Tuesday, 7 February 2023

Prophesied Return?

 

Image: Unsplash

Prophesied Return?

I was raised in Christian circles that have the basic assumption (to them it is an axiom) that modern Israel is a result of the fulfilment of biblical prophesies. Many Christians in these circles consider this a pillar and vindication of their faith. They also see this clearly taught in various different prophesies.

Just look at this powerful passage:

“34 And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by. 35 And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ 36 Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.” (Ezekiel 36:34-36).

It is very easy to see why someone would look at this passage and then at the way Israel has transformed some of its deserts in the modern world and conclude, “Wow this prophecy has clearly been fulfilled in our day. Surely, they must be the people of God. Lands that once laid desolate are now beginning to flourish like the garden of Eden, just like Ezekiel foresaw. Who can deny this is the fulfilling of Scripture?" Indeed, the conclusion of this linked article, which is titled: 'Israel: An Environmental Wonder Making Its Deserts Like Eden' quotes similar prophesies to this one in Ezekiel from Isaiah, and states just that,

“One of the proofs that Israel is the Jewish homeland cannot be ignored. Since they have returned from exile, Israelis have created a brilliant canvas of Israeli nature that has thrived under its rightful owners. The Jewish Agency reports that between 2009 and 2019, the largest numbers of immigrants—out of a total of 255,000—were from Russia, Ukraine, France, the United States, and Ethiopia. Jews from 150 nations have come home to their Holy Land, fulfilling Scripture.”

Many bible believing Christians have concluded that this is powerful proof of the truth of the Scriptures and that modern Israel is the result of the fulfilment of such prophesies. In fact, I used to make this argument once myself, as I was raised in the Dispensational (Christian Zionist) theology that is common in conservative Pentecostal and Baptist churches. However, this argument is easy to poke holes in once you examine it a little more closely, which I eventually did.

To break the spell, all you really need to do is read the context:

Ezekiel 36:16-36 – “16 The word of the Lord came to me: 17 “Son of man, when the house of Israel lived in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their deeds. Their ways before me were like the uncleanness of a woman in her menstrual impurity. 18 So I poured out my wrath upon them for the blood that they had shed in the land, for the idols with which they had defiled it. 19 I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries. In accordance with their ways and their deeds I judged them. 20 But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord, and yet they had to go out of his land.’ 21 But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came.

22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. 24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. 29 And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. 30 I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. 31 Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. 32 It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.

33 “Thus says the Lord God: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. 34 And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by. 35 And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ 36 Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.”

All you probably really need to read is verse 33, “Thus says the Lord God: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt.” The pre-condition for the fulfillment of this prophesies is that the people of Israel must be redeemed first. It is basic Christian and Old Testament theology to note that forgiveness of sins and redemption is an act of salvation. To be cleansed from your sins means to be brought to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

This precipitates a simple question: is modern Israel a predominantly Christian nation? No. Therefore, it cannot be the fulfilment of this prophecy. As the context requires, because Ezekiel also says,

“25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

The context of this passage requires us to conclude that modern Israel cannot be the fulfillment of God’s prophecy, because Ezekiel notes that when God does fulfill this prophecy the Israelites will reject their previous sins and their idols and will follow God with a new heart. This is the evidence of a redeemed people, a renewed people, a people saved from their sins. Yet Israel is not a believing nation, a nation that accepts Jesus is the Messiah and the fullest revelation of the way of salvation in God, and therefore this prophecy has not been fulfilled in the modern nation of Israel.

This prophecy of Ezekiel is also a prophecy of the ministry of the New Covenant ministry. Indeed, note the similarity between what Ezekiel says in verse 25-27 and what Paul says in Titus 3:3-7 –

“3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Or compare it to Acts Chapter 2:1-5,

“1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.”

Titus shows us that it is all believers, Jew and Gentiles that receive the Holy Spirit and are made new. And Acts 2 shows the beginning of the Old Testament prophesies about the filling of God’s people with the Spirit being fulfilled. And as we know from the book of Acts this was extended to Samaritans (Acts 8) and other Gentiles (Acts 10-11). What Peter says in Acts 10:34-48 is remarkable, because it shows us how the Apostle’s understood the interpretation of prophesies such as this,

34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.”

All these passages show that when Ezekiel is prophesying about the people of God being filled with the Holy Spirit and being given a new heart, this does not necessarily mean the literal descendants of Abraham limited to his children through Isaac. But for all the descendants of Abraham, that is all who believe (Gal. 3), in other words, all who are saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

What this proves conclusively is that the modern nation of Israel cannot be a fulfillment of these prophesies, because the modern nation of Israel is not a Holy Spirit filled nation of Christian believers who lift up Jesus as their Lord and King. Most Jewish people in Israel reject Jesus. Some do not, some are believers, but they are in the minority, and it is sometimes a persecuted minority. How can a nation that persecutes at times those who believe in Jesus be considered a fulfillment of anything stated in Ezekiel 36? It is nonsensical.

