Why Prayer is Necessary: #9 – To Carry Out God’s Work

God is at work in heaven and on earth. He works in heaven through Christ who sits at His Father’s right hand, and He works on earth through the Holy Spirit in us. 

God’s work in heaven.  The work of Christ in heaven is His intercession, of which, according to L. Berkhof, the following elements are found: (1) the offering of Himself as the perfect sacrifice having been completed;  (2) the appearing of Himself now before God as a representative of his people (Hebrews 9:24);  (3) the perpetual presence of the completed sacrifice of Christ before God—being a constant reminder of His perfect atonement;  (4) Christ’s appearing before God now as our Justifier—and He is constantly reminding God that we are justified in Him;  (5) Christ’s appearing before God now as the sanctifier of our prayers and our services;  (6) Christ’s loving care for His people, helping them in their difficulties, trials and temptations (Hebrews 4:15); and finally (7) it is prayer for all believers: for all our spiritual needs, for protection against dangers and against the enemy who constantly threatens and accuses us, that our faith will not cease, and that we will be victorious in the end.4

The prayers and intercession of Christ is absolutely necessary, both for our help on this earth and for our completed salvation; for though His atoning work on earth has been completed, He now and forever must remind God of that former work and be our Representative and our Justifier.  This of course is no problem for Christ, because He is God—He is perfect and lives forever.  As Hebrews 7:24-25 states, He abides forever, holding His priesthood permanently.  Hence, also, he is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

God’s work on earth.  On the whole, God’s work is to get people to believe in Jesus so that they might live forever with Him; for as Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (Jn. 6:29). 

Now if we were to briefly describe the work of God on earth, we would start with the work of His Son Jesus Christ.  The work of Christ while on this earth was to die for our sins in order that He might bring us to God (1 Pet. 3:18).  That work has already been accomplished.  And so, having completed His work on earth, He returned to His Father in heaven.  And there, He is working as our advocate to complete our salvation through His intercession. 

But God sent another advocate to help us here on the earth—the Holy Spirit, who abides with us forever (Jn. 14:16).  He is the one who continues God’s work on this earth—that of helping people to believe in Jesus (John 16:8-9), guiding them into all truth (Jn. 16:13), and dispensing grace to them whenever they need it.  For He being the Spirit of Christ is full of grace and truth (Jn.1:14).

Now, one of the ways in which the Holy Spirit helps us is by interceding for us as we pray—since we do not know how to pray as we should.  He tells us what to pray for and how to pray for those things.  He shows us the will of God and how to pray according to His will (Rom. 8:27).  He also makes us believe how necessary it is for us to pray for certain things, and then urges us on in prevailing prayer.

Here are three elements of God’s work, in terms of prayer, that we should be involved in:

1. Prayer for workers.  Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Therefore beseech the lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:37-38).

2. Prayer for Faith. When Jesus came into His own town, among His own people, the Bible says, “He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief” (Matt. 13:57-58).  We must conclude by this that the reverse is also true—that where there is faith many works of God will be done. 

In order for the works of God to be done in your town you must pray for faith.  In fact I suggest that you saturate your town with believing prayer. Then, as God begins to work, you will see the power of God become unleashed causing many to believe.     

3. Prayer for deliverance and victory.  Satan will do everything he can to discourage us.  Prayer is necessary for our deliverance and victory.  When Peter was arrested and put in prison, while he was held there to be mistreated and killed, the church of God was fervently praying for his deliverance.  And on that very night when prayers were made, an angel miraculously delivered him (Acts 12:6-17). 


4 L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand rapids, Michigan:  WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979), pp. 400-404.

Why Prayer is Necessary: #8 – For Obtaining the Power of the Holy Spirit

We know that the person of the Holy Spirit dwells in the heart of every believer (Romans 8:9); however, every believer does not seem to possess the power of the Spirit.  Some live every day just like pagans.  They don’t hear God speak to them; they don’t seem to have any spiritual strength; and they have very little power over temptation. 

The problem of course is that they have not allowed the Holy Spirit to be in complete control.  If we expect to live in the power of the Holy Spirit we must invite Him to dwell in every part of our life.  We must give Him the throne of our heart.  

