You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Prayer’ category.

“We quickly learn that God is more interested in our holiness than in our comfort. He more greatly delights in the integrity and purity of his church than in the material well-being of its members. He shows more clearly to men and women who enjoy him and obey him than to men and women whose horizons revolve more around good jobs, nice houses, and reasonable health. He is far more committed to building a corporate “temple” in which his Spirit dwells than he is in preserving our reputations. He is more vitally disposed to display his grace than to flatter our intelligence. He is more concerned for justice than for our ease. He is more deeply committed to stretching our faith than our popularity. He prefers that his people live in disciplined gratitude and holy joy rather than in pushy self-reliance and glitzy happiness. He wants us to pursue daily death, not self-fulfillment, for the latter leads to death, while the former leads to life.” (A Call to Spiritual Reformation, 200)

Carson here does a great job of reminding us of the difference between God’s priorities and those of the world. I hope and pray that my desires (as well as yours) would be in line with the God who made us, than with the world system that has rebelled against him. That he would give you and I the grace to grow in godliness.

*It is my hope to started sharing some of the more thought provoking quotes from my personal reading on a weekly basis.

I am just finishing up A Call to Spiritual Reformation by D. A. Carson. It has been a convicting an yet insightful book. Being a person who often struggles to make time for intentional prayer, this book was a great reminder of the importance of prayer in the believers life.

Carson seeks to show from the writings of the apostle Paul, particular those passages in which he is found to be laying out his heart before God on behalf of those whom he is ministering to. Among the priorities in prayer that he draws out from these various passages I might mention only a few here.

  1. Paul’s prayers are constantly concerned with the growth and personal holiness of others.
  2. Paul’s prayers are constantly full of thanksgiving to God.
  3. Paul’s prayers are constantly linked with the purposes of God in redemption.

Another helpful chapter in this book was the section were he highlights the sovereignty of God and our responsibility to pray. In it defends the complete sovereignty of God over all things, and yet shows that God does respond to our prayers. “You do not have because you do not ask.” (Jam. 4:2) Yet it is not as though God is compelled to do simply because we ask. Carson reminds us that God is not a genie that we simply approach to get what we want, but the sovereign God of the universe.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has a desire to learn how to pray, especially if you want your prayers to be crafted by the word of God. And if we desire to do all things according to the will of God, how could we not learn how to pray better? And maybe more importantly learn to pray more and more intentionally.

“An act of God before creation in which he chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of his sovereignty” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 670) 

Five Conditions of Election from Romans 9 

Before giving consideration to this chapter of Romans it is important for us to realize why Paul begins the argument he does in verse 6. Paul has just finished expounding the major tenants of the gospel. He began by showing the depravity and sinfulness of all man kind, both Jews and Gentiles (1:18-3:21), making particular reference to the fact that “he is not a Jew who is one outwardly …but he is a Jew who is one inwardly” (Rom. 2:28-29). Then Paul made known the great doctrine of justification by faith alone using Abraham as the example for all who would follow in Romans 3-4. 

Having established the foundation of the faith, he then masterfully deals with outworking of grace in the life of the believer (sanctification) in chapters 5-7. But Paul continues his discussion of this amazing grace by bringing to its ultimate fulfillment in Romans 8, where he assures the Christian of the restoration of the creation and the final glorification of the saints. And He ends it with the great statement of Romans 8:38-39: 

“For I am convinced that neither death, no life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor heights, nor depths, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

An informed reader should find themselves at some what of a dilemma. If God chose Israel and loved Israel, then how can Paul assert that some Israelites are outside of salvation? Has God’s love failed? Has God’s word, His promises to Israel failed? Paul’s response shows us not only God’s basis or condition for choosing Israel, but for choosing all those who would be His people. 

  1. Conditioned upon the promise of God (9:6-9)

“That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but rather the children of promise are regarded as descendants.” (8) 

As his first illustration of God’s choosing people, he calls upon the example of Isaac and Ishmael. Here you had two sons from one father Abraham, who was the father of the Jewish faith. Yet it was not the son who was conceived by means of human wisdom and human effort (Gen. 16), but the son who was conceived by divine intervention that was regarded as the true beneficiary of the promises of God. 

It is significant to notice that God’s promise in Romans 9:9, which was made in Genesis 18:14 preceded the actual birth of Isaac. Thus God’s choice could not be based upon anything in Isaac, but rather Isaac was simple the offspring who fulfilled the divine purpose and proved the faithfulness of God’s word to both Abraham and Sarah. 