Does this mean that these prophesies in Ezekiel will not be fulfilled? Of course not, and there is debate over how literally to take them. Because as we have demonstrated, in some sense they were at least partially fulfilled in the pouring out of the Holy Spirit as recorded in Acts 2, 8 and 10-11 and Titus 3. For them to apply to the physical nation called Israel, this would require the vast majority of Israel and their leaders to be a nation that has turned to Christ. This has not yet happened. It may one day happen, as I know many people who pray for this, but it has not yet happened. It is also possible that these prophesies may be fulfilled in another way.

They may look to the Millennium, the Thousand Year Reign of Jesus Christ. Or they may be a reference to Christians of all nationalities living in Israel. Or they may refer to some future state where God’s people in heaven live in their national heritage homelands, that is people from each nation being restored their national sovereignty under the global leadership of our King Jesus. It is important to note that the nations will survive until the end of time, they are there at the end of Revelation. So, it could be referring to this time in the new heavens and new earth. Or it could simply apply in a spiritual way to the current Church, which is spreading across the world, and even in Israel, and is spurred by the power of the Holy Spirit. There is big debate over how it could be fulfilled, and in this piece I am not seeking to answer all of these potential questions.  

What we can say for sure, though, is this: these prophesies cannot be applied as fulfilled in an unbelieving people living in the land of Israel. To be a fulfillment they require a regenerated people, made new by the Holy Spirit that rejects its idols and worships God alone, the God of the Bible, who is revealed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Modern Israel does not in the majority do this and therefore it is clearly the result of human effort, and a work of human striving. This does not mean they should not be doing this, from a national perspective it is understandable. Israel was founded by people who wanted a nation to call their own. Israel has every right to seek national sovereignty as any other people does. It is the right of nations. But Christians need to lift their game when applying biblical prophesies like this, and should not be tying them to clear efforts of man that do not match the actual words of those prophesies when read in context. When this prophecy is fulfilled, however it is fulfilled, at the centre of it will be a people who worship the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Monday, 6 February 2023

Evil Rules This World


Psalm 2 –
Evil Rules This World

You can watch the vide of this sermon here.

Introduction:

Last week we explored the idea that the prayer of the righteous person is powerful and effective. The reason why this is so, is because the righteous man and the righteous woman know that they should bring their will more in line with the will of God. Effective prayer is prayer that agrees with the word of God and the things God asks us to pray for. In other words, to pray more powerfully you need to pray for the right things.

This idea of God bringing our will closer to his will is so important in many ways. This includes how we see this world that we live in. God wants us to have a certain view of the world and how it works, that is shaped around the word of God and its worldview. God’s word teaches us that this is not our home and that this is a very corrupt and evil world. This is a worldview that many Christians are not fully comfortable with.

Don’t get me wrong, many Christians will acknowledge that we live in a fallen world, an imperfect world. This is commonly understood. But the Scriptures, and especially the Psalms, want you to understand that this world is worse than that. It is an evil world. It is a world set against you. This is a place where many Christians cannot go, they can’t accept this. But this understanding is vital for your prayer life.   

And this assumption, this true assumption, is also basic to Christianity. For example, Ephesians 5:15-16, 6:12 - “15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” This idea that we live in “this present darkness” is fundamental to praying well. Because the Bible wants you to understand that you are soldiers of Christ in enemy territory. Why do you think you are told to put on Christian armour?  

I think moderns Aussie Christians struggle with understanding how evil our world is for several reasons.

- We have it pretty good in the West - For most of our lives we have been free to live as we wish. We have forgotten how bad evil can be. We forgot that good times would be used by evil as well as times of tyranny, Proverbs 1:32 – “For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.” Decadence is as bad for the soul as persecution can be for your life.

- Conditioned - People have been conditioned by education, books, media, entertainment, their friends, and more, to see things which are very evil as good. This is even true in the Church. It’s hard to convince people to take evil seriously who believe a lot of evil things are ok. Pre-marital sex is not just wrong it is evil. Homosexuality is not just wrong it is evil. Etc, etc.

- Too Trusting - Aussies are a high trust people and we just trust that most people are decent people. We tend to believe the person on the news is a decent and honest person, not really a paid actor. We tend to believe that flawed politicians are just decent people with imperfections, not bought and owned by certain interests. This comes from having lived in easy times. This dulls your senses to evil.

But the Psalms are not shy about the evil that rules our world. The Psalms have a view that is very much different, and it begins very early with Psalm 2. So, let’s see what Psalm 2 has to say about evil ruling this world, and how this should impact our prayer life.