There are a few terms in scripture that are descriptive of this concept of giving Him control.  In Galatians 5:16-25 there are three terms used: walk by the Spirit, led by the Spirit, and live by the Spirit.  From these verses Paul tells us, essentially, that if we live by the Spirit we must choose to walk by the spirit and be led by the Spirit.  Also in Ephesians 5:18 Paul states that we are to be filled with the Spirit.  Then in Romans 8:6 Paul indicates that we are to have our mind set on the Spirit

If we analyze these terms we may conclude that all of them mean basically the same thing—they are descriptive of our giving the Holy Spirit control, also of making Christ Lord.  And when we do that we will obtain the power of the Holy Spirit.  But the process of making Him our Lord can only be accomplished through prayer.

Our prayers should be not so much for getting power, but to ask Him to fill us and control us; then when He has control in us and is made Lord in us, the result will be that He will wield His power in us and through us.

How often do I have to pray for His filling?  I ask Him every day, and sometimes two or three times a day.  And the reason is that I continue to sin, and when I sin I exalt myself, and thus I continue throughout the day to have a need for humility and for His Lordship. 

And so it makes sense that we all must ask Him to refill us after every time we sin.    Ask as often as you sin.  When you sin, just say, Lord, I’ve sinned.  Will you please fill me again?

Now, when He fills us and gives us His power, what kind of power is it, and what should we expect will happen? 

According to Ephesians 1:19-20, it is a great and mighty power; it is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at the right hand in the heavenly places! 

In Ephesians 3:16-20 we see that it is a power that will strengthen us in our inner man.  Note in this prayer of Paul’s the threefold results of this power:

…that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, [1] That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; [2] that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpassed knowledge, and [3] that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Paul concludes in verse 20 by saying that according to this power of the Holy Spirit that works within us, He will do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think. 

Yes, He will give us more power than we can imagine.  He gives us a mighty power to witness (Acts 1:8).  He gives us an enduring power to work and to serve in His kingdom.  He also gives us the power in the inner man to rest and reflect, and to draw strength from Him as Christ dwells in us and fills us with love and the fullness of God.  And it all comes to us through prayer. Prayer is the key that unlocks the door to this great storehouse of power.

Why Prayer is Necessary: #7 – To Obtain Freedom from Anxiety

Anxiety is a terrible thing.  It is a state of uneasiness and worry, of fearfulness and dread.  But prayer can make it all go away; when you pray God will help you to see that He is in control and that He loves you and cares for you.

When we are anxious, we think only of ourselves and of all the things we think we need.  Prayer, however, will take us to God and draw us away from ourselves so that we are more concerned for His kingdom and His righteousness. The practice of prayer will help us to see that life is more than food and clothing, and that we have no need to worry about those things—since God cares for us just as he cares for little birds and flowers (Matt. 6:25-29).          

If you are prone to anxiety, try to develop the habit of praying about everything.  And when you pray, instead of lingering in your anxiety, focus instead on God, honoring Him with thanksgiving and praise (Rom. 1:21).  As you pray with thanksgiving, taking all of your concerns to God, He will fill you with an incredible peace.  Here is the promise from Philippians 4:6-7:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Three Warnings Against Deception

From Matthew 7:15-27, Jesus presents to His disciples three pictures with three warnings.

The first picture is of the false prophets who will come to them in sheep’s clothing (verses 15-20). This warning is addressed to Christians to be not deceived by these false prophets (teachers) who will look just like any other Christian teacher.

The second picture is of the judgment day when a professing Christian is surprised that Jesus has rejected him as a Christian and says to him, “I never knew you” (verses 21-23). This warning is addressed to the professing Christian—who is not a Christian at all. The warning is to be not self-deceived into thinking that you are a Christian.

These two (above) scenarios I have already posted, so I won’t write any more on them.

The third picture is of two men who build their houses. The houses look the same, but one is built with a good foundation and the other skips that part (verses 24-27). The warning is addressed again to the professing Christian who is seeking the benefits of salvation without the commitment of salvation. The warning is not to deceive yourself into thinking that salvation needs no commitment to Christ. Here is the teaching:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. 25 “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. 26 “And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. 27 “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.”

