Why We Struggle to Pray

I don’t think I speak out of turn when I say that each of us struggles to pray. 

You may be a saint in Christ who has journeyed long through the life of faith, or you may be new to following after Jesus, but each of us knows that we don’t pray as we should. Even the mightiest of prayer warriors today, when reading through the old prayers of the Puritans of old, knows we stand in the shadows of the giants of faith.

All who have been brought to life by the saving work of Christ are new creations, made for communion with the Triune God; the old life is gone, a new life has begun! And yet the vestiges of the old life cling to us so closely that the means of grace given to strengthen our faith become burdens that are found difficult and left untried.

Why do we struggle so with prayer? The simple answer is this: Sin. It is sin that keeps us from God, sin that keeps those who are made for glory wallowing in the mire, sin that drowns out the quiet voice of prayer with the clamor of the world.

In order to combat this sin which keeps us from prayer, let us examine, briefly, some of the ways sin affects our praying.

5 Reasons we don’t pray

  1. We think too little of God

    This may be our greatest sin.  We simply think too little of God. That can mean we either don’t think of God as often as we ought, or we think God too little, or both.  We don’t desire God, we don’t seek Him out, we aren’t captivated by His glory. 
    I’ve seen people scour their house and spend days in advance of a friend or family member coming to visit, and their schedules are reworked entirely so that they can spend time with the one they love. We’ll spend hundreds of dollars to go watch a game to see our favorite athlete, or go to hear someone in concert, coming back wearing their merchandise. But to spend 5 minutes in prayer with their Heavenly Father, with the creator of the universe, with their Lord and Savior is just too much to ask.
    Thomas Watson, one of those old Puritans, nails us perfectly, when he wrote, “Jesus went more willingly to the cross than we do to the throne of grace.”
    Let that sink in for a minute.
    How small our affections for are toward God, how little we esteem the one who came to save us from our sins, that we do not turn to Him in prayer.
    If you want to grow in prayer, think highly of God.  Look upon Him in glory, think of His steadfast love for you in Christ Jesus, and praise Him in prayer!

  2. We disobey his commands

    We are like our first father, like Adam, disobeying the very command of God. God told Adam that he was not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and Adam ate, falling into disobedience and rebellion.  Throughout scripture, we are commanded to pray:
    “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;” Isaiah 55:6
    “Pray without ceasing,” 1 Thessalonians 5:17
    “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:6
    “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,” Ephesians 6:18
    “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6
    “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;” 1 Timothy 2:8
    We don’t pray because in our sin, we disobey God.
    If you want to grow in prayer, see prayer as an act of joyful obedience to God’s command.

  3. We don’t trust God or His Word

    Not only do we struggle with obedience, we also struggle with doubts. Our doubts, our faithlessness, keeps us from turning to God in prayer.  God has has promised to hear us in prayer,
    2 Chronicles 7:14 If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
    Psalm 10:17 O LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear
    1 John 5:14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
    God also promises that when we ask in Christ name, he will give to us all that we ask:
    Matthew 18:19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.
    John 16:23-24 “In that day you will not question Me about anything Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. “Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.
    To not seek the provision of God in prayer is simply faithlessness.  We do not trust God, and so we do not turn to God in prayer.
    If you want to grow in prayer, then look to the ways that the Lord has proven Himself good, gracious, and faithful in the past.  Every promise of God is Yes and Amen in Jesus. He has shown you that as almighty God he is able, and He has proven that as your heavenly Father he is willing.  Faithfully turn to Him in prayer.

  4. We trust too much in ourselves

    In connection to the previous point, we don’t seek God’s provision in prayer because we think we can do without prayer, that we can provide for what we need on our own.  Again, this is an echo of the fall, Adam thought he could become like God, determining Good and Evil, right and wrong, and so he took the fruit.  We see the paycheck or the awards and accolades of man, and we boast in our accomplishments, and think we have the power to provide for ourselves.  What need do we have that we have not met? Why do we need to pray?
    Jesus taught us to pray for our daily bread.  Everything we need, life, breath, food, shelter; all is from the hand of God. Our wisdom, our strength, our ability to accomplish the work set before us, it must come from God. Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.  Marin Luther is noted for saying, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
    If you want to grow in prayer, think less of yourself, and see God as the source of your every need.  There is no concern so great, no care so small, that we should not take it to the Lord in prayer.  McCheyne, another Puritan, once taught, “for every one look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ.” That’s a good place to start.

