOUR

5 And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:

6 Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned.

7 We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.

8 Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:

9 But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.

10 Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.

11 O LORD, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer.

Nehemiah 1:5-11

 

            Last time we began our look at Nehemiah’s actual prayer, with an eye towards its meeting our previous analysis of prayer.  We got through two topics last time, 1) Only God (that is the God of the Bible) is worthy of our prayers and 2) we must always acknowledge our humble state when we pray.

            Today we will explore the final two points of Nehemiah’s prayer, 1) His prayer was and our prayer must; be founded upon hope and 2) we must pray with faithful expectation. While at first glance these two may seem similar I hope to show their significant and important differences.

 

1)  Prayers must be founded upon hope  

Verse 8-9   Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations:

9 But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.

            It may seem obvious but I think it may be helpful if I first define the word “HOPE”.  Hope has come to mean the following:

noun

1. A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

            Note the uncertainty of the matter, it is a feeling and desire

2. Grounds for believing that something good may happen.

            Again uncertainty; it may happen as in “he does see some hope for the future”

 

Now the classic or dare I say biblical definition is quite different. Although considered “Archaic” or out of fashion it is: a sense of trust or confident expectation

 

            You can see the modern translation is one of uncertainty a feeling without foundation as in wishful thinking. The biblical definition conveys conviction. It is in that manner Nehemiah prayed to God.

            Look with me what he prayed;

1) He implores God to remember

2) To remember His promise to the Israelites

3) That even though they had been disobedient and scattered abroad

4) If they repented He was powerful enough to gather them

5) Gather them not just anywhere but in Jerusalem

            Nehemiah points out that God had made certain promises and Nehemiah expected God to honor them. Should we expect anything less? I dare say no, for why pray to God if you do not trust Him to hear your prayers and more importantly be capable of fulfilling them.

            Our hope today is the same as Nehemiah’s. God has promised us just as He did the Israelites. Yet our Hope is founded upon something greater than that of those of Nehemiah’s time, our Hope is still in God but founded upon Christ.

1 Timothy 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;  I hope you see it is still God where our Hope lies, it is just founded upon Christ and His work at Calvary.   Psalm 130:5 reiterates this: I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

            Our hope stands in stark contrast to that of the wicked (those without Christ):

 

Prov 10:28 The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish

            Our hope brings joy

Prov 11:7 When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth.

            The unrighteous only hope is death

Prov 11:23 The desire of the righteous is only good: but the expectation of the wicked is wrath

            Believers desire (hope in) good things the sinner in evil

Prov 23:18 Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.

            Our hope is in a future that cannot be taken away          

 

2)  Pray with faithful expectation

10 Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.

11 O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer.

 

You need not utterly despair even of those who for the present “turn again and rend you.” For if all your arguments and persuasives fail, there is yet another remedy left, and one that is frequently found effectual, when no other method avails. This is prayer. Therefore, whatsoever you desire or want, either for others or for your own soul, “Ask, and it shall be given you.” — JOHN WESLEY

 

 

Elijah prayed to God for rain and then sent his servant to see if there was any sign of it (1 Kings 18:41–46). He sent his servant seven times—Elijah had great expectation in God! Expectant prayer conquers discouragement and waits upon the Lord. James 1:6–7 tells us to ask with unwavering faith. http://www.joelbeeke.org/author/jrbeeke/

            We have discussed many times that one must pray in a manner that honors God and acknowledges His authority and control in all matters. Praying in such a manner that imposes your will upon God, (belief things will always work out as you planned), that just by asking God He will remove all troubles in your life or asking God for proof He is with you, are all recipes for prayer disaster.

            Everyone who prays does so with expectations at some level. These prayers are either founded on Worldly Expectations or Righteous Expectations. Righteous expectations start with:

            1) God’s sovereignty – Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

            2) Obedience – Joshua 1:7-9 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success

            3) Faith – Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

            4) Confidence1 John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

            I like what R.C. Sproul says on the matter:

We can take comfort from the fact that God knows our hearts and hears our unspoken petitions more than the words that emanate from our lips. Whenever we are unable to express the deep feelings and emotions of our souls or when we are completely unclear about what it is for which we ought to be praying, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. Romans 8:26-27 says, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” When we don’t know how to pray or what to pray for in a given situation, the Holy Spirit assists us. There is reason to believe from the text that if we pray incorrectly, the Holy Spirit corrects the error in our prayers before he takes them before the Father, for verse 27 tells us that he “intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”     Excerpt from Does Prayer Change Things?  by R.C. Sproul

            Let us look back on Nehemiah’s prayer a moment:

10 Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.

