I Am

who-am-i

The gospel of Jesus Christ is “good news” because it is the announcement that God has reconciled us to Himself by sending His Son Jesus to die as a substitute for our sins, and that all who repent and believe in Him will have eternal life. 2 Corinthians 5:21 declares, “For our sake God made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” The perfectly innocent died for the hopelessly guilty. My prayer is that you and I will see in this sermon series that the gospel is not just the means by which we are saved; it is the driving force behind our transformation and it is the motivation for our loving God and our neighbors. As the gospel is believed and appropriated into our lives our selfish hearts will burst alive with love for God and a passion to worship Him. As we worship the Father we will want others to experience the abundant life we have found in Jesus!

To fully appreciate the gospel, you and I must answer four questions:

  • What is God like?
  • Who am I?
  • Who is Jesus?
  • What is the proper response to the gospel?

What is God Like?

You and I could spend a lifetime discussing what God has revealed about Himself in the Bible – and we should. But there are some basic truths about God that you and I must understand if we are going to be impacted by the gospel. First, God is our creator and because we were created, we are owned. Because God owns us He has the right to tell us how to live. Second, God is holy. To call God holy is to speak of His majesty and purity. God is holy in that He, by His very nature, is without sin and is set apart from sin (1 John 1:5). He is “utterly distinct from His creation” not a better version of us. He is holy.

When we think of God’s holiness and the gospel two truths emerge. First, because God is holy our sins separate us from Him. God is cut off from everything that is sinful and evil – He cannot tolerate being in the presence of sin. Therefore, we read in Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have built barriers between you and your God, and your sins have made Him hide His face from you so that He does not listen.” Our sins separate us from God. Second, because God is holy He must punish our sins. The Apostle Paul, in Romans 6:23 stated that the wages of sin is death. He figuratively uses the word “wages” to imply that this is something we are getting because we deserve it – we have, as it were, worked for it (6:20–21).

Third, the Bible says that God is love. The Bible declares that God is love and that everything He does is loving, just as everything He does is just and right. God is the perfect example of true love. Because He loves us, He wishes that none would perish. Let me give you just a few highlights about God’s love:

  • First, His Love is Unchangeable. Psalm 86:15 declares, “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
  • God’s Love is Eternal. Psalm 136:1-2 states, “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Give thanks to the God of gods, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
  • God’s love is Unconditional and Undeserved. There is nothing we can do to make Him love us either more or less. We don’t earn His love by meeting a certain set of expectations.

What is God like? He is the Creator of the universe and therefore, has the right to tell us what to do. Second, he is Holy. Distinct. Pure. And because He is holy our sin separates us from Him and, because we choose to sin, we deserve death. Finally, God is love. He wishes that none would perish, that all would come to everlasting life.

Who am I?

Today I want us to answer the question, “In light of who God is, who are we?” To fully understand the gospel and to appropriate it into our lives we must understand how God sees us before we come to faith in Christ and then, how He sees us after we have surrendered to His Lordship. To do so we must understand sin and its consequences.

We read in Genesis 2:15-17, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” When God created man, it was the Father’s intention that humanity would live in relationship with Him, that He would supply for all of their needs, that they would live under His authority and in doing so, they would enjoy Him forever. All they had to do was live in obedience to His command.

We read in Genesis 3:7, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command to not eat from the tree of good and evil. They sinned. When Adam and Eve ate of the tree’s fruit they did more than violating a command of God, however. They made a conscious decision to reject God as the King over their lives. Beneath every act of disobedience is an act of rebellion against God’s authority over our lives.

We all have sinned and fallen short of God’s standards (RO 3:23). You and I, just like Adam and Eve, have disobeyed God’s commands. We acknowledge our sin but I believe that we don’t see our sin for what it truly is. Many years ago, on the very day I got my driver’s license, I was caught, and ticketed, by a local police officer for speeding. On the ticket, there was a box you could check that said, “I am guilty of the charge.” By checking the box, you were pleading guilty to the charge and could avoid having to go to court. I checked the box and became a convicted criminal. The truth is that I didn’t feel guilty. Nor did I feel remorse. (I was afraid however that my dad would find out.)

Why didn’t I feel bad? To be honest with you, I didn’t think the offense was that bad. After all, I was just speeding. Nobody was hurt. My crime wasn’t that bad! Sure, I had broken the law but it was a minor law that I broke – a step above a parking ticket! I believe that’s exactly how we see our sin. I imagine we’re all aware that we have violated one of God’s laws. We’re also aware that there are far greater sins that we didn’t commit and that there are greater law breakers out there!  I believe that we have reduced sin to a simple violation of God’s law.

Listen to me carefully. Every sin, regardless of its magnitude or regardless of the damage done to others – is the rejection of God Himself and of His lordship over our lives. In short, every sinful act or thought is the rejection of the Creator by His creation which is a detestable sin. That is why the Bible says in the Book of James that if we are guilty of one sin we are guilty of them all. We focus upon the magnitude of our sins, trying to reduce the extent of our guilt when at the heart of all sin is the rejection of God and His authority over our lives which is despicable. One of the most frightening statements in the Bible is found in Romans 3:19. The Apostle Paul had just declared that Jews and Gentiles alike are under the power of sin. He had just declared that there wasn’t one righteous person, that everyone has turned away from God. And then he writes that one day “every mouth will be silenced and the whole world will be held accountable to God.” Remember, God is holy and therefore, He will not excuse our sin. He will not let the guilty go unpunished. Because He is holy and just, He must punish us for our willful rebellion against His authority.

God had warned Adam that on the day he chose to sin He would surely die. Genesis 3:23 tells us that after their sin God drove Adam and Eve out of the garden and put an angel in place to keep them from coming back. On that day Adam and Eve died spiritually as well. You and I have rebelled against God’s leadership in our lives. Since we have chosen to sin, to reject God’s authority over our lives, we too are spiritually dead and separated from God. In the first couple of verse in Ephesians chapter two Paul paints a portrait of our spiritual condition before we came to know Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Let’s look at the text together.

Ephesians 2:1-5

First, Paul states that we were spiritually dead. He begins by saying in verse one that we were dead in our trespasses and sin prior to our conversion. To be physically ‘dead’ is to have lost life. Dead people are unable to respond to stimulus. Unable to communicate. No appetite. Cold. They are lifeless. Paul is saying that prior to our conversion you and I were spiritually dead. First, we were separated from the One who alone gives and sustains life. Second, because we were alienated from the one who gives and sustains life – we were dead. We were unable to respond to the things of God. Truth, righteousness, inner peace, joy, and ultimately every other good thing in life cannot be ours. We’re dead.

Second, Paul states that we were in spiritual bondage. Because we were spiritually dead we could only walk “according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air.” The ways of the world are the ways of living embraced by the world. Three things seem to characterize the ways of the world. First, humanism or the belief that man is his own boss and that he, and he alone, sets his own standard of good. In other words, man is his own god. Second, materialism or the quest to find happiness in the things of the world. And third, sexual perversion. Paul continues by saying that you and I, because we were spiritually dead, were living within the domain of Satan and under his authority. Knowingly or unknowingly, we were living under the influence of Satan. We failed to look to God as our example and instead, chose to follow the ways of the world. Thus, our lostness consists not only in our being cut off from our Creator, the source of life but also in being under the control of His enemy and living in a way that promotes the agenda and goals of that enemy.

Paul also states in verse three that we were living according to the desires of our flesh. By flesh, Paul doesn’t mean our bodies, because the body itself isn’t sinful. The flesh refers to our fallen nature, to the natural desire we have to sin. Our fallen nature wants to control our bodies and our minds and lead us to disobey God. In Galatians 5:19 Paul identifies the deeds of the flesh as immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.

Finally, Paul says that because we were spiritually dead and were in spiritual bondage we would face spiritual judgment. In the second half of verse three Paul writes that because we were walking like the world, living under the dominion of Satan, we were children of wrath. Whose wrath? God’s. Ephesians 5:6 tells us, Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Because you and I rejected God’s authority and chose to walk like the world, fulfilling the desires of our flesh – the wrath of God was set to come upon us on the day of judgment.

We Need a Savior

Can you see that you and I were in a mess? Because we rejected God’s authority over our lives we were dead in our sin and incapable of any spiritual good. We were held captive by the ways of the world and were living under the control of Satan. The desires of our flesh, and not God, were dominating our lives. Because of our choices we were without hope, destined to experience the wrath of God. There was no way for you and me to get ourselves out of this condition. We were destined to be separated from God and to spend an eternity in hell. We needed someone to rescue us. We needed a Savior.

Paul continues in verses 4 & 5 of Ephesians 2, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!”  There’s the gospel once again! While we were yet sinners, God, who is rich in mercy and who loves His children, made us alive with Christ! Just as He raised Jesus from the dead, He can have given us life! Here’s the best part – He did so while we were dead in our trespasses. In other words, He moved us from death to life before we cleaned up our lives! Paul declared that you and I were saved by grace. God’s riches through the shed blood of Jesus are ours by faith (Eph. 2:8-9)!

On the day of judgment, those who have rejected the gospel will receive the punishment they deserve, the punishment they have chosen. But those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior will enter into the presence of God and dwell with Him forever. It is only through faith in Jesus that we can be saved from our sins. There is no other way.

If you acknowledge your need for a Savior; if you confess that you are a sinner who has rejected God and His rightful place in your life and if you believe that Jesus is the sinless Son of God and that His death on the cross paid for the sins of humanity, the Bible declares that you can be saved. All you have to do is ask God to save you from your sins and, with the power of the Holy Spirit, repent (turn) from your sins. Salvation is a gift received by grace through faith in the work of Jesus upon the cross!