  5. Our hearts are in the wrong place

    So often we get frustrated because our prayers are not answered the way we want them to be, so we give up praying.  We think we know better than God what we need, and when prayer doesn’t get us what we want, we leave it behind. James 4:3-4 teaches, “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
    Prayer does have great power, but the power does not lie in changing God, or even necessarily in changing the world around us.  The greatest power in prayer is that it brings us to rest in and trust the sovereign God to whom we pray.  We put all things into His hands. He is able to heal, and He is also able to work His good purposes in the midst of sickness and loss. He is able to deliver, even though His deliverance leads us through the valley of the shadow of death.
    If you want to grow in prayer, set your affections upon the Lord, delight yourself in the Him, yearn for His glory. When your greatest delight is to see God glorified in your life, to see the name of Christ exalted, He will be sure to answer that prayer!

Beloved, may you grow in prayer, delighting in the sweet fellowship with God for which you were created!

SDG

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Preaching for Holiness

In my previous post, I shared the convicting and informative teaching I received from reading Joel Beeke’s, Reformed Preaching, in the chapter on Major Elements in Reformed Experiential Preaching.   There, he dealt with the holiness of the preacher. For today’s post, I want to share with you 10 points of holiness or spirituality that Beeke suggests the preacher ought to be working toward in the lives of the congregation, those listening to the sermons.

Have you ever thought about why preaching the Word of God is at the very center of Reformed Worship?  Our coming together on Sunday isn’t merely to get recharged and energized for the week, nor is it all about fellowship with other saints in Christ.  These are blessings, to be sure. Rather, our time of worship together is primarily about glorifying God in praise and in the hearing and obeying of His Word. The sermon is central to worship because it is in the faithful and regular hearing of the Word, read and proclaimed, that we mature into the likeness of Christ Jesus our Lord.

Here are, then, the 10 things that the reformed preacher ought to be working toward in His congregation.


The Holiness of the People

What kind of spirituality does Reformed preaching aim to produce by the power of the Spirit? It is spiritually rooted in faith in Christ as the only Mediator and fruitful in reverential love for the sovereign God. To draw out what this looks like in more detail, I will follow the outline that Hughes Oliphant Old offers in his sketch of reformed spirituality. These are the sorts of things that Reformed preaching cultivates in the life of the people.

  1. The Spirituality of the Word.  When you preach the Word, call people to immerse themselves in it. Exhort them to become Psalm 1 Christians, who meditate on the Bible day and night, and walk in its ways with delight.
  2. The Spirituality of Praying the Psalms. Reformed spirituality is a spirituality of the Psalter… praying the psalms, singing and meditating on them, not only at Church but at family prayers every day of the week.” Preachers should constantly hold up to the church a lifestyle of continual prayer and praise.
  3. The Spirituality of the Lord’s Day. The sanctification of the Lord’s Day is not a Sabbatarian legalism; rather, it secures a day of peace, rest, refreshment, prayer and love for God’s people. Teach people to “call the sabbath a delight” so that they can “delight [themselves] in the Lord” (Isa. 58:13-14).
  4. The Spirituality of Works of Mercy. Apply the sweet and amazing love of God to our duty to love our fellow human beings at the point of physical suffering and spiritual ministry. Build bridges between heavenly doctrine and earthly mercy.
  5. The Spirituality of the Lord’s Supper. The rich piety of the Table is nurtured first of all through meditation leading up to the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. It is not automatic conferral of grace, but an exercise of faith. Let your preaching before the celebration of the Lord’s Supper call believers to a rich feast in Jesus Christ. Help them to look through the bread and wine as through a window into heaven to see the love, forgiveness, and empowering grace of God for them.
  6. The Spirituality of Stewardship.  In the Reformation, the idea of stewardship transformed believers’ views of money and work. Businessmen, housewives, farmers, bankers, those caring for the elderly, and craftsmen came to see themselves as entrusted with a sacred vocation or calling to serve the Lord. Teach the congregation to rule their money, time, and talents for the Lord, and not to let their resources rule them.
  7. The Spirituality of Meditating on God’s Ways. This refers not just to meditating on Scripture, but to meditating on God’s works in our lives through the lens of Scripture. If you guide your flock to think often about God’s gracious ways with them, they will find much comfort in trials.
  8. The Spirituality of Evangelism and Missions.  The spirituality of God’s eternal purposes has often let to an evangelistic, missionary spirituality. The covenant blesses us to be a blessing to the world.
  9. The Spirituality of Godly Fellowship. Reformed spirituality encourages fellowship among the godly for mutual encouragement. It is relational, not individualistic. Teach the people the privileges of being active members of the church of Christ (1 Corinthians 12). Warn them against isolating themselves or trying to go it alone. Encourage spiritual friendships and mutual accountability.
  10. The Spirituality of Heavenly-Minded Obedience. Reformed spirituality produces zeal for obeying God’s laws and standing against worldliness.  Preachers must show people that his is not legalism because it is rooted in love for God. To obey God’s laws is to follow Jesus in the pathway of rejoicing in and walking according to divine love. Preach obedience to the law by the grace of Christ. The law is not means for sinners to find justification before God, but it is also no enemy of grace.
* Beeke, Joel R. Reformed Preaching: Proclaiming God’s Word from the Heart of the Preacher to the Heart of His People. (Crossway Publishers; Wheaton, Ill, 2018) pgs 67-69.
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The Preacher’s Holiness

