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Weekly Word

Entries in Healing (14)

Tuesday
Nov062018

My Personal End Times: The New Heavens & the New Earth

Revelation 21.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 4, 2018.

We are now at the last point of our series.  For the sake of time, I have broken this up into two sermons.  It begins with God’s promise to recreate the universe.  Throughout the Bible God reveals to us that He truly is the master of creation, and can even melt it down and recreate it when He wants.  So here we get a brief glimpse of what that new creation will look like, and the wisdom of God who is bringing us to it.

All things are made new

I will use the phrase from vs. 5 for our point because it describes what verses 1-4 are showing us.  The things of this world have grown old through use and abuse, but God has a day in which He will renew and refashion it to where it is both fresh and greater. 

Verse 1 makes it clear that in the last chapter the old heavens and earth were melted down and then sometime after the judgment recreated.  The new “heaven” here means the cosmos or universe and not the spirit realm where the throne of God is.  As for the new earth it is not just renewed, as in being brought back to a fresh state of the same thing.  It is also, refashioned into a different form.  We see this because it shares the detail that this new earth has no sea.  This does not mean that there is no water, but that large bodies of water like the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, Caspian Sea, or the oceans, for that matter, will be no more.  Throughout the Bible the waters were a great separating instrument to mankind.  It was also used as a symbolic representation of the turbulence of the nations.  Thus God will remove the physical barriers to mankind’s unity and the spiritual problems that drive its constant dissensions.

Verse 2 introduces the New Jerusalem, which comes down from God (i.e. it comes down from the third heaven).  This does not seem to be connected to the old Jerusalem on earth, which would have clearly been destroyed.  This is typically referred to as the Final State (condition), or the Eternal State.  This new creation is what we will inhabit into eternity.  Of course it would be folly to try and comprehend what plans God has for us in the Eternal State, other than to recognize that the emphasis is that now we can do it in perfect fellowship with God.

The New Jerusalem descends from Heaven

The New Jerusalem is compared to a bride adorned for her husband in verse 2.  However, in verses 9-10 it is called the bride of the Lamb (i.e. Christ).  Is the city just a symbol and not an actual city?  The descriptions to follow are far too detailed to treat the whole thing as simply a symbol of the Church.  Just as God’s people have been prepared to live with Jesus in eternity, so the city has been prepared to be the place of our dwelling, which leads us to the next point.

We are told in verse 4 that God wipes each tear from their eyes.  It is not saying that He will do that from then on because all the sources of pain will be no more: death, sorrow, crying, and pain.  Here we see the cathartic or healing experience of God removing any remnants of the old earth and its imprint upon our minds.  This is the ultimate renewing of our minds.  In verse 5 we are told that this plan and purpose of God is “true and faithful.”  It truly is His plan, and He will surely accomplish it.  God will bring it to pass for all who trust Him in this life.

In verses 6-8 we are given several promises from God and a warning.  First we hear the phrase “it is done” connected to that point in time.  This is in contrast to the words of Jesus on the cross, “It is finished.”  They are two different Greek words.  At the cross Jesus used a word that was used to state that a debt had been paid in full.  Thus at the cross it was finished in the sense that Christ had paid the price for salvation.  However, at the New Heavens and the New Earth “it is done” means that salvation/healing has been fully accomplished.  God has completed the task of overcoming the rebellion and corruption of the old universe.

Next the fountains of the Water of Life are promised to those who are thirsty.  There is a beer commercial that loves to use the slogan, “Stay thirsty, mis amigos!”  However, this begs the question.  What are you thirsty for?  You can drink all the beer you want, but it will not satisfy the empty aching in your soul.  If you are thirsty for the Waters of Life that are given to those who put their faith in Christ then you will know satiation that this world cannot give.  We drink from this water by faith.

Then inheriting all things is promised to those who overcome.  This world is our testing ground and the thing we must overcome.  It seeks to destroy your faith in God, but you must overcome it.  Jesus told his disciples that they would have persecution in this life, but then he said, “Fear not!  I have overcome the world.”  Thus we know that He will enable us to overcome the world as long as we lean upon Him.

