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Los Lunas Cornerstone

Church of the Nazarene

Resurrect (John 11:25-26)

    He is Risen!
    Happy Resurrection Sunday! It’s so good to see all of you today, I’m glad you’re here.
    Who needs some good news today? Good, because that’s what today is all about. It’s about good news. It’s about the best news, really.
    My message this morning is simple, straight from the Bible. I’m going to be in the gospel of John this morning. I’d love for you to join me in John 11:25-26 if you have a Bible with you this morning, or in a Bible app on your phone, or follow along with me on the screen.
    “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in Me will live, even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
    Jesus was speaking to His friend Martha. Martha was the brother of Jesus’ friend Lazarus. They had another sister, Mary, as well. Lazarus had been sick for a few days, so sick that by the time Jesus was able to go and see Lazarus, Lazarus was dead, and had already been buried in a tomb for four days.
    Mary and Martha were crushed, devastated, and deeply grieved that their brother was dead. Many people had come to comfort them. When Jesus arrived, Martha told Him that even as her brother was dead in the tomb, she believed that if Jesus asked God for something to be done, God would do it. Jesus told her that her brother Lazarus would rise from the dead.
    Martha’s answer was what I would call the “church” answer. It’s the answer you would except to get from someone who has gone to church their whole life and knows all the right things they’re supposed to say. She tells Jesus, “Yeah, I know, someday in the resurrection he’ll rise again.”
    And “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in Me will live, even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
    This part of the story has a really great ending, because Jesus really did raise Lazarus from the dead, and he was reunited with his sisters. But when Jesus said these words to Martha, He was talking about something more than bringing Lazarus back to life.
    His first statement to her was “I am the resurrection and the life;” What did He mean by that?
    When Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life”, He was saying that He is the source of both resurrection and life. When something or someone is resurrected, it means that they were once dead, and then came back to life. So what Jesus is saying here is that regardless of how someone has life, whether they were alive or dead and then brought back to life, Jesus was saying to Martha that He is where that life comes from.
    This is really important to us because, well…we’re alive! So we have to understand that we are alive because Jesus gives us life. The beginning of the book of John says that Jesus, because He is one with God, is the giver of life, the source of life. John wrote, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him not even one thing came into being that has come into being.” John 1:3 So if you’re here today and you’re alive, it’s because The Lord, Jesus, has given you life. His breath is literally in your lungs.
    For many people, that’s as alive as they’ll ever get. They draw air and they have brain function, they walk around and have their days go by, and they are technically alive, but they do not have resurrected life.
    What’s the difference? Resurrected life is what you have when you’re dead and then come back to life. Maybe that doesn’t make sense just yet, but Jesus was talking about literally, physically dying and coming back to life. Jesus was talking about your spiritual life. Your spirit is eternal, see, and even after your physical body dies, your soul still exists.
    In Ephesians 2:1, the apostle Paul wrote that we were all spiritually dead. Each and every one of us. All of us. Even if you came from a family of Christians and you grew up going to church. No matter how many times you’ve come to church, or if you were baptized as a baby. Doesn’t matter how many classes you may have taken as a young child. Each and every one of us was spiritually dead. The apostle Paul also tells us that the reason we were spiritually dead is because of our disobedience and sin.
    Yep. All of us. Spiritually dead because of disobedience and sin. Paul goes on to say that anything that following anything that goes against God and God’s commands is what make us spiritually dead.
    Since we were spiritually dead, we need a way for our spiritual life to be resurrected, right? We need a way for that spirit that lives in us to come back to life. And Jesus told Martha that this resurrection of the spirit can only happen through Him. The only way you can ever be not dead in your spirit is through Jesus.
    So while all of us are physically alive, and that life is given to us by Jesus, all of us were also spiritually dead and could only have our spiritual lives resurrected, brought back to life through Jesus.
    Have you ever watched a commercial on TV or maybe even an ad online that tells you about something, some amazing product that just seems so incredible that you have a hard time believing it’s true? I know I have, and usually when I see those kinds of commercials and ads I think, “Wow, that sounds great, but what’s the catch? What’s the fine print?”
    Here’s the thing about the resurrected life that Jesus can give: even though He freely offers it, like a gift someone offers to you, you have to take it. You have to accept the gift of resurrected life. You have to ask Him to make you spiritually alive.
    Jesus also told Martha, “the one who believes in Me will live, even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.”
    The one who believes in Jesus will live. Not physically live, because we are already alive, but spiritually live. Whoever believes in Jesus will be spiritually alive. That resurrection He was talking about, if you believe in Him, He will bring your dead spirit back to life. That’s the “fine print” if you will, that’s the “catch”. It’s not really fine print though, because Jesus says it plainly and clearly. He wants us to be spiritually alive, not spiritually dead. He wants us to let Him resurrect our souls. The only thing we have to do is believe in Him.
    Believe in Him, He told Martha, and even if you die, you will live. Even if you die physically, your spirit will still be alive. Remember, our souls are eternal. Your soul, your spirit will end up somewhere forever. Jesus told Martha that if one believes in Him, that person will live forever. Their spirit will be alive forever, resurrected. No longer dead, but alive.
    I love these verses in Ephesians 2:4-5, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our wrongdoings, made us alive together with Christ,”
    Our souls were dead because of our wrongdoings, but Jesus resurrects our souls, brings the dead back to life, and gives our souls eternal life instead of eternal death! All we have to do is believe in Him. That’s what we have to do to take the free gift that He offers to us.
    Today is Resurrection Sunday. It’s the day we celebrate that when Jesus died on that Friday over 2,000 years ago, that wasn’t the end. He was dead, but He didn’t stay that way. He was resurrected on Sunday! He came back to life. He did that because He loves us deeply. He did that because He didn’t want us to continue to be physically alive but spiritually dead. He did that because He wanted to resurrect our spirits, just as He was resurrected. He did that because He didn’t want us to spend all of eternity with our souls away from God instead of with God. He did that because He wanted to give us life, in every way that we can have life.
    Jesus said one more thing to Martha in this conversation, before He raised Lazarus from the dead. After He told her He is the resurrection and the life, that those who believe in Him will live forever, He asked her a very important question. He said, “Do you believe this?”
    He is asking the exact same question of us this morning. Do you believe this? Do you believe that Jesus is the one who gives life? Do you believe that you are spiritually dead because you have gone against what God has said? Do you believe that Jesus can bring your spirit back to life? Do you believe that God loves you? Do you believe He wants to make you spiritually alive? Do you believe this?
    That’s what all of this hangs on! Jesus can give you eternal life, Jesus can make it so you can walk and talk with God through the Holy Spirit, Jesus can resurrect your spirit so you are alive in every way possible, but you must believe this. Do you believe this?
    Romans 10:9 says “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;”
    Do you believe this?

Holy Week Devotions

 

MONDAY

 

TUESDAY

 

WEDNESDAY

 

THURSDAY

 

FRIDAY

 

SATURDAY

Seizing Jesus (Mark 14:49a)

