1 Corinthians 3.1-15 Follow Up November 20, 2017

In 1 Corinthians 3.1-15 Paul encourages the Corinthians to mature in the faith, and then tells them what maturity looks like. Often as Christians we think we are mature in the Lord, but we can easily overlook some of the key aspects of maturity that the Bible speaks of. On Sunday we saw three characteristics of spiritual maturity in the local church:

  1. A Mature Church Fights Against Strife.
  2. A Mature Church Values Leader’s Diversity and Unity.
  3. A Mature Church Values Eternal Building Materials.

Below are the sermon notes from Sunday’s bulletin. This includes some discussion questions based on the text, and also includes our order of worship from Sunday in case you want to look back at some of the Scripture references and songs we used as we worshiped the Lord together.

1 Cor. 3.1-15 Notes

I pray you all have a happy Thanksgiving!

 

-Pastor Nathan Hogan

Matthew 28:19-20 Follow Up November 6, 2017

This Sunday, we finished our miniseries on love and unity in the local church.

If you’ve been with us these past few weeks, you might recall we began our miniseries by looking at the commandments Jesus quoted in Mark 12:28-31; namely, to love God with all of our being—as Deuteronomy 6:5 indicates—and to love our neighbors as ourselves—as Leviticus 19:18 states. The rest of the Lord’s commandments rest on these two. But as we noticed the order of things, we noticed that loving others necessitates loving God, first. So we learned: The foundation to love and unity within the church is loving the Lord above all things.

Last week, we saw Christ deepen the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves by looking at his new commandment to love fellow Christians sacrificially, just as the Lord has loved us (John 13:34). We further noticed that as the church expresses Christlike, sacrificial love to one another, it sets the church apart from the rest of the world in such a way that the world notices we belong to Jesus.

In all this, we’ve seen both our call to love God supremely—our foundation to love and unity in the local church—and our call to love one another sacrificially—our distinctive as the local church. The progression from loving God to loving each other now continues to loving the very work the Lord left for us: The Great Commission. We find it delivered by Christ in Matthew 28:19-20:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

In textual context, Jesus had just been betrayed, arrested, tried, and crucified. He had just died for the forgiveness of our sins (it was his mission). He had just been buried, his tomb being sealed with a massive rock and guarded by Roman soldiers. But with a great earthquake, an angel from heaven rolled back the stone to show its empty state. Jesus had been raised from the dead and was no longer there!

As indicated by Matthew, the angel goes on to tell the women who were present to go and tell the rest of the disciples the good news, and to meet Jesus in Galilee. As they ran to tell the disciples of the resurrection, Jesus also appeared to the women, and he gave them the same instructions: “Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (Matthew 28:10).

Matthew 28 closes with Jesus appearing to his disciples on a mountain in Galilee, where he commissions them with the very words mentioned above (verses 19-20). With those words, he showed them (and us) a command to follow—together—in light of Jesus’s recent death, burial, and resurrection (the gospel).

This leads us to the main point we saw on Sunday: Our loving, missional Savior calls his followers to join him in loving mission, together.

Notice his words again at the beginning of verse 19: “Go therefore and make disciples.” The imperative verb is “make disciples.” This is the central focus of the Great Commission. We are to make disciples of Jesus Christ. So, at the heart of all that we do as a church is a desire to fulfill this command. Yes, our purpose is to glorify God (Ephesians 1:6), but our work is focused on making disciples, a manner in which we glorify God.

Additionally, notice the pronoun in verse 18. It indicates to whom Jesus addresses the Great Commission: “And Jesus came and said to them” (emphasis mine). We often think of the Great Commission in an individual sense, but Jesus gave the Great Commission to them—to his disciples—and by extension, to us, today—to all who have been united in Christ as one body, the church.

So, while it’s true we’re each individually called to obey this Great Commission, the third-person, plural pronoun “them” serves to emphasize the togetherness of our Great Commission. We’re meant to make disciples of of one another, together, as a united body of Christ that loves one another. As we love God supremely as our foundation to Christian love and unity, and as we distinctively love one another sacrificially, we naturally make disciples of one another, together, in fulfillment of the very mission Jesus welcomes us into.