Lastly, the warning is given.  We are given a list of the kinds of people who will be thrown into the Lake of Fire (i.e. The Second Death).  Most of the list makes sense.  However, many balk at the very first word, the cowardly.  Really?  People who are cowardly will be thrown into the Lake of Fire?  That seems way to harsh.  The point is not that those who are afraid receive the Second Death.  Rather, it is those who let fear cause them not to believe in Christ and instead embrace any of the other things in the list and more (there is no reason to believe the list is exhaustive).  When we let fear cause us to turn back and not overcome the world, then we fall short of the salvation and healing that God has for us.

The New Jerusalem described

For the sake of time I will list the descriptions briefly.  But it is worth spending some time thinking about the things described.  Verse 10 states that John is taken up to a great and high mountain.  This seems to be an allusion to Daniel’s kingdom “not made by human hands.”  That kingdom became a mountain that filled the whole earth.  As John stands on the great high mountain he sees the city coming down like a great mountain itself.  The Bible is replete with the mountain analogy.  The mountain of the Lord that was established in the earthly Jerusalem, pointed to a heavenly mountain of the Lord that existed in the heavenlies.  This New Jerusalem seems to be the ultimate mountain of the Lord coming down out of heaven and having the presence of God (as we see later).

We are told that the whole city is made of precious stones and shines with the glory of God.  In fact everything seems to be made of translucent material that will enable the glory of God to shine through it.  This is similar to the description Daniel gives of the righteous.  He says that they will shine like the stars.  Definitely there is a reference to taking on divinity (an immortal body that is from God).  However, if God has a glory that actually shines, it would stand to reason that we too will have some kind of shining glory, although lesser than that of God.

There are 12 gates around the city named after the 12 tribes of Israel and guarded by an angel.  We are also told that each gate is made out of a single pearl.  This is significant because as we go to the next point we will see that the walls are 216 feet tall.

The wall, that the gates are in, have 12 foundations named after the apostles of Christ and made of precious stones.  We are told that the city is the same length, width, and height and that each side is 1,400 miles.  It would be amazing enough to conceive of a city that was 1,400 miles square, but for it to also be 1,400 miles tall is flabbergasting.  We are not told if it is shaped like a cube or like a pyramid.  If it is like a cube, then it would be more reminiscent of the temple and the Holies of holies, whereas a pyramid shape would be more in keeping with the “mountain of the Lord” motif throughout Scripture and mentioned in verse 10.  Of course we have to point out that the streets are made of pure gold and thus in heaven gold is asphalt. 

Verse 22 tells us that there is no temple in the New Jerusalem because God and the Lamb dwell in it and they are the temple.  There is no separation from God and His people any more.  That, which was important to understand in the past, has now been overcome.  Not only is there no temple, but the city does not need the light from the sun or moon.  This doesn’t mean there isn’t a sun or moon, but that their light is not needed because of the light from the glory of God.

We are also told that the nations who are saved will walk in its light.  I should point out that it is not stated that the city will “land” upon the earth, only that John saw it descend out of heaven.  In light (pun intended) of this description, it would seem more likely that the New Jerusalem would orbit the New Earth as an artificial satellite giving light to the earth below.  However, it is quite possible that it lands upon the earth.  Of course life in the New Jerusalem and on the New earth is left to our imagination.  Do some people live in the New Jerusalem all the time?  Do some only live on the earth, and if so who?  Though many are quick to be dogmatic in answers to these questions, it seems a fool’s errand.  We simply have not been told and thus should wait until the time in which it will be revealed.

One thing is clear, only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life may enter the New Jerusalem.  Which brings up the question, is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?  You can make sure that it is today, but repenting of your sins, believing in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and following His commands.  Will you do this now?  If you do you will have the joy of experiencing the greatest city that the world has ever know because it will have been built by God Himself.

The New Heavens & the New Earth Audio

Monday
Oct082018

Your Personal End Times- The Millennium Part I

Various Passages.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on October 7, 2018.

Last week we established from Revelation 20 that Christ will rule with the resurrected saints over the earth for 1,000 years.  However, that passage gave us practically no description of what the millennium would look like.  This is most likely because the rest of the Bible is full of descriptions of what the millennium will entail.  Today we are going to go back into the Old Testament and fill in some of the picture of what we will experience as resurrected saints during this 1,000 year reign of Jesus Christ upon this earth.

