An Audacious Request

Luke 11:13 (NIV)

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

As you can see, the topic of prayer (communication with God) is being examined … and more specifically … the aspect of “asking” God for real needs in our lives.  I think it very important to examine this verse in the surrounding context because it follows Jesus’ teaching of a “model prayer” … followed by a parable … that leads to a teachable moment … and culminates with the life application of our verse … which should itself prompt us to seek and ask God for His incredible gift … His indwelling Holy Spirit!  Follow along with me:

Luke 11:1-13 (ESV)

The Lord’s Prayer

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And He said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins (debts), for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”

Parable of the Inopportune Friend

And Jesus said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves,for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence* (or persistence) he will rise and give him whatever he needs. (*The NIV Translation renders the expression “shameless audacity”.)

Teachable Moment

And so I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What fathers among you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone; or if he asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?

Application

13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

Now, given the background and foundation laid here, it is evident to me that the focal point of this passage is Verse 13.  Jesus begins with teaching that prayer is about connecting with God the Father.  Prayer acknowledges God is … His dominion … His power.  We are to show Him reverence – “hallowed be your name”.  “Your Kingdom come,” means God has authority and sovereignty over all HIS creation … including us.  Jesus encourages us through prayer to ask for our physical needs … to request forgiveness … and to avoid the temptation of evil.  But then, Jesus shares a parable to emphasize our need to be “persistent” in prayer.  It is as though we are urged to be bold and tenacious in the expression of our hearts before God.  But why the need for perseverance?  Perhaps our resolve and steadfastness in prayer reflects the sincerity of our hearts … that we have not come before God with just some vague hope laced with doubt or a general wish for something without deep expectancy to receive it.

I find confidence in that Jesus moves into an imperative concerning prayer at this point: “And so I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”  If prayer was futile or pointless, why would Jesus instruct us to ask, seek, and knock during prayer AND assure us the Father will favorably respond?  Jesus goes on to compare the responses of human fathers to their children when they “ask” for various physical needs.  He observes, “if sinful human fathers know how to respond to requests based upon their mortal capacities to give, then how much more will our perfect Heavenly Father know how to respond to His children when they ask for even greater needs … something so “audacious” or “outrageous” as to want the Holy Spirit?  Yet, Jesus indicates that the baptism or infilling of the Holy Spirit is exactly what we should be asking to receive!  I dare say, He is indeed our greatest need!

I know that I have quoted this passage quite often, but I believe it shares great insight into this issue:

2 Peter 1:3-4 (ESV)

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

  1. His divine power (the Holy Spirit) is a gift. (Cf. Acts 1:8; Acts 2:38; Acts 10:45)
  2. His divine power (the Holy Spirit) is promised. See Joel 2:28-29. (Cf. Acts 1:4-5; Acts 2:33, 39; Ephesians 1:13)
  3. His divine nature is effectuated in us through the promised gift of the Holy Spirit (Cf. Acts 10:38; Romans 15:13, 18-19; 1 Corinthians 2:4; Ephesians 3:16)

You might note that most of the cited cross-references above point to the power of the Holy Spirit to endue the ability to proclaim the Gospel … the Word of God … with boldness or with tongues (other languages) so that the message of Jesus Christ is spread to anyone and everyone who will hear or listen. I believe the reason this “power” is so prominent it because the Word of God induces genuine faith (Cf. Romans 10:17); and it is faith in Jesus Christ that effectuates the divine power we need for a transformed and Spirit-filled life as evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit. (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23) Indeed, His divine power is essential for the Kingdom of God to be realized in our lives; and I believe that is our greatest need to be sought through prayer. As Jesus shared, we should ask the Father for the Holy Spirit (His divine power) with “shameless audacity” and “persistence”!  And although I think such brash language was used in His parable to urge us to be fearless and courageous as we approach the Father, I cannot help but believe we should always be humble and reverent before Him … even when feeling zealous for His precious promise.  And this is His promise: Our Heavenly Father, who is perfect in all His ways, WILL give His Spirit to those who ask Him.