            By declaring himself and those in Jerusalem God’s redeemed Nehemiah has a righteous expectation of God hearing these prayers of His people.

11 O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer.

            Humbly but with confidence Nehemiah asks God to look favorably upon his prayer. The end of which is so significant but many miss it.

I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer.

            Note what Nehemiah asks for, mercy from the King of Persia. Nehemiah did not ask amiss. He pleaded with God to look favorably upon him not by building him up but by changing the heart of his captor. In essence Nehemiah prayed God use this pagan to bring about your will. There was no ego involved here, no vengeance against those who had oppressed God’s people, no self in this at all. Instead Nehemiah prayed for God to bring glory upon himself by using a pagan King to do God’s bidding. That my friend’s is a righteous prayer, it is a God centered prayer. Only with God centered prayers do we have a faithful expectation of being answered.

            I will close by citing part of an article by noted author and Pastor Derek Thomas. He expresses 4 points in the article and I will only quote the final.

How can we ensure that our prayers are God-centered? Consider the following five-step strategy:

1. Remind yourself that there is only one God in the universe, and that you are not Him.

2. Adoration comes first, before confession, thanksgiving, or supplication. Worship the Lord in your praying.

3. Read a psalm before you pray, and attempt to emulate what you find: a preoccupation with God in all His multifaceted nature. Find psalms of joy or grief, praise or lament, and note how the psalmist spends time with God, making Him the center of his thoughts and desires.

4. Learn to love God’s names so that saying and repeating them fills you with an inexpressible joy, a reminder of who He is and His covenant faithfulness to you in the gospel of His grace.

5. Learn to “wait” upon the Lord. Watch how the psalmist, “fainting” as he thinks of his own troubles, finds relief by deliberately focusing on the great things God has done:

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds (Ps. 77:11–12). http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/god-centered-prayer/

 

Until next time may God watch over and protect you.

 

In HIS Service

 

Rebuilding a Future Nehemiah Part VI

Response to Brokenness Continued

 

clip_image002

 

PRAYER PART 1

 

4 And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

           

            Nehemiah 1:4

 

            Remembering that we defined Brokenness as the state which man is not living as God intended.  We continue our series on Nehemiah this week by continuing to look at Nehemiah’s and hopefully our Response to Brokenness.

 

             A quick review, Nehemiah hears of the plight of the Jewish people back in Jerusalem. He is told that they are are in great affliction and reproach. He also learns the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. Nehemiah’s response is not to blame the government, he does not say oh well it’s not my problem; no he sat down and wept, and mourned certain days. Last week we explored his next response where he fasted. Today let us examine his final response where he prayed before the God of heaven.

 

            I may be way off base here by I would venture to say most people Christians or “religious types” or not, understand some concept of prayer. Here are some definitions of prayer:

 

Wikipedia says: Prayer is an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with a deity, an object of worship, or a spiritual entity through deliberate communication

 

Focus on the Family- So what is prayer? Prayer is a relationship, wherein we humbly communicate, worship, and sincerely seek God’s face, knowing that He hears us, loves us and will respond, though not always in a manner we may expect or desire. Prayer can encompass confession, praise, adoration, supplication, intercession and more.

 

Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 178 – What is prayer? A. Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, in the name of Christ, by the help of his Spirit; with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.

 

            I hope you can easily spot the differences between Wikipedia’s secular definition and that of the next two. I included it to make my point, that even non-believers and those who would deny a deity in any fashion (an object of worship) have a concept of prayer.

 

            As believers our concept of prayer is quite different than that of those still living in darkness. Today I want to look at five specific things Nehemiah did (and we should follow suit) concerning prayer and why he did them. They are:

 

            1) Why he/we should pray prayed

            2) To whom he/we should pray

            3) Reason(s) he/we should prayer

            4) How he/we should pray

            5) Our expectations of prayer

                       

I am going to use the Westminster Larger Catechism to look deeper into prayer in the life of Christians.

