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South Fellowship Church

Easter: WALKING IN GLORY – Romans 6:4-5

January 30, 2009, at 11:37, a nurse at Palomar Hospital handed me a baby. My baby! Ethan–6 pounds, 10 ounces, little tiny guy, but as she handed him to me, I had this overwhelming feeling that my life would never be the same. I’d fallen in love in a way I never knew I could and I also sensed that although he weighed 6 pounds, 10 ounces, he actually weighed a little bit more than that on my heart and my life. We put him in the car seat a few days later, after those few glorious days where the nurses changed his diapers and made sure that we didn’t kill him. It was wonderful. We got in the car, strapped him in the car seat, started driving home. The drive home where you are going 10 mph in a 35 mph zone and you’re wondering why everybody else is in such a hurry. I’m driving along and going my speed (slow) and people are honking at me and waving at me with only one finger. We walked over the threshold of the door; I helped Kelly get into the house. I had Ethan under my arm. When we closed the door behind us, the silence was almost deafening. It was as though sirens should have been going off somewhere in the universe to alert people that we had absolutely no clue what we were doing. I had this feeling like is this a joke. Is somebody going to come through the door and say we know you have no clue?! I can remember holding this little kid—he weighed 6 pounds, 10 ounces—and he might as well weighed 1000 pounds. The weight I felt in that moment was just…..it redefined the way that I looked at life.

Here’s the truth of the matter, friends. We all carry weight. Some of it’s really good and beautiful. Some of it’s really dark and difficult. But every single one of us….we walk in these doors today carrying a weight. Some of us carry the weight of a painful past. We look back at it and go I don’t know how I could ever climb out from under the weight of my past. It sits on our shoulders, doesn’t it? We replay those things over and over in our mind. If I could just go back and redo that. Some of us carry the pain literally in our body. Our body’s breaking down, doctors don’t know what’s going on or they know what’s going on, but they can’t do anything about it. Or maybe you just woke up this morning and have one more ache in a place you didn’t usually have an ache and it’s just that ever present reminder that you’re getting older. Maybe you turn on the news and see the insanity in our world. Just this week in Brussels was the terrorist attack. That adds a little bit of weight. In a room this size, there’s probably people who had a fight in the car on the way here and you’re sitting next to somebody and you’re all smiles, but deep down inside……you’re carrying the weight. There’s things that you carry, there’s things that I carry…all of us…. The weight that we carry determines the way that we walk. The more weight we have on our shoulders the more it feels imposing and it feels like we’ll never get out from under it. This isn’t just a condition for some people, this is a condition for all people. All of us have this. We’ve all experienced this. The question we wrestle with as human beings is what are we suppose to do with the things that weigh us down because the weight that we carry determines the way that we walk. Some of you are here today and you have kids that you love and that you’ve poured into—-you knew that same weight that I knew when they handed them to you—-and they’re not sitting next to you today for a number of different reasons, but it’s a weight that you carry. The weight that we carry determines the way that we walk. For all of us.

As followers of Jesus, we have this conviction about this weight. We have a conviction about the way that we walk and the weight that we carry. In fact, our conviction is pretty simple. It’s because of the reality that Jesus walked out of the grave that we can walk in newness of life. That’s our conviction. Let me show it to you from the Scriptures. If you have a Bible, open to Romans 6:4-5. Listen to the Apostle Paul as he writes to the church at Rome. He wants to write to encourage them as they walk with Jesus. He wants to write to spur them on to live in the faith that they hold so dear. We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Here’s Paul’s conviction—-it’s a conviction I want to say over all of us today—-we can walk in newness of life because Jesus walked out of the grave. The early followers of Christ had this sorta crazy conviction. Their conviction was if Christ walked out of the grave, then everything changed. And if he didn’t, then they should be looked at as the most foolish people who walked the face of the planet. Here’s what we do today. It’s not like well, we could take it or leave it or maybe I’ll believe or maybe I won’t. Early followers of Christ were convinced that if Christ had not been raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:14) then their preaching is in vain and their faith is in vain. Paul’s going to go on to say listen, we should be pitied above all people….we’re morons….if he didn’t walk out of the grave. There’s a lot of people in this room today—some of you are followers of Jesus, some of you aren’t. If you’re not, my guess is you’re looking at me going so Paulson, you want me to base my life around an event that we can read about that happened in the Bible. You want me to base my whole life on that one event? What I want to say to you is yes, but not just because it says it in the Bible. Sure, it does say it in the Bible and it paints this picture of Jesus walking out of the grave in beautiful fashion, but did you know that’s not the only place we can look to find the conviction that that, in fact, did happen 2000+ years ago.

Let me give you a few other reasons you could believe that Jesus walked out of the grave. One, 10 out of 11 of his disciples give their life because they’re convinced that Jesus walked out of the grave. Second, there’s no other good explanation for why Christianity survived the first century if Christ did not rise from the grave. It is fable and folklore, it is not history, if he didn’t walk out of the grave. We wouldn’t be gathered here today. Third, Jesus’ own brother bows down and worships Him. Now, if you have a sibling……I just want to throw it out there! How far would they have to go to convince you that they were worthy of worship?! I have a brother and a sister and I don’t have a prayer of that! James, in 62 A.D., about 60 years after his brother goes to the cross, gives his life—stoned in the streets for the one conviction–my brother walked out of the grave. Just the fact that we gather here on a SUNDAY should be a flag that we wave. Every time we wake on a Sunday and have the day off, you should thank Jesus He walked out of the grave. For 320 years, followers of Christ met on a Sunday and it was a work day. They got up before anybody else did; they gathered in homes, they gathered in public spaces, they broke bread, they worshipped, they prayed, they learned from the Scriptures, then they went to work. But they worshipped on a Sunday; they switched their day of worship from a Saturday to a Sunday because their conviction was—our Lord walked out of the grave on a Sunday, so we’re going to worship on that day. Did you know that you don’t need to go only to the Bible to believe that Jesus walked out of the grave? I could point you to four or five secular historians around the time of Jesus, who recount the same truth that the Scriptures show. These are people who don’t have faith! They’re just telling the history of what happened. Listen to Flavius Josephus: “Now, there was about this time Jesus… He was the Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those who loved him did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct to this day.” Oh, man!! That’s awesome! Not a believer, just a historian. He just wants to tell you what happened. {Will you look up at me a second.} It’s the hinge point of history. Whether or not Jesus walked out of the grave is the hinge point of history. It’s the hinge point of history and it’s the hinge point of our stories as followers of Jesus, because we don’t just look back at what happened 2000 years ago, we look down today at the ground we stand on. The ground we stand on is shaped and defined by that moment. As Paul writes to the church (we’ll read it again)—that we can ‘walk in newness of life’ because He walked out of the grave.

You may be asking Paulson, how does that happen and what does that look like? I’m so glad you asked that! Two things — one, if we’re going to walk in this newness of life, we need to follow the PATTERN of Jesus and we need to follow and embrace the POWER of Jesus. Romans 6:4 says: We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death….. So new life starts with admitting there’s some things going on in our life that are difficult, that are hard. As followers of Jesus, we don’t try to escape reality. That’s not the goal here at all. In fact, we want to step into it all the more with the conviction that Jesus is good. Here’s how we start. The start of the Christian life is God, I surrender to you. I can’t do it on my own; I’ve tried and I cannot earn my way to you, I cannot get to you, I cannot do enough good to get to you. God, I surrender. It’s the invitation that Jesus gives to those who would follow Him. You may be here just checking Christianity out. Listen to what Jesus would invite you to: And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. {That sounds like ‘death’ language, doesn’t it?} For whoever would save his life will lose, it but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. (Mark 8:34-35) He says the beginning of life is the surrender of ourselves.

I love going out to sushi. It’s one of my favorite things. I love going out to All-You-Can-Eat-Sushi. Whenever I go out to All-You-Can-Eat-Sushi, I always have in mind how much I’m paying for the meal. I count in my wife going with me, so I have a total in my mind. I know how much I would have paid for the meal if I hadn’t done all-you-can-eat. Has anybody done this? Whenever I order, I’m keeping track of if I’m going to get the good end of the deal, right? So I have a goal when I enter in. No, I have a commitment when I enter in……that I will get the better end of that deal. So I order my first round like a normal person; I order what I would normally eat. {I’m keeping totals in my head.} I order round two and my wife looks at me and says, “You’re on your own!” I look up at her and say, “Look up at me! Baby, we’re in this together!” I order enough to get the better end of the deal. At the end of every single time we go to all-you-can-eat sushi, we’re rolling out and I say to her, “Why in the world did you let me do that to myself?” Every single time I walk out of there, I feel like I just ate, not a raw salmon, but a raw whale. And I nailed the whole thing!! It was this prideful, arrogance — I gotta get the better end of the deal!

I think that’s how we feel about life a lot of the time. Have you ever walked out of a conversation with somebody going man, I won and I was right but it wasn’t worth it. A relationship that was broken because of words you said and you were right, but winning the argument wasn’t worth losing the friendship. The same is true of life. We can try to hold on and we can try to win and we can try to get our way, but the teaching of Jesus would say that even if you feel like you’re winning in that instance, you will lose. The way to really win is to surrender. The way to really win in life—to find our life, is the way Jesus would say it—is to say I can’t, but I trust that you can. And when we surrender, when we raise our arms to say I can’t, we actually open ourselves to the glory of God. But if we say I’ve got to, God says you’re on your own and good luck with all this. You know that feeling; I know that feeling.

It starts with following the pattern and the pattern is surrender, but listen to where the power comes from. We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Have you ever wondered about the mechanics of how God raised Jesus from the dead? Have you ever wondered about how that happened? Paul wants to tell the church at Rome, here’s how it happened. God laid all of his glory on the dead body of his Son and, in doing so, awakened him to life. That word ‘glory’ is a weird word. It’s a difficult word. In the Greek it’s the word ‘doxa’ and in Hebrew it’s the word ‘kabod.’ The word is used over 375 times in the Bible. God’s glory is displayed in all of creation, the book of Psalms would say (Psalm 19:1). You and I were created for God’s glory, the prophet Isaiah would say (Isaiah 43:7). Paul, in the book of Romans (11:33-36), would say that everything is designed to point to and about the glory of God. So what is the glory of God? It’s all of who God is. It’s his majesty. It’s his beauty. It’s his power. It’s his love. It’s his grace. It’s his mercy. But in one word, here’s what it is — the glory of God is the WEIGHT of God. Literally in the Greek; it would be the weightiness of his splendor and his majesty. So, the weight of God is poured out onto Jesus and it raises Him from the dead! Well, Romans says not just that that weight raised Jesus from the dead, but we die in order to have that weight rest on our lives too. That glory rest on our lives too. Here’s the deal — you will carry weight in life. Nobody escapes it. The question is: will you live under a weight that crushes you? The pain, the sorrow…..man, things are going downhill in this world really, really fast. The person that you lost that isn’t sitting next to you that you’re just thinking about the whole time because it’s Easter. You can live under that weight and that’s completely human and natural to do. But friends, there’s a better invitation out there for you. It’s what we celebrate in Easter — That the glory of God raised Christ from the dead. Here’s the deal — the glory of God can raise YOU to walk in newness of life today too! It’s the picture of Easter. That He was raised up because the weight of God hit him. The invitation for you today is you can choose to live under the weight of everything that’s gone wrong — of the pain, of the perspectives, of the past, of all the stuff that you’re carrying in this room today — or you can allow the weight of the Resurrection, the glory of God, to rest on you and change you and awaken you to new life. God never promises to take away sorrow and pain. If anybody has told you that He does, they’ve lied to you. What He promises to do is to outweigh all the pain and all the sorrow and all the regret and all the shame with the weight of His glory! He doesn’t promise to take it away, He just promises to offset it with who He is and the beauty of what He’s done on your behalf. Here’s the way I’d summarize it: walking in new life is not about how much weight we can release, it’s about how much glory we can receive. You and I know we can play this game all day. We can try to improve ourself. We can try to go back and have the relationship work out, but we still know it’s never going to be enough to turn the scales.

Here’s what Paul writes to the church of Corinth (2 Corinthians 4:16-18): So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. So instead of trying to repair all the things that have gone wrong, here’s the invitation: I want to invite you to compare what He’s done, because you will walk under weight in life. The question is will you walk under weight that crushes you or will you walk under the weight of glory that shapes you, defines you and releases you to newness of life?! I’m praying that some of you are going to come to Jesus today and say back to him I want this new life. I want to walk in the fresh, unbridled, passionate life that you’ve designed me for. You might be asking what it looks like. I’m glad you asked that. Paul’s way ahead of you. He’s going to tell you what it looks like in Romans 6:7 and I just want to define what this weight of glory feels like in the life of the believer: For one who has died has been set free from sin. He’ll go on to say in Romans 6 that you are no longer a slave to sin, but because of what Jesus has done on the cross and through the Resurrection, you are free from the power and the punishment of sin. This is the good news, friends, that you have been moved from captivity to liberty. That liberty has overwhelmed captivity; it’s overcome!

Some of you walked into this space this morning and you’re carrying shame from some of the things that have gone on in the past. Some of the decisions that you’ve made. Some of the roads that you’ve walked. You’re going how can I ever get out from under this? Here’s what Peter would say; remember that Peter denied Jesus three times, so he may have wrestled with shame. He says: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24) There’s some of you here this morning that walked in with this cloud over your head and this conviction that whatever “it” is that’s going on in your life, it will never change. I just want to tell you that the empty tomb wants to speak a better word over your life this morning. That where there is captivity, there can be liberty. Where there is shame, there can be salvation. Where there is guilt, there can be grace. This is the gospel. Here’s the beauty of it — we’re so used to trying to alleviate the weight on this side of the teeter-totter that we lose sight of the way that we actually become free. In Romans 6:14, Paul tells us how it happens: For sin will have no dominion (power) over you, {Why? Because you’re really awesome now? Because you’ve worked on yourself and you’ve made some really good self-improvement? Because you’re not struggling with the stuff that you were struggling with at one time? NO!!} ….since you are not under law but under grace. It’s this beautiful waterfall of grace that allows us to walk in the freedom that Jesus purchased for us on the cross. It’s NOT because you try harder and do more. It’s because you open yourself up to say I just want to receive glory! It’s my only hope! It’s my only conviction! God’s restless, amazing grace is my only hope. If you’re holding out for something better, may I invite you to reconsider this morning. His grace is our only hope!

Here’s how Brennan Manning puts it: “My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” Man! Paul continues in verse 5: For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. Listen to what Paul’s really saying. He’s saying the victory that we have is not because we make amends over here, it’s because of who we’re united TO; that we are IN Christ. Friends, this is the gospel. It’s not that you become more useful and it’s not that you become more lovable, it’s that He takes you in all of your guilt and all of your shame and all of your dirt and all of your messiness and He brings you to Jesus. Did you know that this term ‘in Christ’ was used 164 times by Paul alone in the New Testament letters? In Christ or in the Lord or in Jesus — 164 times. By contrast, the word ‘Christian’ is only used three times. Early followers of Christ had this conviction that they were IN Him, that the blessing that He earned, they stood in. The grace that He purchased was theirs alone. The holiness that Christ earned was given to them because they were united with Him. They were one with Him. We live in a culture where our value is based on what we can produce. Even in good marriages and good churches and good homes and neighborhoods and job places, our value is typically based on what we can do. But for early followers of Christ, they said no, no, no, no, no. Our value and who we are at the deepest soul-level is based on the reality that we are in Him and that He conquered death and conquered the grave. Here’s the deal — if that’s true, Jesus cannot be a nice amendment to your life. That might be the bad news for you this morning. If it’s true that by faith we’re united to Christ, He can’t just be a nice footnote, He can’t be a hood ornament on the front of your car or a bumper sticker on the back……oh please, Jesus, NO, right? He has to be your whole life. How silly is it, friends, that we want to make the Creator of the vast universe a part of our story rather than submitting to His? If we’re in Christ, if we’re united with Him, we give up the ability to say back to God — hey, God, do you want to be a part of my life? He’s like oh, that’s cute; that’s wonderful. See, I was wondering if you wanted to be a part of MY story? That’s way better, friends. Here’s what the Bible would say about those who are in Christ: That the far off have been brought near because they’re in Christ (Ephesians 2:13). That those who walked in the door this morning going there’s no way God could ever love me because I’ve done this, this, this and this and I’ve got so much baggage and I’ve got so much weight and there’s no way a holy, precious God could ever love me, I would say you were right if Jesus didn’t exist. But He does! And by His blood you have been brought near if you are in Him. If you are in Him, you are a new creation! (2 Corinthians 5:17) And not only that, but you are a perfect creation in Him — There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1). In Christ Jesus, you stand pure, holy, spotless, blameless right now! Can we stop fooling around here and start dwelling on the reality that we live under the weight of the same glory that raised Jesus from the dead!! Oh man!! When we get that it changes everything!

You may be going, Paulson, how do I do that? I’m so glad you asked. Here’s what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches there is a heaven and that there is a hell. The Bible teaches that if we say “no” to God, He’s a gentleman and He will allow us to say no for all of eternity. But the Bible also teaches that it’s by faith that we step into a relationship with Jesus. When we step into a relationship with Jesus, it not only changes our TOday, but it changes our ETERNITY. Look at the way Paul writes it to the church at Philippi: …..and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law {It’s not because we’re perfect or even good. We get ‘in him’ when we surrender and say I can’t, but I know that you can.} ….but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. (Phil. 3:9) Being made right with God happens on the basis of faith. So maybe you’re here today and you’re going, alright, that’s the step I need to take. I need to surrender so that I can receive. I need to surrender my life so that I can receive His. We’ll give you a chance at the end of the service, but if you’re feeling that God’s already done that work in you. We step into relationship with Jesus by faith.

Finally, when we receive the weight of glory, the hope of the Resurrection, here’s what it does in our lives — verse 5: For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. You see, early followers of Jesus had this conviction that they looked back at the Resurrection and they saw what Jesus did in stepping out of the tomb and it changed everything for them on a daily basis. Paul would say that you could walk in newness of life because it’s true. A new day is dawning because it’s true. But they didn’t stop there. The Resurrection points back and looks down into the present moment, but it also looks forward. If we have given our life to Jesus, if we’ve died with Him, then we also will one day be resurrected just like He was!! That is the destiny of followers of Jesus and that is the hope that we have—that destiny overpowers death. Jesus (the Scriptures say) is the first fruits (He’s the prototype) of what you and I will one day experience. So one day…..right now we get to live under the weight of glory, but one day He will call our name and we will rise!!! We will know the hope to which we have been called. Friends, the hope of following Jesus is not disembodied floating spirits in heaven. It is a resurrected reality here on earth where Jesus breathes new life into dead bones. And as Tim Keller so beautifully puts it, it changes everything. “For the early Christians, the resurrection transformed their worldview. They had a resurrection-centered view of reality. They believed that the future resurrection had already begun in Jesus. Jesus’ resurrection guarantees our resurrection and brings some of the future new life into our hearts now.”