It is important to mention: As we jointly labor in our mission, we must remember to labor not just out of obedience, although obedience is involved, but—more importantly—out of love.

Paul highlights this for us so emphatically in his first letter to the church in Corinth. By the time we reach the 13th chapter, Paul addresses (1) divisions that were evident when the church gathered together and participated in communion together (1 Corinthians 11:17-34), and (2) the use of spiritual gifts within the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:1-31), which are meant for the common good and edification of the church (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:7; 14:26; Ephesians 4:11-12). In light of this, Paul then mentions that all we do with our spiritual gifts is to be done in love (1 Corinthians 13:1-13), with love itself being “a still more excellent way” of doing ministry (1 Corinthians 12:31). Love, therefore, is the superb motive.

Lake Murray Community Church: Our loving, missional Savior has invited us to join him in loving mission, together.

So as we help one another continue committing to Jesus as Master and Lord, and as we encourage one another toward God-glorifying holiness, and as we teach one another all that the Lord has taught, and as we counsel one another with the gospel, and as we equip one another and build each other up toward Christlikeness—all in accordance with the gifts God has given us—we are to do it all in unifying love.

Why must we do it in love? Because Christ lovingly died for us. He came on mission for us, to serve us and to give his life as a ransom for us (Mark 10:45), to make us new creations in himself—holy and acceptable before the Father—that we might walk in the good work he prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10).

A follow-up question must be asked: How do we do this work of love-motivated disciple-making?

I believe we find a three-fold answer in the final sentence of Matthew 28: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” With these words, we’re first reminded that the Spirit of Christ is with us as we labor in our mission to make disciples of one another. This encourages us to rely on his spiritual equipping and strengthening, for our work can become difficult, wearisome, and even painful at times. Paul himself seems to have experienced the pain of being deserted by people he invested in (2 Timothy 1:15). So we must remind ourselves to rely on Christ’s spiritual presence within us and among us, that we might keep laboring in lovingly making disciples of one another.

Second, his promise of his spiritual presence also reminds us to rest in him. There will always be work for the church to do, but we must guard ourselves and each other from burning out; we need to rest in his spiritual presence.

Third, because Christ promises to be with us spiritually until the end of this age, it reminds us to also point one another—with great anticipation—to his return. In 1 Corinthians 15:58, as Christians in Corinth are assured of their own future resurrection at Christ’s second coming, Paul charges: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” May we do similarly. May we be steadfast in our mission by reassuring one another of our blessed hope, the future appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).

So let’s join our missional Savior in his mission for us. Let’s do it together, in unity. Let’s do it lovingly, in response to his love for us. Let’s do it by trusting in and relying on Christ’s spiritual, ever-present help. Let’s do it “to the end of the age,” reassuringly anticipating his return for us. In all that we do, let’s go and make disciples!

In your small groups this week, take a moment to discuss these questions together: Mathew 28.19-20 Notes. May “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

With love for the Lord and for you,

Pastor Marttell

John 13:34-35 Follow Up October 30, 2017

 

This Sunday, we continued in our miniseries on love and unity within the church by looking at Jesus’s new commandment in John 13:34-35:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

These words were spoken by Jesus on the night of his betrayal—before being arrested and crucified—during his farewell discourse to his disciples. In fact, before saying these words, he had just washed his disciples’ feet.

Now, when you consider that washing people’s feet was a task reserved for non-Jewish slaves in that culture, it makes Jesus’s act all the more remarkable. It was a culture where people walked long distances on dusty roads in sandals, so it was customary for hosts to arrange for water to be available for the washing of feet, again by also providing servants to work in this capacity. But if a servant was not present, the host would certainly not take up the chore himself, as Jesus does.

What enabled Jesus to do this when no one would have done this? John 13:1 tells us: Jesus had “loved his own who were in the world,” and he “loved them to the end” with perfect, humble, selfless, sacrificial, service-centered, saving love. Certainly, by humbly serving his disciples in this way, he foreshadowed his ultimate selfless service that would come on the cross. At the same time, he modeled for his disciples what Christlike, Christian love for one another would look like, and he then spoke the words mentioned above in verses 34-35.

