Monthly Archives: October 2013

Prayer – Lesson 1: The Foundation Of Prayer – Sonship

STUDY ON PRAYER

LESSON 1

THE FOUNDATION OF PRAYER – SONSHIP

INTRODUCTION

This study is designed to help you to base your understanding and practice of prayer on Scripture rather than on the way you have learned to pray from listening to other people. This is a dangerous and futile way to pray because it perpetuates the errors of others and takes us farther away from the truth of the Scriptures.

This is my attempt to help you get back to the Bible as the source of your prayer lives. It is my passion and my prayer that this not be just an academic exercise but a life‑changing experience if you are serious about being a disciple of Jesus.

These are not prescriptions or a formula for successful prayer. They are Biblical guidelines to help you understand what prayer is so that you can engage meaningfully with God as your Father, not to get what you want but to work with Him in His purpose for you and for His kingdom.

Although all religions claim to engage their god in pray, prayer is actually the exclusive right of believers through faith in the one true God and who approach the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Other religions use various methods to “pray”to:

1. Get their god’s attention;

2. Gain his favour;

3. Avoid his anger;

4. Get what they want.

Prayer is not based on relationship but on fear and lies because gods do not exist except in the minds of those who believe in them.

Gods are a deception of the devil and are the impersonation of demons  to gain control of people through fear.

“Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything. No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God…” 1 Corinthians 10:18-20a.

Likewise, distortions of Christianity (sects and heresies) control and hold people through superstition and fear.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18.

Question: Do gods exist? Where do they originate?

Gods do not exist. They are the product of human imagination inspired by the devil to draw attention away from the living God and to receive worship in the name of the false god.

1. PRAYER IS A FAMILY EXPERIENCE

True prayer can only take place within the context of a Father / son relationship. Jesus’ relationship with the Father is the model of Biblical prayer.

Question: Does God answer the prayers of unbelievers? On what basis?

Every person on earth is potentially a son or daughter of God (Acts 17:28) and has been forgiven (Luke 23:24; 2 Cor 5:19) Those who receive Him are given the right to become children of God. God responds to unbelievers through His mercy. He does not have to answer their prayers but He does in order to show them His glory.

God relates and responds to us as a Father.

He knows our needs. There is no need to explain or advise.

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen. Then your Father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like the pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:6-8.

God responds to us as the perfect Father.

Because of His wisdom, God will always do and give the best to His children.

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him.” Matthew 7:11

We can approach God with confidence as His children.

Because Jesus had reconciled us to the Father:

“God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” 2 Corinthians 5:19a

Because He has given us the right to be His children:

“Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God…” John 1:12

Because He has given us the Spirit of sonship, not the spirit of fear:

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself testifies that we are God’s children.” Romans 8:15,16.

Because He deals with us as sons:

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! … Dear friends, now we are the children of God…” 1 John 3:1a. 2a.

Question: If we are children of God, why does He not answer all of our prayers?

He is a wise and loving Father. He answers us in accordance with His nature and His will.

God treats us on the same level as He treats Jesus.

Jesus gave us power-of-attorney to use His name:

“In that day you will ask in my name; I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father Himself loves you because you have loved me, and have believed that I came from God.” John 16:26-27.

Jesus is our elder brother:

“Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” Hebrews 2:11.

We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus:

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His suffering in order that we may also share in His glory.” Romans 8:17.

Question: If Jesus is perfect and we are imperfect, how can God treat us the same?

God treats us out of who He is, not out of who we are. He sees us as already perfected in Christ and does what He does to move us towards who we already are.

2. OUR ROLE AS SONS OF GOD

Sonship carries both privileges and responsibilities.

We cannot enjoy the privileges of sonship and ignore the responsibilities that go with it. As children of God we are to be partners in our Father’s business:

“For we are God’s fellow workers…” 1 Corinthians 3:9a.

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10.

Question: What is God’s business?

The business of the Son and us as sons of God is His kingdom. It is our role as followers of Jesus is to continue on earth what He began. He came to bring God’s rule into the chaos of what man has done through his rebellion and disobedience.

Characteristics of a mature son.

Jesus is the model of mature sonship:

“During the days of His life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save Him from  death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission. Although He was a son, he learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him,” Hebrews 5:7,8.

The Holy Spirit plays an active part in this “family” enterprise

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that cannot be expressed. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with the will of God.” Romans 8:26,27.