One final thought:

James 1:5-8 (NIV)

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

So when you ask God for anything … believe God! By His own glory and excellence, God has promised to grant us His Spirit, and He has promised to grant us eternal life through His Son, Christ Jesus. And so my prayer is that you and I will believe His great and precious promises in these latter days and ask for them with expectant boldness! Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Be Still

Psalm 46:10

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

So, again, we have our thoughts on the sovereignty and majesty of God.  He says, “Be still – and know that I am God.

Sometimes we just need to stop and get quiet … and allow God to reveal Himself to us in a quiet place … far from the noise of life … away from the everyone and everything that can distract us from experiencing and knowing the presence of God and hearing His still small voice. (Cf. 1 Kings 19:12) Sometimes we need to both isolate ourselves and insulate ourselves within a “prayer closet” and spend quality time with God.  He wants us to be still at times.  He desires us to know Him in a personal way….

I believe the Lord Jesus wants us to know it is okay to be silent before Him … to rest in Him … to wait for Him.  We do not need to worry or fret because of the circumstances we face or the hardships we suffer in life.  God delights for us to know Him and to trust Him. Indeed, God is sovereign over every aspect of our lives.  Jesus encourages us to “ seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Cf. Matthew 6:33) Jesus invites us to approach Him, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Cf. Matthew 11:28)

So I encourage you to consider this verse today.  Let it remind you that it is good to stop and sit at the feet of Jesus and just listen to Him. (Cf. Luke 10:38-42) Let it remind you that it is good to stop and sit at the foot of the cross and just ponder all that took place upon it. Let it remind you that it is good to stop and sit at the entrance of the empty tomb and just meditate on the power that raised Jesus from the dead.  Let it remind you that it is good to stop and worship the Alpha and the Omega and to exalt Him! Because at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father! (Cf. Philippians 2:9-11)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

High Anxiety

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I’m not sure what I could add to what Paul has already shared….

Do not be anxious about ANYTHING!  We just need to pray with thanksgiving because – as we learned from John: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.” (1 John 5:14-15) Knowing that we have what we asked of Him in prayer and petition should give us reason to include thanksgiving with our prayer.  And in this we experience the peace of God.  It enters our hearts and minds because of our confidence … our faith in Christ Jesus!

So let this be your meditation today.  Do not be anxious.  Cast all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you. (Cf. 1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 55:22)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

God Hears Us

1 John 5:14-15

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.

This passage has always intrigued me. For additional context, the passage is included in a list of “affirmations” that the Apostle John is sharing with his readers.  He is trying to build trust in God and His promises.  For example, Verse 13 reads: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”  Likewise in our passage, he encourages believers to pray (approach God) – asking according to HIS will.  John assures we can be confident that God hears us.

First of all, it should be amazing to us that God … the Creator of all that is seen and unseen – the entire universe … actually listens to our prayers.  Why would such a Being care about His creatures to even do so?  King David pondered the same question:

Psalm 8:3-4 (NIV)

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

Yet, David goes on to assert something quite incredible – God created us to have dominion over His works:

Psalm 8:5-6 (NIV)

You have made them (human beings) a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet:

It is clear from the whole of Scripture that God ordained for human beings to be an integral part of His creative order … for man to have dominion over the earth and everything in it … that man should rule (exercise our ordained authority) over creation with the same love and compassion for it as God Himself.  In other words, our unity and fellowship with God would be such that we as created beings would be “an extension” of God in His creation.  So it follows that God would desire us to communicate with Him and fellowship with Him in this relationship that He designed for us.  In the beginning, it was perfect communion … unity with God … until the first human beings allowed sin to desecrate and corrupt them.  Pride?  Exertion of self-will over the will of God? Disobedience?  Through all the above, we fell from the glory and honor God had bestowed upon us through the deceptive power and darkness of sin….  As Paul explained, “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” (Cf. Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:21) And as Paul affirmed, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23)