Evil Conspirators (vv.1-3) The worldview of Psalm is that this world is ruled by evil conspirators who hate the Lord God and his Messiah, “1 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” The kings and rulers of this earth set themselves against God continually. The question we want to ask is what is meant by the rulers? Is it talking about the Spiritual rulers, the principalities, or the literal kings, presidents and Prime Ministers of this world? I would answer: both, absolutely both. Let me demonstrate this from the Bible itself.  

Human schemers against Jesus – We know Psalm 2 is referring to human rulers, because we see examples of what it teaches often in the Bible. The most powerful example is the conspiracy to destroy Jesus, of which we read in Acts 4:24-28 –

“24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’— 27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”

Just as Psalm 2 says, so did the leaders of the Jews, along with the Romans, conspire to destroy Jesus, and they whipped up the people to support it.

The gospels tell us often that the Jewish leaders were continually angered by Jesus showing them up, and Matthew tells us this, “But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him” (Matt. 12:14). This happened after he healed a man in front of them with a withered hand.  

Finally, they come for him at night, not when he was surrounded by crowds, but when he was surrounded by just a few of his most loyal followers. They use betrayal, through one of his own disciples, and the cover of darkness or as Jesus puts it, Luke 22:53 – “When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

In fact if you read the context of Acts 4 you will see the reason that the Apostles are reflecting on this is because the same thing was happening to them that happened to Jesus. And they expected this because Jesus told them this would happen to those who sought to boldly proclaim the word.

The Lord Jesus himself was taken down and murdered by a plot of evil rulers of this world. But there was more to it.

The evil behind the rulers – The Bible is also clear that there was demonic power behind this plot. Luke 22:3-5 –

“3 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. 4 He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.”

Satan was behind the actions of Judas, the disciple who conspired against Jesus.

And Satan was behind the actions of the Jewish leaders, John 8:39-40, 44 –

“39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did….44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

The Lord Jesus himself was taken down and murdered by a plot of evil rulers of this world, who were inspired by the god of this age.

The Bible is very clear that the wicked rulers of this world who hate Jesus are inspired by an even greater evil that hates Jesus in a more intense way. These evils feed off each other and are the dominant power in this world. “2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together,” These rulers are not clumsy about it either, but make deliberate plans about how they can harm the work of God and his people.

This is the proper Christian worldview of the powerful in this world.

This is what Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, says about this,

“’And the rulers take counsel together.’ They go about their warfare craftily, not with foolish haste, but deliberately. They use all the skill which art can give. Like Pharoah, they cry, “Let us deal wisely with them.” O that men were half as careful in God’s service to serve him wisely, as his enemies are to attack his kingdom craftily. Sinners have their wits about them, and yet saints are dull.”[i]

“Sinners have their wits about them, and yet saints are dull.” Spurgeon noted the exact same thing we observed in our introduction. Christians tend to be naïve about the state of evil in this world, forgetting that Jesus Christ himself said this, Matthew 10:16 - “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Jesus was not negligent in warning his disciples about the dangers of the world he was sending them out into, sending us into.

We might have lived through a time more peaceful than most, but peace is always temporary and evil is starting to publicly reveal itself again. It is becoming more and more open.  

Pray - This should inform how we pray, because we need to recognize that we are soldiers of Christ in enemy territory. This is the biblical worldview. If you were an actual soldier of war and you were parachuted behind enemy lines, either alone or with a squad, and they gave you are walkie talkie to communicate with, and they said: ask us for whatever you need to achieve your task. What would you do?

You would be using it, often. Again and again, and again. And you would be smart to do so.

You would ask for supplies, for reinforcements, for encouragement that you were on the right path of the plan. You would use it to co-ordinate with your higher powers so that they could bring the full force of their artillery to bear on your enemies. Especially the enemies who are too strong for you to fight alone.

In fact, you would be foolish not to do this. You are not there on your own orders. You are there on your commanding officers order, to fulfil his plan, and therefore you need to communicate with him regularly to make sure you fulfil his commands well.

Outgunned - You also need to recognize how out gunned you are. When it comes to the rulers of this world, as one person I know says it, we are the little fish, and they are the whales, we just have to do our best to stay out of their way.

In our own strength we could not face even the power of the corrupt rulers, let alone the power of evil spiritual beings.

We need to recognize the situation we are in on this planet as Christians. We are in a world that is ruled by those who are experts in destroying what is good, beautiful and true, and our job is to be advocates of what is good, beautiful and true.

Which means we will face opposition in this world, just from seeking to live a faithful life here on this earth. It won’t be easy. We were told it would not be.

