Archive for the ‘Faithfulness of God’ Category
Very early on in my Christian life I reasoned (along with other brothers) that since God has called us to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16) that this must mean that we are able to not sin (1 John 2:1). I reasoned that if we sin, we are not truly following Christ as the Bible says that we are not to sin if we know Him (1 John 3:6-9). I read where Paul the Apostle said to stop sinning (1 Corinthians 15:34) and where Paul said that we are to not be mastered by sin (Romans 6:11-23).
All of this lead me to conclude that we are to pursue sinless perfection. While I had never met anyone who was sinless, I reasoned that it was possible. I read John Wesley’s book, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection and I reasoned that one could have an experience with God that would take you to a place of absolute holiness. I pleaded with God to give me this experience of “entire sanctification” and I earnestly wanted to be holy.
All to no avail. I have always struggled with sin. Alwasys will.
I reasoned that there were categories of sin and that some sins were worst than others. For example, Jesus said that Judas had committed the greater sin (John 19:11) since he had betrayed the Lord of glory. I reasoned from the law of Moses that since God required different sacrifices for sins of omission and sins of commission then God must view our sins as different if we commit them willfully versus by mistakes or lack. For instance, none of us pray enough since the Bible calls us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and thus while prayerlessness is a sin (1 Samuel 12:23), prayerlessness is not the same sin as sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18-20) and while prayerlessness is horrible, prayerlessness is not listed among the sins that keep us from the kingdom in passages such as 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Galatians 5:19-21 and Revelation 21:8.
In this way, I was able to tell someone that I had not sinned that day. I could say that while I didn’t love God perfectly or pray enough or share the gospel or give to the poor, nonetheless I hadn’t committed any willful sins. In this way, I thought of myself as holy and pure. I though very highly of myself.
I now see it all as nothing but vanity. I now sit here a broken man. I see that my pride was horrible. I see that God opposes the proud. Oh I would have gladly claimed the grace of God for my salvation and I would have boasted that it was the grace of God that enabled me to holiness (Titus 2:11-12) but the reality is that I was proud. I was arrogant. I was not holy. I was full of flesh.
I have never ceased to need Jesus. I never have and I never will. My good days are still nothing before a holy God. He is not pleased with my self-righteousness (Isaiah 64:6). My works play no part in my salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is the gracious work of God by His grace and by His Spirit through His Word. I lay aside all boasting right now and I confess that Jesus is my salvation and He alone is my hope before a holy God (Hebrews 7:25). My salvation is complete in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). I am saved not by what I do but through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 6:29).
While it is true that we are to pursue holiness (Hebrews 12:14) the reality is that we will always need Jesus and His grace. Thankfully through the sacrifice of Jesus, we are holy in Him (Hebrews 10:10, 14). Jesus and His blood makes us holy (Ephesians 1:4-7). We are called to forsake sin and turn from sin but the promise of God is that while we are not called to sin, we have One who prays for us before the holy Father (1 John 2:1-2). Through the Lord Jesus I am able to approach the throne of a holy God (Hebrews 4:14-16). The entire focus of the New Testament is upon the Lord Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2). He is my salvation and my hope. Not my works (Titus 3:5-7).
I don’t want to wonder into sloppy grace (Romans 6:1-4). Having been set free by the grace of God, why would I want to go back to a life of sin? Yet I do struggle with sin. I hate my sins. I really do. I want to be holy and pure and praise God, in Christ, I am holy. The Spirit of God is working in me to help me to hate sin and to turn from sin. I admit that I struggle with sin and I always will but the promise of God is to complete this work He has begun in me (Philippians 1:6).
If you struggle with sin, I assure you that you are loved by God. I need to hear that too. God gave His Son for our sins (John 3:16) and He demonstrates His love (Romans 5:8-9). This love from God is not mere words but actions. The Father has sent His holy Son to die for our wicked sins. God has reconciled us through Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). My favorite verse in the Bible is 1 Timothy 1:15. It reads beautifully in the KJV:
This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
Christ Jesus came to save sinners. Luke 19:10 says:
For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
Jesus came to save us (Matthew 1:21). He came as the suffering servant from Isaiah 53 who would die for our sins. He came to bring us peace with God (Ephesians 2:14; Colossians 1:20). Jesus shed His blood on the cross for our sins and it by His grace, through His blood that we are saved from the wrath of God against our sins.