We can receive God’s free gift of salvation by praying a prayer like the one below where we ask God to do what we could not do on your own. Although praying the prayer doesn’t save you, it should reflect the desire of your heart. And, if it is your desire, the Bible states that you are saved from your sin:

Dear God, I’m a sinner and know that my sins have destroyed our relationship. I acknowledge that I deserve death, separation from you for eternity. I’m sorry for my sins. I want to turn from my sins but cannot do so in my own power. I believe Jesus Christ is your Son. I believe He died on a cross for my sin and that You raised Him to life. I trust Him as my Savior and desire to follow Him as Lord from this day forward. Jesus, I put my trust in You and I submit my life to You. Holy Spirit, come into my life and be my guide. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

If Anyone Be in Christ, They Are a New Creation

Paul declared in verses four and five that because of God’s great mercy and love, we have been made alive with Christ! He wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that those who have been born again are new creations… that the old things have passed away! We are not the same! Let me give you just a few changes in our lives worthy of getting excited about:

  • You have been set free from the law of sin and death. The power of sin has been broken in your lives! (RO 8:2 & 6:6)
  • You have been justified. God sees you as if you have never sinned and as if you have always obeyed. (RO 3:24)
  • You are no longer a slave but you are now a child of God – you have been adopted! (Gal. 4:7)
  • Your salvation has been sealed by the Holy Spirit – Nothing can separate you from the love of God. (Eph. 1:13 & RO 8:35)
  • You can boldly enter into God’s presence through prayer. (Eph. 3:12)
  • God will supply all of your needs. (Phil. 4:19)
  • You are a citizen of heaven. (Phil. 3:20 & JN 6:47)
  • You are no longer a sinner but a saint! (RO 1:7)
  • You have been delivered from the power of darkness and transformed into God’s Kingdom. (Col. 1:13)
  • You are an ambassador for Christ; your life has meaning and purpose. (2 Cor. 5:20 & Eph. 2:10)
  • You are free from condemnation. (RO 8:1)
  • You can do all things through Christ. (Phil. 4:13)

The gospel of Jesus Christ declares that you are accepted by God – we are His children, joint heirs with Jesus! It declares that you are secure in His love. Nothing can separate you from His love! And finally, you are significant. You are a masterpiece, appointed by God to bear fruit and to bring Him glory!

 

 

WHO I AM IN CHRIST

 

I AM ACCEPTED…

 

John 1:12                      I am God’s child.

John 15:15                    As a disciple, I am a friend of Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:1                    I have been justified; declared righteous.

1 Corinthians 6:17         I am united with the Lord, I am one with Him in spirit.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20    I have been bought with a price and I belong to God.

Ephesians 1:3-8             I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child.

Colossians 1:13-14        I have been redeemed and forgiven of my sins.

Colossians 2:9-10          I am complete in Christ.

Hebrews 4:14-16            I have direct access to the throne of grace.

 

I AM SECURE

 

Romans 8:1-2                I am free from condemnation because I have been set free from                                                the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:28                  I am assured that God works for my good in all things.

Romans 8:31-39            I cannot be separated from the love of God.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22    I have been established, anointed and sealed by God.

Colossians 3:1-4            I am hidden with Christ in God.

Philippians 3:1-4            I am confident that God will complete the good work that He                                                      began in me.

Philippians 3:20             I am a citizen of heaven.

2 Timothy 1:7                 I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.

1 John 5;18                   I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me.

 

 

I AM SIGNIFICANT…

 

John 15:5                      I am a branch of the Jesus Christ, the true vine.

John 15:16                    I have been chosen and appointed to bear much fruit.

1 Corinthians 3:16         I am God’s temple.

2 Corinthians 7:17-211  I am a new creation and a minister of reconciliation for God.

Ephesians 2:10              I am God’s workmanship; a masterpiece for His glory.

Ephesians 3:12              I can approach God with freedom and confidence.

Philippians 4:13             I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Matthew 28:18-20          I have been invited to participate in God’s mission.

2 Corinthians 5:20         I am an ambassador for Christ; my life has meaning and purpose.

God is…

God is

Last week we began a new series of messages about the gospel of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that you and I will see that the gospel is not just the means by which we are saved; it is the driving force behind our transformation, and it is the motivation for our loving God and our neighbors.  As the gospel is believed and appropriated into our lives our selfish hearts will burst alive with love for God and a passion to worship Him. As we worship the Father we will want others to experience the abundant life we have found in Jesus! Therefore, our desire to take this good news, the gospel, to others intensifies.

Over the next couple of weeks we will seek to gain a deeper understanding, and appreciation of, the Gospel. To do so we must biblically unpack four words: God, Man, Christ, and Response. Today we will see what the Bible tells us about God.

God Is…

Let me share with you a few things about our Father in heaven that I found on the internet. First, He’s not nearly as cranky as He was in the Old Testament! He’s mellowed. More of a grandfather if you know what I mean. Those ten commandments? They’re now suggestions! Now He’s like your best friend, always there for you and easy to talk to. And for most people – He never talks back! Now you and I both know He wishes we would be better. But He knows we’re human and after all, nobody is perfect! So, He doesn’t judge. Besides, forgiving people is what He does. It’s His job. After all, the Bible says He is love.

Not everything you read on the internet is true! The truth is this is how many people see God. As long as you see God this way, you will never understand or appreciate the gospel. You and I could spend a lifetime discussing what God has revealed about Himself in the Bible – and we should. But there are some basic truths about God that you and I must understand if we are going to be impacted by the gospel. For you and I to understand the gospel we must understand who God is.

God is our Creator: In the beginning God created the heaves and the earth… It was formless and void and so God created night and day, and then the heavens. Next, He created the dry land and covered it with vegetation. Then, He created two great lights – the sun and the moon and then the stars. Next, He created the fish of the sea and the birds of the air. And God saw that it was good. He created the animals – livestock and wild animals alike. And He said once again, “It is good.” And then, on the sixth day of creation, God created man. He formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. God saw all that He had made and declared that it was very good!

He is the King of the universe who created everything for His own glory. Psalm 139 declares that you and I were wonderfully designed by God. Genesis 1:27 tells us that we were “created” by God. And because we were created, we are owned. Because God created us, because He owns us, He has the right to tell us how to live. When God created Adam and Eve in the Garden He gave them just one commandment – don’t eat from this tree. God wasn’t on some power trip. He wasn’t acting like a child. He knew what was best for them and for us. He is a good, good Father.

God is Holy: We hear the phrase, “God is holy” and nod our heads in agreement, but do we know what it means? Have we stopped and asked ourselves what exactly makes God holy? Holiness is the primary attribute of God – we even sing about His holiness, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty!” And we aren’t alone in our singing. When Isaiah stood before the throne of God he heard the angels singing, “Holy, holy, holy” (Isa. 6:3). To call God holy is to speak of His majesty and purity. He is “utterly distinct from His creation.” The Lord is perfectly pure. He is separate from sin, evil, and the defiled. Nothing can taint Him. He is incorruptible. God is holy in that He, by His very nature, is without sin and set apart from sin (1 John 1:5). By saying that God is holy we are acknowledging there is the absolute absence of evil in the existence of God. The Lord isn’t a better version of us. He is holy.

When we think of God’s holiness and the gospel two truths emerge. First, because God is holy our sins separate us from Him. The idea behind the concept of holiness is “separation.” It comes from a word meaning “to separate or cut off.” God is separate, or cut off, from everything that is sinful and evil-He cannot tolerate sin. Therefore, we read in Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have built barriers between you and your God, and your sins have made Him hide His face from you so that He does not listen.” Our sins separate us from God. As a result of their sin, Adam and Eve were separated from God’s presence. No longer could they have communion with Him. This is the punishment promised by God for our sin.

Second, because God is holy He must punish our sins. In Genesis 2:17, when God was explaining to Adam His requirements, He told him that if he willfully disobeyed God there would be consequences. We read, “…on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.”  The Apostle Paul, in Romans 6:23 stated that the wages of sin is death. He figuratively uses the word “wages” to imply that this is something you are getting because you deserve it – you have, as it were, worked for it (6:20–21).

We are responsible for our own sins, and we are accountable to God for what we’ve done (or failed to do). We can’t blame anyone else; we alone must bear our guilt, for we alone have sinned. The Bible tells us that God is just. This means that He is fair and impartial. The fact that God is just means that He can, and will, judge between right and wrong. He will administer justice in accordance with His standards. In other words, because God is holy and just, He cannot let our sin go unpunished. To do so would require that God not be Himself.

God is Love: The Bible declares that God is love and that everything He does is loving, just as everything He does is just and right. God is the perfect example of true love. But how can we even begin to understand that truth? His love is very different from human love. God’s love isn’t based upon feelings or emotions or upon one’s performance. He doesn’t love us because we’re lovable or because we make Him feel good; He loves us because He is love – because we are His children (1 John 4:8).

Let me give you just a few highlights about God’s love:

  • First, His Love is Unchangeable. Psalm 86:15 declares, “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
  • God’s Love is Eternal. Psalm 136:1-2 states, “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Give thanks to the God of gods, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
  • God’s love is Unconditional and Undeserved. There is nothing we can do to make Him love us either more or less. We don’t earn His love by meeting a certain set of expectations. (This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t judge our sin or that people will not suffer for their disobedience.)

God loves even the most diabolical, wicked, perverse sinner. Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:9 that God wishes that none would perish, that all would come to repentance. God loves sinners! Now God certainly does NOT love sin, but He loves the individual.

The Gospel

Let’s go back to the creation story. God removed Adam and Eve from the garden but left them with a promise of rescue and hope. His promise was that one of their descendants would ultimately defeat sin. Over the next few centuries, God prepared the way for someone special, someone who would become the Savior of all mankind. In fact, all of the Old Testament ultimately points to this specific person, called both Messiah and the Son of Man, as the focal point of all human history.

God became human in the person of Jesus Christ more than 2,000 years ago. His birth was miraculous since His mother was a virgin. His life was unique; although He was tempted like you and I, He never sinned. And His death was the supreme sacrifice because He willingly and painfully died on a cross for the sins of humanity. The perfectly innocent died for the hopelessly guilty. He took a place on the cross that was rightfully meant for us and then He died and was buried in a borrowed tomb. But the grave couldn’t hold Him. Three days after dying on the cross Jesus emerged from His tomb, fulfilling His earthly mission to defeat sin and death just as God promised. 1 Peter 3;18 declares, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Spirit.”

God loves you. He knows exactly who and what you are. He knows that like everyone else you have sinned, but He doesn’t want you to perish. He wants you to know Him. He wants you to spend eternity with Him. You cannot earn God’s love and acceptance. It requires faith. Faith is simple trust in Jesus alone to save you from your sins. It means instead of believing you can rescue yourself, you transfer your trust to Him to save you from your sins through what He has done for you upon the cross. He paid the price that we couldn’t. In doing so, God’s wrath was satisfied. Ephesians 2:8-9 declares, “For by grace you have been saved though faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

You can receive God’s free gift of salvation by praying a prayer like the one below. Although praying the prayer doesn’t save you, it should reflect the desire of your heart. And, if it is your desire, the Bible states that you are saved from your sin: Dear God, I’m a sinner and know that my sins have destroyed our relationship. I acknowledge that I deserve death, separation from you for eternity. I’m sorry for my sins. I want to turn from my sins but cannot do so in my own power. I believe Jesus Christ is your Son. I believe He died on a cross for my sin and that You raised Him to life. I trust Him as my Savior and desire to follow Him as Lord from this day forward. Jesus, I put my trust in You and I submit my life to You. Holy Spirit, come into my life and be my guide. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

The Gospel

What-is-the-Gospel

What is the Gospel? You’d think that it would be an easy question to answer, especially for Christians. After all, the gospel stands at the center of Christianity. You hear the word at church all the time. It’s used in the Bible more than 90 times! And yet, I sense that we still must ask, “What is the gospel?” I believe that if we get the answer to this question correct, all of life will fall into place; that you and I will experience the abundant life promised by Jesus in John 10:10.