Jesus says this in his great prayer in John 17:14-16 –

“14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”

Jesus told us that we would be hated by the world because he was. He told us the evil one was a threat to us, that we need God to protect us from. Simply because he spoke the truth of God’s word. You need prayer to back you up if you are going to boldly speak the truth.

Because you will face attack.

If you have not experienced this, then I simply encourage you to do one thing: speak the truth in contexts where people don’t want to hear it, and see what happens. Sooner or later you will see what Jesus was talking about.

In fact, many of you know what I am talking about, and it is why you stay quiet at work, or at home, or at school, wherever. You know what will come if you speak up, so you stay silent.

As someone who has faced attacks both from within the church circles and without, I understand why. Speaking up comes with a real cost, one that you carry with you, in your soul.

You can’t stand up under that kind of pressure without relying on God and coming to him regularly in prayer.    

So, the Bible wants us to recognize we are in enemy territory, outnumbered in our own strength, fighting against enemies that are beyond our ability to handle who have more influence over this world than we do. So where is the good news?

Our Amused Lord (vv.4-6) – Well, the good news for us is who we have on our team. The one we can pray to is the one who sits above this evil world and who mocks evil, “4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

What is the Lord’s response to the evil conspirators of this world, spiritual or otherwise? “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.”

Remember what we saw verse 1: “2 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?” Why do the nations, or Gentiles rage, and the people’s plot in vain? Why do they scheme against the all-powerful God, why do they seek to try and destroy God’s anointed, to harm God’s people and plan?

The ways in which mankind have plotted against God have been many, and they always come to nothing. The tower of Babel, the slavery of the Hebrews in Egypt, the destruction of Israel in the Old Testament, etc, etc. Think about this, one time they actually managed to kill the Son of God himself, and what does the Bible say about that?

Acts 2:22-24 –

“22 Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”

In murdering Jesus the wicked men helped Jesus achieve God’s preordained plan. He was meant to die to defeat sin, death and the devil, and to raise to life again.

Evil’s greatest triumph against God, the murder of Jesus, ended up solidifying the defeat of evil once and for all. The rest of history is just a mopping up operation. Evil is done, finished, defeated, its power is broken. It’s influence more and more limited as the church advances over this world. It can still do great harm, but it is on the losing team.

No wonder our king sits in heaven and laughs. At just the moment when evil thinks it is at its most powerful, it is defeated. Awesome stuff.

Not only does he mock them, but they are actually afraid of God, “5 “Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” The evil of this world is terrified of Jesus, let me give you two examples,

The guards are scared of him – When the guards come to get Jesus, they were terrified of him,

“3 So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4 Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground” (John 18:3-6).

The demons are scared of himLuke 8:30-31 – “30 Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. 31 And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss.”

If the enemies of God are terrified of him, why would you seek to face them in your own strength? Face them with God who laughs at their petty schemes constantly on your spiritual speed dial.

The Wicked Will Face God (vv.7-12) – And don’t forget that the wicked will face God,

“7 I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.” 10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”

The wicked rulers who conspire against the Messiah and his people, will be defeated, they will face the wrath of God. Some of them might even repent and be redeemed, it has been known to happen. But either way they are not going to win.

His time is short – This is partly why the evil one is so angry, he knows he is running out of time, Revelation 12:7-12 –

“7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him…12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

Our prayer needs to keep this in mind. Sometimes this world will get down on you, make you feel defeated. You will see evil men do evil things and appear to get away with them. But the Bible shows us the end of the story. The Devil will be defeated, and along with him the corrupt as well, “10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled.”

When the Bible says to pray for the authorities, this is one of the prayers it has in mind. That our leaders would be warned that they will face Jesus, and therefore they should repent and follow his ways.

Eventually this whole world will be the kingdom of Jesus in power,

“7 I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.”

This will be a good day for God’s people, and therefore, we should pray for this constantly.

Indeed, this is what we are praying for when we say, “Our father who are in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” When we pray this, we are praying for the schemes of evil to be finished, defeated once and for all.

There is only blessing for those who trust in the Lord, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” Who are those that take refuge in the Lord? It is those who believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins, rose again to achieve their salvation, and who pray to him, day and night, to see his will done on earth.

Those who take refuge in him are those who like the soldiers we saw before are constantly calling upon their heavenly father to go to battle for them. To bring his spiritual artillery to bear against the evil spiritual forces of this world.

I think they are also those who pray for the wicked men and women of this world to repent, and to have their hearts redeemed as ours were.

Application - I think the application of this sermon is very simple, but let me share a few thoughts.

We need to pray like those who know they are on enemy ground. It is not that the Devil owns the earth, he doesn’t, but he has usurped it, and we must be wary of his power. So pray regularly and with intention to see God’s will increase in your life, your family’s life, your churches life, and in society.

