The Church is for dirty sinners, not clean sinners.
The only difference between Christians and those who are not, is the fact that God the Holy Spirit paints our hearts with the blood of Jesus. It’s Jesus in us that makes the difference, not what we do, or have, or what other people say about us.
This is important when we witness to others about Christ. Typically our tendency is to impress with our knowledge of the truth, or our accomplishments. We think this will catch their attention. But the apostle Paul says the opposite. “If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity.” 2 Corinthians 11:30
It’s sharing our weaknesses that draws people’s attention. Then they are willing to listen to how God changed us. The Father uses our humility to convict Christians and non-Christians alike. It’s a touching point that people can relate to. Weakness, failure, struggle, and pain are the miseries of life that everyone is in touch with. This speaks to people and they see themselves in our humility. And then, Lord willing, they see their need of a Savior.
Here’s a prayer for all of us:
“Father, I confess that I’m naturally self-centered and self-exalting. Any humility I have is the gift of your Holy Spirit. Please, please touch me now with a humble heart, and break my pride and self-dependence. Make me feel my weakness and your strength. Then give me a loving boldness in witness that is only from you.”
God loves to answer this prayer with yes!
– adapted from A Faith Worth Sharing by C. John Miller
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In Ephesians 3:17 Paul prays an extraordinary prayer for the saints there. It’s not about what we usually pray for – physical healing, finances, success at work, and the ever demanding burdens of our relationships. Nor is it a prayer for success in ministry.
Listen to what he asks God: “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” That’s the secret to every Christian, to have Christ settled down in our hearts, a permanent resident, who delights in our company.
With Christ at home like that he becomes our source of everything we need in this life. No longer do we need to look outside to others for the answers to our needs. Everything we need is as close as our next breath. Not only do we need to know this on a personal level, but on a corporate one, too. Our church body needs to take hold of this truth.
Paul goes on to pray that we may know the love of God in Christ, the immensity of it, and to be filled with all the fullness of God. It’s breathtaking!
This type of praying is fit for a big God. These are large petitions. And because they are there for us in the bible, we have the confidence they are God’s will and therefore he will answer them.
I don’t know about you, but I want to pray prayers that God will delight in and answer.
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Have you every wondered what Jesus experienced in the garden of Gethsemane? It certainly wasn’t about showing us how to pray better. Nor was it an example of humility for us to follow.
For Jesus it was about suffering. He suffered his whole life, as Isaiah tells us, from men and from devils. Judas, Peter and Satan himself.
The cross was going to be a level of suffering like no one had ever experienced before. It was where Jesus would receive from the hand of his Father all his wrath for sin. It would also be the place the Father would turn his back on Jesus and abandon him.
Think about that. It would be the first time in Jesus’s life where the Father would disengage with his Son.
Jesus did not die for God, he was no martyr. He died under God’s wrath, the justice of God being poured out on him for the sins of the world. It was at the cross that Jesus became responsible for sin. Yours and mine.
Knowing this, it moved Jesus to pray. He asked his closest friends – Peter, James and John – to pray with him so he would not be alone in his agony. But they failed him. They slept for sorrow because it finally dawned on them that he would not usher in their hopes for a restored Israel. Their dream was shattered. There was no crown for Jesus or for them. Instead there was a cross and death.
Jesus’s prayer included the removal of God’s wrath from him. He hoped for a reprieve. But no matter what, he was willing to submit to his Father’s will. What anchored him was the promise of the resurrection. This hope was Christ’s by right. He earned it. We don’t have that right, nor do we earn it. We have the same hope by faith.
Adam started in a garden that was a paradise, but then he ruined it. Jesus lived in a ruined world, and ended his life in an olive grove where olives were pressed to give their oil. A fitting location in preparation for the Second Adam to be crushed in order to restore us back to God and eventually to a new heavens and a new world.
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There are two aspects to the church. One is local like the church in your city, the one you are a member of. The other is universal. It’s the church in heaven made up of Christians who have died and gone to be with the Lord. It’s also the church of the ones who are yet to be born, but will one day be born and come to believe in the Savior.
The church that exists today all over the world is called the militant church. It’s made up of fighting men and women. It means we’re at war with the flesh, the world and the devil.