    Very rarely, actually, I don’t think I’ve ever, preached a sermon on one verse. I’m very cautious to take into consideration the whole context of a passage so I’m not misinterpreting Scripture, but this one verse, actually it’s half a verse, the Lord keeps bringing to the forefront of my mind over and over again the last three weeks. Indeed, it’s tied to an insight that He gave me two months ago that He just keeps bringing up, and I keep telling Him, “Okay, Lord, I know, I got it!” But then He told me to preach it.
    We have a dog, our family. She’s a nine-month old Great Dane, still in very many ways, a puppy. She loves to get up off her bed next to the couch and go and sneakily grab the kids’ stuffed animals that they leave lying around the house. She loves stuffed animals. She loves to cuddle with them and chew on them and eventually rip them open and pull all the stuffing out of them and mangle them until you no longer recognize what that stuffed animal was. When given the choice between a stuffed animal and any other toy she has, she will always go for the stuffed animal first! And if you ever try to take a stuffed animal away from her, once she has it in her mouth, takes the strength of Samson to get it out of her grip. She WILL NOT let that stuffed animal go!
    I’m going to be in Mark 14 today, the first part of verse 49. You can find it in your bulletins as well as your Bible or on the screen, “Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me;”
    I’ll be the first to admit that it seems a strange choice for the celebration and jubilation surrounding Palm Sunday. I don’t want to ignore the context of the passage either which is still important even though our focus is only on half of a verse. This verse is in the midst of Jesus’ arrest at the Garden of Gethsemane. He had prayed fervently while the Disciples slept, and then Judas came with the chief priests and the scribes and the elders, verse 43 tells us.
    They came to arrest Jesus, and He told them the words from the verse I just read, getting them to try to examine why they were arresting Him then, in the middle of the night, in the middle of a garden, without charges. Why not arrest Him in broad daylight in front of witnesses? He knew it had to happen that way to fulfill Scripture, but He wanted them to understand that what they were doing was wrong and it went against their own laws and traditions.
    They arrested Him anyway, and that arrest would lead to His crucifixion.
    That’s the context of the passage. But, the Spirit keeps speaking this verse to me, this half of a verse, and using other passages in my quiet times and in my conversations with other Christ-centered believers, to confirm what He has been saying in this half of a verse. In fact, this sermon started originally as talking about who Jesus is revealed to be through the story of what we call Holy Week, the time between Palm Sunday and Easter or Resurrection Sunday. But again, He brought me back to this, “Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me;”
    What does it mean that Jesus was with them. Who are they? Those seem like easy questions, but let’s really examine it and pull it apart. Jesus was with them, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. They were the ones that had come to arrest Him, and Jesus called them out on not arresting Him in the daytime in front of others. He wanted them to examine their motives, and question their actions.
    But, there’s another level here. Jesus was also with His disciples every day as He was teaching in the temple. It wasn’t just the priests and scribes and elders, it was the Disciples too. In fact, the Disciples were rarely out of His presence for three years! They ate together, and walked together, and ministered together, and cried together. They saw Him turn water to wine, they saw Him multiply loaves and fish, they saw Him heal the sick and make the blind see and make the lame walk, they saw Him raise people from the dead—not just once, three of them even saw Him transfigured and shining in all His radiant glory giving them just a glimpse of His heavenly form. They had been with Him nearly every minute of every day. He was always with them.
    As I read this verse, “Every day I was with you,” He reminded me that He is still always with us. Isaiah 41:10, one of my very favorite verses, “Do not fear, for I am with you;” Joshua 1:9, “Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you.”
    And so we don’t just think that this was an Old Testament concept, but rather understand that this is a truth that holds true for all seekers of God of all time, Matthew 28:20, Jesus told His disciples, “teach them to observe all that I commanded you; and I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” Hebrews 13:5, “for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.’”
    And here’s where the connection with our half of a verse today grows even stronger. Jesus said, “Every day I was with you in the temple…” 1 Corinthians 3:16 says, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” And John 14:16-17, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth,”
    If you have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, the very Spirit of God lives in you, and is with you forever, because you are His temple. So quite literally, Jesus is reminding us with His own words this morning, “Every day I am with you in the temple…” Every day He is with you in His temple, you.
    “Every day I was with you in the temple teaching,”
    I was thinking about that word, teaching, and looking through the rest of Scripture at passages where Jesus had crowds gathered around Him and He was teaching them the Scriptures and truth about the Kingdom of God, and there’s one thing that kept coming up when He was teaching, was that the people He was teaching were amazed! They were astonished at what He was teaching. One time, Jesus was teaching and they said, “Who is this, who teaches with such authority as though speaking directly from God?” Even after He was crucified, Luke gives us the account of two men who were walking and pondering about this man who had been crucified and about how when He taught the Scriptures to them, their hearts burned within them. When He teaches, people are amazed.
    Even now, when He speaks something through His Word that pierces our hearts, makes our hearts burn with holy fire, we are amazed! We sometimes think, “Oh wow, I’d never thought about this verse like that.” Or, “Oh, I didn’t realize that before.” “I never knew that before.” And sometimes it really sinks in, like it did for the two men whose hearts burned within them.
    And sometimes we are like the chief priests and the scribes and the elders, we hear the teaching of Jesus, we know the teaching of Jesus…and that’s it. That’s as far as it goes.
    “Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me;”
    I was going to look at the qualities of Jesus that we learn about through Holy Week today, that we learn that He is our SAVIOR, your first blank in your bulletin, that He is our defender, that He is our burden-bearer, that He is our RESURRECTION, your next blank, that He is our King, that He is our LORD, your last blank in your bulletins, that He is our judge, that He is our intercessor, that He is our healer.
    All those things are true about who Jesus is. All of those qualities, and so many more, are so good, and He is so worthy of all the praise and honor and glory that we can ever give Him because of all those qualities.
    That’s all great. All these things He does for us…all these qualities that He possesses are great, but at the end of the day, He wants us to want Him just because He is.
    Is what, Pastor Alanna?
    Just…is.
    What was the Name He gave to Moses?
    I Am.
    In fact, in Mark 14:61-63, when the High Priest questioned Jesus after He had been arrested, the High Priest asked Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” And Jesus’ response was, “I Am.” And the High Priest took that as blasphemy because of the Name God gave to Moses; the High Priest understood that Jesus wasn’t just saying He is the Christ, He was saying He is one with God.
    For everything that He is, and everything that He does, this is the Name He gave because He wanted us to understand that what is important is seeking Him, not for what He can do or any of His characteristics, but just to seek Him.
    “Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me;”
    He wants us to seize Him. I like this definition of seize: to “take (an opportunity or initiative) eagerly and decisively.” He wants us to take a hold of Him eagerly and decisively. He wants us to take a hold of Him like we’ve found something so valuable that there’s no way we could ever let Him go. Like my Great Dane puppy and her stuffed animals, when she gets her teeth sunk into a stuffed animal, she’ll never let go. He wants us to seize Him like that, like He’s all we could ever possibly want and need and we are never going to let go.
    He doesn’t want us to come to the end of our days and find that every day He was with us, teaching us, and we didn’t truly seize Him.

This week, as you spend time with the Lord, as you go through your week, as you come to church, as you pray, I want you to ask yourself one question: Do you want Jesus?
    Do you want Jesus, just because you love Him? Without all that He’s done or will do, do you just want Him because He is? Is He enough when you come to church, without the music and the lights and the fellowship and the coffee and all the things being just the way you think they should? Do you want Jesus?

Like a Little Child (Matthew 18:1-5; Mark 10:13-16)

Guest Preacher: Allison Storch

Wake Up! (Matthew 26:36-46)

