Hands folded in prayer
Hands folded in prayer

Principles of Prayer Part 9

RS: This is the 9th lesson in the series that we’ve been doing on prayer, and if you’ll recall, the first four sessions were on what I call “principles” of prayer. We looked at having the right motives when we pray. We looked at the importance of praying by faith. We looked at a couple of parables that talk about how important it is to really persevere in your prayer life. Then we spent two weeks on what I consider, and this is my opinion, the most important, what I think is one of the most important areas of prayer, and that is thanksgiving. It’s part of really worshipping God, and, if you’ll recall, I said that thanksgiving is so significant not only because it pleases God, but also because it impacts our lives. It has an impact on us personally. It’s a way, if you think about it, to humble yourself before God, when you truly give Him all the credit, all the honor, all the glory, for all the good that’s in your life. We talked about the fact that it has to be cultivated. It’s something that you have to be intentional about. Then, the last two sessions were on, how do we pray in the midst of the storms of life? How do we pray? Because, ultimately, I think God, He will use our storms, or the storms that we encounter, purposefully, in our lives. Now today, we’re going to look at what I call two neglected areas of prayer, and interestingly, they are both found in The Lord’s Prayer. So, if you would, let’s turn to Matthew 6, and go down to verse 9. Matthew 6:9-13. Reed, you want to read those for us?

Reed: Sure. “This, then, is how you should pray:” ‘Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

RS: Everybody recognize that? You know, most people say the Lord’s Prayer is considered a model prayer that Jesus has given to us, His people. One thing that’s important to notice, it’s kind of very radical, when Jesus gave this to them, because it was early in the ministry. It was in the Sermon on the Mount. He says, when you address God, you’re to call Him Father. Our Father. You don’t see that anywhere in the Old Testament, and that’s one of the important teachings in the New Testament, part of the New Covenant, is that when you become a Christian, you are adopted into God’s family. You see that in Romans 8:15. You see it in the book of Galatians. We cry out and call Him “Abba Father” and we become an heir. See, that’s what happens, that’s how you become a child of God, you enter into this relationship with Christ, you’re adopted into His family, you become a child of His, you become an heir. Now, I want to ask you a question. How many times in your life do you think you’ve said the Lord’s Prayer?

Audience member(s): A lot.

RS: A lot. Let me ask you this question. How many times have you said the Lord’s Prayer and not really thought about what you were praying? A lot? Isn’t it amazing how we take it for granted, we’ve said it so much, yet, Jesus said this is the way to pray. What I want to do today, as I mentioned, is look at two areas of prayer that I think are neglected, but I think as we go through the both of them, I think you’re going to see that they’re both very important. And the first one is found in verse 13. Take a look at that. And by the way, notice, before I make this comment. What is this a prayer of? It’s a prayer of what? It starts with a “P”.

Unidentified audience member: Peace?

RS: Protection. He says, in fact, notice, the King James and the NIV don’t use the same language most people use when they pray. It says “lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from” what? The evil one! Not just evil, but the evil one. Basically, it’s a prayer of protection. Deliver us from the evil one. Deliver us from the forces of darkness. Guys, Christ tells us we should pray for this type of protection and the question that I want to ask you is, do we do it. Do we pray this way? I mean, it seems, if He is telling us the importance of it, shouldn’t we be praying this? Now, if you go back to the early church, this was a major part of their prayer life. Not only spiritual protection, but physical protection. Several years ago, somebody gave me, believe it or not, I can’t remember when it was actually printed, but it was the 1662 Anglican Prayer Book. Four hundred and fifty years old. Is my math right on that?

Unidentified audience member: No.

RS: Almost. Come on now. What is it?

Unidentified audience member: 350.