First let’s start with the word gospel. The word gospel literally means “good news.” To narrow it down even more, scripture declares that the gospel is the good news concerning Jesus Christ. When we refer to the gospel of Jesus Christ we typically are referring to the good news that in Jesus’ death and resurrection you and I can have eternal life. The gospel declares that we, those who were once enemies of God, have been reconciled to God by the blood of Jesus Christ and adopted into the family of God (Romans 5:10). But that’s not all of it.

The gospel is more than just good news about what Jesus did for us on the cross. The gospel is the good news that was proclaimed by Jesus regarding the Kingdom of God. In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus declares that God has anointed Him to preach the gospel to the poor. His message?  Jesus declared that in His Father’s Kingdom there is freedom for the prisoners, sight for the blind and release for the oppressed. In God’s Kingdom poverty is gone. So too is pain, suffering and death. Those in the Kingdom will dwell with God forever! The gospel declares of its certainty! One day, Jesus will return and He will usher in a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21:3). The gospel declares that true followers of Jesus will dwell once again in the presence of God and will worship Him face-to-face in a perfect environment. For Jesus, the gospel and the Kingdom were inseparable.

Therefore, the gospel is the proclamation of the good news in two senses. First, it is the proclamation by Jesus. He declared that the Kingdom of God was coming. Second, it is the proclamation of the good news about Jesus-the good news that in Jesus’ death and resurrection you and I can have life and enter into His Kingdom.

Today we are beginning a new sermon series about the gospel of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that you and I will see that the gospel is not just the means by which we are saved, it is the driving force behind our transformation, and it is the motivation for our loving God and our neighbors. JD Greer, a pastor here in North Carolina states, “The goal of the gospel is to produce a type of people consumed with passion for God and love for others.” JD is saying that the gospel, and the gospel alone, has the power to produce love for God and for others in our lives. As the gospel is believed and appropriated into our lives our selfish hearts burst alive with a love for God and a passion to worship Him. As we worship the Father we will want others to experience the abundant life we have found in Jesus! The desire to take this good news, the gospel, to others intensifies.

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 Paul give us an overview of the gospel. He writes, “For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…

He begins by stating that the gospel message was something that he had passed on to them; something that he had received, not designed or authored on his own. He delivered what God had authored. Second, he says that the gospel was something most important. In other words, Paul was saying that nothing was more central – nothing more important – than the message of the gospel. While serving our community is of critical importance, it is the gospel, and the gospel alone, that transforms us. Next Paul summarizes the gospel in three simple statements. First, he states that Jesus died for our sins. Second, he says that Jesus was buried. Finally, he states that Jesus arose from the dead.

First, Jesus died for our sins. In the beginning, when God created Adam and Eve they were without sin. God laid out His commands to them, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” To put it simply, God was saying that if you choose to disobey Him, if you choose to sin, you are choosing to suffer.

Sin is a willful act of disobedience to the will of God and it has consequences. We have all sinned. The Bible states that the consequence for disobeying God is death. Because you and I have sinned, we deserve death. Jesus, in Mark 10:45, stated that He came to give His life as a ransom for many.” The sinless Son of God came to earth to pay the penalty for our sins. As He hung upon the cross God made He who knew no sin to be sin so that you and I might become justified in the site of God. As He hung upon the cross God placed our sins upon His Son and then clothed you and I with His righteousness. Romans 5:8 declares, “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” Christ’s substitutionary death on behalf of whosoever would believe brought salvation to those who would otherwise been lost.

Second, Jesus was buried. After Jesus had died upon the cross a disciple of Jesus named Joseph asked Pilate if he could give Jesus a proper burial. Pilate was surprised to hear that Jesus had already died. He called in the centurion who had been in charged and asked him if Jesus had died. The centurion affirmed His death. The Jews did not want the bodies of the three men crucified to hang on their crosses on the Sabbath so they had asked that the legs of the men be broken which would have brought death. When the soldiers got to Jesus they discovered that He was already dead. One soldier, wanting to make sure, took his spear and stabbed Jesus in the side. A mixture of water and blood flowed out. You don’t bury people who are alive. Jesus was dead.

Finally, Paul states that Jesus arose from the dead. Jesus died upon the cross and was buried in a borrowed tomb. On the third day, He arose from the dead. Notice that Paul doesn’t say that Jesus raised Himself. Jesus was raised form the dead by His Father by the power of the Holy Spirit (RO 1:4; Gal. 1:1). Matthew tells us in chapter 28 that after the Sabbath, the two Mary’s went to look at the tomb. As they approached the tomb there was a violent earthquake, and an angel went to the tomb, rolled the stone away, and sat upon the rock. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him.’”

  • Notice, first, that Paul “received” the gospel and then “passed it on”; this is a divine message, not a man-made invention.

 

  • Second, the gospel is “of first importance.” Everywhere the apostles went, they preached the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

 

  • Third, the message of the gospel is accompanied by proofs: Christ died for our sins (proved by His burial), and He rose again the third day (proved by the eyewitnesses).

 

  • Fourth, all this was done “according to the Scriptures”; the theme of the whole Bible is the salvation of mankind through Christ. The Bible is the gospel.

The Gospel

The just and gracious God of the universe looked upon hopelessly sinful people and sent His Son, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, to bear His wrath against sin on the cross and to show His power over sin in the resurrection so that all who turn and trust in Him will be reconciled to God forever. The gospel is the announcement that God has reconciled us to Himself by sending His Son Jesus to die as a substitute for our sins, and all who repent and believe have eternal life in Him. The gospel truly is good news!

 

For Thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory Forever

for-thine-is-the-kingdom

A kitten belonging to a Romanian pastor became stranded in a tree. The tree was tall but sort of whimsy. To get the cat down, the pastor threw a rope over a branch and tied it to his car’s bumper. Driving slowly forward, he pulled the tree down to within reach. Just then the rope snapped and the frightened feline went flying through the air and was nowhere to be found.

The next day the pastor met a neighbor. “You’ll never believe what happened yesterday!” she exclaimed. “My little girl had been begging for a kitten, but I told her she could have one only if Jesus gave it to her. So she ran outside, knelt down, and prayed, ‘Jesus, please give me a kitty of my very own to love and care for. Amen.’ Just then a kitten with paws outstretched fell right out of heaven!” Don’t tell me that God doesn’t answer our prayers!

Jesus in Mark 11:24 where He said, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” When we think of an answered prayer we think of some awe-inspiring miracle… something that only God could have done – Like a cat being delivered from heaven! But there is another type of outcome generated by our prayers. It flows from the same pathway, but instead of God doing something for us, He does something to us. We are transformed by God in our asking, as we trust Him by faith to do something that only He can do.

As we pray, we suddenly are awakened to the will or presence of God and we end up having a moment where we are brutally honest with Him and with ourselves. Those that are truly broken, or who genuinely desire to please the Father, make a decision to change their lives – they do something! They take action, which leads to lasting transformation. Three things have occurred: There has been an awakening, honest reflection has occurred, and an action plan has been developed and implemented. All because there has been an encounter with God in prayer. We have had an AHA Moment!

The Doxology in Matthew 6

The Gospel of Matthew was written by Matthew who was a tax collector when Jesus called him to be one of his disciples. He wrote down his gospel after the death of Jesus and before the destruction of the temple in AD 70. After he penned his document, scribes would very carefully copy his document by hand to assure that there were enough accurate copies circulating amongst the churches and her members. These documents serve as the basis of our Bible.

Sometime after Matthew penned his document, these scribes, possibly as they personally experienced the Disciple’s prayer in Matthew 6 and or when they saw it applied in worship settings, did something that today would be considered completely inappropriate – they added something to their documents that was not in Matthew’s Gospel. It was just a sentence; just thirteen words but for some reason it seemed like the thing to do – as if God were guiding their thoughts and their hands. And so, right after the final line in the Disciple’s Prayer, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” they added a doxology, a hymn-like verse which exalts the glory of God. It flowed from what I believe to be one of those AHA moments when God reveals Himself to His children as they pray. It’s a natural, heart-felt response to the awesomeness of God. This doxology suggests that all prayer should end with a celebration of who God is. All prayer should end as it begins – with praise.

Having encountered the greatness of God in their journey along the pathway, followers of Jesus are moved within their spirits to praise God. As they focused upon the greatness of God in their prayers, they not only gained an assurance that their prayers would be answered, they knew why. Their prayers wouldn’t be answered because of their goodness, eloquence or because of their obedience. Their requests would be answered because God wants to answer them and because their prayers have aligned with His will. And so they cried out in praise, “For thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.”

When you walk through the Disciple’s Pathway for Prayer you will come to the point where you are overwhelmed with the greatness of God. You will be awakened, become brutally honest with yourself and God, and hopefully, determine in your heart to live life differently. The statement is true, “It’s not about us, it’s about God.” The doxology focuses our attention away from ourselves and onto God. We behold the glory and majesty of God as we end the Disciple’s Prayer and step out to face the challenges of life. As a result, we declare three things about God:

  • The Kingdom is His
  • All power flows from Him
  • All glory is due His name

It’s as if we have our own AHA Moment!

For thine is the Kingdom…

This climactic doxology begins with a passionate declaration of God’s sovereignty. When a believer prays, our text declares that we should conclude by affirming, “For Yours is the kingdom.” This robust pronouncement asserts that God both possesses and presides over His vast kingdom – over all of creation. He is the sovereign king, who exercises supreme authority and unrestricted dominion over an immense empire. God has a plan to redeem all of creation and directs all the affairs of mankind, even the intricate inner workings of the entire universe. Ephesians 1:11 declares that God “works out everything in conformity with His will.” Romans 8:28 says that God can bring good out of all situations because He is sovereign over all.

We are also declaring that the Kingdom, the right to rule our lives, belongs to the Father. We have seen His greatness. We have experienced Him as both Father and Lord and we have found Him, and Him alone, to be worthy of surrendering our lives to. We are acknowledging that He is our King and we are His servants.  This implies that we are His and His alone. To declare our faith in God is to declare that we trust Him. Don’t let a lost, cynical world tell you that God is out of business.  He is still on His throne and the kingdom of this world is under His authority. 

For thine is the power…

Further, the doxology declares that as followers of Jesus pray, they should declare that “the power” belongs to God. The definite article defines the infinite scope of His sovereignty. He possesses not a mere portion of some power, but the power. That is to say, He has all power in heaven and earth and is capable of doing all things. Whatever God chooses to do we can be confident that He has the ability, the power, to do it. He spoke the world into existence. He parted the red sea. He raised His Son from the dead and one day He will do the same for His children. And one day, He will destroy the world as we know it and bring forth a new heaven and a new earth.