Of course, the real question is this.  Where do you start?  It is like swimming in the ocean.  There is no way we can do justice to the multitude of passages that speak of the coming kingdom of God.  So let me briefly summarize a few passages in this light.  We could go back to Genesis 3 and see God’s promise to Eve that one of her seed would crush the serpent’s head.  The idea is that the one who deceived them and tricked them out of paradise would eventually get his from a particular human.  We could also look at Genesis 11 and 15, where God makes a covenant with Abraham.  Basically God tells Abraham that all the nations of the earth will be blessed by what God does through Abraham’s offspring.  There is also 2 Samuel 7 where God makes a covenant with David, promising that one of his offspring would sit on the throne of David forever.  There is also Psalm 2 where God states that He has anointed a king who is to rule over the whole earth.  Also, it is stated that the world will rebel against this choice and challenges people to put their trust in God’s king.  Thus we see that God has a vested interest in helping mankind against Satan, our spiritual enemy.  He has promised to bless the whole world by anointing a particular individual to be a righteous king over all the earth and crush the serpents head.  This will be a king and a kingdom that lasts forever.

However, today we are going to start in the book of Isaiah, while keeping in mind this backdrop of promises that God has made to mankind.  Here we will see that the Millennial rule of Christ is the promised hope that has been given to the saints of every century and will be established at His Second Coming.

The reign of the Messiah- Jesus

Let’s start in Isaiah 2:1-4.  Though the Old Testament does not explicitly state the name of the Messiah, we now know that it is Jesus.  Of course Jesus is an anglicized transliteration of a Latin/Greek transliteration of a name that is either Hebrew or Aramaic in form.  It would be something like Yeshua or Yoshua, but let’s not get sidetracked.  All these prophecies are pointing towards Him.  He is the one whom God has anointed King of all kings, Lord of all lords. 

In our passage Isaiah describes this coming kingdom and states that it will be a global kingdom.  The language is very clear with phrases like: “established on top of the mountains,” “exalted above the hills,” and “all nations shall flow to it.”  Mountains and hills were often used as symbolic descriptions of kingdoms and empires.  Powerful kingdoms were like mountains towering over the surrounding area, dominating it on every level.  Later in Daniel 2, God gives Nebuchadnezzar a dream in which all the kingdoms of the world are crushed and smashed to pieces by a kingdom that is sent from God.  This kingdom is described as a stone that is cut by God (without human hands) and grows to become a mountain that fills the whole earth.

Now, we are going to see throughout this study that a person can give everything in these passages a spiritual meaning and say that it is already fulfilled or still being fulfilled.  Thus a person can say that Isaiah 2 and Daniel 2 are just talking about a spiritual kingdom, which is the Church today.  Clearly the Church has spread to fill the whole earth, hasn’t it?  I would say that there is a clear spiritual fulfillment of these passages, but that does not mean they will not be physically true as well.  The same God who made humans composite beings of spirit and body, also works among us both spiritually and physically.  When Jesus says in Luke 13:28, “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out,” he clearly envisions a day when this will happen.  The plain sense of the passage is that Abraham and the others will be just as physical as those listening to Jesus (that is, a resurrection will have occurred).  Also in Acts 1:6, the disciples ask Jesus if he will restore the kingdom to Israel at this time.  Jesus does not tell them that the kingdom is only spiritual and will never be physical again.  Rather, he tells them it is not for them “to know times and seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”  Thus, there is going to be a day when Israel and Jerusalem will be the hub of the world and all the nations will flow to this place on earth where Jesus will be physically reigning.

Verse 4 makes it clear that it will involve a judgment of the nations.  Of course, we saw this in Revelation 19 and chapter 20.  However, Jesus does not just judge the nations.  He also judges between them.  Think of all the disputes that have built up through the years between many different ethnic groups.  Those who miraculously survive the Great Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ will come before Christ.  There he will separate the sheep from the goats.  Those who are allowed to come into the millennial kingdom will also have long standing disputes with other settled by Jesus.  In fact, it is said that he will rebuke many nations.  Often our bloody feuds with others are nothing but pride masquerading as piety.  Jesus will put an end to these disputes.