    Easter is three weeks away, the day when Christian churches across the world celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. As we move closer to Easter, we start to think more about the week leading up to Jesus’s suffering, and the brutal crucifixion He submitted to, the sacrifice He made for us and the price He paid to forgive our sins once and for all. We start thinking about how God had been pointing to this act of salvation since humanity’s first sin and the fall of man, how He told the serpent, the Deceiver, our enemy Satan what was coming one day, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all the livestock, And more than any animal of the field; On your belly you shall go, And dust you shall eat All the days of your life; And I will make enemies Of you and the woman, And of your offspring and her Descendant; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise Him on the heel.” (Genesis 3:14-15).
    We start reflecting more deeply on what His sacrifice means for us: salvation from sins, freedom from things that make us slaves, a new life full of joy and peace, power to be a part of others being set free from sin as well. We spend these weeks remembering why we gave our hearts to Jesus.
    This morning, we’ll look back and remember Jesus’s time of sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane. I’ll be in Matthew 26:36-46 and I’d love for you to follow along with me in your Bible, in whatever way you can.
    Jesus and the Disciples had just a few days before, on what we now call Palm Sunday, entered into Jerusalem. Jesus had been greeted with honor as he entered the city; they shouted “Hosanna” and called Him the Son of David, which in some ways recognized Him as the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ. They laid palm branches down before Him, symbolizing victory, triumph, peace, and eternal life, all things that Jesus would bring.
    He celebrated the Passover meal, which we now call the Last Supper, and He celebrated with His disciples, even as He knew that one of them would betray Him. Jesus predicted Peter’s denial of Him as well, and still shared His last meal with Him, seeing that Peter was worthy in the Father’s eyes. Our message this morning picks up when the meal was finished.
    “Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and told His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with Him, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and He said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying, so that you do not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cup cannot pass away unless I drink from it, Your will be done.” Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let’s go; behold, the one who is betraying Me is near!” (Matthew 26:36-46).
    Jesus knew what was to come. He knew the suffering He would endure; He knew the physical pain He would face; He knew the spiritual agony He would go through as He would be separated from the Father when He bore all the sins of the world; He knew the betrayal and denial. So He faced it the best way He knew: talking to the Father, seeking the will of God, listening to the Spirit.
    This says a lot about what we should do in difficult circumstances, we should take it to God first and foremost and frequently. But I want to talk this morning about the disciples and what Jesus asked them to do as He went and prayed.
    He took all the disciples with Him, but only three, His closest disciples: James, John, and Peter, went with Him deeper into the garden. He has spent three years with these three men, they had seen Him transfigured on the mountaintop and got to see the glory of the Lord shine on Him. He trusted these men, and trusted them enough to ask them to do something really important as He prayed. He said, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”
    Keep watch with Me. The Greek says, “Be on alert; be fully awake.” They had come to the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives. It was called the Mount of Olives not only for the olive trees that had grown there for decade, but also because it was the place where they pressed the olives to extract the precious oil from them. It wasn’t an accident that Jesus chose this place because He knew He was about to be pressed. Just like the olives that were pressed there, He knew He would be pressed, but He also knew that what would result from that pressing would be something precious: salvation for mankind.
    He told Peter, John, and James to keep watch with Him because they were about to be pressed as well. They would be pushed to the limits of their faith and their belief. They’d have questions and doubts. They would even be afraid for their lives at one point. Their pressing though, it would lead to the building of the church with Peter, James, and John as the ones who would be the first leaders of that church.
    This passage invites us, as disciples of Jesus, to hear Jesus’ words as words to us. Keep watch with Him. Be on alert. Be fully awake. Know that as you walk with the Lord you will be pressed. In fact, I can say with almost certainty from the example of Scripture and the example of my own life, the closer you draw near to God, the more you can expect to get pressed, because our enemy cannot stand us getting closer to God. He doesn’t want it, and since he has free rein on the world right now, he will try to press us anyway he can. He’ll tempt you to sin, and if that doesn’t work, he’ll attack your family, your job, your purpose, your home, your friends…anything he can think of to discourage you and distract you from walking with the Lord more closely.
    Being pressed though, is good. On the other side of Jesus’ pressing was the resurrection and the defeat of sin! When we go through being pressed, we know that when the pressing is done, what is produced in us will give God glory and be more precious than any other treasure.
    Keep watch with Him. Be on alert. Be fully awake. Understand that you will be pressed, but we do have this promise that keeps us from being discouraged, 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Keep watch, because you will be PRESSED.
    Jesus went on alone from there and prayed, knowing what was coming, and asked the Father if there was any way the cup, which was the cup of God’s wrath to be poured out on Him as He bore the sins of the world, Jesus wanted to know if there was any way He could be spared. But, He submitted to the Father’s will. Even though He knew what was coming, He submitted to God’s plan. There’s another sermon there too, isn’t there, about obedience and surrender, even in the face of terrible suffering?
    “And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and He said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying, so that you do not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:40-41).
    Jesus came back to find the three men fast asleep. He got onto them for not watching like He had asked, like He trusted them to do, but I want you to notice that He was demanding a lot: the disciples would have been exhausted from all the events of that week and the preparation that had gone into the Passover meal. They needed rest. He asked a lot, but He did not automatically tell them, “Okay, you failed, so I’m not going to give you this important task anymore.” This tells us a lot about how Jesus deals with us, too.
    He asks a lot, yes, but when we fail or don’t meet His demands, He doesn’t just give up on us. He corrects us and asks us to keep picking up our cross and following Him.
    He told the Peter, James, and John again, “Keep watching and praying, so that you do not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Keep watching and praying. Why? So you do not come into temptation.
    Temptation is different than being pressed. Being pressed can and will happen even if there is no temptation to sin. You can put it this way: temptation is always pressing, but being pressed isn’t always through temptation.
    Jesus wants His disciples, including us, to keep watch, to keep praying so we can stand against temptation. Ephesians 6 tells us that prayer is the key to using the Armor of God that He has given us to stand against the flaming arrows of the evil one. Prayer is how we use those pieces of Armor. So Jesus reminds His disciples, watch and pray, so you are not TEMPTED.
    Jesus went back into the Garden and prayed again for God’s cup of wrath to be removed from Him, but He submitted to the Father’s will. This time, it’s a lesson in persevering through prayer.
    “Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let’s go; behold, the one who is betraying Me is near!” (Matthew 26:43-46).
    A second time he found them sleeping, and let them sleep. He went and prayed a third time and came back to the disciples a third time. He woke them up and let them know that the time had come, the hour was at hand, and it was time for Jesus’ suffering that would lead to His death to begin.
    Not keep watch this time, not pray, but wake up! You’ve been asleep too long, He told His disciples. Time to wake up, time to prepare, time to work. Jesus knew His death was near, but you know what? That also meant that the Kingdom of God was at hand! God’s Spirit was soon to be given to those who put their faith in Jesus, enabling them to live for the purpose of the Kingdom here and now as well as waiting for the fullness of the Kingdom of God to come some day. This was one of the things Jesus told the disciples to pray for, to pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The time had come for that to begin to be a realization.
    Wake up! You’ve been asleep too long. Time to prepare. Time to go to work.
    “Reigning as Lord of the universe, He does not depend on our support…; but is it possible that Matthew still intends us to hear the plaintive cry of the Lord of harvest in this narrative? The burden of His (God’s) heart remains the mission of the world’s redemption, yet He continues to cry out to a sleeping church governed by other agendas.”
    That’ll preach! Amen?
    What this commentary is saying is that God doesn’t need our help to see the world saved. He is the one who does the saving, isn’t He? He is the one who convicts and calls us to come to Him. He doesn’t need us. Romans says that if we don’t share the gospel, even the rocks will cry out, and Paul also adds that all of creation declares who God is so we are without excuse. If He is mighty, powerful enough to use rocks, He doesn’t need us. But, He has chosen in these times to use His body to be the primary way He works through. We are Plan A. I want you to say that, “We are Plan A.”
    The burden of His heart is to see the world saved, redeemed, through Jesus’ shed blood. Since He has chosen to use us to help with that, He continues to cry out to us, church, “Wake up! Keep watch! Pray! Pay attention! It’s time to prepare. It’s time to take in the harvest.”
    Remember when Jesus told the disciples to pray for workers because the harvest was plentiful, but the workers were few? We are the workers. We are the harvesters. But most of us are sleeping. Wake up!
    Paul wrote much the same thing to the church in Ephesus who was later convicted of forgetting their love for the Lord, “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14).
    Wake up and LOOK for opportunities to join Him in His work. What are those ways?
    1. Make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20)
    2. Pray (um…the whole Bible!)
    3. Reap the harvest (Matthew 9:36-38)
He wants us to surrender, to wake up and listen and look for these opportunities and to stop falling asleep, stop looking away in other directions, stop being distracted.
    Keep watch, you will be pressed. Keep watch and pray, so you are not tempted. Wake up, and look for opportunities to join Him in His work.

1. Are you currently being pressed? If so, great! Consider what James 1:2-4 says about being pressed. If you cannot identify areas in your life where you are being pressed, is it because you need to wake up?

2. Read Ephesians 6:10-18 about the Armor of God. What is each piece? What is the importance of those pieces of Armor to you? How has that Armor helped you stand firm against temptation?

3. What opportunities do you have right now to partner with the Spirit in His work? What is He asking you to do to make disciples, to pray, and to join the harvest? This week, write one specific thing you can do to do Kingdom work.

 

Spiritual Umpire (Colossians 3:1-2)

    There was a woman, let’s call her Jane, who had been attending a small rural church for about 3 years. One day she came to the pastor and said, “Pastor, I’m concerned about this TV show.”
    The pastor said, “Oh? What TV show is that?”