If I didn’t believe that, I don’t know what I’d do, to be honest with you. A lot of you know my story — two and a half years ago my mom passed away. She had a debilitating brain disease that slowly crippled her body and her mind. Over a year and a half, we watched as she grew sicker and sicker, where she was able to engage less and less. We slowly, over a year and half, watched her lose her life. Our story isn’t unique. You’ve walked something similar, I’m sure. If you haven’t, I hate to break the news to you, but you will. The statistics on death are staggering! But I watched as she slowly went from being able to speak to unable to speak. I watched as she went from being able to care for herself to being unable to care for herself. I watched as she went from being able to walk to unable to walk. My heart was just torn up! But as much sorrow as I had and as much pain as I carried (some of you are here right now), as hard as that was, underneath it all was this conviction that we live in a world that is drenched in God’s glory and that one day, she too will rise. I’m convinced, with every fiber of my being, that her hands aren’t shriveled anymore, that her knees aren’t gnarled anymore, that her muscles aren’t atrophied anymore…..that she’s singing, that she’s dancing, that she’s bowing at the throne of Jesus. I am convinced that she is more alive today than any of us are!!!! And, friends, that is our story!! We could echo with Paul and say: Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? {We celebrate the death of death today!} O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:55-57) “Death in vain forbids him rise, Christ hath opened paradise!” (Charles Wesley) To every person that would put their faith in Him, He says: your reality today is new life and your destiny forever is new life eternal! It is your reality, friends.

There’s a conference coming up in Denver where a number of Christian leaders are going to get together and they’re going to talk about the impact of Christianity of culture. And they’re going to talk about ethics. They’re going to talk about influence. It is an expensive conference and I looked at by budget and went I don’t have enough money to go. I was talking to my friend about this conference and he said, “Oh, oh! Wait! Wait! I know a guy!” Do you have any friends who are just ‘I-know-a-guy’ friends? Who are these people?? He’s like I know a guy! He texts me this week and says hey, I got us tickets for a quarter of the price to go to the conference. I’m like are you kidding me?? He’s like yeah, yeah, I know a guy…..!! And I thought to myself, “Well, evidently, so do I!” I think the entire Christian life could be built around that phrase: I know a guy. I know a guy who looked death in the face and said, “You’re not going to take me down!” I know a guy who looked at sin and said, “I will conquer you with my own blood!” I know a guy who looked evil in the face and who spoke good over it. I know a guy who looked hate in the face and He conquered it with love. I know a guy who was dead in the grave and three days later walked out with a check that said “paid in full.” Your life is purchased, my life is purchased. We can walk new because of Him. Friends, I know a guy…..and His name is Jesus!!! We celebrate Him today!

Would you close your eyes in prayer with me? (I know a guy.) I want to invite a response from you. Some of you are here and maybe it’s been a long time since you’ve been in a church or maybe it’s the first time. Or maybe you’re here and you go Ryan, that’s me…I’ve been carrying weight and I just need to unload that today. If that’s you….if you go yeah, this message is for me….I just want to invite you to stand up right where you’re at. (This is between you and God.) You go, yeah, God, that’s me. I’ve been carrying this weight around and God, I need new life spoken over me. If that’s you, stand up. I’m going to pray for you in just a moment, but before we do that, if there’s anybody here and you’re saying listen, I have never given my life to Jesus, but today is my day. Today is the day of salvation; I want to put my faith in Him. I’m going to invite you to stand up right where you are. So Jesus, I pray over my friends that are standing up right now. They’re saying Lord, I need that new life and you know the situation that they’re walking through and you know the weight that they’re carrying. I pray, Lord, that you would just invade the spaces of their soul with Resurrection power! Please! Would you speak a good word over them? A word of blessing over them? Would you remind them of your power? Would you remind them of the liberty from sin that’s found in you from the unity that we enter into with you and the reality that our destiny triumphs over death? Please. Lord, for my friends that are standing in this room today and they’re saying to you, “I’m giving my life to you.” If that’s you, I’d invite you to pray: Lord, I give everything that I know of me to everything that I know of you. I turn from my sin. I repent of it. I change my mind about the way that I’ve been walking and I turn and I run to you. I accept the sacrifice that you made on my behalf. I believe in my heart that you are the Messiah and I confess with my mouth that you are Lord of my life. The Bible says that if you make that confession of faith, that He is faithful to keep what you’ve entrusted to Him. Lord, for all of us, I pray…may the truth and the reality of the Resurrection change the way that we walk. May we walk under the weight of glory, of love, of grace, of beauty, of majesty, of your power and your goodness and may the pains and the perspectives and the past and the things that we carry so heavy on our shoulders, may they pale in comparison to how good and amazing you are! We pray it in Jesus’ name and all God’s people said…..Amen.

Easter: WALKING IN GLORY – Romans 6:4-52020-08-21T08:17:33-06:00

The Lord’s Prayer: Kneeling for Battle – Matthew 6:13

March 20th 2016

listen to last Sunday’s worship set.

The year was 1720, the date June 21st.  The pirate, Bartholomew Roberts, was just about to sail in to the Trepassey Bay in Newfoundland, the easternmost part of the United States of America.  As he got ready to enter that bay, he noticed that there were twenty-two merchant ships lined up around the coast of the bay.  In that day, merchant ships often carried artillery because there were others, like Black Bart, sailing the open seas, ready to take them down and take them for all that they were worth.  Black Bart, or Bartholomew Roberts, was one of the pirates who came up with, what we know now to be, the “Jolly Roger” flag.  It was a way to send a message that the pirates used.  They would simply hoist up this flag and it was an invitation to any ships that could see it “hey, if you’re willing to hoist up your white flag and surrender, we’re willing to not kill you.”   They were trying to negotiate.  Bartholomew Roberts and his crew pulled into the Trepassey Bay in Newfoundland, June 21, 1720, surrounded by 22 ships in this bay and they, slowly but surely, hoisted the “Jolly Roger” flag. And every single one of the twenty-two ships in that bay, slowly but surely, hoisted up their white flag of surrender. Every single one.  The ironic part is that if you go back and read about this account, together for sure, but even independently, many of those ships that gave up without a fight had enough resources onboard to give the good pirate, Black Bart, a run for his money.  But they refused to even fight the battle.  They had enough to win and yet refused to fight.

Fast forward a few hundred years, last February, the New England Patriots were playing the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl.  It was a choose-your-poison Super Bowl, in my personal, correct opinion.  The New England Patriots were up by four points, but the Seattle Seahawks had the ball.  They drove down the field and they had 26 seconds left on the clock.  It was second down and they had one timeout in their back pocket.  They had one of the best quarterbacks, but they had, arguably, THE best running back in the backfield.  Russell Wilson was in the shotgun.  26 seconds left, down by four, if they score a touchdown they win.  He’s in the shotgun, receives the snap, takes one step back……does not hand it off.  Throws to a spot.  The receiver is beat to the spot by a cornerback who intercepts the pass and goes out to the four yard line and effectively ends the game.  Boo!  If only they could have tied for a lost!  After the game, Pete Carroll, the coach of the Seattle Seahawks, had one glaring question he had to answer:  Why in the world would you throw the ball on the one-and-a-half yard line when you have, what many consider to be, the BEST short-yardage running back in football??  You had everything you needed to win and yet, you gave the game away.  What were you thinking??  And Pete Carroll, to this day, hasn’t come up with a good answer!

Before we’re too hard on them, I wonder how many of us live lives of perpetual defeat with every resource we need to be victorious.  I started to wrestle with that as I thought through this passage in the Lord’s Prayer.  I started to think through this invitation from Jesus to pray “and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”   I started to think of all the times I’ve fallen to temptation.  I don’t know if you’ve ever had that happen to you, but I’ll stand here as your pastor and say it’s happened more than once to me.  Welcome to the party. And I started to think through what did I miss?  Was it just that the temptation was too much or did I miss a resource that was in my backfield that I just didn’t know existed or didn’t tap into?  I started to wonder God, is there a way….I see so many people who walk in defeat.  I see so many people who walk in anxiety and stress and depression.  I see so many people who walk in broken relationships and the wake of those just haunts them time and time again.  I see so many people, followers of Jesus and non-followers of Jesus alike, who are just shackled by the chains of fear.  I just started to wonder, as I prayed this prayer and I’ve taught through this prayer, is there a better way?  Are we surrendering, are we putting up, hoisting the white flag, when we have everything we need to win and everything we need to be victorious?   So I want to talk to two types of people this morning.  I want to talk to the person who feels like life is just beating you down.  I want to invite you to imagine a new day on the horizon, because of a new resource that you acknowledge is in your corner — number one.  But number two, I want to talk to the person in this room who has weathered the storms of life and has done it beautifully.  And I want to help uncover—-maybe you know this or maybe you don’t—-what it’s been that’s allowed you to walk in victory.

Matthew 6:13.  We’ve been walking through a series on the Lord’s Prayer where Jesus is asked by his disciples—will you teach us how to pray?    We’ve noted that it’s interesting that Jesus’ disciples never asked him how to preach.  They didn’t ask him how to start a church.  They didn’t ask him…..they didn’t ask him a lot of things, but one thing they did ask him was will you teach us how to pray?  They recognized that prayer was the bedrock under which He stood to do everything that they saw Him do.  We’ve been asking through this series how do we become the type of people that have this type of heart in prayer, so we started out by saying prayer is defined, first and foremost, by whom we are interacting with and whom we’re praying to.  That God is our Father and He’s a good father and you’re loved by Him.  We said, in tension to that, that God is holy.  He’s completely different, He’s other, He’s set apart.  We also said that we want to pray God, that your kingdom would come and that your will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.  That’s an audacious prayer, is it not?  That’s a prayer (if you started to pray this) that’s hard to pray sitting on your hands, is it not?  You start to see ways that God might be inviting you to engage this world you’re praying for.  We went on to say that “give us this day our daily bread”…..that God wants to provide for our daily needs and indeed, for many of us in this room, He has. And not only our physical needs, but our spiritual needs and so we prayed along with Jesus “forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  Notice what Jesus does.  He moves from praying about or inviting us to pray for our physical needs or daily bread to pray for our spiritual needs, that we would be people who receive the forgiveness that we so desperately need because of the sin that has defined us and separated us from the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  He deals with, in prayer, our past sin and then invites us to be the type of people that don’t just celebrate a victory over sin in the past, but who walk in victory over sin in the present. It’s people who have been justified (made right with God) who don’t just stop with celebrating the past, but who pray and anticipate about the day on the horizon in the future.  And so we pray:  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  

I thought, at the forefront of teaching the Lord’s Prayer, that this was going to be one of the easier stanzas to address, until I actually thought about what we were saying.    Lead us not into temptation.  Should we be afraid that God would lead us into temptation?  Is that his M.O.?  Does he often do that?  Is He a good father or is he the type of father that leads us into temptation?  What are we actually praying when we pray “lead us not into temptation?”  I’m glad you asked that because I want to address that with you and, in doing so, I actually want to invite you a little bit deeper into the fog than we already are.  James 1:12-13.  We’re going to interact with this word “temptation.”  It’s the same root Greek word for “trial.”  This passage is going to use it as trial and as temptation.  Listen to what James writes to the churches:  Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.  {That’s good news!  That those who cling to the cross in the midst of trial will receive the crown of life.}  Let no one say when he is tempted, {Same root word.  Trial can be great for us.  We are refined by it, matured by it.  We have more joy through it.}  “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.    We’ve got ourselves a little bit of a quandary on our hands, don’t we? Because God doesn’t tempt anyone and yet, God uses trials to shape us and make us and mold us.  What are we praying when we pray “lead us not into temptation?”  Chrysostom, the great early church father, is right when he says:  “This particular petition is the most natural appeal of human weakness.”   It’s an admittance—lead us not into temptation—that oftentimes what starts out as a trial and something that’s a difficult season in life can turn into a temptation, one where we’re at the precipice of losing our faith and the things that we hold so dear.  So to pray “lead us not into temptation” is to pray Lord, if you can spare me from this trial, do it, but if I have to go through the trial then deliver me from the evil potential that is there.  Don’t let trial turn into a temptation.    It could also be phrased Lord, don’t ever lead us into a trial which will present to us such temptation that we will not be able to resist it.  God, protect me from that space—don’t lead me to that space.  Or, Lord, stop us before Satan can turn your test into his temptation.  Or to put it succinctly and simply—Lord, don’t ever let us walk into something that we can’t handle by your grace.  Kenneth Bailey says: “The phrase in the Lord’s Prayer expresses the confidence of an earthly pilgrim traveling with a divine guide.”  God, shape us.  God, make us.  God, mold us and God, lead us.

Isn’t it fascinating how much prominence Jesus places in prayer?  Think of the temptations we’ve walked into. Think about the things that have stirred up in our soul that’s robbed us of joy.  Is it potentially possible that we could have avoided the temptations or been victorious over them if we had been more diligent in our prayers? I’ll say it another way — are we refusing to use or neglecting the greatest resource at our fingertips and in so doing, walking into defeat when Jesus has already purchased victory for us?  What Jesus teaches in the Lord’s Prayer and elsewhere is that when we, as his followers, kneel in prayer…..when the disposition of our heart and our soul is God, I’m in need and God, I don’t know how to do it and God, I’m an earthly pilgrim who needs a divine guide because if left to my own devices there’s no way I lead this life into flourishing and vitality and goodness; I need you.   When we kneel in prayer we walk in victory!  The opposite side of that coin is true, also.  When we neglect prayer we experience defeat when Jesus has already purchased for us victory.  It’s very possible and probable that many of our lives live hoisting up the flag of surrender when on the decks of our ship are everything we need, not only to fight the battle, but to win it.   But as Martyn Lloyd-Jones so aptly put it: “Everything in the Christian life is easier than prayer.”    Because I am so driven by the bottom line.  I am so driven by what works and what’s practical and what stirs up fruit in my life.  I think the reason that everything is easier than prayer is because prayer is hard to measure when it comes to its effectiveness.  Sometimes we see God explicitly and miraculously answer prayer.  {Anybody ever be a part of that?}  Sometimes we don’t see Him explicitly and miraculously answer prayer and yet, prayer is so powerful and profitable in the life of the believer.  I want to show you today, from the Scriptures, why and how.

Matthew 26:36-46.  I want to read a story from the life of Christ that illustrates the reality that when we kneel in prayer we walk in victory.  Jesus has just celebrated the Passover feast with his disciples and He is marching towards Golgotha and his death where He will atone for the sin of the world, where He will take our guilt and our shame and He will purchase for us His righteousness.  He’s going to step into the Garden of Gethsemane….this is the journey from Gethsemane to Golgotha where Jesus is going to teach his disciples about the prominence and power of prayer.   Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.”  And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.  {So the picture is the eight disciples are off to the side and these three are with Jesus.  These are the three that He’s built his life and his ministry into.  These are the three that he’s spent the most time with of anybody in his earthly ministry and He’s asking them to pray with him.}  Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here and watch with me.”  And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”  And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping.  And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?”  {So he approaches Peter and Jesus is in the moment of the most need that he’s ever been in in his earthly life.  He’s at this precipice of pain and hurt and anguish and he has one request of his disciples —- one.  Come with me and pray.  Come with me and stay awake and pray.  He comes back and finds them sleeping.  If I were Jesus, I’d be like “SERIOUSLY?!  You’re sleeping?? I’m sweating blood and you’re sleeping!?”  As soon as I say that God just sorta holds up the mirror to me and goes yeah, SERIOUSLY?!}  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.”  Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”  And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.  So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.  Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on.  See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”  

We’ll step away from the story a second.  As we journey towards Easter in the next week, I just want to point out some of the beauty of this gospel account of this night in Jesus’ life, in regards to an apologetic for why we believe in the Resurrection.  If you’re going to write this account of Jesus and your goal, as a follower of Christ, is to paint a picture of Jesus that would be easy to cause people to bow and worship, he’s done a terrible job. This is one of the passages that beautifully illustrates Jesus’ humanity.  We start off with Jesus being sorrowful and troubled.  His soul is just being ripped out in anguish.  He falls down on his face praying, so intensely occupied by the thought of walking to the cross for the redemption of sins.  We see him pray—if there’s another way, Father, let’s talk about that way.   If you’re trying to paint Jesus as the hero, if you’re trying to paint Jesus as somebody who beats his chest and courageously says follow me into the darkest season I’ll ever walk into, he doesn’t do a great job, does he?  It is beautiful history and terrible fiction.  If you want to create a document 30-40 years after the life of Christ that’s going to evoke worship of Him, this is not the way you go.  Especially if you just want to make it up.  Luckily for us, the gospel accounts aren’t just things people wanted to make up about Jesus.  They invite us into the humanity of the Messiah, where he says I’m sorrowful to the point of death.  I am consumed with pain thinking about what goes in front of me.  I am on my face praying, begging God, if there is another way.  If your job is to write an account about Jesus that paints Him in great light, they didn’t do all that good of a job, number one.  If their job or motive was to paint a picture of themselves in good light, they failed also, right?  These are the dudes who the people after them are called to listen to.  Peter’s the preacher, right?  Someone in the crowd could go hey, Peter, tell us more about how you fell asleep the night of the most need Jesus was ever in!  Tell us more about that!   Imbedded in the story is this invitation to victory that we often ignore.  We not only see the humanity of Jesus and we see the honesty of the gospel writers, but we also see this high place that prayer is held up to.  The high place, the prominence, that’s put on prayer in the life of the follower of Jesus.  That when we kneel in prayer, we walk in victory.

I was a junior at Colorado State University.  I always sat in the front row.  I was a front row guy because I figured that even if I was in a lecture hall of 200, if I was in the front row it would make no difference to me.  I was sitting in the front row of a lecture in Psychology.  I was opening at Starbucks in the morning and I was working with Young Life in the evenings and I was exhausted.  I was sitting in the front row of a Psychology lecture on “Sleep Deprivation!”  I can remember her putting the slide up—“Sleep Deprivation”—and going oh no, I’m going down!  It was about 15 minutes into an hour and a half long lecture and……this is back when we took notes on paper…….I woke up at the end of that lecture and the only note I had was this note—-your pen makes one straight line off the edge of the paper.  I can remember waking up going, “What did I miss?!  What did I miss?!”  The dude sitting next to me goes, “EVERYTHING!”  As I read this, I wondered Father, in the North American church how many of us are just sleeping through what you long to do??  When the antidote is so clear in front of us that we just need to recapture a vision for what it looks like to be people of prayer.  The victory’s already won and how do we step into it?  Well, we engage with our Father who’s purchased the victory.  Instead of just having our best resources sit on the bench….I don’t know, friends, I want to become the type of person that walks in the victory because I kneel in prayer.