The business of the Son and us as sons of God is His kingdom.

Question: What are the most important qualities of a mature son?

Submission and obedience to the Father. Jesus perfectly modelled both – see Hebrews 5:7-8; Psalm 40:6-8; Hebrews 10:5 7.

CONCLUSION

1. True prayer can only be experienced on the basis of true sonship.

2.  Everything God does in us and for us is based on our relationship with Him as His children.

3. Part of our prayer experience is nurturing our Father / son / daughter relationship in order to grow our confidence in God as our Father.

4. Prayer is engaging with each person in the Trinity. We come to the Father through the Son with the help of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

Yes Or No?

YES OR NO?

 “John’s disciples reported back to him the news of all these events taking place. He sent two of them to the Master to ask the question, ‘Are you the One we’re expecting or are we still waiting?’ The men showed up before Jesus and said, ‘John the Baptist sent us to ask you, “Are you the one we’re expecting or are we still waiting?”‘ 

“In the next two or three hours Jesus healed many from disease, distress and evil spirits. To many of the blind He gave the gift of sight. Then He gave His answer: ‘Go back and tell John what you have just seen and heard: The blind see; the lame walk; lepers are cleansed; the deaf hear; the dead are raised; the wretched of the earth have God’s salvation hospitality extended to them. Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourself fortunate!'” Luke 7:18-23 (The Message).

Poor John!

He was sitting in a dungeon at King Herod’s good pleasure. Would it not have been reasonable for him to expect Jesus to do something about him? After all, He was family and he, John, had paved the way for Him! And besides, didn’t the Scriptures prophesy that He would set captives free?

What did John expect? Perhaps, at the very least, Jesus could have gone to Herod and put in a good word for him. Day after day he sat in his prison, waiting and hoping for release, only to be disappointed. He began to doubt that Jesus was the Messiah, after all. Perhaps He was a hoax. The longer he sat there, the more the doubts plagued him.

He had to find out. At least he would know whether there was any hope of being rescued before Herod got it into his head to execute him. He couldn’t go himself, so he sent for a few of his disciples to go for him. ‘Master,’ they asked Jesus, ‘John wants to know whether you are really the Messiah, or do we have to keep waiting for someone else to come?’

Jesus gave them no direct answer. All He said was, ‘Watch and listen.’ So they followed Him around, watching and listening. After some hours He asked them, ‘So? What have you just seen and heard? Now go and tell John all about it.’ He gave them a resume’ of the miracles He had done over the last while. ‘Ask him if this is what he was expecting? If it was, then he is truly blessed.’

What was going on here? John’s circumstances were getting to him. No one can blame him. Who can endure incarceration like that and not give in to self-pity. He had preached that the kingdom of God was a realm of generosity and unselfish service but, in his own suffering, he had begun to turn inward. Hoping that Jesus would mount a rescue, he could not understand why nothing had happened. Perhaps he had been mistaken after all.

His disciples returned with an answer he had not quite expected. A straight ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ would have been better. Instead, in typical “Jesus” fashion, He invited John to weigh up the evidence and decide for himself. That was His way of convincing him who He was according to the evidence and the Scriptures.

John was a rabbi and, of course he had memorised the entire Hebrew Scriptures. He would have immediately caught on to what Jesus was saying. ‘John, don’t take my word for it. Take another look at what the Scriptures say about me and then decide for yourself.’ The Messianic fingerprint was clearly visible in the Old Testament prophecies. All John had to do was to match it up with what Jesus was doing.

Whether or not Jesus got him released was irrelevant. Overshadowing Herod was God’s hand and he had to rest in that. His story was being written into God’s bigger story and Jesus was writing the meaning of that story into the lives of sick, maimed and side-lined people. It was up to John to answer his own question.

We all have to decide whether Jesus is the Messiah or not. Weigh up the evidence.

Is He? Then follow Him!

From Grief To Joy

FROM GRIEF TO JOY

“Not long after that Jesus went to the village Nain, His disciples were with Him along with quite a large crowd. As they approached the village gate, they met a funeral procession — a woman’s only son was being carried out for burial. And the mother was a widow. When Jesus saw her, His heart broke. He said to her, ‘Don’t cry,’ Then He went over and touched the coffin. The pallbearers stopped. He said, ‘Young man, I tell you: Get up.’ The dead son sat up and began talking. Jesus presented him to his mother.” Luke 7:11-15 (The Message).