When we see God as Almighty and having all power, it will free us from the fear of men and fear of the future. God’s power can also free us from all our sinful habits. Friends, we do not serve some anemic, weak God.  We serve a God of power and ability! He can do anything He pleases to do, because He holds all power.

For the glory is yours…

What is more, our prayers should climax with the announcement that all glory belongs to God. Because the kingdom and the power belong to Him, all glory rightfully belongs to Him as well. The Bible speaks of God’s glory in two ways. His intrinsic glory which is the revelation of all that God is. It is the sum total of all His divine perfections and holy attributes. There is nothing that man can do to add to the intrinsic glory of God. He is who He is. Additionally, there is God’s ascribed glory, which is the glory that is given to Him. This is the praise and honor due His name. Scripture declares that all things were created for the Father’s glory, to declare His greatness.

Our prayers should end with a celebration of who God is and for what He is doing in and through us. In direct response to His vast sovereignty and unlimited power, all glory must be rendered to Him. It is only fitting that this God, who is so awesome, be adorned with praise for who He is.

Conclusion

After crying out for His Kingdom to come, after declaring our dependence upon Him for all things, after receiving and sharing His forgiveness, after confessing our weakness and struggle with sin – we return to the truth of God’s complete sufficiency. This doxology reminds us that our confidence shall be grounded in God’s own character – in who He is. Only He has the authority to rule over all of creation. Only He has the power needed to restore all of creation. Only He is worthy of our praise. Therefore, we declare, “For thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the Glory forever. Amen!”

 

Lead Us Not Into Temptation, But Deliver Us From The Evil One

Lead us not into temptation

We have been talking about prayer for several weeks. To be more precise, we have been studying Jesus teachings on how to pray. The pathway that He has provided in Matthew 6:9-13 has been amazing! It is rich. The key to an effective prayer life isn’t found just in the following of His pathway however. The key to an effective prayer life is also found in “why” we exist. Prayer isn’t nearly as much about you and I convincing God to do things for us as it is about you and I, through prayer, becoming more aligned with the will of God for our lives. And the will of God is that you and I live for His glory – it’s our supreme purpose. And, the will of God is that you and I make disciples – it’s our mission from God. Therefore, we exist for God’s glory and the good of others (1 Cor. 10:31-33)! This understanding of why we exist should shape our prayers.

To make matters interesting, Satan, the ruler of this world, is committed to preventing us from fulfilling our purpose and our mission. His desire is to distract us from knowing God intimately and from investing deeply in the lives of those who don’t know Christ. Jesus was personally tempted by the devil himself in Matthew 4 for the same reasons. We must take Satan and his desire to destroy us seriously. Peter admonishes us in I Peter 5:8, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Which brings us to Matthew 6:13 where Jesus directs us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” To understand this petition, you need to understand two things. First, we just got done confessing our sins. The Holy Spirit has convicted us of their seriousness and moved us to confession and repentance. We have just come face to face with our humanness and the power of sin. To understand this petition, you must be keenly aware of the power of sin in your life. Second, we were just reminded that we have an enemy who is out to distract us – to destroy us. Jesus is saying that in light of our tendency to sin and in light of Satan’s desire to distract us, we should hit the floor on our knees in prayer.

This petition is really a confession of our spiritual weakness and a declaration of our dependence upon God. It’s a prayer for those who feel vulnerable in the face of Satan and all his attacks. When we pray this prayer, we are saying to God, “O Heavenly Father I am weak when it comes to resisting sin. Don’t let me come to the place where I will succumb to temptation.  Don’t let me come to the place where I will be overwhelmed by Satan, but deliver me from Satan and his power in my life.”

“Lead us not into temptation…” Matthew 6:13

The idea of God leading His people is a primary theme of Scripture. The book of Psalms especially is filled with pleas for God to lead us in His ways (Psalm 5:8; 27:11), by His truth and righteousness, and in “the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:24). In Matthew 6:13 we are asking God to not lead us into temptation. The problem is that God’s holiness and goodness will not allow His leading anyone, certainly not one of His children, into a place or experience in which they would purposely be tempted to commit sin (James 1:13). So why did Jesus give us these instructions? Jesus, in teaching us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation” knows that the desires of our flesh are strong, that they entice us to sin (James 1:14-15). He is calling us to be honest about our struggle with sin, to confess our weaknesses.

When we honestly look at the power of sin, at our own weaknesses, and at our own personal desire to sin – we shudder at the danger of temptation or even at a trial. Being honest about our weaknesses ushers in the power of Christ in our lives. Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

This petition is another plea for God to provide what we ourselves do not have – the strength to resist the enemy. This phrase must be understood in the sense of “permitting.” Jesus is teaching us to pray, “Do not ‘allow’ us, or ‘permit’ us, to be tempted to sin.” This request implies that God has such control over the tempter as to save us from his power if we call upon Him (MT 4:3).

We might illustrate Jesus’ words “Lead us not into temptation” like this: a mother takes her young children grocery shopping with her and comes to the candy aisle. She knows that taking her children down that aisle will only stir up greediness in their hearts and lead to bouts of whining, screaming and pouting. In wisdom, she takes another route—whatever she may have needed down the candy aisle will have to wait for another day. In this way, the mother averts unpleasantness and spares her children a trial. Praying, “Lead us not into temptation,” is like praying, “God, don’t take me, or let me journey, down the candy aisle today.” It’s recognizing that we naturally grasp for candy (unprofitable things) and that God’s wisdom can avert the unpleasantness of our whining, screaming and eventually our sin.

But deliver us from the evil one.

When you pray, “But deliver us from the evil one,” we are declaring that this life is a constant struggle with an evil, spiritual enemy who opposes us and of our confidence in God’s mighty power to deliver us from Satan and His power. Ephesians 6:12 declares, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm.” This ongoing battle is a spiritual one – between the kingdom of God and the armies of Satan. The first half of this petition is about our weakness. The second half is about God’s power.

Jesus, in His prayer for His disciples in John 17:15, prays, “I am not praying that you take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one.” The prayer of Jesus was not for God to send something like “rescue planes” to evacuate His disciples from their hostile setting in the world. Though it would secure their own safety, it would leave the world unblessed by their testimony. Such a plan would destroy God’s mission through them. He knew the power and determination of Satan and, He also knew that we’re needed in the world if we’re going to fulfill God’s mission. Therefore, He prays not for our removal from this world, but rather, for God to protect us from the evil one while we are in it.

So how does God protect us? Jesus continues in John 17:17, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” You fight the enemy, who is a deceiver, with the truth of God’s Word. Jesus is saying to the Father, “There is an evil one out there. His primary strategy is deceit. Please, guard them from the evil one and his lies. And here is the way I think you should do it… Make them holy in the truth, for your word is truth.” In Ephesians 6, in light of the spiritual warfare raging all around us, Paul admonishes us to put on the armor of God. The implication here is that if the Christian puts on the full armor of God, he has the ability to stand firm against the attacks of Satan. And the first piece of armor we are to put on is the belt of truth – the truth of God’s Word.

When it comes to spiritual warfare, we are not capable of protecting ourselves. If we are going to have adequate strength for the spiritual battles in life, they must be fought in the Lord’s strength. When faced with a problem or challenge, we tend to ask ourselves, “What am I going to do?” And well-meaning family members and friends will come along and ask, “What are you going to do?” When it comes to spiritual battles, the battle is the Lord’s. I recognize I am weak, but at the same time, I acknowledge that God is great and powerful. The right question is, “What does God want me to do?”

Resisting Temptation In The Father’s Strength

The good news is that God has answered our prayer long before we spoke a single word! Our best defense against the devil and temptation is to have a right relationship with His bride, His Word, and His Son.

First, God gives us the church to help us resist temptation. Hebrews 3:13 says, “Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” We are delivered from temptation by the church who exhorts, or encourages us, to live holy lives. The Greek word here for exhort is “parakaleo,” which means to call near to one’s side. We need to come alongside one another very frequently so that we don’t get deceived and hardened by sin! I am simply suggesting that followers of Jesus embrace a lifestyle that includes one another – that we intentionally build into our lives opportunities to share life with other Christ followers. Scripture teaches that if we want to avoid temptation we should recognize our need for other followers of Jesus and pursue community. As you pray, thank God for His bride and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into community with other followers. Ask God to send trusted people into your life that will exhort you to holy living. Ask God to give you the desire to faithfully gather with the saints… and then do it!

Second, God has given us His Word to help us resist temptation. Ephesians 4:22 says, “Put off your old self which belongs to your former manner of life which is corrupt through deceitful desires.” The desires of our flesh tend to lie to us. They make promises they cannot keep. We conquer the old self with its deceitful desires by filling our minds with the truth — the precious, infinitely valuable, Christ-exalting truth of Scripture (John 17:17). The same is true in our battle against the enemy, who is called the deceiver in the Book of Revelation (12:9). To use the Word of God as an effective weapon against temptation and the enemy you must read it daily, study it at least weekly with other believers, and memorize it so that when the enemy comes against you or when the desires of your flesh are strong you have truth to speak against them. As you pray, thank God for His Word and ask Him to create within you a desire to faithfully engage His Word.

Third, God has given us His Son to help us resist temptation. Jesus told the Apostle John in Revelation 12:11 that the “brethren” overcame the devil “by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony.” First, those who overcome the pressures of this hostile world do so through the blood of the lamb. Unless people are certain that they have been made right with God through faith (RO 5:1), they have no hope of standing against the enemy’s schemes. The atoning death of Christ on the cross is the only weapon sufficient to defeat Satan. Second, in the face of pressure to turn from their faith in Christ, those who overcame did not give in. On the basis of Christ’s work on the cross and their personal confession of that, they overcame the accusations of the enemy. Their testimony is tried and true. Their perseverance in the midst of persecution not only reveals the genuineness of their faith in Christ, it completely overcomes the devil.

The bride of Christ shall overcome Satan, not by their own strength, but “because of the shed blood of the lamb and because of the word of their testimony.” As you pray, thank God for His Son and for His blood which was shed for you. Ask God to help you be faithful to Jesus Christ, that your testimony is one that affirms your salvation in Christ alone and acknowledges the tremendous price He paid on Calvary.

Conclusion

This petition, which on the surface seems so simple, is actually very profound. It’s a prescription for the spiritual life. It’s a measure of your spiritual health. When you pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” you are expressing your own weakness in the face of the trials and difficulties of life. You are saying, “Lord, Your Word says resist the devil but I am confessing that by myself I can’t do it.” God has answered your prayer! He has given us the church to exhort us to holy living. He has given us the truth of His Word to combat the lies of the enemy and our flesh. Finally, He has given us His Son, who, through His shed blood, has defeated the enemy. The key is found in our faithfulness to all three.

