Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 4

Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 4

And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. (Luke 11:4) 

Forgive as we forgive.  We must realize that we are broken from our own sin.  It is a natural condition.  Romans 5:12 explains to us that sin came into the world and was passed down to every single man, woman, and child through the sin of one man.  This sin separated God from man and produced death in man.  In this manner, death has moved through all the generations of man, through one common ancestor.  Our sinfulness is more than that.

Not only do we have inherent sin, but; we also commit sin of our own.  You can try to say, “The Devil made me do it”, however; it was your own sinful nature.  This sin nature is driven out of selfishness.  Just as Adam chose to disobey God, so do we choose to disobey God.  This sin makes a separation between you and God (Isaiah 59.2).  WE forgive in recognition that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23).

We must recognize that just as we needed forgiveness, so do others around us.  We cannot hold ourselves to one standard, and hold all others to another.  We are all in the same boat, as it were.  If we have been forgiven, of all that we have done. Forgiveness that includes the sin that was on us from generations past, and those of our own seeking.  In recognizing then, we are truly and completely clean of sin, and that we could not have cleansed ourselves no more than a pig can clean itself in the pen.  Knowing that we did not earn this cleansing by our own merit, because we cannot be good enough.  We cannot be good enough because even at our best, we are still in sin from Adam.  We have come to the understanding that without this forgiveness our sin is punishable by death. (Romans 5:12).

Even though we deserve the death penalty, we have been forgiven of all sin in Jesus Christ our Lord.  This was a gift from the Father, and is witnesses in the sealing of the Holy Spirit.  Through this grace, we have been justified by God, in the faith we have in Jesus.  (Galatians 3:11). In having a true understanding of this in our hearts, we cannot approach the Lord with our petitions if we are holding something against another.

To be unforgiving, especially after we received such a gift ourselves, is hypocrisy. This attitude is contrary to the heart of God, who wishes that all should come to repentance and not die (2 Peter 3:8-10).  Jesus himself said that you come to the altar and remember that someone has something against you, or it you have something against someone else; leave the altar.  Jesus said, leave your gift where it is and make things right between you and them.  Once you have addressed the issue with whom you have offended or who has offended you, then come back to the altar.  With a clean heart, offer your gift.  Do not offer a vain gift to the Lord.

We must come to the Lord with the right heart, motivated by love and gratitude.  We cannot hold animosity.  To hold animosity means that we have judges ourselves to be more important than someone else.  We think too highly of ourselves in thinking that we deserve forgiveness but someone else does not.  In truth, no one DESERVES forgiveness, not you, not I.  Hypocrisy is as it’s heights in an unforgiving Christian. In fear and understanding, we humble ourselves before God.  We recognize that we needed his forgiveness, and so do others.  How can we who have been forgiven, not forgive other?  You may say, but I have not done the terrible things that they did to me, or to so and so.  That is not true.  Your sin had someone else tortured.  Your sin caused a mother to lose her child.  In fact she watched him being tortured, and beaten, and mocked.  She watched him shamed in public, and stung up to die.  Your sin caused a man to die.  How much worse can someone else do, then to kill someone either by malice of forethought or even by happenstance?

Forgiveness also does some other things.  Forgiveness sets the one who was wronged free from anger and resentment.  Forgiveness relieves victimization.  Forgiveness gives one the chance to renew their life.  Forgiveness causes a person to be stuck in the offence.  Forgiveness also reveals the nature of our own heart.  In order to love God with our whole heart, we must be able to love one another.  We are incapable of loving one another without being able to forgive one another.

And lead us not into temptation…

Part of this salvation provided by the Lord is Justification, which we covered already.  Now we move into the next portion, that of Sanctification.  Justification happened when we first believed on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Justification is passed to us through faith in the gospel message concerning the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  God sees our faith in Jesus and is pleased with this faith.  We are then given a legal righteousness imputed to us for all time, which delivers us from the penalty of sin.

Sanctification is a present experiential or progressive work performed in us by the Holy Spirit, keeping us holy until the final phase of salvation.  Sanctification is then a process of spiritual growth in the Christian life where we are delivered from the power of sin in daily life through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Looking again at this portion of the prayer recorded in Luke 11 where is says, “and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”, in this context, we see a great hope in living for Christ in our daily lives.  This is not some vain wish or aspiration, but; a real living hope!  This is voicing and expectation in dependency.  This statement gives recognition that we are dependent upon the very Spirit of God not only as a provider, but as a protector.

This is pleas has specific connotations. I am sure that you recall, if you have had a child, or know someone who has a toddler.  When the child gets old enough to walk, but not old enough to know better, which for some of us can last until the 40s. (LOL) The very safe environment of the family home can become a living hazard to the exploring babe.  A parent must safeguard the environment with outlet covers, door latches, and the sort.  Even then with all of those precautions, a parent must be ever vigilant for where the child is and what they are doing, especially if they are to quiet.  The attentive parent must from time to time, correct or avert the attention of the young one from things that may cause them harm.

This is the plea made here.  God keep a watch out for me God!  Keep me from the things that would harm me.  Even if I really think I want them.  Protect me not only from the temptation out there that is in this sinful age, but also from the lure to sin that I create in myself.  Don’t let me sin against you, safeguard me!  We must also realize that we are in a real spiritual battle.

There is a war going on in the spiritual realm.  In that realm, just as there are angels that are aligned with the Heavenly Father, there are fallen angels who fight against his will.  These fallen angels, known as demons, have a leader we know by the name of Satan, the devil, the Evil One. They make war against the lamb of God, Jesus. Since you are in the will of God and in the family of God the enemy will make war against you.

This evil is real and is powerful. Alone we cannot stand against such power.  However, our God is all-powerful, and in Him, we can stand against the Devil and his demons.  You see God is our salvation, and our protector from this present age and all the evil that it contains.  There is no enemy that can stand against us, because we can call on the name of Jesus.  This prayer is a seeking of the will of God in our lives.  Jesus then says in his model of prayer, that we should seek first the kingdom of heaven.

We should seek to do what is the will of God the Father in recognition of who He is, and what he had provided for us.  We must never forget that He did these things because of His great love for us as mankind and as individuals. We glorify Him, but in actuality we do this because He has glorified us first.  Not only that there is a future glorification to come that we cannot understand.

The final stage of salvation is glorification.  For a lot of us this happens when we die.  But there are some of us who may yet see the rapture of the church.  I say this because we are in the last days, and he is standing at the door ready to open it wide.  In this final glorification we will put on immortality.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (1 Corinthians 15:53-55 KJV).

Death shall be finally defeated.  We will have moral perfection and a resurrected body.  This is a promise made by God and this promise will be deliverance from the presence of sin.  You see we will be in the presence of God himself, and sin cannot enter into His presence.  There are allot more things that can be written, concerning this prayer.  I think to answer the question, is there more to this prayer than just being a model for prayer can be answered with a loud, resounding “YES!”  Thanks God! YES!

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Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 3

Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 3

While in the Army, I had the distinct honor of being an Infantry Squad Leader.  A Squad Leader is responsible for 2-3 teams that equal  from 9-12 men.  The size is generally 9 men, but can bolster up to 11 or 12 with the addition of  a weapons team, augmented to the squad.  Routinely, a Platoon Leader or Company Commander would select such squad for special missions that would separate the squad from the main company for days at a time.