So, in this teaching we have the wise man and the foolish man. And “these words” are referring to Jesus’ entire sermon. And the one who acts upon them will become a Christian and a wise man, and the one who does not act upon them will remain a pagan and a foolish man.

But the thing that is so deceptive in this picture is the fact that the two houses look the same, except for the foundation—which you never see, because it is underground. So, one house will stand and the other will fall. And one man is proved to be wise and the other a fool.

In the illustration, the fool, who is not a Christian at all, is in a hurry to get all the benefits of his house (of salvation), without putting in the work of salvation. The other man is wise. He hears Jesus and responds to His words of truth.

Here are a few more implications about these two men:

  • The two men are both church goers and members.
  • The two men both desire forgiveness and peace; one of them has a genuine forgiveness and peace, the other has a false sense of forgiveness and a false peace—because he is not a true believer.
  • Both men desire to live a good life; but one has a selfish motive, the other desires to glorify God.
  • Both men are highly moral men, but one is not a Christian. He is living a pure life just for himself to put on a good front before others.

Why Prayer is Necessary: #6 – To Obtain Mercy and Grace

Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, is fully human and fully God.  The human side of Him makes Him able to be sympathetic and merciful toward us, and the God side of Him makes Him able to help us at any time with any of our needs.  What this means to us of course is that when we pray to Him we are assured of His sympathy for our needs and also of His ability to help us.  Thus we can pray with great confidence, even boldness.   Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

This mercy and grace is God’s gift to us—it is free for our taking!  But unless we choose to go to Him in prayer, and unless we confidently pray and ask for help, His mercy will not be obtained and His grace will not be found.

We all are aware of countless individuals (perhaps you) who are badly in need of help.  Some are in spiritual, mental, and sometimes physical misery.  Some grope around not knowing what to do or who to turn to.  Many go from doctor to doctor seeking help, all to no avail.  If they only knew Jesus and knew how to approach Him in prayer they would no longer be without peace.     

He is the Great Physician, the greatest one of all.  All we need to do is call out to Him in prayer and He will quickly come to our aid.  But if we fail to pray in our desperate hour of need then His mercy and His grace will remain on the shelves of heaven.  Pray, my friend, and God will hear you.  Yes, you who are in desperate need, need to pray.  It is the only way, God’s appointed way, that you will receive mercy and find grace.  

Unconscious Hypocrisy

Unconscious Hypocrisy is actually the title of a sermon by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, which was recoded in his book Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. The following is just a few notes I took on that sermon.

Lloyd-Jones began by saying that there are many people who are not aware of the fact that they are not really Christians when they are convinced that they are; and so, they have a kind of unconscious hypocrisy. They think they are good Christians but they are in fact reprobates.

  • They are of the “many” who have passed up the narrow gate and have instead gone down the broad path with most of the world.
  • They are like the five foolish virgins, and like the man who built his house on the sand.
  • They are of those whom Jesus spoke of (in Matthew 7:21-23) who did wonderful works, but yet didn’t know Him.
  • They are people who are praised by men.
  • They are considered as outstanding servants.
  • They are happy about themselves.
  • They are assured of their salvation.

God says of them, “I never knew you.” So, they have been deceived. And they will be surprised at the judgment. Here is the passage that we have been considering:

Matthew 7:21-23

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

I think the most important thing we can do is to list the causes of self-deception to make sure we don’t fall into the same trap that so many have fallen into. Here is the list of six, which I gathered from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ sermon.

  1. They have a false assurance of their salvation, which they have persuaded themselves to believe. This false assurance is based on a false belief system. A system that says that if I say I believe often enough and strongly enough, that it will take hold. But James says that the Devil also believes this way, and he certainly will not be saved from hell.
  2. They refuse to examine themselves periodically to see if their faith is true.
  3. They live on their activities of good works. They think this will save them.
  4. They balance their good works with the bad. This is a Muslim system, and a system of all false religions, but it doesn’t work.
  5. They fail to heed the plain teaching of Scripture. To take it as their guide.
  6. They fail to realize that the one thing that matters is a relationship with Christ. He wants our heart, our submission, our time; and He wants us.