 

1.         The first question many have is why pray? Principal reason we pray because we are commanded to do so:

 

(WLC 186) What rule hath God given for our direction in the duty of prayer?

A. The whole Word of God is of use to direct us in the duty of prayer;[1198] but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which our Savior Christ taught his disciples, commonly called The Lord’s Prayer.[1199]

 

(1198) 1 John 5:14: And this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.

 

(1199) Matthew 6:9-13: After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. 

 

Luke 11:2-4.And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

 

            Christ in leaving us this model on how to pray, commands us to pray. There is no if you feel like it, when you get around to it, or if the spirit moves you suggestion here. No Christ clearly says After this manner therefore pray ye and When ye pray, say undeniably a command to pray. Prayer develops our relationship with God.

 

            One of my favorite passages of scripture (So much so my thesis is on its importance) is 1 John 1:4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. I really like the idea of a full cup of joy, don’t you? Well John in the preceding verse tells how to get that:  That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. Fellowship is the key to joy. Both fellowship with believers and with God. Now it should be obvious that fellowship with believers can happen in many ways but fellowship with God (whom we can’t see or touch) can only happen through prayer.

 

            Christ did not command us to pray just for ha ha’s no He wanted us to communicate with Him that our joy may be full.

 

2.         The next question is whom do you pray too. Unlike the unbelievers who pray to establish a rapport or connection with some unknown deity   (god, idol, immortal) Christians already have a connection to God and that is whom we communicate with:

 

(WLC 179) Are we to pray unto God only? A. God only being able to search the hearts,[1152] hear the requests,[1153] pardon the sins,[1154] and fulfill the desires of all;[1155] and only to be believed in,[1156] and worshipped with religious worship;[1157] prayer, which is a special part thereof,[1158] is to be made by all to him alone,[1159] and to none other.[1160]

 

            It is to God the one and only true and living God of the bible that we are to pray. None other can search our hearts, hear our requests, pardon our sins and fulfill our desires. Let’s face it that is the reason most folk’s believer or not pray. They are in a jam or things are just messed up and they want help (desires). The unbeliever in desperation calls out; God if you are there help me.

 

             While many cry out in desperation with no real sincerity some (like many of us at one time) cry out with true understanding of the situation and our Broken state. The importance of this cannot be underestimated, R. C. Sproul wrote on the matter:

 

Prayer has a vital place in the life of the Christian. First, it is an absolute prerequisite for salvation. Some people cannot hear; yet though deaf, they can be saved. Some may not be able to see; yet though blind, they can be saved. Knowledge of the Good News—salvation through the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—will come from one source or another, but in the final analysis, a person must humbly ask God for salvation. The prayer of salvation is the one prayer of the wicked God has said he will hear.

 

            Why God only, His word tells us so: 1 Tim 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. Let’s get logical for a moment. I have never met anyone that has said I will take the worst thing, the weakest person the laziest helper. No we want the best for ourselves and our families. There is nothing wrong with that. So why would you chose a lesser god?

 

            John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. Now if obtaining the best means going through Jesus to God that for sure is the path I want.

 

            Nehemiah prayed to God because he knew that God alone could help in this matter. Like Nehemiah I pray to God because I want the best. I desire the guidance of He who is able to do all things.

 

3          Now let us look at the Reasons we pray. This could be a whole sermon series on its own so I am going to try and give a helpful overview by again using the WLC.

 

Q. 183. For whom are we to pray?

A. We are to pray for the whole church of Christ upon earth;[1168] for magistrates,[1169] and ministers;[1170] for ourselves,[1171] our brethren,[1172] yea, our enemies;[1173] and for all sorts of men living,[1174] or that shall live hereafter;[1175] but not for the dead,[1176] nor for those that are known to have sinned the sin unto death.[1177]

 

            That is quite the list. Some of the persons mentioned are quite easily understood. The first five would seem relatively common today.  Most folks find it easy to pray for their church family (as Nehemiah was doing here), the government (especially in these times) our families and friends, our church leaders and of course our own needs. But I want to look at two specific items on the list:

 

            a)        Our enemies, the WLC uses Matthew 5:44. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you to make this point and I totally agree. How easy it is to pray for our loved ones but those that hate and oppress us.