As we have previously noted in our studies, human beings MUST have a Savior.  We cannot save our selves.  We cannot redeem ourselves from our sin because we are incapable to offer a Holy God a perfect sacrifice to atone for our transgressions.  God did the only thing that could be done to reconcile and restore our fellowship with Him.  He offered a perfect Lamb … His Son, Jesus!  God did so because of His great love for us … not because we merited or deserved His kindness or mercy.  Paul makes this quite clear:

Ephesians 2:4-10 (NKJV)

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Father God would not allow His beloved creation … human beings … to continue in separation from Him.  No, His great love with which He loved us would not allow us to remain dead in our sin.  God sent His Son to redeem us … to restore us to true life and to accomplish the good works which God had already prepared for us to do.  He replaced a crown of thorns with a crown of glory and honor! “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ Jesus. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20) I believe this is why the Apostle John insists we can know that we have eternal life.  This is why John confirms that God hears our prayers.  And if God hears us … we know that we have what we asked of Him!

Jesus made an astonishing declaration right before He raised Lazarus from the dead:

John 11:38-42 (NIV)

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” He said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” 40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

Jesus knew that God heard Him … and knew that He would receive what He had asked in prayer.  What a confirmation to us that God hears prayer … and a demonstration to us about the power of prayer!  Yet, the reality we often experience is that we do not receive what we asked of God.  What is the difference?  Does God have selective hearing?  Why is John so confident that God hears our prayers and that we can know that we have what we asked of Him? We pray, and yet, loved ones die of cancer; couples remain childless; children leave the Church; chronic illness continues unabated….  Why does God not answer our prayers the way we want Him to … the way we think He should?

John said God hears us when we ask anything according to His will … not our will.  And that is the challenge for us!  That is the conundrum of prayer and the mystery of faith.  How do we ever truly know the will of God in a specific circumstance or situation?  To be honest, I’m not sure. In Isaiah 55:8-10 we read, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  So we have to understand that issue.  In Deuteronomy 29:29 we read, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”

So maybe we should consider that in order to pray and ask according to the will of God the Father, we need to grow in the knowledge of His “revealed” will.  And we can do so through the study of His Word and the life of His Son, Christ Jesus.  Those are things we CAN do if we will take the time to do them….  To me, it follows, that increased wisdom will translate into prayers that resonate the will of God.  And ­when He hear us … we need to “receive” and embrace HIS answer to our prayers.  His answer will be in accordance with His will.  And I believe that we can fully trust that His will is always for our good.  His great love redeemed us.  His great love is for us! (Cf. Romans 8:31) And we have to consider that we may not always see how God works and orchestrates in another person’s life to “work” His will for their good.  In other words, God IS answering the prayers offered up in faith; but He is doing so in His way and on His timetable according to His own purpose and grace. (Cf. Romans 8:28; Philippians 2:13; 2 Timothy 1:9-10) I just think we have to realize, and ultimately trust, that God does hear us and does answer us according to His will.  We just need to be attuned to how His will is being revealed….

One last thought or observation on this subject.  And I share this as a challenge to all of us who pray fervently for something in our lives.  Hebrews 5:7 reads, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission.  Notice that the Scripture here said Jesus was heard because of His reverent submission.  I believe there is a lesson for us here.  Being heard was predicated upon reverent submission.  If a person does not fear God … if a person does not believe Him … if a person does not submit themselves to the authority of the Creator over their life … I’m not inclined to think that their prayer is going to be heard.  God knows those who truly believe Him and reverence Him.  He knows those who love Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Cf. Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37) You cannot fool God and think that He will hear or answer your prayers.

My point is that the key aspect of prayer is ultimately our relationship with God.  Ultimately, His will is for each of us to be in perfect fellowship with Him through our Lord Jesus Christ.  And that requires reverent submission! That requires humility … forsaking human pride and confessing our sins … and seeking reconciliation through Christ.  It reminds me of an often-quoted passage and I will end here:

2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 

If we want our prayers to be heard, we most certainly must ask according to His will.  And His will is for us is accomplished only through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ:

            Recognition of our sinful nature;

            Repentance for our transgressions;

            Redemption from the power of sin;

            Reconciliation to the Father;

            Relationship with the Father;

