JESUS Is Both The PRICE and The PRIZE of The Gospel

Easter 2013The title of the message today is, “JESUS is Both The PRICE and The PRIZE of The GOSPEL.”[1]

Read Romans 5:6-11…

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

I find that there is much confusion regarding the meaning (or the message) of the GOSPEL – both in our culture as well as in the Evangelical Church (which is our tribe).

The word “gospel” as you probably know, means GOOD NEWS and is used about 90 times in the New Testament.

Before we get (back) to our text in Romans 5, I would like to make four points to help us grasp the uniqueness of the GOSPEL.  Hopefully, these points will set us up to more fully appreciate both the PRICE and the PRIZE of the GOSPEL…

1.  The GOSPEL represents a distinctive THIRD WAY to both view and live our lives.[2]

  • Traditionally we have tended to view only two types of people:
  • The religious/spiritual, or
  • The irreligious/secular.[3]
  • The GOSPEL is neither religious nor irreligious (secular), but is something else entirely (e.g., Prodigal Sons in Luke 15).
  • The GOSPEL is a third way of relating to God that comes to us by:  grace alone, through faith alone, through the finished work of Jesus Christ alone.
  • This third way, this “grace way,” is exclusive to Christianity.
  • The Christian GOSPEL cannot and does not mix with or blend with any other religious system or philosophy of life.
  • In fact, the GOSPEL is meant to replace the whole concept of religion.
  • I would add that the GOSPEL also does not mix or blend with political liberalism — or conservatism.

2.  The GOSPEL is not good advice, it is good news. 

  • The GOSPEL is not something that we do, but something that has been done for us – and something we must respond to. 
  • In Peter’s first sermon recorded in Acts 2 he was preaching to the gathered Jews and twice he told them, ‘you killed Christ’ (2:23, 36). (Acts 2:37: “Repent, be baptized, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”)

3.  The GOSPEL is the good news that we can be saved, or rescued, from the coming wrath at the end of the age (1 Thess 1:10 – “Jesus…rescues us from the wrath to come”).

  • Let’s consider the word “wrath” for a moment… You might say, ‘I don’t like the idea of the wrath of God. I prefer a God of love.’
  • Tim Keller writes, “The problem is that if you want a loving God, you have to have an angry God. Please think about it. Loving people can get angry, not in spite of their love but because of it. In fact, the more closely and deeply you love people in your life, the angrier you can get. Have you noticed that? When you see people who are harmed or abused, you get mad…Your senses of love and justice are activated together, not in opposition to each other. If you see people destroying themselves or destroying other people and you don’t get mad, it’s because you don’t care…The more loving you are, the more ferociously angry you will be at whatever harms your beloved. And the greater the harm, the more resolute your opposition will be.[4]
  • God is unwaveringly holy.  The only way into His presence is sinless perfection.  And that brings us to number 4…

4.  The GOSPEL is news about what has been accomplished by Jesus Christ to reconcile our relationship with God. 

  • Jesus left the comfort and security of heaven and condescended to become a human.  He lived a sinless life so that we could be reconciled to God. The conflict has ended. 
  • Colossians 2:21-22: 21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.
  • Becoming an active intentional follower of Jesus Christ is about a change in status.  We are either “in Christ” or not.  (Used approx. 90 times; “in him” is also used about 80 times…)
  • **Once we find ourselves “IN Christ,” we no longer work FOR (religion) His acceptance (or approval), but FROM (the GOSPEL) His acceptance (and approval).
  • **Obedience is not the obligation of the GOSPEL (or the Christian).  Finding our delight, our comfort, and our JOY in Christ is the obligation of the Christ-follower.  Obedience becomes the fruit, not the goal. (God is not opposed to effort, He’s opposed to earning.) Psalm 87:7: “All my springs of joy are in you.”
  • **The GOSPEL is not about something we do, it is about what has been done for us.

With the above in mind I would like to ask and address two questions:

1.  What is the PRICE? (Rom 5:6-8)

  • The price of the gospel is the death of Jesus Christ.
  • Verse 6: “Christ died for the ungodly.”
  • Verse 8: “But God… Christ died for us.”
  • God loved us while we were still in our sin and paid a PRICE so that we might have an infinite PRIZE. That PRICE was the death of his Son. And we find PRIZE in verses 9-11…

2.  What is the PRIZE? (Rom 9-11)

  • The gospel is the good news that God in Christ paid the PRICE of suffering, so that we could have the PRIZE of enjoying Him forever. God paid the PRICE of his Son to give us the PRIZE of Himself.
    • Justification: God’s forgiveness of the past, together with His acceptance for the future (J.I. Packer).[5]
    • Freedom from the wrath of God — we are saved to BE WITH Him, who is our PRIZE.
    • Reconciliation: The removal of the barrier of sin between God and humankind and now we enjoy absolute and unhindered access to Him (2 Corinthians 5:18: “Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”).
    • Exultation (NIV – boast, NKJ – rejoice): The highest good of the good news is finding our JOY in God.  The fullest, deepest, sweetest good of the gospel is God Himself, being delighted in and enjoyed by His redeemed people.
  • The PRIZE of the gospel is the Person who paid the PRICE. The gospel-love God gives is ultimately the gift of Himself. This is what you were made for. This is what Christ came to restore.
  • “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
  • The GOSPEL message is not that if you follow Him, everything’s going to go well, everything is going to work. The good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ is that you get Him and He’s enough no matter what circumstance comes! 

CONCLUSION

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”   — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Communion: Rom 5:9: We have been justified by His blood…

When we see the blood in the Bible we can know that it’s a summarized or an abbreviation of the gospel message.  (There are other words that are used by the NT writers as summations of the GOSPEL — including cross, kingdom, and grace.)

Jesus said in Matthew 26:26-28…

26 While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.

We practice an open communion… yet keep in mind 1 Cor 11:28-29:

28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.


[1] Adapted from a sermon by John Piper.

[2] Adapted from Tim Keller. Center Church, Zondervan 2012:28-30.

[3] Or, moral conformity (moralism) vs. self-discovery (secularism). See Prodigal God by Tim Keller.

[4] Tim Keller. King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, Dutton 2011: 176-78.

[5] J.I. Packer. Knowing God, pp. 206-207.