    Jane went on to tell the pastor the name of the TV show, and immediately the pastor thought, “Why on earth would she have an issue with that show? It’s a show about the life and ministry of Jesus?!”
    “Okay…” the pastor said, “what are your concerns about this show?”
    “Well,” Jane said, “it’s produced by Mormons!” She exclaimed.
    The pastor pondered this for a moment and then responded. “That’s true, but from what I understand about producing TV and movies is that the producers just provide money for the project. They very rarely have any say in the dialogue or content of the show unless they’re actually writing or directing it.” He told her. “Do you know who is writing and directing this TV show about Jesus?”
    “Yes,” Jane said. And she went on to name a very prominent Christian writer.
    The pastor considered this as well. “Hmm, ok,” he said. “Has the show taught something that was incorrect? A wrong belief or wrong thought about Jesus?”
    “No.” Jane said. Then she added, “I have some friends at work who are watching though, and I’m afraid they might become Mormons.”
    “I see,” said the pastor. “Are your friends at work Christians?”
    “No.” Jane said. “And I’m afraid they will become Mormons.”
    “Do you trust God, Jane?” Asked the pastor.
    “Of course, pastor.”
    “Do you think God might be big enough, mighty enough, to use a TV show about Jesus’ ministry to lead people to Christ, even if it is produced by a Mormon?”
    “Well, yes, but…” Jane started, but had no “but” to finish her thought.
    “Why don’t you make it a point to talk with your friends at work about that TV and steer them toward Christ? Work with God to witness to them.”
    Jane was caught off guard, but she agreed to do this.
    A few weeks later, Jane came to the pastor again, this time just after Sunday service.
    “Pastor,” she said. “I don’t think this church should be singing that song from that singing group because the church that group is from doesn’t believe some of the same things we do.”
    Again, the pastor asked her, “Jane, do you trust God?”
    “Yes,” Jane replied.
    “Do you think God might be big enough, mighty enough, to speak to someone’s broken heart about the amazing love of Christ through that song, even if the group that sings it doesn’t believe all the things we do, but they do love Jesus?”
    “Well, I just think we need to be really careful about what we watch and listen to, especially in church!” She exclaimed.
    “I agree!” Said the pastor. “Was there any lyric or word of that song that you think is not in line with the Bible?”
    “No, but that church!” She said.
    “Is still a part of the body of Christ. In the vital parts of our beliefs, we are the same. In everything else, we will give God room to be God.”
    Jane never went back to that church. Not because the Bible wasn’t preached; not because the pastor didn’t care; not because she wasn’t welcomed and loved; but because she took her eyes off the things that mattered.
    Have you ever known a Jane? Maybe you were a Jane at one point? Maybe you still have Jane-like ways sometimes?
    I found a word for people like Jane: spiritual umpires. Like the umpire in a game of baseball, spiritual umpires try to direct, control, and judge the spiritual lives of not only themselves, but all those around them. Unfortunately, it’s often misguided, and the focus of a spiritual umpire isn’t truly on the things of God, it’s on the things that look Godly. It comes out in a lot of different ways, too.
    I’m going to be in the book of Colossians this morning, Colossians 3:1-2. “Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth.” These were God’s words through the apostle Paul to the church in Colossae.
    This church had a problem with a lot of Janes. Paul’s words to them were direct, but full of compassion and encouragement.
    Earlier in the letter, he had told them, “Take care that no one keeps defrauding you of your PRIZE.” (2:18).
    Paul often spoke in his letters to different churches about the Christian life as a race, and eternal life as the prize for running the race well. He reminded churches in several places that though they will face sufferings and trials and will have to fight very hard to keep running the race, it will be worth it all when they receive the crown of glory. When Paul speaks about the prize here, he is talking about eternal life, the crown of glory, the privilege of getting to be in the presence of our Creator in eternal worship.
    What does it mean to be defrauded of this prize? In the Greek, the word Paul used for “defraud” means “condemn”. What Paul was warning against was for believers in Colossae to not let themselves be condemned by others and rob themselves of the prize of eternal life with Jesus. He didn’t want them to fall into the trap of listening to the Janes, to the spiritual umpires, and be robbed of their prize of eternal life.
    Paul spoke out specifically against a few things that can rob us of our prize. Colossians 2:16-17 says, “Therefore, no one is to act as your judge in regard to food and drink, or in respect to a festival or a new moon, or a Sabbath day— things which are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”
    Paul spoke against legalism as one of the things that can rob us of our prize. Legalism is when we get caught up in things like: what kind of music is played during worship; if the church has chairs or pews; what translation of the Bible is used; the method of baptism; upholding a particular doctrine that you believe is “superior”; Christians can’t watch movies or dance; Christians shouldn’t go to a particular coffee house; and so many others. Legalism says, “I’ve got to stick to the letter of the law and so does everyone else.”
    But as Paul pointed out, legalism can steal away your prize in Christ. You can get so caught up in doing all the things that look Christian, that you forget to walk with Christ. We’ve likely all seen how  damaging legalism can be.
    Paul also spoke about spiritual pride, “Take care that no one keeps defrauding you of your prize by delighting in humility and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding firmly to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.” (2:18-19).
    Spiritual pride, Paul says, is being puffed up in how spiritual or religious a person things they are. They take over-inflated pride in what they know, or how disciplined they are in certain spiritual things like prayer or fasting or studying the Bible. This was one of the challenges Paul faced with the church in Corinth, that some with certain spiritual gifts were seen as having superior gifts than those with other gifts. Now, we want to have Biblical knowledge, we should have robust prayer and fasting, and we should have quiet times with the Lord that challenge us to truly grow and change, but Paul warns against allowing these things we do to deepen our relationship with Christ to make us so prideful that we are no longer holding firmly to the humility of Christ and His ways.
    The last thing Paul talked about here was rituals and ASCETICISM, which is a twenty-dollar church word which basically refers to self-denial which is related to spiritual pride. “If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of man? These are matters which do have the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and humility and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.” (2:20-23).
    Paul warned against rituals, traditions, things that we just do because we’ve always done them and we’ve always done them a certain way, but they have no meaning anymore. Be on guard against those things, because when we allow those things to become our focus, we forget what a real, active, alive relationship with Christ looks like.
    Paul also warns against asceticism, or denying yourself things like food or drink, as a form of punishment for sins, or denying these things because some leader said you should to be more holy. Some go so far as to beat their bodies to punish themselves. Paul says that these things have no power to actually save you from your sins, so why do them?
    These are all ways that the church in Colossae were being deceived, being pulled away and allowing their prize to be taken away. They were caught up in legalism, they were spiritually proud and puffed up, holding on to dead rituals and self-denial that did nothing for their spirits.
    Paul’s advice to them was simple, and it’s advice that still holds true because God’s Word is always true. “Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things that are ABOVE, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth.” (3:1-2).
    Paul makes it very clear in this and all his letters that we are set free from legalism, we are set free from the need to be spiritually proud, we are set free from dead rituals and self-punishment. Christ’s victory over death gave us victory over those things that we’re tempted to become spiritual umpires with. Paul reminds us to keep seeking the things that are ABOVE, the things of Christ, the things of God, and let the Lord work out the rest.
    Paul reminds us that just living a moral life, just checking the boxes and being “spiritual” are not the same as living for the Kingdom of God. Lots of people who are not believes live fairly moral lives: they don’t steal, they don’t murder, maybe they don’t even lie, but they don’t walk with the Lord. Lots of people come to church and check the boxes and look very religious, but their hearts are hard and made of stone. Lots of people seem very spiritual and mindful of all their “negativity” and “toxic ways”, but are still bound by sin.
    But we have been raised with Christ, raised from the dead, including all these things that threaten to steal our prize. So, keep seeking the things above. Keep setting your eyes on Christ. Keep seeking the Kingdom.
    In 1 Corinthians 2:10-12, Paul wrote, “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among people knows the thoughts of a person except the spirit of the person that is in him? So also the thoughts of God no one knows, except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God.”
    Paul tells us that we can know the thoughts of God because we have received the Spirit of God in us. So, if we want to keep seeking the things above, we need to LISTEN TO THE SPIRIT. Tune your ear to hear Him speak. Spend time with Him in prayer, in His Word, so you will know what He sounds like.
    Philippians 2:2-8 says, “make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, as He already existed in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself by taking the form of a bond-servant and being born in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death: death on a cross.”
    If we want to seek the things above, BE UNIFIED AND HUMBLE WITH OTHER BELIEVERS. Just as Christ was one with the Father, but also humbled Himself for our sake, we must seek to do the same. Be one with each other. Do not allow legalism, spiritual pride, rituals, or self-punishment to create divisions in the church. Be humble with each other and look out for each other. This is one of the ways we seek the things above.
    1 Corinthians 14:12 adds this, “So you too, since you are eager to possess spiritual gifts, strive to excel for the edification of the church.” To seek the things above, we should BUILD UP THE CHURCH. That’s what it means to edify the church. Build it up because doing so furthers the kingdom of God.
    Seek the things above.

1. Have you ever found yourself playing the spiritual umpire? For which of the reasons above (legalism, spiritual pride, rituals?) If you’ve never confessed and repented of that, give that to God today!

2. How does Galatians 2:19-21 help us understand how we are freed from the things that steal our prize so we can set our minds on the things above?

3. James 1:27 talks about more ways we seek the things above. What are those things? How do they help us keep our eyes on the things above?

Make it Holy (2 Kings 12)