Romans 3:23-25 (KJV) reads wonderfully:
23 for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.
This salvation is freely given in Christ (Acts 16:30-31) and He is our propitiation through faith in His blood. This is the goodness of our God. Our God reaches down to us and save us by His grace.
Now in conclusion I don’t want to sound like an antinomian. I am not advocating sinning. I hate my sins. I want to be holy. Yet I believe there is balance. The balance is not to see Jesus as our means unto holiness but He is our holiness. The focus of salvation from beginning to end is Jesus Christ. It is not Jesus plus our works that saves us. It is not Jesus plus our works that makes us holy. It is Jesus and His work alone that saves us. Our eyes must be on Jesus. Hebrews 12:1-2 is powerful in that regard:
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Looking unto Jesus is the key. Jesus has sat down at the Father’s side. Sitting represents completion. Jesus has sat down because He has completed the work of atonement. Jesus is now our faithful high priest before the Father (Hebrews 2:17-18).
No doubt I will sin. I hate my sins even now. Yet I know that before the Father is One who prays for me. He is my defense. I use to believe that when I sinned, I need to compensate God and His wrath somehow. I would pray more. I would read my Bible a little more. I would go out and witness to someone. I wanted to make up for my sins. The reality is that God sees my wicked heart at all times. He knows me perfectly. The beauty of the cross is that it demonstrates God’s love toward sinners still in their sins (Romans 5:8). God loved me while I was a sinner even under His wrath but now He loves me as His child through faith in His Son (Galatians 3:26; 4:6). If God loved me while a wicked sinner who sinned without thinking of God, how much does He still love this sinner now?
I am tired of sinless perfection seeking. I only want to know that I have peace with God through faith in Christ (Romans 5:1). Jesus is my salvation both now and forevermore.
“Lord help me to not sin this day but forgive me of my sins as I forgive those who trespass against me.”
Having come face to face with my own sinfulness, my own lack of keeping the law of God, I have spent the last several months looking at the law and the gospel. While this is not new to Christianity, it is fairly new to me. I grew up in a church environment that was heavy on the law. You keep the law and God was happy. Break the law (which was often), God is now angry with you. The gospel was not the end but only a step to helping me keep myself clean. It was not Jesus period. It was Jesus who now enables me to keep the law and when I fail, back to the beginning.
We all sin. None of us are perfect. We read passages such as Romans 3:23 and acknowledge the universal sinfulness of mankind. But we miss the point that we are sinners ourselves. I am not arguing that we wake up each day thinking “what can I do today to violate the law of God” but we do sin. Whether we make sins into categories such as “sins of omission” and “sins of commission,” either way we do sin. Apart from grace, none of us can stand before a holy God. It is only through Christ that we can stand before a holy and totally pure God. The reason Christ died for my sins is not simply to enable me to be holy on my own power but He died because I am a sinner in need of forgiveness because I do sin (1 John 2:1-2).
Consider the command of Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40:
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Stop and consider how you are doing with that one? I’m not even good at it. I would love to say that I love God perfectly as Jesus taught. I would love to tell you that my love for God flows into loving my neighbor as myself. But the reality is that I fall way short of these two commands and Jesus said that law and the prophets hang on these two commandments. Do these and you’ll be perfect! But I don’t!
And thus the gospel comes into play. The law condemns me as a sinner (Romans 3:19) and the law teaches me that I need a Savior (Galatians 3:24). The law condemns me. The gospel saves me. The law shows me that I am a sinner (Romans 7:7). There is nothing wrong with the law of God (Romans 7:12) but the problem is me. I can’t keep the law. No matter how hard I try, I fail.
The gospel preaches peace to me. The law tells me to love God perfectly and my neighbor perfectly (Matthew 5:48). The gospel tells me Christ died for my sins and the sins of not loving God perfectly nor my neighbor as myself. The law tells me to love my wife as Christ loves His Church (Ephesians 5:25). The gospel tells me that Christ died for the sin of not loving my wife as Christ loves His Church (I am far from a perfect husband). The law tells me to pray, to worship, to evangelize, to give my money to the poor and to helping the kingdom of God, to do good to my neighbor especially of those of the household of faith, etc. but the gospel tells me that Christ died for my sins even the sins of not keeping the law perfectly.