Soul Shift #5 – Our Father In Heaven, Part 2

SoulShiftI. INTRO

I used to play a game at home when my children were younger – much younger.  In this game they might have asked for money for their allowance, or we may have been playing a board game, with dice – and I would have what they wanted in my hands –and I would pretend to suddenly fall asleep. They would start giggling and laughing and crawl all over me while attempting to pry what they wanted from my clinched fists.  Those were some beautiful moments of giggles and joyful laughter and mutual longing – they were longing for the things I held in my hands; I was longing for our closeness, our innocence, and wanting those fleeting moments of sheer joy to last forever.

For me this is a picture of the activity of prayer – while we love God sometimes we are focused more on the gifts in God’s hands rather than hand of God Himself (someone described it as seeking the hand of God and not the face of God) – we pray fervently for the new job, or the return of health.  When we gain the prizes we are delighted and, often, our focus turns to the prize — and away form the momentary closeness of the good Giver Himself.

We are in a series on prayer that we are calling “Soul Shift,” where, as individuals, as couples, as families, and as a church we are asking God to move us from ‘ordinary’ prayer to ‘extraordinary’ prayer.  What does that mean?

It means that when we speak or teach about prayer in church it’s easy for all of us to instantly feel guilty.  A sermon on prayer can amount to a drive-by guilt-ing.

Is there anyone among us who is satisfied with their prayer life?

So, today, let’s not talk about – or, even think too much about what WE SHOULD DO, but let’s take a few minutes to consider WHAT JESUS CHRIST HAS DONE.

If we can lift the eyes of our hearts to see WHAT JESUS CHRIST has accomplished FOR US it will lift the “eyes of our hearts” (Eph 1:17) in worship, in adoration, in joy, in expectancy, and in delight.  It will draw prayer out of us…

Our goal, our objective is that we would leave here today more fully delighting in the Giver than in the gifts.  (Some people’s prayers go something like this: “God, if You get me out of this mess, I won’t bother You until the next one!”)

In our study of prayer we are looking primarily at what has been called The Lord’s Prayer in Mat 6.  (There is a more compact version of the same prayer in Luke 11.)  This prayer is not meant to be prayed ritualistically, but to be viewed as a pattern for prayer.

Here’s the bottom line: **We don’t need to make bigger commitments about prayer, what we really need is to think and to believe truer thoughts about God — thoughts that are shaped by the gospel, by what Jesus Christ has already done on our behalf.

We are called to work, love, to worship, and to pray FROM His righteousness, not FOR His righteousness.  That is the gospel in a nutshell – we work, serve, love, and worship FROM a growing understanding that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has won the heart and ear of God on our behalf.

Hebs 4:16: “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

We come to God through Jesus Christ.  We don’t have to earn the ear of God in prayer – Jesus has earned the ear of God for us, He has won God’s ear and God’s heart for us — so we come to God in prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer is best used as a model for prayer –or, we could think of it as template – to launch us out into a place or a perspective of reflection, adoration, and gratitude.

For the next few weeks we will be looking at the individual phrases of this model prayer… learning to delight in the Giver of all good gifts.

What we will learn is 1) the initial focus is upward, with its first three requests having to do with God’s glory and 2) the remaining three requests are for our well-being. God first, humanity second – that is the ideal order of prayer.  His glory before our desires.[1]

II. BODY

Today I would like us to look at the opening phrase of The Lord’s Prayer:  “Our Father in heaven.”  Simply stated:

  • The word, “Our” — speaks of community. 
  • The word, “Father” speaks of family.
  • The phrase, “in heaven” speaks of majesty, transcendence (time, space, understanding, etc.), and authority. 

Let’s take some time and briefly consider each one…

1. What does the word “Our” tell us about community?

  • We have left the land of “me” and entered the land of “we.” [2]
  • The Lord’s Model Prayer begins with the acknowledgement that we have been invited out of isolation and into both the joy and the challenge of community.
  • Here’s a simple way to say it: Pro 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one [person] sharpens another.”
  • There are at least three primary and legitimate needs of every human being:
    1. The need to feel authentically human
    2. The need to belong
    3. The need to have a sense of destiny and purpose
  • It is in the heart of God to fully meet these needs in every person. 
  • The first and most important step is through conversion and regeneration, which is the restoration of our individual relationship’s with the living God
  • The next step is through significant relationships with each other
  • Some people find it helpful to think in terms of a cross (), with our relationship with God signifying the vertical and our relationships with each other signifying the horizontal – the cross, and subsequently, Christianity is all about engaging and pursuing both the horizontal and vertical aspects of faith.
  • Our culture, unfortunately, sidetracks us with counterfeit opportunities for community.  The neighborhood bar is possibly the best facsimile there is for the fellowship Christ desires to give His church.  The bar is an imitation — dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality — yet it is tolerant, it is ac­cepting, it is inclusive, and it is virtually unshockable.  You can tell people secrets in a bar and they usually don’t tell others or even want to.  Bars flourish not because most people are alcoholics, but be­cause God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known (Cheers!), to love and be loved.  There are scores of people who seek to medicate their shame and pain for the price of a few beers, drinking their courage instead of turning humbly to Christ.
  • With the opening word of the model prayer Jesus is welcoming us into community.

2. What does the word “Father” tell us about family?

  • With the words, “Our Father,” Jesus is welcoming us into the family of God and identifying Himself as our older brother.
  • The Aramaic word for Father is ABBA.
  • Last week we spoke about the “Abba” Cry/Longing
    • Romans 8:15“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”
    • Galatians 4:6“Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’”
  • According to Jewish rabbinical teachings, slaves were forbidden to address the head of the family by the affectionate title, “Abba.”
  • “Abba” approximates “papa” or “daddy” and implies unwavering trust.
  • “Father” expresses intelligent comprehension of the relationship.
  • Together the two reveal the trusting love and intelligent confidence of a secure son or daughter.

3. What do the words, “In heaven” tell us about authority?

  • It may be helpful to view heaven as a perspective and not a physical place, like a zip code.  God is omnipresent (always present everywhere).
  • God’s omnipresence reminds us of His transcendent nature.  Transcendence is a theological term referring to the relation of God to creation.
  • And so “our Father Who is in heaven” is “other” or beyond His creation.
  • God is independent and different from His creatures: Isa 55:8-9 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
  • Being beyond His creation and not limited by it or to it. This simple understanding of transcendence makes our privilege of approaching Him intimately like a son or daughter would their earthly father, all the more humbling and praiseworthy.
  • Our transcendent God is also the omnipresent God and is never farther than a prayer away!