Proverbs 2:8 tells us that God guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him.

  • We’re to be faithful in our church attendance and small group participation
  • We’re to be faithful in our engagement with the Word of God
  • We’re to be faithful to Christ Himself and to our testimony in the world.

 

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors

Forgivness

Today we come to what some people believe to be one of the most dangerous prayers in scripture. As a matter of fact, if you pray this prayer with a degree of sincerity you may (depending upon your beliefs) be asking God to not only forgive you of your sins, you could be committing yourself to an eternity in hell in doing so. St Augustine called this request the “terrible petition” because he realized that if we pray, forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors with an unforgiving heart, we are asking God to not forgive us. We see this clearly if we substitute the word debt with the word sin, which is its basic meaning. If we did make the change, the petition would read, “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” (See LK 11:4)

Jesus wanted to make sure that this one request was correctly understood, so in verses 14 and 15 of Matthew 6 He states, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” The New Testament confirms this teaching in several locations:

Mark 11:25-26 “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your father who is in heaven forgive.”

Matthew 18:34-35 “And the master was angry and he handed him over to the jailers until he paid back all he owed. So will my father who is in heaven also do to you if each one of you does not forgive his brother from your hearts.”

When John Wesley was serving as a missionary to the American colonies, he had an encounter with a British General, a soldier who was known for his pride. Wesley pled with the General to forgive a soldier who was given a severe penalty for a minor infraction. In a particularly prideful moment the general said, “I never forgive!” Wesley replied, “Then I hope, sir, you never sin.” Wesley knew that if we make an unforgiving spirit a virtue, we cannot be forgiven. Thomas Watson, the noted Puritan, said, “a man can as well go to hell for not forgiving as for not believing.” Charles Spurgeon, a Baptist, agreed when he said in a sermon on this passage, “Unless you have forgiven others, you read your own death-warrant when you repeat the Lord’s Prayer.”

  1. S. Lewis, an Anglican, wrote: “No part of Jesus’ teaching was clearer, and there are no exceptions to it. He doesn’t say that we are to forgive other people’s sins providing they are not too frightful, or providing there are extenuating circumstances. We are to forgive them all, however spiteful, however mean, however often they are repeated. If we don’t, we shall be forgiven none of our own.”

What this petition does and does not mean.

There are three basic truths I need to point out regarding this text. First, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” does not mean that we will lose our salvation if an unforgiving spirit raises its ugly head in our lives. You didn’t do anything to earn God’s grace and therefore, you cannot do anything to lose it. Our salvation is secured by God Himself (RO 8:38-39). To put it simply, the giving of forgiveness is not a work by which we earn or keep God’s forgiveness.

Second, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” does declare that no one who holds a grudge against someone dare approach God in search of mercy. God deals with us in the way that we deal with others. If we believe it is good and beautiful to harbor resentment and count the wrongs done against us, then God will recognize that our plea for forgiveness is sheer hypocrisy. If we seek forgiveness from Him while harboring resentment towards those who have hurt us we are asking Him to do what we believe to be bad. Why would God do something that we think is wrong? Are we expecting God to simply wink at our own sin?

Third, the forgiveness we extend to others flows from a heart satisfied with the mercy of God. Because our debt has been forgiven, we extend mercy to others. Forgiveness doesn’t save us from the penalty of our sins but it does give evidence that we are saved (MT 7:16) and that we genuinely love the Lord (JN 14:23). We are new creations. Our sins have been forgiven and our own “ten million dollar” debt has been paid (MT 18:24). The person who has, through mercy, been born from above cannot be the same any more. He cannot go on sinning as before. And, to not forgive another for their sins against us, is a sin.

Praying Through This Portion of the Pathway

In this petition, when Jesus states, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” I believe He is telling us to do four things: First, as we pray we must acknowledge our guilt before God–“Forgive us our debts.” In doing so we are admitting, confessing, that we have sinned. We have violated God’s holy Word; missed the mark, and therefore we must come clean with God. Sin that is not confessed cannot be forgiven. David, in Psalm 51:3-4 cried out, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your site.” David was clear-he had sinned against God and it was evil in His sight.

We must be specific about our sin. Name them. Be honest. Coming before God and saying, “I’ve sinned” isn’t good enough! To get to the specifics requires reflection on our own conduct. It requires effort which requires time. It requires sensitivity to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and it requires an understanding of Scripture. We must know what God requires of us. When we come before Him in prayer we can be honest about the extent of our sin because He will not forsake us for our sins. Ask for forgiveness for this act, for this fault, for this word, for this deed, and for those specific things that you should have done.

When we choose to sin we create a moral and spiritual debt to God that must be paid. There are only two alternatives: either we must pay the penalty for our sins on our own or we must be pardoned by the one whom we sinned against. Since we cannot pay our own debt, we must turn to our Father in heaven. Nehemiah declared hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, “You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.” (Neh. 9:17)

Second, since man’s greatest problem is sin… our greatest need is forgiveness. Therefore, Jesus states that we are to ask God to forgive us. There are two types of forgiveness needed by man. First, we need God’s judicial forgiveness; we need forgiveness from the eternal penalty for our sins (Hebrews 8:12) so that we might become His sons and daughters. Romans 6:23 states that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. When we by faith, receive God’s gift of judicial forgiveness in Jesus Christ we are no longer condemned, no longer under judgment, and no longer destined for hell (RO 8:1). Through the death and resurrection of Jesus our sins – past, present, and future – have been forgiven. Our son-ship, our adoption, is secure.

So, you might be thinking, “Then why do I, as a believer, must continually ask God to forgive me of my sin?” To answer your question simply I would say, “You must keep asking God for forgiveness because you continue to sin!” Since we still choose to sin we continually require forgiveness from our Father to maintain our fellowship with Him. The Psalmist declared in 66:18, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened…” This need for forgiveness has nothing to do with our son-ship (ISA. 59:2). This second type of forgiveness is our Father’s relational forgiveness (1 John 1:3).

Our ability to know God intimately is hindered when we let our sins pile up. His voice is harder to hear, our joy is gone, and our contributions to the Kingdom are limited.  David knew that there were consequences for his sin so he asked God for forgiveness. He begged Him in verse 2 of Psalm 51, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” 1 John 1:9 reminds us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Third, we are to extend forgiveness to those who have sinned against us. I think there is a great deal of misunderstanding about this last phrase. Some have suggested that Jesus is instructing us to pray, “God forgive me of my sins to the extent that I have forgiven others.” My problem with that belief is that it makes our salvation dependent upon our obedience and not His grace. This belief states that If we are not forgiving, we will not be forgiven judicially. The key to understanding what Jesus is telling us is twofold. First, remember that this prayer is for believers. We have experienced, and permanently secured, God’s judicial forgiveness. Second, this petition requires that you and I understand His use of the word “as.” I believe that Jesus, in using the word “as” is stating that there is a relationship between the forgiveness we extend to one another and the forgiveness that we have received in Christ Jesus. I think it is something that is expressed beautifully in Ephesians 4:32 where we read that we are to be “kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven you.” God has forgiven us. He set the example. And, because God has forgiven us, because we have experienced His mercy, we extend mercy and forgiveness to those who have harmed us.

There is a relationship between God’s relational forgiveness and the extent that we forgive others. We read in Colossians 3:12-13, “Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive.”  When God forgives us, He expects something from us. He expects the forgiven sinner to do the same. Doing so gives evidence that we are true followers of Jesus.

Finally, because this petition requires a willful act of forgiveness on our part, we must ask God to give us the ability, and the desire, to forgive others as we begin each day. Those who have been hurt by another understand the challenge being put before us. It is not easy to be forgiving. It is only through God’s grace and power that we can extend mercy to those who have harmed us. I am saying that the key to becoming a forgiving person is found in our preparation. Don’t put off deciding how you will respond to those who hurt you until they attack or disappoint you. Each morning before you walk out the door, make a willful decision that you will, with God’s help, respond to those who hurt you with the same love and forgiveness you experienced at the cross. Since we both know that you cannot do this on your own, this must become a matter of earnest prayer each morning before we engage the world. By doing so we are deciding to not let unforgiveness rob us of our joy, peace and our intimacy with our heavenly Father.

 

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

Bread

Today we journey to our next destination on the Disciple’s Pathway for Prayer – the asking of God to Give us this day our daily bread. We are half-way through the Lord’s Prayer—and come now to the place where we request something for ourselves. We have learned that God must always be put first, and that the honoring of His name, the coming of His kingdom, and the doing of His will—are always to be thought about and sought first—before any matter of our own.

In the days of Jesus, bread was a part of a basic daily diet that included vegetables, fruit, olives and cheese. Meat and fish were seldom eaten except for special occasions, when keeping one of God’s Holy Feast Days, or by those who were wealthy. When Jesus told His first century disciples to seek bread for each day, it made sense to them. They needed bread on a daily basis.

The truth is, this may be a difficult request for some of us to make today. Our cupboards and refrigerators are full. We have plenty to eat! And what we lack is available just down the road in a local grocery store. And yet, the daily asking of God for the basics of life reveals a great deal about you and me. First, asking God to supply our needs for each day reveals our dependence upon Him for all things. Philippians 4:19 promises that our “God shall supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Praying for our daily bread is our way of acknowledging that God is the supplier of all things and that He does everything generously. He is never stingy in caring for his children.

Second, asking God to supply our needs for each day reveals our belief that God owns all things. Psalm 24:1 declares, “The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the Lord.” By asking God to supply our daily needs is one way of acknowledging that everything comes from our heavenly Father. Finally, asking God to supply our needs for each day reveals our love for God and, our love for others. True followers of Jesus cannot come to God with requests for themselves alone. Because they walk like Jesus, they seek bread for others, for all—even for their enemies. 1 John 3:17 declares, “Whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need, and shuts up his compassion from him—how does the love of God abide in him?”

When Jesus says we’re to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” He’s talking about far more than just bread. In fact, the Bible tells us that bread represents five things:

Bread represents the necessities of life.

This petition of the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to come to God in a spirit of humble dependence, asking Him to provide what we need to sustain us from day to day – food, shelter, clothing, good health, etc.. Good parents provide not only what their children need for physical life, but they also for their children’s emotional, spiritual and relational needs. James declared that God is the giver of good gifts (James 1:17). Paul wrote in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

As you pray, asking God to provide you with bread for today, ask Him to provide for the necessitates of life. Be specific and trust God to provide for you in every way. He truly is a good, good, Father.

 

Bread represents God’s Word.