Why Prayer is Necessary: #5 – To Obtain Fullness of Joy

Jesus said in John 16:24, “Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be made full.” 

The teaching here is that when we ask in His name and receive the things we ask for, the result, after receiving those things, will be a fullness of joy.  And I suppose you could say that our joy will come in degrees.  To the degree that we recognize that God has answered our prayers, to that degree we will receive joy. The person who doesn’t realize that God has answered his prayer may have a certain amount of joy just because he has received what he wanted.  But the real and full joy is a joy that comes from knowing absolutely that God has answered our prayers.

R. A. Torrey has said, “When we ask something definite of God, and He gives it, how real God becomes!  He is right there!  It is blessed to have a God who is real, and not merely an idea.”3  Yes, it is a joyful and real experience when God reaches down in love, and gives us what we ask for.  It is the joy of experiencing His presence.

In Psalm 16:11 David wrote, “In Thy presence is fullness of joy; in thy right hand there are pleasures forever.”  Though David here is mainly speaking of the joy that comes after this life, we can know that same joy now whenever we experience His presence—which will surely come to us with the realization that He has answered our prayers.

This I think is the whole point of prayer—to have the joyful realization of His presence.  It is what God intended for us.  Jesus said, “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10b).  He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6).  It is God’s purpose for us to have this abundant life, which is found in Jesus, and can only be gained when we call out to Him in prayer.  Prayer then is the key to obtain this life—life that produces for us a fullness of joy.


3 R. A. Torrey, How to Pray (Chicago: Moody Press, n. d.), p. 16.

Those who say to Him, “Lord, Lord”

The narrow way and the broad way

The Bible says that on the judgment day it will be revealed that some who think they are Christians are really not. In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus said,

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

This may seem to you to be a very strange thing, that some people will be so self-deceived, that they think they are Christians when they are not. How can this happen? How does someone not know that he is not a Christian? How does he or she live so much of a life thinking that they are Christians when they are not?

The only answer is that they haven’t really known what a Christian is. They evidently have allowed false prophets to influence them; and they, at the beginning, entered not at the narrow gate but at the broad gate and went down and lived in the broad way—the way of the world. And all along in their journey, they never at any point got to know the Lord and to be changed by Him. What a tragic deception.

But how is it that they are so deceived?  And also, how is it that true Christians are also deceived into thinking that some false Christians are true Christians? Here are a few reasons why:

  • Knowing Him does not mean saying the right words. It is possible for a person to say all the right words, to have a very holy and righteous speech, and yet not be a Christian. A changed language does not mean that there is a changed heart.
  • Some unbelievers may use Scripture and Scriptural teaching as a kind of philosophy, but they don’t really know Christ or are converted.
  • Some may speak and even preach the Scriptures fervently, but it may be entirely of the flesh and not for the sake of Christ.

The test of course is whether a person has the fruit of the Spirt, and also whether they know Him or not. Do they pray and read their bible regularly? Do they have a growing love relationship with Him?

 

Ten Descriptions of a False Prophet

Matthew 7:15

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

This verse (and the following few verses) follows directly after where Jesus spoke on entering by the narrow gate and walking along the narrow way (v. 13-14). Hence, what Jesus is suggesting here is that we beware of those who will try to persuade us not to enter at the narrow gate and walk in the narrow way. These are false prophets.

We will now take a closer look at these false prophets, according to what D. Martyn Lloyd Jones has preached on in his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. In my reading and note taking, I have come up with ten descriptions of the false prophet.

1. They will appear as Christians. They will come to us in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they will be ravenous wolves. Therefore, they will look like good people and no one will suspect anything false from them. They will be nice and pleasant and appear to be Christians. They will use Christian terms and talk about God, and Jesus, and about the cross, and about the love of God, etc.

2. We will know them by their fruit. When we really get to know them, we will discover that their teaching is wrong and also their life (their conduct).

3. We may recognize them by what they do not teach. As far as recognizing the falseness, it is not so much recognized by what they say, but rather by what they do not say. They will tend to leave out or pass over certain important biblical teachings. And they do this in order to not offend you or to be more popular.

4. His teaching is absent from doctrine. His preaching is almost entirely absent from doctrine. He does not like doctrinal preaching, and when he does preach doctrine, it is vague and in error.