RS: Yeah, you’re right. 350. It’s old! 450 sounded better. Think about it. In 1662, you had three different churches. You had the Roman Catholic Church, you had the Eastern Orthodox Church, which is now considered, called the Greek Orthodox, and you had the Protestant Church, which was really just the Anglican Church, which was centered in England. This was probably a hundred years before the mainline denominations. But, you know what, you won’t believe how many prayers are different prayers for protection that they have in this prayer book that’s 350 years old. And one of them that I thought was kind of funny, Fred you’ll appreciate this. They had prayers for those that are going out to sea. Do you think people that are getting on the Royal Caribbean today; do you think they worry about the ship sinking? You see, all these kinds of prayers of protection. You see it throughout the Old Testament as well. Have any of you, I’m curious, this has been probably 25 years ago, but it was a best-selling book. It was called The Prayer of Jabez. Any of you heard of that book? Remember the book? Basically, it’s a short little book written about this single prayer prayed by Jabez in I Chronicles 4:10. And he talks about asking God to bless him. He asks God to, basically to “enlarge my borders”. I’m not sure exactly what he meant by that, and then he says this. “And Lord, I pray that Your hand would be with me and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And it says that,”God answered his prayer.” And so, you do see prayer, you see this throughout the Bible. But this is what I’m realizing, guys, this is a practice that most Christians haven’t built into their prayer lives. And why do you think that is?

Unidentified audience member: Making the distinction between protection, and the protection from evil and temptation…

RS: Well, there’s spiritual and physical protections.

Unidentified audience member: This says, “lead us not into temptation”…

RS: Yes, but we’re going to come and look at some more in a minute. But whether it’s physical or spiritual, we don’t really pray that much. I don’t think it’s in most people’s prayer lives. Why do you think it isn’t?

Unidentified audience member: They don’t think they need it?

RS: They don’t think they need it. First of all, you know, we are very intelligent, sophisticated people, and to pray that God would protect us from forces of darkness, spiritual forces of darkness, you know, that is just so old and antiquated. Smart people don’t think about that, they don’t think that’s an issue. And, as someone pointed out Wednesday, that’s when you’re in trouble. You know, that’s not a problem for me. Any other reasons? Think about it. We have seatbelts today. We have airbags. We have alarm systems. We have the Consumer Products Safety Commission. We have the FDA. We have the police, we have the military, we have modern medicine, think about why in the world do I need God’s protection. Look at all the protection I’ve got. I think that could be part of it. But let me ask you this. Even if that is the case, what about protection for our souls? It seems to me that today, our souls are probably more vulnerable, and our kids’ souls are more vulnerable than ever. And so, if Jesus tells us that we should pray for God’s protection, and granted, as Dan said, He’s really just focusing on spiritual protection, but you’re going to see, in the Old Testament, they prayed for all kinds of protection. And, like I said, the early church prayed for it. Let’s look at a couple of verses. Turn to Psalm 4. While we’re doing that, comments or questions, anybody?

Unidentified audience member: You see that in the translation, you’ll see in some churches, they still use the “forgive us our debts” as we “forgive our debtors”. Are you going to talk about that?

RS: Yes, that’s number two.

Unidentified audience member: Another thing, that I have heard, is that this is not a great translation because God does not actually lead us into temptation.

RS: Jeffrey Bell brought that up. That the Amplified is a little better on it.

Unidentified audience member: [unintelligible 12:09]

RS: Yes, that’s exactly right. Anybody else? Everybody at Psalm 4? Before we start, let me just tell you, this is an important part of my prayer life, and let me tell you how I start it…I start it by…

Unidentified audience member:  Are we still on point number one? Or are we into the second neglected area?

RS: No, we’re going to be in the first for a while. It’s protection. I pray for protection.

Unidentified audience member: I’ve got to get organized.

RS: Drew is…he’s very organized. I can go astray, there’s no doubt about it. This is something, after I do my prayers of thanksgiving, I usually go into my prayers of protection, and you know where I start? I start with Psalm 27:1, it says that “God is the defense of my life.” The NIV says He is the stronghold of my life. I just say, Lord, You’re the defense of my life, and there are only a certain number of things that I can do. Remember, I just thought of this. Is it Psalm 127? It says, “Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain?” Remember that verse?  Psalm 127:1. That’s kind of what I’m thinking, Lord I can do all these things, but ultimately, you’re the defense of my life. Who’s got Psalm 4:8? Everybody there? Shannon, you want to read Psalm 4:8?

Shannon: “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, made me dwell in safety.”

RS: “You alone, O Lord, made me dwell in safety.” Turn over to Psalm 18. Dan, I’ll let you read those, if you would, Psalm 18:1-3.

Dan:  “I love You, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in Whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, Who is worthy to be praised, And I am saved from my enemies.” Sorry I had no reading glasses.

RS: I was going to say, where are your glasses?

Dan: A little slower than normal; had to concentrate.

(Laughter and chatter)

RS:  Dan’s one of our better readers, I was wondering. Let’s look at two more. Psalm 32:7.