This limited the team on resources and causes special security considerations.  In order to properly function and successfully complete the mission, with all personal alive and well, a lot of planning had to go into effect.  All of the resources, including; Ammo, food, water, transportation, medical emergencies and other contingencies, came from the resources of the Company Commander.  A squad by themselves would be left dependent on the resupply and emergency coordination’s planned out, prior to the separation of the units.  Failure to make these coordination’s, and the necessary planning involved, could be fatal to both units.

Squad Leaders and their team leaders take the orders of the commander and analyze his intent.  They then study the terrain, perform risk assessments and measure up the possibilities of success and failure.  They inventory their on-hand equipment, ammunitions, and weapons.  They look at the mission’s risk assessment and identify specialized equipment that may be needed to overcome obstacles and to give the squad the necessary tools needed in order minimize the risk, and to ensure mission success.  Then they present these finds to the commander and request the supplies and resources needed that the squad does not have.  The commander looks over the plan, and the requests and provides needed feedback and resources.  The commander does this to protect the squad and to ensure their best possible chance of success.  A good commander will not hold back anything that the squad needs in order to minimize friendly casualties, and ensure success.  However, the Squad Leader must make the request.

Coming from a military background, this is the importance of Luke 11:3.

Give us day by day our daily bread. (Luke 11:3)

This is more than just asking God for food.  This is a recognition that everything we need is supplied through His grace.  He is the source of our existence.  Without his provisions in life we would not be successful in our mission for His kingdom.  Just like a soldier needs daily provisions of food, water, and routine ammunitions and medical supplies, so to do we, as children of God need our daily provision.

We should not wait until we have an emergency.  We should analyze what our needs are and request the spiritual and physical resources we need on a daily basis.  Recognition of our needs keep us humble and submissive to the Spirit.  Matthew 6:33 tells us that we should seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. What things?  The things are your daily needs and provisions like food, and water, and shelter.  These are the things that are provided to everyone.  “That ye may be the children of your Father which in in heaven:  for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just an on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45).  What we should be seeking are the things that are not provided to just everyone.  We should be looking in to our communities and into our surroundings.

How do we fulfill the mission that was given to us for the Kingdom?  What do you need to be successful in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to those who are around you?  What provisions do you need to be a good and faithful servant?  What do you need to overcome to provide a good witness to those who are watching and listening to you and your life?  What daily nourishment do you need?  Some provisions I know we all need are:

  • Guidance of the Holy Spirit
  • Spiritual Disciple
    • Prayer
    • Fasting
    • Daily Reading of Scripture
    • Teaching in Scripture
  • Personal Relationship growth with Jesus
  • Fellowship
  • Encouragement

These are just a few off the top of my head.  I am sure that as you sit and analyze your lifestyle, that you can get a more detailed and personalized list.  These are the things you need to be successful. These are the things you need to be asking for.  Yes you can still ask for healings, and financial security and all of the other things that we need to survive while here in this earth.  However; the focus of your prayers should not be selfishly motivated.  The focus on your prayers should be on things on the kingdom of Heaven.

We are just passing though.  In truth we do not know if we will be here the next day or not.  Psalm 144:4 puts it this way, “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.”  We should be mindful that our days here are numbered and that we only have a little bit of time to perform out tasks here on this earth.

More importantly, the days of those who are lost are numbered also.  They are like a vapor that is here one moment and then gone.  How selfish are we to spend this little bit of time seeking to pray for only our own needs when so many are dying all around us?  You see our Father knows the importance of our mission.  He wants us to be successful.  The Lord wants all men to come to repentance.  He does not want anyone to die.  He is patient and long suffering for our benefit.  Everything He does is oriented to saving the lost.  Shouldn’t we have the same heart?

We can also be secure in knowing that the provisions we ask for will be provided.  While Jesus was here on the earth, he never turned anyone away who needed his provisions.  He did not measure by race, religion, ethnic background, gender, or age.  In fact if you look back at the Old Testament, you will see how God continuously provided for his people.  He provided them security to grow to a nation, even under bondage in Egypt.  He provided food and water to a rebellious people in the wilderness.  He gave them strength and resources to conquer the promised land.  He led them throughout their history by:

  • A pillar of fire
  • His voice
  • His commandments
  • Prophets
  • Judges
  • Kings
  • The Messiah

God has always provided.  Even in the Christian faith the Lord has provided.  He has led the church to overcome.

  • Martyrdom
  • Infighting
  • Scandals
  • Genocides
  • False Doctrines

We can have confidence in looking back in what He has done for us.  We have been delivered from sicknesses, addictions, diseases, natural disasters, other hazardous events and relationships, even death itself, in some cases. The Lord provides what we need every day.

So we pray for our daily bread knowing that the one we ask is who provides our daily bread.  We then have a greater understanding of the goodness of our Father, that even though in times past, when we did not ask for it he gave it.  We know that even though we were His enemy, that he loved us so much that he provided not only the daily things we needed to live, but; He did so to give us the chance to receive the salvation that he already provided for us in Jesus Christ.  We ask because we seek Him, of whom all blessings flow from.  We ask because we believe in Him, and in his Son.   We ask because we understand that our very existence is dependent upon His grace.

Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 2

Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 2

The closest disciples to Jesus had witnessed miracles.  They had seen the lame to walk, the blind to see, and the lepers healed.  Scripture tells us repeatedly; Jesus healed all who came to him.  The early disciples were eyewitnesses to these things, and many more.  The closeness of their relationship to Jesus gave them an insider’s view.

They must have noticed the way Jesus prepared himself each day.  They would have seen his dedicated prayer life.  They would have heard the prayers that Jesus prayed for healing. They herd the prayers of thanksgiving that rolled from his lips.  In hearing these and seeing the wonders wrought through this prayer fed lifestyle they were forced to examine their own prayer life.

In doing so, they could see that they fell short.  With all of their religious efforts, all of their sacrifices, all of their Hebrew upbringing, they had somehow missed this important lesson. It felt like the doors to heaven itself were sealed closed. In seeing Jesus’ prayer life and the results of his prayers on his ministry, then knew that they needed to know more.  So they asked him the same question that many of us ask today, “Lord teach us to pray”….

And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. (Luke 11:2)

Now we see Jesus beginning his teaching of what an effectual prayer should be like.  He said, “When ye pray say”. There are allot of individuals who miss understand this phrase.  Some have mistakenly taken this to mean that what Jesus is about to say, should be said verbatim.  That is that is should be repeated word-for-word, or else you have not said a prayer.

Some believe that there is some supernatural binding to this prayer when recited exactly as written, God himself has to answer whatever follows. Some think that you have earned some special audience with God as a result of reciting this prayer.  There are thousands who believe that atonement can be made by reciting this prayer over and over.  This is not the case.  God cannot be invoked. You cannot summon him like some ethereal game piece. He is the Almighty, the creator of the universe who has all autonomous authority.  Meaning that God as God is self sufficient and answers to no one.