III. CONCLUSION

  • Pastor and theologian Arthur Pink, in his book The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, says, that in these four words: “Our Father in Heaven,”there is a “blessed balance.”[3]
  • The first two words: “Our Father” teach us about the nearness and dearness of God’s relationship to us through Jesus Christ – and they inspire us to confidence and love for God.
  • The second two words: “in heaven,” Pink says, should fill us with humility and awe.
  • He says the first two words (“Our Father”) without the second tends toward an “unholy familiarity.”  And the second two words (“in heaven”) without the first two produces “coldness and dread.”
  • **When we combine these two lofty concepts for the purpose of adoration and prayer we see a marriage of God’s unfathomable love with His immeasurable holiness.
  • In the coming week will you consider giving the best five minutes of your day to God?  Before moving to quickly to petitionary prayer, will you take 3-5 minutes of worship and adoration?  Will you worship God and ask God to open your heart afresh to the wonder, to the reality of what Jesus Christ has accomplished on our behalf.
  • Begin by thinking of it this way:
    1. No one has ever been so rich and became so poor as Jesus Christ.  He left the richness, the perfect love, and perfect communion within the Trinity of heaven.  He condescended to become a man and live a perfect, sinless life so that you and I could enjoy confidant access to a holy and righteous God.
    2. No one has ever been so poor and become so rich as those who’s hearts are awakened to the reality of what Jesus Christ has done – on our behalf.  Has your heat been awakened to that gift?
  • We said at the start that we want to focus more on what Jesus Christ HAS DONE than on what we SHOULD DO.  I invite you to spend a few moments in quiet contemplation…you and I don’t have to work to earn God’s favor.  The perfect, sinless life of Jesus has already accomplished that.  We own our own sin, we repent (surrender), and we believe that we have been made righteous and perfectly acceptable in the presence of a holy God…

[1] Hughes, R. K. Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom. Crossway Books.

[2] Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers: Prayer for Ordinary Radicals: 18.

[3] Baker Books 1982:80-81.

Soul Shift #4 – Our Father In Heaven, Part 1: Healing the Father Wound

SoulShift

“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven…” –Matthew 6:9a

This morning we want to take aim at the concept of the father wound…

As we lean into this season of prayer — and seek to (by God’s grace, mercy, and power) move from ‘ordinary’ prayer to ‘extraordinary’ prayer we must first acknowledge that we tend to view God through the lens of our earthly fathers.  And many people have had difficult relationships with their earthly fathers and, consequently, have great difficulty transitioning to viewing God as a good and loving Father.

If you did not feel safe, protected, affirmed, and secure in your father’s presence, you may spend your entire life looking for a place of comfort and rest.  And some people grow-up without a father in the home – for a variety of reasons.

The National Fatherhood Initiative informs us that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America — one out of three — live in biological father-absent homes.  Consequently, there is a “father factor” in nearly all of the social issues facing America today.

Children’s first impressions about men come from their early experiences with their father – or the lack thereof.

The Father/Daughter Relationship forms the daughter’s opinions of what men are — or should be, how they should act, especially towards her, and how she should be with them. The father’s behavior towards women shapes the way she learns to relate to men. If the father withdrew his affection at the time she entered puberty, the wound only goes deeper.

The father is to model how to give and receive affection and tenderness while demonstrating the proper use of strength and power.

Part of the father’s responsibility is to lovingly prepare his daughter for the major shifts that take place as she moves from child to adolescent to young woman and beyond. Unfortunately, many father’s, themselves, had trouble adjusting and many others just weren’t available to teach her to venture out from the protected realm of the home to deal with each new phase and its physical and social adjustments.

The Father/Son Relationship forms the son’s opinions of how he is supposed to act and how he should treat women. Too often, however, the father wasn’t around to present a healthy model for his son. (Remember the Cats In the Cradle lyrics?  It’s a very sad song…)

From Strength in Weakness by Andrew Comiskey — a book about sexual and relational healing…

“Though the [heavenly] Father intended for us to be roused and sharpened by our fathers, we find more often than not that our fathers were silent and distant, more shadow than substance in our lives. This kind of a ‘shadow’ presence is not what our heavenly Father intended for our relationships with our earthly fathers.

The first half of the 20th century really messed up fatherhood – and has impacted succeeding generations.

A Perception of the 20th Century

  • WW I gave way to the “Roaring Twenties” a season of subdued hedonism. (Subdued in comparison to our current hedonistic culture!)
  • The Great Depression followed the Roaring Twenties… 
  • And then WW II followed the Great Depression.
  • If your father or grandfather grew up in the Great Depression it means they never had a chance to have a childhood.
  • Tom Brokaw wrote in his 1998 book The Greatest Generation, “it is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced.”  He argued that these men and women fought not for fame and recognition, but because it was the right thing to do. When they came back they rebuilt America into a superpower.”  That’s the upside.  There also a downside — an emotional passivity.  The Depression and WW II had inflicted some severe emotional (and spiritual) woundedness.
  • And for those of us who were born after WW II there was an economic and baby boom — and consequently our fathers tended to give us ‘things’ but not themselves.  We must keep in mind our fathers and not been fathered well either.
  • And then there was the ‘60’s and 70’s.  We had legitimate longs and desires, but looked for them in the wrong places.
  • Those first 60-70 years of the 20th century has greatly affected several generations of men – and fatherhood.

I share these things to provide us with some perspective.  You may not have received what you needed from your father – but consider that he probably didn’t either.

So, here we are in the 21st century.  And the whole concept of what constitutes a family, let alone fatherhood has become very twisted and confused.

Men today face the confusing challenge of learning to balance power with sensitivity, strength with feeling, and mind with heart — sometimes all on our own.

Some of us encounter significant difficulty here because we get stuck viewing our heavenly Father through the lens of our earthly fathers.

For some the transition is easy and instantaneous for others it becomes a very difficult and arduous journey.

Regardless of parental devotion, no parent can fulfill all of the child’s wants, needs, or desires.

While these wounds can be inflicted with intent, many are unintentional yet still affect the child throughout life.