Dan:  I don’t want to read anymore.

RS: I’m not going to ask you. Don’t ever call on me again. (Laughter) I do have some guys say, don’t ever call on me to read. I say okay, I won’t. Frank, Psalm 32:7.

Frank: “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”

RS: Okay. And then Psalm 40:11. Russell, I’ll let you read that if you would.

Russell: “Do not withhold Your mercy from me, may Your love and faithfulness always protect me.”

RS: Okay. Guys, this is just a handful. I’ve got a whole laundry list of verses that really look to God as their protector. As their defender. Let’s talk about it in our own personal lives. I think it’s crucial that you ask God to protect your wife, and listen to this, and your marriage. Marriage and family are truly under great attack, and I think you see, I mean, we don’t need to get into political, but so many politicians really believe that the major problems that we’re seeing, particularly in our cities, is the breakdown of the family. But, you know what, you can say breakdown of the family, and it can be in any community. And I really do think that one of the greatest ways that the enemy can undermine the church and God’s people is to break up the family. And so, what I pray is, Lord I pray that you would give Holly and I the grace to live out our marriage vows, and that you would protect our marriage from temptation and evil. And I pray for my children by name. I pray for their protection, their spiritual protection. I pray for their spiritual lives. I pray that God would give them the eyes to see the lies of life. But then you need to be sure that you pray for your own protection. Because, what’s going to happen to your marriage, what’s going to happen to your family, what’s going to happen to your witness as a Christian if you fall to pornography, or unfaithfulness, or dishonesty, or pride, whatever?

And so, I’m just kind of sharing with you my example. As I pray, I start with my prayer of protection, by standing on, “Lord You are the defense of my life”, and I start with spiritual protection, and I pray “Lord I pray that You would lead us,” my family, that You would “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”, and then I stand on a promise that He makes. You know when God gives you a promise, you’ve got to claim the promise, you’ve got to ask Him, say, Lord I believe what You say is true, I stand on this.  Maybe the most important verse when it comes to protection. A little tiny neglected verse. II Thessalonians 3:3. I’m going to read also from Matthew, and this is right before Jesus, this is when Jesus is in the Garden. We’re going to spend a few more minutes going through the scripture, and then I’m going to stop, and see what questions you have, because I know that there’s something probably going through your mind. Does it mean that if I pray all these prayers of protection that nothing is ever going to happen to me? Hold that thought. II Thessalonians 3:3, Bill how about reading that for us.

Bill: “But the Lord is faithful and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”

RS: That’s pretty cut and dry. But you have to claim it. You have to pray it, and you have to ask Him for it. It’s kind of like seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened. My prayer is Lord I stand on Your promise, I pray, because You are faithful, that you will protect us, and strengthen us against the forces of darkness, and I thank You for doing that. Before I move on, listen to what Jesus tells His disciples. He’s there to be taken, He’s near to being crucified. Listen to what He tells His disciples. Matthew 26:41. He says, “Keep watching,” now these are Jesus’ words, “Keep watching and keep praying that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is…” what?

Audience member(s): Weak.

RS: Weak. But notice what He says. He says, men, first of all, you’ve got to be vigilant. Think about it. Think about the things in life that you’ve fallen into, if you’d been more vigilant, basically, it wouldn’t have happened. That’s why we’re told in Proverbs 4:23, he says, you’ve got to watch over your heart with all diligence, because from your heart flows the springs of life. You’ve got to watch what goes into your; you’ve got to watch for the evil and the temptation and he says, you’ve got to keep watching, and you have to keep praying that you may not enter into temptation. So, that’s kind of the spiritual prayer of protection. Yes, Pete?

Pete: Can you just touch on that family thing you mentioned? What made you comment on that?

RS: I tell you what happened. I was just sharing about what I actually pray for in my marriage, and my children, and I said, it just seems to me, particularly based on so much of the counseling work we do, and what you just see out in the culture, marriage is really, marriages are coming apart. But, really, what I was referring to is that, think of how many kids are born into the world, basically, usually, without a father. And so, you see a real dysfunctional family life because of that. So, it was really kind of a general statement, but it seems to be worse, because, if you go back to the 60s, and look at the percentage of kids that are born out of wedlock, and you compare them to today, the number has just gone through the roof. And I think it’s created a problem. You know I’m really going off track, but I’m glad you asked the question. You know, I look at my life, the two people that have had the greatest influence on me are Christ and my Dad. Now, my Mother has, too, don’t get me wrong, but those are the two most important relationships that have influenced my life. And I think a lot of you can say that yourselves.