Here’s how Jesus invites his disciples and us, as his followers, to do that.  The question becomes—how does prayer lead us to the victory that Jesus has purchased for us.  How does prayer lead us to be the type of people who are lead NOT into temptation, but delivered from evil?  Look at the way Jesus says it in Matthew 26:41: Watch and pray {That’s what he tells his disciples as he goes away to pray.  He tells them to pause, stop, watch and pray.  This word “watch,” in the Greek, means to be “conscientious” or to “be engaged” actively in the things going on around you.  It’s one of the things prayer does.  It’s one of the things we miss that prayer does.  Prayer awakens us to the spiritual battle that surrounds us.  If we are not prayerful, we are unaware.  If prayer has been a neglect in your life, I don’t want to heap guilt on you at all today because I know that doesn’t work and I know that every time we talk about prayer, you feel like you don’t pray enough, so I just want to say that there’s no guilt here today, but if we have neglected prayer, it means that we are unaware.  That’s just a reality.  When you stop to pray, two things happen—one, your pace of life slows down dramatically.  You’re able to breathe a little bit.  You’re able to think through everything that’s going on—–I’m not talking about prayer where we come with our list.  That’s great, that’s good, that’s needed.  I’m talking about prayer where we simply sit with the conviction that the Holy Spirit lives inside of us and that it is our hope of glory.  So, sitting with our Father and trying to hear his voice, we slow the pace of our lives down, number one, and we become aware.  Anybody been there?  Where you sit down to pray and just commune with the Father and immediately you have tons of thoughts flowing through your head.  So many that if you had a net out to try to catch them, there’s no way that you could do it.  Did you know that that’s not unique when you pray?  It’s not like when you pray you sit down and those things start to happen.  That’s running in the background of the operating system of your mind at all times.  Prayer is a way to simply be aware, to slow down the pace and, here’s the key word, to be present.   To be present…..with the thoughts, with the fears, with the anxieties, with the feelings and then to push them back to our Father.  It’s a way to say God, I have this deep and abiding conviction that there’s more going on in this world than I can see.  Would you open my eyes?  Think of how valuable that would have been for Peter, James and John.  Open our eyes, Lord.  Prayer sharpens one’s spiritual eyes to see what’s going on all around them.  It got me thinking what am I sleeping through?  What am I just totally unaware of?  What am I sleeping through?  Are there things going on in my life that I need to become more aware and more engaged with?  Are there patterns and rhythms of my soul that are evil and wicked that maybe in prayer I’d be able to see are simply just fear and that God, would you help me address those with the hope of the gospel.  God, are there things that I’m angry at?   We all know people who have fallen into temptation.  We all know people who have lost marriages because of temptation.  We know people who have lost jobs because of temptation.  We know people who have lost homes because of temptation.  We know a lot of people that have fallen because they weren’t awake to the battle that was raging all around them.  If you hear nothing else today, friend, know that you live in a battle zone.  But along with the evil that is present in the world and hey, deliver us from evil—there is evil to be delivered from, is there not?  Yes!   There’s also opportunity to have our eyes opened to.  On one side of the coin is the evil, on the other side is thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Open our eyes, Lord!!

He goes on.  Same verse.  Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.   Jesus is challenging us through prayer to remember that we are dependent beings and when we are dependent we are more powerful than when we try to pull up our bootstraps and say that we can do it on our own.  You read through Peter’s story, even in just this passage.  In verse 35, Peter says to Jesus: Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!    Hey, how’d that turn out for him?  Not great, right? You wonder if his disposition would have been more like Jesus’—lying flat on his face, saying Father, I need you—-how it might have turned out for him.  Victory, for you and I, the victory that Jesus has purchased for us, the victory that we walk in is birthed in humility.  One of the greatest enemies of your joy is your pride.  Let me say that again — One of the greatest enemies of your joy is your pride and pride is one of the greatest enemies of prayer.  In prayer we say, you lead me, God.  It’s an admittance.  Listen, I’m completely incapable of leading myself, except off a cliff.  That I can do.  Been there, done that.  Charles Spurgeon puts beautifully the invitation: “The tail feathers of pride should be pulled out of our prayers, for our prayers need only the wing feathers of faith.”  That’s awesome.

We also give up control when we pray.  We give up the illusion that we can actually do a better job leading our lives than God can.  AND we give up the worry that so often surrounds us.  We can either release things to God in prayer or we can hold onto things in our hearts in worry, but it’s really hard to do both.  You know, if you’ve tried.  You can either pray or you can worry, but you can’t do both.  Because in prayer, we surrender to a God who says I will lead you not into temptation and when you find yourself in the midst of evil, I will provide a way out for you.  Here’s the crux of the message:  Jesus says to his disciples watch and pray…..and if you have your own Bible, circle the word “that.”  He’s going to tie a result to an initiative.  When we pray…..watch and pray that or so that you may not enter into temptation.   Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.  Pray.  Pray because there’s trials coming in life.  Pray because there’s difficulties coming in life.  Pray because your God has given you, by His Holy Spirit working in you when you’re dependent on Him, everything you need to be victorious.

Prayer empowers us to overcome temptation.  If we’re falling to temptation, friends, we’re failing in prayer. Too much of the time we address the issue right in front of us instead of the issue that’s underneath all of us. What’s our relationship like with our Father?  Because God has given us everything we need to be victorious.  I just want to point out, in the Scriptures, what it looks like to be victorious.  I think John Calvin hit the nail on the head when he said: “A sure remedy is set before us, which is not far to seek, nor sought in vain.  Christ promises that people earnest in prayer, who carefully put away the idleness of their flesh, will be victorious.”  WILL BE.  So what does the victory look like?  In the Scriptures, there’s a few different ways that God says we’re victorious over temptation.  Let me give you three of them.  One is we avoid temptation.  Look at the way that Paul writes to the church at Corinth:  Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. {That sounds a lot like remembering our dependence, yes?}  No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.  {What a great promise! There’s nothing that’s going to come at us in our life that God will not give us the resources to be victorious over! AMEN!  Then he tells you how to be victorious in this instance.}  Therefore, my beloved, FLEE from idolatry. (1 Corin. 10:12-14)    Here’s the game plan for victory in this instance:  RUN!  Flee!  Did you know it’s easier to resist and fight temptation before it gets there than when it’s at your doorstep?  It’s easier to wage the war against lust and pornography before you’re tempted by it than it is in the moment.  It’s easier to fight the war against bitterness and anger before it comes at you than when you find yourself there in the moment.  It’s easier, friends, in marriages and relationships and friendships to choose to live as a person of peace before the argument than during it.  There’s some things we just need to set up hedges around our life with the conviction that sin is crouching at our door and would love to destroy us.

So we avoid it.  Second, we resist.  The devil, your enemy, is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for somebody to devour. {So Peter writes to the church…}  Resist him, firm in your faith…  (1 Peter 5:8-9)   Do you know how you resist temptation?  You feed yourself with the glories of the gospel.  That’s what you do.  To stir the heart of faith is to remember the sacrifice of Jesus, to remember that we were people in desperate need and that God made a great provision.  To remember that we stand daily under the waterfall of his grace and his mercy; that we are pure and holy and spotless and blameless and when the Enemy comes at us like a roaring lion, we need to be down on our knees like dependent children saying God, remind me who I am and who you are.  That’s how we resist.  We don’t resist by going….bring it on!  We resist by going listen, but for the grace of God….and praise God for his grace.  We stir the heart of faith.

So, we avoid, we resist and then….you know this, friends.  There’s seasons in your life when avoiding doesn’t work and resisting doesn’t work and you just simply have to endure.  You just gotta walk through it.  The valley of the shadow of death.  The Scripture never shies away from the fact that we will walk through the valley of the shadow of death, it only says that He will walk with us and that we will walk out the other end victorious. If you’re in the valley of the shadow of death, don’t set up camp.  Keep going.  Keep enduring.  Jesus says to his disciples: I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep {protect, guard, walk with them} them from the evil one.  There are times when God delivers you from evil.  And the more you pray “deliver us from evil,” the more you start to see that God is answering that prayer.  You (God) are buoying me up.  You’re strengthening me that I don’t fall to this trial, that it doesn’t turn into a temptation.  Thank you, Lord.  The more you pray it, the more you see He answers that prayer.  There are times that God delivers us from evil, but then there are also times when God sustains us through it.  It simply means that He has something better for us than keeping us out of trial.  There’s a work he does in us through it.  So we prayerfully endure, confident that trials shape us towards maturity.

The story ends with Jesus saying to his disciples—he wakes them up:  Sleep and take your rest later on.  See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.   Here’s an interesting exercise—when you get home today, go through Matthew 26 and look at the way that prayer moves the mission of God in the heart of Jesus forward.  He begins this endeavor, this evening, on his face sorrowful to the point of death.  He prays:  Father, if you can take this cup from me. Let’s do it that way.  We’re looking for a loophole here, God.  He then prays: If there’s no other way, I’m drinking the cup.  As if to say I see in prayer that this is the journey you’re leading me on.  Finally he says alright, it’s time to walk to the cross.  This is the way that prayer works in the heart of the believer.  This is the way that we walk in victory when we kneel in prayer.  Through prayer God emboldens us to embrace His will. It’s no accident that Peter sleeps and picks up the sword and that Jesus prays and drinks the cup.  No accident. Prayer is the linchpin of us walking in the heart of our Father with the view of His kingdom and the prayer “God, would you do a great work in and through us.”  When I’m not prayerful, I’m more like Peter and I want to defend myself.  And I want revenge.  And I want the kingdom to come, but I want it to come through violence and power and coercion.  What prayer does is softens us to the way of Jesus that says no, my kingdom comes through self-sacrificial love.  Would you lay down your life for your friends in the same way that He laid down His life for you?  The hard part is that when I just have my eyes, His leading towards blessing often feels like a journey towards temptation.  It often feels like it’s going to be hard and it’s going to be difficult.  The cross—we know it didn’t look like a lot of fun to Jesus, but because of prayer He saw the joy that was set before him and he walked that road.

June 21, 1720.  Black Bart sailed in to Trepassey Bay, loaded up with cannons, but facing 22 other ships that were well stocked and ready to fight.  He hoisted up his flag inviting them to surrender and every single one of those ships decided not to engage in a battle that they could have easily won.  They decided to surrender because they didn’t know what they had.  Friends, I’m praying for a day when followers of Jesus will take His invitation to be people of prayer seriously.  When followers of Jesus would get tired….a holy exhaustion….of being beaten down by sin. That’s what I’m praying for.  That we’d just get tired of getting beat up.  Tired enough to go to our knees and say, “Father, open our eyes.  Father, teach us we can’t do it on our own, but with you we have every resource that we need.  Father, teach us how to be victorious.  What does this situation at this time demand—do I avoid, do I resist, do I endure?  How do I do that, God?”  Through our prayer, would you open our eyes and then allow us to walk in the way of your kingdom?  That doesn’t happen when we raise the white flag.  THAT happens when we are convinced that when we’re on our knees in prayer God gives us everything we need to walk in victory.  Friends, you have it!  Don’t let it sit on the sidelines.  And instead of making prayer our last resort, could we be the church that makes prayer its first priority?

Every Wednesday, we have a group that gathers here to pray at 6:30 pm — the Watchmen prayer team.  I’d invite you to join them. This Friday we’re going to have an opportunity to pray through Jesus’ time on the cross as we celebrate Good Friday.  Come and engage on a heart level.  Ask God to open your eyes to the battle that’s waging for your soul.  But more than that, more than corporate, may this be an individual movement of us seeking and hearing from the heart of the Father and then walking in the victory that He’s already purchased for us.  Let’s pray.

Take a deep breath before you go running out of here and whatever else the day holds for you.  God, in the quietness of this moment, would you stir in us the desire for more of these moments.  When we’re just quiet enough to hear you, attentive and engaged, believing that you speak.  Lord, would you remind us that there’s some battles that we’re fighting right now that we can’t conquer, we can’t win on our own, but that by your mercy and grace and your empowering and through prayer that you work and move….would you remind us of those?  For the people that are in this room right now, would you bring those to the forefront of their mind? Are there ways we’re walking in pride instead of prayer?  Lord, bring that up, stir that in us.  Father, there’s so many in this room, I’m convinced of it, there’s so many in this room who are losing the battle to things that you’ve already been victorious over.  I just pray over them right now.  In fact, if that’s you…..if you’re here today saying I’m just getting beaten down by temptation and I want God to move in my heart and my life, will you just slip up your hand right now?  I just want to pray over you.  {I see you. I see you.  All over.}  Father, for these people, I pray would you, as they seek you and as they pray, fill them with your Spirit that would allow them to walk in victory.  Teach them what that looks like, give them a taste of it today, I pray in Jesus’ name. Father, for all of us, we want to be people who live with eyes wide opened to the world that you’ve made in all of its beauty, in all of its pain, in all of its glory and in all of its need.  As we pray, would you open our eyes to the ways that you’re inviting us to live in your world?  For the glory of your name and for the joy of your people, we pray.  And all God’s people said…..Amen!

The Lord’s Prayer: Kneeling for Battle – Matthew 6:132020-08-21T08:18:39-06:00

The Lord’s Prayer – Releasing the Records – Matthew 6:12

March 13th 2016

listen to last Sunday’s worship set.

Have you ever tried to think back and figure out what your earliest memory is?  Not one that you’ve seen in pictures or stories that you’ve heard, but genuinely the thing from your past that’s the very first thing that you can remember.  For me, I was five years old.  It was my birthday and I had been given a Big Wheel for my birthday.  Huge wheel in the front, two mini wheels on the back —- I was in love!  I begged my parents to let me take it on an inaugural spin around the block.  I was ready for my birthday party; I was dressed in a red-and-white shirt that had horizontal stripes on it.  I had red shorts on and on the left pocket was a little green alligator.  I begged my parents mercilessly; I now know where my seven-year-old gets it from.  They finally gave in.  I took my red and yellow Big Wheel on a spin around the block.  I went tearing out of the driveway, made a left hand turn, made another left hand turn, another left, another left and I was about to make my final left hand turn on the final stretch and I’m not exactly sure what happened.  Other than the little wheel on the back got caught in the groove that attached the curb to the sidewalk.   The next thing I knew, I was lying on my face, in the gutter, covered in mud.  I can remember getting back on my Big Wheel and making that final left hand turn and heading home.  I pulled up the driveway and put the Big Wheel off to the side and stood there, not exactly sure what was going to greet me when I knocked on the door.  It was the first time in my life that I can remember feeling shame.  It was the first time in my life I can remember failing.  The first time in my life where, regardless of anybody else’s standard for me, I didn’t live up to my standard for myself.  Can you remember the first time you felt that way?

Part of the struggle we have being human is that regardless of whose standard we compare ourselves to, even if it’s our own, we fall short of it.  I’m always amused and befuddled by people who assume that they’re going to heaven because they’re good people.  Maybe they’re way better than me, but I just know that even by my own standard—let’s take God out of the equation for a second—I fail to meet it time and time again, day after day after day.  There’s something on the very sort of DNA level of us as people, isn’t there, that we have this internal way of measuring and keeping track and remembering when we just don’t live up to our standards, don’t we?  The first thing I can remember from growing up is the Big Wheel.  Standing there in the front of my house, covered in mud, knowing that I’d failed.  We don’t have to look too far into the past to have our own list going.  Maybe it’s lies that we’ve told or….let’s just call them partial truths, right, because we’re Christians here.  Maybe it’s that we’ve cheated at times on things.  Or maybe it’s just these internal rhythms of our heart where we have evil thoughts or evil desires or we have things that go on inside of our minds and our hearts that we wish we could take back.  All of us know, in regards to this list, that it is impossible to hit rewind, isn’t it? Some people in the room wish they could.  Maybe there’s some things they did……(Ryan writes ‘adultery’ on the board)…..and their marriage……    There’s some places we’ve been and some things that we’ve done.

All of us have to deal with this list in some way, don’t we?  We have to.  It’s a human problem.  It’s not a Christian problem.  It’s a human problem.  How do we deal with not living up to the standards that even we set for ourselves.  How do we deal with the list?  We’ll try to ignore it and pretend that it’s not there.  We’re really good at this for a time.  But you and I have these moments where we lie in bed and right before we fall asleep we stare at the ceiling and aren’t there some nights where this list just comes up and pops up in your head. You can try to ignore it and ignore the things that you’ve done that you know don’t even live up to your standard, but we all know that ignoring it doesn’t work.  We try to rationalize it.  We can say listen, Big Wheel made that back right wheel a little bit too big.  It’s Big Wheel’s fault that I fell into the gutter and if Big Wheel had made that wheel the right size I never would have been in that predicament.  We can blame other people and find other things to blame people about and the list goes on and on and on of the ways it’s other peoples fault that we didn’t live up to the standard.  But we all know, in those quiet moments, that it’s not somebody else’s fault…it’s ours.  The other devastating thing that starts to happen is this list starts to haunt us.  This is the record that stands against us.  Some of us have so thought about this list and we’ve tried to ignore it and we’ve tried to blame other people and that hasn’t worked and we’ve just had to be stuck with the list.  The list is not just something that we’ve done, it’s something that we are.  We call that shame.  When we start to internalize the list and it just becomes part of the tape that plays in our mind, over and over, everyday.  I can’t believe you did that!  I can’t believe you made that decision.  I can’t believe you failed so bad, so terribly.  And all of us have this to some degree and to some level.  The other thing we try to do is…..this is my method….repair it. I’m going to try to make up for it, so I’m never going to do that again.  Have you ever had that conversation with yourself, right before you do it again?  I’m never going to do that again—-I’m not going to think that, I’m not going to say that, that is not who I am and you know how I’m going to prove it?   I’m going to prove it because from here on out I am not going to be that guy.  We all have a list, don’t we?  We all have different things on the list.  And sometimes the list is ours and we make it up and sometimes the list is given to us.  For those who follow Jesus, we’ve got a list of things that we’re not suppose to do and people we’re not suppose to be and it just seems like the harder I try not to live on the list the more I find myself writing more and more things down.

And so, when Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray, he doesn’t want to shrink back and away from the things that make us deeply human.  He doesn’t want us to pray about things that are just somewhere out there.  He wants us to pray for the things that actually really matter, the things that are very present in the world and in our world.  When he teaches his disciples to pray, he says after saying our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name—you’re completely holy and distant and other and yet you’re loving and present and here—that’s the tension of prayer.   Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven—-God, make your name great.  He then says God, there’s stuff that we need.  God, graciously give us everything that we need today to survive.  The very fundamental building blocks of human life.  Give us food.  Give us bread.  The next thing he does after the fundamental building blocks of physical life…he’s going to invite us to pray for the fundamental building blocks of our spiritual life.  Here’s what He says:  …and forgive us our debts  {The list.  The failings. The shortcomings.  The ‘we didn’t add and we didn’t make it even by our own standard.’  God, forgive us our debts.}  ….as we also have forgiven our debtors.    Right after asking for the fundamental building blocks of physical life, Jesus invites us to ask for the things that will allow us to restore our humanity.  That we would be forgiven.  That the debt would be wiped clean.  That the things that we are ashamed of would not translate into living lives of shame.  That’s what Jesus is inviting us to bring before the Father.  There’s a better way than just ignoring.  There’s a better way than rationalizing.  There’s a better way than trying to forget it ever happened or we ever made that decision.  And the better way….the way that takes the things that we’re ashamed of and does not allow them to turn into shame…..is by bringing them before our God, our Father in heaven, and saying, I have messed up big time.  Would you, in your grace, shower me with forgiveness?  Dale Bruener, the great commentator writes:  “Food is humanity’s priority need, but forgiveness is humanity’s profoundest need.”  So Jesus invites us to pray hey, talk to God about the list.  Talk to God about the records that stand against you and so, if we are going to be people in prayer who ask for forgiveness, we’re going to be people who need to unearth the things in our life that would potentially cause us to live in shame.  And we’re going to need to be people who bring those before the throne of God with confidence that He is a God who forgives and wipes the debt clean.