Consider Malachi 4 – The Final Chapter of the OT

4:1-6: “For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the Lord of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall. You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,” says the Lord of hosts.

“Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel.

“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”

As the Old Testament closes, God makes known that He is not by any means finished with His plan for the world. There is a great day of victory coming and there will be preparations for it so that the people of God will be ready.

That is what we would expect at the end of the Old Testament—a bridge between old and new—a look back at the faithful work of God in the past and a look forward to the final victory.

The Malachi text is the final passage in the Old Covenant.  It is quite significant in that its promise — and warning, frame the very doorway to the New Covenant, the threshold to the coming Messiah.

In verse 6 we see one of the effects of God’s mercy—and an unexpected one at that.

When Elijah preaches, and cries out for people to get ready to meet on the great and terrible day of the Lord, what happens?

Verse 6:

“And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.”

It implies that the brokenness in this world between children and fathers reflects the brokenness between humanity and God. That is, restoring relationship with the Father is, in fact, the very focus of God’s saving power in this world.

Thus, Jesus came to reconcile humanity to the Father (John 14:8-13). Nowhere in this world is the incentive for that reconciliation more keenly felt than in relationship with our earthly fathers.

The father-wound portrayed in the Malachi text is the difference between what your father has given you (or not given you) and what our heavenly Father God wants to give you. Thus, every person on the planet bears some form of a father wound.

No pain strikes more deeply into a person’s heart than being abandoned emotionally and/or physically by Dad. No pain, therefore, more directly beckons the saving power of God the Father.

A full 400 years after Malachi wrote those words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the New Covenant dawns with the announcement of the birth of the Messiah

In Luke 1:13-17:

The angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John…. 17 It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

There is evidence in other parts of the NT that John the Baptist is not the final, or only, “spirit and power of Elijah”…

John the Baptist may be a forerunner to an “Elijah Company,” and Elijah ‘task-force,’ if you will — of men being raised up to walk in and to impart the Father’s love to a generation that is longing for significance and purpose in life.

The pattern of distant unavailable father’s has been repeated throughout the 20th century.

It’s not about trying to BE their fathers or mothers, it’s about being able to introduce them to “our Father in heaven” (and heaven, by the way is more of a perspective than a zip-code – more about that next week).

Defining the Father’s Love

The four Greek words for ‘love’…

  • STORGE – family (instinctual) love
  • PHILEO – brotherly/sisterly (friendship) love (tender affection)
  • EROS – Romantic or erotic love
  • AGAPE – Unconditional or sacrificial love

“But God demonstrates his own love [AGAPE] for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”   Romans 5:8 (NIV)

We generally focus on AGAPE when defining the Father’s love in a theological sense.

His unconditional love and on the cross concern for us is demonstrated in Christ’s death for us (Rom. 5:8).

This foundational truth is assumed to be common knowledge among most Christians but that is not the primary focus today…

Let’s now consider God’s PHILEO love:

John 5:20: “For the Father loves [PHILEO] the Son and shows Him all he does.”

In attempting to define the Father’s love in a more experiential sense we can focus on His PHILEO – His demonstrated tender affection for us.  The PHILEO of the Father for the Son is described above in John 5:20.

The ministry of Jesus apparently flowed out of a continual experience of His Father’s PHILEO love.  Within the intimacy of this relationship, Jesus could sense His Father’s presence and hear His Father’s voice, thus perceiving what the Father was saying and doing.

John 16:27: (Jesus) “…The Father himself loves [PHILEO] you because you have loved [PHILEO] me and believed that I came from God.” (NIV)

The PHILEO love of the Father for believers is described in John 16:27 (see above).  Our communication with God apparently is to flow out of our continual experience of our Father’s PHILEO for us.

Whereas AGAPE focuses on a truth about God, PHILEO seems to focus more on the touch from God.  This touch of love is missing from many Christian’s lives.

The “Abba” Cry/Longing

Romans 8:15: “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.'”

Galatians 4:6: “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.'”

  • According to Jewish rabbinical teachings, slaves were forbidden to address the head of the family by the affectionate title, “Abba.”
  • “Abba” approximates “papa” or “daddy” and implies unwavering trust.
  • “Father” expresses intelligent comprehension of the relationship.
  • Together the two reveal the trusting love and intelligent confidence of a secure son or daughter.

The chief activity of the Holy Spirit is to:

  • Draw us into a vital relationship with the Father.  Our “Abba Father” is not only the source of everything in both creation and redemption, He is also the goal of everything.
  • Prompt in us the “Abba” cry/longing; which is first and foremost the basis of our worship.

Luke 15:11-31 – This parable of the prodigal sons confronts our false assumptions about what pleases God.

11Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13″Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17″When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21″The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22″But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25″Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27’Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28″The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31″ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ “

Healing the Father Wound 

1.  Surrender to the Father’s initiating love.

    • The father moves toward both sons… in order to express his love and bring them in.
    • It’s not repentance that causes the father’s love – but the reverse.  It’s surrendering to the father’s love that brings about repentance.

2.  Refuse to be emotionally passive.  (This was primarily the sin of the older brother, but the traveling prodigal was also willing to resign himself to this.)

    • Emotional Passivity is repressed, self-imposed oppression of emotions based on an unmet longing for acceptance – usually from our fathers.  This repression, or self-imposed oppression, generates anger that if allowed to turn inward will eventually express itself as either chronic depression, or passive-aggressive behavior.
    • Awakening the passive soul begins with confessing the sin of deadening our soul and making conscious choices to (go ahead and) feel the sadness, the grief, the sorrow — and ultimately the joy. (We have learned some of the principles of healthy grief and loss as we have sought to integrate emotional health into our discipleship process.)
      • Sadness opens the heart to what was meant to be and is not. 
      • Grief opens the heart to what was not meant to be and is. 
      • Sorrow breaks the heart as it exposes the damage we’ve done to others as a result of our unwillingness to wildly pursue God’s grace and truth.

3.  Refuse to mistrust.

    • Reengages the God-given desire to be concerned about the temporal and eternal destiny of those who have harmed us.  This transfers trust to God and releases us to care, to be kind, and to authentically comfort others.
    • It is not being gullible or stupid – “be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Mat. 10:16).
    • To care is to use all that we are for the good of others while not walling off the deep parts of our soul.
    • The process towards deep caring begins with admitting there is sadness.
    • Grief admits there are scars that can be removed only in heaven.
    • Godly sorrow begins to develop when we begin to see that our demand for God to prove He cares is a mockery of the Cross (which sufficient proof of His trustworthiness).