Food is absolutely fundamental to physical life, but what about when we face mental and spiritual challenges or obstacles? Is a good physical diet enough to carry us through? Matthew 4:4 gives us the answer: “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Our bodies require physical food, but we need more than physical food alone if we are to consistently and successfully triumph over the obstacles of life. We must maintain a proper spiritual diet as well. The proper spiritual diet begins and ends with the words that proceed “out of the mouth of God.” Real life comes by feeding on every word of the Lord. You don’t just need physical nourishment; you need spiritual nourishment as well.

As we pray, asking God to provide us with bread for today, we must ask Him to provide us with both a desire to read His Word, but to do so with others so that we might understand it better and have the ability to apply it to our lives.

Bread represents God’s family.

It was the custom in Israel for the head of the household to begin each meal by taking the loaf of bread, give thanks, and then break or tear it into pieces and giving some to each one at the table. Paul uses this custom as a symbol of unity in 1 Corinthians 10:17, “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” Understood in this context, our verse must be seen as an attempt by Paul to use the symbol of the one loaf of bread to illustrate a metaphor of unity in the body of Christ–with Christ as the head. Jesus sets the standard for unity in the church by commanding us in John 13:34-35, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

As we pray, asking God to provide us with bread for today, we must ask Him to protect the unity of our church, increase the love we have for one another, and compel us to resolve immediately any conflict that arises in the church.

Bread represents Christ Himself

A fourth type of bread mentioned in the Bible is the Bread of Life. Jesus declared in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” This is a phenomenal statement! First, by equating Himself with bread, Jesus is saying he is essential for life – eternal life. In verse 33 of John 6 Jesus states, ““For the bread of God is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  Jesus, the eternal, only begotten Son of God, became flesh and dwelt among us. And then, at the appointed hour, He died upon a cross to pay the penalty for our sins. This good news is called the Gospel and once we have experienced it, it must define how we live our lives.

2 Corinthians 5:21 declares, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” When Christ died on the cross, He took the sins of mankind upon Himself and made atonement for them. When we place our faith in Him, our sins are transferred to Jesus, and His righteousness is transferred to us. Jesus satisfies our hunger and thirst for righteousness. He is our Bread of Life.

As we pray, asking God to provide us with bread for today, we must give thanks for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and ask God to help us live gospel-centered lives.

Bread represents the sacrifice made by Jesus.

Jesus chose bread to represent His sacrifice when He initiated the Lord’s supper. In 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 we see that Jesus took a loaf of bread, broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” The broken bread is a symbol of Christ, the Bread of Life, being broken for our sin. Every time we eat the bread and drink the wine or juice, it is a reminder of how much God loves us and of the sacrifice Jesus made so that we might have the abundant life He promised in John 10:10.

Followers of Jesus know the joy of believing in Jesus. Faith in Christ brings hope for the perfection of all creation, freedom from sin, a new and loving spirit within, and the abiding presence of God experienced both within the community of faith and the heart of the believer. Our relationship with God is restored and we come to know Him as our Father. But the call to discipleship is the call to take up one’s cross. It is costly. As Christians, we share in Christ’s sufferings as we spend ourselves for others – just as Christ did for the sake of the lost. As believers, we long for others to know the blessings of faith that we ourselves have experienced. We share Christ’s heartbreak and His passion for the world. For the sake of others, we are willing to pay the price that love demands.

As we pray, asking God to provide us with bread for today, we must thank Him for the privilege of joining Him in His mission to redeem the world and pray that He would give us the compassion and drive to submit ourselves as living sacrifices for the glory of God and the wellbeing of the lost.

When we ask God for our daily bread we are asking Him…

  • to provide for the necessitates of life.
  • to provide us with both a desire to read and understand His Word and the ability to apply it to our lives.
  • to protect the unity of our church, increase the love we have for one another, and compel us to address immediately any conflict that arises in the church.
  • to help us live gospel-centered lives.
  • To give us the compassion and drive to submit ourselves as living sacrifices for the glory of God and the wellbeing of the lost.

 

Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be doneWe have been walking through the Disciple’s Prayer as given to us by Jesus in Matthew 6. We have seen that the Disciple’s Prayer is a pathway, a guide for our prayers, and that we’re to begin our prayer time with praise. We’re to praise God that we know Him as our heavenly Father. We then marveled over the fact that the One who is high and lifted up, the Holy God of creation, not only loves us, but He invites us into His presence. We praise God for the access we gain through our faith in His Son.

Last week we talked about the importance of hollowing the name of God. To hollow the name of God is to set it apart – to treat it as holy. In hollowing the name of God I suggested that we celebrate not only the character of God His name represents, but the benefit we receive as His children. We are to celebrate that we have been declared righteous because of our faith in Christ, that He is shaping us into the image of His Son. We are to celebrate that we’re at peace with God and that we have the peace of God in our lives. We’re to celebrate that He is our healer and our provider; that He has chosen to live within us. Finally, we are to celebrate the fact that Jesus is not only our good shepherd, but that He goes before us as our banner – the battle is His – we’re victorious in Christ Jesus!

Now I must confess that one or two things typically happens at this point in my prayer time. As I have just spent time praising my heavenly Father for who He is and for adopting me as His child, I either grow silent before my God, begin to confess my sins like Isaiah, or feel this overwhelming desire to offer myself to the Father as a living sacrifice. Romans 12:1 states, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

Which brings us to verse 10 in The Discples Prayer where Jesus gives us our first petition.  “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” The way this verse is written in its original language it might be better translated, “Come thy Kingdom… Be done thy will!” Picture someone standing firmly on solid ground, stomping their foot, and declaring that something needs to happen right now! It also reminds us that this petition is something that we cannot do unto ourselves. We are asking God to bring His Kingdom, to accomplish His will, in and through our lives.

With these words, I believe that Jesus is calling us to make a decision. In light of who He is, in light of all that He has done, He is asking, are you willing to surrender everything to Him? Are you willing to seek His will for your life and are you willing to live in obedience to His revealed will for your life? Are you willing to become nothing to see God do something?

When Jesus instructs us to declare that His Kingdom come, He is not calling us to pray for a place like the United States (Although we should pray for our nation). Kingdom does not refer to a place. It refers to the sovereign rule of another. In praying that God’s Kingdom would come, we are praying that God’s rule would come over every facet of our lives, that Jesus would reign as Lord over our lives. If you want to experience God’s best, if you want to bring Him great glory, you and I must surrender our lives to Him completely. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…”  In Matthew 16:24, after rebuking Peter and calling Him Satan, Jesus declares, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny Himself, take up His cross, and follow Me.” There is no other option. Deny self and seek His Kingdom!

Once we have determined that God should reign over every part of our lives, living in obedience to His will must become our top priority. That’s why Jesus instructs us to pray that His will be done on earth (and in our lives) as it is in heaven. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:15, “He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised.” God has a will, and man also has a will. In this prayer, we are being instructed to pray that God may have His way with us here in this world even as He does with the hosts in the heavenly world – that His will would be done, not ours.

The will of God is that men should live in obedience to His Word (JN 14:15), that we live holy lives (Eph. 1:4). That we walk like Jesus (1 JN 2:6), loving God and loving others above ourselves (MT 22:36-40). His will is that all who desire to be great in this world, be servants of all (MK 10:44). His will is that we live for His glory and the good of others (1 Cor. 10:31-11:1). His will is that we proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to all nations (MK 16:15). His will is that you and I be filled with the Spirit (EPH 5:18).

This portion of the prayer ought to frighten us. We’re declaring to God that whatever His will is for us, wherever He leads, whatever it costs, whatever it means – let it be done! If it means a season of adversity and or an abundance of trials let it come. If it means pain and suffering let it come. If it means broken plans or delayed gratification – let Your will be done! If it means doing without or giving up something we enjoy – let Your will be done! In Galatians 2:19-20 Paul declared, “I have been crucified with Christ; and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Can we declare the same?

It will help us to remember two things as we pray this prayer. First, whose will is it that we want done in our lives? Our Father’s. The one who gave us life, who loves us, and who adopted us! It is not the will of a tyrant or a bully. It is the will of the One who created us, the One who is our righteousness, the One who is shaping us into the image of His Son, the One who heals us, provides for us, guides us and the One who goes before us in battle! That’s the One whose will we want done. And, He’s a good, good Father.

And then, second, this other word: Let us remember that His will is always best for us, whatever it is. You can trust Him. You can walk by faith because He is trustworthy. Jesus stated in Matthew 7:9-11, “What man among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”

Jesus is instructing us to pray that God’s Kingdom would come and that His will would be done in our lives. As we pray, we must declare that we desire God’s Kingdom to come, that Jesus would reign as Lord over our lives. As we pray, we must declare that God’s will – as revealed  in His Word and by the Holy spirit, may it be done in our lives. We’re to pray this over these five major areas: First, in your own life. Second, in the life of your family members. Third, in the life of your church. Fourth, the lives of the five people you’re praying for. And finally, fifth, in your community and nation.

How do we pray for each of these areas? Begin with yourself. Declare to God that you want to see His Kingdom come and His will would be done in your life. As you pray, you are inviting Jesus to assume His rightful place on the throne of your heart. Ask Him to give you the desire and the ability to obey His will (Phil. 2:13).

Next pray for your family. I start with my wife, praying that God’s Kingdom will come and that His will would be done in her life. I pray that she will seek Him and find Him – that she will love Him completely – that she would be filled with the Spirit. Then I move on to my children, their spouses, and our grandchildren. I ask God for the same thing, that His Kingdom will come and that His will would be done in their lives. Before my children were married I prayed the same thing for their future spouses, not knowing their names, but trusting that God would be at work in their lives and in their parent’s lives.

Next pray for your church. Pray that God’s Kingdom would come and that His will would be done. Pray that God would pour out His Spirit in your church and that the body of Christ would obey Him as He does so. Pray for your pastors, your leaders, and for the lost who worship with you by name. Ask God to give everyone the desire and ability to walk like Jesus. Pray that His people would be faithful.

Next, pray for your five – the five people that you know who do not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Pray that God’s Kingdom would come and that His will be done in their lives. Ask God to allow you to serve them. Pray for opportunities to share the gospel when it’s appropriate.

Finally, pray for your community and your nation. Pray that God’s Kingdom would come and that His will be done. Ask God to send laborers into the harvest, that people would have the opportunity to hear the gospel proclaimed and see the Kingdom put on display. Pray for our president and other elected officials, that God’s Kingdom would come and that His will would be done in their lives.

Conclusion: Let me wrap this message up with a few quick thoughts.

First, God is calling us to surrender to His Lordship and to obey His will. Do you know that God seldom provides a five-year plan for people’s lives? Abraham was told to pack up His family and get moving. The disciples were simply called to follow Jesus. God cares more about our moment-by-moment response to the leading of the Holy Spirit than about a long-range plan for your life.