Luke is not saying to repeat identically each word and stanza that Jesus said.  The Greek words usage, in this phrase, infers that Jesus wanted them to “say” in the same manner or way; not implying an obligation to repeat the exact verbiage. Repeating the Lord’s Prayer line-by-line, or even over and over again does not bring salvation and is not a means of penance.

It is probably better to look at the translation in Matthew’s recording of the same teachings in order to give us another disciple’s point of view of this important message.  Matthew records, “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” (Matthew 6:9).  In this catalog of the event, Matthew clearly states that we should pray in the same manner, or “in this way” (Strong’s, 3778,3779) that Jesus then instructs his disciples to pray. So when you pray, pray something like this…

Our Father which art in heaven… I do not know if you know this, but the carnal minded cannot please God.  In all honesty there are some people praying, that really don’t have any faith that God exists.  There are those that believe God exists but that he doesn’t care and is uninvolved in men’s lives.  They are just throwing up their hands and speaking to the clouds and hoping that “if” there is a God, he will prove it in answering their prayer.

The Word of God tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God, and those that come to him must first believe that He IS.  Secondly the scriptures tell that God rewards those who seek him persistently. In addition, scripture tells us that those who believe on Jesus have been adopted into the family of God, as his children. Romans 8:14-16 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:”

So then, since we have already believed that He is and that He rewards those who seek him, and believe that He has already adopted us as children through Jesus Christ, we can then boldly come to him.  Seeking him ourselves.  We can call him Father, because he literally is our Father. I am getting excited already!

Jesus further clarifies the importance of this relationship later in the chapter when he explains the nature of the Father.  Jesus explains, “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:11-13) WOW! Nail on the head!  Did you see that! Jesus said that even though we are evil, we still know how to give good things, then he said… that God is Good! So- if God is Good, then how much more does he have the ability and will to give good things to those who ask?

Jesus asked a rhetorical question, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those (his children) who ask of him?  I love my children and I can honestly tell you that one of the most heartbreaking things that a father has to face is when one of his children ask him for something that he cannot provide.  It never gets easier, and it does not matter which child asks.  You see as a father, I want to give all kinds of good gifts to my children because I love them, and I love being able to provide for them. I love being able to protect them. I love for them to look to me when they are in trouble, or even when they just need someone to listen.  I love being a confident to each and everyone of my children.  But you know, there are times when I can provide for them, but I don’t, because; they do not ask for me to.  If they don’t ask for my help, knowing that I want to help. I cannot help them though, if they don’t ask me to.  Why? Because it is their choice to make, not mine.

So first we must ask, then he will give.  Now he did specify what he would give, that is the Holy Spirit, but look he also said how much more… this means how much more willing is he to give the Holy Spirit.  It is like he is just there waiting for you to ask, and BAM! It is on the way! Now this is not a teaching on the Holy Spirit, but since it was brought up.  What good does that do?  The Holy Spirit does many things for the believer, just as a quick list; he is our comforter, he is a teacher, he is a counselor, he is an encourager, and many more things to us.  The Holy Spirit is the seal of God on our lives.  The Father gives the Holy Spirit whole heartedly, in fact scripture says that the Spirit of God indwells those who follow Jesus Christ.

Which art in heaven… The Creator of the universe exists outside of normal time and space, He is not hindered by laws of physics or the limits of mans imagination.  He does not dwell in little wooden crucifixes or crosses for that matter.  Those things are made my man, and cannot contain God.  The earth as a whole cannot contain God.  If the universe could contain God then what kind of a God would He be?  No God is above all powers and principalities.  God exists outside of our universe.  In scripture the heavens are referred to in three different arenas.  The first arena of the heavens referred to is the atmosphere of the earth.  This covers what we breath, the ozone which includes the clouds and weather.  The second spectrum that the heavens refers to is our universe.  This convers from the atmosphere on our into the area we call space.  Where the universe with it’s multiple galaxies spin and collide.  The third area that scripture refers to heaven is the place that is outside of time and space, the area where God resides.  This is Gods place from which He over sees all of creation.  Creation includes, the universe, the multiple galaxies, and the earth.

“Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? And where is the place of my rest?” (Isaiah 66:1)

We now begin to see that when we come to the Lord God Almighty, we need to have an understanding of who He is.  We need to know that “he IS”.  We need to know that he is above all other things in existence.  If we don’t believe this about God, then why should we waste our time in seeking Him out? This then is where faith begins.

Faith doesn’t start with a warm fuzzy feeling, or some emotional high after a revival.  Faith begins with a proper understanding of God.  A proper understanding of God comes from scripture.  There are NO secular authorities on God.  There are no scientific rules that can determine that God does not exist.

Scripture tells us that the very design of creation points to the fact that God exists, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.” (Psalm 19:1-6).  There is no excuse under heaven to NOT believe in God.

Hallowed be thy name… Hallowed means to be sanctified or set apart. This term set apart means to be unique, or different than anything else.  The manner that this refers to in saying hallowed be thy name is to mentally set his name apart in such a manner to bring honor to his name, by counting Him as holy. Acknowledging that God alone is holy. God is unique. God alone is good.  We need to have an understanding of the reverence that God deserves.  My children have an open door to me at any time.  We play around and kid one another.  We also pull pranks on one another from time to time.  We tell jokes, we fish, we camp.  We do all the informal things that fathers and their children do.  Do you know with all of that familiarity, they still address me as “sir”?  Why is that?  Because with everything we share, there is one thing we do not share… we are not peers. My children respect me as their father, and as an elder.

We should respect God in the same manner, as one who is our Father, and one who is Holy. In fact scripture says that we should mimic our Father, just like sons do to their earthly fathers. Peter wrote, “but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;” (1 Peter1:15).  See if you believe that God is holy, and that you are called by his name, then you should honor him by being Holy in your behavior.  Faith breeds action.

Not so long ago, a man’s name was his reputation.  This is because everyone knows that you actually can judge a book by its cover.  Now I know this is contrary to the whole “why can’t we all just get along” politically correct stance that has paralyzed the entire human race.  What was meant as a good thing about not being to hard on someone who has fallen on hard times, has now gone to the extreme.  This saying and many others like “who are you to judge me?”, while many claim to be bible based, are twisted doctrines straight from the enemy.  Scripture in no manner ever says that a man should be lazy, if he can work.

If a man has shown himself untrustworthy, unsafe to be around, or in need of being imprisoned then that is the reputation of the man, that he has earned by his actions.  Not because someone judged him.  That man’s name is dirt.  Not so long ago, people understood that.  I know you think I have gotten off topic, but take a look again at the verse… thy name.  See I am still here.  The other part to “hallowed by thy name” is being able to trust in that “name”.  This is more important than you realize.  Being able to trust in that name is more than just getting your prayers answered.  It is the key to life itself.  In Acts 4:12 we read;

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

This was the Apostle Peter talking about Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified by the Romans at the behest of the Jews.  This Jesus rose from the grave and is now in the presence of the Father where he makes intercessory prayers for us.  This intercessory prayer is the true “Lords Prayer”, which goes up continuously on our behalf.  What have we to fear?