Now that really takes the cake!

It was amazing enough that Jesus healed sick people, opened deaf ears and blind eyes, and got rid of demons, but talking to a dead man and expecting him to hear and respond! That was outside the realm of these people’s experience. Just imagine how the tongues wagged after the crowd had seen that! His popularity must have soared a thousand present.

Anyone reading this story for the first time might be struck by the matter-of-fact-ness of what happened. It was told with such simplicity that Jesus might have been walking through an orchard picking apples. There is nothing mystical or magical about what He did. He stopped the funeral procession, spoke to the dead body and the young man heard and responded. Just like that!

What prompted Jesus to do something like that? Was He showing off His power to convince people who He was? There is nothing in the record to suggest that. Luke tells us clearly why He did it — His compassion for the grieving mother moved Him to action.

She was a widow and, with her son gone, she had become destitute. What would become of her without a breadwinner? Unlike modern times, she could not get a job to support herself. She was dependent on the goodwill of the people around her and it was a precarious living, to say the least. She was not supposed to outlive her son.

Jesus responded, not only to her grief but also to her plight. He understood her predicament and stepped in to undo the tragedy that had robbed her of her livelihood. Imagine how He felt when He walked away from that scene with the memory of a mother’s joy at being reunited with her son!

“They all realised they were in a place of holy mystery, that God was at work among them. They were quietly worshipful — and then noisily grateful, calling out among themselves, ‘God is back, looking to the needs of His people!’ The news of Jesus spread all through the country.” Luke 7:16, 17 (The Message).

At least these people didn’t call Jesus a devil and attribute His work to Beelzebub! The crowd was stunned into silence and then stirred into praise. ‘God is here,’ they marvelled, recognising that only God could do what Jesus was doing. Where were the Pharisees? Apparently dumbstruck or absent. No-one raised an objection; no-one accused Him of anything. They accepted what their eyes had just seen as the work of God.

Wherever He went, Jesus was putting His Father’s glory on display and showing His people what His kingdom was like so that He could invite them to share in a life that was infinitely attractive and compelling. This is how God wanted it to be, and this is how it would be when the enemies of His kingdom were finally overthrown and everything restored to His original design.

As children of God and citizens of God’s kingdom, it is our task to contribute to the restoration of His rule on earth. It is not enough to pray, ‘Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ Jesus has entrusted to us the role of continuing what He began, bringing heaven to earth by restoring what is broken wherever and whenever we can.

Are you doing that?

 

 

He Understood Faith

HE UNDERSTOOD FAITH

“Jesus went with them. When He was still quite far from the house, the captain sent friends to tell Him, ‘Master, you don’t have to go to all this trouble. I’m not that good a person, you know. I’d be embarrassed for you to come to my house, even embarrassed to come to you in person. Just give the order and my servant will get well. I’m a man under orders; I also give orders. I tell one soldier, ‘Go,’ and he goes; another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.’

“Taken aback, Jesus addressed the accompanying crowd, ‘I’ve yet to come across this kind of simple trust anywhere in Israel, the very people who are supposed to know about God and how He works.’ When the messengers got back home, they found the servant up and well.”  Luke 7:6-10 (The Message).

What an unusual man!

He was obviously a person of some authority who was used to giving orders and used to being obeyed. Twice in the story, he sent people to Jesus to carry messages for him. He dispatched a group of Jewish leaders to ask for help, and then he sent friends to tell Jesus that he did not expect Him to come to his home but just to give the command and his servant would be healed.

He recognised in Jesus a man who carried the same sort of authority over spiritual forces as he carried over his subordinates. Did that mean that he attributed his servant’s illness to dark powers in the unseen realm? We who are “enlightened” with scientific knowledge would pooh-pooh that idea because we have a better understanding of where diseases come from and why human bodies malfunction.

But what lies behind these causes of imperfections and suffering in the natural world? Was it not the deception of the devil in the beginning that led the first pair into disobedience and all its consequences? However this man perceived Jesus’ authority, he trusted Him enough to know that His word was to be obeyed in the unseen realm.

He was also a man who knew the Jews well enough to honour their scruples about hob-knobbing with Gentiles. He did not expect Jesus to enter his house because he was a despised Roman. It was enough for Jesus to use His authority over sickness to dismiss it from a distance.