As he does, he shows us both a command to follow and a love to imitate. Which leads us to the main point we looked at on Sunday: Our selfless, loving Savior calls his followers to distinctively love one another, as he loved us.

Notice his words again at the beginning of verse 34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.” It’s interesting that Jesus would call the command to love one another a new command. For faithful Jews, there was nothing new about loving one’s neighbors. They would have known the command in Leviticus 19:18: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The reality is God’s people are commanded to love all people:

  • The marginalized and the accepted.
  • The poor and the great.
  • The foreigner and the fellow countryman.

But here in John chapter 13, Jesus gives a new command. He takes his point of departure from Leviticus 19:18 and he deepens and transforms the command to love one’s neighbors. How does he deepen the command? The end of verse 34 tells us: “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

So, the command to love one’s neighbor is not new, but the newness is found in loving fellow followers of Christ just as he had loved his disciples. In light of Jesus’s imminent, upcoming death in the gospel of John, it would seem that loving each other just as Christ implies even a willingness to lay down one’s life for each other. John 15:12-13 reiterates this to us: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” So, again, our selfless loving Savior calls his followers to distinctively love one another, just as he loved us. This is where the newness lies.

God’s people continue to love their neighbors as themselves, but that love is now deepened, that we might love one another just as Jesus loved us. And as we love one another in that way, something amazing happens…

Notice what Jesus continues to say in verse 35: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” When the world sees the church—Jesus’s followers—loving one another with Christlike love, the world sees something distinct. In effect, when the church loves one another with Christlike love, it reflects the love of Christ for his own for the entire world to witness. And that distinguishes us!

So we remind ourselves: Our selfless, loving Savior calls his followers to distinctively love one another, just as he loved us.

But what does that love look like? It’s the natural question that arises, isn’t it? As we aim to grow in unity with our Lord, what does Christlike love for one another in the church look like?

For most of us, we can probably admit that one of the more obvious answers is serving one another’s needs. Acts 2:44-45 gives us a picture of the early church doing just that: “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”

But I do think we sometimes overlook other (more challenging) ways of expressing love to one another:

  • Ephesians 4:11-12 implies that our spiritual gifts and abilities are for the building up of the church, that we would equip each other and build each other up unto the likeness of Christ. This also implies being willing to submit ourselves to others and allow others to invest in our lives.
  • Ephesians 6:18 and James 5:16 tell us to pray for one another. This also implies a willingness to be transparent with our struggles and circumstances, that others might pray for us and even be able to offer counsel and help.
  • Colossians 3:13 indicates that we love one another by also forgiving one another. This in itself can be challenging, but something even more challenging is also implied: A willingness to ask others for forgiveness.
  • One of the hardest expressions of love within the church is found in Galatians 6:1: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” Counseling one another back to the Lord when a fellow brother has drifted away or fallen in sin can be incredibly challenging, but avoiding it would actually be an unloving thing to do.

So yes, we serve each other’s needs out of Love for the Lord and a deepened, selfless love for one another, but we also equip and disciple each other as we lovingly serve one another, and we pray for each other, and we forgive each other, and we help each other turn back to the Lord when we see brothers and sisters drifting or falling away. And we do all this because Christ has loved us first, and he’s modeled selfless love to us. We see it in the washing of his disciples’ feet. But we see it ultimately in the selfless giving of himself on the cross, that through his selfless sacrifice our sins would be forgiven through faith and trust in him.

My dear church, let’s love each other selflessly, as well. Let’s allow the Spirit of Christ to give us not only a passionate love for the Lord, but also a passionate love for each other, that we might distinctively love one another, just as our Lord has loved us. 

In your small groups this week, take a moment to discuss these questions together: John 13.34-35 Notes. May “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

With love for the Lord and for you,

Pastor Marttell

 

Mark 12:28-31 Follow Up October 23, 2017

This Sunday, we began our mini-series on love and unity in the church by looking at Jesus’s response to a question posed by a scribe. We find the interaction in Mark 12:28-31:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

In context, the religious leaders of Jesus’s day were attempting to trap Jesus with difficult questions (Mark 12:13). Their underlying intention? To arrest Jesus (Mark 12:12). So, beginning in Mark 12:14, they first ask Jesus if it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, the oppressive Roman emperor. Then, another group of religious leaders comes in and, starting in Mark 12:19, asks him a very complicated hypothetical question.