Pray knowing that we are on the winning team. Pray knowing that evil has been defeated, is going to be defeated, and we live on this earth to carry out the part of God’s mission that he would have us fulfill.

Pray for those who stand against you, that they may repent and come to know Jesus. I think this is a powerful way to pray for your enemies. Pray also that God would sort them out.

Pray that wicked rulers would cease their evil. And heed the warning to turn from evil and trust in God.

Pray knowing the Devil does not want you to pray, and prayer works against him.  

Conclusion – Don’t be naïve about evil in this world. Evil is worse than you likely think, and less powerful than it thinks. But it is real, pervasive and schemes against God and his followers. Evil may rule the world for now, but our Lord is bringing it to an end. Until then, let’s pray like our lives depend on it. Because they do. Let’s pray.

References



[i] Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Psalm 2, p11.

Sunday, 5 February 2023

It's Your Fault!

Image: Unsplash

Apparently. 

"You need to earn less money."

"You need to potentially lose your job."

"Your housing payment needs to be driven out of reach for you to pay it." 

"You need to spend less, stop buying stuff, its your fault."

They may not be saying it in exactly these words, but the RBA policy has basically these underlying messages. Australians must earn less, spend less and have less, or they will seek to take it off you, so you can't spend it. 

Think I'm being a bit over the top? Read this

"Reserve Bank boss Philip Lowe has called on Australians to 'ride out' the period of rising inflation by not issuing pay increases despite cost of living concerns.

Dr Lowe, who earns more than $1million a year, explained in a speech on November 22 that wages needed to remain steady if Australians wanted to avoid another rate hike.

The RBA Governor wants any wage gains to be kept below 4 per cent, which means workers will effectively be taking pay cuts as the price of food, fuel and household bills rise.

'I know it's very difficult for people to accept the idea that wages don't rise with inflation and people are experiencing declines in real wages. That's tough. The alternative, though, is more difficult,' he said.

His comments have gained traction again on social media this week as Australians increasingly struggle with the cost of living crisis...

...Dr Lowe said that there was a 'natural appeal' to lifting wages to match inflation but stressed that it was the wrong move as it could force the central bank to issue more rate rises."

They are acting as if it is your fault. Our fault. But you are not the cause of inflation, not directly anyway. The more than 300 billion dollars in stimulus given out by the previous government is. Sure many of you were happy for it. Many of us accepted some of it. Add to this the super that was allowed to be taken out, and the previous Liberal government flooded the economy with an instant money supply not before seen in this country. This was always going to cause inflation. 

Add to this that the outgoing borders were locked, and people could only spend that money here. And add on top again that the RBA told you that interest rates would remain low till at least 2024, and government and para-governmemt organizations, created a perfect storm for escalating inflation. But the government always takes back what it gives. And that is happening now. 

Most of that excess cash flow is now being consumed with increased prices. And now its your fault. First they wanted you to spend. Now not to spend, and they are unhappy you haven't listened quick enough. 

Who does this all serve anyway? Aussies are poorer now in real terms than they were in 2019. Our money is worth less, because it doesn't go as far. But you need to suffer to save the country from their policies. 

Who does this all serve? Not us, not Aussies, that's for sure. 


Saturday, 4 February 2023

Be Good or be Accepted as Good?

Image: Unsplash

John C. Wright puts into perspective what makes old school western thinking so admirable:

"The theme of the book, as I said above, is abnormally clear, because Laumer skillfully has left out anything which might detract or delay from emphasizing that theme. This story is as sharply pointed as a fable by Aesop. The point is the answer to the question famously asked by Socrates, but surely asked by all men in all ages when they reach a certain age, whether it is better to be seen as evil while truly being good, or to be seen as good while truly being evil?

The question divorces the reward of virtue from the reality of virtue, at least, in the view of the world where the only reward is the esteem and applause of men. Tan Dalton does what is right, come hellfire or floodwater, and does not flinch at paying the price in terms of esteem lost, prestige ruined, career savaged, character slandered—and he does not get the girl in the end.

The setup of the paradox of seeming rather than being good is simple enough: Dalton is presented with two political parties, a stupid party and an evil party, both of whom have a dumb and cowardly answer to a not-very-complex question, but a question that requires bravery and fortitude to answer. He cannot in good conscience join with either party, and so he is isolated, despised by both, and scorned by all. In other words, he is given for his goodness the exact same reward rightly given to evil men.

One thing that particularly delighted me both as a child and as a man about Dalton’s answer is the pragmatic idealism of it. Pragmatically, it is unwise either to overreact or underreact to the aggression of an ambitious but weaker alien menace. But whether it is unwise or not, it is unfair on idealistic grounds not just to Mankind, but to the Hukk aggressor also, to meet aggression with a reward, because it confuses them into a false picture of the world, one where they can make many small piecemeal attacks with no fear of massive, overwhelming, or, (in this case), genocidal retaliation.