There’s a war going on inside of us because of remaining sin. Our mind, body and emotions don’t always submit to Christ. We fall into wickedness.
We’re at war with the world, it’s ways and the way people think, feel and act outside of Christ. The world is upside down. We, as Christians, are running toward salvation while the world is running toward destruction.
And the devil is there to destroy God and his people. He discourages our faith and hope in the gospel. He causes us to sin. He loves to create unbelief in the goodness of God. And he is particularly skilled at having us look inward for our holiness, and when we don’t find it there, he causes us to despair. Anytime he’s able to get our eyes off Christ, he’s thrilled.
How do we respond?
First, don’t expect an easy time in this life. Expect a hard life since you’re a soldier. Be disciplined. Know your bible. Pray. Be thankful.
Second, fight and endure with hope and confidence in the promises of God. He won’t let you down.
Third, remember you’re assured of victory because Christ won it for you.
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Here are some thoughts on prayer. If you’re like me, you need them.
I find prayer a mystery.
I’m always shocked when God answers my prayers and I’m always disappointed when he doesn’t or keeps me waiting.
I say regardless of how complex the subject of prayer is, don’t give up. Keep on praying. It’s the only thing to do. What is the alternative? Unbelief? Bitterness? Indifference? Those are sins and that will make you more miserable than you may be already. It’s better to be disappointed in your prayers than to disappoint the Lord.
Prayer is not a waste of breath. God will answer in his own time.
So often I am discouraged by constant prayer. Instead I should be energized by it. I’m talking to God, after all.
Western society is characterized by hustle. We forget our dependence on God and need that daily reminder when we pray.
Praying is not the opposite of doing work. Prayer drives the work. The armies of the Lord advance on our knees.
Prayer is the centerpiece of discipleship. God will answer. He gives us his promises for that. What we’re learning while we wait is patience, endurance and perseverance – all the things we hate. It breeds in us a longing for heaven.
The more holy we are, the more we will pray. We want to be in God’s presence, we long for his companionship and conversation.
God gives us a million things every day without us asking for them. Why not the things we do ask for?
Pray with confidence in your Father. He has a proven character and an unblemished record.
Let’s continue to pray!
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Do we strive to enter God’s kingdom? Just because God has placed a ticket to heaven in our hands doesn’t mean we stay in the waiting lounge. We have to get up and walk into the plane.
Who are we listening to? Is it God through his Word or someone else’s voice?
How often it’s my voice I follow. It’s easy. It’s all too familiar.
Living the kingdom life is nothing short of brutal. It goes against the grain of self. It’s not the life we’re used to.
It requires humility, mercy, sincerity and loving our enemies.
Everything we don’t like doing.
Drifting is easier.
Who wants to die?
Who wants to disregard his own ambitions?
It’s easier to profess Christ than to follow him.
I know. I’m an expert at it.
I suspect you are, too.
So what do we do about it?
Study. Pray. Respect.
Immerse yourself in God’s Word.
Pray God’s Word. Make it your own. Eat it.
Respect your teachers. Make sure they’re telling you about Christ and not themselves. Make sure they’re men of the Word. Humble. Accessible.
True followers of Christ are submitted to him, even in rejection and suffering.
As Christians we now live by the sermon on the Mount, but not by adhering to its rules, but by having faith in the preacher of the sermon.
He’s our Mediator. He’s the new Moses. He fights his battles for us.
Lean heavily into him.
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Praying is hard.
I fail at keeping a warm devotional life.
I forget what I asked God for as soon as I pray my requests.
How about you?
I know a few Christians whose gift is prayer and really love it, but for the rest of us, prayer is a struggle.
Our hope, however is knowing that our prayers don’t have to be perfect to please the Lord.
They can be downright messy.
And having a poor prayer life doesn’t mean God doesn’t love us anymore.
He can’t possible think that, and neither can we.
1. We are never going to be perfect in this life because we still wrestle with remaining sin in our lives.
2. All our prayers, our good works, everything in our lives is mediated through Christ and he makes them perfect and therefore acceptable to God.
God does not find fault with us because we are in Christ.
So prayer instead of being an excruciating exercise is instead a conversation with our Father in heaven who loves us.
Remember that next time you pray.
You come to a Father who is eager to hear you.
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