He will be so effective that we are told that there will be no more war.  The nations of the world will “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”  It is clear that the United Nations will not stop war in its present condition.  It also beggars belief that it could be reformed in any way that would get rid of war.  However, God promises that Messiah will be able to cause war to cease, and not just for a few years.  The only hope for a world that rejects the One Anointed by God is to put a “superman” in power who will represent the greatest wisdom of man.    Whether this is some kind of artificial intelligence or a combined link with “ascended masters,” we cannot know.  Yet, that really is the only path forward for a world in rebellion that refuses to repent.  This man who will supposedly have all the answers will pretend to want peace, but in the end the God of heaven describes him as a beast.  Mankind cannot force peace upon the world.  Only the Spirit of God can bring it.  I find it interesting that the United Nations has a sculpture given to it by Russia in which a naked man is hammering a sword into a plowshare.  It seems to give tribute to the Bible, but in truth it represents a humanistic rebellion.  Yes, mankind has no problem with the goal of no war.  However, they will attempt to accomplish it through humanist means, not divine.  Thus the naked man represents the Greek ideal of mankind doing in the flesh the wisdom of its mind.

It is also easy to get stuck on the terminology used.  Yes, we do not typically use swords anymore (or not nearly as much).  However, the point is clear.  During the millennium mankind will recycle all the weapons of war (tanks, missiles, guns, etc.) and use them to make farming equipment.

The wisdom of Jesus the Messiah

Next let’s go to Isaiah 11:1-2, 6-9.  Here we see the wisdom of the Messiah on display.  In verses 1-2 the image of a menorah (the seven-branched candlestick in the temple) is brought to mind.  The seven lights were a picture of God’s complete wisdom giving complete light to the world.  Each of these seven lights is given a name which makes even clearer that the source of the light (knowledge/truth) is the Spirit of God Himself.  No matter how wise mankind becomes or how great an artificial intelligence we create, when we cast off God’s word and forge a path of our own, we have become fools and our path is folly.  Jesus was and will be successful because He operates from a wisdom that has its source in God.  Notice that verses 3-4 highlight his judgment.  He will not judge by the sight of his eyes or the hearing of his ears.  No one will be able to manipulate him, and he does not have an ulterior motive.  Rather, He judges with righteousness and equity, which is bad news for the wicked and great news for the righteous.

In verses 6-9 we are told that the animal kingdom will no longer be deadly either.  Just as humans were not created to kill one another, so animals were not originally made to destroy one another.  When sin entered the world, it brought a curse and drastic changes to the world itself.  Scripture tells us that the whole of creation groans in expectation for the manifestation of the Sons of God.  The wisdom of Christ will turn back the effects of sin and the curse.  Isaiah gives a list of things that we would not leave alone together in this world because one of them would kill the other: a wolf with a lamb, a leopard with a young goat, a calf with a young lion, a child near a cobra’s hole, or sticking its hand in a viper’s den.  All of these things would strike fear into the owner or parent’s heart.  Yet, they will lie down in peace together.  Their nature will have been changed.  How Jesus will accomplish this is not described, but it seems that, if these things were a judgment of God upon wicked mankind, such judgments are simply being lifted by God Himself.  We are also told that the lion will eat hay like an ox.  Whether such is possible in today’s conditions is irrelevant.  The whole point is that the nature of things is going to change.  The statement may be just as much about the hay itself as it is about the lion.

Now let’s go to Isaiah 35:1-7.  Here we see descriptions of the desert places blooming with life.  Again, we could spiritualize this whole passage to be a blooming of a spiritual desert.  When Jesus came to Israel, it was spiritually a desert, but he caused it to bloom with spiritual life.  The gospel has the ability to bring life into the most spiritually dead of lives.  Again, this would be true, but there is also a natural aspect to this as well.  Through his knowledge and divine power we will see the curse upon Adam turned back.  There will be an increase in the fertility of the earth and an increase in places where water will “burst forth in the wilderness.”  Amos 9:13 says it this way, “’Behold the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.”  Many skeptics have scoffed over the years at the idea of Israel being a “land flowing with milk and honey.”  However, it looks like it does because the land is under a curse, much like the whole earth is under a curse.  In that day, the curse on the land and on the earth will be lifted and we will know fruitfulness as we have never known.