Martin Luther taught two (and I would add a third) uses of the law. Lutherans debate the third use of the law. The three uses of the law are:
- For society, to curb man’s sinfulness.
- To condemn us a sinners and show us our need for salvation.
- To help the Christian in sanctification.
These three uses of the law are seen not just in the Bible but in life. Antinomians accept the first two uses of the law but not the third. I believe in preaching all three. Christians need to hear the law so that the Holy Spirit can help us in the process of sanctification. So for example a believer hears that we should pray (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer itself doesn’t justify us before God. We are justified only through Christ Jesus alone by grace alone though faith alone. Yet none would say that prayer is bad. Yet prayer can become a law. It was that way for me. I once held that a person should pray for 2 hours a day or God was not pleased. Prayer became a law and gospel for me. But prayer is not the gospel. The gospel is the death of Jesus for our sins and His resurrection for our justification (Romans 4:24-25; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Thus Jesus died for my sin of prayerlessness. Does this mean that I should not pray since Jesus died for my sin of prayerlessness? By no means! The key is to see prayer as flowing from my forgiveness and not from the law. I pray because Christ shed His blood for me (Hebrews 4:14-16).
This holds true of any law. The law if holy and good (1 Timothy 1:8-11). The law shows me how far I am far from the perfection of God. But the gospel shouts to me that I am accepted in the Beloved. I am holy before God because of Christ (Hebrews 10:10, 14) and not by my works. The law tells me to pursue holiness (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16) and this is good. The gospel tells me that I am accepted in Christ Jesus who bled and died for my sins (Romans 5:6).
This understanding of the law and the gospel has blessed me. It has brought some joy to my soul where joy has been lacking. For so long I have been full of pride, my own self-righteousness. I thought God was honored by my prayer life, my evangelism, my passion for God. Like Voddie Bauchman preaches, my works-righteousness muscle likes to flex. I would have, in the past, gladly acknowledged Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and would have gladly told you that I was saved by His grace alone but in reality I was full of pride, thinking more highly of myself than I ought (Philippians 2:3). I would have preached Christ but my focus was not on pleasing Christ per se but on men seeing how much I “loved” Jesus. Oh how much pride was in my heart! Oh wretched sinner that I was!
But Christ died for me. Christ bled and suffered for my sins. Jesus gave His life for my sins and now I am forgiven not because I keep the law but because I can’t keep the law (Galatians 3:10). Christ suffered in my place, for my sins (Galatians 3:13-14). I am saved now not because I keep the law but because of faith in Jesus Christ who gave His life for my sins. What a blessing! What a Savior!
I have no problem with the law. The law is good. The law comes from our holy God. Yet too many Christians try to live the law. You will always be falling short. Always. You will never obtain holiness by the law. Even if you think (as I did) that I had obtained a level of holiness by my striving, inside (like me) you’ll know that you stand condemned because you can’t keep the whole law (James 2:10). I have no problem preaching the law and calling Christians to repent of not keeping the law. But the balance of this is the gospel. The answer to not keeping the law is not more law. The answer is the gospel. The law condemns us as sinners. The gospel comforts us by pointing to Christ who died for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
Perhaps I am wrong on this. I don’t think so. I believe it’s biblically based. I know that this teaching has pushed me closer to Christ and not away. I still hate sin. I really do hate sin. I acknowledge that I do sin but I hate my sins. I am so grateful to God for giving me His Son for my sins (John 1:29). I stand condemned but Christ preaches to me no condemnation (Romans 8:1). Satan accuses me of sin and he is right to do so. But I trust in Christ alone for my salvation (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus has promised not only to save me from my sins (Matthew 1:21; Romans 6:1-4) but He has promised to keep me (Jude 24-25). I trust in Christ alone and not my works-righteousness before a holy God.
I know several brothers in the Lord who have sweet spirits. They are delightful to be around. They glow with love for others, are full of joy, and pour blessings onto others. I want that.
