Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What is Prayer?

We are beginning January 2018 with a series titled, "Devoted to Prayer" (cf. Col 4:2). Prayer is an essential activity in a Christian's life. It is natural to the child of God to pray unto Him. It is absolutely necessary to the Christian life. Prayer is just as necessary as doctrine. A well-balanced Christian has both an ever-growing knowledge of doctrine and an ever-deepening life of prayer. Knowledge is useless without prayer, just as prayer is useless without knowledge.

Consider the two extremes: First, consider the person who has no knowledge of true doctrine, but prays for hours a day. Devotees of false religions often pray many times a day, but their prayers are neither to the true God nor in the name of Jesus Christ. These prayers, though they be many, are ineffectual and unheard. Second, consider the person who has a doctorate in theology, but never prays. This person is a walking encyclopedia of doctrine. But he never prays. His theology is deficient in the sense that it has not made it from his head to his heart. It has never become anything other than academic. It has not affected him in any real way. Martyn Lloyd Jones wrote "The ultimate test of my understanding of the Scriptural teaching is the amount of time I spend in prayer. As theology is ultimately the knowledge of God, the more theology I know, the more it should drive me to seek to know God.” Since theology (doctrine) is knowledge and instruction about God, then the more we know of His awesome character and His mighty deeds in history, the more we should be drawn into a relationship with Him through prayer.

Yet it would seem that there is nothing more neglected in the Christian life today than a life of prayer. How different that is from the New Testament. The early church was devoted to prayer (Acts 2:42), and they were effective evangelists. "The Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47). The apostles devoted themselves to the Word and prayer (Acts 6:4). Yet not even many pastors could be characterized as "devoted to prayer." And like pastor, like people (cf. Hos 4:9). Let us challenge ourselves to devote ourselves to prayer as we begin the new year.

In four weeks, we are considering the "What," "How," "When," and "Why" of prayer.
You can listen to the sermons here:

First, we considered what prayer is. We defined it simply as talking with God. We drew nine statements that describe this activity of talking to God. These nine are by no means exhaustive, but are certainly representational.

1. Prayer is Worship -
Matthew 6:9-10 - "Hallowed by Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done."

2. Prayer is the Natural Response of the Christian Heart to God in EVERY Circumstance
Philippians 4:6-7 - "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

3. Prayer is Heartfelt (Not Formulaic)
Matthew 6:7 - "And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words."

4. Prayer is a Privilege Granted to the Christian
Hebrews 4:16 - "Let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

5. Prayer is Something God is Most Ready and Willing to Hear
Proverbs 15:8 - "The prayer of the upright is His delight."

6. Prayer is Where the Believer Pours out Their Soul to God
1 Samuel 1:15 - "I have poured out my soul before the Lord."

7. Prayer is Difficult!
Ephesians 6:18 - "With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints."

8. Prayer is Something in Which the Devil Wants to Hinder Us
Ephesians 6:12 - "Our struggle is not against the flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."

9. Prayer is the Secret of Holiness
Psalm 51:10 - "Create in me a clean heart."

Let us devote ourselves to prayer, coming before our Father in adoration and holiness with great sincerity as a response to every situation, knowing that He is ready and willing to hear us.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Proverbs 1:7

 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
   Fools despise wisdom and instruction”

We come to an important concept in the book of Proverbs: the fear of the LORD. The fear of the LORD is an inclusion in the first nine chapters of Proverbs (cf. 9:10 – “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”) which form a unit. It is also an inclusion for the entire book (cf. 31:30 – “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised”). So the fear of the LORD begins and ends the first section of Proverbs as well as begins and ends the book. It is also a prominent theme within the book itself.

The fear of the LORD...
  • • is the beginning of knowledge (Prov 1:7, 29; 2:5)
    • is the beginning of wisdom (9:10; 15:33),
    • instills confidence (14:26)
    • makes rich (22:4).
    • prolongs life (10:27),
    • is a fountain of life (14:27),
    • leads to life (19:23),
    • is rewarded with life (22:4).
    • is to hate the evil God hates (8:13; 16:6; 23:17).
No wonder that “Better is a little with the fear of the LORD Than great treasure and turmoil with it” (15:16)! So if we gain anything, let us gain the fear of the LORD.

What does it mean to fear the LORD? There are three basic meanings to the Hebrew word “fear.” It can mean “terror” or something of which one is afraid. Or is can mean to be awed by something. Or it can mean to revere or respect something. There is certainly an element of each. The LORD is fearsome in power and might. He is totally righteous and justly angry with sin. Sinners should certainly fear Him and His judgment. But those who have been saved by His great grace have confidence and will not shrink away from Him (1 John 2:28). We also stand in awe of who He is. We are amazed at His power and might. We wonder at the great love which He has shown us in salvation. It is also true that we revere Him. We respect Him. And we submit unto Him.