Matthew 18:21-35.  We’re going to camp there for a few moments today.  Jesus tells a story about this idea.  He tells a parable in order to illustrate just how significant this issue is.  And it’s a story you may have heard before, if you’ve been a part of church.  If you’ve heard this before and you go listen, Paulson, I know the punch line, I know where this is going….can I invite you to hold off for just a second, step back from it, try to wipe your memory clean from ever having heard this and let’s look at it with fresh eyes together today.  This is Matthew writing about the words of Jesus.  Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? {Translation by Peter–This is going to get crazy, God, if we do this over and over again.  Like we can’t be people who just whenever somebody wrongs us we forgive them.  There’s gotta be a limit.  Otherwise, we’re just going to get run over.  And for most rabbinic teachers of the day, they had a yoke, a teaching, that said you forgive somebody up to three times for something that they did wrong. And that was big.  Three different times for the same offense!!!!  Jesus says hmmm.}  As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.  {In order to illustrate that He tells a story.}  “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. {Everybody say wow!!  That’s a lot a money and we’ll talk about that in just a second.}  And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.  So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’  And out of pity for him, the master of the servant released him and forgave him the debt.  But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’  He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.  When his servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.  Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!  I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’  And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”   Wow!!

Five characters.  You have the king, who’s the ruler of land and personifies God in the parable.  You have the servant, who owes the king a ton of money.  You have the servant of the servant, who owes his servant some money.  You have people who are looking on, observing, and wondering how this is all going to play out.  Then you have jailers.  The parable starts with the king simply.  It says calling to account the money that’s owe him. So this king is a wise business person.  This king has a record.  He has an account.  He has a ledger.  He’s a good bookkeeper.  He knows who owes him and how much they owe him and he says it’s time to call to account and for people to pay up what they owe me.   This person, the servant, owes the king ten thousand talents. One talent would equal 15 years of wages.  Ten thousand talents equals 150,000 years of wages.  That’s a long time, is it not?  Let’s just assume that this servant is making minimum wage and let’s assume that’s $8.00 an hour, for round figures.  $8.00/hour for the next 150,000 years….here’s how much debt is on the books. $2,250,000,000! That’s a lot of money.  This is like Donald Trump-type of money here.  Here’s what the servant asks the king–have pity on me.  Literally, in the Greek, it’s be ‘big-hearted’ towards me.  Have patience.  Don’t call this all to account at one time.  Have patience, or be big-hearted, have pity…..which would mean be moved in the very bowels of your soul with compassion towards me.  That’s what he wants.  At the core of his asking is I just need more time.  It’s insanity, isn’t it?  I need more time.  I need 150,000 years, whereby I will work constantly and somehow acquire no debt that goes on top of that.  It’s a terrible ask, isn’t it?  It’s a crazy ask.  Because he could never work enough or earn enough or do enough and that’s the point of Jesus’ parable.  You can’t earn enough, you can’t do enough, you’re not going to find any sort of magic ball or any DeLorean to make time go backwards, I’m sorry, friends, but we are essentially stuck with the record that stands against us.  Most of us….what we ask God for….most of us ask God for a little bit more time.  If I could earn a little bit more, if I could do a little bit more, if I could be a little bit more than I’d be okay.  God says no, no, no, no, no, the king in this passage…..you look at this passage and what the king does is he does not acquiesce and say back to the servant, “That’s a great idea!  Wonderful thinking!  Let’s do that!  You work and I will sit here and I will keep track of how much you owe and how much you’ve earned and let’s do the bookkeeping thing…..forever.”  The king is so much better than that!  The king says okay, here’s the deal.  We’re not just eliminating the debt, we’re changing the system.  And the system is God is not in the bookkeeping business anymore.  That’s great news.  He’s not keeping track.

I’ll prove it to you.  Some theological undergirding.  Colossians 2:13-14.  Listen to the way the Apostle Paul writes this to the church of Colossae:  And you, who were dead {You had so much stacked up against you…there’s no way you were digging yourself out of any of these holes, individually or as a whole.  Not going to happen.} ….in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record {This word in the Greek, ‘canceling,’ literally means ‘to obliterate.’  Love that.  Because here’s what the cross does.  The $2.25 billion dollars you owe?  God doesn’t remember it anymore.  Those thoughts of your heart that are so evil and so decrepit and so messed up, the things that you’ve done, the ways that you’ve lived….he goes listen, listen, listen, by the cross—it’s not that I’m going to forget those, it’s that I’m going to just erase them.  I’m taking them down.  He’s cancelled the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.  Friends, what the cross declares is that Jesus is no longer in the bookkeeping business.  If you go back through this parable and you look at the way that this book or the ledger or the record starts to show up, when the king forgives the record, the wrongs, the failures that the servant had against him, I think what the servant actually hears is I’m going to give you all the time you need.  But what actually happens is the king says it’s erased, it’s done for, I’m changing the entire system.  When the servant walks out of the king’s chambers, he’s still holding his ledger.  He’s still holding his book.  He still thinks there’s still a debt that he has to pay even though the king has clearly said this is forgiven, it’s over.  Did you know that the type of people who are able to offer this kind of forgiveness to others are ONLY people who have heard from the King of kings and the Lord of lords, I’m not in the bookkeeping business anymore.  I’m not in the business of keeping track of every little right and wrong.  I’m in the business of canceling the records that stood against you.  Until we know that we stand as forgiven, we will never stand in the gap as forgivers.  And until we know we are forgiven, we will run from the things that we’ve done that are wrong, we will try to justify our wrongs, we will internalize our wrongs and we will end up living lives that are not defined by God’s grace, but that are defined by our shame.  THIS, friends, is a HUGE deal!  Jesus wants to ask us this morning, are you still holding on to the records?  Are you still keeping track of the score?  We may say we’re not, just like they say they’re not when my son plays basketball and then I was asked to keep score.  I’m like whoa, I thought we weren’t keeping score here.  And they’re like oh no, we keep score, we just don’t tell anybody.  And I’m like oh, that’s like church!!  We keep track of the score, we just don’t tell anybody.  Hey, hey, hey, most of the time, we keep track of our score and how much wrong we’ve done, even more than we keep track of everybody else’s score, don’t we?  Oftentimes, the hardest person for us to forgive is the person that stares back at us in the mirror.

We wonder what we do with this shame.  Jesus has some hints for us in the Lord’s Prayer.  He says, first, before you ever try to be the type of person that forgives, you need to know that you stand forgiven.  Before he invites us to ask and to beckon help us to forgive those who have debts against us, he says listen, you need to know as a child of God that you stand before the throne of God pure, holy, spotless, blameless….the debt has been cancelled.  $2.25 billion dollars was in your account that you owed and the King of kings and the Lord of lords has said listen, I know you can’t pay it and I’m not waiting for you to pay it, that’s why I paid it on the cross with my own body and with my own blood.  And until you know you stand forgiven, you will never stand as a forgiver.  But when you do, when you know—-listen, I stand forgiven by the King of kings and the Lord of lords—the most natural thing then that starts to flow out of us is forgiveness.  If God is not holding the record above my head, then how can I hold it above anybody else’s.  John Chrysostom, the great early church father and prolific preacher, said: “To ask forgiveness from God is a great benefit, and then to deny the same to others is to mock God.”  {Would you look up at me for just a second?}  If I receive forgiveness from God, I forfeit the right to not offer it to my fellow human beings.   And there’s no footnote there, you guys.  That’s the hard part about this.  Unless they hurt you really deeply, unless they abuse you, unless they dehumanize you, unless whatever happens happens, right?  Because we all have those what-ifs, what-ifs.  There’s no footnote there.  If I receive forgiveness from God, I forfeit the right to not offer it to my fellow human being.  Jesus at the end of this says: And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? When we realize that we are freely forgiven, we are freed to forgive.

Here’s the thing.  I don’t just have a record in my mind in what I’ve done, do I?  Because you don’t just have a record of what you’ve done and the wrongs that you’ve done.  Some of you might realize, I’ve got $2.25 billion on that, but you recognize, just like I do, that there’s people that have wronged you also.  In fact, in the story, it tells us that another servant owed this man one hundred denarii.  That’s a hundred days wages.  So using the same math that we used before, that would be a total of $4000.00.  Could he pay that back?  Probably, over time.  And the man refuses—-this is Jesus’ point, the climax of the story is this man forgiven of 10,000 talents is unwilling to forgive 100 denarii.  He goes if you don’t realize how much God has forgiven you, you’re going to end up in the same spot.  Either we hold on to the books or we release the records, but we can’t have it both ways.  The hard part about forgiveness is that I need to look in the mirror and see this number before I’m willing to offer anybody else forgiveness.  I have to look in the mirror with honesty before I look on anybody else with mercy.  The longer I ignore this and the longer I try to run away from it or justify it or rationalize it or hide it, the further I find myself from actually genuinely forgiving the people that have wronged me.

The second reason forgiveness is really, really difficult is because when I screw up, I want grace, but when somebody screws up towards me, I want judgement.  Who’s with me?  This is the confounding part of being human.  So much of the time we’re unwilling to offer what we long for in the deepest parts of our soul.  Jesus says I’m going to give you exactly what you want.  When you pray forgive me, he says I have, by my body and my blood, and now I’m releasing you to be forgivers.  Do you know the only thing that keeps us out of the kingdom of heaven?  The only thing that keeps this servant out of the presence of the king is his unwillingness to let go of the books.  He’s clinging to the books.  In the parable, you have this king who absorbs the wrong. You have the king who pays the debt, who says this one’s on me, it’s absolutely forever gone, I’m changing the system, I’m not playing the record collecting game anymore.  He looks at his servant and asks, will you do the same?  The only thing that will keep me out of the presence of God is refusing the grace of God.  The very thing that I need.  The very thing that defines who I am as a person.  The only thing that puts me in the jailer’s torment is an unwillingness to say I’m done with the bookkeeping business, the records are released, it’s done for, it’s gone.  Which is what forgiveness means.  It means ‘to send away.’  It means ‘to release.’  Jesus ends this parable with his statement: Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers until he should pay all his debt.   Jesus goes if you want to play the record keeping game, I guess I’ll play it with you for all of eternity.  But if you want to release the records, forgiveness is freely offered.  It just requires that we would then, in turn, be audacious, ridiculous forgivers.  So the question I have for you, and for me, is are we still holding on to the books?  Listen, I had some faces in my mind as I planned this message.  I had some events in mind as I planned this message.  I just sense God saying, Paulson, are you going to preach this and hold on or are you going to preach it and release?  Immediately when you found out that we were talking about forgiveness, you had some people in your mind too, I’m guessing.  I’m guessing you had some events, maybe, that started to play back and you go listen, every time we talk about this THIS is the person on my mind and THIS is the event that happened and THIS is the abuse that I suffered and THIS is the wrong that was done to me.  God’s asking us today, collectively, will we be the type of people that recognize that the bookkeeping is over and will we release the wrongs that people have done to us, in the same way that our failures have been covered by his grace and our shame replaced by the name that He gives us.  Robert Capon, in his great book on the parables, says: “If we refuse to die—-and in particular, if we insist on binding other’s debts upon them in the name of our own right to life—-we will, by not letting grace have its way through us, cut ourselves off from ever knowing the joy of grace in us.”   What might it look like to become the type of people who receive forgiveness and then freely give it?  THIS. IS. THE. GOSPEL.  You stand freely forgiven and therefore, freed to forgive.  It’s the only thing that can actually motivate the human soul to say to the perpetrators of the deepest wrongs we’ve experienced, I forgive you.  I forgive you.

Here’s what I’ve run into as a pastor.  I’ve talked to a lot of people and they go well, I could never forgive this person and that person and when they start to describe forgiveness, I go well, that’s not forgiveness at all. What you want to do isn’t what you’re describing and what you’re talking about.  For the next seven minutes, I’d like to switch into ‘teacher mode’ and answer the question, What is forgiveness?  And what isn’t forgiveness?  My hope and prayer is that in defining this oh-so-important word, God might free us to live the kind of lives that He purchased for us on Calvary’s Hill.

Here’s what forgiveness is not—-I think it’s important that we define what forgiveness IS NOT before we jump in to what forgiveness is.  Forgiveness is NOT ignoring or overlooking the wrong.  Forgiveness is not saying, I see that but I’m going to choose to look the other way and pretend like it didn’t exist.  In fact, genuine forgiveness requires and demands just the opposite.  In his great book Exclusion and Embrace, Miroslav Volf, writes about this.  That “genuine forgiveness demands that we name the wrong that was done against us.  We cannot forgive if we are not first willing to condemn.”  In order to forgive, we must say THAT was wrong.  Otherwise, there’s nothing to forgive, is there?  We can play this nice game of platitudes and nice little sentiments and talk about forgiveness, but unless we’re willing to say that was wrong, we never have anything to forgive.  So forgiveness does not mean that we look the other way and it does not mean that we ignore the wrong that was done.

Second thing it doesn’t mean:  It does not mean that we forget the wrong.  I meet with so many people that say I could never forget what so-and-so did to me, so therefore, I can’t forgive.  The Enemy loves, loves, loves that you think that you have to forget in order to forgive.  Because you can choose to forgive and still remember what happened.  And you probably will.  But it does not mean….it’s a non sequitur to say well, I can’t forget, therefore, I can’t forgive.  Those two things never have to intersect.

So forgiveness does not mean overlooking the wrong or ignoring the wrong, it doesn’t mean forgetting the wrong.  It does not mean that there are no consequences left for whatever happened.  It does not mean that we eliminate the consequences.  You can forgive and still long for justice.  Those two things are in different categories.  The nation of Israel is forgiven by God for their lack of faith and willingness to follow Him into the Promise Land.  They’re forgiven by God (Numbers 14:20-23), but they still don’t get to enter the Promise Land. The consequences of their decisions remain.  And for people that have wronged you, or people that you have wronged, you may have to live with the consequences.  You probably will, but that does not mean that you are not, and cannot be, forgiven.

Finally, what forgiveness is not.  Forgiveness is NOT reconciliation with the wrongdoer.  When you forgive somebody, it does not mean you’re holding hands, singing “Kumbaya” around the fire.  It does not mean that. You may be forever, permanently estranged from whoever you need forgiveness from, and whoever you need to forgive.  Forgiveness takes one person—-YOU.  Forgiveness takes you.  Reconciliation takes two people—-you and whoever has wronged you.  In order for there to be reconciliation, somebody needs to look in the mirror and say, I was wrong, that one’s on me and I’m not going to make excuses and I’m not going to rationalize it and I’m not going to run from it and I’m not going to hide from it.  I’m going to look in the mirror and I’m going to own it—-that was on me and it demands repentance and a turning back and even then, it may take years and years and years and great boundaries in order to come to a place of reconciliation.  Please don’t come out of here saying well, Paulson says that in order to forgive we need to reconcile and then you call up somebody who’s been horribly abusive to you over the years and think you need to make amends with them.  You can make amends with them in your heart and not make that phone call.  Reconciliation does not equal forgiveness.

So we need to ask what DOES forgiveness mean?  Forgiveness means that we release people from the debt that they owe and we absorb the wrong.  In the story of this king, who pays the $2.25 billion debt that the servant owed the king?  Who pays it?  The king.  In the same story, who is intended to pay the $4000 debt that the one servant owed the other?  The servant.  And that’s what forgiveness is.  Forgiveness is saying I am not holding that over your head anymore.  Here’s the beautiful thing about that, guys…..let’s just play this through for a second.  The things that people have done, the wrongs that they’ve perpetrated against you……how could they pay you back for them anyway?   The things that people have said that are just seared in your brain?  They’re not finding a DeLorean any sooner than you are.  They can’t turn back time and go back and say listen, I’m not going to say that.  And you know and I know that saying sorry goes so far, but it doesn’t go far enough because they can’t take back the things that they’ve said.  So we’re hoping for something and longing for something that’s impossible.  Jesus wants to free the human soul.  Forgiveness releases people from the debt—they say, you don’t owe me that anymore.  I’m out of the bookkeeping business, praise the Lord, because I stink at math anyway.  You don’t owe me anymore than I owe God.

Secondly, forgiveness is a ceasing of the cycle of retributive violence and it’s an entrusting of justice to God. Miroslav Volf, in that same book, talks about the reality that in the Bosnian-Serbian genocide, the only way that anyone could offer true forgiveness is believing that God would make the world to rights.  That he would bring about justice.  That was the hope, that was the thing that people clung onto and allowed them to move forward.  “Forgiveness is a letting go of my right to hurt another person because they’ve hurt me,” writes Steven Tracy.  It’s what it is.  It’s I’m not playing the tape over in my mind of if I could talk to them again, here’s what I’d say.  And if I got to meet them wherever, here’s what I would say and here’s what I would do.  Forgiveness is saying God, you’re going to make this right in your time and your way.  Forgiveness is the penultimate expression of……I trust you and taking my hands off of it.  There’s an old Chinese proverb that says:  “Refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.”

Forgiveness is refusing  to give the Devil a foothold in our life.  You know that the Enemy loves the fact that you replay in your mind what you would do if you had the chance to do it to that person…fill in the blank.  Loves it. Forgiveness is a fight for our joy, friends.  It’s a fight to say back to the Enemy, I know you want darkness to have a foothold in my life and by replaying these things and hoping that I can get revenge for them.  The gospel says back and the love of Jesus says back because I’m freely forgiven, I will freely forgive.   Enemy, you have no place in my heart and in my soul.  I am not carrying bitterness.  I’m not carrying the weight of that around my neck.  I’m not carrying anger anymore.  I AM forgiven, therefore, I will freely forgive.  It’s a fight for our own joy.  I’m not drinking the poison anymore.  Forgiveness fights to see the humanity, even in the people that have wronged us deeply.  I’m not going to dehumanize because I’ve been hurt, which is so much of our natural tendency.  I’m going to fight to see the image of God, even in the people that have wronged me deeply.  I’m not giving the Devil a foothold.  How about you?

Three secrets to forgiveness then I’m going to land the plane.  How do we offer forgiveness?  First, your greatest resource for forgiveness is the gospel.  Remember that you have been deeply forgiven.  Slate wiped clean. Records no longer being kept—completely released and sent away by the King of kings and the Lord of lords. And when I have trouble forgiving the other, I just need to remember for a moment—I am he.  And God has graciously and freely forgiven me.

Secondly, forgiveness is a choice before it’s a feeling.  I hope this brings some freedom for some people in this room today who are going I don’t feel like forgiving.  You may never feel like forgiving, but you have to decide are your feelings going to dictate your life or what you know to be true going to dictate your life.  You can forgive somebody before you feel like you want to forgive them.

Finally, forgiveness is not a one-time decision, it’s an active daily choice.  And if you’ve ever had somebody that’s wronged you deeply, you know this.  You know that you can choose to forgive them and genuinely mean it, then find yourself carrying the weight of the wrong in a day or a week or maybe five minutes later.  I’ve done that—five minutes later, I’m still carrying the weight of it.  What we need to remember is forgiveness is ACTIVE.  It’s saying whenever I find myself carrying the weight of the wrong, I’m going to shed it—-that’s not who I am anymore, I’m not in the record keeping business, I’ve released the records.  God has released the records against me and I’ve released them against anybody who’s wronged me, regardless of what the wrong is—-there’s no footnote.  {Look up at me for a second.}  I understand that it’s hard.  I understand that it feels like it’s wrong.  Like they should have to pay for what they did.  Here’s the thing—you can keep holding onto that and it will keep killing you and keep haunting you OR you can remember that Jesus is not in the record keeping business anymore and you don’t need to be either.  He will make it right.  Our job is to trust him and to live in the path that he’s purchased for us.