My own temperament is typically laid back, discerning (though I fear sometimes I am just plain critical), and often opinionated especially about theology. I am not argumentative contrary to what you might read. I don’t enjoy fighting. I would rather just talk. When I feel threatened, my face gets red (cursedness of being a white man). My boys have watched me debating someone and they always say that I look mad, that my face is red like fire.
I want a sweet spirit. I’m not sure how to cultivate that. I have prayed about this before. I want to be loving and kind.
When I was in full-time pastoral ministry, I was more or less a jerk. I admit that now. In those days I thought I was just being “biblical” and standing my ground for the truth. It was others who rejected God’s truth but not me! I heard a brother say once that it is better to be righteous than to be right. I wish I would have lived those words. I would use the pulpit to beat others up (not by name but by my teaching). I was right. Everyone else was wrong. I was not loving and kind. I was mean. No wonder I was “let go” from my position.
Having been out of “ministry” for over 10 years now, I see my errors. I am not writing this for sympathy or to beat myself up. I am done doing that. I am writing to confess before the Lord my desire to be like Him. Yes at times the Lord can be angry but His anger is not based on sin or pride. The Lord’s anger is a pure hatred of sin.
This leads me to the gospel. I look back at my past 20+ years of being a Christian and I see all the sins I have committed, all the times I have failed the Lord. I see how I failed him while I was serving in full-time pastoral ministry. Yet I am so grateful that He never gave up on me. The Lord Jesus could have cast me aside (as I would have long ago) but He has not. Jesus has been faithful to me. He has provided for me and for my family. Most of all, the Lord Jesus has been my Savior through all this. The Lord knows how many times I have prayed Psalm 51:1-2 or 1 John 1:9? The Lord knows how many times I have failed Him yet He has never failed me (2 Timothy 2:13).
The gospel teaches me that yes I am a sinner. No doubts there (Romans 3:10-18). Yet in Christ Jesus I am saved and forgiven and declared righteous before a holy God (Romans 3:22-27). My salvation is not me saving myself from myself but God saving me from Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). The gospel teaches me that my temperament can be transformed but only by the work of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). In my flesh, I cannot please God (Romans 8:8). No matter how much I try, I will never be perfect, will never do enough to please God (Isaiah 64:6). The gospel teaches me that Jesus alone is my salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31) and He alone is my mediator before the Father (Hebrews 4:14-16; 7:25). I am not lost today only because of the grace of God given freely to me in Christ Jesus my Lord (Romans 6:23).
I am so thankful for these small reminders of the faithfulness of God. I am far from perfect. Very, very far! But I trust in the perfect Savior who can save me perfectly (Philippians 1:6).
Thank you Lord Jesus for Your salvation and Your forgiveness! Where would I be without You?
I am nearing 42 years old. My hair is turning gray. I feel older. I am getting to that point in life where you start to ponder your past as well as your future. Thankfully, I know that Christ has saved me (despite my ups and downs over the years) and while I am very far from perfect, I do long to be like Christ. There is a hunger for sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3) that I pray for (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). I am thankful for the grace of God that brings salvation (Titus 2:11-12) and the grace of God that sustains me (Philippians 1:6). Without the Lord Jesus, I would not be saved (Romans 8:38-39; Jude 24-25).
What would I say to my younger self if I could write to me back then? I could write a book on this. Five points is not enough but for the sake of brevity, I will only do five.
First, I would say get closer to God for He alone is the only one who will satisfy. In my twenties, before marriage, I thought that a woman would satisfy me. She did not. I have had to learn the hard way that only God can fully satisfy the human heart. No wonder the Lord rebukes those who trust in flesh and make flesh their strength (Jeremiah 17:5). I use to quote that verse back when I was 18 years old and broke up with my first Christian girlfriend. How I wish that verse would have sunk deep into my soul. No person can satisfy like the Lord God. No one.