4.  Refuse to deny holy passion.

    • Passion can be defined as the deep response of the soul to life:  the freedom to rejoice and the freedom to weep.
    • A refusal to deny, or despise, passion embraces both pain and pleasure.
    • A fear of passion makes it nearly impossible to be fully present with other people.
    • It’s refusing to flee back into the numbing – whatever that is
    • It is admitting that while I may be a mess, I AM ALIVE — and there is hope!

Soul Shift — Lord, Teach Us To Pray #1

SoulShiftToday we begin a new series – “Soul Shift.”  I thought the title expressed well a desire for transformation.

We will be working our way through Matthew 6 – and other related passages (Luke 11 for instance).  By next Sunday we will have a curriculum available for use to follow along.  It will be able to be used in a Sunday School class, a bible study, or a community group.

If you were here the last two weeks, we listened to theologian, author, and lecturer J. Edwin Orr talk about revival, and specifically revival in America – and its relationship to prayer.

I think the most important thing J. Edwin Orr said was:

“There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united concerted, and sustained prayer.”

We are beginning – or returning, to some prayer initiatives here at SBF.

  • After the service.
  • On the first Sunday afternoon of each month we will gather for a concert – or concerted prayer.  This afternoon from 4-5:30pm.

I will be beginning to search out pastors prayer gatherings in and around Manchester to pray with them as well.

Last week J. Edwin Orr gave us some perspective on the history of revival – particularly as it relates to New England.  I think it’s important for us to be aware of our history here in New England.

And in the last couple of our SBF e-NEWS that goes out during the week I have spoken of a sense that there is a “quiet revival,” taking place in New England right now.  One New England pastor referred to it as a “gospel replanting” of churches.  Both formerly liberal as well as moralistically fundamental churches are undergoing a gospel-centered transformation, which is much like what has been happening here.

For most of us prayer is, without a doubt, the most difficult spiritual discipline to make good and consistent progress in.

It’s a little bit like humility – no one ever feels like they’ve “arrived.”

And, when we think about prayer it’s easy to feel very guilty very quickly.

The bottom-line definition of prayer is that it is communion with God.

I recently came across a way to think about and clarify the different aspects of prayer that I’d like to share with you – and we will come back to this over the coming weeks.

This matrix, or template, for prayer can be called 360 degree prayer, which helps us to see prayer in four ways, or dimensions:

Inward – Surrendering to God and aligning ourselves with God.  We’ll be talking about this aspect more today – and next week.  This is where we surrender ourselves into the sanctification process.  Most of the first chapter of the Sermon on the Mount is devoted to a humble surrender and reorientation through owning our own issues and mourning over the effects of sin.

Upward – Worshipful communion with God.  We lift our hearts and hands in grateful surrender, adoration, and worship.

Around – To pray with others.  The passage we’ll be studying, after all, begins with the words, “Our Father…”

Outward – To engage with the mission of God.  Asking God to send us out on mission with Him.  It’s been said that we serve a missionary God:

  • The Father sent the Son.
  • The Son sent the Holy Spirit
  • And the Holy Spirit sends us…

Some people go around the world as missionaries.  Most of us are missionaries sent to neighbors, co-workers, family, friends, acquaintances who are not yet active, intentional followers of Jesus Christ.

What we are aiming for in this series (and season of SBF’s ministry life) is for there to be a transforming shift in our soul (individually and collectively), so that prayer becomes more natural – and more normative.

I have come to see that there may be a common reason why we don’t pray more…

It’s happened to me in different seasons of my life…

Sometimes, when we have a burden to pray or a strong desire to draw closer to God, things right away, seem to get harder and more difficult – so we tend to back off of prayer.  We end-up thinking, or even saying:  “God, You just do Your thing and I’ll do mine…”  Then we don’t move into “extraordinary prayer,” we just stick to “ordinary” prayer.

I don’t want to discourage you, but I do think that often times our circumstances will get harder before they get better when we lean into God – and into prayer.

Realistically, we need to be prepared for this.

Why is it like that?  Because when we get all soft and tender before God, He begins to deal with stuff in our lives.  Someone said He “fixes a fix to fix us.”

Mostly God begins point out and put His finger on our idols – or functional saviors, which are all the earth-bound things we turn to, to quiet the longings or pain that is in our souls.

In the Bible – and in prayer, we have a language of love, trust, holy fear, hope, seeking, and serving.  These are terms describing our legitimate longings, our desires for relationship to the true God.

Then most of us have a host of false loves, false trusts, false fears, false hopes, false pursuits, and even false masters.

Idolatry describes our drift away from God, where we find ourselves serving lessor Gods.  The best working definition for idolatry is: turning a good thing into an ultimate thing…

There are personal, cultural, and religious idols…

1.  Some common personal idols include:

  • Certain relationships can become idolatrous – looking to other people to find our value or worth – and not finding that in and through good.  It may be a spouse, a parent, a boss…
  • Dysfunctional family or marital systems are often idolatrous.  The most destructive of these is the classic addict and enabler.  Did you know you can’t have an addict if there’s no enabler?
  • There are many kinds of addictions…
    • There are ingestive addictions – things like alcohol, drugs, or food.  We ingest substances to satisfy the longs and cravings of our soul.
    • There are also process addictions – things like gambling, pornography and masturbation, shopping (or spending), watching too much TV, religion can become an idol, making money – even working out can become an addiction – although most of us could use a little more time at the gym 🙂

2.  We have many cultural idols – There are famous people that we idolize.  We even have a national TV show – American Idol… What might a North Eastern cultural idol be?  (Patriots :), “Live Free or Die”?)

3.  What are some religious idols?

  • The most common is probably superstition, trying to earn God’s favor, or other forms of moralism.
  • The biblical expression of our lives and the Church through the gospel is: “I am accepted through Christ, therefore I obey.”
  • Religion alternatively says: “I obey, therefore I am accepted.”
  • The human tendency is bent toward religion, which essentially sets up rules and regulations (i.e., moralism) and we keep them to earn our righteousness before God.
  • This is exactly the “different gospel” that Paul addresses in his letter to the Galatians (1:6).  In the same verse Paul expresses amazement at how quickly they have veered and substituted religion for the gospel.  Religious practice can become our functional savior.
  • While the Galatians struggled with abuses of legalism, the Corinthians struggled with abuses of liberty.[1]
  • Both are soulish expressions of religion and not born of the Holy Spirit.  The antidote to both excessive legalism and excessive liberty is the gospel.