It’s in the midst of all this questioning that a seemingly teachable scribe comes up to Jesus and asks him a third question: “Which commandment is the most important of all?” (Mark 12:28). Jesus answers with the two-fold answer already quoted above:

  • He first quotes Deuteronomy 6:5—a text that was repeated twice daily by faithful Jews—to teach we are to love God, first and foremost, with total devotion by our entire being.
  • He then quotes Leviticus 19:18 to teach we are also to love everyone around us.

As he does, he gives us both a command to follow and a love to reciprocate. Which leads us to the main point we looked at this Sunday: Our loving, covenant-keeping God calls his people—who are the objects of his love—to love him and to love others, as well.

When applied to the local church, which is our focus these next few weeks, we could say it this way: Our loving, faithful God calls his church—the object of his love—to love him and to love one another, as well. It’s a two-fold idea that encapsulates the whole of God’s Law. How do we relate to the covenant-keeping God as part of the covenant community? By loving God and loving one another!

But notice the order with me: First, we are to love the Lord; then, we are to love each other.

The reality is, if we are going to genuinely obey God at all, it starts with loving him first. As Christ said to his followers in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Therefore, genuine obedience to the rest of our Lord’s commands—including the command to love one another—depends on this: Loving him supremely with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, with all our strength. In other words: Loving him with the totality of our being. This is the foundation of Christian love and unity.

But, there could be a problem with obeying out of mere obedience. Revelation 2:1-7 allows us to peek into a letter that Jesus wrote to the church in Ephesus after his ascension back to heaven. It’s interesting how he commends the church for doing great things out of obedience to him:

  • Their labor within the church.
  • Their faithful endurance even in persecution.
  • Their righteousness.
  • Their intolerance of evil and false teachers.

But then Jesus says this to them in Revelation 2:4: “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.”

The church was doing great things! They were obeying the Lord and doing the work of the Lord, and in doing so they were edifying one another. Seemingly, there was no lack of devotion to the Lord and the church; they were united! Yet, even in all the wonderful things they were doing, Jesus had this against them: They lost their first love for him. Somewhere along the line, church life became but a habit. They lost sight of their passion for Christ. They lost sight of what motivated them in the first place, which would have been the good news of God’s love for them in Christ Jesus. So, they labored for Jesus and for one another, even faithfully, but with the wrong motive.

As such, Jesus called this church in Ephesus to remember, to repent, and to do the works they did at first (Revelation 2:5):

  • Remember how you served when you first believed the gospel, the good news of God’s love for you in Christ.
  • Repent of doing even good things with the wrong motivation.
  • Then, continue in your good works—just as you did at first—but with the right motivation: A passionate, wholehearted love for the same Lord who lovingly gave his life for you because of his desire for you to be joyfully united to him, forever.

Jesus’s “Parable of the Lost Son” illustrates this so well for us. In Luke 15:11-32, Jesus tells the story of a wealthy father who had two sons:

  • The younger one asks for his share of the inheritance while his father was still alive, in effect wishing his father dead.
  • He goes off and squanders his inheritance in reckless living.
  • After he spent everything, in his lowest of lows, the son repents and returns to his father’s home, hoping his father would welcome him even as a slave.
  • But the father does something amazing: In a display of great love, he runs to his son when he sees him from a distance, he embraces him and kisses him, and he welcomes his son back home, throwing a feast for him so the entire town could rejoice with him.

Yet, in the midst of a display of such great love and grace, the older son—who had remained faithful and united to his father the entire time—became angered and refused to join in the celebration of his brother’s return. His revealing words are recorded for us in Luke 15:29-30: “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!”

We’re reminded: We can do all the right things—we can serve each other and love each other in unity—but have the wrong motive. As a church, we could lose sight of our first love, and we could become just as that older son. So, as Jesus tells the church in Ephesus, he says to us, as well: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7).