Secondly, you will change your theology along the way and that is okay. When I was a young man, I thought I had theology figured out. I would preach sermons and be so “right” about issues whether it be theology or life. I remember doing counseling (if you can call it that) in which I would just quote the Bible the entire time and not show any emotions or reactions. I would tell people to just read their Bible and do it! That was my advice. I was so legalistic toward others but not toward myself. I hated their sins but not nearly as much as I should have been hating my own (Romans 7:18). I also was uncharitable toward those whom I disagreed. How I wish I could go back and take back my theology debates with brothers and sisters. I wish I could have been filled with love and not with pride. I wish I could have been loving and kind instead of mean and bitter.
Thirdly, always remember that it is Jesus who keeps us and not we ourselves. As a young man, I would have given an “amen” to this but the reality for me was that I didn’t think God loved me unless I did all that He wanted me to do which was: pray, read my Bible, give 10% of my gross, support missions, do evangelism, worship, go to church, read Christian books, listen only to Christian music, avoid worldliness in every shape or fashion, avoid all sin, daily repent, etc. My entire Christian life was full of doing but inside I didn’t really believe God loved me. In fact, for many years I thought God hated me or at least He was disappointed in me. I would quote Romans 8:1 but it wasn’t in my heart. I would quote 1 John 4:19 but I didn’t really believe God loved me despite what I knew about the cross. I thought I had to prove my love for God but my actions (James 2:14-26) and thus I was caught in a “give and take” relationship in which God gave me His Son for my sins (John 3:16) but I had to give my all to Him (which mainly meant keeping the rules) to remain saved. When I would fall into sin (and I did many, many times), I would run to God and confess my sins (1 John 1:9) but I would hold to a sort of Catholic view of penance where I had to pray more, read my Bible more, share my faith more, go to church more to prove that I truly was sorry for what I had done. When I would fall again, I would do it all over again. I wish I could go back and just say, “Stop. Believe that you are loved by Christ and secure in Him. Make Him your delight and not your works.” I have learned much from Arminius here about the assurance of my salvation: that my salvation is based on the work of Jesus Christ and not my works (Philippians 3:3-11 and yes read it!)
Fourthly, “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). Proverbs 17:28 should drive you, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” Proverbs 13:3 says, “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” Proverbs 21:23, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”
If I could go back right here and tell my younger self to avoid using that tongue, you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache. How many have I hurt along the way? How many would I go back and try to say the kind thing, the right thing, the loving thing? When I was in my twenties, I remember taking my old faithful NIV and writing down countless references to the tongue from Proverbs. I posted them on a sticky note that I kept for many years. Why didn’t I abide by them? The preachers I hurt. The Christians I hurt. You’ll be a better man if you’ll just shut up.
Lastly, Christians will hurt you. A lot. I know you and I know you’ll want to preach on holiness, on how the church should be unified and all. But I promise you, Christians will hurt you and let you down a lot. Preachers will fail. Your own friends that you now have will turn away from Christ. A few will come back but only nominally. Every church you will attend will have people in it that will hurt you. The only one who will not hurt you will be the Lord Jesus. That is the good news. Just as I said back at the first point, God alone will remain faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). I’ve been an imperfect Christian now for over 20 years and I have had many, many Christians hurt me and I’ve hurt them (see the point above) but the Lord Jesus has remained the same (Hebrews 13:8). Don’t place your faith in others. They will fail you. Your wife will fail you (yes you do get married). You will fail your wife. You will be a let down to your friends, family, and your own children. But that is why you must point them to Christ. He is our only hope. He alone is the only one who is faithful and true.
But in the end, you will not listen to me. You’ll learn this the hard way you old stubborn mule.
Your Friend Till You Die,
PS – No the South Carolina Gamecocks will not win the national championship in football but they do in baseball (twice back to back) and the Dodgers will spend billions of dollars but do nothing with it. Oh and in 2004, place a large bet on the Red Sox to win it all! You’ll see why.
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.
– 1 Timothy 1:15
I find comfort in reading in the Bible that I am a sinner and that Christ came to die for me and my sins (Galatians 1:4). I know many people read the Bible looking for “keys” to a deeper life, keys to victory, keys to a happier marriage, keys to a stronger prayer life, etc. but I read the Bible looking for my sins. I want the mirror of God’s law to show me my ugliness and my sins so that I can repent and be refreshed (Acts 3:19-20; 1 John 1:9). There is something wonderful about seeing God’s holiness in the light of my sins. There is something beautiful that comes from confessing my sins.