  1. Conditioned upon the calling of God (9:10-13)

For though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, but because of Him who calls (11) 

In keeping with the line of patriarchs, Paul moves from Isaac to his sons Jacob and Esau. One might tempt to argue from the previous example that God’s choice stemmed from the condition in which they were born, Ishmael being born an illegitimate son of Hagar and Isaac being the legitimate son of Abraham’s wife, Sarah. Yet the example of Jacob and Esau eliminates that possibility for they were both born to the same mother, Rebekah.  

However, God demonstrates his independence in choosing Jacob the younger brother over Esau. And in doing so God has established a condition that is contrary to the natural order of heredity. How could God declare before either of them were born or had done anything that the blessing and birthright that rightly would belong to the older would come to the younger? It is here we see that reality of Romans 8:38-39 begin to come to life. Why did Jacob prevail? It was because God loved him. 

  1. Conditioned upon the compassion of God (9:14-18)

“So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” (16)

“So then, He has mercy on whom He desires and He hardens whom He desires.” (18) 

In response to the possible object that God cannot indiscriminately choose whom ever He desires, Paul appeals to mans need for mercy. As Paul has made clear from the first 3 chapters of this epistle all of mankind stands in need of compassion and mercy from God.  God is not some how unjust because he does not extent mercy to someone. In fact, if there were a reason why God was indebted to show someone mercy, then it would no longer been an act of grace. Those who are truly God’s people are not those who have done anything, but rather simply those who discover the mercies of God. 

He here appeals to the example of Pharaoh as one who did not find mercy. When God sent Moses to Pharaoh, he had already determined that His instructions to Pharaoh would not be accompanied with mercy, but rather demonstrations of God’s power. As a result of God’s revelation to Pharaoh, his heart was hardened and he was eventually destroyed by the waters of the Red Sea. It is interesting in midst of the discussions about living a Purpose Driven Life; I have never found many people who discuss the purpose of Pharaoh’s life. It seems that people are all too eager to presume that God who never allow them to suffer the same fait as Pharaoh. Yet Hebrews 3-4 contain serious exhortations to us to avoid the hardening of our own hearts. 

  1. Conditioned upon the will of God (9:19-26)

You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” (19)

“What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy prepared beforehand for glory,” (22-23) 

Using the imagery of a potter molding clay, Paul presses home the point that God’s choice depends upon God’s will and God’s purposes. This potter fashions from one lump of clay two different types of vessels: the one a vessel of wrath and the other a vessel of mercy. So too God fashions from the masses of humanity to distinct groups of people: those upon whom He will demonstrate His wrath and His power and those upon whom He will make known the riches of His grace. And just as the potter is sovereign over the clay, God is sovereign of mankind. 

We must also be willing to accept the reality of this verse as well. God has created some people who will not be saved, who will not experience His mercy, but upon whom He will glorify Himself through the demonstration of His wrath and revealing of His power. Yet at the same time we must recognize that the focal point of eternity will not be those who suffer wrath, but those who manifest the riches of His glory. Yet let us note with what patience God deals with those “prepared for destruction,” and let move us to bear with unbelievers patiently as well. 

  1. Conditioned upon the word of God (9:27-29)

“For the Lord will execute (make, cause) His word on the earth, thoroughly and quickly.” (28) 

Since God as already laid out the plan of redemptive history in His Word, all that remains is for it to be executed on the earth. So here we see that the real reason why not all Israel is saved is because God has declared that it is only the remnant that will be saved. We as Christians, as those with the mind of Christ, stand in a unique position of being able to watch that which God has declare come to pass.  

This then finishes the argument that Paul began in verse 6, “it is not as though the word of God has failed.” No just the opposite is true! The word of God has demonstrated itself to have been successful at what ever purposes God has established. Consider already just in this chapter how many times God’s word has shown itself true: the birth of Isaac, the choice of Jacob, the hardening of Pharaoh, the making of a people out of those who were formerly not a people, and the preservation of a remnant within Israel. 

Implications for Evangelism

  • First and foremost, if we are willing to recognize that the ultimate determining factor in a person’s salvation in God’s choice of them according to his own will, it should drive us to prayer. “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.” (Rom. 10:1) Notice the connection between the heart’s desire and prayer. Paul recognized that if His heart’s desire was to be fulfilled God was going to have to bring it to pass.

 

  • Second, since God’s calling and election of individuals has come to them through “the word of promise” (8-9), what He has said (12, 15), and the written word or Scripture (13, 17, 25-29), the responsibility falls to us to proclaim the promises of God, to preach the “word of Christ” (10:17). There is only one means by which those how have been chosen come to faith and that is through the word of God. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (Jn. 10:27) And how will his sheep hear His voice if what He has spoken is not made known to them?