Have you lost sight of your first love?

Perhaps you could identify with the older son in the parable. Have you remained faithful, but lost the passion you had for the Lord at first? Or perhaps you could identify with the younger son. Have you left the church for a while, but you feel the Lord drawing you back to a love for him and his church?

He who has an ear let him hear: Come back to your first love of Jesus Christ. Come back to a love of the Lord that is all-encompassing. Come back to a love of the Lord that truly fills your life, including your church life. Then, allow that wholehearted love for the Lord to pour over into your love for others in the church, that we would all be genuinely united in loving service to each other.

When we do, our labor in children’s ministry, music ministry, youth ministry, men’s ministry, women’s ministry, senior citizen ministry, small group ministry, outreach—everything that we do as a church—will be motivated by a genuine love for the one who loved us first.

As a theologian once wrote: “When our love for Jesus is wrong, nothing is right. But when our love for Jesus is right, He makes everything else right.”

My dear church, let’s return to our first love. It’s the foundation for everything else that we do, including our steadfastness in loving unity to one another. And let’s return to a love for the Lord by pointing each other to the gospel and reminding each other of the great love God has for us in Christ Jesus. He spared not his Son, that we might be graciously united back to him as one united body that loves one another. And as we point each other to the gospel, let’s allow our hearts to be humble enough to allow the Spirit of God to speak to us, to change us, and to lead us in repentance back to our first love.

In your small groups this week, take a moment to discuss these questions together: Mark 12.28-31 Notes. May “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

With love for the Lord and for you,

Pastor Marttell

“The Lord’s Prayer” Follow Up July 25, 2017

This Sunday, we learned from the model prayer Jesus left for His followers:

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt 6:5-15).


As we studied the passage together, we learned of three fundamental things prayer requires:

  • Sincerity
  • Spiritual Perspective
  • Surrender

Let’s review our first point…

Prayer Requires Sincerity

Notice the invocation (or the address) that Jesus begins His model prayer with in verse 9: “Our Father in heaven.”

Throughout our series here in Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, it’s been mentioned that Jesus expounds on kingdom living as we sojourn on this earth. In other words: Because we are citizens of heaven—because we are people who belong to Christ and God’s kingdom through faithwe are therefore to live in a certain way as we wait to enter our heavenly homeland to live with Christ, forever.

Jesus’s teaching here in His Sermon on the Mount has been about living on this earth in light of our future hope, and it’s no different here: For those who belong to Christ, the first Person of the Trinity—God the Father Himself—will be and is already our Father! It’s a kingdom reality we live out, today. Addressing Him as Father, then, alludes to the already present reality of our collective adoption. He’s our Father! It’s telling us that our Father’s kingdom is simultaneously a family; one family; our Father’s family!

Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:5-6 both point to our collective “adoption as sons.” This adoption spoken of by the Apostle Paul would have meant at least a couple of things in the Roman world:

  1. A receiving of an entirely new identity and status, with all the rights and privileges of the new family.
  2. A permanence of new status: Parents could legally disown biological children, but they could never give back an adopted child.

These amazing truths help us understand the magnanimous nature of God and the infinite beauty of the grace we’ve inherited in Christ, for in our new identity as adopted children of God, we have received:

  • All the rights and privileges of Christ.
  • The title of heir of God.
  • The title of coheir with Christ.

Through our adoption, then, we are receiving all of heaven, including God as our Father, and He will never give us back. We are entirely His and He is entirely ours. No wonder Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:5-6 both show us we’re now able to address Him as “Abba! Father!” (Aramaic for “Daddy”). As our Daddy, then, we are reminded of both His nearness to us as His children and also His willingness and eagerness to lend His ear to our praises, confessions, thanksgivings, and supplications, all because there is warmth and intimacy in our new relationship with our Father.

This is what praying in Jesus’s name is all about: Approaching the Father just as Christ—as sons of God who now have free access to Him through Christ.

But notice that He’s also our Father in heaven, again reminding us of our future dwelling place. For the time being, we are merely pilgrims here below, but we look forward to being where our Father is.