Psalm 32:15-18 reads:
15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
When the Spirit of God confronts me about my sins, I love it! I really do! It shows me His great love for me, that He would not leave me as I am. Hebrews 12:7-11 reads:
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Notice verse 10. The Lord disciplines us so that we might share in His holiness. Amazing!
Tonight I could sit here and write all about my sins. I don’t need to. The point is not about me. The point is about why I need Jesus and you do as well. If Jesus came to save only the righteous, none of us would be saved (Romans 3:10-18). I have met people who think they never sin after getting saved but I have found that they were mostly prideful, arrogant, condescending, and full of their own flesh. They focused so much on themselves “not sinning” that they lost sight of their sins. I am not advocating living in blatant sin but I am calling us to recognize the truth that Jesus came to save sinners. Of course there is truth that those whom He saves become saints in Him (1 Corinthians 1:2). Jesus saves us out of a life of sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). That I know but He is also still saving me out of a life of sin. Sin is not out of me yet completely nor is it out of you. Let’s face it, we like sinning. No, we love sinning. That is why Jesus had to die for us. Because we enjoy sin.
And that is why I need Jesus. I like sinning. I don’t want to like it. In fact, I want to hate it. Yet I find that I enjoy sinning. I have sinned in many ways. I have let many people down over the years. Those who know me best know I am not perfect. I never confess to be. Oh there was a time I thought I was all that. Not anymore. I see my sins. I know my sins. I hate my sins.
It’s funny how people think that we Christians are suppose to be perfect. I have yet to meet a perfect Christian. I have met arrogant Christians. I have met prideful Christians. I have been those myself. Yet I have never met a perfect saint. Every person I have known who truly loved Jesus needed Him. They knew it. I knew it. Jesus knows it. Even the godliest people I have known, once you get close to them you can just smell the flesh. They hate it. I hate it. Jesus still saves them.
So here I sit writing at nearly 2 AM in the morning. I can’t sleep. I am pondering the truth that Jesus loves me and died for my sins. Yet I still struggle with sin. I recently had lunch with a godly man and I asked him how about sanctification. I want to be holy, I told him, but I struggle to be holy. I see my sins and I see how far I am from being like Jesus. Yet I still want to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). So how can I be holy? His reply: look to Jesus and love Him and obey Him. He died for you while you were still a sinner (Romans 5:8). His love hasn’t changed since the day I first believed the gospel and He saved me.
So tonight I issue this call to all who know me: you know I am a sinner. You know that I sin. Yet that is why I need Jesus. I am not perfect. I am not a perfect father. I am not a perfect worker. I am not a perfect saint. I am not a perfect “deacon” (as a guy at work calls me). I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I thank God for sending such a Savior. I cannot earn His forgiveness (Titus 3:5). My salvation is based on the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9) and He alone is my salvation and assurance before a holy and just G0d (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).
The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). That is me.
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.” 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say:
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,
4 and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
5 And he 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, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 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’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.
– Luke 11:1-8
Persistence in prayer is something I think many of us need. I know I do. My prayer life tends to go up and down depending on many issues. There have been seasons of prayer in my life where I was praying earnestly and full of faith. Then there are times of prayerlessness.
In Luke 11 we find the disciples asking Jesus to teach them how to pray. He gives them a model of prayer in verses 2-4 which are similar though not the same as Matthew 6:9-13. The New King James along with the KJV add words to make these two texts match. Most Greek texts do not have these additions. I think this is important because the “Lord’s prayer” is not a magical prayer meant to be uttered and repeated over and over again. The Lord Jesus is teaching His disciples a model prayer. Prayer is not just reciting words. Prayer is not just reading prayers. Prayer flows from the child of God to our Father who hears our cries. The disciples surely knew this having watched the Lord Jesus pray. It was His prayer life that they asked for Him to teach them. Not His miracles. Not His teaching style. Not His leadership style. It was the prayer life of our Lord that the disciples saw and asked Him to teach them about.