Now, what about physical protection? Should we be praying for that? I think from some of the verses that we read, we should. And I want to ask you if you would to turn to a famous Psalm. Jim Ryan, I don’t know how many of you know Jim Ryan, he shared yesterday that this was the most famous scripture in the Bible during World War II. Psalm 91. You’ll see why in a minute. Now, I haven’t memorized it perfectly, but I’ve memorized it, and I’ve put it into my own language, but I’ll kind of share with you what I pray. Everybody at Psalm 91? You really need to read the whole psalm. It’s really very powerful. But this is what I’ve picked out. Verse 3. Lord I pray that you would deliver me from the snares of the trapper. You know what a trapper is? It’s somebody that seeks to entrap you, to harm you. Someone that you might not see. They’re all over the place. They prey on people. I pray that You would deliver us from the snare of the trapper and from deadly pestilence and disease. And then on down in verse 4, I pray that You would cover us with Your pinions. A pinion is a feather, like a bird’s feather. I pray that You would cover us with Your pinions, under Your wings we might seek refuge, that You would be a shield about each of us. Then you go down to verse 10; that no evil will befall us, nor any plague would come near our home. And then, I end with, and Lord, verse 11, I pray that You would give Your angels charge concerning us, to guard us in all of our ways. This weekend, my wife and I are going up to see our daughter in college up in Tennessee, and my oldest son, in fact, right now is en route to Starkville to see Auburn play, and so, I pray Psalm 121:8, and it says, I will guard your going out and your coming in. But, I pray it, I ask it. Maybe one of my favorites. I just love this verse. Psalm 16:8-9, let me just read it. “I have set the Lord continually before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken, therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices and my flesh will dwell securely.” Notice what he starts with. Because I have set the Lord continually before me. That’s what this is all about. Looking to Him to do something in your life. Let me stop here. I threw out that thought-provoking question. Does that mean if I pray all these prayers I don’t have to worry about temptation, I don’t ever have to worry about any trouble? What are your thoughts, what are your questions, or comments? Brad?

Brad: When you mentioned I Chronicles, I went and took a look at just those two verses. I thought it was interesting, maybe even wise, that what it says, is that “you would keep me from evil”, and then it says, “that I may not cause pain.”

RS: Oh, wow.

Brad: Not that nothing would come to me, but that I might not use …[unintelligible 26:39-26:40].

RS: That’s good. Very good. What else? Let me say this. I really believe, guys, that if we pray for God’s protection, that it will make a difference. Otherwise, Jesus would not have used it in the Lord’s Prayer. Do you agree? Now, does that mean I’ll never have any type of trouble or difficulty in my life? No, that doesn’t mean that. I will stop and digress for a minute. I don’t know how many of you were here a couple of weeks ago, and I don’t know if we’ve ever really thought about this, but I shared with you how I went to Jay Lloyd who does our counseling, one of our counselors. He’s very wise, he’s very mature, and if you remember, I asked him. Jay, when it comes to the storms of life, how many of the storms, would you say, are the result of us shooting ourselves in the foot? Or self-infliction, or reaping what we’ve sown. He thought about it, and then he said, probably ninety-something percent. And we talked about this, you know, when Jesus said, seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. I’m meeting with a guy right now, I’m meeting with two guys right now, going through major storms, and I’m sitting there thinking, you know, I don’t say this to them, but, it’s kind of like, what were you thinking when you did that? So, you know, it’s amazing; it still doesn’t mean that we won’t mess up. It still doesn’t mean that storms won’t come into our lives. Think about it this way. God refers to Himself, we read, He says, I’m a shield for you. Think about it. When somebody has a shield, it doesn’t mean they don’t have to go into battle. As we read two weeks ago, in Matthew 7, whether they’re self-inflicted or not, they’re just going to come. I mean, think about all the storms that came. This could make for interesting conversation, but we don’t have time to do it.