What am I saying with all this talk of idolatry?  If we want to learn how to pray, we must be prepared for life to get harder before it gets better.

We must be willing for God to point out our idols – and then ask us to offer them up to Him.

In the end Satan remains the enemy of our souls who wants to disrupt, discourage, distort, and divide (see Eph 6:10-12).

Prayer is not a method to get what we want from God, but THE means of getting more of God Himself, of encountering God so that He becomes the primary object we desire – God becomes the end goal of our lives.

  • Ps 63:1 – O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You…
  • Ps. 42:1 – As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God.

Here are some descriptions of prayer that have recently caught my attention:

  • Brennan Manning, prayer is “holy loitering.”
  • Anne Lamott, prayer is our real self trying to communicate with the Real.
  • Richard Rohr, prayer is disrobing our souls before God.
  • Someone has said that prayer is like good jazz – it is both structured and spontaneous; there is tempo, timing, and a key yet there is freedom to move around.
  • Shane Claiborne writes, “the cry of the Lord’s Prayer reminds us of our vocation as children of God, [we are] orphans adopted into the family of Yahweh…God comes and dwells among us as a Big Brother whom we can emulate.  From Him we learn to pray, “Our Father in heaven.”

[1] Which Paul specifically addresses in 1 Corinthians.

God Is Closer Than You Think #8 – What Does it Mean to Become a Christian?

Dr. Jeff Arthurs, Guest Speaker

1. Most of us are trying to save ourselves (“I think I can, I think I can”).

2. But we tend to overestimate our goodness and underestimate our badness. The Bible says that spiritually we are: lost, strangers, guilty, dead, and enemies.

“For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” –Titus 3:3

3. Therefore God, who is rich in mercy, sent Jesus to absorb our sins. Jesus is the “sin eater.”

“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” –Titus 3:4-7

4. Our responsibility is to “believe.”

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  –John 3:16

5. We do good deeds, not in order to EARN salvation, but because we ARE saved. We do not work FOR salvation, we work FROM it.

“This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.” –Titus 3:8

God Is Closer Than You Think #6 – What Is Sin?

I. INTRO

Romans 5:12-21 (emphasis added)

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. 20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Christmas is coming…Suppose I purchased a gift for you and wrapped it nicely in wrapping paper with a nice ribbon and and a beautiful bow…And I even filled out one of those tags — From: Gregg and To: You and I gave the beautifully wrapped gift to you.

Now, I assume you’d be trilled and excited – and suppose you took the gift home and you placed it in a very prominent place in your home.

And when people came over to your home – you would show them the gift”  “Look Pastor Gregg gave me a gift, he must really like me…”

What’s wrong with is picture?

Right, to have been given a gift and never open it and delight in its contents is pretty dumb…But that’s what some people do with their Bibles – they don’t take the time to learn and grow.

The Bible speaks of one main gift.  That gift we’ve come to call “The Gospel.”  And the essence of the gospel is found in Romans 5:8:

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

The word “theology” means “the study of God.”  We are all theologians.  Some people are vocational theologians.  Some have more degrees than Fahrenheit and we read their books – but we are all theologians.  (The Bible is the only book in existence that necessitates increasing intimacy with the author to fully understand its contents.)

Now the essence of theology is learning how to unwrap the gift of the gospel that God has given us.

Theology matters.  Good theology matters.

That’s why we’re taking this time to cover some of the basic, or main doctrines of the Christian faith.

And more than that, I am praying for us that everyone one of us would capture, or obtain a higher view of God. Isaiah 40:9 – “Get yourself up on a high mountain…” (Isaiah 6 as well – Isaiah is undone by a view of the holiness of God…)

This is why I am asking all of us to be praying Ephesians 1:17-19:

“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might…”

The main gift the Bible speaks about is the Person of Jesus Christ.  And that because of His great love for you, He condescended to come and live a perfect sinless life and die a horrendous, torturous, murderous death that we might gain access to the very presence of God. The most holy place – the holy of holies.  Hebrews 10:19 says it this way:

“We [now] have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus.”

What Jesus Christ has done, we call the gospel, or good news.

Many long-time churchgoers have thought of the gospel as the doorway through which we enter the Christian life.  What we’ve been trying to say for the last 18 months here at Southside (our theological “reboot”) is that the gospel is not just the doorway, it’s the whole house.

What we’ve been saying is that the whole Bible – from Genesis to Revelation, only has one main, or primary, storyline – and that is: redemption (found in the gospel). There are four sub-themes:

  • Our need for redemption
  • Our longing for redemption
  • The act of our redemption
  • And the calling to live in remembrance of our redemption…

Our passage this morning (Rom 5:12-21) contains three paragraphs.  Each of these paragraphs say basically the same thing.  Paul is very carefully repeating himself to make sure the people understand the gospel.  Also, we will see that each paragraph has little different twist to it.

The first paragraph (vs. 12-14) tells us that through one man (Adam) sin entered the world and death spread to all people – “even over those who had not sinned like Adam sinned.”  (Now you might be thinking, one guy blew it and we all pay the price? – We’ll get to that…)  This paragraph also tells us plainly that Adam is a “type” (or foreshadowing) of Jesus Christ.  In Jesus Christ we have a greater Adam – a perfectly obedient Adam.

The second paragraph (vs. 15-17) tells us the same thing – that by the “transgression” (or sin) of the one (Adam) God’s “judgement arose” (or was imposed) and humankind was condemned to die in their sinful condition.  Now the twist in this paragraph is that it clearly states what Jesus Christ has accomplished on behalf of the human race.  Notice that between verses15-17 the word “gift” is used five times.  The fifth use of the word gift identifies what’s in the package: “the gift of righteousness” (notice also that “abundance of grace” is included in the gift package).

The third paragraph (vs. 18-21), again tell us basically the same thing…one sin resulted in the condemnation of the whole human race (again, you might be thinking that is unfair), but here we see yet another facet of the gospel: …Through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all [people].