Would you close your eyes and let’s go to the Lord in prayer.  That’s a lot to take in.  So who popped into your mind, what situation, when you found out that this is what we were talking about today?  Maybe an ex-husband, ex-wife.  Maybe a person who abused you, wronged you.  Maybe somebody who you did that to.  I just want you to imagine, in your mind’s eye, Jesus with the books and all the things that you’ve ever done.  Maybe the shame that you carry, the guilt that you have, the regrets that if you could go back and take them back, you would. I just want you to imagine Him going to the cross carrying those things.  He’s canceled the debt.  He’s obliterated it by His cross, because of His love.  And He’s made a new way for you.  A new way for you to move forward and to live—without the bitterness, without the anger, without the shame, without the regret.  You see, the same thing that keeps us from saying “we forgive others” is the very thing that prevents us from hearing God’s forgiveness over our life.  You show me somebody who’s a forgiver and I will show you somebody who knows that they’ve been forgiven.  Jesus, today, we all have lists of some sort in our head and we just want to say that we are handing those over today, Lord.  We want to get out of the bookkeeping business.  The people that have wronged us—we want to make that daily choice to say, we forgive.  Whenever we find ourselves carrying the weight of it, we want to remember that you’ve already expunged it, that it is over, that it is done with.  We want to live in that type of freedom.  And Jesus, as we live in the freedom that you’ve so graciously offer to us, would you help us, in turn, be people who graciously offer the freedom of forgiveness to others.  Lord, help us live in your way—-with your heart, with your freedom.  So Father, forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer – Releasing the Records – Matthew 6:122020-08-21T08:19:30-06:00

THE LORD’S PRAYER: All I Need Every Day – Matthew 6:11

March 6th 2016

listen to last Sunday’s worship set.


If you’ve been with us over the past few weeks, you know we’ve been walking through a series on the Lord’s prayer.  If you’re new with us, welcome, we’re really glad you’re here.  We’re going to be diving into one of the stanzas in this prayer and trying to ask God God, what do you want us to hear from this portion of this model prayer that you gave your disciples to pray — a way for them to interact with you.

I grew up in a church that was sorta “high church.”  It was a Presbyterian church and the pastor wore a robe every Sunday when he preached.  I think it was because he didn’t want to think about what he wore under it.  Every time he prayed….he had this sorta booming voice….his name was Ben Patterson and every time he prayed, you just felt like the Shekinah glory of the Lord filled the room.  I can remember as a kid sitting there, going I don’t think I’ll ever be able to pray like that.  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to talk to God in a way that I really feel like he hears me, because I don’t know that many big words and I don’t know how to do that and I don’t know how to enter in…..   I can remember feeling almost a little discouraged by prayer as a young kid because I felt so distant from the way it was suppose to be done.

There’s a story of a young boy who was at a Lutheran church with his mom.   The pastor got up and prayed and said, “Father God, remind us that we are but dust.”  The kid pulled his mom’s coat and said, “Mom, what’s “butt dust?”   I think sometimes that’s the way prayer feels.  It feels a little bit like “what are we doing here?”  What are we doing when we interact with God?  What are we doing when we talk to God?  Does prayer really change things? God explicitly says I already know what you need before you ask for it, but ask for it anyway.  Does that confuse anybody other than me?  I know what you need, but come on and ask me and sometimes I’m going to give it to you and sometimes I’m not and I could all the time, but you’ve just gotta trust me in that one.  Does that confuse anyone except me?  This is part of the tension of prayer, isn’t it, and yet, we recognize that prayer is distinctly and deeply powerful, isn’t it?

There’s a story of a woman who grew up in Latvia under the communist regime.  This great scholar, Kenneth Bailey, went over and was doing some teaching in Latvia after communism fell.  There was this group of young people that this woman was a part of.  He went up to her and asked her how she became a follower of Jesus. “Was it someone in your family that was a follower of Christ?”  She said, “No, I never met another follower of Jesus.  Nobody in my family followed Christ.”  “Was it a church that remained open under the communist regime?  Underground churches?”  “No, I’d never heard of any church.”  “Was it a missionary that came?”   She said, “No missionary ever came.”  Bailey pressed her and said, “Well then, how in the world did you become a follower of Christ?”  She said, “When we would go to funerals, they would still allow us to say the Lord’s Prayer. As we recited the Lord’s Prayer, God stirred something so deeply in me and drew me to himself.  As we said this prayer, I needed to know THIS God.”  That’s part of the power of prayer, isn’t it?  It introduces us to the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

If you’ve been with us over the first few weeks, we have looked at the first few stanzas of the Lord’s prayer. We looked at the fact that the foundation of prayer is this “Abba approach” to God — that we view God as our Father in heaven.  We talked about wrestling with that because every single one of us had an imperfect dad. To view God as Father means that we need to go to the Scriptures to ask the Scriptures what do they say about God as our Father.  We did that.  We need to remember that God is distinctly other — THE other.  He is holy, beyond compare.  He stands alone.  This is a tension, isn’t it?  God as Father and loving and welcoming us home AND as distinct and standing alone.  Last week we said your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  That this part of the prayer (your kingdom come, your will be done) is a longing for God, not only to make his name great here, but to change the world to reflect more of the ethic of heaven.  We said we don’t just pray that and sit on our hands, but we pray that and we step in to be part of the answer to the prayer.  I got an email from my dad just last night.  My dad is an engineer and he’s currently on a mission’s trip in Honduras teaching in some of their universities and working with kids.  Just listen to this paragraph from the email:  “God is on the move around the globe, taking back ground from the Enemy little by little.  From dusty schools in Honduras to sweaty slums in India (where he was last summer), wherever his people are being faithful to follow him into uncomfortable places at inconvenient times where success is wholly dependent on God’s provision.  I’m convinced once again that if we aren’t seeing the movement of God in the worlds we live in then we just aren’t looking in the right places or putting ourselves in the right positions.”  Yes!  Thank you, dad. So, your kingdom come, God, your will be done and we play a part in that.

The next part of the prayer is going to be three petitions.  The first three were about God:  1) God, make your name holy, make your name great; 2) God, make your kingdom; and 3) God, make your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  The next three parts of the prayer are about us:  1) God, give us this day our daily bread; 2) God, forgive us; and 3) God, lead us.  Those are the next three petitions and that’s where we’re going.  Today, we’re going to look at this little phrase — give us this day our daily bread.   “Daily bread” is this Greek word, “epiousion.”  It was an unknown word in the time that it was written.  As we looked through ancient Greek literature to find out what exactly this word meant and to unpack the distinctness of this word, there was almost zero literature on what this word really meant.  We knew that it meant daily bread, but early followers of Jesus really took this to be ethereal, to make it very spiritual — give us the spiritual sustenance we need to survive.  In 1914, a scholar by the name of Adolf Deissmann unpacked and found this little shopping list.  On the shopping list was this word “epiousion,” daily bread.  They solved this centuries old puzzle about what this word really means.  It really means…..bread.  It means….daily bread.  It meant fresh bread.  It meant bread that was not baked yesterday.  This is not the marked down bread in the grocery store and, no offense to the food bank, it’s not food bank bread.  It’s daily bread.  It was bread that was baked TODAY for TODAY.  That’s what the word meant.  So Jesus invites us to pray for the stuff we need in order to survive.  Prayer is very real in that way.  He says come to me.  Pray for the stuff you need in order to survive.

There’s just one problem I have with this prayer.  I’ve been thinking about this and I’ve been praying and I’ve been praying it in the morning before my feet hit the ground, but there’s a massive problem I have with praying for my daily bread.  I have a refrigerator full of food!  My guess is you do too!  So how do I pray for my daily bread when I have two loaves of bread in my refrigerator??  How do we do that??  Is there any point to praying this?   Let’s just be honest for a second, there’s people all around the globe who have never uttered this prayer and yet have eaten every single day.  And there’s people all around the globe who are praying this….and starving.  We’ve just gotta be honest with that reality, don’t we?  How do we, as followers of Jesus, in all honesty and all sincerity, pray give us today our daily bread when we have full bellies and full refrigerators? Are we just playing some spiritual game here with God?  Are we just jumping through the hoops?  We know we should pray it so we do, even though I know exactly what I’m going to eat next week because my wife wrote it up on our little menu that we have hanging in our dining room.  So are we just playing games?  Are we just jumping through religious hoops?  Does it make any difference whether we pray this or not?  Because I pray before my meal, but I very rarely honestly pray for my meal; in the sense that if God doesn’t provide I don’t know how I’m going to eat.  Some of you have been in that position.  Some of you may be even are right now (we do have a food bank).  That’s why we have a food bank.  We want to meet practical needs in our community and in this body.  That’s a huge ministry and so important, but if we were honest with ourselves, very few times have we wondered where our next meal was going to come from or when it was going to come. The closest I’ve been is when I’ve gone on vacation with Kelly’s family…..because they just don’t eat!  We get in the car and drive…..and I’m like oh goodness, I’m going to starve in this car.  Our family’s philosophy on vacation was “we’re not doing anything so we should probably just eat.”  Her family’s philosophy is “we’re not doing anything so we don’t need to eat.”  I like my family’s philosophy better.  Every In-and-Out Burger we went to on our way to California we stopped at.  We just gotta pay homage.  We just gotta do our part.  That’s the closest I’ve been to wondering where my next meal was going to come from—-being on vacation with my wife’s family.

So what’s the point of prayer then?  If we already know, and if we don’t we have a credit card in our back pocket, where our next meal’s going to come from, what’s the point?  Here’s the point.  The reality is, friends, that prayer does transform the world we live in and, maybe even more importantly, it shapes the people we become.  In 2 Chronicles 7:14, a well-known verse, it says: …if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.   I’m going to transform them and I’m going to transform the world that they live in.  This all happens by prayer.  This all happens because we start to seek the face of God and we long to hear his voice.  Prayer transforms the pray-er and then releases them in power!

I want to give you three things that praying “give us this day our daily bread,” even with a full belly and filled refrigerator, actually does for us.  I want to answer that question “why pray this if we already know where our next meal and our next twelve meals are going to come from?”  Why do that?  Let’s look at this verse again. Here’s what Jesus asks us to pray or the model he gives us to pray:  Give us this day our daily bread.  Here’s what Jesus wants to do.  He wants to ground you and I in the glorious present, in the now.  In the here.  He wants to break us out of the fact that so many of us live in a tainted past or an anxiety-ridden future and he wants to plant our feet firmly in the now.  Through prayer, that’s one of the things that he does; he teaches us how to be present.   The emphasis, in this passage, is on right now, today, God, give us what we need!  Prayer is putting aside…when we go to God and ask him God, would you provide for my every need…prayer is putting aside the debris, it’s putting aside the anxiety.  Prayer is putting aside the worry and asking God–God, will you meet me in this space, right now, with everything that I need.  It’s boldly standing, in the moment, in awe of who God is and receiving all that God wants to deliver.  That’s what prayer is.  We don’t pray in the past.  We don’t pray in the future.  We simply pray right now.  That’s what Jesus is inviting us to.  It’s part of, and it leads us to, the reality that God loves relationship with us.  If we were to pray hey, God, would you give me ALL the needs for 2016?  And he were to say absolutely.  Done deal.  And he were to give them all to us right then….you know what we would do?  We’d be like hey, let’s talk again January 1, 2017, and if you could make the deposit again then we’d be good again.  But praying “give us this day our daily bread” keeps us connected to the vine.  In John 15:5, Jesus says this:  I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  So when we pray “give us our daily bread,” we’re connecting ourselves to God in the now, in the present, and saying God, I need to hear your voice.  God, I need to feel your touch.  God, I need to receive your provision.  Not tomorrow, but God, I need it right now.  Let’s be honest, friends, some of us are riding a spiritual wave that crested and broke years and years ago.  This epiousion, this daily bread, is that.  It’s bread for the moment.  It’s bread for today, so Jesus is saying you don’t need to live on stale bread.  Come to me in the present.  Come to me in the now.

I love the way the great preacher, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, puts it: “The God who made heaven and earth, and orders the stars in their courses, likes to hear our lisping praises, likes to hear our petitions.”  Isn’t that great news?  Being grounded in the present naturally leads to enjoying His presence.  Because right now, in this moment, is the only time you can enjoy God’s presence.  When we’re tied up living in the past or when we’re anxiety-ridden living in the future failure that we anticipate coming, it’s impossible to enjoy God.  It’s only when we plant ourselves firmly in the now that we can enjoy the presence of our great God.  Jesus says pray give us this day our daily bread.  Here’s what we’d like to pray for—give us next year, give us whatever we need whenever we need it.  What he says is no, I want that connection, I want that every day.  I will give you enough provision for today and then let’s talk again tomorrow because I love to hear your voice and I want you to know Me and I want to be known by you.

So, does that mean that saving or planning is bad?  I’m sure somebody is thinking well, so should we not plan? Should we not have a full refrigerator?  Should we not have a retirement plan?  Should we just simply trust God in the every day and then make no provision for anything else?  That’s a great question, I’m glad you asked that. Dallas Willard actually answered that:   “Now, to make it clear about the teaching on prayer, it is quite alright to have things now that we intend to use tomorrow and to work or even pray in a sensible way for them.  What hinders or shuts down kingdom living is not the having of such provisions, but rather the trusting in them for future security.  {This is the key, guys.  Trusting in them for future security.}  We have no real security for the future in them, but only in the God who is present with us each day.”  That’s good!  It’s not what we have, it’s what we trust in.  It’s who we trust in that is the determining factor.

Here’s the way that Jesus goes on.  He says:  Give us this day our daily bread…  So I’ve been praying this and go Lord, you already gave it.  You already provided it.  I’ve got a full fridge and a filled belly……  I’m asking for something you’ve already given.  What I sense God saying was then praise me because I’ve already given it. Then honor me because I’ve already given it.  I’ve been good to you, I’m being good to you and now that you’re praying for it, you’re starting to realize I’ve already provided it.  Here’s one of the things that prayer does: 1) it creates a presence in the moment, but 2) it creates an awareness of the blessings that we already have.  When I pray for what I already have, I become aware of all that God has graciously given.  But if I don’t pray give us this day our daily bread, I might pray before my meal but I will never genuinely be in awe and grateful that God has provided it.  This type of prayer has led me to the realization that an abundance of products that we’re surrounded by erodes our awareness of God’s provision.  Let me say that again — the abundance of products that we’re surrounded by erodes our awareness of God’s provision.  Let me say it another way for you.  God’s consistency erodes my ability to see His goodness.  That’s true across the board.  Here’s how I know that:  Very few of you got up this morning and {breathing in}…..wow! I can’t believe I can still breathe.  This is a miracle! God, you have oxygen in the air!  You’re filling our lungs with breath.  You’re allowing my heart to keep beating! And all of these are gifts from God, but His consistency erodes my ability to see His goodness.  I woke up this morning…voice almost gone.   I’m like oh, Lord, come on!  But for the last 51 Sundays,  when my voice has been fine, I haven’t woken up and said, “Lord, thank you that my voice works today.”  Isn’t it strange how His consistent…like a river lapping over a rock….his goodness erodes our ability to see how absolutely amazing to us He’s being.  When was the last time you thanked God for some of the simple small things in life?  The breath in your lungs.  The sunrise coming up this morning….most likely the sun’s going to set over those beautiful mountains tonight.  When was the last time you just thanked Him?  When was the last time you opened your refrigerator and said man, Lord, I am blessed.  When was the last time you took a walk through your neighborhood and said hi to a few of your friends and thought Lord, thank you for fresh air.  Thank you for good friends.  Thank you for the blessing it is to be alive.  His goodness erodes our ability to see it.  His consistent goodness.

I just want to give you four things….I’m going to fly through these…..four things that when we become aware here’s what starts to happen in us.  An awareness prevents blessings from becoming burdens.  You go well, that doesn’t happen to me.  I think it does happen to you, let me give you an example of the way I’ve seen this in my own life.  I took my kids to the Children’s Museum in Littleton a few Fridays ago.  It was really muddy that day. My youngest son, Reid, is three and has a mind of his own now.  He was running all around.  He’d literally look for the mud and he’d just walk through it!  Clueless!  My daughter avoids it at all costs, but he is finding it at all costs.  We get back into the car and riding home and I feel these little feet kicking my seat!  I’m like God, help him!  I get out of the car and look at the back of my seat and it’s just covered in mud.  I’m like…..you kids!!!!! You’re so dirty!  (Ryan describes his frustration!)  I just sensed God saying, “Praise me for the mess!  Praise me for the mud!  Because the mud is tied to one of the biggest blessings I’ve ever given you.”  If you lose sight of the awareness, the blessing has a tendency to start to be a burden.

Here’s the second thing that happens.  If we are aware of what God’s given, it guards us against the comparison trap.  Of—-God, you’ve given me THIS, but you’ve given them THAT!  And come on, You’ve gotta give a little bit more.  And let’s just be honest a moment, Pinterest and Instagram are not helping us at all in this department. It’s so easy to compare to everybody else.  You see what somebody else makes for dinner and you’re like, “Sweet Lord!  How many hours did that take?”  Are they a real person?!  We start to diminish the blessings God’s given us because we look at some of the things we’ve…..but if we become aware of the fact God, there is a race that you have called ME to run.  Not anybody else but me and I want to run it in a way that honors and lifts high your name.  I think that’s a word for a lot of moms here.  As a mom, it’s so easy to compare yourself to what other people are doing and how other people are raising their kids.  It’s so easy to compare yourself and go man, if I could do a little bit better here or a little bit better there……I see so many moms walking around with so much guilt.  I just want to say take a step back.  Remind yourself of what God’s given you.  Become aware of the blessings in your life and then run the race that God’s called you to run.

So it keeps blessings from becoming burdens.  It guards against the comparison trap.  It stops complaining.  I love reading through the story of Israel in the desert and how after manna was falling for a time they started complaining to God.  Let’s just zoom back.  I get it!  Eating the exact same thing every single day, day after day……I like a little bit of differentiation, too.  If it were burritos falling from heaven I’d be like I’m all in!!  But manna, really.  It was everything they needed and nothing more.  That’s all it was.  They start complaining to God…..about a MIRACLE!  They’re in the desert.  Bread is falling from the sky every single morning.  They get up and go…..I’d really like some quail!  I’d like a little bit of meat.  One of my favorite passages in the whole Scriptures…..God’s like….you want meat??  I’ll give you meat!!  So many quail came that it said it was coming out of their nostrils!!  They’re like okay, fine, manna’s good!  We love manna!  Could we get some Nutella to put on it?!