Last night a couple of friends and I went to the local college campus and walked around sharing the gospel with those who would take the time to listen. In the meantime, I was in the middle of a conversation on another blog debating what the gospel really is. As I stop to think about why I should take the time to talk to others about the gospel and why I should be be faithful to defend the faith against those who teach a false gospel, I find it helpful to remember the purpose of doing evangelism in the first place.

  1. The Glory of God: Like the entirety of the Christian life, evangelismis ultimately about the glory of God. In the preaching of the gospel, we are to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). Evangelism should be a task that all believers are eager and excited to do, because it is the really nothing short of telling others about the glory of God as revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The gospel does not just set for the glory of God for others to behold, but it is the means by which God has chosen to bring all men to salvation (Rom. 1:16, 10:12-15). (Click here for more on how Evangelism glorifies God.)
  2. The Joy of God:  Another goal of evangelism is to call lost sinners to come to repentance and trust in Christ. And so we see that this brings God great joy, “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Lk. 15:10) Even after conversion, we know that the continued repentance brings God joy, because we are told that sin (a lack of repentance) will “grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” (Eph. 5:30)
  3. The Unity of the Church: The furtherance of the gospel is the mission for which the church exists. Thus Paul instructs the Philippians to be “with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil 1:27). Even those who are not physically present in the preaching of the gospel are exhorted, “You also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many” (2 Cor. 1:11). Ultimately the purpose and aim of all Christian ministry, including evangelism, is “the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-13, cf. 4:16). This building up is not only to be qualitative as those who are part of the church grow into the image of Christ, but also quantitative as God continues to add to his church through the preaching of the gospel.
  4. The Sacrifice of the Saint: The life of the Christian is one of sacrifice, it is a life of learning to put other people before themselves, to put God’s will before their own will. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mk. 8:35). Those who are devoted to Christ must also be devote to the building of His church, to the building of His kingdom. And so the apostle Paul tells us that it is for the sake of God’s people that he is willing to endure anything. “For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.” (2 Tim. 2:10, cf. Jam. 1:2-4)
  5. The Salvation of the Lost: While we as men cannot control the outcome of our evangelistic efforts, because only God can open the eyes of the heart to understand and embrace the gospel, we should none the less be deeply concerned about the salvation of those around us. Paul more than anyone understood that only God could remove the blinders that kept his fellow Israelites from believing the gospel (see 2 Cor. 4), yet Paul said, “I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Rom. 9:2-3). Look at what lengths Paul would have gone to see them come to faith! Here is a man who understood true humility. If it were possible he would have forsaken his own salvation if only his kinsmen could be saved. It is as though he says, “Oh, I would give all, if they might receive all.” I don’t know about you, but that sounds like something Christ Himself would say. At the same time Paul understood that ultimately their salvation was in the hands of God, so not only did he preach but he prayed (Rom. 10:1). (Click here for more on how Evangelism glorifies God.)

So let us all labor to bring joy to the heart of God through the preaching of the glory of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let our churches unite around the proclamation of the gospel. Let the sole mission of every Christian and every church be to lay down their lives in the building of the church of Jesus Christ. Let us all labor more earnestly in our prayers for those who are currently without Christ that God would give them eyes to see and ears to hear. And let us all long for the day when all those who stand in opposition to the gospel bow their knees before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

What would do if you where separated from a close friend for a long period of time? Would you write letters, send an email, or make a phone call? It seems pretty obvious from experience that we quickly miss hanging out with and conversing with those whom we care the most about. In fact, for we often look forward to finally getting to see them again after a long absence.

A little over a month ago my fiancee moved home to live with her parents. The last couple of weeks have been interesting as she lives in the country and there is no cell phone service and the only phone they do have is a half a mile from there house. Yet we have both found our relationship important enough to find ways to talk when we can. usually this means a quick chat while she is on her way to or from work (which is in town and has cell service), but even then our conversations are often interrupted by lost cell phone signals.

Yet I have to wonder how many of us have the same attitude when it comes to talking to God. How many of us walk through the day wondering: “When will be the next opportunity that I will have to be alone with God?” or “When will be my next chance to pray and to talk to Him?” Unfortunately, I find that I am usually like the majority who don’t. But am beginning to appreciate what a privilege it is to converse with not only the One who made me, but the One who has saved me as well.

However, I find there are still so many things that distract me..that interrupt my prayers. And should those distractions not make me to long for them to be removed. Should we not long for the day when all hindrances should be removed and we should see Him face to face? Should we not long for the day when our faith shall become sight? Oh, that we might not be content with what we now see dimly, but that we should long to see the fullness of His glory.

So the next time you pick up the phone to call a friend, ask yourself, “When was the last time I called upon the Lord?”