19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. 20 [the purpose of the Law] The Law came in so that the transgression would increase [there are 613 commandments listed in the Hebrew Scriptures]; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through [Christ’s gift of] righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

II. BODY

With the remainder of our time this morning I’d like to ask and answer 4 questions:

  1. What is sin?
  2. Where did sin come from?
  3. How does sin affect us?
  4. What has Jesus done?

1. What is sin?

Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law (or standard) of God in act, attitude [i.e., doing the right thing for the wrong reason], or nature.[1]

Sin is defined as a source of action, or an inward element producing [outward] acts.  This is what Rom 5:12 means when Paul states, “death spread to all people.”

Grudem describes sin as “the internal character that is the essence of who we are.”[2]

The reason God hates sin is that it directly contradicts everything God is.[3]

2. Where did sin came from?

Satan was the originator of sin. There are three passages that seem to describe  the heart of Satan – and the fallen angels who followed him:

Isaiah 14:12-15 “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! 13 “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. 14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’”

2 Peter 2:4 — “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment.”

Jude 6 – “And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day.”

Demons and demonic power are real.  Demons oppose and try to destroy every work of God.  However, they are limited by God’s control and have limited power (i.e., Job).

(A brief theology of spiritual warfare – don’t attempt to cast out, or fight, the darkness but turn on the Light – invite Jesus.  When Light dawns, darkness must flee.)

God has never sinned, nor did God create sin.  (Deut 32:4 – “His work is perfect…”). First it was Satan and the other fallen angels, then Adam sinned in the garden.  So, we can say that God allowed sin to enter the cosmos – and then the world, but He did not create sin.  We call this a paradox – a seeming contradiction – at first glance it appears to be contradictory, but in the end, it is not…

3. How does sin affects us?

Adam’s sin calls into question the very basis for all morality because it gave a different answer to the question, “What is right, and true, and good?”

Sin affects us in that it introduces lust into the human heart. The essential difference between lust and love is that lust is characterized by getting and love is characterized by giving.

Adam’s sin also gave a different answer to the question, “Who am I?”  They succumbed to the temptation to “be like God” (Gen 3:5) – attempting to put themselves in the place of God.  We are created creatures, not the Creator.

Romans 5 tells us we have what theologians describe as “inherited guilt.”  (This is a better term than “original sin”…)

God counted us guilty because of Adam’s sin (Rom 5:18-19).

When Adam sinned God thought of all who descended from Adam as sinners (Rom 5:8 – “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”).

All members of the human race were represented by Adam in the time of testing in the Garden (there’s Eden & Gethsemane).

Adam’s sin was imputed to us – God counted Adam’s guilt as belonging to us.

We have been represented by both Adam and Jesus.  If we don’t own-up to Adam’s sin, then we cannot receive Christ’s gift…

4. What has Jesus Christ done?

2 Cor 5:21 — He [God] made Him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Here is the apostle Paul’s most succinct statement about the meaning of the cross. This could be the shortest, simplest verse among many in the Pauline epistles that help us to define and understand justification.

Its meaning can be summed up in a single principle: substitution.

It describes an exchange that took place through the atonement that Christ offered—our sin for Christ’s righteousness.

Jesus took the place of sinners so that they might stand in His place as a perfectly righteous person.

Please take notice the graphic language: He was made sin (that’s the very epitome of all that is despicable and odious),

So that we might be made righteousness (that’s everything that is good and pure and acceptable in God’s estimation).

This was the exchange: our sin for His righteousness.

Our sin was charged to His account and His righteousness was credited (imputed) to our account.

III. CONCLUSION

The effects of what Christ has done on those who believe…

  • When we do sin our legal standing before God remains unchanged (Rom 6:23; 8:1).
  • When we sin our fellowship with God is disrupted and hindered (Eph 4:30; Rev 3:19)
  • Westminster Confession of Faith Chap 11, Sec 5:

Although they never can fall from a state of justification, yet they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of His countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.

  • There is a danger of some being “Unconverted Evangelicals”…

While a genuine Christian who sins does not lose his or her justification or adoption before God, there needs to be a clear warning that mere association with an evangelical church and outward conformity to “accepted” “Christian” patterns of behavior does not guarantee salvation.[4]

A consistent pattern of disobedience to Christ coupled with a lack of the elements of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is a warning signal that a person is probably not a true Christian inwardly.


[1] CB: 62.

[2] Christian Beliefs: 62.

[3] CB: 62.

[4] Grudem, Systematic Theology.

God Is Closer Than You Think #5 – What Is Prayer?

by JT Holderman

DOCTRINE

Illustration of Answered Prayer: Daniel and the Lion’s Den. Daniel is thrown into the pit with the lions and spends the night. But guess what, Daniel was found by King Darius the next morning, unharmed. Prayer is powerful. Both Daniel and King Darius prayed, and God delivered. He heard their prayers.

Definition: A theologian of our day gives a definition for prayer. He says “prayer is personal communication with God” (Wayne Grudem ST-377). I think he captures the essence of prayer, being in relationship, communication, being in conversation with God. Remember you and I were created to be in relationship with God, and relationships are defined by being in communication with one another.

Jesus Makes Prayer Possible: Do you know what gives us confidence in prayer? Jesus. His death on our behalf creates a way for us to know and be in relationship with God again. When you pray to Jesus, he hears you and whispers it into the Father’s ear. Jesus is our advocate.

Kinds of Prayer:

  • Petition: Asking God for…
  • Supplication: Asking God for something on behalf of someone else…
  • Praise: Lifting up God’s greatness
  • Thanksgiving: Thanking God
  • Confession: Asking for forgiveness
  • Sorrow: Prayers of tears and lament

Why do we pray? As Christians prayer is often a response to a need we have. We need help. And we pray because prayer has power. The prayer of Daniel and Darius had power to overcome the Lion’s hunger in the pit. But why does prayer have power? Prayer has power because we communicate with the living God.

Illustration of Answered Prayer #2: There’s a woman in 1st Samuel in the Old Testament. Her name is Hannah. She’s barren, she can’t have a child. She pours out her soul to the Lord. And you know what, God heard her prayer, just like he hears your prayer. He heard it, and he answered it. He gave her a son. His name was Samuel.