Second, only God can bring His kingdom. Notice what we imply when we pray this prayer: we are asking God’s Kingdom to come and for His will to be done. It is only through God’s strength that we can live in obedience to His will. That’s why it is so important that we enter into His presence with praise, with our hearts and minds fixed upon Him. Only God can bring about these changes in our lives.

Third, God wants us to listen to His Spirit on a moment-by-moment basis. Paul, in writing to the Galatians stated, “I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh… If we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:16) You don’t need the Holy Spirit if you are merely seeking to live a semi-moral life and attend church when you can. You only need the Spirit of God if you plan to walk like Jesus, if you truly want His Kingdom to come and His will to be done in your life.

Finally, our obedience produces closeness to the Lord. Nowhere in this prayer does Jesus call us to a quest for greater knowledge. We need to spend time in His Word. We need to study it with others. But it is not your knowledge about Scripture that produces closeness to the Lord, it is your obedience. Our knowledge of the Scriptures doesn’t do us much good unless we obey it.

Jesus calls us to take up our crosses and to follow Him. He calls us to seek His Kingdom first. He calls us to a life marked by faith – radical faith. His call is for total surrender. He calls us to give up all that we have, to give our lives as living sacrifices. As we do God will be glorified and our hearts will be satisfied… May His Kingdom come and may His will be done in your life!

 

Hallowed Be Thy Name

HALLOWED

We are in the opening section of what I am calling, The Disciple’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-17). The first ten words in our text focus our attention on the greatness of our God. In week one we celebrated the fact that we can know God as our heavenly Father and that we can enter into His presence as His child. Next, Jesus directs us to hallow the name of God. The word “hallow” means to sanctify or set something apart. Sanctify can mean to make holy or to treat as holy. When God sanctifies us, it means that He is making us holy. But when we sanctify the name of God, it means that we are treating His name as holy (He is already holy).

Why are we to hollow His name? Many times in Scripture a person’s name provides us with a clue as to what kind of person an individual was. A name could reveal the individual’s character. Therefore, I think that Jesus is calling us to celebrate the One behind the name. He is calling us to focus first on who God is as revealed in His names and then, celebrate the totality of His greatness.

When you and I focus upon the greatness of our God, we take our eyes off of ourselves and our problems. As we see God for who He is, we are transformed. Our faith grows. Romans 2:4 tells us that God’s kindness will lead us to repentance! You and I are blessed when we focus upon the greatness of our God, when we hollow His name.

To hollow His name, we must first know the names of God and what they revel about His character and then, we must know what He has promised to do for or through us within each of His names. When God wanted to make a special revelation of Himself, He would combine His name Jehovah, which reveals His readiness to save His people and to act for them (see Ex. 3;13-15), with another name which revealed a certain aspect of His character. In the Old Testament, there are eight of these compound names. Each of these names not only reveal an attribute of God, but a benefit for the followers of Jesus as well.

The first two compound names of God deal with the sin in our lives; it’s forgiveness and our transformation for His glory and the good of others. The first name is Jehovah-Tsidkenu, which means Jehovah our righteousness, and deals with the reality that God has forgiven us of our sins, paid our debt and clothed us with the righteousness of Christ. 1 John 1:9 the Word of God declares that if we confess our sins God will forgive them and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God now sees us as if we had never sinned and as if we have always obeyed! When we pray, “Hallowed be they name Jehovah-Tsidkenu, we thank God that He has dealt with our sins.”

The second name, Jehovah-M’Kaddesh, which means Jehovah who Sanctifies, declares that God is seeking to shape us into the image of His Son Jesus so that we might be used for His glory and the good of others. God is holy, separate from His people, yet He is sanctifying us, making us holy, so that we might be used to glorify His name. God started the work of making us like Christ, and He is continuing it (Philippians 1:6). 1 John 2:6 declares that true followers of Jesus will walk like Him. As we pray, “Hallowed be they name Jehovah-M’Kaddesh, thank God that He is shaping you into the image of His Son so that you might live for His glory and the good of others. Thank Him that He has invited you to be a part of His mission to redeem humanity.”

The next two names deal with the presence of God in our lives (1 Cor. 6:19). The first name is Jehovah-Shalom or Jehovah is our peace. Colossians 1:21 declares that you and I were once alienated from God, enemies with Him, because of our sinful behavior. But now, you and I, we have been reconciled to God through Christ’s death and resurrection. We are now holy, unblemished, and blameless in His presence! Because of Jesus’ death our relationship with God has been restored. We are no longer enemies, but friends (Col. 1:21). As we pray, “Hallowed be they name Jehovah-Shalom, thank God that we are at peace with Him because of His Son.”

The second name in this section is Jehovah-Shammah or Jehovah is present. Shammah is the Hebrew word that means the overflowing ever present One. When you and I are saved from the wages of sin through Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit moves into our lives (1 Corinthians 3:16) and our bodies become the temple of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:20-22). We thank God because when our sins were forgiven, the Holy Spirit, God Himself, moved into our lives. That’s not all. Jesus promises us that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:15). As we pray, “Hallowed be they name Jehovah-Shammah, thank God that His Spirit lives within us.

The next name for God is Jehovah-RopheJehovah heals. The word rophe means to restore, cure or heal not only in the physical realm, but mentally and spiritually as well.  Isaiah 53:5 declares that by His stripes we are healed. As you praise Him – He will be what you need Him to be – He will be Jehovah-Rophe, the God who heals. Romans 8:28 tells us that we have been set free from the law of sin and death in Christ Jesus. As we pray, “Hallowed be they name Jehovah-Rophe, thank God that physical, emotional and spiritual healing are ours in Christ Jesus.”

Our next name for God is Jehovah-Jireh which means Jehovah’s provision shall be seen (See Genesis 22). His name, Jehovah-Jireh, reveals God’s willingness and ability to provide all that we need. 2 Peter 1:3 declares that God has already given us everything we need for life and godliness. Philippians 4:19 promises us that our God will meet all of our needs in Christ Jesus. God our Father see our needs beforehand and makes provision for them. As you pray to Jehovah-Jireh thank God that He has supplied for all your needs in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The name Jehovah-Nissi means that Jehovah is our banner and is used only once in Scripture (Ex. 17:15). Moses, after Israel had defeated the Amalekites, built an alter and named it Jehovah-Nissi. As the two armies battled, Moses stood on a hill overlooking the fight and held high the rod of God-the same rod he had used to strike a rock and get water for the people. As long as the rod was held high, the Israelites were successful. There was no doubt why they defeated the Amalekites! The battle was not won because of military strength or strategic plans; it was won by the power of God. 1 Samuel declares that the battle is the Lords.

The hands and rod of Moses were held up in the same way that soldiers hold up their flags in the time of battle. As these flags bear the insignia of their country, the soldiers are said to fight under that banner. The Israelites fought under the direction of God, Jehovah-Nissi. It was under the Lord’s banner and with His aid they fought, and in His name and strength they conquered. It is safe to assume that, as Moses held up the rod of God, he was praying for the success of the Israelite troops below him. Moses’ lifting up of the rod can thus be seen as a picture of intercessory prayer. James 5:16 reminds us that “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

As we pray, Hallowed be thy name Jehovah-Nissi, thank God that the battle is His and that we are conquerors in Christ Jesus (RO 8:37). 1 Corinthians 15:55-58 that God has given us victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord. We no longer have to fear death, for Jesus’ death and resurrection has defeated sin and death. Satan, the one who had the power of death, has been defeated!

Another compound name of God, Jehovah-Rohi means Jehovah is our shepherd (See Psalm 23). The primary meaning of rohi is to feed or lead to pasture, as a shepherd does His sheep. Jesus is the shepherd of his people (JN 10:11). He feeds, leads, cares for, and protects, His flock. Because He is our shepherd, we no longer have to be afraid.

Thank God that He is Jehovah-Nissi, our banner has conquered death, sin and hell. Thank God that He is Jehovah-Rohi, our shepherd. He will lead us beside still waters. He will guide us through the shadow of the valley of death and into the house of the Lord where we will dwell forever. When my life lacks direction, He will guide me.

We hallow the name of God when we rehearse their meanings – when we review His names and who they declare Him to be. We hallow God’s name when we rely upon Him to be God – when we live by faith. We hallow God’s name when we respect and praise His greatness. We hallow God’s name when we relinquish control of our lives to Him, knowing that He alone is our God.

6 Things That Change In My Life When I Hollow His Name.

In this portion of the disciple’s prayer Jesus is directing us to focus upon the greatness of our Father in heaven and how He has blessed us. Our sins have been forgiven, God is molding us into the image of His Son Jesus, we are at peace with God and have the peace of God in our lives. God dwells within us. He has provided everything we need for life and godliness. He heals us physically, spiritually and emotionally. The battle is His; I need not be afraid. And finally, The Lord is my shepherd – I shall not want. He leads me beside still waters! He is my God. As we praise and worship God as He is revealed in His compounds names, we are transformed. Let me share with you six things that happen when we hollow the name of God:

First, our love for God grows. As we worship and praise our heavenly Father our love for Him grows. The more we know Him, the closer we become, the more we find Him to be everything we need. Like the Psalmist in the 145th Psalm, we cry out, “Yahweh is great and is highly praised; His greatness is unsearchable.” And, Jesus said in John 14:21 that if we truly love God, we will obey Him. So, the more we hollow His name, the more we love Him. And the more we love Him, the more we obey Him.

Second, our vison is expanded. Jeremiah declared that God has a plan for our lives. Paul wrote that God has SHAPED us for service. He also wrote in Philippians 4:13 that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. The more we hallow the name of God, the more we see His love for us and for the hurting, the more we want to live for His glory and the good of others – our vision of what could be is expanded.

Third, our fears are removed. We’re all afraid of something. For some it’s snakes, others it is coyotes. For many it’s public speaking. For me it’s a mouse! For many their fears overwhelm them. Worship is the antidote to our fear and anxiety. When we see the greatness of our Father in heaven our fears disappear. We are reminded that He is God, sovereign over all of creation. The Psalmist declared in the 56th Psalm, “When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not fear.” When we hallow His name our fears are removed. They are eclipsed by His greatness!

Fourth, our work is energized. I am task oriented. I dream dreams and work hard at seeing them become real. I don’t understand people who rest. Nor do I seek it. If I am not careful I can struggle with giving God the time He deserves. But when I give God the time He deserves – my work gets done. My energy level is high. To those who struggle with having too much to do and feel like they don’t have the time or the energy to worship God, Jesus states in Matthew 6:33 that we are to “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” and if we do, He will provide everything we need. Begin your day with God and hollow His name. Make Him the top priority of your life. When you do you are energized and your work gets done.

Fifth, our spirit is encouraged. When we hollow the name of God, when we see His power and understand that He knows and sees all things we are encouraged. God declares in Isaiah 40:29-31, “He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless.  Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.” In the midst of life, in all of its struggles, we are encouraged because our God is the great I Am. He will turn our spirit of heaviness into a garment of praise (Isa. 61:3).