Now surely no one raised in a Christian nation, (even one that is culturally Christian if not officially), is unaware of the answer to the Socratic question. The non-Christians who, for whatever reason, accept Christian value judgments as valid can see in the example of Christ on the cross, or Socrates drinking hemlock, the reward of being good rather than looking good. Until very recently, the picture of a man willing to make any sacrifice to do the right thing, despite any slander or false accusation, was a paramount ideal of our civilization.

The self-aggrandizing hucksterism of a Cassius Clay was not a mainstream ideal, nor was success at any cost, nor did anyone listen to smirking cads who said that winning was not everything, but the only thing.

Even children were taught the ideal of seeking the reward of virtue not in the opinion of the fickle world: Superman is garbed as a drab and mild mannered reporter who cannot even get a date, no worldly reward comes to Clark Kent for his good deeds; Spider-Man is hated as a menace by the city he saves, so if anything, his reward is even less. These are the men upheld, and rightly so, as heroes to our children. Glory Hounds like Booster Gold or Gilderoy Lockheart are rightly portrayed as distasteful, comedic, or villainous.

We are a society that by tradition—Christian tradition—mistrusts those who seek the good opinion of society."[i]

"Until very recently, the picture of a man willing to make any sacrifice to do the right thing, despite any slander or false accusation, was a paramount ideal of our civilization." But now this has changed, the braggadocious acclaim followings in rap music, business and sport. But once the virtue of not seeking the applause of society was better understood. 

So we should again ask, is it better to do the right thing and be hated for it? Or do the popular thing and be loved for it? To be good, or to be judged as good by the majority? 

The answer is simple in theory, of course you should do what is right. But it is often so costly in practice that few do what they know to be right. The temptation to fit in, be loved by your fellow man, to not damage your career or reputation is too much for most people in most contexts. But this truth still stands: it is better to suffer for doing what is right, then take your rewards now for doing what you know is wrong. 


[i] Wright, John C. Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth (pp. 129-130). Still Waters Books. Kindle Edition.







Friday, 3 February 2023

Psalm 1. The Prayer of Righteous Person Is Effective

 


Sermon One Psalm One

Prayer Week One – Psalm One – The Prayer Of A Righteous Person

You can watch the video of this sermon here

Introduction

What do you want for yourself, your family, your church and your community in 2023? What do you want to ask God to do? We are all here at different stages of our lives, some similar to others, but still very different. Some people here are retired and are grandparents. Some people are married with children at different ages. Some of you are single and maybe want to be married. Some of you are too young to be thinking about things like this. You may be still at school and have a whole different focus. We are all at different stages of our life, and there will be many different things that you will want this year.

Wherever it is you are at, and whatever it is you want from God this year, you need to keep in tension these two important and necessary biblical truths: We have a good God who wants to give us good things, “17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (Jas 1:17). And that we will face trials and hard times, “2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (Jas 1:2-4). Sometimes the good thing we need is to be refined under pressure. We need to be careful as Christians not to over emphasize either of these two truths but to instead hold them in tension.

Some of us lean towards the idea that we shouldn’t be expecting too much from God, because he has already given us so much. Others among us might think that God is the great vending machine in the sky from whom we can get whatever we want. But neither of these things is true, they are both extremes that we can fall into for different reasons.

The truth is it is good to want good things from God, and it is good to persevere through the struggles he brings on us to discipline us. But either way, we need to recognize that we should be asking God to be working on our behalf. God is our heavenly father, he wants us to ask him for things, and he wants us to be refined in what we ask for. Therefore, to kick off this year, we are going to start with a bit of a miniseries on prayer, based on Psalms 1-3. We won’t cover a whole theology of prayer, but I want to touch on a few principles from the Psalms, and other parts of the Bible, to build on, and to encourage you to pray more this year. Let’s begin.

Why the Psalms? Why are we basing this miniseries on prayer from the Psalms? There are many great passages in the Bible about prayer, and great prayers to choose from, like:

The Lord’s Prayer - This is a beautiful prayer, and serves as an important prayer for teaching people to pray,

7 And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

10 Your kingdom come,

your will be done,

    on earth as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread,

12 and forgive us our debts,

    as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,

    but deliver us from evil.”

The principle from this prayer is that when you pray keep it short, keep it focused on worshipping God, honouring God, your need for God to provide for you, acknowledge your sins and your need for forgiveness, daily.

We could draw out a lot from this prayer.

Hezekiah’s Prayer – This too is a great prayer, Isaiah 37:14-20,

“14 Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: 16 “O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 17 Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. 18 Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, 19 and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 20 So now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the Lord.”