If we do not believe these simple truths about God then we need not go any further.  You see in order to ask God anything and expect that He will answer we must at a minimum believe:

  • God Exists
  • He is unique in any and every way
  • He is our Heavenly Father
  • He has all authority
  • He is willing to listen to us and to answer us
  • He is good and desires good things for his children
  • Jesus is the only way to the Father

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth…  We also see in this opening that prayer is about our relationship to God.  Knowing who He is, accepting of Jesus and Lord and Savior and seeking His guidance.  Prayer is foremost an acknowledgement of our responsibilities to God. Prayer is not about getting mans will done in heaven, but getting God’s will done on earth.  Prayer is asking God to use us in a manner that is pleasing to Him to accomplish what He needs done.  God is the one who is to be glorified in our lives, not us. We pray for His kingdom to be expanded and strengthened.  You see we are wanting his kingdom to come because we understand that no one can make peace here on earth, but God.  On one can make us whole, but God.  No one can take away our pains and fears, but God himself.

James says, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” (James 4:3).  That is when you do ask, you ask for the wrong things and for the wrong reasons.  Selfish desires are not what prayer is for.  Here is another way to look at it.  What heavenly good does it really do for my little league team to win the ballgame?   Or how does my getting a new car further the advancement of the gospel?  Am I really praying for what I need to be walk in the spirit of God?  Notice I did not include prayers for legitimate needs.  Needs like deliverance from addictions, sicknesses, disease, or even financial burdens.  These prayers can affect your spiritual maturity and the furtherance of the gospel.  These are legitimate prayer needs.  These types of prayers should be done for ourselves and for one another.  These prayers show love and concern for one another.

Prayers for those in authority are also legitimate prayers that we are actually commanded we should pray.  We should pray for those who use you and persecute you for Christ’s namesake.  Prayers should be offered for all men everywhere.  We should pray for the widows, and orphans.  We should pray for the blind, that they may see.  We should pray for the lost, that they may seek and find Jesus.  This is the will of God.  These prayers bring the kingdom of God here to the earth where men live and breathe.  By praying these sorts of prayer and inviting God to take part in our governments, and in our schools, and in our neighborhoods, and churches we are seeking God in a manner that is pleasing to him.  These are unselfish prayers.

The challenge this week if to set some time apart to tell God that you do believe in Him, and his Son.  Pray for the Spirit to teach you what you should know.  Pray for someone else, that God may reveal Himself to them.  Pray that God will show you how to further His kingdom in your neighborhood.  Go  and be His ambassador, and his child.

Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 1

Luke 11 Teach Us to Pray – Part 1

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“Is there something more? Am I missing something?” Came the question from a young man, whose name I will keep for my own treasure chest.  The reference was for what most people refer to as, “The Lord’s Prayer”.  This young man asked a very serious question, much like the disciples did of Jesus.  In 1st Thessalonians it tells us that we should pray without ceasing.  How can we indeed pray without ceasing is we do not know how to pray.  How do we talk to God?  What does a proper prayer life look like?  Is there some secret formula?

I hear all of these kinds of thoughts in the questions that I receive.  Is God listening? Does God even care?  How do I talk to God and get an answer?  Do I offend God with the way that I pray?  Does God love me? I told him yes, there is more to it, than it just being a model for prayer.

The significance of the teaching to pray itself is proof of the importance of prayer.  Especially if you take in consideration that it is God, himself that is giving the lesson.  Imagine that, the creator of the universe wants to communicate with us.  In the “Lord’s Prayer” we can see the benevolence of God towards man.  The Almighty God came down to earth and gave a special class on prayer.  We should probably study what Jesus was trying to tell us about the Father and how we should address the One Living God.

We as a people, who claim Christ as our Lord, have no idea how to talk to him.  I think that in the Lord’s Prayer we can find the answer to these questions.  We can not only use this model for how to pray, if we look closer, but also get an understanding of God in a very personal manner.

Examination of this model shows us the importance of prayer.  Looking at this model also gives us an attitude in prayer that expects results.  We can be confident in God’s hearing of our prayer and his timely answers. Jesus said in John 15:7, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”  Then again, Jesus told Peter as they passed a withered fig tree, “Therefor I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive [them], and ye shall have [them].”(Mark 11:24)  As we see we are to pray expecting results, not because of who we are, but because of who God is.

Now let us move into our verses with an open eye; considering what Jesus is trying to tell us, and how we should apply it to our lives.

1 And it came to pass, that , as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as john also taught his disciples.

How important is prayer?  Jesus, the Son of God, who was the Word in the flesh prayed on a regular basis.  Jewish custom is to pray a minimum of three times a day, although I don’t know of any commandment to do so, it would seem that the custom comes from the Book of Daniel.  Daniel was one of the Hebrews that were taken to serve in the king Darius’ palace when the Persians overtook Jerusalem.

Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. (Daniel 6:10)

Something that might also catch our attention here that will lend to our latter discussion is that Daniel was kneeling.  Later in the New Testament, we see that Jesus also knelt.  Tradition has it that James the brother of Jesus knelt when he prayed, and prayed so often; that he developed callouses on his knees.  This is of great significance.  The posture of kneeling is unique in the world of religion at his time.  Pagan religious practices involved prayers that were offered while standing with the palms facing upward. Pagan prayers were done in public and associated with sacrifices made to idols.[i]  Here in our model, we see that they were kneeling, and in private.  Showing a level of humility and respect.  This also shows an intimacy with God, that others do not have. Notice that no sacrifice was necessary, even at this time, to speak with Jehovah.

King David in his Psalm 119:164 exclaims, “Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgements.”  This gives us another reference to frequency, motivation, and purpose

Some times when scripture noted Jesus prayed:

  • Luke 3:21 Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,
  • Matthew 11:25-26 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.
  • Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
  • Matthew 14:23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.
  • John 17:1-26 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
  • Luke 5:16 And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.
  • Luke 6:12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
  • Luke 22:41-44 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
  • Luke 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
  • Luke 9:18 And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?
  • Luke 9:29 And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.

Paul commands us to “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This may be a direct reference to 1 Chronicles 16:11 – “Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually.”

Note the phrase “he was praying in a certain place”.  “He” is in reference to Jesus.  Jesus was praying in a certain place.  This would give the idea that it was a specific place.  Whether it was a common spot for prayer, or not in not clear, but it is clear that the location was picked specifically to pray.  Jesus taught that prayer should be a time spent alone with the God the Father.  We should not seek to be seen by others, so that they can “see how holier than thou” we are. “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” (Matthew 6:6).  Jesus often would withdraw to be by himself to pray.  He separated himself from the crowds and even his disciples.

When I was a youth, I use to have a closet that I would pray in.  My closet was a walk-in closet that was in our 2-room apartment that my dad and I shared.  I put all my clothing on one side, moved a desk into the closet along the other side.  I had a stool that I would sit upon and there I would read scripture and journal my prayers.  Now, I have an office in my home that I use for study, and for prayer.  I get up early in the morning, read my scriptures, and I journal and pray.  God Himself proclaims, I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.” (Proverbs 8:17).  Praying the first thing in the morning demonstrates love and affection towards God.