And finally, our enemy is exhausted. When we worship God, the Bible says He inhabits the praises of His people (Psalms 22:3). This means that when you start to hollow the name of God, He comes down in your midst and inhabits your praises. Since praise manifests God’s presence, we also realize that praise repels the presence of the enemy, Satan. An atmosphere that is filled with sincere worship and praise to God by humble and contrite hearts is disgusting to the Devil. He fears the power in the name of Jesus, and flees from the Lord’s habitation in praise.

Conclusion

Psalm 150:1-6 instructs us to “Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! … “

When we do, God is glorified and we are transformed:

  • Our love for God is grows
  • Our vision of what could be is expanded
  • Our fears are removed
  • Our work is energized
  • Our spirit is encouraged
  • Our enemy is exhausted – He flees

 

Lord, Teach Us To Pray

teach us to pray

Jesus was a man of prayer (MK 1:35), spending countless hours privately communing with His Father. The disciples saw Him continually praying privately and walking with spiritual power publicly. He wanted the same for His followers. You and I were created by God to have an intimate relationship with Him – to know Him, to hear His voice and to see Him at work. The key to our intimacy with God? Having a vibrant prayer life. Effective prayer is a dialogue between man and the creator of the universe – it’s a conversation. It’s how God reveals His will to us. It is how He shapes us into the image of his Son. It’s how you and I bring Him glory and express our dependence upon Him in all things. Prayer is the source of our strength and joy. And yes, prayer is how we move the heart of God to do those things He desires to do in the world.

 

Teach us to Pray

If you and I are going to have a life-giving prayer life, if we’re going to experience intimacy with God, we must learn how to pray. One day Jesus was spending time alone with His Father in prayer. His disciples had seen this many times, but something new was stirred within them that day. Maybe it was the reality that they weren’t as passionate, or successful, in prayer as Jesus was. Maybe it was their own lack of power. But today, this time, they determined that they needed to know how to pray and they wanted a prayer that was uniquely theirs. And so one of them asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1).

 

Jesus begins in Luke 11:2, “Whenever you pray…” In doing so Jesus doesn’t provide them with a prayer to recite, but rather, a pathway to follow. He is saying that whenever we pray we should follow this pathway, that all occasions of prayer should be approached in this manner. In this, the disciple’s prayer, Jesus states that we should begin with, “Our Father, which art in heaven…” He is telling us that effective prayers begin with praise. Psalm 100:4 commands to enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. The first ten words of the Disciple’s Prayer provide us with a Biblical foundation for beginning our prayer with a season of praise. During these moments of praise our sole purpose is to bring glory to God with our words. God declared through the psalmist, “Whoever offers praise glorifies me” (Psalm 50:23). Praise puts God in His rightful place. As we praise Him for being our heavenly Father we are focusing our attention upon Him before we turn our attention to ourselves.

 

In the thousands of years covered in the Old Testament, God is called “Father” only seven times and in none of these instances is God being addressed as Father in prayer. People just didn’t think of God as Father. They thought of Him as creator, almighty one, LORD, etc. But they didn’t think of God as Father. Jesus came along and said this is how you’re to pray: Call him Father. Abba. Daddy. Jesus is inviting us to pray to our Abba, A God who is always personal and inviting, seldom demanding, never standoffish. That’s the relationship Jesus had with His Father and He wants us to have the same.

I believe that Jesus is saying that God is not an impersonal force. He is a personal God, not a power. He has the ability, and desire, to be in relationship with us. For those that are in Christ Jesus, those born again, God is our Father in heaven. There’s only one problem. For many people, the word “father” is a negative term. The word “father” may bring up all kinds of bad memories. A lot of people say, “Our Father, who art in heaven? If God’s like my father, then no thanks, God.”

The truth is, human fathers can make home a hell on Earth. Human fathers can be fickle, moody, abusive, controlling, and violent. So the words “our Father in heaven” carry a lot baggage for some people. But God is not like our earthly fathers. He is blameless, without sin. He is a good, good Father, who always does what’s best for us. We are children in God’s eyes and enjoy the special connection and love only a father and his children can enjoy. We are not just servants having a master, we are sons and daughters having a Father in heaven.

Remembering

God reveals Himself to mankind in the role of a Father in several different ways. The most important is that of a spiritual Father. Thus, Christians experience a God who expresses all the qualities of a loving Father. He gives us life (John 3:4); He loves us (John 3:16); He rewards our efforts (Colossians 3:23-24); He corrects us lovingly (Proverbs 3:11-12); and, most important, He adopts us as sons and daughters, making us joint heirs with Jesus—if we repent of our sins and obey His commands (Acts 2:38).

 

As we begin our prayers we begin with praise. As we think about God as our Father, our spirit runs to the cross. It is there that God gives us new life in His Son. It is there that our debt is paid and our sins are forgiven. It is there that we see and experience the love of our Father. It is through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that sin is defeated and we are truly set free from its power. As we begin to pray, and focus upon the cross, our minds recall certain Biblical truths that stir within us adoration for our heavenly Father.

 

First, we are reminded that our heavenly Father gives us life. The Bible declares in Ephesians 2:1 that you and I were dead in our trespasses and sins before our conversion. We followed the ways of the world and obeyed Satan. In verses 4&5 of the same chapter in Ephesians we read, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!” In John 5:4 Jesus said, “I assure you: Anyone who hears my Word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life.” As we focus our attention upon God it is good to start by celebrating the new life we have in Christ Jesus! We praise Him that our sins have been forgiven, that our debt has been paid.

 

Second, we are reminded that our heavenly Father loves us! Jesus declared in John 3:16 that God loved the world so much that He sent His one and only Son to die upon a cross for our sins. The apostle John wrote in 1 John 4:9, “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” As we continue to focus upon the cross we praise God for sending His Son to redeem us from our sins and to give us new life!

 

Third, we are reminded that our heavenly Father has adopted us! In Galatians 4:3 Paul writes that prior to our salvation we were children in slavery or ruled by the world. He is saying that prior to our conversion, prior to receiving Christ as our Savior, we were slaves to sin and incapable of altering our condition. He continues in verse 4 by declaring that at just the right moment God sent His Son Jesus, born of a virgin, to redeem those under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons. Redemption wasn’t the ultimate purpose. God went beyond redemption to adoption.

 

In adoption, God takes us into His family and fellowship—He establishes us as His children and heirs. Closeness, affection and generosity are the heart of the relationship. To be right with God the judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater. Paul declares that is why Jesus came to earth – He came so that we might receive adoption as sons – that we might be chosen by God.

 

Fourth, we are reminded that our heavenly Father rewards His children. Scripture declares in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord.” Here are just a few ways that God rewards His children: First, God promises in Hebrews 11:6 that He will reward those who earnestly seek Him with His presence. In Matthew 25 God promises to reward those who serve the needy by ushering them into His kingdom. In Luke 6 Jesus declares that He will reward those who endure persecution.  Also, in Luke 6, He declares that He will reward those who love their enemies. Finally, in Luke 14 Jesus said that He will reward those who invite the poor and the sick to a dinner or a banquet. There are many more promises but I think you are getting the point! God rewards His children for walking like Jesus.

Fifth, we are reminded that our heavenly Father disciplines those that He loves. A loving parent, no matter what today’s society tells you, disciplines their child so that they might become the person God wants them to be. God’s Word declares in Proverbs 3:11-12, “Do not despise the Lord’s instruction, my son, and do not loathe His discipline; for the Lord disciplines the one He loves, just as a father, the son he delights in.” A loving father carefully watches his son, and when that son defies his orders and heads for danger, the father disciplines him to keep him safe. God does that with us. When a born-again child of God heads for sin or refuses to resist temptation, our Heavenly Father brings discipline into his life to direct him back to holiness. Why? Because He loves us. Because He desires that you and I live holy lives (1 Peter 1:15-16; Romans 8:29).

Who lives in heaven.

As we enter into God’s presence we remind ourselves that our heavenly Father gives us life and that He loves us. We remind ourselves that we have been adopted by our Father. We are no longer strangers-we are friends of God, His children, and therefore, joint heirs with Jesus. We are reminded that God disciplines us because He loves us. All of which we celebrate as we focus upon Calvary and the blessings we receive as God’s children.

But Jesus doesn’t end there. He instructs us to pray to “Our Father, who is in heaven.” As we continue to enter into His presence with praise, our minds move from Calvary and the benefits we have as His children, to heaven and the throne room of God. Isaiah said that he saw God there high and lifted up. His robe filled the temple and the angels sang of His holiness. When I think of God in this way I marvel at the fact that He knows all about me and still chooses to love me. He shaped me in my mother’s womb; I am a master piece crafted by God. I was created in His image. He knows my name, He knows my every thought, my fears and my joys. He collects my tears in a bottle and hears me when I call (John 10:3, 14).

I marvel at, and celebrate, the fact that the one who created the heavens and the earth, the One who spoke them into existence, thinks about me all the time (Psalm 139:17-18). He knows my heart (Psalm 139:23). He determined who my parents would be, where we would live, and was aware of the circumstances surrounding my life! I am no accident. He has a plan for my life – plans to prosper me and to give me a future filled with hope. That’s why we praise Him!

Conclusion

Finally, as I think about the first few words in the Disciples Prayer, “Our Father who is in heaven…,” I am humbled by the reality that I can come into my Father’s presence. As a matter of fact, the writer of Hebrews states that we can do so boldly (4:16). Not because of our own goodness or based upon our own merit – we enter into the Father’s presence based solely upon the work of another. Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, paid the penalty for our sins and made all of this possible. He only asks that we come into His presence as little children (MT 18:3). To go before God as a child is to go before Him stripped of our sins and doubts, full of wide-eyed inspiration that comes from total faith in our Father.

A young child is empty of ambition, pride, and haughtiness. They are characteristically humble and teachable. They aren’t prone to pride or hypocrisy. James says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (4:10). Humility is a virtue rewarded by God. Children cannot live without trusting those around them. Their trust is not a virtue; it is a vital reality. To encounter God, the best thing we can do is to come as a child. To come humbly, totally dependent upon Him.

As we begin our journey on the Disciples Pathway For Prayer we start our prayer by praising God for being our Father. In doing so we celebrate that He gives us life, that He loves us unconditionally, and that He has adopted us. Because of His love for us He rewards us and disciplines us. Combined, these truths cause us to praise our God and King. As we move from this reality we come to the realization that the Creator of the universe – the One who reigns from heaven – knows all about us and yet, still loves us! We marvel at His grace. Finally, we realize that God is calling us to enter into His presence as a little child – totally by faith and filled with anticipation! That’s the first step in our pathway for prayer.