To what did Jesus respond — to the man’s reluctance to invite Him into his home or to the expression of faith that revealed his understanding of authority?

It was undoubtedly the man’s grasp of the meaning of faith that caught His attention. Jesus was not bothered by the scruples of His fellow Jews. He touched sick people; He embraced “unclean” people; He handled dead people, and none of these violations of taboos ever affected Him. The sick were healed; unclean people were made clean and the dead lived at the sound of His voice.

He marvelled that a pagan Roman soldier had a better understanding of faith than His own people who had a history of faithlessness and disobedience from the beginning. It seems that Jesus’ response to the soldier’s request was one better than his expectation. Luke doesn’t tell us whether He even spoke to the sickness from afar. He only reports that when the messengers got back to the captain’s home, the servant was up and well.

There is nothing that pleases the Lord more than the confidence we have in Him that  doubts neither His ability nor His will to intervene when we cry for help. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6 (NIV).

How can we have a faith like that? By soaking ourselves in God’s Word. “So faith comes by hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.” Romans 10:17 (NLT).

Are you reading God’s Word? It’s the only way.

Jesus Is Jesus!

JESUS IS JESUS!

“When He finished speaking to the people, He entered Capernaum. A Roman captain there had a servant who was on his deathbed. He prized him highly and didn’t want to lose him. When he heard Jesus was back, he sent leaders from the Jewish community asking Him to come and heal his servant. They came to Jesus and urged Him to do it, saying, ‘He deserves this. He loves our people. He even built our meeting place.'” Luke 7:1-5 (The Message).

Quite a guy, this Roman captain! A most unusual man! Not like the run-of-the-mill Roman soldiers, it seems. He had a heart for people, unlike most of the others who were ruthless in the course of their duty. He cared about his servant and was distraught when the man lay dying.

He was also sympathetic towards Jesus. He knew about Him; he may have even been on the outskirts of the crowd, listening to Him while he was on duty doing crowd control. Was he perhaps one of those who were among the soldiers who had heard John the Baptist and had been baptised by him in the River Jordan? We will never know.

There was no doctor and no medicine to cure his servant and he stood by, helplessly watching as his servant began to slip away from him. Then he heard that Jesus was on His way to Capernaum. So desperate was he to get help that he sent some of the Jewish leaders to Jesus, hoping against hope that Jesus would not spurn a Roman’s cry for help.

He could not go himself because he was not sure of the reception he would receive. Surely Jesus would respond if the most respected Jews in his community would speak for him? He hoped against hope that this Jew would look past his people’s treatment of His fellow Jews and have mercy on him. He had no doubt about His ability to heal. That was not the issue. But would He help a Roman?

The Jewish leaders, whoever they were, Pharisees, elders of the town, men in charge of the synagogue…who knows?…were ready to plead his case with Jesus. Evidently they held the captain in high esteem because he wasn’t like the other Romans. He had a heart for them. He used his money to build a meeting place for them. He may have even stood outside on a Sabbath, listening to the reading of the Torah and feeling a tug of response in his heart to the God of whom they read.

The Jews were quite willing to act as messengers. They were keen to help the man who had helped them. They went to Jesus with the story of a warm-hearted man who needed help and was worthy of Jesus’ intervention because of all his good deeds.

How did that affect Jesus? Had we been in His place, we might have been impressed by the man’s credentials. The very fact that these Jewish leaders were willing to act as messengers was quite unusual. They came because they were friends, not because they were obeying orders. They were with him in his trouble.

Would Jesus respond to their plea because of whom the man was or because of whom He was? Would the fact that he was a Roman influence Him? Would He, a Jew, go into the home of a Gentile? Would He help him because it was a group of Jews who acted as mediators?

Luke does not comment on the reason for Jesus’ response. However, if we fast-forward the story, when Jesus was hanging on the cross, suspended on nails that Roman soldiers had driven into His wrists and feet, we hear words from His cracked lips that encompass not only the ones who were responsible for His being there, but also the ones who had carried out the orders. ‘Father, forgive them…!’

Now we understand that the commendation of the Jews was quite unnecessary. Had this Roman captain been a typical soldier, cruel and uncaring, Jesus would have still responded to his request. Why? Because Jesus is Jesus!

You can also have absolute confidence in His mercy!