I’m convicted about how many times I’ve complained about a miracle.  If we become aware—-and prayer’s one of the ways we do this—-and are reminded that God has already given us our daily bread, it prevents us from having blessings that become burdens, it prevents us from comparing ourselves to others, it prevents us from complaining about a miracle and it prevents us from becoming entitled.  To think that we deserve everything we get.   No, no, no, no, no, friends!  This is gift.  This is grace.  ALL of life is grace.  There’s not one little part of it that isn’t grace.  Here’s what happens.  When we become aware, the most natural thing that flows from that is…..God, you’re amazing!  God, I’m so thankful!  We started this by asking should we really pray this prayer if we have a full belly and a filled fridge.  Does that make any sense?  My argument is oh, absolutely!! Because it not only transforms the world you live in, but it transforms the people we become because it grounds us in the glorious present and it allows us to enjoy relationship with God.  Because it allows us to become aware of all the blessings that God has given us and to respond with gratitude.  You see, an awareness of God’s provision should always be an invitation to a life of gratitude.  Always. Always. Always.  If we lose sight of this ultimate reality that we are really dependent beings….because we start to go God, I’ve worked for that. I’ve done that.  Here’s what His response is: tell me more about that.  Tell me more about how you’ve worked for it, because I’d like to tell you about how I wired you and how I gave you the gifts that you have and how I gave you the mind that you have and how I gave you the body you have and how I gave you the air that’s in your lungs and how I wired you…….    Because EVERYTHING we have is a gift from God.  If we lose sight of that perspective, we lose sight of it all.

Finally—–Give US this day OUR daily bread.  I was astounded as I prayed back through this prayer over and over again that at every place there’s a pronoun it’s plural.  OUR father…..   Give US OUR daily bread…..   Forgive US OUR trespasses…….   Lead US not into temptation…..   Deliver US…..    I was convicted of how many prayers that I pray are “me” centered.  These prayers are plural.  Our God is a plural God and He invites us to pray plural prayers.  I can’t pray or model my prayer life after this prayer and pray only for me.  It breaks me outside of my egocentric bubble and springs me into the world that God has created, the people that God has created and the life that God has created me to live.  Give US this day OUR daily bread.  We talked last week about praying thy kingdom come and thy will be done and how it naturally launches us into being the solution to the prayer that we prayed.  The same is true when we pray give us OUR daily bread.    Here’s what it does.  It creates solidarity.  Not just an awareness of, but a connection to, people around the world that don’t have enough.  {Friends, look up at me for a second.}  We’ve got to find a solution to this problem.  There’s more than enough food in the world to feed everybody.  You know that, right?   We burn food.  So maybe somebody in this room is smart enough to be part of the solution to this problem.  But we can’t pray give US this day our daily bread with all sincerity, if we don’t care about the people in the US who don’t have enough.  God has to stir something in our heart, God has to stir something in our soul as we pray that.  One of the huge benefits of prayer in the way Jesus taught us to pray is that it ties us together with not only our needs individualistically, but the needs of the entire world and this is part of the community of faith that we are a part of.  What I’ve found is that it’s really difficult to judge somebody and pray for them.  You can try it and maybe you can find a way to do it.  I haven’t been able to.  I can’t find a way to judge somebody and pray for them.

Here’s what happens—-Solidarity with people in need creates a mission in my soul.  It stirs it up.  It sends me out.  It’s why so many of you are helping with Family Promise this coming week.  Because you’ve been praying……God’s put this on your heart and you’ve stepped into the mission.   It’s why some of you are praying about going to India or China this summer.  Because you’re praying and you’re going God, how do we become a part of the solution to the problem.  Give us this day our daily bread…..and there’s millions and millions and millions around the globe for whom that prayer is not being answered for them in the way it’s being answered for us.  It’s why so many of you, every single week, give so many hours to our food bank.  {Look up at me a second.}  You’re making a difference!  You’re making a huge difference in very real needs, but more than that, you’re making a difference in people and they’re meeting Jesus and the kingdom of God is expanding and pushing back the darkness.  Thank you!  But prayer is where that begins.  Prayer is where that’s birthed.  You show me somebody who prays give US today OUR daily bread and I will show you somebody who doesn’t just think about themselves, but who’s engaged with the needs of the people around them.

There’s this story about this monk who left his commune and went away to the mountains for a number of weeks to spend time seeking the Lord….by himself.  He came back after those few weeks and he stepped back into the commune with the other monks.  One of the monks said to him, “You don’t look any different.”  He looked back at him and said, “No, but you do!”  That’s the power of prayer.  It’s not so much that it changes us in a way that people can always see, but it changes the way that we see everybody else.  The type of prayers we pray determines the kind of people we become.  {Write that down.}  The type of prayers we pray determines the kind of people we become.

We all have very real needs.  Most of the time they’re not bread.  Full fridges and filled bellies.  But there are things that we genuinely do need and that’s what the crux of this phrase and this prayer is about.  Come to me with your needs.  Come to me with the things that are lacking and I want to fill you up is what God says.  One of the things you and I need I think Mother Teresa summarized really well.  Here’s what she said: “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved and uncared for.  We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair and hopelessness is love.  There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread, but there are many more dying for a little love.  The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty—-it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love as there is a hunger for God.”   Wow!!

Imagine if we started to become the type of people who genuinely prayed give us today our daily bread.  As we prayed it, we grounded ourselves in the glorious now—-the only time that we can have relationship with God. Right now.  And as we prayed it we became aware of all the ways in our life that God has already answered this prayer.  And it started to link our hearts with the people around us that don’t have enough and challenged us to be part of the solution.  What might this community of faith look like if we really started to do this?  What might God do with us if we started to say I’ve got more than enough and I’d love to meet that need for you. What would God do through a community of faith, like this church, if we started to embrace His heart for the people who don’t have enough and we started to assume that God wanted us to be the answer to the prayer. Here’s what would happen, friends, and I know this because it has already happened.  It would change the world!  It’s done it once.  The prayer I want to pray is God, will you, through us, do it again?!

For two millennium, followers of Jesus have been coming to this table.  They’ve been coming to this table to remind themselves that while we live by bread, we do not live by bread alone.  We’ve been coming to remind ourselves at this table, for over two thousand years, that the true bread, the true genuine bread that we really need, every single one of us, is Jesus himself.  In the book of John 6:35, he says I am the bread of life.  And if you eat of this bread, you will have eternal life.  He says I am the bread of life, so come and eat my flesh and drink my blood and if you don’t you have no part of me.  In doing so, what he was saying was you’ve got to take me in, you’ve got to allow me to become a part of you.  You can’t just associate with me. You’ve got to take me in in a way that transforms you at the very core of who you are.   And followers of Jesus, for two thousand years, have been coming to this table to remember that He is the genuine, true bread that our hearts long for and He is the giver of all that we need.  As you come this morning, come knowing that He longs and loves to hear your voice.  He loves to meet your needs.  Come present, now.  Come aware and as you come remember there’s followers of Jesus all around the globe this morning celebrating this table.  You’re part of that community of faith.  {Communion begins.}

 

THE LORD’S PRAYER: All I Need Every Day – Matthew 6:112020-08-21T08:20:23-06:00

The Lord’s Prayer – Kingdom Invasion – Matthew 6:10

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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.

(Matthew 6:9–13 ESV)

THE LORD’S PRAYER: Kingdom Invasion    Matthew 6:10

We’ve been in a series over the last few weeks, looking at this Lord’s Prayer.  When Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them how to pray, Jesus responded by giving them the Lord’s Prayer.  It’s not a prayer that we’re intended, necessarily, to say every week or every day, although there’s tradition throughout the history of the church that the church has.  In fact, early followers of Christ would say this prayer three times every single day.  But it’s more of a pattern that Jesus gives his disciples to follow, rather than a prayer to pray every day.  He says first and foremost that we should address God as “Father.”  That when we think about God, the first thought that should come to our mind is that he is the divine good father who chases us down and runs after us and welcomes us home.  We should also remember that God’s holy and that we should go to God, not only with an acknowledgement of his fatherhood, but an acknowledgement of his holiness.  If any of us were to see God face-to-face, not covered with the righteousness of Jesus, we would be consumed by his perfection.  The person of prayer is the person that holds these two things in tension: the fatherhood of God and the holiness of God.

Then Jesus changes gears a little bit.  He says then pray your kingdom come, God, and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  As I was thinking about this part of this epic prayer that Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, I was reminded of my son who just turned three.  Reid—-he is the happy-go-lucky kid.  He’s our youngest of three kids.  He just turned three last weekend, which means that he went to bed a sweet, little boy and he woke up possessed!!  Those of you that have kids know this drill and whoever coined the term “the terrible twos” obviously did not have a three-year-old yet, because there is an avalanche coming for them that they have no idea about. Reid went to bed a sweet two-year-old and woke up a possessed three-year-old, so this is what his week looked like.  He decided that he only wanted to eat granola bars.  He woke us up, by cover of darkness, 5 AM, right in our faces……you know that drill as a parent when you wake up and your kids are right there!!  Oohhh!!!  He’s like, “Want a bar, daddy.” “I’m going to need to go to a bar if you keep this up!!”  Then he transitions into….alright, I’m going to branch out into the yogurt category.  I will eat granola bars AND yogurt.  Demanded a yogurt.  He was graciously brought a yogurt, in a little tube, and he outright refused it!  Pushed it across the table.  I’m like so that’s how it’s gonna be.  I took that yogurt and {slurping sound} popped it right in there.  He started bawling!!!  I want the yogurt!!  I want the yogurt!!  Just a normal day in the sanctified Paulson household. Kelly, my wife, was eating a salad for lunch and he told her, “You can’t eat that!  That came from outside.  Those are leaves.  You shouldn’t eat leaves!”  She had her hair up yesterday.  He said, “Mommy, I don’t like your hair up.  You gotta put your hair down.”  He said, “Daddy, I want to snuggle with you in bed.” {This is all last week!}   I jump in bed with him and start snuggling with him and he goes, “Get out of here!”  “Gladly, my child.  God bless you.  Good luck.”  Here’s what he’s doing.  He’s attempting to build his kingdom.  He’s exerting his will.  He’s decided that he has an idea of how the world around him should function and should relate to him and by all means, we should be on our tippy toes waiting to accommodate his every whim and desire.  Here’s the thing.  If my son got everything he desired, the world would be a disaster.  And if you got everything you desired……the world would be a disaster.

From the get-go in the Lord’s prayer, Jesus teaches us to pray.  And he teaches us to not only address God as Father and not only to remember God is holy, but immediately after that, before we ask Him for anything else, before we request that new car or that new house or that new whatever sparkly thing we need…….and we’ll get to some of that next week and the core desires of the human soul that we all have and we’re invited to pray about those things…….but before we ever pray about anything for us, we’re invited to surrender our desires. That’s the hard thing about prayer.  Prayer is encountering a God who is way bigger than us and surrendering our kingdom and saying, “God, my desire is not that you would build my kingdom and it’s not that you would do every single little thing that I ask you and it’s not that my life would go perfect according to my plan.”  But the second thing we’re invited to beckon, to ask, to petition God about in prayer is not for us, it’s for Him.  It’s for His kingdom.  Could we be honest for a moment and say that’s a really hard thing to pray, isn’t it?  Because we have to surrender our desires and our wants and our ideas of the way that we think the world should go and those are pretty ingrained in us.  Prayer, at its foundation, is acknowledging God as Father, remembering God as holy and then surrendering our desires and opening our hands to Him.  And saying God, what you want to have happen is what I want to have happen.  And sometimes we say that through gritted teeth, don’t we?  What I want to have happen, God, is ultimately what you want to have happen.

Jesus uses this term “kingdom.”  We ask God, would you allow your kingdom to come.  It’s a word that has a ton of misunderstanding that surrounds it.  A lot of us, when we think about the “kingdom of God,” think about a distant someday. We think about the day when God will come and set up His kingdom on earth.  It’s the same kingdom the Jewish people were thinking of and totally missed their Messiah.  We think of the kingdom that God will someday set up on earth.  He will.  Someday He will.  He IS coming back!   The Scriptures are unequivocally clear about this fact.  He is coming back.  BUT……the fact that God will come back and set up his kingdom in the distant future, does not negate the scriptural absolutism that God does reign right now!  We have this….the theologians would call it a “now, but not yet” reality of the kingdom.  It’s this God reigns right now, but just wait, someday He’s going to reign in a beautiful, masterful way.  So when Jesus steps onto the scene, He starts teaching.  I would invite you to read back through the gospel accounts and see if I’m not right when I say THE point of Jesus’ preaching and teaching in the New Testament is about the kingdom of God.  It’s about God’s reign in the here and the now.  He (Jesus) says:  From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, {This beautiful invitation.  Turn.  You can follow after Jesus.  Just chase after him.  Turn.}  …for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 4:17)    It’s not a distant some day.  It’s TOday.

The kingdom of God could literally be defined as the effective rule and reign of Jesus.  Think of it like this:  the kingdom of God is the place and the space where what God wants to have happen HAPPENS.  It’s where God’s…..who God is and the plan that God has for the world starts to take root and it invades the kingdom of this earth and the empires of the earth.   When Jesus says, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is near,” he’s saying that the kingdom of God is enacting war on the kingdom of Darkness.  The kingdom comes in opposition to and alongside of the kingdoms of this world.  They both exist at the same time.  So that’s why you go well, Paulson, I’m not so sure that the kingdom of God is at hand, because I open my news app or open my newspaper and see what’s going on in the world and it just doesn’t look like Jesus reigns.  To that I say….you’re right!  But, there are places all around the globe where the kingdom….this is one of those places where the kingdom is breaking out.  And one does not negate the other.  It does not.  So the kingdom of God, right now, is alongside the empires of the earth and when we pray God, YOUR kingdom come and YOUR will be done, what we’re saying is God, push back the darkness with your marvelous light.  Extinguish oppression and abuse and hate with your goodness, your love and your mercy.  That’s what we’re praying.

When I was a college pastor, I took some of my students up to a leadership retreat.  We had the chance to go to this natural hot springs.  It was up in Mammoth, in California.  There was this river that was ice cold, mountain run-off, snow melt.  Bubbling up in this little sandbar, there was this scalding hot water coming from the center of the universe {or wherever it comes from}.  It was so hot that you could hardly put your hand on it.  You dive into the river and swim across as fast as you can because it’s freezing.  Then you get to the part of the river that feels like a hot tub!  It’s awesome!  Was the river cold or hot??  YES!  Yes, it was.  The hot water was right along side the cold water and it really depended on where you sat.

So when Jesus says the kingdom of God is here, it’s at hand, we look at the paper and go I don’t get it.  Jesus would say back to us, “Well, pray my kingdom come and my will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  There are places where this is breaking out!  In Ephesians 2:2, Paul writing to the church at Ephesus says that enemy, Satan, is the “prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.”  Earlier, in Ephesians 1:21, he said that Jesus is far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.    We live in this tension, friends, of the “already, but not yet” nature of the kingdom.  The prince and power of the air and yet the victory of Jesus and the choice is ours.  What kingdom do we want to live in?  What kingdom do we want to carry?  What kingdom do we want to be a part of?  Dallas Willard, the great philosopher/pastor/theologian, says it like this:  “Persons other than God, such as you or I, are still allowed on earth to have a ‘say’ that is contrary to his will.  A kingdom of darkness is here, certainly, and the kingdoms of many individuals who are still ‘trying to run their own show.’ All of this God still permits.”  And I would add….for a time.

Jesus invites us to pray “your kingdom come, your WILL be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  So we’re people that long for the reign and the will of God to take root in our neighborhoods, in our homes, in our workplaces, in our marriages.  We’re people that pray God, have your way.  Which begs the question: are there places where God doesn’t have his way?  Are there places where God’s hands are tied?  Are there places where God wants to do something but just simply can’t?  If we pray, your kingdom come and your will be done, there must be places that God’s will is NOT being done.  Right?  That’s true.  You don’t have to look that far to recognize that earth does not look like, is not a mirror image of, the picture we have of heaven.  It’s not.  So the followup question would be: so, Paulson, you DON’T believe in the sovereignty of God then?   You’d have to ask that if we were sitting over a cup of coffee.  And I’d take a long drink of coffee and respond, “No! Absolutely, I do!!”  I do believe in the sovereignty of God, I just simply don’t define the sovereignty of God as determinism. Philosophical determinism would mean God simply just pulls the strings and you and I are all just marionettes and God’s pulling the strings and He’s sort of controlling the world in that way.  That’s not what I believe the Bible teaches as the sovereignty of God.  The sovereignty of God means that God can do whatever God wants to do whenever God wants to do it.  The tension we step into is….God, it seems like you don’t want to do it all that often.  It seems like, God, that you don’t want to step in.  Why is that, God, that you don’t step in more in these types of situations?  Are your hands tied?  Or are you frustrated?  The question we wrestle with is this: how does Jesus answer this prayer?  We affirm that God is sovereign and that all of history is going to culminate at a certain point.  The Bible tells that very, very clearly….that God is indeed sovereign and yet, as people, we have freedom and responsibility and his longing is that we follow Him.  So God, how do you answer the prayer “your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven?”  How does that prayer get answered?

Here’s how it gets answered in the Scriptures.  Flip over to Matthew 9:35.  Listen to the way that the gospel writer, Matthew, records this portion of the life of Christ.   And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming {or preaching} the gospel of the kingdom…    This was his message.  So he goes and preaches the gospel of the kingdom and he heals every disease and every affliction.  So Jesus steps in and goes I’m going to be the answer to that prayer.  I’m going to proclaim that the kingdom of God is here, it’s at hand, it’s now.  And I’m going to display that through signs and wonders where people are healed and where freedom and vitality and life are restored where it was simply dead or dying and desolate.  That’s part one of how Jesus answers that prayer.

There’s a second part, though, of how Jesus answers that prayer.  Matthew 10:5-8 says this: These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’   Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.    So the first part of Jesus’ answer to that prayer—God, allow your kingdom to come and allow your will to be done and we want the kingdom of God to invade the kingdom of darkness—-is to preach it and proclaim it and then go live it.  And then He sends His followers out to do the same.  Part one of the answer to the prayer is Him.  Part two to the answer to the prayer……is US.  It’s us saying, we have been rescued from the dominion of darkness and we have been placed into the kingdom of light, the kingdom of love and the kingdom of peace and shalom and healing and goodness and grace and mercy and we can’t just sit on that!!  We have got to be people who then carry the kingdom into the world.  Jesus envisions a community of people who don’t just pray that his kingdom would come, but who proclaim and live that it is NOW!!  I love the way the great, 20th century theologian, Karl Barth, puts it: “To clasp hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of this world.”  That’s awesome!!! Because we just don’t pray and passively sit back.  We pray and we anticipate and we step in.  It’s never passive, it’s always participatory.   As we pray God, your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven….we start to be challenged to be, not just pray-ers of the prayer, but part of the answer to that prayer.  As the disciples were when they went and preached and lived the kingdom.

Here’s what prayer does on a very foundational and fundamental level.  Prayer confronts our desire to want to escape and it challenges us to embrace Jesus’ appeal for us to invade.  When we pray your kingdom come and your will be done, we acknowledge God, you have a plan…but we also acknowledge God, we have a part.  We carry that kingdom.  When we live in the way of Jesus in our workplaces, in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in the area that God’s called us to have influence….when we start to live in the way of Jesus, we carry the kingdom and his kingdom comes in conflict with the kingdom of darkness and hate and abuse and oppression and it combats with light and love and liberty and hope.  And you’re part of that!