            Reverence for the Father

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Great Intercessor

Hebrews 7:25

Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews presents a great theological “pillar” for us to examine.  His view is that the Messiah (Christ Jesus) serves as a priest … that He ministers as an intercessor before God on a continual basis for those who believe in Him (come to God through Him).  The rationale, within the context of Hebrews Chapter 7, is that the eternal nature (endless life) of Jesus affords a “permanent priesthood” for the purposes of our atonement, salvation, and ongoing intercessory prayer needs. (Cf. Verse 24) And so the conclusion, based on this premise, is that Jesus is able to save completely (or forever) those who come to God through Him … because He always lives to intercede for them.  His intercession is undoubtedly prayer (Cf. Luke 22:32; John 17:9, 15, 20), but Jesus also serves as our Advocate (our lawyer) against the Adversary or Accuser (Satan) before the throne (court) of God. (Cf. Revelation 12:10)

The writer affirms this role was prophesied by King David in Psalm 110:4 where he declares, “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind: “You are a priest forever,   in the order of Melchizedek.” So, who was this Melchizedek … this forerunner or archetype of the priestly role the Messiah would assume for us?  Well, you can read about him in Genesis 14; but the connection or prophetic association with the Messiah is explained in further detail in Hebrews Chapter 7.  I encourage you to study these sections at your leisure to get a fuller picture of this application.

So why is this of any importance to our relationship and walk with our Lord Jesus?  Well, part of what intrigues me is the language used.  “He is able to save completely!”  The blood Jesus shed was more than sufficient to save us “completely”.  Nothing was partial. Nothing was missed.  There are no conditional requirements.  There is nothing for us to add to His work upon the cross or His resurrection or ascension to the right hand of the throne of God. (Cf. Hebrews 8:1) His priestly intercession is eternally permanent. Your life and I are secure in Him.  And this truth should be a great comfort to believers … especially those who might think that our salvation is conditional upon themselves or their performance … that if we sin after it somehow causes us to lose their salvation … or that God requires us to be perfect once a profession of faith in Jesus has been made.  God demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) If we had been or were now able to not sin … there would have been no need for a Savior.  There would not be a need for a permanent priesthood or continual intercession.  But we find both in Scripture!  And the Apostle John affirms, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Such mercy … such grace … such love in the midst of our weaknesses!  How can be not be humbled and always strive to live worthy of the Lord Jesus … and please Him in every way … bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God? (Cf. Colossians 1:10) And I feel we need to be reminded what the Apostle Paul preached in this regard:

Romans 6:1-7 (NIV)

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Oh, we need a Savior!  We need an Intercessor!  We need Jesus! 26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, He does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people. Jesus sacrificed for our sins once for all when He offered Himself.  (Hebrews 7:26-27) Yes, Jesus was ordained by God to be our High Priest forever!  There is no need for an earthly priesthood at all anymore.  Jesus came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Cf. Ephesians 2:17-18) So I pray we will trust Jesus at His Word.  I pray we will completely trust in His finished work to redeem us and bring us to God the Father.  He is all sufficient to give you and I eternal life….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/18/19

Romans 8:38-39

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So our Verse of the Day continues in Romans 8.  I had included this passage in the commentary yesterday to share Paul’s personal conviction regarding his keen awareness and understanding of the love of God expressed to us in Christ Jesus!  Paul swells with emotion as he contemplates what possibilities might exist that could remove the love of God for His creation.  Paul concludes: “There is nothing!”  There is nothing with the power to dissolve or diminish the love of God for us. There is nothing you or I can do or not do that will change or annul the love of God for us. He is not subjected to our mortal ideas, thoughts, or personal wills.  His love is eternally existent!