When we fear God, we have nothing else to fear! We stand before God in reverence, seeking to honor His name and exalt Him. Acquiring the fear of the LORD is the most important thing we will ever do. It is the first step toward true knowledge, because God is truth. If one does not have God, he has nothing; and if he does have God, he has everything he needs for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3). He is led into all knowledge by the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:27). Those who do not have God may know some true things (by God’s grace), but their worldview is complete folly, because they have not believed the true God. Their worldview is not built upon the truth of God’s Word. They have traded the truth of God’s Word for foolishness. The fool despises the wisdom and instruction that comes from God.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Psalm 1:6 - God Knows His Children

God knows His children. Isn’t that a wonderful sentence? God knows His children. This is the truth expressed in the final verse of Psalm 1. In direct contrast to the destruction of the wicked on the day of judgment in verse 5, verse 6 says that “the LORD knows the way of the righteous.” 

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This is the ultimate reason why the righteous person is blessed: because the LORD knows him. He knows His children. This is more than a knowledge of their existence, for God knows all things. This is a statement of intimacy. God knows personally those who are His. In fact, the psalmist uses the personal name of God (LORD in all capital letters stands in place of the divine name Yahweh/Jehovah) demonstrating His intimacy with those whom He knows. To them He extends His grace and lovingkindness that they would not perish on the day of judgment but dwell in the house of the LORD forever and ever.

If we have believed in Jesus Christ, we can know with certainty that we will never face the wrath of God, for this is what is means to know God. Jesus is the way to gain access to the Father (John 14:6). He is the only way to have fellowship with the Father (1 John 2:23). We must believe God’s testimony concerning His Son which was passed down through His apostles to us today in the form of the New Testament and was promised beforehand in the prophets of the Old Testament. If we believe in the Son of God, we also have the Father. And this is eternal life: to know the Father and the Son whom He sent (cf. John 17:3).

Dear child of God, the Father knows you. Fear no wrath, but keep yourself in the love of God. Be sure that you delight daily in God through His Word and prayer, and you will be like a tree planted by many streams of water, yielding fruit in abundance, blessed by God.

"But the way of the wicked will perish." Do not let this be the way you choose. Choose the way of life through Christ Jesus. For all those who are not in Christ on that day, they will be thrown into the Lake of Fire. I urge you to believe in Jesus and trust God for forgiveness of sins. Be known by God.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Psalm 1:5 - One Way or the Other

It has been some time since I last wrote here. We were meditating on Psalm 1 one verse at a time. And we come to the penultimate verse today.

“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.”

That is not seeker friendly, is it? It is blunt. It is a hard truth. It is something that we shy away from talking about. But it is true. And we must be bold to meditate and proclaim those things that are difficult. We love to preach the glories of heaven (and we should!). But we cannot neglect to speak of the horrors of hell.

One day, God will judge the world through Jesus Christ. And all those who have believed the Gospel of Jesus Christ—that He died to take the punishment of sin and that He was raised again on the third day, indicating that God accepted and was pleased with the atonement of Christ—will enter into His rest. But those who have not believed in Jesus will be thrown into the lake of fire.

The psalmist puts it this way: “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,” because the wicked do not stand on every word of God, but proclaim themselves wise (when they are really fools) and exchange God’s glory for whatever pleases their heart (cf. Rom 1). Because they have not honored God or believed His Word, they are chaff which will be scattered at the judgment. “He will be summoned to the great white throne there to find that the heaven and the earth have fled away. Everything familiar will be gone. Everything he has sought to build, everything in which he has invested his time and his talents—gone! He has nowhere to stand. He has built his house upon the sand and the judgment has swept it all away.” (Phillips, 21).

Sinners will not stand in the judgment nor in the assembly of the righteous. There is no fooling God. You are either with Him or against Him. You are either of Christ or you are of the Devil. There is no other option. Will you be chaff that is scattered? Will you be weighed in the scales on that day and be found wanting? If you do not stand in Christ, you will not stand at all.

If you are in Christ, you will indeed stand on that day. You will be part of the righteous assembly worshipping the Lamb forever and ever. Let this verse make us hunger for the conversion of souls. Let us go out daily fishing for those who will turn to Jesus and be saved. Let us proclaim our great Savior among those who are wicked sinners who scoff at righteousness. Let us call those who are dead in sins to life in Christ.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Psalm 15 Scripture Reading and Prayer

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