    I like Disney movies. If you’ve gotten to know me much, you know this fact about me. One of my all-time favorites is Sleeping Beauty. I love the classic hand drawn animation of Sleeping Beauty, and Maleficent is my favorite Disney villain. I just really like Sleeping Beauty. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, I want to remind you of how it ends. Sleeping Beauty, or Aurora if you go by her real name, dances the night away with her betrothed, Prince Philip, the one who had helped to rescue her. As she’s dancing with him, swirling in her beautiful dress, the pink fairy, Flora, resumes a rivalry with the blue fairy, Merry-weather, over the color of Sleeping Beauty’s dress. Flora wants the dress to be pink. Merry-weather wants the dress to be blue.
    The movie ends with Sleeping beauty dancing happily while her dress continuously changes color: pink, then blue, then pink, then blue. All the while the fairies are bickering, “make it pink”, “make it blue”, “make it pink”, “make it blue”.
    I was thinking about this scene as I worked through the message this morning, and I kept thinking, “wouldn’t it be so much easier if we could just wave a magic wand and say, ‘make me holy’, and poof! just like that, I’m holy just as God is holy?” That certainly would be easier. No more struggling to give up my selfishness and the wants and desires of my “self”, no more sinful leaning, no more serious temptation, no more responding to situations in my human frailty; just holy as the Lord as holy, constantly hearing His voice and always acting as He would have me act.
    But, there is no magic holy wand. No, “make it holy”. The surrendering of ourselves over to the control of the Holy Spirit is a life-long process. It is much more like the struggle between the pink and blue fairies, only with us, instead of drying to change the colors of a dress, we struggle over who will get control of our soul: ourselves or the Spirit? Even after we make the choice to completely surrender to Him, we have to keep walking in that choice, refusing to go back to living for self.
    2 Kings 12 is where we’ll be today, and it’s an interesting look at this struggle. Last week’s passage was in the midst of Joram’s rule in the northern kingdom. This week we’re dealing with the southern kingdom, Judah, which had Jerusalem as its capital.
    You can see on the screen the lines of kings, in the left column we have the kings of the southern kingdom, Judah, that we’ve seen so far. In the right column we have the kings of the northern, Israel, that we’ve seen so far. You’ll see all the way at the bottom of the left column a king named Joash. He is the king we’ll be looking at today.
    There’s a bit of a sordid history surrounding Joash. Just quickly, his grandfather, Jehoram of Judah, married one of the daughters of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, whom many of us are familiar with. This daughter’s name was Athaliah. Their son Ahaziah became king of Judah when Jehoram of Judah died. Both Jehoram and Ahaziah did evil in the sight of the Lord, so the kingdom of Judah, through the king marrying the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, started to become just as evil as the kingdom of Israel in the north.
    In the northern kingdom, Israel, God raised up a king that wasn’t from Ahab and Jezebel’s line, Jehu. He put to death every single member of Ahab and Jezebel’s line, not only in Israel, but in Judah as well. He killed the king in Israel, and he killed the king in Judah. Every single member of Ahab and Jezebel’s line was killed…except Joash, who was the son of Ahaziah, and the great grandson of Ahab and Jezebel. Joash was just a boy when his father Ahaziah was killed. His grandmother Athaliah briefly became queen before she was killed as well.
    With every king in the books of 1 and 2 Kings, there is always an evaluation of that king. That evaluation of comes down to one thing with every king: either they did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord, or they did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. Let’s look at the way Joash is evaluated in 2 Kings 12.
    “Joash did what was RIGHT in the eyes of the Lord all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him. The HIGH PLACES, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.” (vv. 2-3).
    Even though Joash was in Ahab and Jezebel’s line, because he was instructed and guided by Jehoiada the priest, Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. As long as Jehoiada was alive, Joash did right.
    There is a note here too though, that the writer of the books of Kings felt necessary to include, that Joash kept the high places. Joash didn’t worship foreign gods, didn’t worship Baal and Ashtoreth like his great-grandparents, but he didn’t remove the places where others could worship, and so the people continued to worship foreign gods and idols at those high places.
    Even with that note, history records him as doing right in the eyes of the Lord because Joash didn’t worship false gods and idols.
    2 Kings 12 continues and during this chapter we can see how Joash tried to repair the temple that Solomon had built because it had been plundered and had fallen into a state of disrepair during the years that the evil kings had reigned in Jerusalem. Again, we see him trying to do that which would please the Lord, as long as the priest was around to help guide him.
    In the midst of Joash working hard to try to repair the temple, a foreign king set his sights on Jerusalem, “Then Hazael the king of Aram went up and fought against Gath and captured it, and Hazael was intent on going up against Jerusalem.” (v. 17).
    Joash knew he was in trouble. Hazael’s name was fairly well known to him. 2 Kings 10:32 gives us this important information about Hazael, “In those days the Lord began to cut off pieces from Israel; and Hazael defeated them throughout the territory of Israel:” in the verse just after this, we’re told that in this instance, Hazael cut off the lands that had belonged to the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh. God used him in this way because the northern kingdom had forgotten the Lord and turned to foreign gods and idols.
    Joash knew about Hazael’s conquests and victories over the northern kingdom, and when he learned that Hazael who had so far been victorious in every battle was looking toward Jerusalem, Joash began to be very concerned.
    2 Kings 12:18 tells us what Joash did, “But Joash, the king of Judah, didn’t want to go to war. So he took all the sacred objects. They had been set apart to the Lord by the kings who had ruled over Judah before him. Those kings were Jehoshaphat, Jehoram and Ahaziah. Joash took the gifts he himself had set apart. He took all the gold that was among the temple treasures. He also took all the gold from the royal palace. He sent all those things to Hazael, the king of Aram. Then Hazael pulled his army back from Jerusalem.”
    Joash was understandably concerned and worried about going to war with Hazael, who was a mighty conqueror. He had just started to rebuild and he was just starting to really grow into his role as king, and war with Hazael would have destroyed any progress Joash had made.
    So to get Hazael to leave Jerusalem alone, Joash essentially bribed him. Bribing anyone for any reason is probably not the best choice, but Joash was desperately trying to do what he believed the right thing, which was to save Jerusalem.
    The bribe consisted of all the sacred objects. Another translation says “sacred things”. What were these sacred things? I left a spot in your bulletin for that. The sacred things were things that had been set apart FOR the Lord by the three kings before Joash.
    Now, we don’t know what those things are exactly, whether they were vases or plates or whatever…we don’t know. That information isn’t relevant to the passage. What is relevant, what is important, is that those things had been set apart for the Lord. Joash even took the sacred things he had set apart for the Lord.
    He combined these sacred things with the rest of the gold from the temple treasures, and the gold from the royal palace, and those items were the bribe sent to Hazael.
    We can see right away why this was a bad idea, right?
    The line between right and wrong was a little more blurred for Joash. As far as he knew, he wasn’t taking the objects from the temple that were made for sacred use in the temple, so it wasn’t so bad. He wasn’t taking the gold items needed by the priests to serve the Lord, so maybe it was ok.
    But the Scripture here makes a point of making sure that we know these were still sacred items that were set apart for the Lord, even if they weren’t going to be used in the service of worshiping the Lord.
    Joash here was guilty of taking something that had been given to God, set apart, made holy, and turning it into something used for a common and even sinful use, something profane. This is not a place any of us want to be. And unlike with Sleeping Beauty, if we allow what was set apart for God to be used for something unholy, there isn’t a magic wand we can wave and say, “make it holy,” and find that it’s just magically holy again.
    Let me make it a little clearer. When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, we set ourselves apart for the Lord. We say, “I am choosing to be Yours, to serve You with my life.” He gives us His Spirit to live in us and change us, to speak to us and guide us and purify us. He takes us and makes us holy.
    So, when we offer ourselves to things that are not holy, the more we do this, the more we will find that it is hard to give ourselves back to the Lord and His Spirit to purify. The more we make the choice to ignore His voice, and instead we choose to listen to what our flesh desires, the harder it will be for us to make the choice to go back to listening to His voice.
    I’ve seen this played out in my own life before, and I’ve seen it played out in the lives of those who once walked with Him. Now, the amazing thing is that God is powerful and mighty enough to forgive whatever we choose to profane ourselves with, but the danger is that we may get to a point where we don’t want Him to.
    The lesson here through Joash’s example is that once you have offered something to the Lord to be His, don’t take it back and give it to some common use. If He has made it holy, don’t allow it to be made unholy.
    I’ve listed three passages from Scripture that will help us stay on guard so we don’t follow Joash’s example.
    Leviticus 10:1-3 says, “Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on the fire and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “It is what the Lord spoke, saying ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.’” So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.”
    This passage will help us stay on guard by reminding us to be obedient to the Lord. In the case of Nadab and Abihu in this passage, they were offering a sacrifice to the Lord, but it was not something the Lord had commanded them to do. They died as a result.
    Our disobedience to His commands won’t likely result in our immediate death, but disobedience to God’s commands makes us less sensitive to the voice and leading of the Spirit. So if we don’t want to walk in Joash’s path by giving what is holy for unholy purposes, we must OBEY THE LORD.
    Deuteronomy 12:30-32 will help us as well, “be careful that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from your presence, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?’ You shall not behave this way toward the Lord your God, because every abominable act which the Lord hates, they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire for their gods “Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take anything away from it.”
    This passage will help us stay on guard by reminding us to WORSHIP GOD ALONE. That seems pretty self-explanatory, and at first glance we’d all probably say that we’re doing that. But as the Israelites learned and proved, idol worship is an easy trap to fall into. Idols for us look a little different now, but they are still idols. Here are some modern day “idols” we may find ourselves tempted to spend more time worshiping than the Lord: ourselves; money—having it, trying to get more of it, worrying about it; the idol of being entertained; the idol of sex; the idol of comfort; our phones; our families; our friends; a hobby or interest. There’s no shortage of things that are in our modern world that threaten to pull too much of our time, energy, and thoughts away from the Lord and the things of His kingdom.
    But, when we worship God alone, and constantly redirect our time, energy, and thoughts back to the Lord, we’ll put ourselves in a position and posture to be able to better hear His voice when He speaks, and recognize His hand when He moves.
    Romans 12:1-2 also helps us with this, “Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
    This passage will help us stay on guard by reminding us to GIVE OURSELVES COMPLETELY TO THE LORD. Hold nothing back. Give Him everything: your mind, body, soul. Give Him your future so you can always walk with Him and give Him your past to redeem it. Give Him everything that You are and everything that you still will be. Surrender yourselves completely. Make the decision to tell God, “I’m Yours completely. You have control over my whole life.” And then don’t take that control back. Let Him have it for good. Don’t keep fighting His Spirit. Give Him the throne of your heart, and don’t try to get back on it.
    It’s only when we give Him all of ourselves that He can work unhindered in our lives to do what He desires: to cleanse us and make us pure, to make us holy as He his holy, to guide us into all righteousness, to transform us and renew us, to deepen our relationship with the Father. This is what He desires to do, and so much more. But we get in the way. Paul says, it doesn’t have to be that way if we completely surrender.
    If you’re tired of the struggle between self and the Spirit of God, if you’re tired of taking what has been set apart for the Lord and using it in ways that aren’t holy: be obedient to the Lord, worship God alone, and give yourself completely to the Lord. Walk in those processes, and you will find that the struggle becomes less, and His holiness in you will increase.

1. Which of the three processes of holiness do you find most difficult? Write down some specific struggles you have with that process.

2. Look up Hebrews 12:14. Why is holiness before the Lord so important?

3. 1 Peter 1:15-16 says, “but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written: “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” Holiness of our behavior is called for and a good sign of the fruit we bear. Consider Romans 12:1-2 again. How does this holiness of behavior start?