Imagine if you were to get up in the morning, and your spouse gets up with you.  You both go about your morning routine to get ready for work.  You shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, and grab the keys to go to work.  Then you realize, hey, I don’t have my lunch.  So the first thing you say to your spouse is, “would you make me lunch for work?”  No- “good morning”, no- “I love you”, no- “I will miss you today”… Does this show that you value your spouse?  Does it show that you love your spouse?  No, it only shows your selfishness, arrogance, and lack of consideration.  Your love of God should not be second hand either.  I mean after all, he did sustain your life while you slept…

Sometimes I will burn frankincense oil or incents.  Yes, I know that we are not required to offer up sacrifices, but I just like the smell of frankincense and apparently, God does not mind it either.  It is just something that helps me address my mood in prayers, in addition, when I walk by the room later and smell the incense; it reminds me to pray.  Let’s face it, we all get busy and mismanage our time every now and then.  Having a reminder to just be still and know the Lord IS, is a great way to say, Thanks Lord.

when he ceased…

Do not overlook this phrase, “when he ceased”.  Prayer with the Lord should be our highest priority.  I mean this is Old Testament kind of stuff.  Take a look at Deuteronomy, “But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find [him], if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.”(v. 4:29). When we speak with God, He should have our attention.  Isn’t it frustrating when you are trying to talk to someone, and as you talk, you notice that whatever is on his or her phone is more important than what you are saying?  Therefore, when we pray we should not have other distractions.  This is probably the best reason for a “certain place” to pray.  Having as much as possible a place to be quiet and alone with the Father shows honor and respect.  Turn off the phone, the TV, and the radio.  Give the Lord your full attention; he deserves at least that much.  Now the flip side, notice the disciples waited.  They understood how important prayer is to Jesus.  They did not barge in and interrupt His communion with the Father.  Do others know the importance of prayer in your life?  If they do not, then you demonstrate that by prayer being important in your life, it should be a priority.  You do not need to tell everyone that it is important; they can observe it by our life of prayer.  Our prayer life can actually teach others the importance and manner of prayer.

That leads us to the last point in this verse, teaching others.  Discipleship is of utmost importance.  The primary thing a new disciple needs to know, is how to pray.  In Alcoholics Anonymous and new person getting sober is assigned a sponsor to help them I there new life of sobriety.  Unfortunately, this step is missing from Christianity.  We expect the new Christian to immediately be able to stand on their own, and be able to know how to talk to God.  What a terrible situation, we tell them that God will supply all their needs, and walk out of their lives without showing them how to talk with God.  That is like handing the keys to your car over to a 5 year old and telling them, “I will see you when you get there.” No one in his or her right mind would so such an irresponsible thing.  It is dangerous to the child, and anyone else along the way.

The problem is that, most of us have been treated the same way.  We were given the keys to the car with no instruction on how to drive it. Now we have a generation of disciples trying to disciple the next generation without proper experience or training themselves.  We should be teaching one another and encouraging one another.  Scripture says that the devil has come to seek and destroy.  We need to look out for one another.  Teaching how to study the scriptures and how to pray should be discipleship 101.

2 Timothy 3:16 – All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

Colossians 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

1 Peter 4:10 – As every man hath received the gift, [even so] minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

John 17:17 – Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

In evidence of the few items we have covered, I believe it is safe to say that we should pray on a consistent and frequent basis.  With a primary motivation of praising God. Prayer should in private, as both evidenced and commanded by Jesus.  Prayer should have priority in our lives.  Prayer is so important to our walk with God that we should spend time in prayer throughout the day.  We must also bring up the new convert in this crucial instruction on communicating with God.

 

 

References:

“Prayer Practices in Daniel by Judith H. Newman.” Covenant in the Hebrew Bible, http://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/passages/related-articles/prayer-practices-in-daniel.

 

[i] Why does Daniel get down on his knees to pray three times a day with his windows opened toward Jerusalem (Dan 6:10)? The reason is that prayerful bodies matter in the book of Daniel. Though supposedly serving in the Persian king Darius’s government, in this tale Daniel disobeys the king’s law to worship him. Instead, Daniel follows his own religious law, developing habitual practices that involve his body. His posture of kneeling is unique in the book and offers a strong contrast to pagan religious practice in the Babylonian and Persian Empires, as well as the Greek Seleucid Empire, which threatened the Jerusalem temple at the time of the book’s composition. In Greek religion, praying individuals stood with hands outstretched, palms facing upward. Prayers were recited aloud in public accompanied by a sacrifice. In contrast, Daniel prays in isolation in an upper room, kneeling down in “service.” Daniel’s prayer signals his resistance to empire and his radically alternative allegiance. Rather than offer honor and praise to King Darius in a public space, he seeks mercy by confessing sin, praying, and praising his own God. “Prayer Practices in Daniel by Judith H. Newman.” Covenant in the Hebrew Bible, http://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/passages/related-articles/prayer-practices-in-daniel.

 

The New Covenant and The Lords Supper

The New Covenant and The Lords Supper

Ref: Luke 22:20

“And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.

Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.”

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We know from Luke 22:19-20 that when Jesus offered up his body on the cross and poured out his blood, so that we might be forgiven of our sins, he was inaugurating and establishing the New Covenant. Here is how Luke records it: “Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.”

The New Covenant

  1. The New Covenant was promised of God:

Jeremiah 31: 32-34 “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” 

In the book of Hebrews, the Apostle Paul wrote concerning Jesus and the New Covenant.  in doing so he referenced this scripture when he said: “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:16-17)

The prophet John the Baptist observed Jesus coming towards him and procalimed, ”Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29).  This is a further witness that Jesus would be the one who would put the New Covenant in to effect.

  • The New Covenant is the promise that God made with man that He will forgive sins and restore fellowship with those who hear and are turned towards Him.
  • Jesus Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant.
  • His death on the cross it the basis of this New Covenant 

2.  The New Covenant was instituted by the Lord himself

  • The Old Covenant was an agreement between God and the children of Israel. We have the record of it in the Old Testament.

Exodus 24:8 says, “And Moses took the blood (of the sacrifice), and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.”

 

  • The New Covenant is an agreement between God and Jesus Christ. (Therefore it includes all who are united with Jesus Christ, or as the Bible says, all those who are “in Christ.”) There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)

 

  • The New Covenant did not start until after the death of Jesus Christ. For it was sealed by the precious blood of Jesus paying the price for the complete remission of sins for all who believe in Him.

 

  • Jesus himself plainly said the New Covenant involved His blood being shed.

MATTHEW 26:28 “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 

3.  It Supersedes the Old Covenant

  • Because the New Covenant is not with man, who could never fulfill his end of the covenant, but with Jesus, who did fulfill the covenant, it is secure for all eternity.
  • The point here is that with the New Covenant that Christ established and the gift of the Holy Spirit who indwells all its members, we not only know what to do, we also have been given the power and strength to do it with the proper motivation -Love!
  • The Old Testament required animal sacrifices who could only cover a man’s sin for a temporary time period, but the sacrifice that Jesus made removed our sins forever!

Hebrews 10:17-18 ”And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.”

4. It Establishes Jesus as our High Priest and Gives us access to the Throne of God the Father

Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God;” (Hebrews 10:19-20). We now have an audience with the God of Creation.  In the old days, before the covenant man could not approach God, because of the holiness of God.  This would kill a man who was sinful by nature to be in the presence of God, who was holy by nature.  In the blood covering of the New Covenant, provided by the sacrifice of Jesus, we can now come before God without fear of death.  As Paul described we can now come “boldly” into the holiest, because we are sanctified in the blood of Jesus.  The veil mentioned here is the flesh that was broken.  This is the bread we eat, this is a reminder of the death of Jesus who provides a way to us to know God the Father in a personal manner.