 

            How many of us could respond as Stephan and say:  Acts 7:59-60  And while they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, Lord Jesus, receive and accept and  welcome my spirit! 60 And falling on his knees, he cried out loudly, Lord, fix not this sin upon them [lay it not to their charge]! And when he had said this, he fell asleep [in death].

 

            An even greater example to me is recorded in Romans 5:7-8 Amplified Bible (AMP) 7 Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a noble and lovable and generous benefactor someone might even dare to die. 8 But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us. Christ did more than pray for His enemies He died for them. What are you willing to do?

            b)        those that are known to have sinned the sin unto death. The WLC uses 1 John 5:16. If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it,  to make its case. There are varying opinions on exactly what John meant when writing this. I tend to agree with Dr. John Gill on the matter:

There is a sin unto death; which is not only deserving of death, as every other sin is, but which certainly and inevitably issues in death in all that commit it, without exception; and that is the sin against the Holy Ghost, which is neither forgiven in this world nor in that to come, and therefore must be unto death; it is a sinning willfully, not in a practical, but doctrinal way, after a man has received the knowledge of the truth; it is a willful denial of the truth of the Gospel, particularly that peace, pardon, righteousness, eternal life, and salvation, are by Jesus Christ, contrary to the light of his mind, and this joined with malice and obstinacy; so that there is no more or other sacrifice for such a sin; there is nothing but a fearful looking for of wrath and fury to fall on such opposers of the way of life; and as the presumptuous sinners under Moses’s law died without mercy, so must these despiteful ones under the Gospel; see Matthew 12:31. Some think there is an allusion to one of the kinds of excommunication among the Jews, called “shammatha”, the etymology of which, according to some Jewish writers, is, “there is death” (t).

 

I do not say that he shall pray for it; the apostle does not expressly forbid to pray for the forgiveness of this sin, yet what he says amounts unto it; he gives no encouragement to it, or any hopes of succeeding, but rather the reverse; and indeed where this sin is known, or can be known, it is not to be prayed for, because it is irremissible; but as it is a most difficult point to know when a man has sinned it, the apostle expresses himself with great caution.

 

            As Dr. Gill points out I think this is in reference to Matt 12:31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. John is relating that there are better things to pray for than those who have so hardened their hearts to the Gospel that there is little hope for them. Is that so called tough love, maybe? Yet if given the choice to pray for known needs of those listed prior and that of a blasphemer; well you get the idea.

 

            Along with people we are to pray for certain things also.

 

Q. 184. For what things are we to pray?

A. We are to pray for all things tending to the glory of God,[1178] the welfare of the church,[1179] our own[1180] or others, good;[1181] but not for anything that is unlawful.[1182]

 

            Again while this may seem obvious to all I think two areas are worth closer exam.

           

            a)        The Glory of God should be on our mind in all things especially in prayer. The Lord’s Prayer or Model Prayer as so insist, is the lasting example left by Jesus. Matthew 6:9. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Our prayers should acknowledge that God is worthy to be Hallowed or Glorified. It is not enough o just understand it it is important to express it.

 

            This is going to be a poor example but we are humans like being acknowledged to the accomplishments in life. Get an “A” on the exam and your teacher writes “excellent”. Finish your work ahead of schedule and the boss gives you a big at-a-boy. Well if sinful creatures such as us desire and deserve acknowledgement for the good we do how much more so does God?

 

            b)        …not for anything that is unlawful. Really do we need to go here, YES! for to many times today I hear Psalm 37:4 Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart misquoted and out of context. It should seem obvious that unlawful things (illegal, immoral, unethical) are not God honoring. Yet I hear folks all the time willing to bend the truth of the bible to meet their needs.

 

            Listen you cannot ask God for things that are out of His will for your life 1 John 5:14. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us nor for things that do not glorify Him and expect results. That is foolish.

 

            I think this is a good place to stop for tonight. Next time we will continue with the last two things Nehemiah and we should do in prayer.

 

Until Next time

 

In HIS Service