But we only offer the things that we carry.  June 6, 1944.  The Allied troops stormed the shores of Normandy. You’ve read about this.  It’s called D-Day.  Over 150,000 Allied troops bravely and boldly got out of their ships, swam to shore and started to fight against an enemy.  An enemy who said life doesn’t matter.  An enemy who said if we have the power, we’re going to oppress rather than serve.  The Allied forces said enough is enough. They stormed the beaches of Normandy—150,000 men that day.  Nine thousand of them lost their life.  Here’s the deal, friends.  It would have been way easier to just stay in the boat.  It would have been so much easier to just try to escape rather than to invade.  Invasion is costly.  Invasion takes determination.  Invasion requires that we live differently with a different value, a different ethic and a different perspective, but in proximity with people who need this message.  Invasion is dangerous!  We would absolutely celebrate the people that got out of the boat, that stormed the shore with this message of freedom.  General Dwight D. Eisenhower said this at the time:  “The eyes of the world are upon you.  The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.”

Around that same time, there was a now-Christian author who writes about his experience about growing up in Nazi-Germany.  He was a part of the state-sanctioned church.  Their church butted right up against and was in back of the train tracks they used to transport prisoners to concentration camps.  Jewish people packed these train cars and as they were in worship services, they would hear the train cars go by and they would hear the whistle blow and they knew that the train was coming.  When the train came into the station, they would hear the screams of the people on this train.  And the church just lamented this reality, but felt like their hands were tied.  What they did was time the singing and the service to be at the same time that the train would come into town.  When they heard the screams of the people, they just sang louder.  It’s this tendency we all have to escape rather than to invade, to play it safe rather than to take ground, to protect ourselves rather than to be part of the solution.  I don’t know about you, but I think there’s areas in our lives and in our nation and in our environment right now where we’re just singing louder.  I want to appeal to you on behalf of the Scriptures, on behalf of God, to say that it cannot be!  We can’t go down like that!  The “prevent-defense” worked for the Broncos—they won the Super Bowl.  It will never work for the church!  It won’t!  You and I have everything we need to be the type of people that push back the darkness with the love of Jesus.  His spirit lives inside of you and there are pockets that you have access to where they need to know that there is hope and they need to know that there is healing and they need to know that there is forgiveness and YOU are God’s person to answer the prayer “thy kingdom come and thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  He’s going I’m giving you that message, church, carry it!  Live it!  Proclaim it!  Invite people into it with his power and for his glory.

I want to answer that question—what does it look like to be the type of people that really, truly invade rather than escape.  Here’s the first thing I want to point out:  Escapism looks for a path to leave; invasion looks for a way to love.  Let me just point out to you, Jesus, in this penultimate prayer where he teaches his disciples to pray, says your kingdom COME and your will be DONE.  He doesn’t say hey, take us away to your kingdom.  It’s not a prayer of escape.  It’s a prayer of invasion.  It’s not hey, Jesus, would you get us out of here; this is getting really tough.  It’s really hard.  We’re facing some serious persecution here.  His disciples were undoubtedly about to walk right into that.  The prayer is not “get us out of here;” the prayer is “allow us to be the type of people that bring what’s THERE down here.”  That’s the prayer.  For too long, the ultimate hope followers of Jesus have carried is an escape to a disembodied existence before God where we could get out of the place and He goes that’s not my plan.  My plan is I invade.  My plan is my kingdom takes hold and takes root on “earth as it is in heaven.”  So the Apostle Paul, in writing to the church in Philippi, says this: For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.  Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.  {He’s saying I’d much rather die and be with Jesus, but He’s got me here!  And if he’s got me here then there’s a reason he’s got me here.}   I am hard pressed between the two.  My desire is to depart and be Christ, for that is far better.  But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. (Phil. 1:21-24)   So as much as what is in me wants to be there, I know that God has placed me here.  If He’s placed me here, I’m not going to look for a way to leave, I’m going to look for a path to love.  It’s so much easier to say I want to find a way out than I want to find a pathway to love.  Some of you are in marriages right now where you’re saying listen, it would be way easier to just leave.  Let me take a time out and say that there are some instances where you should.  But there’s also some instances where it’s just not meeting your needs and it’s not meeting your desires and the world doesn’t seem to be revolving around you in the way that you want it to and to you I say, please, take it before the Lord and ask Him if this is a time to leave or if this is a time to love. Because it’s way easier to just say I’m outta here than it is to say I’m going to look for a pathway to love.

I had a friend say to me the other day–if so-and-so gets elected, I’m out of here!!  I’m going to Canada!  I’m like dude, you need to do your research, because what you’re fearing is what’s already there!  I’m like come on!  I am sick of followers of Jesus who say if it doesn’t go my way, I’m outta here.  I want followers of Jesus who say we will be a beacon of light in the darkness and we will carry the hope of Christ to the places it is not and regardless of how bad it gets, we will not lose our voice and we will not lose our calling to be people of grace and truth and the mercy of Jesus in a world, hear me, friends, that desperately needs it!!  We cannot be people who value escape more than we value influence.  So, escapism says I’m going to value insulation.  Invasion, however, is built around influence.  Escapism says I’m going to insulate myself.  I’m going to build a bubble and live in a bubble.  I can control the bubble.  You need to ask me if you want to come into my bubble and if I don’t like you or don’t like what you’re going to say and I disagree with you, I will have my bubble and you’re not allowed to come into it.  Well, guess what happens when you live in your bubble?  You don’t get to interact with anybody outside of your bubble.  And if you don’t get to interact with anybody outside of your bubble, can you please tell me how you plan on being a light to a dark world?  So when Jesus says pray thy kingdom come and thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven, it requires, friends, that as the people of God who carry the kingdom of God with us that we are the type of people who say that as difficult as it is and as hard as it is we’re not going to value insulation more than we value influence.

Here’s the area that’s hardest for me.  It’s hardest for me when it comes to my kids.  Because I want to protect my kids.  I want to say hey, don’t climb that and don’t fall, although there’s some trees they should climb…..without a helmet.  There’s some trees they should climb and there’s some falls they should take and they’re going to be better for it in the end.  But as a parent, I find myself wrestling between protecting my kids and wanting to protect my kids and feeling a calling from God to protect my kids and preparing them.  Preparing them to be agents of change and to be agents of influence and to live a life of purpose in this world that they’re going to live in.  As parents, Kelly and I have come to the conclusion that we want to raise kids who are invaders not escapers.  So there’s some things that I’d love to protect them from, but I know it’s more important that they’re prepared so I’m going to let them go there and it might be a little bit sharp and it might be a little bit difficult, but I’m going to shepherd them through it and I’m going to love them through it and I’m going to point them through it because I want to raise invaders not escapers.  I want to raise a generation that storms the gates of hell and who invade the kingdom of darkness with the marvelous light of Jesus.  That’s what I want to do as a parent.  I feel like I’m in good company because that’s what Jesus was about. Here’s what Jesus says:  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10)  That’s his mission. And every time I load my kid onto the bus in the morning, my prayer is Jesus, would you use him for your mission.  Would it be easier and safer to do something else?  Yep.  But I desperately want my kids to be part of the mission of God. William Temple put it like this: “The Church is the only institution that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members.”  Who has God called you to influence?  Who are you praying for, “God, let your kingdom come and your will be done in {insert whoever, whatever} on earth as it is in heaven?”

First, we said that escapism looks for a path to leave; invasion looks for a way to love.  Escapism values insulation; invasion is built around influence.  Escapism operates in fear; invasion walks in faith. The invitation of “thy kingdom come and thy will be done” is saying back to the King of kings and the Lord of lords that we surrender it all.  We long for your kingdom and we long to be used as people who carry the goodness and mercy of Jesus into really, really dark places.  Did you know that you cannot pray this is fear has gripped your heart? You can’t pray this is fear has gripped your heart.  We were talking as a life group about this idea of God being holy and God being other and yet us not having a spirit of fear and timidity, but a spirit of adoption by where we can call our God “Father.”  One of the people in our group points out well, yeah but Jesus said:  And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matt. 10:28)  {Anyone got a tattoo of that one?!}  What’s Jesus saying?  Jesus is saying that we are going to be aware of how small we are.  You cannot run from that, you cannot hide from that and so we’re going to place our fear or reverence or awe in something and what we choose to “fear” or revere or worship will be the thing that defines our life, so Jesus tells us to fear the right thing, to live in reverence and awe of the right thing and it will, in turn, free you to walk in the way of God.  But for too long followers of Christ have feared the wrong thing.  We fear what people will think of us, what people will say about us, how we’ll be received and how we will be either celebrated or not celebrated and we’ve got to start fearing the right thing and revering the right thing, friends.  Because escapism operates in fear.  Invasion, storming the beach says we will not live in fear, we will live in faith.

Here’s why that’s so important.  Because some of the areas of darkness that God is going to call you to walk into will not lose their hold overnight.  It’s not going to be easy.  This last week, we celebrated “Slavery Awareness Day,” where we remembered 27 million slaves that are still in the world today.  Most of them in two industries—one of them is sex slavery, the other is child labor.  I can just tell you that if you’re a person that prays “thy kingdom come thy will be done” and THAT’S an area that’s placed on your heart, the kingdom of darkness is not going to let go of its hold easily.  It’s not.  And you can’t walk in with fear, you’ve got to walk in with faith.  If you’re the type of person that says listen, I’m going to invest in the homeless community around us and I’m going to serve with “Family Promise” or I’m going to serve in “Celebrate Recovery” to bring hope and to bring freedom to the many people that have hurts, habits and hang-ups in our neighborhood and in our church, that darkness is not going to let its hold go easily.  It’s not.  As followers of Christ, we have to be people who remember who we are and walk in faith rather than in fear.

Finally, escapism finds reasons to complain; invasion looks for ways to bring about change.  When I’m focused on the things I fear, I start to complain.  I’ve just noticed that in me.  When I’m focused on the things I fear, I start to complain, but when I’m focused on the God who says I’m bigger than your fears, I start to be a person that God uses to influence and bring about change in his beautiful world.  So here’s a few diagnostic questions for you.  1) Do you think about how bad the world is getting or how much potential there is with the gospel? Which occupies more of your thought base?  2) Do you focus more on what could go wrong or how God might move?  What occupies the space of your soul?  3) Are your thoughts more consumed with the people against you, or on the ONE who is for you?  Here’s what I’ve noticed.  It’s so easy for me to escape into places of fear and of wanting to leave and of wanting to control that I lose the mission of God that we get to carry the kingdom into really dark, really broken, really hurting places.  That is an absolute honor for us and we cannot shrink back at the darkness.  We must be people that carry the good news and the hope of Jesus into his broken, yet beautiful, world.  That’s our calling, friends, as followers of Christ.

I want to encourage you to be the type of person that invades rather than escapes and that we pray with conviction and then we act in confidence.  And it’s going to look different for every person around you.  Some of you it’s going to be praying for your neighborhood and then throwing a block party on Memorial Day to get to know your neighbors that you’ve lived next to for a decade and don’t know their names.  Or it’s going to be we’re going to invite some of our kids’ friends over for a barbecue.  Or I’m going to share my faith at my workplace.  Or I’m going to start having a time of prayer before work and I’m going to invite people to come with me.  Or I’m going to volunteer and serve at “Family Promise” or “Celebrate Recovery” or with the refugees that are coming to our area.  Some of you, it’s just going to be, listen, God, I want your kingdom to come and your will to be done so I’m going to turn off my phone when it’s time to be done with work and I’m going to be present with the people around me and I’m going to genuinely look for ways to serve them and love them.  It could look really different for every single person in here, but the principle is this:  we are called as followers of Christ to not just live in the kingdom, but to carry it.  Jesus preached the kingdom and lived the kingdom and he invites his followers, you and I, to be a part of his mission.  Friends, please, please, please….let’s not value escape more than invasion.  Let’s look for ways to love rather than leave.  Let’s look for ways to be an influence rather than insulate ourselves.  Let’s look for ways and encourage each other to walk in faith rather than in fear. And let’s look for ways to BE the change rather than being voices of complaining.  Let’s pray.

I just want to create some space for you to just sit for a moment.  Take a deep breath.  God, what are some areas that you would have us be light.  What are some of the beaches in our life that we need to just storm with your love and with your grace and with your mercy.  Father, in so many areas and spaces in our life it would be a lot easier to leave than to love.  So Lord, help us be people of invasion.  For the person in this room that’s thinking of giving up and leaving, would you give them the strong sense from your spirit today that they’re called to love.  For the person, Lord, who’s just living in fear….fear of what people will think about them, fear of their past catching up with them, fear of the future and anticipating what might go wrong, Lord, I pray that, by your Spirit, you would stir in them a refreshing of faith today.  Lord, for all of us, it’s easier to complain than to be part of the change, so give us eyes to see and ears to hear what places you’re calling us into that we might be beacons of light and beacons of hope, that we truly, genuinely would see your kingdom come and your will be done in the broken, beautiful places in our lives and on this earth as it is in heaven.  It’s in the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer – Kingdom Invasion – Matthew 6:102020-10-15T16:27:07-06:00

The Lord’s Prayer – Behind the Veil

Feb 21st 2016

listen to last Sunday’s worship set.

THE LORD’S PRAYER:Behind the Veil  Matthew 6:9

In 1939, Hollywood took a novel and turned it into a movie.  The novel was by L. Frank Baum.  It was a novel about a girl who’s in this sorta magical land called…..anyone?  Oz!  Dorothy is on this journey through Oz trying to find her way home.  As she goes along the yellow brick road, she picks up a few traveling companions along the way….the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, Scarecrow.  It’s this journey to try to get into the Inner Chamber to meet with the Wizard of Oz.  When they finally get there, encountering all sorts of resistance along, they meet the Wizard of Oz.  They step into his chamber and see a floating head, fire, smoke and hear a voice.  While the Wizard of Oz is speaking to them—you may remember this from the movie, this very climatic scene—after each of the people steps forward to talk to the Wizard of Oz…..    The Wizard of Oz is portrayed as this character that’s filled with a little bit more anger than he should have been.  He’s got some smoke behind him.  He’s got this booming voice that strikes fear and terror into all four of the people standing before him.  As he’s speaking to them, Toto goes and pulls the curtain back.  Behind the curtain is this little old man, whose hot air balloon had landed him in Oz and he assumed the role of the Wizard of Oz.  He’s speaking into a microphone and pulling some levers that cause the fire to happen and the smoke to happen.  When they pull the curtain back, there’s not a whole lot there.

L. Frank Baum was asked over and over again: what’s the book really about?  What’s the deeper meaning to the Wizard of Oz?  Each time he was asked, he denied any sort of allegory whatsoever and said it’s simply just a kids’ book.  If you’ve read that kids’ book, I think you would agree that he’s either lying or he’s a bigger genius than he knew.  Here’s what he’s saying essentially: when the curtain was pulled back and nothing was there, the Wizard of Oz has this conversation with Dorothy and her traveling companions.  For the Cowardly Lion, he says you’ve just got to look inside and everything you need is already there.  The courage you’re looking for is already inside you. And Tin Man, you already have a heart and look over the course of your life, you’ve displayed this.  The message is essentially, regardless of who’s behind the curtain, even if nothing is behind the curtain, you have everything you need.  So, who really cares what’s behind the curtain?  In fact, the thing behind the curtain causes us to live in fear.  Causes us to live in trepidation that we don’t necessarily need to have.

If you were to sit down with an ancient Hebrew person and talk about the same concept….what lies behind the curtain….their answer would have been very, very different.  Their worldview would have been very, very different.  Here’s what they would have said about the God who stands and lies behind the curtain.  They would have had one word that would have described what this God was like.  Their one word?  HOLY.  They would have said no, no, no, no, no.  There IS a God behind the curtain and this God behind the curtain is more holy, more breathtaking, more beautiful, more awe-inspiring than anything you could possibly imagine or lay eyes on. If you did lay eyes on Him, you’d be dead!  That’s what they would have told you.

But I think this idea of God’s holiness has been lost on us as modern people just a little bit.  In fact, one author writes this.  He says: “For many American evangelicals, “holiness” conjures up musty images of revival meetings, gospel trios and old-time religion—along with the stern prohibitions against drinking, dancing and playing cards.” I would venture to say that when we picture God’s holiness, when we imagine what that word looks like epitomized in the Creator God, we have some of the same images in our mind, don’t we?  Primarily, when we talk about God’s holiness, we’re going to talk about prohibitions against things that we aren’t allowed to do. Because God is holy, we can’t…..then we have this list of things that may or may not be found in the Bible….of things we can’t do because God is holy.  What’s happened is there’s this pendulum that’s swung THAT direction, back sorta of…..I would argue sort of in the days of the Puritans and that time period.  That was a strong, predominant thought about who God was, in the early Americas.  The pendulum, in our day, has swung BACK to:  God’s just sorta this cosmic teddy bear.  You can sorta snuggle up in His lap and He’s soft and He’s encouraging and He’s like well, you really blew it there, but that’s all right, good job, no big deal.  And He’s this cosmic teddy bear that we’re encouraged to climb up in his lap.

I think our inability to preserve the tension between God as Father and God as distinctly good, as loving, as the One who welcomes us home regardless of how far down the wrong road we’ve gone…..to hold that view of God in TENSION WITH God as holy, God as distinct and God as other….our inability to hold that tension has eroded our desire to pray.  It really has.  And here’s how Jesus, in his ultimate prayer, the pattern he gives us of what it looks like to be people of prayer, he says this—in the very beginning, he says:  Pray then like this:  “Our Father in heaven  {So we have this view of God as the good, good Father.  That’s who He is and we know that we are distinctly loved by Him. He says start like that.  But right after that, He says….} ….hallowed be your name.   In the Greek, what’s going on here is something different than what we would normally read or say. It’s God, make holy your name.  It’s the first of three petitions that Jesus invites us to pray back to God that are ultimately for God’s glory and for the sake of His own name.  So He says pray like this…our Father.  Then on the other hand say make holy, God, your own name.  Before we think of anything we need….before we think of our daily bread or the call to forgive…before we think of the new Apple watch that we want or the new car that we desperately need…whatever it is….before we think of anything WE need, we’re invited to pray God, make YOUR name distinct and make YOUR name holy.

The question is what does this word mean, because we’re praying God, making holy your name.  It literally means to set apart.  To sanctify.  To make perfect or to declare as perfect or to be perfect.  It shows that God is completely other, completely distinct and completely unlike you and me.  Pray that way, Jesus says.  Pray our Father…remember God’s love, remember God’s goodness and then pray who art in heaven hallowed, or make holy, your name.  Here’s what he’s saying that God is set apart and distinctly different on one hand and yet intimately close and near on the other.  If we don’t regain an ability to hold the tension of “Father” and “holy,” we’ll never become people of prayer.  We’ll swing one way or the other, but neither one of those things…we need both to drive us to the throne.