Verses 3 through 6 speak to the condition of mankind that has struggled under the heavy load of disease and poverty.  These things will become a memory as Messiah heals.  Some think that this only points to the miracles that Jesus did when he walked on the earth in the past.  However, the miracles he did then were so that we could recognize that he really is the Messiah.  When he comes again, he will have just as much healing power as he did before. 

Just think that the saints of every age will be resurrected so that they can participate in this exciting period of humanity’s existence.  I will close our time today by giving a reminder.  This is just a small part of the plan and hope that God has put before us.  We will take some more time next week to keep looking at this amazing period called the millennial reign of Christ.  However, even then what can we say about the New Heavens and the New Earth that lay beyond it?  Christians are to be those who live today in the light of this coming kingdom because its king is already living in our hearts.  Is Christ living within you by the Holy Spirit of God?  Turn from any wickedness, turn towards Christ, and put your trust in Him.  Then you will be blessed by God with all these things.

Millennium part 1 audio

Sunday
Jan082017

A People Who Pray

Hebrews 4:14-16; James 5:14-16.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on January 01, 2017.

As we approach 2017, we have much to be thankful for, and yet we have much to be in prayer about.  The people of America are more and more turning away from Jesus and towards the answers of the world.  Some who say they are following Jesus are trying to walk the fence of following the world and Jesus at the same time.  When we look to the global scene, we see that the nations of the world seem primed for a great delusion.

It is important for Christians not to let these things wear down our desire to live for Christ.  In fact, it is for such a time as this that we are here.  One aspect of our duty to God is to be a people of prayer.  Now when I say this I do not mean that we should treat prayer like a cosmic, Amazon, wish list.  Though we can ask God for things, prayer is not about me getting everything that I want.  Another danger is to treat prayer as some kind of impersonal power or force that we can learn to wield.  We need to pray, but we also need to do so with proper understanding.

Prayer at its most elemental level is a child conversing with its father.  We must recognize who we are to God and who He is to us.  Though the world may look at Christians as weak, it really is a result of the commands we have from our Lord.  We are not to fight as the world fights and neither do we fight against the same things that the world fights against.  When Christians understand prayer as an amazing aspect of putting on the Armor of God, learning to wield the Sword of the Spirit, and walking in the Spirit, then we will find it to be one of our most powerful weapons against the devil and his plans.  Let’s choose to be a people of prayer today!

Come before the Throne of Grace

In the book of Hebrews the apostle is demonstrating the greatness of Jesus and what that means for us as His followers.  In Hebrews 4:14-16 we are given instruction on how the greatness of Christ opens the door for us to approach God’s throne.  It is interesting that he refers to God’s throne as a place of grace.  Earlier rabbis had recognized that God sometimes dispenses punishing judgments against people and nations, and at other times dispenses gifts of grace.  In their minds they theorized that there were two different thrones.  Your outcome depended upon which throne God was sitting on.  Early Christianity received revelation that made it clear this was not true.  In Jesus the Justice and Grace of God are satisfied in one place, one throne.  Ultimately it is a throne of grace because that is God’s intent; He wants to give grace to those who come before Him.  However, one must not be worthy of judgment to approach.  In Jesus, Christians have their judgment covered by the work of Jesus Christ.  We can walk into the fearful place of Justice and it is a safe place for us.  Christians must resist the temptation to split the justice and grace of God.  In fact it is common to focus on one to the detriment of the other.  Some highlight the grace of God to the effect that He would never judge anybody.  Others highlight the justice and righteousness of God to the effect that grace becomes non-existent.  Ours is an even more amazing message.  We can walk into the place that no man can walk, and the fearful judge will lovingly embrace us as His children.

This is why the apostle says that we should come “boldly,” or “with confidence.”  The Greek word that is translated here has the idea of “freedom of speech.”  When we enter into God’s presence through prayer, we do not have to measure our words, so as to avoid incurring the wrath of the Sovereign.  Instead, we are free to speak our hearts and minds before a loving Father.  Of course kids sometimes say dumb and even wrong things.  However, we are in a loving, safe relationship with a Father who is committed to helping us grow and mature spiritually.  Over time our prayer life will go from an infantile wish list to a far deeper intimate communication.  The devil does not want Christians praying.  Think of it as a kind of spiritual, First Amendment (AKA freedom of speech).  The devil cannot overturn this right that we have as followers of Christ.  So, how does he combat this?  He needs only to convince us to shut up, to self-censure ourselves.  He uses doubts and fears about God’s intent towards us, or even His existence, to get us to quit praying.  He sometimes uses brute force to intimidate people from believing God (I quit because it only gets me hurt).  He sometimes uses a seductive attack to get us so hungry for the things of this world that we never come to know God at all, and perhaps could walk away from Him.  Christians every day say things like this as they continue in prayerlessness:  “It does no good,” “I don’t have time,” “Something bad might happen,” or “That stuff isn’t real.”  Satan has a vested interest in discouraging prayer in your life.  But, Jesus gives us the confidence to talk with God.