This is not the all and all of the New Covenant but it is enough to establish the importance of remembering what Jesus had done for us in the sacrifice in the breaking of his body, and the shedding of his blood.  It is enough for us to understand why we are called by Jesus himself to remember the establishment of the New Covenant in observing the Lord’s Supper.

THE OBSERVANCE OF THE SUPPER

  1. TO BE DONE WITH REVERENCE…
  2. That is, “in a worthy manner” – 1Cor 11:27,29 – Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. “Worthily” is an adverb, describing how we take it, not whether we     are worthy (none are truly worthy), but through Jesus we are worthy. So are we taking it in a manner that it is worthy of being taken, are we doing it with reverence, humbleness, and in honor of Jesus Christ who cleanses us?  Failure to do so brings condemnation (scrutiny by God)  to  us. Chastisement from the Lord for not being sincere.

While the observance of the Lord’s Supper is a personal and intimate time with the Lord, we are to observe it in fellowship with other Christians.

  1. TO BE DONE WITH OTHER CHRISTIANS…
  2. The celebration of the Lord’s Supper is designed to be a communal meal
  • The disciples “came together” to break bread – Acts 20:7
  • When they came together, they were to “wait for one another” – 1Co 11:33
  • Partaking together of “one bread”, they demonstrate they are “one bread and one body”
    • 1Cor 10:17

The Lords Supper is a special meal to be separate from any other meals or celebrations.   When observed it should take prominence in the worship service.

CONCLUSION

Christians today should never lose sight of its significance for us…

  • It is a time to remember the cost of the New Covenant (Blood was shed)
  • A constant reminder of the great sacrifice Jesus paid for our sins
  • A communion or sharing of the body and blood of the Lord
  • A time for self-examination and rededication of our service to the Lord
  • A means for building fellowship with one another in the body of Christ

May we always find proper reverence in our hearts in observing the Lord’s Supper, reflecting on the changes that the Lord has brought to our lives; freedom from sin, guilt, and the anguish of sin.  Redeemed to a new life, of fellowship with others and with the Creator of the Universe Himself through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Oh what a debt of love we owe to the one who has redeemed us to God!

Evangelism in the Sunday School

Evangelism in the Sunday School

Sunday school is probably the most important arm of the fruitful, evangelistic, church.  The secret to long-lasting, exponential grown in the local church is in the efforts put forward by teachers who have an evangelistic mindset and desire to save souls.

Ken Hemphill wrote in Revitalizing the Sunday Morning Dinosaur:

The Sunday School must be plugged into a passion for evangelism; otherwise, it will settle into the comfort zone of a maintenance organization. By ignoring the evangelistic potential of the Sunday School, we have reduced Sunday School to a stagnant pool of introverted groups that look primarily to their own needs and interests and ignores the plight of the unsaved.

(“How Is Evangelism Related to Sunday School?” Sunday School Leaders, 19 Aug. 2014, www.sundayschoolleader.com/722/.)

The Tennessee Baptist Convention did a 25-year study that looked at the number of baptisms per year and compared it to the numbers of attendance in Sunday School programs.  What they found was in the churches that used effective evangelism in their Sunday school programs had the highest baptism rates for the time period studied.

In 1923, Dr. P. E. Burroughs published a classic called Winning to Christ, a Study in Evangelism. In this publication Dr. Burroughs explains the purpose of the Sunday school.

Beyond all question the supreme business of the Sunday school is winning to Christ.  We do not forget to obscure the necessity of divine grace in the saving of men and in their spiritual growth, when we urge faithful human effort.  This is our task; taking the child at the threshold of ts life, we are, through the ministry of the Cradle Roll and through the instruction and training of the Beginners and Primary departments, to prepare him for Christ; very early we are, through divine grace, to bring him to a personal surrender to Christ and acceptance of Him as Saviour and Lord; then we are to seek to bring him to a personal surrender to Christ and acceptance of Him as Saviour and Lord; then we are to seek to bring his whole life into harmony with God’s will and to make him a Christian in all the depth and wetness of that term.

Failing here, we have failed utterly. It is of little avail that our youths shall grow up to know the Bible if they do not come to know by a vital experience the Christ of the Bible.  It is of little moment that men shall come to know the framework of Bible history if they are not to know the living Spirit which breathes in every part of that history.  We have signally failed it, having taught out youths the Ten Commandments of God, we do not bring them to know and obey the God of the Ten Commandments; if, having taught them to know the twelve apostles of our Lord, we do not bring them to know our Lord Himself.  Let all the estates of Israel, let all the forces of the home and the Sunday school set forth this as the supreme goal, that the young life about us shall be redeemed by the blood and brought into complete subjection and conformity to the will of Christ. – Dr. P. E. Burroughs. Winning for Christ.

Many if not most Sunday school programs cannot grow because they do not have an evangelistic approach.  There is focus on reaching out to new people.  They are not prepared when new people show up. They do not even try to follow up with new members or guests attendance.  When we talk of Sunday school, we are not just talking about the children’s church or the young adult’s classes.  We are talking about the complete church program of teaching bible students in the local church, in order for the student to grow in the knowledge and fruits of faith in Jesus Christ. Sunday school is not just a church social club.  It should be involved in evangelism, ministry, and discipleship.   Without these three parts, the Sunday school program will dry up and wither away.

Developing effective evangelism and discipleship methods in the Sunday school is important to the local church.  Effective training, coaching and practical application can be safely implemented in the Sunday school program.  Implementation of weekend and afterschool/work activities of walking through neighborhoods handing out fliers, bibles, and even personal witnessing will get your church out where it belongs, in the marketplaces of the community.   A culture of Sunday school evangelism creates an environment that holds one another accountable and encourages the young/new believer in the sharing of their faith.

Evangelist Dr. Summers states that 82 percent of all current church members come from the Sunday school program.  A clear indicator of a church that does not have an effective evangelistic Sunday program is the presence of the elderly church.  I travel to many different churches across Texas, and I can see the blatant signs everywhere.  I know of churches that are filled with elderly who sit in the pews and classrooms, and whose tithes and offerings help the church with a great many things, and by their financial report, these churches appear to be very healthy, yet they only have one or two youths in the whole youth department.  I mean of school grades from 3rd to college level, there are only a handful of youth.  Those that are there only come because their parents make them come.

This may not seem bad, however; in just a few short years, the youth grow up and leave, the elderly die off, or become unable to come to services, and slowly and painfully, the church just dries up.  If you can picture a dead tree, the tree is still standing yet the inside is rotten, and decayed, eventually it will collapse on itself because it has nothing inside, no root system, and no fruits. Yet just a few blocks away the church there has a vibrant youth program with 10 – 20 students in every classroom.  What is the difference?  An attitude of Evangelism is throughout the church.  The successful church shows a constant desire to win souls for Christ.  Like scripture reads, as you sow, so shall you reap.