I have been around saints of God who knew how to pray. They would walk and talk with God all the day (1 Thessalonians 5:17). There was a persistence in their prayer life that was continually. They walked with God like Enoch of old (Genesis 5:24). Prayer was like breathing to many of these saints of God. I have heard the stories of the great prayer warriors such as Leonard Ravenhill and E.M. Bounds. I have heard of the prayer life of David Brainerd and David Livingstone. I have heard of the prayer lives of John Wesley and George Whitefield. Their ministries were marked with souls but also with prayer. Wesley would often rise up early in the morning before the sun came up to pray. Martin Luther would labor for hours in prayer.
Where are the men of prayer today? In fact, many of the intercessors I know of are women. I praise God for them. I thank God for godly women who pray like Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. The Holy Spirit placed women among the Apostles as they waited for the promise of the Father in Acts 1:14. These women were praying along with the men of God. We need mighty women of God. But where are the men who pray? Where are the men known for their prayer lives and the ministries marked by prayer?
Our Lord teaches us here in Luke 11 that prayer is to be marked with persistence (v.8). The ESV translates the word as “impudence.” I like the old KJV here as it translates it “importunity.” The MacArthur Study Bible states it like this:
It conveys the ideas of urgency, audacity, earnestness, boldness, and relentlessness – like the persistence asking of a desperate beggar.
I like that image. Beggars tend to just ask and then move along. They don’t tend to be very persistent. Jesus states that we are to be persistence in our praying. It is not because God is not willing to hear us nor answer us. In fact, that is the opposite of what Jesus is saying. Our Father hears us and He knows our needs. Jesus said in Matthew 6:8 that our Father knows what we need even before we ask Him. If a friend will get up to give to the beggar what he needs, how much more will our Father give us what we need?
The balance is to pray the will of God. The Lord Jesus is not saying that if we are persistent in asking for something, God will relent and give in. As we pray the will of the Father, the Father hears us and He answers according to His will (1 John 5:14-15). Jesus said that He always did the will of Him who sent Him (John 6:38). Jesus prayed to be close to His Father and to do His will. Jesus submitted Himself completely to the Father to do His will (Hebrews 5:7-10).
As we persist in prayer, we are submitting our selves to God. We want to do His will. Prayer prepares us to do that will. When we truly pray, we are wanting to honor the Lord and to bring glory to Him. This is not about us. This isn’t praying about foolish things. This is about praying for the glory and honor God. This is gospel-centered praying. Like beggars, we know that our Father is the best and He is our reward. This is not about finding bread. This is about finding and seeking the One who gives us bread.
Finally, a word about praying. I don’t want condemnation to come over you. I have lived before under condemnation about prayer. When I was in college I read that if a minister doesn’t pray for two hours a day, they are not worth a dime a dozen. I wept at that because I was not praying for two hours a day so I made up my mind to pray for two hours a day. I was a failure to say the least. My “prayer life” was more about staring at the clock to get in my two hours. At one point I was up to praying an hour a day but I was not praying. I was hitting the clock. I was doing my praying for others to notice my “prayer life.” I wanted others to pat me on the back for my prayer life. I look back now with sadness on those times. My prayer times were not powerful times with the Lord. They were just words uttered for others to notice me (Matthew 6:5).
I long to just walk with God now. I long to talk to Him like a friend, like a brother, like a father. My little boys can just cry out and I’ll run to them. They don’t have to say over and over again “Daddy” for me to run. If they were in trouble, I would not come to them and say, “Do you really believe I am able to help you? Seems to me that you haven’t been talking to me much and so I’m going to leave you be.” No! I help my boys because I love my boys and I want what is best for them. The same is true of God our Father.
Hebrews 4:14-16 is so precious to me now. My prayer life will never match the Lord Jesus’ prayer life. He was perfect in every single way. He bore my sins including my prayerlessness. I am not advocating laziness in prayer. Luke 11:1-8 shatters that. There is a persistence in prayer lives. In fact, Luke 11:9-10 speaks of this persistence further:
9 And 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.
But the balance of this is to see that our Father is good and He wants to answer our prayers as the Lord Jesus states in verses 11-13 where He contrasts our earthly fathers with our heavenly Father:
11 What father among you, if his son 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? 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!