I’ve been greatly blessed as I have recently begun reading through Joel Beeke’s book, Reformed Preaching: Proclaiming God’s Word from the Heart of the Preacher to the Heart of His People*.  This is, as with all the other Beeke books I’ve read, an insightful, thorough, and Biblically faithful work that has both encouraged and challenged me as a Pastor. I grant that most people won’t be rushing out to purchase this book unless they are a preacher, but that is unfortunate.  The book doesn’t just teach what good reformed, experiential preaching looks like; it also examines the heart of the experiential preacher.

On that note, I thought I’d share with you some highlights from the chapter on the Major Elements of Reformed Experiential Preaching, specifically those on “The Holiness of the Preacher.” As I read this I was humbled and convicted, reminded of the high calling of the ministry of the world, and renewed in seeking God’s grace to make me the preacher He has called me to be.  Perhaps as you read this you can know how best to be praying for your preacher (and if that’s me, thank you!).


The Holiness of the Preacher

It is impossible to separate godly living from true experiential ministry. The holiness of a minister’s heart is not merely an ideal; it is absolutely necessary for his work to be effective. Holiness of life must be his consuming passion.

Here are three characteristics:

  1. They are God-Fearing Gospel Believers. Their lives pulsate with the power of the gospel. They are single-minded men who fear God rather than swivel-headed men who fear other people. Fearing God, they esteem his smiles and frowns to be of greater weight than the smiles and frowns of men.
  2. They Manifestly Love the People to Whom They Minister. There is no aloofness in the experiential preacher, no professional distance from the people. As Richard Baxter writes, “The whole of our ministry must be carried on in a tender love to our people… They should see that we care for no outward things, neither wealth nor liberty nor honor nor life in comparison with their salvation.”
  3. Their Lives Manifest the Fruits of a Growing Experience of God. When a preacher ceases to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, his preaching begins to stagnate. James Stalker (1848-1927) says, “The hearers may not know why their minister with all his gifts does not make a religious impression on them. But it is because he is not himself a spiritual power.”
    Scripture says there should be no disparity between the character of a man who is called to proclaim God’s Word and the content of his message. Ministers are called to be experientially holy in their private relationships with God, in their roles as husbands and fathers at home, and in their callings as shepherds among their people, just as they appear to be holy in the pulpit.
    Scripture says there is a cause-and-effect relationship between the character of a man’s life as a Christian and his usefulness as a minister (2 Tim 2:20-22). A minister’s work is usually blessed in proportion to the sanctification of his heart before God. Ministers therefore must seek grace to build the house of God with sanctified lives as well as by sound experiential preaching and doctrine. Their preaching must shape their lives, and their lives must adorn their preaching.

I pray that this may be said of me.

SDG!

* Beeke, Joel R. Reformed Preaching: Proclaiming God’s Word from the Heart of the Preacher to the Heart of His People. (Crossway Publishers; Wheaton, Ill, 2018) pgs 67-69.
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The Glory of Christ

I was unable to attend this year’s Pastor Conference at Bethlehem Seminary, but with the blessing of the modern digital age, I have thankfully been able to listen to some of the plenary messages online.