5. He does not speak on holiness. The false prophet rarely speaks about holiness and righteousness and justice and the wrath of God. He will not say that he does not believe these things, yet he says next to nothing about them.

6. He leaves out bible prophecy. The false prophet fails to talk about bible prophecy and future things. This is true of most preachers these days. But I have a remedy for them. If they would just preach through the bible one verse at a time, they would be forced to preach on bible prophecy, since almost one-third of the bible is prophetical.

7. He fails to preach on sin. He will not emphasis the doctrine of sin and the sinfulness of sin.

8. He will not preach on what Jesus did for us on the cross. He will talk about the cross and about the death of Christ, but he will fail to preach on what Jesus’ death did for us—that God made Him to be sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21) and that He paid the penalty for our sins.

9. He dislikes self-examination. He will not emphasize the necessity of entering the narrow gate or walking in the narrow way. He is not interested in true holiness; thus, he dislikes the process of self-examination and the mortification of sin as taught by the Puritans.

10. They reject the idea of being a Christian warrior. They reject talk about fighting the good fight of faith, and they do not see the need for putting on the armor of God. They would rather practice easy salvation and living an easy and prosperous Christian life.

The Tragic Results of Not Following the Golden Rule

The verse we are following today is Matthew 7:12:

Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

There are certainly tragic results of mistreatment on both sides: others mistreating me, as well as my mistreatment of others. And that mistreatment affects not only the one being mistreated, but also the one who is causing the mistreatment.

For this post today, I want to write on how others, as well as myself, have been mistreated. I will start with myself. I couldn’t have been more than seven years old, first grade. My dad had helped me make a boat, really an old clipper ship. It was a great project. We carved it out of a four-by-four block of wood, then we gave it three masks made of dowels, we made sails made of white cloth, and then we tied strings all over it—which were to be the ropes holding the sails in place. I was surprised at how good it looked when it was finished. It was the first project I had ever attempted before—even though Dad had done most of it. Nonetheless, I really felt good about it and proud of myself.

But the very next day after it was finished, I discovered that all the strings (the ropes) were cut. Someone had cut all the ships ropes. Who would do such a thing? I was devastated. At the time I didn’t give much thought on who could have done it. Or why. It didn’t matter to me. The only thing that mattered is that my ship was destroyed.

Obviously, whoever did it didn’t stop and think how they would want to be treated and then how they should treat me. They were thinking only of themselves.

Another victim of mistreatment we often think of is the biblical character Joseph. The story is found in Genesis 37:2-36. He was his father’s favorite son, and so he gave him a beautiful coat of many colors. Well, as the story goes, his brothers were extremely jealous of him, and one day they threw him in a pit and left him for dead. How tragic. As we know, God made things work together for good, and Joseph became the great savior of the Jewish nation. But even so, think of all the pain Joseph went through because of those brothers who thought only of themselves.

Another character we could think of is David. He was such a man of God; he had a heart after God’s own heart. Yet think of how he was abused by others. The Psalms are filled with the prayers of David—how he was chased and was fearful of his enemies—those who certainly were not following the Golden Rule.

The ultimate example of mistreatment by others was our Lord Jesus. And we are all guilty. But the Pharisees seemed to be the ones who were after Him the most—to be rid of Him. And Scripture tells us that they handed Him over (to be crucified) “because of envy” (Matt. 27:18). Think of it. Their sin of envy was so strong that it blocked out any thought of how they should treat others.

Of course, they were not believers, and that is the entire problem. The Golden Rule makes no sense to a non-believer. Only true believers will carry it out. And only a true believer can carry it out. If you want to make a huge impact on peoples lives, if you want to really love them as God loves them, give your heart and soul to God and then practice this Golden Rule. I think it is how we can really begin to love others.

This Golden Rule is so simple, yet profound. It is simple because there is only one thing we are required to do—think how I would want to be treated by others and then treat them that way. It is profound because it works. And it starts with us. We start this process of love, and other will pick it up and carry it on.

And when a non-Christian sees how we lovingly treat each other, they will be curious and will want to join us.  I think so. I pray so.