Let’s consider these thoughts for a moment.  The Bible is filled with physical metaphors to help us comprehend spiritual realities.  For example, Jesus is called the Word who was with God in the beginning. (Cf. John 1:1-3) Jesus is called the Lamb of God. (Cf. John 1:29; 1:36) He was the unblemished, spotless lamb God provided for Himself to be the final, ultimate sacrifice for the sin of all humans.  Yet, we read this Lamb (Jesus) who removed the sins of the world was slain before the foundation of the world!  The names of all believers were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life before the earth was created. (Cf. Revelation 5:12; 13:8) So if God loved us (and He did) before you and I were ever born … and died to impute His holiness and righteousness upon us (and He did) because we were condemned and without hope because of our sinful nature … then we need to join Paul and ask: “What can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord?”  Will our sin now separate us from His love?  Was it not for your sin and mine that Jesus died in order to make atonement for us? (Cf. Romans 5:8) That is the love of God in action!  That is the salvation of God in truth!  You and I cannot save ourselves.  It was HIS LOVE that saved us.  O, now I have to go back to Ephesians 2!

Ephesians 2:1-10 (NKJV)

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

My conviction is that ALL of this was done on our behalf by God … all this was done for us because of His great love with which He loved us … even before we were born into this world … and before we were born-again of the Spirit.  So if we had no opportunity or ability to cause God to love us, what would make us think that we can separate ourselves from His love at all?  His love IS!  To me, the more pressing question we should ask is, “Why would anyone reject this great love of God?” It seems God permits human beings to have the capacity (free will) to reject the love of God.  We find evidence of this rejection throughout the Old and New Testaments.  For example, Israel forsook the love of God by “turning to other gods and worshipping them; rejecting God and breaking His covenant .” (Cf. Deuteronomy 31:20) God did not cease to love Israel or separate Himself from them. They refused His love for them! They broke His covenant of love with them. They rejected His call to repentance in order to obtain mercy.  And we still find this state of the human heart in our time … people still in darkness who dismiss the Word of God … whose hearts are hardened and ungrateful for what God Himself has done for them.

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 7:9) Yes, God is faithful to keep His covenant of love with those who love Him.  It is our response to the love of God that establishes this bond.  Paul is correct that nothing can separate us from the love God has poured out upon His creation. It is immutable! It is everlasting! It is unfailing! And it is always available! But for purposes known only to God, He permits us to reject Him and His love.  He allows us to separate our hearts from Him … not the other way around.  And this brings me back to what the Apostle John wrote:

John 3:16-20 (NKJV)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 

God has given us His love!  And this love is in His Son, Christ Jesus! Through Jesus … in Jesus … is the love of God the Father both revealed and manifested! We cannot be separated from it, but we can reject it.  It is evident we have the free will to not believe the testimony of God regarding His Son. We can refuse to believe in Him and we can live our lives with total disregard for the love God has bestowed on us through Jesus.  And I wonder even now … how could I have ever done so?  How could I have been so reckless … so arrogant … so ungrateful in my own heart before I came to saving faith in Jesus? Even now … I can scarcely fathom why God would have been so merciful to me.  Why would He enter His covenant of love with me? Why would He redeem a wretched sinner like me?  The only answer is: LOVE! And who among us can truly understand this kind of love? So can anything separate me from the love of God?  Anything?  Absolutely not!  The sacrificial blood of Christ Jesus covers me for all eternity!

Hebrews 9:11-15 (NIV)

11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, thus having obtained eternal redemption13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctifies them so that they are outwardly clean; 14 how much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts (useless rituals) that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! 15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

In light of this good news … what are the implications for us?  Here are some things that come to mind:

Romans 6:1-7 (NIV)

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

1 John 3:4-10 (NIV)

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin. No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

You see, the love of God has called us to transformed lives … transformed by the same power that raised Jesus to life again!  We are to abide in Him and He in us: 

1 John 3:23-24 (NKJV)

23 And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. 24 Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.

1 John 4:12-14 (NKJV)

12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

With these things in mind, I believe the theological corroboration of Romans 5:8 can be better understood and appreciated now:

Romans 5:1-11 (ESV)

1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and let us rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation!