If our earthly fathers would not be evil toward us (we hope), will our heavenly Father be evil toward us? Of course not! Our Father is good and He is loving and kind. The Lord Jesus demonstrated that perfect love (Romans 5:8-9).
The gospel enables us to pray. We don’t come before our Father with our righteousness. We come in the name of Jesus who is our salvation, our righteousness before a holy God (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). We come in the name of Jesus because He is our high priest before the Father (Hebrews 10:10-14). We come in the name of Jesus because He is our advocate and our friend (John 14:12-14). Through the Lord Jesus, we are able to approach the throne of God and He hears our cries.
I rejoice in the Lord that He hears our prayers! May God be glorified through the prayers of the saints of God (Revelation 5:8).
In 2 Kings 21:1-9 we read:
Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. 2 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel. 3 For he rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah his father had destroyed, and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. 4 And he built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem will I put my name.” 5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. 6 And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger. 7 And the carved image of Asherah that he had made he set in the house of which the Lord said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name forever. 8 And I will not cause the feet of Israel to wander anymore out of the land that I gave to their fathers, if only they will be careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the Law that my servant Moses commanded them.” 9 But they did not listen, and Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel.
In our wicked world it is easy to look around at our wicked, sinful leaders and see the judgment of God. I look around at my own culture and I see evidence of Romans 1. People are full of sin.
However, my hope is in the Lord God and in His Word. I have hope in the gospel. I know that Jesus will triumph and He alone is King of kings and He alone is Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15-16). Jesus reigns even now from heaven (Acts 3:19-21). His reign includes all His enemies coming under His feet (Psalm 110:1; 1 Corinthians 15:24-26). I look around at the wicked world and I can easily be full of despair but my hope is that the gospel will go forth and the reign of Jesus will never be stopped.
In 2 Kings 21:1-9 we read of the wicked king of Judah, Manasseh. I have yet to live under such a wicked king. We have had wicked men and women in the past but few compare to the wickedness of Manasseh. Manasseh went so far in his idolatry that he built altars in Jerusalem in the temple of Yahweh to his false gods. He offered his own sons on the altars to his false gods. 2 Kings 21:16 says, “Moreover, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides the sin that he made Judah to sin so that they did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.”
After Manasseh, his son Amon reigned as king over Judah and he followed in the footsteps of Manasseh. Amon was a wicked king.
After Amon, however, comes Josiah. 2 Kings 22:2 says, “And he what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.”
The Lord raised up a Josiah after the wickedness of Manasseh and Amon. This gives me hope. This encourages me.
In my own wicked nation, I see our leaders full of sin. They are full of idolatry, greed, corruption, they support the murdering of millions of babies at the altars of the gods of conveyance and sex. Our leaders are just like Manasseh in many ways. They even shed innocent blood not just in unjust wars and wicked attacks on citizens but they support the abortion mill industries which murder innocent babies each and every day. In my own state and in my own city I see the wickedness of our leaders even on a local level. They give in to the sexually perverted who want their “rights” and they support the wickedness of racism and abortion on demand. Yes it is easy to be discouraged.
But I have hope that God can raise up a Josiah. My hope is not in politicians. They are corrupt. My hope is not in men. They are corrupt. My hope is in the Lord God who can turn the tide through His gospel. My hope is in the gospel (Romans 1:16-17). Josiah was a mighty man of God. We need mighty men of God to turn not just my own nation but he nations of this fallen, sinful world to the Lord God. This will not come through politicians or through political reform (though they will happen through the gospel) but will only come through a man of God being faithful to God.
My hope is that the wicked nations of this world (which is all of them) will turn to the Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel transformed the Roman Empire and turned them away from idolatry to the truth of the gospel. Over time, corrupt church leaders corrupted the gospel and turned the church in Rome away from the gospel to idolatry that we now see as the Roman Catholic Church but I have hope that Catholics will repent and be saved. I have hope that the nations will be saved by the grace of God.
We read in many places that the nations will bow down to the Lord God (see Psalm 22:27; 86:8-9; Isaiah 2:3; Revelation 15:4). Jesus has conquered the nations by His death and resurrection and He now commands us to make disciples in every nation until He reigns forevermore (Matthew 28:18-20).
May God send a revival of His truth!