Think about it, we can all think back to 2008 and 2009 when the economy just tanked and you could have been just as innocent as you were and had a huge storm come into your life. Of course, a lot of the severity of the storm would depend on how much your heart is on money or your sense of identity in your work. But nevertheless, it created a lot of pain in peoples’ lives that they, basically, were innocent of. So, storms are going to come. Think about this. Everybody at this table is going to die one day, and it may be from sickness, it may be from accident, or it may be from old age, but we’re going to die. We can’t pray that out of our lives. So, the storms are going to come, but I really do believe, guys, that when we pray for God’s protection, it makes a difference. And you see this in, let me just read this to you real quick since I’m right here. In Psalm 28:7, it says, “The Lord is my strength and my shield. My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped, therefore, my heart exalts and with my song I shall thank Him.” You know what he’s saying there? When we trust God with any area of our lives, it makes a difference. That’s our problem. We don’t really trust Him with anything. But when we learn to trust Him, it makes a difference. And then, one other verse, Psalm 37:23-24, it says, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and he delights in His ways, but when he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.” He protects us even when we fall, if we trust Him. Now, let me just say this. I do think God desires for us to trust Him with our lives. He instructs us to pray for protection, and when we do, I think it makes a difference, if we really trust Him. And who knows? Maybe one day, God will reveal to us specifically how these prayers made a difference in our lives and in our circumstances. Comments or questions?

Again this is neglected. I don’t know. Most people say, this isn’t that important. I disagree. Strongly disagree. It’s there. It’s up to us to appropriate. Comments or questions? Let’s move to the second one.

Number two. Second prayer that’s neglected. Matthew. Go back to Matthew 6. Go to verse 12. Bill Pradat asked a good question. I think everybody’s translation probably says the same thing. “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Why does He use the word “debt” do you think? Because most people, when they pray the prayer, you know, say basically, forgive us of our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Why does He use the word debt?

Mike: Why doesn’t He use the word “sin”?

RS: I couldn’t agree more, Mike. Jesus made a “mistake” there!

(Laughter)

Unidentified audience member: My translation does say sin.

RS: Does it? What kind of translation you got?

Unidentified audience member: [unintelligible 33:33]

(Laughter and chatter)

RS: I don’t have time, but I have a great story to tell you about a Gideon Bible and a guy when he was in jail. You know who I’m talking about? I had this guy come see me; is it Shawn, is that his name? He told me his story, he’s a great guy, his story was a mess, and I can’t remember if it was drugs or alcohol, but he was in jail all the time, and finally, he said, “I was in jail for a period of time, and there was a Gideon Bible in there.” He said, “I read the book of Matthew and my eyes, it was like scales came off, my eyes were opened, and I understood the Gospel from just reading that Gideon Bible. I became a Christian that day in a prison.” I can’t remember where it was. He was in jail, there’s a difference between jail and prison, and he was in there for a period of time, and now, he’s in the ministry. He’s got a powerful story and he does great work, from the Gideon Bible.

Unidentified audience member: New Living Translation.

RS: You’ll see, ultimately, it is “sin”. As an attorney in one of our groups on Thursday pointed out, when the law is broken, the law has to be satisfied. It’s kind of like the idea, you break the law, and let’s say you go to jail, and when you’re in jail, you’re paying your debt to society. And the Bible says this is the situation we find ourselves in with God. Because of our sin, we have incurred a debt that you could never repay yourself. In fact, in Psalm 49, it says, the redemption of your soul is very costly, and you don’t have enough money to pay for it. But it is interesting how they use the word “debt”.

Do you remember, I don’t know how many of you remember, I’m not sure, you may not even have been there, but back in March, I spoke at the BCC about, it was titled “Reflections on the Cross”, if you remember, I said, back in Biblical times, most people borrowed money not from banks, but from wealthy individuals, and they would draw up what was called a certificate of debt. Ya’ll remember this? And the certificate of debt basically spelled out the terms and the conditions of the loan. At the end of the term, if you couldn’t repay it, you had two options. One, you go to debtor’s prison. Remember the other option? You become a bondservant to them. They own your labor until you pay it off. And most people preferred that to sitting in prison. Because I think they probably felt like they could earn it off quicker. I don’t know that, but that would be my choice. But you know, what’s interesting is that once it was paid off, whether by jail sentence or by working, they took the certificate of debt and they stamped it. Anybody remember the word they stamped it with?

Unidentified audience member: Redeemed?

RS: No. I thought you would know.