I just feel led to pray:

Father God, how incredible it is to know your love is inseparable … immutable … and everlasting in Christ Jesus!  How can we show our gratitude for your mercies?  How can we live lives worthy of what you have done for us?  I pray each one of us, in view of your mercy, will offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to you Father as our true and spiritual worship.  I pray each of us will not be conformed to the deception of this fallen world, but will be transformed in our minds through your living Word.  Lord God, I pray that everyone, everywhere will come to know your great love so that Christ will dwell in our hearts through faith … so we might have the power and ability to comprehend how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ – and to know this love that surpasses knowledge so that we might be filled with the measure of all the fullness of God. O Lord, remind us again and again that your love never fails … that you will keep us in perfect peace whose minds are steadfast because we trust in you alone. Let our gratitude for your life and love in us be shown through our love of one another.  Let us be ambassadors of reconciliation to those who do not know your great love.  And let us seek holiness in our lives … that we might see you and have confidence when we stand before you when you return!  Grant us all these things, Father, in the name of your Son, Jesus.  Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/09/19

2 Thessalonians 1:3

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.

This verse is a nice reminder to be thankful for our brothers and sisters in the Lord.  Paul indicated to the Thessalonian Church that his offering of gratitude to God for fellow believers was the right thing to do in light of their faith; its perseverance; its ever-increasing growth and maturity; and its abounding love for others.  Paul said he boasted to other bodies of believers about their perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials they were enduring.  Wow!  What kind of testimony do you think Paul would give to Second Chance Church?  Other churches in our community?  What kind of prayer would he offer for the Church today?  Well, I’m glad you asked because I think Paul would offer the same prayer for us that he did for the Thessalonians:

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 (NIV)

11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling, and that by His power He may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let’s examine his prayer a little more:

1. With this in mind ….

What is Paul referring to with this phrase? In Verses 5-10, Paul discusses the challenges and suffering the Thessalonian church was experiencing from non-believers and the culture around them. Sound familiar?  Yet, he offered them hope that justice would be accomplished when Jesus returns and explains how that will occur.  Perhaps, we should take note….

2. We constantly pray for you….

What a great comfort to know that another person is praying for you.  Even better, like Paul, tell other people you are praying for them … and often.  And let them know what you are praying for them … and asking God to do in them and for them….

3. That our God may make you worthy of His calling…

This is an interesting petition.  Notice the implication of what Paul is saying here.  You and I do not make ourselves worthy of the call God places upon us; rather HE makes us worthy. The questions here become: “How does God make us worthy of His calling?” and “Why is it important for us to pray for worthiness?”  My thoughts are that worthiness  is something we cannot accomplish within ourselves; however, we can respond to His call upon our lives by living a life worthy of the calling we have received.  You see this phrase and similar petitions in other epistles of Paul.

4. That by His power He may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith

Again, note that it is the power of God that brings fruition our desire for goodness; to our desire for holiness; to our service and ministry for others prompted by our faith.  So this verse corroborates that our salvation is by grace through faith … and not of works.  Our desire for goodness and serving others is fulfilled by the power of God working in us.  His Spirit will equip us for being effetive and productive … living lives worthy of our calling (Cf. 2 Peter 1:8)

5. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him,

Notice that the purpose of his prayer is for the name of the Lord Jesus to be glorified in His disciples and followers … AND each of us to be glorified in Him!

I thought this opportunity to examine a powerful prayer was too important for us to miss.  And I hope that you will consider how your prayers for fellow believers will not only encourage them – but will strengthen your own faith as you petition the Lord and observe His grace and power unfold in the lives of His people according to your prayers.  So I have reprinted some additional prayers of Paul for other churches below.  Note the similarities and content of his prayers.  I hope these examples will “reset your mindset” regarding prayer and inspire you and I to pray more intentionally and powerfully.  For you know these prayers will be answered because the Lord Jesus will be glorified through the fruit we bear as we live lives worthy of the calling we have received.  Amen!.

Ephesians 1:15-19 (NIV)

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, 19 and His incomparably great power for us who believe.

Ephesians 4:1 

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

Colossians 1:3-12 (NIV)

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and      increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 

1 Thessalonians 1:2-5 (NIV)

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and  your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that He has chosen you,because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. 

1 Thessalonians 2:11-13 (NIV)

11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children,12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory. 13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually    is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. 

Philippians 1:3-11 (NIV)

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!