 

Mighty to Save (2 Kings 7)

    One of the songs we worshiped with this morning, Mighty to Save, has a very profound message. When we sing that song, we sing about how every single person, every person, is in need of compassion, kindness, never failing love, forgiveness, mercy, in short…every person is in need of a savior. And what a mighty Savior we have. He can move the mountains. More than that, He can create the mountains just by speaking. One day, His Word will bring the mountains down. He can raise the dead, and He has conquered the grave.
    He takes us as He finds us, everything that we are even with all our mistakes and failures and fears, and He is mighty enough to save us from our sins to give us life again. He is the only hope of nations. He is the only hope of anyone. And the main point of the song is that He is capable and mighty enough to save anyone. Anyone.
    This morning through 2 Kings 7 I want to look at God’s mighty power to save. 2 Kings 7 opens with the Northern kingdom of Israel in desperate circumstances, but particularly the capital city of Samaria. They were under the leadership of Joram or Jehoram, who was the son of Ahab and Jezebel, and the younger brother of the king who ruled before him, Ahaziah, who had died when he had fallen ill and never recovered. Joram also did evil in the sight of the Lord, even though he didn’t worship Baal and the false idols of his parents, he also didn’t do anything to prevent them from being worshiped in Israel. He didn’t tear down the altars or high places or temples. He freely allowed idol worship in his kingdom.
    Because of this, 2 Kings 3:2-3 tells us that the kingdom was in a state of evil and corruption. In 2 Kings 6:24 tells us that the king of Aram rose up against Samaria, the capital of Israel, and laid siege to it. The siege lasted for a long time, and with the armies of Aram gathered all around Samaria, no supplies could get in or out of the city. Before long, 2 Kings 6:5 tells us, the city was in a desperate state of starvation. There simply wasn’t enough food to feed all those who were trapped in the city.
    Without enough food to feed the city, the food that was available was subject to inflation. The cost of food skyrocketed in Samaria, so only the super rich could even afford to buy what little food there was. As less and less food became available and the food became more and more expensive, those who were starving and couldn’t afford food began to resort to cannibalism.
    The city and by extension the nation, was in very desperate circumstances.
    2 Kings 7 starts with the knowledge of how bad things had gotten for Samaria and Israel, and God promising to send salvation for His people.
    2 Kings 7:1-2, “Then Elisha said, “Listen to the word of the Lord; this is what the Lord says: ‘About this time tomorrow a measure of fine flour will be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.’” The royal officer on whose hand the king was leaning responded to the man of God and said, “Even if the Lord were to make windows in heaven, could this thing happen?” Then he said, “Behold, you are going to see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat any of it.”
    This is the promise of coming salvation for the people. Salvation was coming in many ways as well. Most immediately, it meant that salvation was coming in the form of food. By the very next day, God was promising that food would be back in abundance AND that the over-inflation of food would stop. All people in the city, rich and poor, would be able to buy food again in abundance.
    See, a measure of food would have been the equivalent of two and a half gallons of food. That’s an abundance of food. Two and a half gallons of any kind of food is a lot of food. A shekel would have been the equivalent of about 53 cents now. So God was promising through the prophet Elisha, that people would be able to buy flour at the cost of 53 cents per 2 1/2 gallons. Can you imagine going to the store and being able to buy that much flour for 53 cents?
    He told them that the barley, they’d be able to get at the cost of 53 cents for 5 gallons! That’s a lot of food, available for very cheap. With that food they’d be able to make bread, cakes, and any other number of staples to live on.
    This was a far cry from paying $45 for a donkey’s head, which couldn’t have even yielded that much meat! Or $3 for a pint of dove dung which isn’t even food at all!
    But the promise of salvation through an abundance of food wasn’t the only thing God was promising to the Samaritans. See, in order for them to be able to get food, the gates were going to have to be opened. In order for the gates to be opened, the Aramean army would have to be defeated and dispersed. The siege had been going on so long and the Arameans were in a good position to conquer Samaria, so for them to just up and leave would be an act of God’s power and mighty salvation. This was exactly what God was promising.
    He was promising to remove the Arameans from being camped out around Samaria so food could make its way back into Samaria.
    The whole situation would take a miracle to change this much this quickly. This promise of salvation would require FAITH, as it was nearly impossible for a city to believe that they would be rescued and saved in such a drastic way. Especially for people who had spent almost a hundred years not having faith in God.
    We can see how hard it would have been for the people to have faith in God’s salvation through the response of the official. He told Elisha, even if God opened up the heavens and rained down meal and grain, it was impossible. His words not only showed contempt for Elisha as God’s chosen messenger, but the official showed complete disbelief that God was capable or willing to save them in such a mighty way. Because he didn’t believe, he was told that he would not live to eat the food brought by God’s salvation.
    But salvation, any kind of supernatural salvation from God, requires faith. If you look at the story of the conversion of the jailer who was holding Paul and Silas, in Acts 16, verses 30-31 tells us this about how he was saved, “and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
    He was saved by faith, belief, in the Lord Jesus.
    Or Romans 10:9 which Paul wrote about how a person is saved, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” Faith in your heart, belief, is what reaches out and takes a hold of the gift of salvation that God freely offers.
    In fact, that’s exactly what Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;”
    The salvation of God through faith is not just a New Testament concept either. God has always been in the business of saving people. That’s who He is. He is the One who saves. In the New Testament, the salvation He offers is eternal salvation through the shed blood of Christ. Eternal salvation wasn’t offered this way during the Old Testament days, but God did still offer salvation.
    Look at Isaiah 12:2, “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the Lord God is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.” God was Isaiah’s salvation. God was the salvation of many throughout the Old Testament because they made the decision to trust Him. Trust, faith, belief, these terms are all interchangeable, they mean the same thing.
    Hebrews 11 talks about these Old Testament people of faith, who were saved by God and counted as righteous because of their faith in the Lord. People, all people who will ever be saved, even the corrupt and sinful people of Samaria, would be SAVED by faith. We are SAVED by faith.
    The middle part of this story of the Samaritans is that that very night, the Lord had made the Aramean army hear the sound of chariots and horses and the sound of a great army. They became afraid because they thought that the king of Israel, Joram, had hired the Hittites and the Egyptians to fight against them. So 2 Kings 7:7 tells us that they got up, abandoned their tents, their horses, their donkeys, and just fled for their lives. They just left everything right where it was.
    Four lepers who were camped on the outskirts of the city who figured they were going to die anyway made the decision to sneak into the Aramean camp and they found it completely deserted. And because the Arameans had cut off the food supplies to Samaria, the camp was full of food and drink.
    God was mighty to save His people. 2 Kings 7:15-20 tells us this, “They (Samaritan messengers) went after them to the Jordan, and behold, all the way was full of clothes and equipment which the Arameans had thrown away when they fled in a hurry. Then the messengers returned and informed the king. So the people went out and plundered the camp of the Arameans. Then a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in accordance with the word of the Lord. Now the king appointed the royal officer on whose hand he leaned to be in charge of the gate; but the people trampled on him at the gate, and he died, just as the man of God had said, who spoke when the king came down to him. So it happened just as the man of God had spoken to the king, saying, “Two measures of barley for a shekel and a measure of fine flour for a shekel, will be sold about this time tomorrow at the gate of Samaria.” At that time the royal officer had responded to the man of God and said, “Now even if the Lord were to make windows in heaven, could such a thing as this happen?” And he had said, “Behold, you are going to see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat any of it.” And this is what happened to him, for the people trampled on him at the gate and he died.”
    Salvation requires faith, people are saved by faith. And for those who will not believe, those who have unbelief that they cannot overcome, will not be saved. John 3:36 says this, “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life; but the one who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
    But only unbelief will keep people from salvation. Only a lack of faith will keep people from being saved by God. However, salvation is available to all people. Romans 10:13 says, “for “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Salvation is open to all. This free gift of mighty salvation? Anyone can accept it.
    Doesn’t matter what you’ve done, we’ve all sinned! Doesn’t matter where you come from, God has called you from the ends of the earth to be His! In fact, we’re told in Scripture that it is His desire that every single person should come to His salvation. He wants everyone to be saved, and He made His salvation open to anyone.
    That person that you can probably name in your head right now, that person that to you might seem unsaveable, that person who you are tempted to think, “no, they’re too far gone,”…they’re not. Christ died for them, too. God offers His salvation to them, too. God offers His salvation to everyone.
    And so, what is the response for those who have already believed, have already accepted by their faith the gift of God’s salvation? Look at 2 Kings 7:9, “Then they said to one another, “We are not doing the right thing. This day is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent about it; if we wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now then come, let’s go and inform the king’s household.”
    The four lepers found the food and drink and silver and gold and clothes in the camp, along with many other valuables, first. They started taking what they found and eating and drinking, and then realized that there were still people in the city starving to death and resorting to cannibalism. Their response is in this verse. They realized it was wrong to keep such a valuable treasure to themselves, to keep God’s salvation to themselves. So, they went and they told the STORY.
    That should be our response, too. We should treat the salvation we have received through faith by God’s grace as if we had been starving to death and then given a feast. A feast so large that it can be shared with anyone and everyone and there will still be more than enough for us. Share the story. Share with others who you were before you were saved, and share with them what God has done, and share who you are now. Share as if you were giving a person who was on death’s door due to starvation the bread of life that could bring them back.
    God is mighty to save. There is no situation too messed up for Him to redeem. There is no sin too bad for Him to forgive. There is no person too far gone for Him to breathe life back into. He is the hope of nations. Share that.

1. 1 John 5:4 talks about overcoming the world. What role does faith play in this? What hope and encouragement does that bring you about the trials you face?

2. What does 1 Timothy 2:3-4 say about what God’s desire is? Is anyone beyond His saving power? According to Acts 2:21, can the worst of sinners be saved?