You can tell Hezekiah was nervous when he prayed this prayer, because he repeats the word Lord so many times. Nervous prayers tend to do this.

But this is a wonderful prayer of a man in desperate need, who knows that his God can do something incredible.

Dead Martyrs Prayer – Or we could look at Revelation and see how the saints in heaven still seek God in prayer, and what we can learn from how they pray, Revelation 6:9-11 –

“9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.”

We should not pray to these people, but we can learn from their prayer.

We see from their prayer that it is thoroughly righteous and good to pray for God to bring vengeance on the wicked. It also shows that it is normal for good people to wonder when God will bring an end to evil.  

There are many other examples of passages we could look at to learn about prayer in the Bible. The reason I have chosen the Psalms, and the first three Psalms, is because of this: prayer is ultimately a theological exercise.

Theology just means knowledge of God: Theo = God, Logos = Word, knowledge, science. So, theology just means thinking about God. Everyone then is a theologian, because everyone thinks or speaks at some level knowledge about God. The question really is how good a theologian are you? No one is a perfect theologian, and some are better than others.

But the reason I bring this up here, is this: if theology is how you think about God, and we all think about God to some degree, then it is important to understand that how you think about God will determine how you pray, and how powerful your prayers are.

That is why the Bible gives us the Psalms. It is an entire collection of prayers and songs from which we can learn to pray like the great saints of the past.

A lot of the “mysteries of God” or the ways we should live, or the ways we should think, or act, or what we should do in this life, or pray, are found in the Bible for us. And we could discover them for ourselves if we were to just read it.

This does not mean teaching is not important from the pulpit or in Bible studies and things like this. But a lot of the questions you want answered from the Bible can be answered by becoming familiar with the Bible.

Learning to pray really well, and know what to ask for, and how to ask for it, is just like anything else in the Bible. It comes from an intimate knowledge of God and his word, and from deep reflection and study, and anyone can do this.

The Psalms were specifically designed to do this, which is why we are beginning with these first 3 Psalms. What I want to do over the next few weeks, is give you a bit of an introduction of how the Psalms want you to think when you are praying to God, and then I want to encourage you to go further into the Psalms and meditate on them more and more as you pray this year. So, let’s get into Psalm 1.

Blessed (v.1) – The very first word of the Psalm is blessed, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;…” Blessed means sacred, happy, well off, taken care of, nourished, having received good things. It even carries with it a sense of divine favour, he or she who is blessed is blessed by God. You want to be blessed, I want to be blessed. To be blessed is the best thing. Prayer is about bringing down God’s blessings from heaven to earth.

Many Christians believe that the aim of life, the aim of things like marriage, work, Christian friendships etc, are not to make you happy, but to make you holy. That holiness is the highest priority. But this is backwards. The goal of all of life is joy, “11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11). The highest goal in life is joy, the highest achievement is true happiness.

The question is, wherein do you find true happiness? You find it through holiness.

Happiness comes from holiness (v.1-2) – “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” The goal of life is blessed joy, but this sacred joy, this blessedness, comes from avoiding the counsel of evil men, avoiding the ways of the rebellious, ignoring the mockers, and planting your life squarely in the teachings of the word of God. This is where true joy comes from, this is where true and powerful Christian living begins.

The world wants to throw wickedness in front of you, everywhere you go. It will seek to try and entice you with evil, to encourage you to find your joy in evil.

This works because sin and rebellion can be fun, for a time. It can be enticing. Our nature tends to it because we want to have joy, and because we can be lazy we like to get it by short cuts.

But true and lasting joy, blessedness can only come through seeking holiness. There is no short cut.

(v.1) You must avoid the company of those who can destroy you and entice you. If this means changing where you live, where you work, where you go to school, where and who you socialize with, then make that change.

(v.2) You must not just read the bible, but cultivate a delight in meditating on it. Old and New Testament. This comes about by meditating on it day and night and trusting in what it says.

The reason this is important for your prayer life, is because you can’t just keep knowingly sinning and doing dumb things and think you can pray your way out of it. The Bible warns us about thinking this way;

-        Psalm 66:18-19 – “18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. 19 But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.”

-        James 5:16 – “16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

-        1 Peter 3:7 – “7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

The Bible emphasizes again and again and again, that how we live impacts our prayers.

This does not mean we have to be perfect, not at all. If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. But prayer is part of the sanctification process. Our prayer needs to have a daily recognition of our sinfulness and therefore our need for forgiveness. As we grow in this understanding we become better at praying for the kinds of things that God wants us to pray for.

“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” This is why the prayer of the righteous person is powerful and effective, the more you grow in your faith, the more you will come in line with the will of God. You start to think more and more like he would have you think.