An evangelistic Sunday school program has rewards other than the obvious spiritual rewards.  These rewards have some very tangible advantages to the local church.  The primary of which is that is opens the doors to local schools, and community events and outreach opportunities.  An effective evangelistic Sunday school program puts the church on the front line of the battle for the hearts and minds of the community.  The church is no longer a building that the lost just drive by.  Instead it is a beacon of light in the community.  The Evangelistic Sunday school draws the lost and allows the Spirit of God to reach out to individuals of all ages that would normally have not responded to other evangelistic means.  The potential for evangelism in the Sunday school is unlimited.

Let us not also forget those who are in the Sunday school because they are forced to be by their parents, or a spouse.  Yes; a spouse, we cannot forget the adult Sunday school participants.  You see those that are there sitting in your classes, no matter their age, or how long they have attended, may not be saved. Pastor Richard Sumner (of New Hope Baptist in League City, Texas) relayed a story to me one time about a man that would come to his services faithfully every Sunday.  This man proudly announced repeatedly that he did not believe, but that he came because it pleased his wife.

There are other couples, in my church, where one spouse comes and goes to the services, and the Sunday school, because their spouse is a believer.  Some have even been saved, as the Word of God is explained to them through the Sunday school teacher.  To be honest with you I know of more Christians who say that they were saved in Sunday school or Vacation Bible School, under the direction of a volunteer teacher, then those that were saved by listening to a corporate evangelist or a preacher.  God is truly amazing.

The point is we never know what the spiritual condition of someone is, when they enter our Sunday school, whether it be for the first time, or the one-hundredth time. We do not know what they are dealing with in their lives, or what the Spirit is dealing with in their heart.  We must keep in our mind that even though students come to our classes, they may not be saved.  All of them know, deep in their hearts that they should be saved.  Even though they may put up a front, they want to be saved.  Paul spent time in the market places, daily making argument for Christ and Grace.  This is your time to make your arguments.  We cannot let the lost who come to our classes slip through our fingers.

Once saved we must instill, in the newly saved, the necessity to share their faith to others.  We must teach them how to share their faith.  We must disciple them and encourage them to live a life worthy of the calling to which they have been called.  We must show them that there is an expectation from Jesus that they too are to share the gospel to their friends, their family, and their immediate community. In short, we must bring them up in the way that they must go, so they will not depart from it.

The student of the Sunday school classroom is of vital importance to the church, their family, the community, and to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The student of the Sunday school then becomes a part of the body that is necessary for the whole body to function properly.  Instruction must be given with how to read and study scripture, what is sound doctrine, historical Christianity and the importance of their role in the Kingdom of God. This brings us to an important part of the Sunday school program-the teachers.

Many churches will spend months or even years in selecting a Pastor.  Personally, I think that is a bit extreme, but the role of the Pastor is extremely important.  The Pastor has many responsibilities and his vision that God has given him for the church is very important.  Poor leadership can wreck a church. However, many times churches will immediately take the first person who volunteers to teach a class.  There is not formal vetting, no board review, or selection committee appointed to fill these vital positions.  Teachers play a vital role in the church and are very influential positions.  Most regular attending members of the church will spend more time with, and receive more biblical instruction from the Sunday school teacher, then from the Pastor.

In the book The Biblical Evangelist there is a good basic list of things we should look for in a Sunday school teacher.

Qualifications for Sunday School Teachers:

  • Must be a person who loves people
  • Must be a person wo believes God
  • Must be a person who lives Christ
  • Must be a person who knows the Bible
  • Must be a person who visits
  • Must have sound Doctrine (added by me)
  • Must be able to pass a background check (added by me)
  • Must be a member of the local church for at least 6 months (added by me)

These may seem like they are obvious, however; I met a man who has taught Sunday school for over 10 years at a youth program.  Eventually this young man became the head of the youth department.  Once we were alone and began to discuss in detail his approach to Sunday school, he confessed to me that he does not even believe the Bible.  He is not sure if God even exists as the sole creator of the universe.  When I asked him what he teaches, he said he mainly just teaches the philosophy of the scriptures. Folks this is Gnosticism!  This is the very heresy that divide the early church.

Think of all of the hundreds of souls that were lost because of the failure of the church elders who did not vet or monitor this Sunday school teacher.  Even worse, they promoted him, and gave him a salary to spread his false doctrine into all levels of the program.  No purpose for saving souls was in this Sunday school.  How many others were lost because of the false doctrine his students then shared.  Sunday school should not be a second-hand venture passed off to the first person who comes along.

The Pastor should take time to intentionally disciple the Sunday school teachers and administrators.  The direct involvement of the Pastor will let his vison of evangelism guide and direct the teachers and will unite the church in the common mission of saving souls and raising up disciples that will unashamedly seek souls for the glorification of Christ.

We should also create an environment in the Sunday school that allows the unchurched or unsaved newcomer to feel accepted and valued.  They should feel comfortable in asking, “the stupid questions”.  They should be invited back.  Invited into the sanctuary to listen to the preacher and see how worship is conducted. Taken out for coffee or lunch after the services.  We should teach with substance, so that we are not wasting their time, or our opportunity. Summarize previous lessons to bring them up to date on the current lesson.

We can also create a culture of Evangelistic Sunday school by having regular prayer meeting with all the teaching staff and administrators.

Some things that the Sunday school staff could pray for:

  • Eyes to see the needs in the community and the opportunity to evangelize
  • Pray for boldness to testify and share the Word
  • Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit
  • Hunger for the lost
  • Desire to serve Jesus faithfully
  • Confidence in the scriptures
  • Patience and awareness to be a good living witness
  • Pray for the lost

Soliciting prayers from students and praying for them before the class starts.  You can also pray for the class to have the same things we mentioned for the staff.

You should also develop an expectation of sharing in the class and out in the world.  Give a few moments for someone to share a personal testimony.  Encourage your Sunday school members to plant seeds for the gospel by sharing what they have learned this week with a friend or a family member, or a co-worker.  Then the following week ask for testimonies of how they shared what they learned in class.

Dr. Joseph Clark wrote a paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13 for Sunday school workers.  I thought this would be something that you might want to share with your Sunday school workers in the future.

“Though I speak with the tongues of scholarship, and though I use approved methods of education, and fail to win my pupils to Christ, or to build them up in Christian character, I am become as the man of the wind in a Syrian desert.

And though I have the best of teaching skill and understand all the mysteries of religious knowledge, and lost not myself in the task of winning others to Christ, I become as a cloud of mist in an open sea.

And though I read all Sunday school literature, and attend Sunday school conventions and institutes and summer schools, and yet am satisfied with less than winning to Christ and establishing my pupils in Christian character and service, it profiteth nothing.

The soul-winning teacher, the character-building teacher, suffereth long and is kind; he envieth not others who are free from the teaching task; he counteth not himself, is not puffed up with intellectual pride.

Such a teacher doth not behave himself unseemly between Sundays, seeketh not his own comfort, is not easily provoked.

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things.

And now abideth knowledge, methods, evangelism, these three; but the greatest of these is evangelism.”