What about Unanswered Prayer: We have confidence when we know God has answered our prayer right? But is the same true when we don’t think God has answered our prayer? There is no such thing as unanswered prayer. There is simply prayer that isn’t answered in the manner you and I would like it to be answered. Our prayers are always subject to God’s will. And that’s where we find comfort in unanswered prayer, in the fact that God knows what is best for his children, even when we think he doesn’t.

EXPOSITION OF MATTHEW 6:5-13:

Context: Matthew has recorded three chapters worth of His sermon and teachings to the people, we often refer to this portion of Scripture as the “Sermon on the Mount” because Jesus ascended a mountain, sat down, and preached to all those who followed him.

How Not to Pray vv. 5-8: So in v. 5 Jesus begins to instruct us how to pray. And what does he do first? He tells how NOT to pray. Don’t pray like this, and he gives two examples. Don’t pray like the hypocrites. Jesus explains that these people pray to be seen, they find fulfillment not in praying to God, but their motive is to be seen as pious, as holy people by others. Don’t pray like the hypocrites who pray to be seen, but instead Jesus says to pray in private, in secret where the motive is simply to be in conversation with God.

Jesus also says we are not to pray like the Gentiles, non-Jews in Jesus’ day, unclean people. Read vv. 7 and 8 with me. What is the Gentiles problem in prayer? They heap up empty phrases. They simply say things hoping they will be heard. They want to sound sophisticated and use lots of words to try to impress God and earn His favor. Their motive is to impress, to appear holy to God. The hypocrite wants to appear holy to the masses and the Gentile wants to appear holy to God. So we can see here from these first four verses that what is crucial to Jesus in prayer is MOTIVE. Why we pray is important.

How to Pray: So again knowing about prayer is of little value. Knowing HOW to pray is of infinite value. So in vv. 9-13 Jesus launches into “how” we are to pray, it’s commonly referred to as the Lord’s Prayer.

“Our Father…”: Jesus begins with addressing who He is praying to, God the Father. It’s crucial for us to see that He begins by pointing his conversation, his spoken prayer at God. And the word Father here is important. He doesn’t say Lord, even though He is, He doesn’t say God, he says father. And father implies a close relationship, a nearness to God.

“Hallowed be your name”: And after addressing God, Jesus hallows God’s name. Now what does that mean? A person who is hallowed is worthy of our praise. To hallow something or someone is to treat them as Holy, perfect, spotless. But to say that you hallow God’s name, that you revere Him, means also that your life will be such that it reflects that, that it continually brings glory to God as the Holy one.

“Thy Kingdom Come”: Now when you hear the word Kingdom, think of God’s reign, as a King over all the earth. Jesus is often referred to in three offices, prophet, priest and King. The Kingdom of God is the reign of Jesus over all the earth and that began with His earthly ministry. He teaches us here with the authority of a Lord, a King. So when we pray this, we are simply praying that God would reign over this world. We’re just saying, God be God here and now.

“Your will be done…”: This is a hard one to pray. Remember Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane? He prayed this, “not my will but yours.” And what happened? He died. To pray that God’s will be done is an absolute sacrifice. It is the ultimate bending of our knee and acknowledging that God knows what is best. It’s hard to pray this because we are inviting God to answer our prayer not in the manner we want, but he wants. Just like Jesus in the garden.

“Give us this day our daily bread”: It isn’t until half way through the prayer that Jesus ever asks for anything in His own life. Here Jesus asks for food, bread. Now this is an image for both physical nourishment that we need from God to live on, as well as spiritual nourishment for our walk with Him.

“Forgive…”: Jesus moves on and asks for forgiveness. Now it’s odd that Jesus asks for forgiveness. Why? Because Scripture tells us that Jesus was perfect, he did not sin, he was the only person who didn’t need forgiveness!!! This is why his death atones for our sins and brings us into relationship with God. So why does he include this. Remember, the whole point of this prayer is an example to you and I of how we should pray. We should pray like Jesus. And so confession, asking for forgiveness is a key part of prayer. Primarily because it forces us to be conscious of our sins, conscious of the ways in which we have turned from God, the ways in which our faith has faltered.

“And lead us not into temptation…”: Jesus ends his example of how we are to pray like Him by admitting that temptation and evil are a reality that we have to deal with, they are universal and inescapable for every human being. The devil is not off the leash. Temptation is essentially a test. When we are tempted our faith is tested. Praying this petition is about admitting that we need God’s help as we face temptation. We can’t do it alone.

Praise and Petition: Now we walked through those pretty quickly. But did you notice as we went through the whole prayer that it was really broken into two separate types of prayer? The first portion of the prayer is what? A prayer of praise. Jesus begins by praising God, by hallowing his name, by exclaiming the goodness of His will and the power of His kingdom. A whole half of this prayer is simply praising God! When you look at your prayer life, if you were to average how much of your prayer time is spent in praising God, hallowing His name, what do you think it would be? And so it isn’t until after Jesus has praised the Father that he moves into asking for things.

APPLICATION

Our Prayer Life: Let’s wind down and bring this home. I would contend the main reason we don’t pray is because God is not a priority in our lives. If God is really our priority in life, if knowing Him is the supreme good above all that we seek after during the hours of the day, then prayer will be as natural as breathing. Prayer is breathing in and out for a Christian. Without prayer we suffocate! And so I argue that the reason we don’t pray as much as we feel called to, or as much as Scripture urges us to, is because God really is not the priority He should be.

And when God becomes our priority, we pray. Not because we are supposed to and it’s what good Christians do, but because we want to! We want to be in relationship with Him who has lavished grace upon us. Prayer is simply communicating with God. What is the most essential thing for any relationship? Communication. If you’re married you know that communication can make a marriage wonderful, or it become a hindrance to loving one another. And so in the same way, our communication with God is of vital importance. Satan wants to thwart prayer more than anything else in our walk as Christians because the reality of our relationship with God is changed through prayer. Prayer is the most powerful action you can do as a Christian. Our call this morning is to take up the charge to be lovers of God, to be people who are characterized by having God as our priority in life.

Closing Prayer: And so where are you? Is God the priority in your life? Or is he simply a priority? Do you pray? Do you wonder what God’s will is for your life? Pray. Do you need help with a struggle you’re currently facing? Pray. Do you feel stuck? Pray. Do you feel lost? Pray. No matter what you are going through this morning, God knows and he wants you to talk to him about it.