Jesus is our high priest who properly mediates between us and God.  More than this, Jesus has been a man and was tempted in every way.  He knows how we feel and the difficulties we face.  The Father is not looking for ways to disqualify you and push you away.  He has gone to the cross in order to qualify you.  So, don’t let the enemy put the idea in your mind that God can’t understand how difficult it is to trust God in this world.  It was not easier for Jesus because he was God, it was actually harder.  Why would I say that?  I say that because all the things that discourage us in this world against faith would be harder for a “perfect” person.  When someone does me wrong, I get angry and may blame God.  But I am not a perfect person.  Perhaps God has allowed it because it is a discipline for me that I deserve.    It would be even harder for a perfect person to accept.  Jesus accepted the plan of the cross, and it was not easy for Him.  He knows how you feel.  For your own sake, go to Him in prayer.  No one cares for you like the Father in Heaven. 

The apostle mentions two reasons to come to the Throne of Grace:  to obtain mercy and to find grace to help in time of need.  Let’s look at mercy first.  Mercy is the remission and removal of what we deserve.  Some of the things that we suffer in life are at least partly our own fault.  It could seem spiritual to simply accept it and honor God by suffering.  However, this is not our instruction from God.  We are told to ask for mercy.  It doesn’t matter what you have done or how bad you have messed things up.  You can ask God for mercy.  In fact, salvation is a matter of asking God for mercy.  I do not deserve heaven.  My sins deserve separation from God and His goodness forever.  Yet, the prayer of repentance says, “God, I am sorry for following my sins.  I renounce them and ask for your mercy.”  Notice that it would be mercy for God to simply let us be his slaves.  But He goes above and beyond this and makes us His children.  Thus we can ask for mercy in our lives.  If God still asks us to suffer a situation, then we can yield to his decision and honor Him by what we suffer.

Grace on the other hand is the receiving of that which we don’t deserve.  We don’t merit it in any way, but God gives it anyways.  Yes, it may seem spiritual to be content with what you have and not ask for anything.  But that is not our instructions from God.  We can ask for those things that we think we need and would be beneficial.  Of course that will be a very different list as we mature from an infant spiritually to a mature believer.  If God tells me, “No,” regarding something I ask for then I can yield to His decision and trust that I don’t need it as badly as I think.  God in His sovereignty gives us things for which we did not ask.  However, He also leaves room for things that we must ask for if we are to have them.  Why?  He does so because He wants us to mature and become like our Lord, Jesus.

A righteous person prays

So now let’s go to James 5:14-16.  The main point I want to draw out of this is that a righteous person prays.  If I am lacking in prayer then I might look at this area of righteousness.  Being “righteous” in this passage cannot be talking about having our sins covered by Jesus.  All Christians, spiritually infants or mature, stand before God covered with the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  We are all technically, absolutely righteous.  However, in this passage is the hypothetical case of a Christian who is sick because of sin in their life and need the prayer of a righteous man to deliver them.  It is my belief that the word “righteous” here refers to the fact that this believer has no issues of sin that are between them and God.  The righteous believer is not perfect and without sin.  However, they are properly dealing with any areas of sin by first resisting temptation, and second quickly confessing sin if they fail.  1 John 1:9 says that if we confess our sin, that the Lord is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  This verse has been called the Christian’s bar of soap.  Many believers who are living a life of prayerlessness do so because they have areas of sin in their life that they are trying to hide.  God in His mercy is working to bring us to maturity.  When we are like Adam and Eve, hiding in the Garden full of shame, He comes out after us.  So all Christian communities need mature, righteous individuals who are in a position to pray for and help other believers.  In fact, even they need other mature believers around them.  None of us can stand on our own.   We need others who will pray with us, and at times for us.