Last week I listened to John Piper’s opening keynote address entitled, “What is Christian Hedonism?” I highly recommend this message, and if you click on the title, you can listen to it for yourself.

What I most appreciated about the message is that his is what John Piper does best. Just the first 8 minutes are worth listening to alone. It is nothing other than Biblically saturated, Christ exalting, God honoring, heart moving witness to the glory of Christ Jesus our Lord.

I was so moved by it that I started to write down the message, then look up the scripture references. The entirety of the first 8 minutes is nothing but scripture about the glory, majesty, authority, and beauty of Jesus.

I’ve typed up the transcript of those 8 minutes. Read along while he’s preaching, and give God all glory through Christ our Lord!


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1). And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” They said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:56–58).

Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father.”

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:5–9).

Jesus cried out, “whoever sees me sees him who sent me (John 12:45).

Because Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (Col 1:19). He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Jesus and for Jesus. He upholds the universe by the word of his power (Heb 1:3), and he is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Col 1:16–17).

And yet, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:6–8). He committed no sin, none!, neither was deceit found in his mouth (1 Peter 2:22).

And so it came to pass by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous (Rom 5:19). For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us… (Gal 3:13). He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed (1 Pet 2:24). For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Rom 5:6). When that time approached he said, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:18).

So, “after making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Heb 1:3). God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:9–11).

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to [him]” (Matt 28:18). The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand (John 3:35). “God has put all things in subjection [to him]…” (1 Cor 15:27), all “angels, authorities, and all powers” (1 Peter 3:22). And [now] he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent” (Col 1:18).

  • He has authority to forgive sins (Matt. 9:6).
  • He speaks and the wind and the sea obey him (Matt 8:27).
  • He commands unclean spirits, they come out (Mark 5:8).
  • He rebukes fevers, they depart (Luke 4:39).
  • He causes blind to see, deaf to hear, lame to walk, lepers are made clean, He commands the dead, and they live (Matt 11:5)!
  • He suffers little children to come to him (Matt 19:14).
  • He scatters the proud in the thoughts of their hearts and brings down the mighty from their thrones (Luke 1:51-52).
  • He does not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick until he brings justice to victory (Matt 12:20).

In him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3). No one ever spoke like this man (John 7:46). To know him is to know the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph 3:8).

And he’s coming back again on the clouds even as they saw him go, but this time with holy angels and with power and great glory (Matt 24:30). And he will deliver us from the wrath to come (1 Thess 1:10). And he will transform our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body by the power that enables him to subject all things to himself (Phil 3:21).

In that day, wonder of wonders, he will dress himself for service and have us recline at table and he will come and serve us (Luke 12:37). And He will still be meek and lowly in heart (Matt 11:29).

And yet his eyes will be like a flame of fire, his feet like burnished bronze refined in a furnace, his voice like the roar of many waters. From his mouth will come a sharp two edged sword, and we will see his face like the sun shining in full strength (Rev 1:14-16), and so we will forever be with the Lord (1 Thess 4:17). We will see no longer through a glass darkly but face to face, (1 Cor 13:12).

Rejoicing in hope will give way to the joy of sight. The pleasures of every taste that bound us to Christ in this world explode into the pleasures of heavenly feasting. And we will know finally, not in part, but perfectly (1 Cor 13:9), that in his presence is fullness of joy and at his right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).

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God Moves In A Mysterious Way

I came across this hymn in my listening today, and wanted to share it with you. I think the story of William Cowper, and the messages he wrote in hymns, is so very powerful. I’ve included a link after the reading to two Youtube videos, one of the original arrangement of the hymn, and another more modern arrangment.  The reading is from Amazing Grace: 366 Hymn Stories for Personal Devotions, by Kenneth W. Osbeck.

GOD MOVES IN A MYSTERIOUS WAY
William Cowper, 1731–1800

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments … (Romans 11:33)

Good when He gives, supremely good, nor less when He denies.
Even crosses from His sovereign hand are blessings in disguise.
 – Unknown

The hymn “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” has been acclaimed as one of the finest songs ever written on the theme of God’s providence. This label is made all the more amazing by the fact that the hymn text was written by an English poet who lived a lifetime of mental distress. William Cowper’s emotional upsets included an 18-month stay in an insane asylum and later several attempted suicides. During his time in the asylum, Cowper began reading the Bible. At the age of 33 he had a genuine conversion experience. Yet he was periodically haunted by deep depressions, voices, and visions, and the overwhelming thought that God had forsaken him and would doom him to hell.