I hope that this has been an encouragement to you and to your way of looking at the Sunday school program.  Evangelism in the Sunday school program is the seed that is planted that will eventually grow a strong and vibrant church for years to come.  Like any crop, it must be tended to, watered in due season, and fertilized.  A hedge should be built about it to keep out the wolves.  Constant monitoring is necessary to keep out the weeds.

 

References

“How Is Evangelism Related to Sunday School?” Sunday School Leaders, 19 Aug. 2014, www.sundayschoolleader.com/722/.

Burroughs, Prince Emanual. Winning to Christ: a Study in Evangelism. Sunday School Board, Southern Baptist Convention, 1923.

Sumner, Robert L. Biblical Evangelism in Action. Sword of the Lord, 1966.

For God So Loved…

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John 3:16-21 (KJV)

16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

This verse is probably the most famous verse in the bible.  Yet recent surveys reveal that nationwide, seven out of ten adults feel that they know don’t know what it means.  Just posting the verse on your bumper of your car, or parading it around on your shirt is not evangelism. However, getting our there and actually talking about this verse is evangelism.

This saying of Jesus’ was so radical for the time he said it, and it still is a radical concept… God loves. SO…much…that HE… gave…

Much like the changes in the church that brought the Protestant Reformation, do to the corruption and burdens the church had laid on its parishioners. The Jewish synagogue with its additions to the law made it totally unbearable to the average Hebrew.  They were afraid of God.  Afraid of being caught and punished.  They didn’t serve God out of love, but out of stringent tradition, fear, and burdensome loads.  In fact, it had been around 400 years since they even last heard from God.

They were living in an oppressed society, with no real sense of identity as a nation, or as individuals.  I would imagine a lot of the Hebrews had probably given up on God a long time ago.

So this… God loved me?  What a different tune this was, and still is.

FOR GOD

I think it is wonderful that Jesus chose to start this statement on the grace of God, the same way the very scriptures begin in the old testament.  He said “For God so loved…”  In Genesis 1:1 the scripture reads, “In the beginning God….”

There is no debate on whether:

  • God exists
  • God has all authority
  • Or that God initiates the first move

You would be a fool to thing otherwise.  Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool hath said in this heart, There is no God” 

Psalm 19:1-3 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth knowledge.  There is no speech not language, where their voice is not heard.”

SO LOVED

Probably this word is one of the most misused words in the history of language.  What does it mean?  Does anyone know?  We use it to describe our car, or some heart-throb for an entertainer, even how a new toy of tool works or feels.  Merriam-Webster has a whole lot to say on love.

Merriam-Webster: LOVE

(1) : strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties maternal love for a child

(2) : attraction based on sexual desire

(3) : affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests

These are only a handful of the meanings in the dictionary.  If we tried to apply any of these terms we would be sorely mislead on the LOVE of God towards us.  You see in this verse it actually says, “God SO loved the world.”

This is then a demonstrated measure of the LOVE of GOD towards us.  Let’s look at it this way, If I said I love Americans, that would be true.  Americans are my favorite people on earth.  But that does not mean I would necessarily die for just any American.  Let’s face it even the apostle Paul said, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.”(Romans 5:7)

However, if you pulled a gun on my wife, I would definitely get in-between you and her.  I would gladly die in her place, because I cannot see life without her.  You see that is the kind of love God has for each of us.  God loves us ALL because he loves EACH of US! In saying “God so loved the world” – we can say the he loves every single person in the world.  SOOO Much!  That he gave his one and only son.

My wife and I have 3 sons and once again, I cannot imagine that I love someone enough to ask any one of my sons to die in their place.  I know that God loves his Son, Jesus.  What a hard thing to have to ask.  To look into the eyes of your only begotten son, and tell him.  There is something I need you to do… and its gona hurt… a whole lot, and it is going to kill.  But I don’t see another way for it to happen.

He (God the Father) loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten son.  This means that is was not Christ’s death that turned God from hating and being angry, but that God’s love for us compelled Christ’s sacrificial death.

God so loved….. that he gave.

But why did Christ have to die?  The was a debt that had to be paid.  Remember way back in Genesis when God warned Adam not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, because when he did, he would surely die?  Well guess what… he ate from it…. And he died, not only that, all of his decedents died.

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” 

Then God so love the world that he gave his own Son, Jesus Christ to pay the wage for sin.  That is he gave him up to die on your behalf.  Romans 5:8 explains, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

THAT WHOSOEVER

Whosoever means anyone.  There is no limitation.  No “elected” amount.  No special selection process, where only certain people are allowed in.  In fact there is not mystery here at all on whom it means.  There is not even any guess to the assurance of the promise. Whosoever means me, it means, you!

 

BELIEVETH

1 John 4:15 tells us, “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.”

Belief means that you accept something as truth, that you trust in it.  You have confidence in it for faith.  Listen salvation is not found in believing in the preacher, or in getting baptized as an infant.  In fact, Baptism does not save someone at all.  You cannot be a “good” person and be saved.  Popular movies like to portray some rich arrogant guy who passed away and then when he meets St Peter at the pearly gates, Peter tells him he cannot come in until he corrects some of the wrongs he committed and then sends him back down in a borrowed body so he can get busy.  You cannot earn your way into heaven by good works, and you cant get in with good looks either!  You cannot buy your way into heaven with all the money in the world, or your charitable contributions.  Your mother or father being saved does not save you either.

No there is only one way to pay that debt of sin and that is death.  Your avoidance of death comes from believing that Jesus paid that penalty for you, and having confidence in his payment, was payment in full.

I do not know who wrote this, but I saw a poem that said:

For God – the Lord of earth and heaven,

So loved – and longed to see forgiven,

The world – in sin and pleasure mad,

That he gave – the only Son he had,

His only Son – to take our place,

That whosoever – Oh, what grace,

Believeth – placing simple trust,

In Him – the righteous and the just,

Should not perish – lost in sin,

But have everlasting life – in HIM.

 

What Jesus said was in contrast to the traditional, Jewish, acceptance of scriptures that related to the coming messiah.  The Hebrews believed that the Messiah would come and deliver them from the Gentiles by judgement, by judgement I mean destruction of the gentile nations… all of them.

But Jesus said, the Messiah is here to save, and not to judge. He was here to provide that salvation himself.  Not only to the Jews, but for the WHOLE world. By using the term of the “whole word” I mean YOU as an individual, loved by God Himself! Loved so much that he gave his life up so you could live.

Then to ensure the deal would be permanent, he rose from the dead so that he could officiate over the New Covenant between God and man.  Imagine Jesus is saying that he has the power and authority to save the entire world.  He is the deliverer!

We can have confidence in the salvation provided by Jesus, because it is a free gift, given to us in love.  He is the guarantor of the payment.  He is the overseer of the contract.  His blood is the binding signature. The very Son of God himself holds the receipt of payment – in full!  Jesus loves us to much that he holds our salvation himself.  None of it is your responsibility.

Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans; “For I am persuaded, that neither death, not life, nor angels, nor principalities, not powers, not things present, nor things to come, note height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

This is such an amazing gift that has been given to us.  The creator of the universe loves you and me so much that when we failed and turned our backs on him, he found a way to bring us home again. What a blessed assurance we then have that if God, holds our salvation, that we cannot lose it and nothing can separate us from God, ever again… Amen