So when we pray, we pray as beloved children who can freely and confidently approach our Father in heaven with the sincerity of a true child. What does this look like? Well, to our benefit, Jesus provides some examples for us right here in our text.

In verses 5-8 of our text, the first thing to notice about sincerity is humility.

In verse 5—similar to what we saw last week in regards to our giving to the needy—we’re informed that true children of God (and true citizens of heaven) understand the gracious reward of eternal sonship they’ve received in Christ. As such, their prayers are not motivated by a desire to be seen, heard, and praised by others.

Now, Jesus does mention praying in secret in verse 6, but the emphasis isn’t so much the place of prayer as it is the sincere attitude of the heart. Prayer has always been a pillar of Jewish piety. Public prayer was commonly practiced in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings, as alluded to in Psalm 55:17, Daniel 6:10, and Acts 3:1. So, it’s important to mention: Jesus did not condemn all public prayer. He Himself had a habit of praying publicly, as seen later in Matthew 14 and 15 in His prayerful thanksgiving for food. Therefore, the central concern Jesus raises here is one’s internal motivation.

In Jesus’s famous parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector—seen in Luke 18:9-14—it wasn’t that Christ condemned either the Pharisee nor the tax collector for praying in public, it was that He condemned the Pharisee for his self-exaltation. So again, the emphasis isn’t so much the place of prayer as it is the attitude of the heart, for if one were to pray privately—even behind a closed door—and one were then to advertise the practice in order to receive praise, the purpose of entering a secret place would be defeated.

So approaching God with sincerity means humility—the exaltation of God, not the exaltation of ourselves. And it also means trust-filled conversation.

Notice verses 7 and 8 in our text: “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Historically, idol worship has involved either the repeating of the names of false gods or the repetition of the same words over and over without thinking. A clear example of this is found in 1 Kings 18, where Elijah confronts the prophets of Baal. In the narrative, the idolatrous prophets sacrifice a bull and then call on the name of Baal—a false god—from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!”

That’s the kind of mindless, mechanical repetition that Jesus is prohibiting here, not the earnest repetition that might flow from an imploring heart, as seen in Mark 14:39 in Jesus’s own prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, just before His betrayal and arrest. There is even repetition in Jesus’s high priestly prayer for His followers in John 17, where we may observe His repetitive-yet-thoughtful prayer for the unity of those who belong to Him.

Why does Jesus prohibit mindless repetition? The answer is found right at the end of verse 8: “for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” As with the previous example of sincerity, where the emphasis isn’t so much the place of prayer, but rather the attitude of the heart, so here the emphasis isn’t so much the length of prayer, but rather the sincere outpouring of trust.

Indeed, there are examples of both brief and long prayers in the Bible. Length is not the issue. The issue is that God already knows what we need. This truth should be acknowledged in our prayers. Whether our prayers tend to be shorter or longer, we must pray trusting that He truly knows our needs.

So, approach your heavenly Father sincerely, as a child. It’s a call to humility and trust-filled conversation. Whether you’re in your private study, the very public break room at your place of employment, or your weekly Bible study or growth group, pray with the sincerity of a child; approach God with the confidence of Father-son warmth and intimacy, with sincere humility-of-heart and wholehearted trust.

After all, God desires your sincere conversation. So much so that He gave His one-of-a-kind Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross for your sins, that through faith you might not only be eternally forgiven, but that you might also be adopted as a son of God to enjoy continued conversation with Him, forever. What a wonderful grace of God: He gives us prayerful fellowship with Him to be enjoyed by us as sons of the eternal God.

Approach Him. Approach Him freely; approach Him confidently. But approach Him with sincerity. It’s a fundamental requirement for talking with God.

But prayer also requires spiritual perspective, and this leads us to our second point…

Prayer Requires Spiritual Perspective

After addressing the Father in His model prayer, Jesus then moves on to give six petitions. The first three petitions—seen in verses 9 through 10—highlight the preeminence or supremacy of God, while the last three petitions—seen in verses 11 through 13—highlight our needs and dependence on God. Pausing for a moment on the first three petitions dealing with God’s preeminence, notice the priority of God’s name, reign, and will: (1) “Hallowed be your name” (v. 9); (2) “Your kingdom come” (v. 10); and (3) “Your will be done” (v. 10).