But between these times of mental melancholia, William Cowper was a gifted writer. Several of his secular works achieved great literary fame. For nearly two decades he worked closely with John Newton in Olney, England, and eventually their combined talents produced the famous Olney Hymns hymnal. In this ambitious collection of 349 hymns, 67 were written by Cowper, including such favorites as “O For a Closer Walk With God” and “There Is a Fountain.”

“God Moves in a Mysterious Way” was originally titled “Conflict: Light Shining Out Of Darkness.” It is thought to be Cowper’s final hymn text and a reflection of God’s leading throughout his own lifetime. There is even speculation that it was written following a failed attempt at suicidal drowning. Regardless of the original motivation for their writing, these words have since been used to bring much comfort to God’s people for nearly two centuries:

God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.
He plants his footsteps on the sea, And rides upon the storm.

Ye fearful saints fresh courage take, The clouds you so much dread,
Are big with mercy, and shall break, With blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust him for his grace.
Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, Unfolding every hour.
The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err, And scan His work in vain.

God is His own interpreter, And He will make it plain.

Osbeck, Kenneth W. Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1996. Print.

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Heartbroken Horror

I am appalled by the hypocrisy of the so-called “progressive” political class today.

New York’s state legislature cheered when a bill was passed that would allow for abortions without limit (up to the point of birth), and the order was given to light up the city in pink to celebrate their achievement. Meanwhile, the governor of New York is working to remove the death penalty from the state’s constitution, arguing that it is inhuman to carry out a death sentence for convicted murderers.

So, just to clarify, the life of a convicted murderer in New York is protected,but this is not:baby

Are we clear?

A lawmaker in Virginia presented legislation that would allow an unborn child to be aborted even while the mother was in labor, and the very same day presented legislation that would make it illegal to spray pesticide to kill the fall cankerworm.

So this is protected in Virginia,

worm

but this is not.

baby

Are we clear?

At the 2019 State of the Union address, the entire assembly cheered (rightfully so) and sang “Happy Birthday” in honor of Judah Samet, a holocaust survivor who also escaped the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018.  Yet those progressives were suddenly quiet when the President spoke about ending the holocaust of our generation, the millions of lives that are taken each year in abortion.

The women in white cheered and danced at the President’s mention of more women than ever before being elected to office, but their dancing sharply contrasted with their stone-cold expression when abortion was discussed.

Simply appalling.

And yet it is not at all surprising.

For years our culture has been pushing the truth of God’s Word to the margins of life. The idea that we were created by a wise, holy, and sovereign God is set aside for the more popular notion of science: big bangs, evolution, and man as the master of his own destiny. Good and evil are no longer defined by an eternal, objective Truth, but are, among everything else, subjective, situational, and shifting with the times and culture, determined by the current milieu.  The value of the person sitting next to me is no longer drawn from the fact that he or she bears the image of God, but only in their positive contribution to society.

Francis A. Schaeffer once wrote in Whatever Happened to the Human Race?,

“If man is not made in the image of God, nothing then stands in the way of inhumanity. There is no good reason why mankind should be perceived as special. Human life is cheapened. We can see this in many of the major issues being debated in our society today: abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, the increase of child abuse and violence of all kinds, pornography … , the routine torture of political prisoners in many parts of the world, the crime explosion, and the random violence which surrounds us.”

As we read in Romans 1:21–25:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Every God-fearing, Bible-believing, disciple of Christ should fall on their knees, lamenting the brutality of the world around us.  Our children have been sacrified to the modern-day version of Molech (ie. success, pleasure, prosperity, irresponsibility).

But we also give praise to our Sovereign God, because He has allowed the veil to be pulled back, revealing the hearts and minds of those in power. They are exposed for what they truly are, “slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil… [who] though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:30-32).

We need to pray.

Pray that God would raise up men like Gideon, who would have the courage to bring down the idols of the day.

Pray that God would give us wisdom, that we might know how to reach this fallen world with the truth of His Word.