3. What prayers is the Spirit prompting you to pray this week concerning salvation and our world?

Three Stories of Trust (2 Kings 4)

    Despite their name, 1 and 2 Kings, these books are not entirely about the kings whose names are written down in the books. These books record the kings names, and some of what they did while they were the king, and also if they did evil in the sight of the Lord or walked in David’s ways. But really, the books of Kings are about God’s power displayed through the lives of two prophets: Elijah and Elisha; God’s power to call His people to Him, His power to save, His righteous might. God did many mighty things through Elijah and Elisha that were meant to show the people in the Northern Kingdom of Israel that He is still God and that He was calling them to leave their lives of sin and trust in Him.
    1 Kings mostly chronicles Elijah’s ministry to the Northern Kingdom. 2 Kings starts with Elijah’s final days and his mentoring of Elisha, who would take over Elijah’s ministry. A careful examination of Elijah’s ministry will show that Elijah walked closely with the Lord. So closely that he audibly heard the Spirit speak to him to guide him and direct him. When we look at stories like Elijah’s big showdown with the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18, though it’s not stated explicitly, what is implied is that Elijah gave the impossible instructions that he gave because he was being directed by the Spirit on what exactly he should do. This was how he was able to say with great confidence that he knew God would act in that situation, because God had already told Elijah through the Spirit what He would do to show He is God.
    In fact, Elijah walked so closely with God, and heard His voice so clearly that Elijah was given a great honor, an honor given only to one other man in the entire Bible. Elijah did not die. He was taken up into heaven on a chariot of fire drawn by fiery horses. He and Enoch were the only two people in the Bible to experience this, and the reason they were given this honor was because of how closely they walked with the Lord.
    Before Elijah was taken up, in 2 Kings 2:9, he asked Elisha if there was anything he could do for him. Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit which we know in reality was the Lord’s spirit. 2 Kings 3:15 tells us that indeed, the spirit was given to Elisha. Elisha knew that he would not be able to minister with any sort of power or effectiveness without the same spirit that Elijah had in him. Elisha was indeed gifted with a DOUBLE portion of the Spirit. That is your first blank in your bulletin if you want to take notes and follow along. All that Elisha did was through the power of the Spirit.
    2 Kings 4 gives four stories, and the first three all have a common theme to them. These three stories are all stories of how God took a burden that was really heavy for the persons in the story, and He gave them victory over that burden. They’re stories of how we can trust God with every burden we might carry.
    The first story is found in 2 Kings 4:1-7, the story of Elisha and the widow. Her story starts like this, “Now a woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, saying, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord; and the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.”
    Without her husband, who had been a prophet and man of God, the widow had no way to pay her family’s debts. She would not have been able to work outside the home, unless it was work doing something unsavory. She had no hope, and so she became consumed with anxiety over the situation and fear that she was about to lose her children. This was her burden, rooted in anxiety and fear, and when she cried out to Elisha it was from a place of heaviness and hopelessness.
    But God demonstrated to her that He could be trusted with her burdens. No doubt directed by the Spirit, this is what Elisha told her, “So Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go, borrow containers elsewhere for yourself, empty containers from all your neighbors—do not get too few. Then you shall come in and shut the door behind you and your sons, and pour into all these containers; and you shall set aside what is full.” So she left him and shut the door behind her and her sons; they began bringing the containers to her, and she poured the oil. When the containers were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another container.” But he said to her, “There are no more containers.” Then the oil stopped. So she came and told the man of God. And he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”
    She had nothing of value left, no doubt she had sold much of what she already had to pay the creditor, but it wasn’t enough. So with the one thing she had left that would have some value, a jar of oil, Elisha told her to go to all her neighbors houses and gather up as many empty containers as she could. He told her not to get too few! Get many. Then she was to come back home and pour the oil into the empty jars, and keep pouring it until all the containers were full. Elisha assured her it would that the oil would be enough to pay off her debts and live off what was left.
    She brought her burdens, her anxiety and fear over her financial situation, to the Lord, and He blessed her. In this story, the blessing came in the form of a financial blessing that eased her anxiety and fear, but we must be careful not to assume that this is always the case. God finds many ways of blessing us to calm our anxiety and fear, and those ways are limited only by the imagination of the Creator of the universe.
    The words in Psalm 55:2 are probably words that we have all said in some way when we’ve been anxious or fearful, “Hear me and answer me. My thoughts upset me. I’m very troubled.” When things don’t work out the way we think they should, when we’re burdened with worries about tomorrow and fears of the unknown, God urges us to bring these burdens to Him.
    His Word tells us to, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7). Cast means that we’re meant to throw them as far as we possibly can. He wants us to trust Him with our anxieties and fears because He promises that He cares for us and can handle our burden.
    The widow learned that as well, that God cared for her and He was capable of handling her heavy anxiety and fear, and to ease her burdens, He blessed her. We read that her blessing was limited only by her FAITH, which is your next blank in your bulletin. The amount of oil she was blessed with to sell was limited only by the number of containers that she had collected in faith that God could be trusted with her burden.
    The second story in 2 Kings 4 you can read about in verses 8-17. It’s the story of the Shunammite Woman who showed kindness toward Elisha. As Elisha would travel throughout the area, the Shunammite woman took not of him and, knowing that he was a man of God, her and her husband prepared a room where Elisha could stay and rest when he traveled through the area.
    Elisha was so touched by the care that she continuously showed him, that he had his servant Gehazi go to her to see what kind of favor he could show her for all her kindness. She wanted nothing in return, no fame, no reward. When Gehazi returned to Elisha, Elisha said, “What then is to be done for her?” And Gehazi answered, “It is a fact that she has no son, and her husband is old.” (2 Kings 4:14).
    Though the woman asked for nothing in return for her kindness, Elisha’s servant was able to discern what the woman’s burden was: she was barren. She had no son, and her husband was old, so it was not likely that she would ever have a son.
    In our time, this is not as much of a social stigma as it would have been then. We understand today that there are many reasons why a couple may not have children, and none of them indicates that the couple are failures as people. But for the Shunammite woman, a lack of children would have been seen as a failure. She would have been seen as a failure by the society she lived in, maybe even by her husband, or even herself. In this time, her failure to not have a child was her failure and hers alone. Women alone were responsible for child-bearing.
    Along with the Shunammite woman’s failure to have a child would have come a considerable amount of guilt since the fault for her failure to have a child rested entirely on her shoulders. This was her duty, and failure to do so likely left her with feelings of guilt over that failure.
    What happened next shows just how hopeless the Shunammite woman thought her situation was, “He then said, “Call her.” When he had called her, she stood in the doorway. Then he said, “At this season next year, you are going to embrace a son.” And she said, “No, my lord, you man of God, do not lie to your servant.” (2 Kings 4:15-16).
    The Shunammite woman had lived with her failure and guilt so long that even when Elisha, a noted man of God told her that she would have a son, she was slow to believe it. In fact, she thinks he may even have been lying to her. Her failure and guilt had long overcome any hope that she had that life might be different someday.
    Who hasn’t felt the sting of failure before, and the guilt that often follows after? I try to teach our kids that many times, failure is a part of learning how to do something, but there are times when I see the look of defeat on their faces.
    The Lord did indeed give a son to the woman, just as Elisha had said, but the Lord gave her more than that. The son He gave her was an extension of His grace toward her. That’s your next bulletin blank, that she was given GRACE. Grace covered her failure and her guilt, and grace restored her hope. Grace restored her trust in the Lord.
    This is what God says to us in our times of failure and guilt, “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in difficulties, in behalf of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. His grace is sufficient to cover our weaknesses, our failures, our guilt, and to turn those things into strength.
    Psalm 73:26 gives a similar word to us, “My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” He gives grace when we fail and His grace covers our guilt, so we can trust Him with these burdens because His grace will lighten our heaviness.
    The third story is found in 2 Kings 4:18-37, and again deals with the faith and trust of the Shunammite woman. “When the child was grown, the day came that he went out to his father, to the reapers. And he said to his father, “My head, my head!” And his father said to his servant, “Carry him to his mother.” When he had carried him and brought him to his mother, he sat on her lap until noon, and then he died.” (18-20).
    She came to Elisha and fell at his feet, “Then she said, “Did I ask for a son from my lord? Did I not say, ‘Do not give me false hope’?” (28). Her feelings here are unfortunately, too easy for us to understand. She had been given grace by God, and then felt like that grace and blessing had been ripped away. Her burden became grief and loss.
    This is a heavy burden. The burdens of grief and loss may be some of the heaviest burdens we will ever have to carry. When Jesus experienced the death of his dear friend, Lazarus, it drove him to tears. We get the shortest verse in the Bible when Lazarus died and we’re told that, “Jesus wept.” The word for “wept” is meant to give us the idea that Jesus’ was in pain and anguish because of the loss of his friend.
    In the case of both the Shunammite woman’s son, and Lazarus, the Spirit of God worked to bring the dead back to life. These were extraordinary circumstances where God showed His power, but what it accomplished in addition to showing that God is Almighty, was it comforted those who were grieving from loss. That’s your last bulletin blank this morning, the Lord COMFORTED her.
    The loss and grief may not always be caused by physical death. Sometimes grief and loss comes in other forms: loss of a job, grief over a soured relationship; there are many reasons humans may experience loss and grief. But, if we trust the Lord with those burdens as well, we will find comfort.
    1 Corinthians 15:55 does address death, “Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” And here the Lord reminds us that even the heavy burden of death loses its victory and sting when we place that burden at the foot of the Cross.
    Matthew 5:4 broadens it a little and Jesus told us, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Mourning, grief, loss, God is worthy of our trust even when it comes to these burdens. He will bring comfort.