Paul puts it this way, 1 Corinthians 2:16 - “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”

This is a remarkable comment. In some ways it is hard for us to comprehend how God could grant us such a gift. But Paul is talking about how the Holy Spirit leads people into the truth and wisdom of Christ, and this happens as you are sanctified. The more you grow in the Spirit, the more you start to think the things Christ would have you think.

This is why Paul was such a powerful prayer. Therefore, it is so important that you deal with sin in your life.

Psalms is a book of prayers and songs, and it begins by talking about how important it is to live righteously, according to the word of God, because this makes a difference in how you will bear fruit in this world.

Bearing Fruit (vv.3-4) – The righteous man, the righteous woman, is like a bountiful tree that produces great fruit, “3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.”

It is magnificent how great a tree can grow. They can grow magnificently and spread a canopy across the sky the size of a small field. They bear all kinds of magnificent fruit. They say that money doesn’t grow on trees, but no one considers the coffee tree when they say that. Have you seen how much they charge for a coffee these days? Get a few of those and you can rake in the cash.

The righteous man, the righteous woman is like a bountiful plant. They bear fruit, and prayer and answer to prayer are both fruit.

Prayer itself is the fruit of a heart that knows how much it needs to rely on God.

Answers to prayer is the fruit of a heart that has learnt to pray as God would have it pray.

Some people might consider the idea here that the righteous man prospers in all that he does difficult to take in. Does this mean if we are righteous we won’t face trials? Does this mean that the righteous man or woman will not face hard times and loss? No.

Here is the where the tension we talked about at the start of this sermon comes in. The good man, the good woman, will face trials, but even in those trials you will prosper. You will not lose your faith, you will not be beaten down, you will not walk away, if you continue in faith you will overcome, because of the one you trust in.

Think about this, how many good and innocent men in the Bible ended up in prison? Yet how many of them won favour while in there? How many good and righteous men and women faced hard times, but found the faithfulness of God in those hard times?

There are even accounts of Christians in history winning their torturers to the faith.

The righteous man may become wealthy and popular, this does happen. But it might just be that you become the respected helper in a very humble situation. It means also that whether you are facing good times, or hard times, success is on your side, because you will ultimately be rewarded in heaven.

The wicked will not face this. Even in prosperity they will live in fear. Even in riches they will live in terror of losing them. Even in good health they’ll not have peace. Even in apparent success it will not last, “4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.”

They might appear to prosper for a time, but they don’t prosper for long. Remember how Asaph went into the sanctuary of God, and was complaining about the success of the powerful and wicked, but while he was there he discerned their end, and it is not a good end.

Judgement (vv.5-6) The righteous man knows how important it is for sin to be dealt with so as not to interfere with prayer, he knows how important it is to bear good fruit, and he also knows who he is going to face on that final day, “5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” The righteous prayer does not just deal with their sin before God, because they want to pray more effectively and bear more amazing fruit. The righteous prayer also deals with their sin before God, because they want to hear those words from Jesus, “Enter my dear child, I knew you” or “well done good and faithful servant.”

Jesus says these powerful words in Matthew 7:21-23 –

“21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

The righteous man, the righteous woman, who prays, doesn’t pray simply to bear fruit, or simply to have effective prayer. They also pray because they just want to see God work in this world as he wants. Their heart is aligned with the heart of the father, with the works of the father.

They know that at the end of the day the most important thing is not what you achieve in the life. The most important thing is this: did you know Jesus and did he know you?

“…for the Lord knows the way of the righteous…” Prayer is part of how we get closer to God, closer to knowing his heart, and closer to knowing that we are in the right way, the way of righteousness, the way that Jesus knows.

It is part of how we ensure we are among those who will be welcomed into heaven.

The wicked, they will come from all places and all walks of life, even the Church. Some of them will be famous public prayers. Jesus tells us that the hypocrites pray long and public payers. He tells us that the wicked are known for public acts of righteousness. He tells us that the wicked get the seats of honour and are often respected leaders among God’s people.

The righteous are those who know God and are known by God, and our prayer life is part of that.

Application – So for application, I want to ask you a couple of simple questions: What is your heart when you pray, is it to know God more, to be conformed to his image, to have your sin dealt with, and to have God’s blessings brought down to earth in greater measure? Or is there another reason why you pray?

Peter would tell us to examine our hearts.

Paul would tell us to continue to aim upwards in our call for Christ.

John would say, that God is love and love is found in those who truly love the Lord.

What is in your heart when you pray? Only you can answer that.

Conclusion – The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Prayer is part of the vital lifeblood of our faith, let me encourage you to examine these passages we have explored this morning, so that you and I can have our prayer lives conformed more to ask for the things God would have us ask. Let’s pray.