The First Petition:

Jesus’s concern in the first petition is that God’s name would be treated with the highest honor and set apart as holy. But, it’s not that God has a need for His name to become holier. As Martin Luther has written: “What are we praying for when we ask that His name become holy? Is it not holy already?” He then answers that of course it’s holy, but that “in our use of it his name is not kelp holy.”[1] As all Christians have God’s name put upon them, thus representing and reflecting a good and holy God to the world around them, this first petition raises the Christian’s desire to keep from dishonoring God’s name—the very name by which Christians are called.

But it’s also a request for God’s name to become wondrous to us. Tim Keller affirms: “To ‘hallow’ God’s name is not merely to live righteous lives but to have a heart of grateful joy toward God—and even more, a wondrous sense of his beauty.”[2] John Calvin would agree: We do not revere His name unless He first “captivate[s] us with wonderment for him.”[3]

The Second Petition:

Jesus’s concern with the second petition is the continual advance of God’s kingdom. While it is true that He’s reigning now—individually in Christians’ hearts and collectively through Christ’s body, the church—it is also true He will ultimately reign when His kingdom is ushered in in final form, when Christ makes all things new and brings ultimate restoration in our eternal, heavenly homeland described for us in Revelation 21-22.

So, as Martin Luther has stated, to pray “Your kingdom come” is to “yearn for that future life” as citizens of heaven; it is to ask that our “future kingdom may be the end and consummation of the kingdom [God has] begun in us.”[4] Until then, this second petition is asking God to add souls to His kingdom through the faithful preaching of the gospel.

Furthermore, this second petition is also a lordship petition. It is asking God to extend His royal power over every part of our lives—our emotions, desires, thoughts, and even our commitments. Thus, to pray “Your kingdom come” is also to pray that God would fully rule us that we would want to joyfully obey Him with all our hearts.

The Third Petition:

The third and last petition in this first set of petitions is concerned with God’s will. As in Ephesians 5:17, the focus here seems to be God’s revealed will—the Word of God—and our obedience to it. It is here where we understand the importance of the initial address, for unless we are profoundly certain God is our Father, we will never be able to say, “Your will be done.” Being certain that God is our Father in heaven, we will then, like Martin Luther, be able to ask the Lord to give us obedient, God-seeking hearts in the midst of difficult circumstances: “Grant us grace to bear willingly all sorts of sickness, poverty, disgrace, suffering, and adversity and to recognize that in this [His] divine will is crucifying our will.”[5]

God must have the preeminence, so we petition for the priority of God’s name, God’s reign, and God’s will. Our personal needs take second place. It is a spiritual perspective required in prayer. So, approach your heavenly Father with a properly oriented view toward Him. The self wants to take center-stage in our prayer lives, but, as Jesus models out for us, we must have a proper spiritual perspective when praying; the Father—not our needs—must have priority.

Why? Well, with the final ushering in of God’s kingdom in view, we recall again that Christ died for the Father’s desirous will that none should perish, but that all might be saved. And so the gospel itself reminds us that Christ submitted to the Father, for us.

Similarly, we are called to prioritize the Father, that we might have a correct, gospel-centered spiritual perspective when we pray. It’s a fundamental requirement for talking with God. As you pray, therefore, pray with sincerity and with the priority of God in view, but pray also with a surrendered heart.

This leads us to our final point…

Prayer Requires Surrender

Moving forward to the second set of petitions in The Lord’s Prayer, we now find Jesus dealing with our human needs (vv. 11-13):

The Fourth Petition:

The fourth petition is concerned with our daily bread and, by extension, all of our needs. When we petition for our needs, however, we do so with satisfaction in God and trust of God, that God would be continually glorified in our prayers. John Piper expresses it this way: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”[6]

So we petition for our daily needs, but not just for our own, we petition also for the needs of our fellow Christians, with complete Spirit-empowered satisfaction in Him.