1. Read Matthew 17:14-20. How is this story similar to the story of the widow and the oil? How might God’s work be limited in your life by limited faith?

2. God gave grace to several women in the Bible who were considered “failures” by their society. Look at these passages: Genesis 11:30; 17:16-19; 25:21-26; 29:31; 30:22-24; Judges 13:2-5, 24; Psalm 113:9; Isaiah 54:1; Luke 1:5-25. What do these passages tell us about God’s character?

3. What does 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 say about comfort? What are we to do with the comfort we receive? What part does our grief and loss take in our ability to witness to others?

Radical Prayers

    Who has come to the realization that prayer is our life-line? That prayer is our link to a real, tangible relationship with God? That prayer is the necessary and vital key to experiencing the kingdom of God come on earth? I started a journey with the Lord two years ago about prayer, and He began to shake up my view of prayer. It’s a journey I’m still on, and He keeps showing me new things about prayer and what it means and how important it is for those who walk with Him.
    Today, we’re going to do another prayer service, at least in part. These are important for the church as a whole, because prayer is not an individual sport. Prayer is a team sport, and while we can work on that discipline individually, we must have team practices to grow as a body that is meant to be unified in spiritual matters. Corporate prayer together as a whole body is meant to teach us how to pray in our individual quiet times.
    Today, during our prayer service, I want us to focus on radical prayers. There are actually a lot of radical prayers that are talked about in the Bible, but these are five radical prayers that the Lord led me to, that go against what our human comfort and inclination is. These go against what we think the norm should be. These go against what we would prefer to do in our lives. They are challenging prayer focuses that threaten to change us in radical ways. But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He doesn’t call us to stay the same. He doesn’t call us to walk in the ways of the world.
    The first radical prayer I have listed in your bulletin is for humility. I don’t have any blanks in your bulletin this week, but what I want to encourage you to do is to take notes on any point that strikes you as something different than what you have done before. If you think something the Word says about these prayer focuses is challenging, write it down.
    Humility is the first one, like I said. There’s two parts to praying for humility that will radically change us if we let it. The first is to pray for your humility before the Lord. James 4:6 tells us, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” The Lord desires for His people to be humble before Him.
    It’s really the only appropriate heart-posture to have before Him. He is after all, the one who created everything we see and everything we can’t see; the one who knows you better than you know yourself; the one who sees the unseen; the one who exists outside of time itself. If we come before Him full of pride, we come to Him foolishly.
    Micah 6:8 tells us this, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” The Lord requires we walk humbly with Him.
    We are to understand that His knowledge is limitless; that His wisdom is infinite. He knows all and sees all. Remember, Proverbs 3 tells us not to lean on our own understanding! In humility, recognize that He has the all the answers we need to anything we might want to know and He invites us to walk with Him.
    2 Chronicles 7:14 also comes with this reminder, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
    Humility is a necessary step in coming to the Lord for forgiveness. Repentance starts with humility before Him. Walking with the Lord starts with repentance of our sins and acceptance of the Lord’s sovereignty over our lives, so without humility, a relationship with the Lord isn’t truly possible. If there’s any one thing that must be constant in our walk with God, it’s humility.
    But there’s two parts to praying for humility, remember? We want to pray for continued and renewed humility before God, but radical prayers for humility also include a prayer for humility before others. All others, not just other believers, or other believers we get along with.
    Look at Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” In humility, value others above yourselves. Romans 12:10 says to think of others as better than yourself. Ephesians 4:2 says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
    This humility before others comes from a deep understanding that God created the other person just in the same way He created you: in His image. This humility comes from a deep understanding that God loves that other person just as much as He loves you. This humility for others comes from a deep understanding that Jesus died for that person’s sins just the same as He died for your sins, and that despite how horrible we might think their sins are, salvation is available to them just the same as it was available to us.
    Praying for this type of humility before God and others is bold and radical, but it has the potential to bring about incredible change in your life and the life of the church. It is one of the most radical prayers the church can pray.
    Here’s another radical prayer for the church: to pray for the Lord’s justice. We have assurance that His ways are higher than our own, and so we can trust that His justice is higher than our own justice. In fact, His justice is perfect. Psalm 94 tells us that it is the Lord who enacts justice, since He knows what justice truly is.
    “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.” The Lord loves justice, He said so Himself as we read here in Isaiah 61:8. He always acts justly. A radical prayer for us to pray is for the Lord to act against the injustices of the world. To right the wrong; to work against evil; to work on behalf of the oppressed. The interesting thing about praying for the Lord’s justice to be done is that His perfect justice doesn’t negate His perfect mercy. Justice and mercy isn’t 50/50 for God, it’s 100/100. He is always just and perfectly so, and He is always merciful and perfectly so, and both attributes of God are in balance.
    Praying for the Lord’s justice will also lead us to pray that we, His people, will act in His justice, too. Micah 6:8 tells us this, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” He requires that we walk in His balance of justice and mercy. To act justly the way He does isn’t always easy, which is why it’s such a radical prayer for us to pray. Especially when we consider this verse from Isaiah 1:17.
    “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” This is part of what the Lord’s justice looks like. Doing right, defending the oppressed, taking up the cause of those who don’t have a voice to speak. See why it’s such a radical prayer? It’s the next logical step after praying for humility, praying that we will regard others more than ourselves, the next step is to act out of that humility by acting justly toward those who have not been treated justly.
    Praying for the Lord’s justice to be done, and for us, His church to be a part of enacting His justice is radical. It’s another prayer that has the potential to shake things up in the church, and to make the church what it was meant to be.
    Here’s another radical prayer: to pray for all leaders. Everywhere, from the leader of each household to the principles of the local schools, to the leaders of churches everywhere, to leaders of governments, regardless of what these leaders may believe or how they may act, pray for them.
    Paul urges us in 1 Timothy 2:1-4, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
    For all those in authority, all those who lead, pray for them. Pray that they may live peaceful and quiet lives, yes, but that they may live in godliness and holiness, too! Pray for their salvation, those that aren’t saved. Pray that they walk in the Lord’s justice.
    Proverbs 28:2 teaches us this important prayer, “When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a ruler with discernment and knowledge maintains order.” Pray for discernment and knowledge for our leaders, all leaders. This is radical, but there’s more to this radical prayer.
    Both Peter and Paul urged early Christians, who faced persecution and some of the most abominable and corrupt leaders of all time, to be subject to the authority of their leaders. Peter wrote, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:13-17).
    Paul’s words are perhaps even more familiar to us, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” (Romans 13:1-2).
    Radical prayer for our leaders, for them to come to salvation and to do God’s will with discernment and wisdom, to act in godliness and holiness, and for us to pray that we, the Lord’s people, will be subject to those who lead is very, very radical. And like the prayer for humility, and the prayer for the Lord’s justice, it has the potential for great change.
    We can pray the radical prayer to know Jesus’ voice. We forget too easily that the Lord speaks in a voice that is audible to those who are truly listening. Abraham was listening. Joseph was listening. Moses was listening; Joshua and Caleb; Deborah; Ruth and Boaz; David; Elijah; Elisha; Esther; Job; Isaiah and Jeremiah; Ezekiel and Daniel; so many prophets of old; Mary and Joseph; Zechariah and Elizabeth and John; Jesus. All were listening and heard the voice of God speak clearly and plainly, whispering to their spirits. This is what we were meant for. We were meant to hear God’s voice speaking to us at all times, guiding us, directing us, comforting us and encouraging us.
    Jesus stated plainly to His disciples, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27). One of the most radical, life-altering, world-changing prayers that we can prayer as believers is that we will know Jesus’ voice; that we would know what it sounds like when He whispers to us.
    Not only that we would know what His voice sounds like, but that we would listen, follow through with what His voice says. When we read about Jesus’ transfiguration in Mark 9:7, God told those who were gathered there that Jesus is His Son, and He gave them one command: listen to Him.
    Oh that we would pray that we would develop a sensitive ear to Him. That we would not only hear Him, but follow His Word. That we would hear Him, and do as He says. That, is a radical prayer.
    And a fifth radical prayer for us today, a prayer for compassion. Again, there are two parts to this radical prayer. We want to pray for compassion for the lost, compassion like Jesus had. “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:36-38).
    We are the harvesters, but we need compassion for the harvest. We need compassion to look on the lost and see them as God sees them. We need compassion to work to bring in the harvest when there will be many who do not want to be a part of it. Compassion will drive us and keep us from quitting. When Jesus worked miracles and healed those who were in need, it was always because of His great compassion for those who were hurting.
    We need compassion too, for our enemies. That is a radical prayer. No one likes to pray for their enemies. No one really wants to show compassion to those who have hurt them. “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” (Luke 6:35). Those were Jesus’ words.
    And Peter’s, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8-9).
    Radical prayers, you see, are radical because they have the power to drastically change our world, but they’re also radical because the change that they bring about starts with the heart of the believer.

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