Unidentified audience member: Paid in full? I can’t remember the Greek…

RS: Teleo, which means literally, paid in full. Now again, we’ve translated it in the English to say, “It is finished,” and you can figure, the debt’s finished, but Jesus yells out “Teleo!” Right before He breathes His last, He yells out “Teleo”, which means paid in full. We can’t pay for our sins, guys. We don’t have enough to pay for it. He says, “I’ve paid it in full.” And this is why in Colossians chapter 2, I love it from the New American Standard version, Colossians 2:13, “God has forgiven us of our sins,” listen to this, “having canceled out the certificate of debt by nailing it to the cross.” He canceled out the certificate of debt by nailing it to the cross. Now the NIV uses a different word. Instead of “certificate of debt” it says, He canceled out the written code, the law, that we have violated, and He has canceled it out by nailing it to the cross.

Now this is important because you are probably thinking or wondering, as a Christian living the Christian life, why do we need to confess our sins? Let me, before I move on, going back to what Butch brought up, basically what Jesus is saying when, in Matthew 6:12, when He says, forgive us our debts, He really is saying the importance of confessing our sins and seeking forgiveness of our sins. But why, as a Christian, do I need to do that? Because I thought, when I came to Christ, my sins are forgiven. Doesn’t it say in Romans 4:8, that blessed is the man who will not have to give an account of his sin before God? That’s what the Gospel is all about, that we will not have to give an account of our sins before God. Remember John 5:24. He says believers don’t have to come into judgment because your sins are forgiven. So, as a believer, as a Christian, even thought I do sin as a Christian, why do I need to confess my sins?

Worth: Get your relationship right with God.

RS: Worth, you got it exactly right. Think about it. First person this week; very good. Think about it, as we’ve said before, there are two types of forgiveness that we seek. The first is judicial forgiveness, when we, for the first time, recognize that we are sinners, saved by grace, and that we need God’s forgiveness, we are going before Him as our Judge. The Bible says He is the great Judge that will one day judge the universe. He is our judge and we go before Him seeking His forgiveness through repentance and faith. Therefore, because of that, when you stand before the judgment seat, you don’t have to give an account of your sins. Now we did talk sometime last year, or earlier in the year, you do give an account as a Christian, for your deeds. How good stewards were we, with what we had? And so, we’re not going to have to stand before the judge and give an account of our sins, but, as Worth rightly pointed out, as we talked about when we began today, when you become a Christian you have a new relationship with God. He’s not your judge anymore, He’s your Father, He’s your Heavenly Father. And when you sin, you’ve sinned against your Father. So, when we sin, it affects our relationship with God, our Father. Think about it in these terms, in your marriage, guys, for you who are married. Now this is real hypothetical. I know this doesn’t happen in many houses, but let’s just say you had a bad day, you go home and you’re not feeling real good about things, and your wife says something that just tees you off, and you let her have it, and she’s horrified and can’t believe what you’ve just said to her. And she goes back to the bedroom, and, depending on her temperament, either shuts the door or slams it….

Unidentified audience member(s): [Laughter and chatter] Slams it; slams it hard.

RS: I said either closes it or slams it; my wife is not a door slammer, so. But, things are not good. The relationship is not good. If you went in there and tried to be romantic, how do you think that would go? Not good.

Unidentified audience member: Particularly if she locked the door.

RS: Yeah. But, hypothetically, let’s say you go to her, and you just say listen, and you are truly sorry, but you say, honey, I just blew it, I was wrong, I’ve sinned against you. Will you forgive me? Will you forgive me? Now, in real life, my wife will forgive me. But, she won’t immediately have the warm and fuzzies for me. But she, it will come a lot quicker. You see, forgiveness is about the relationship. Forgiveness brings you together. It reconnects you. You see guys, historically, and we’ve kind of lost this, but the church always would start a worship service with a general confession of sin from the congregation. And there is a reason. The reason is to get your heart right as you go before God in His presence to worship Him. Now James really gets this right. We’ve got to hustle here; we’ve got about six minutes left, but James gives us a great insight into this, so, if you would, turn to James chapter 4.

Unidentified audience member: Judicial and…what…

RS: Fatherly forgiveness and judicial forgiveness. Yes, sorry about that.

Unidentified audience member: Richard, what do you think; is it just that sin is uncomfortable to talk about in a lot of our churches, or why…?