James brings up the issue of sickness.  He actually starts with a person who is simply sick.  Most likely they have prayed for healing and nothing has happened.  At some point they should ask the elders to pray for them.  Let me just say that one thing is clear in this passage.  A righteous person prays for healing when people are sick.  There are some who believe that God does not heal any more.  There are various reasons for believing this.  But all of them are woefully lacking in the face of Scripture.  It is patently not true.  In their minds it is a mark of spiritual maturity to not ask for healing and suffer for Jesus.  I do not want to deride this idea because sometimes God does ask us to suffer something for His glory.  Yet, their default position is that there is no healing.  We are instructed in this passage that if we are sick, we should call for the elders (presumably righteous believers) to pray for us.  Of course God is not required to heal anybody.  But it is not our job to determine whether God will heal someone.  It is our “job” to simply be a child and come before the Father with a request.  Then we trust His answer.  Take note that if there is no immediate healing, it may not be a, “No.”  It could just be a, “Not yet.”  Still we operate in faith.  We ask because we believe He can heal, and may do so.  We wait in faith because we know that, as Sovereign, He gets to pick the time and way it is done.  We accept His final answer because we know that our reward and inheritance are far much more than this world.

James adds another dimension to the hypothetical situation.  He says that it is possible the sick person has sin in their life that is the reason for their sickness.  Sin is not just an issue for the lost.  It continues to be a daily issue for the believer.  Unconfessed sin will always be a barrier between us and God.  I am not saying that a Christian can lose their salvation.  What I am saying is that sin affects our communication and relationship with the Father.  It can even affect how He responds to our prayers.  In 1 Peter 3:7, husbands are told to dwell with their wives in understanding and honor them.  Peter then adds, “so that your prayers will not be hindered.”  So even the sins of how we treat one another can become barriers to our prayers.  Yes, God hears our prayers, but in a sense He is saying, “I want you to deal with this sin first, before I consider these other requests.”  The requests are unable to be dealt with.  Now confession is ultimately between man and God.  But when our sin is against other people then God tells us to make it right with them first (if that is still possible).  Even then, there are times when private sins become such a stronghold in our life and such a barrier between us and God that we need to confess to spiritually mature people.  Confession has a way of breaking those chains and giving us an accountability partner.  Notice that confession is not to a particular office in the church.  Confession can be to any Christian, but it is most effect when to a spiritually mature believer, regardless of whether they have an official title or not.  Thus a righteous person prays for forgiveness when people have sinned.  In fact, they are more able to do so because they have been praying for their own forgiveness and keeping short accounts with God.

We will close with the last part of verse 16.  “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”  This phrase is a bit tricky to translate.  There is one word that often is translated as “effectual, fervent.”  This one word has the sense of that which is working, thus the word “effectual.”  When we think of prayer working, we typically think of getting what we ask.  However, the meaning is not so simple here.  The emphasis is on the fact that prayer is something that is real and is accomplishing a real work when a righteous person prays.  This interaction with God has more to do with God accepting the prayer than it does with Him giving us exactly what we ask for.  The prayer of a righteous person is not hindered, but is getting through to God.  God is not refusing to hear the prayer, until they deal with sin.  He is hearing the prayer and giving it consideration.  Such prayer is powerful because the One receiving it is able to do above and beyond anything we ask.  A righteous person sometimes gets an answer from God that is essentially, “Not yet.”  They may even get the answer, “No.  My grace is enough for you.” This verse is reminding us how powerful the prayer of a righteous person can be.  It is as powerful as the God to whom we pray, which is omnipotent.  Much of a righteous person’s spiritual walk is in this relationship of prayer, and discovery of the heart of God.  An immature child stomps their feet demanding exactly what they ask for.  A mature person draws closer to the Father to discover what it is He is concerned about.  May we be a people of prayer.  But even more, may we pray those prayers as a righteous person who is maturing in their relationship with the Lord.

A People Who Pray audio

Wednesday
Jul152015

Blind

July 12, 2015--Luke 18:35-43

This sermon was preached by Pastor Nick Hauenstein.  Please click the audio link in order to listen to it.

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