The Fifth Petition:

The fifth petition is concerned with the restoration of our personal fellowship with God and one another. It is important to mention that forgiveness here is not so much a reference to initial salvation, or initial justification. According to Romans 5:1 and 9, believers are justified once for all at the moment of faith. Therefore, the petition cannot be a supplication for salvation or justification on a daily basis. Rather, the petition centers on fellowship with God that has been hindered by sin. We call that confession.

But, as we trust God to be “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” as 1 John 1:9 states, we are also reminded of the importance of forgiveness being extended to others in our own lives, when others’ sin against us brings a hindrance in our relationship with them.

Consequently, we are reminded, as citizens of God’s kingdom who are recipients of great forgiveness in Christ, to be eager to forgive those who are debtors to us. It’s the proper response to God’s great grace in Christ, and the response sought by the Lord in His Parable of the Unmerciful Servant found in Matthew 18:21-35. Furthermore, it’s the reason why Paul commands us in Ephesians 4:32 to forgive one another “as God in Christ forgave [us].” So important is this principle, that Jesus reemphasizes the importance of forgiving others in verses 14-15 of our text.

The Sixth Petition:

Finally, the sixth petition concerns itself with deliverance from temptation and evil, including the evil one; namely, Satan himself.

“Give, forgive, and deliver us.” In all three petitions, three of our greatest needs are highlighted:

  • We need God’s provision.
  • We need God’s forgiveness and His spiritual empowerment for our own forgiving of others.
  • We need God’s protection, both from temptation and from evil.

We are needy, helpless people, and we need God to intervene for us.

So when you pray, approach your heavenly Father with total helplessness. After all, prayer, by definition, is an acceptance of one’s weakness and dependence. Every time we pray, it is a reminder that we—in sin—were unable to reconcile ourselves with God, so God became flesh in the Person of Jesus Christ to be our strength in our weakness, to defeat great enemies we could never defeat on our own. We depend on His death, burial, and resurrection to now enjoy peace with God; to now enjoy fellowship with God; to now enjoy continued conversation with God. And this extends to the rest of life. We need God to lovingly, sovereignly, and providentially work on our behalf, according to His redemptive purposes.

Yes, we desperately need Him!

So, approach Him as the helpless, needy child you are. It’s a fundamental requirement for talking with God, done through the very Spirit of God that makes us adopted sons of God.

Concluding Summary

Jesus has graciously given us a model prayer, that through its pattern we might further experience the nearness of our Father’s presence in our lives. We’ve learned it requires sincerity, spiritual perspective, and surrender. But there’s one more thing worth mentioning: As you put into practice these three basic requirements for prayer, you’ll find that prayer itself also creates sincerity, spiritual perspective, and surrender.

Isn’t that interesting? Through our spiritual encounter with our majestic Father through prayer, prayer itself gives us more humble-and-trust-filled sincerity, more desire to prioritize God in our lives, and more surrender of our total lives to the One who has given us eternal life in Christ. In the end, prayer both requires and creates sincerity, spiritual perspective, and surrender.

Dear church: Let’s pray as Christ modeled prayer for us. Let’s pray with these three elements in mind, that our hearts might be filled with more knowledge, awareness, and gratitude of God and His grace as we seek to continue in conversation with our eternal God in heaven.

A Book to Read

If you find yourself with a desire to grow in your prayer life, allow me to suggest Tim Keller’s Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. Click here to order it on Amazon’s website (currently available for $11.55).

Pastor Marttell

 


[1] Martin Luther, Luther’s Large Catechism, tr. F. Samuel Janzow (St. Louis: Concordia, 1978), 84.

[2] Timothy Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (New York: Penguin Books, 2014), 111.

[3] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeil (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 903-4.

[4] Martin Luther, “Personal Prayer Book,” in Luther’s Works: Devotional Writings II, ed. Gustav K. Wiencke, vol. 43 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1968), 32.

[5] Luther, “Personal Prayer Book,” 33.

[6] John Piper, “Christian Hedonism: Forgive the Label, But Don’t Miss the Truth,” Desiring God Foundation, accessed July 23, 2017, http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/christian-hedonism.