RS: You mean the confession of sin? I don’t know. I have no idea why the Methodists have their particular kind of order of worship and the Presbyterians have one, and the Baptists, and the Episcopalians, and Catholic; I mean everybody’s is different. I don’t know who makes – often, what you’ve seen happen, I think, particularly is you’ve lost so much of the denominational influence and you have a lot of independent churches, and they just kind of come up with their own and I don’t think they thought through that this is important. And I think it is. James 4. We’re going to read verses 6 through 10. Drew, have you read today? Would you like to read? James 4:6-10.

Drew: “But He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

RS: Very good sir. We could’ve spent the whole day on those five verses. We really could. There are two key phrases. Humble yourselves in verse 10, and in verse 8 it says draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Notice this when it says draw near, go to verse 8. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you, but then it says, wash your hands, you filthy sinners, then it talks about cleansing your heart. Basically, in order to draw near to God, we have to cleanse our outward sins as well as the inner sins of our hearts. In studying this, I went to one of the commentators on James, and it says, hands and heart symbolizes deeds and thoughts. And so, I believe that in order to really draw near to God, you have to cleanse yourself. You have to humble yourself. I believe these are connected. I’ve shared this before. You know, my favorite parable I think is Luke 18:9-14. We’re not going to read it, but remember what it is? A Pharisee and a tax collector go into the temple to pray. And the Pharisee says, God I’m glad I’m not like other men. I fast, I tithe, I pray. I’m glad I’m not like the adulterers and the swindlers, and even that tax collector over there. I’m not like those kind of people. And what does it say the tax collector is doing? He can’t even lift up his head. He says, Lord, this is what people call The Jesus Prayer, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.” And then Jesus says, this man, the tax collector, he went home justified in the sight of God, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. What Jesus is saying is that the tax collector humbled himself through the confession of his sin. So, this is the way we should approach God. You know, I want to share this thought with you real quick. Two quick thoughts and we’re done. I want to challenge everybody to think about this. I want you to think about coming up with a spiritual mission statement for your life. And I’m going to share with you mine. It’s just three little parts. The first is, “Lord I want to be Your servant. I want to serve You with my life.” Number two, what I want to be is a laborer in the harvest. You tell us there are not many laborers in the Harvest, well, I’m in. I volunteer, that’s what I want to do. I love to do it. But third, and this may be the key, and it comes from Micah 6:8. My oldest son reminded me recently this is part of the Auburn creed. I’m starting to learn there are certain things about Auburn I’m really starting to like even though I’m a big Bama fan. Does anybody know Micah 6:8? “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” That to me, captures what our relationship with God should be like. That we should walk humbly with Him through life. And so, what we’ve learned here is that confession, it not only draws you near to God, it’s the way you humble yourself. So we, the first two parts of my prayer life are Thanksgiving and confession. Excuse me. I’m going to come back to that. But, they’re both parts of my prayer life, because they’re ways you humble yourself. Let me close with this, because it’s 1 o’clock. In John chapter 7, verses 37 and 38, Jesus says, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me, and drink. Out of his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” And you think about those three things if you’re thirsty. This is what I pray before I get out of bed every morning. I’m thirsty. Thirst implies a need. Your body needs water, but this is spiritual Lord, I need You. I need Your strength. I need Your power in my life. If anyone is thirsty, what does it say next? Come to Me. What we’ve learned today, to approach God, it’s important to confess your sins, and so, I confess my sins, specifically, or generally. Often I just pray The Jesus Prayer, Lord have mercy on me, a sinner. And then, what is the final thing, it says, drink. Lord I pray that you would fill me with your Holy Spirit.

Remember Luke 11:13? Jesus says, if you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father, the Heavenly Father, give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. This is a picture of what Jesus says in John 15 of how you are to function spiritually. It is a picture of a vine, branch relationship. The sap flows from the vine into the branch. This is the way we should seek to live. Before I get out of bed, this is the way I start my day. I try to maintain it throughout the day, but usually I blow it and sin, so I have to do it again. This is what it means to abide in Christ and I leave you with John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me, you can do nothing.” Guys, we’ve looked at two things today, that you can truly put into practice in your life. What does Jesus say? He who hears the truth and puts it into practice may be compared to a wise man who builds his house upon the rock. So, this is something you can apply. You’ve just got to basically take the time to do it.

 

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Reflections on the Existence of God

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