Pray that God would give us compassion, that we might come alongside those who are struggling with an unexpected pregnancy, supporting and encouraging them in their decision to choose life.

Pray that the Gospel of Jesus Christ would be proclaimed boldly, so that all who are lost in sin might hear the call to salvation and peace with God.

And when you rise from prayer, having drawn near to the living God, stand firm and be ready to make Him known!

SDG

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Evangelism 101 – Know Your Sins

In our Sunday evening worship services I have been preaching a series on Evangelism. We’ve looked at what it means to share the gospel, the pitfalls many encounter when giving a testimony, and will soon be considering (when the weather allows us to come back together) what is essential in sharing the faith.  Within that greater conversation, I thought I would share this excerpt from the Memoirs of Robert Murray McCheyne.  This is a letter he wrote as a pastor to a young girl who has inquired about whether it is necessary to be convinced of one’s sins before salvation.

I think this worth sharing because it is a completely different approach to how many do evangelism today.  We tend today to focus on the benefits of salvation, without ever really explaining why we need salvation in the first place.  Telling people they are sinners, and sinners to the very core of their being is unpalatable, offensive, and not the preferred method of witnessing today. Yet, as McCheyne points out, almost 180 years ago, “you will never go to Christ, the heavenly Physician, unless you feel that your soul is sick even unto death.”

To a Soul Seeking Jesus—No. I.
Seek to Know Your Corruption
Dundee, 1841.

ACCORDING to promise, I sit down to talk with you a little concerning the great things of an eternal world. How kind it is in God that He has given us such an easy way of  communicating our thoughts, even at a distance! My only reason for writing to you is, that I may direct your soul to Jesus, the sinner’s friend. “This man receiveth sinners.” I would wish much to know that you were truly united to Christ, and then, come life, come death, you will be truly and eternally happy.

Do you think you have been convinced of sin? This is the Holy Spirit’s work, and His first work upon the soul (John 16:8; Acts 2:37). If you did not know your body was dangerously ill, you would never have sent for your physician; and so you will never go to Christ, the heavenly Physician, unless you feel that your soul is sick even unto death. Oh! pray for deep discoveries of your real state by nature and by practice. The world will say you are an innocent and harmless girl; do not believe them. The world is a star. Pray to see yourself exactly as God sees you; pray to know the worth of your soul. Have you seen yourself vile, as Job saw himself (Job 42:5, 6); undone, as Isaiah saw himself (Isa. 6:1, 5)? Have you experienced anything like Psalm 51? I do not wish you to feign humility before God, nor to use expressions of self–abhorrence which you do not feel; but pray that the Holy Spirit may let you see the very reality of your natural condition before God!

I seldom get more than a glance at the true state of my soul in its naked self. But when I do, then I see that I am wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked (Rev. 3:17). I believe every member of our body has been a servant of sin (Rom. 3:13, 18)—throat, tongue, lips, mouth, feet, eyes. Every faculty of our mind is polluted (Gen. 6:5). Besides, you have long neglected the great salvation; you have been gainsaying and disobedient. Oh, that you were brought to pass sentence on yourself, guilty of all! Hear what a dear believer writes of himself: “My wickedness, as I am in myself, has long appeared to me perfectly ineffable, and swallowing up all thought and imagination, like an infinite deluge, or mountains  over my head. I know not how to express better what my sins appear to me to be, than by heaping infinite upon infinite, and multiplying infinite by infinite. When I look into my heart and take a view of my wickedness, it looks like an abyss infinitely deep, and yet it seems to me that my conviction of sin is exceeding small and faint.”

Perhaps you will ask, Why do you wish me to have such a discovery of my lost condition? I answer, that you may be broken off from all schemes of self–righteousness; that you may never look into your poor guilty soul to recommend you to God; and that you may joyfully accept of the Lord Jesus Christ, who obeyed and died for sinners. Oh, that your heart may cleave to Christ! May you forsake all, and follow Jesus Christ. Count everything loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ. You never will stand righteous before God in yourself. You are welcome this day to stand righteous before God in Jesus. Pray over Philippians 3:7, 9. I will try to pray for you. Grace be with you.

Bonar, Andrew A., and R.M. McCheyne. Memoir and Remains of R.M. McCheyne. electronic ed. Chicago: Moody Press, 1996. Print.
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