It’s an interesting thing, if you were to think of the curtain and the holiness of God lying behind the curtain, the ancient Israelites would have had a picture in their mind that that imagery evoked. If you would turn with me to Leviticus 16.  While we have arguably lost some of what it means for God to be holy in our culture and our day, and we’ve sort of turned God into “buddy Jesus” or “Jesus Is My Homeboy” t-shirts, I would propose to you that the ancient Hebrew people would not have viewed God in the same way.  There wouldn’t have been a market for “God is My Homeboy” t-shirts among the ancient Israelites.  And let me show you why.  Leviticus 16:1 says this:  The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron (his two oldest sons), when they drew near before the Lord and died.  {Hence, there being no market for “Jesus is My Homeboy,” right.  Here’s what the author of Leviticus is referring to.  If you go back a few chapters to Leviticus 10:1-3, here’s the story.}  Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them.  {This is not a good idea, because of what’s going to follow.}  And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.  {They have been given clear instructions on this is how you approach God.  This is how you have relationship with God and they went you know, that’s really nice and that’s a great idea and God, you should have asked us because we have some good ideas, too.  Here’s how we think you should make fire and here’s how we think we should approach you.  When Nadab and Abihu approached God and tried to enter the Holy of Holies, the holy God behind the curtain consumed them with his perfection and with fire.   Now, if you are a part of the nation of Israel at this time when this happens, this would form your view of God, would it not?  Distinctly.  My guess is you don’t stop talking about…hey, do you remember when Nadab and Abihu were going to offer prayer to God, they were going to interact with God and they didn’t do it the right way and they were struck dead?  Do you remember that?  And they go how could we forget something so distinct.  Verse 3.} Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified  {I will be made holy.  I will be set apart.  I will be distinctly different and other, held above the rest, held above it all.} ….and before all the people I will be glorified.'”    {So God says listen, if you want to come and interact with me, you’ve got to approach me in the right way.  If you don’t, my perfection will consume you.  It’s not that God is necessarily angry with Nadab and Abihu, it’s just that they are imperfect trying to stand before a perfect God and God will either consume you or refine you, but it’s only one of the two.  It would be like trying to go stand on the surface of the sun in your underwear!  Good luck!!  Completely unprepared for the place that you’re trying to stand.}

So, the instruction given in Leviticus 16 is for the explicit purpose that the High Priest can meet before God, meet with God, and not die.  Here’s the way it goes, verse 2:  …and the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. {That God’s holiness wouldn’t consume him.}  For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat.   Here’s the picture of what’s going on.  The Day of Atonement, which we’re reading about, would happen one time, every year in the nation of Israel.  And there would be only one person, the High Priest, that would be able to enter the Holy of Holies, the Most Holy Place.  It was where the manifest presence and glory of God dwelt.  It was where the people met with God, through the High Priest, face-to-face.  It only happened once a year and he (the High Priest) had to get ready to go into the Holy of Holies.

This is a picture of the entire tabernacle.  You’d walk in through a curtain here and then you’d walk into the Holy Place here and you’re getting deeper and deeper into the presence of God, where finally you would enter the Holy of Holies, behind the curtain, as it’s referred to in the book of Hebrews and throughout the book of Leviticus as this picture of meeting and intimacy face-to-face with God.

Listen to what the High Priest had to go through.  Now remember, it’s the High Priest only and it’s one time a year ONLY.  Here’s what he went through in order to enter.  Verse 3:  But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place {That’s behind the curtain.  This is the way that Aaron, and only Aaron, enters to have face-to-face interaction with God.} ..with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.  He shall put on the holy linen coat and shall have the linen undergarment on his body, and he shall tie the linen sash around his waist, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy garments.  He shall bathe his body in water and then put them on.  And he shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering.   Here’s what’s going on.  In order for the High Priest to enter the Holy of Holies, just this one day a year, to make atonement for the sins of Israel, he has five animals with him. He’s got one bull.  He’s got a ram and those are both for him and he’s unholy and in order for him to enter the Holy of Holies, he needs to make atonement for himself.  He has two goats that he’s going to offer on behalf of the community of Israel to make atonement for sins.  They’re going to cast lots over the two goats.  One goat is going to be called the Azazel.  It means to make separate or distinct.  It was the goat that was the scapegoat. They would take this goat, towards the end of the ceremony, over to the entrance to the tabernacle.  The High Priest would lay his hands on the scapegoat’s head and they would lead him out into the wilderness where he would, in a very metaphorical way, carry the sins of the people away from the camp.  {You don’t want to see this goat grazing in your front yard the next morning.}

Listen to what Aaron would do to enter the Holy of Holies.  Verse 11.  Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house.  He shall kill the bull as a sin offering for himself.    He would take a bull, kill it, take some of its blood—something has to die because of sin—into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle it over the Ark of the Covenant seven times, all the while interacting with and meeting with the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  If he goes in on Monday and does the same thing, he dies.  Can you imagine what it might have been like to interact with or even to think about interacting with this God.  He would leave the Holy of Holies.  He would come back into the Holy Place, he would kill the other goat—the non-scape goat—and he would take his blood and seven times sprinkle it over the altar, so that he would make atonement for the sins of the nation of Israel.  This happened one time a year.  Only the High Priest was able to enter.  My guess is that when they thought of what God looked and what God was like, (in their heads) because they didn’t have this beautiful picture of Jesus yet, my guess is God felt a little bit distant.  My guess is that God’s holiness stood above any other attribute that God has because it was THE thing that they were most aware of.

Here’s the thing, friends.  You and I, though we don’t have that same awareness of God’s holiness, interact with and pray to the exact same God.  We pray to the same God that when they walked into the Holy of Holies, unprepared with unauthorized fire, knocked them dead purely by His perfection and by His holiness…..when you and I pray—you gotta get this today—-when you and I pray, we come face-to-face with THE SAME GOD!!! It’s no different.  The only thing different is the access we have.  Through prayer we step behind the veil. That’s what happens when we pray.  This is not a trite thing.  This is not a light thing. We come face-to-face with THE God who stands alone.  He stands distinct.  He stands completely holy, completely separate and completely other.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t think we have all that good of an awareness of just how holy this God is, number one.  And just how significant the access that you and I have is.  {Ryan singing…} “Boldly I approach the throne…..”  The nation of Israel would be going whoa, whoa, whoa whoa, whoa!  Let’s approach the throne after we’ve taken the right bath, put on the right clothes, done the right rituals and on the right day.  Boldly you approach the throne???  They would have gone….no way!!  You can’t do that.  {Singing} “Blameless now I’m running……”  NO!  No way!  You cannot do that.  We have ZERO awareness of how significant it is when we get to go to God in prayer boldly and stand before his throne.  Before a holy, perfect God…..to stand before His throne.  We should have this feeling in us like………I just….I don’t deserve to be here.  I don’t deserve….God, I don’t have it in me to have this conversation.

When Kelly and I moved to California, shortly after that the bottom fell out of the housing market and there was a foreclosure on every street.  Typically, they would be foreclosed and the people would leave.  At the same time, we were looking to buy a home.  There were a number of foreclosures we would drive by and Kelly would be….I mean, she seems sweet and innocent, but she’s like pull over.  I want to look at that house. I’m like hey, is our realtor in the car?  I didn’t see him back there.  She’s like no, no, no, pull over!  We’d pull over and she’d go up to front door and I’m standing on the sidewalk like this (head turning around and looking).  She’d wiggle the handle of the front door and if it were locked, I’d be like thank you, Jesus!  She’d say come here.  I need you to give me a boost.  I’d hold her foot and she’d jump over the fence and the whole time I’m looking around like….I’m the pastor of a church.  Sort of a smallish town.  Big church. Small town.  I could lose my job for this.  Trespassing.  Breaking and entering.  She jumps over and I’m like oh, dear Jesus, please don’t let there be any doors open in the back.  A few seconds later, she’d pop out from the inside of the house, open the door and say come on in!!  I’d be I don’t see our realtor….I don’t think we should do this.  She’d be like oh, come on. Just come in here, pastor-boy!  We’re walking around and the whole time I’m like are those sirens?  Is that for us?  Am I going down?  The whole time I’m thinking we’re gonna get caught!

I think in prayer, that maybe we should have a little bit more that type of feeling.  Like to step into a place….to step into a place and stand in a place that we have absolutely no right standing.   That’s what prayer is.  Face-to-face with a distinctly other, holy God.  And I think our “buddy Jesus” mentality may have eroded our ability to see just how holy God is.  And in turn, it’s cut us off at the knees as far as what it looks like and means to be people of prayer.  Because if God isn’t holy, he’s not powerful.  And if God isn’t distinctly other, there’s no reason to go to him.  When the nation of Israel would go to God, when they would pray to God, they had this keen awareness of You are holy and You are other and it fundamentally changed the way they viewed God.  Here’s what the author of Hebrews writes:  We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain. (Heb. 6:19)   That’s the hope that we have.  That’s the hope that you and I live in and it’s just the air that we breathe and it’s so normal that we don’t realize that it is absolutely supernatural, significant and crazy that God would invite us behind the curtain.  Here’s the way that John Piper put it: “When you live in the blazing brightness of the light of God’s holiness, everything will be different.  When you feel the weight of the rock of God’s holiness like the ballast in your boat, you navigate the storms of these troubled times and become a refuge for millions who are perishing.”  He says an awareness of God’s holiness forms and shapes the people of God like no other.

When we’re talking about God’s holiness, what are we talking about and what do we mean?  Here’s what we mean first and foremost.  God stands alone in his majesty.  You can’t even imagine something as beautiful and glorious and the splendor of the King….you can’t even imagine how significant and beautiful He is.  We can try. We live in Colorado and it’s a beautiful thing to go and climb a 14,000 foot peak and look out over the vastness of God’s creation and just to worship Him.  That’s a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t even come close to painting for us of just how significant He is.  And if we lose the ability to imagine God’s majesty, we lose the impetus for worship.  This is where the heart of worship comes from.  God, you are distinctly different.  You are distinctly other and you are beautiful!  In the book of Isaiah 40:25, the prophet records the words of God saying:  To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him?  says the Holy One.  It’s a rhetorical, you’re right. The answer is no one.

Second, what does it mean for God to be holy?  It means that God stands, not only alone in His majesty, but distinct in his perfection.  It’s his perfection that evokes the need for my repentance.  Because when I see God as perfect, I immediately realize that I am not.  It’s Isaiah in the throne room of God, seeing the smoke and hearing his voice and sensing the trembling and saying: Woe is me!  For I am lost; for I am a nam of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!  That’s what that perfection of God stirs in the human soul.  He is distinctly holy, completely perfect.  You may go well, I’m not sure I’m exactly loving that God is perfect and that I am not.  This is where God’s justice flows from.  This is where God’s desire to make right, and he is making right and will make right and the renewal of all things, that flows from the fact that he is perfect.  And the need for justice flows from the reality that you and I are not.

Third, God not only stands alone in his majesty, distinct in the his perfection, He stands supreme in his value. That’s what it means for God to be holy.  He is the most valuable thing in his creation.  He has not created anything more valuable than himself.  For you and I to be in relationship with a penultimately, supremely valuable God means that we are interacting with the ultimate thing in the universe.  So the Apostle Paul will write to the church at Philippi:  But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ. (Phil. 3:8-9)   He goes it’s the best thing in my life.  If we lose sight of God’s holiness, we inevitably lose sight of God’s value and if we lose sight of his value, we will not be able to sing and declare that “the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”  We’ll start to latch our lives to trinkets, instead of the distinct treasure that lies at the center of the universe, who’s inviting us to be a part of all that he’s doing.

He stands alone in his majesty.  He stands distinct in his perfection.  Supreme in his value. And unique in his love.  The Scriptures say over and over again that his steadfast love stands from generation to generation.  The Scriptures say that he is a jealous God.  Why is that?  Does he have image issues?  Is he insecure?  What’s the deal there?  No!  Here’s the deal:  He is ferociously, passionately loving.  If he weren’t, he wouldn’t be jealous. His jealousy for you is an outflow of his heart and love towards you.  It would be akin to a spouse saying (if he weren’t jealous): I don’t really care if you sleep around.  I don’t really care if you come home at night.  I don’t really care…..you just go do your thing and I’ll do mine.  God says that’s not me!  I love my creation.  I’m for my creation.  I’m passionate about my creation and therefore, I am a jealous God.

When Jesus prays “make your name holy,” he’s picturing walking behind the veil and this God, who is distinctly other and distinctly good, who stands alone in his majesty, who stands distinct in his perfection, who stands alone in his love and his goodness….and says what we’re praying is we’re standing face-to-face with THIS God and saying God, make all of this true about you visible in your world.  That’s the prayer.

In just a few weeks, we’re going to have the chance to celebrate Easter.  I’d encourage you, before we get to Easter, to read through the different gospel accounts of the trials, the death, the burial and the resurrection of Jesus.  As you do that, you’ll come to Matthew’s account of the death of the Messiah.  Here’s what it says in the book of Matthew (27:50-51):  And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. {Notice that he gives it up, it’s not taken from him. He yields up his spirit on the cross where he’s paying for your sin and mine, making a way back to the Father and notice what happens at the same time.}  And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.    This was the curtain that it would have taken a few hundred priests to put up.  Horses couldn’t pull it apart.  The curtain was as thick as your palm, four inches wide.  Sixty feet tall.  From top to bottom it tears in two.  As if to say, that now, because of the sacrifice of Jesus, you have access to a perfectly, holy God.  That the same clothes that the priest was dressed in….he washed himself, he had on the right outfit, put it on in the right order and only then was able to come and to stand before the throne of God…..Jesus says I am the great High Priest and I have gone in with my own blood and I’ve made a way for you, that you can come and meet face-to-face with a holy God without dying.  Praise the Lord!  You are clothed in his righteousness.  It has been given to you.  Every time you pray you step behind the veil to meet with a God who is completely distinct and completely other and completely perfect and completely holy.  Every single time you pray you should be reminded of the gospel….that Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice gives you and I uninhibited access.  Unless we’re able to regain an awareness of God’s holiness, we will never become people of prayer.  We’ll never realize just how significant what we’re doing is when we bow our heads and our hearts and approach the throne of grace with boldness.  We’ll never realize unless we regain an awareness of just how distinct and how holy God is.  Hear me on this:  In Christ, God does not relax his righteous standard.  He does not relax his holiness.  He does not relax his righteous standard; he extends his righteousness to sinners.  That’s what happens.  By faith in Christ, God is not relaxing his standard or shrinking back from his nature or back from his character.  What he’s doing is giving you the righteousness to come before the throne of God with boldness and confidence to hear from him, to hear his voice and to see his face!

Because that’s true, friends, that God has given us his holiness and we have the chance to interact with him and meet with him, we should have boldness in approaching the throne of God.  The author of Hebrews says in 4:16 — Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Let’s have confidence, friends, that this God not only made a way for us, but is still distinct and is still holy and he moves in his world.  He stands alone.  When I go in prayer to him, I stand amazed!

Finally, we have hope—we not only have boldness, but we have hope—in approaching God. The book of Hebrews 6:19-20 says it like this:  We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.    Because of the blood of Jesus, I can stand before God, trusting that he hears me, knowing that he sees me and interacting with him face-to-face in a way that our forefathers of the faith couldn’t have any idea that it was even possible.  Here’s my encouragement to you, friends.  You live on the other side of the cross.  You live on the side of the torn curtain, where his presence and holiness has been released to his people, by the Spirit, that anytime you want you can interact with this God.  Here’s the thing.  Let’s not lose sight of the fact that our God is “Father” and that he is loving and that he is good.  Let’s hold in tension and preserve the tension….let’s not resolve it…some tensions are not meant to be resolved, they’re meant to be maintained.  Let’s hold the tension in the fact that he’s not only Father, but that he is distinctly holy and completely other.  Our tendency to diminish God’s holiness has led to a deficiency in prayer and I pray that we would be the type of people that God would use to change that.  Let’s pray.

Father, hallowed be your name.  Make holy your name, Lord God, through our lives, in our lives for the glory of your name, we pray and for the joy of all of us as we walk with you.  Would you remind us of your holiness today.  Your greatness.  Your splendor.  The fact that every time we pray we enter into this “behind the curtain” interaction with you that our forefathers could have never even imagined being possible.  Lord, let us not neglect that gift.  Father, let us make the most of it.  We love you and we long to see your name lifted high.  In Jesus’ name.  And all God’s people said…..Amen!

 

The Lord’s Prayer – Behind the Veil2020-08-21T08:22:20-06:00

THE LORD’S PRAYER: The Abba Approach    Matthew 6:9

Feb 14th 2016

listen to last Sunday’s worship set.

As the eighth century B.C. was drawing to a close, the southern kingdom of Israel had King Hezekiah as its king. Unlike the northern kingdom, King Hezekiah had weathered the onslaught of the Assyrians.   The northern kingdom was taken away and into exile by the nation of Assyria, but Hezekiah was able to lead the southern kingdom in such a way that they turned their hearts back to God.  God moved on their behalf.  They weathered this Assyrian storm.  He was responsible for a lot of political and religious reforms in this community.  King Hezekiah was one of the very few really good leaders that the nation of Israel had during this season.  But he got sick.  One of the prophets of the time, Isaiah, came to him and said:  Thus says the Lord, “Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.”  {That’s quite the news to get, right?  Here’s what Hezekiah does. He takes a step back and he prays.  Now, those of you who are people of faith here this morning, who would say you’re a follower of Jesus, that’s probably the same thing you would do.  You’d pray.  Here’s what happened when Hezekiah prayed.  The Lord spoke (through Isaiah)….} ….”Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader of my people, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you.  {So, here you have God in one verse saying, through the prophet, go tell Hezekiah he’s going to die.  Isaiah delivers his message, Hezekiah prays and God says never mind.  I will heal you.}  …On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord, and I will add fifteen years to your life.  I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David’s sake.” (2 Kings 20:1-6)

I don’t know if I like this verse, to be honest with you.  This verse invites us into the tension that many of us feel in prayer.  This verse, in many ways, is the reason that if we were to take a survey of every single person in this room that follows Jesus and ask how many struggle with prayer…..THIS verse would be one of the reasons that many of us would raise our hand and say, “I do!”  Because our struggle with prayer is not that we think God is incapable or unable.  That’s not our struggle with prayer.  Most of our struggle with prayer, if we’re honest, is that we firmly, on the very soul-core level of who we are, believe that God is ABSOLUTELY able, but often doesn’t answer in the same way He answered King Hezekiah.  So hearing that we’re starting a six to seven week series on prayer, you’re probably thinking oh, wonderful!  As if I didn’t feel guilty enough!  All of us, at some level, struggle with prayer.  Listen, the standard is pray continually!  So all of us, let’s just admit, have fallen short.  We have this struggle….we believe, God, you’re able and yet sometimes You say no.  Sometimes we pray for the same type of healing that Hezekiah received and You say no.  There’s those of you in this room that have prayed God, would you heal this marriage?  And it’s ended in divorce.  There’s some that have prayed for that job to come through and it just never did.  There’s some of you here on Valentine’s Day and you go some of my deepest, heart-felt pain is around “Single Awareness Day” (thank you very much for bringing it up again). Because you’ve prayed.   You’ve asked God to bring somebody into your life that you can love and share life with.  The answer up to this point has been “no.”  That’s the tension that many of us feel in prayer.  We believe God is good and yet sometimes His answer isn’t the same as it was for Hezekiah.

Then, if we were to turn the other side of the coin and share testimonies, we could light this place up with times that God has said “yes” and He’s come through and He’s moved in beautiful, masterful, mysterious, miraculous ways and displayed his power and his glory through healing or healing of a relationship or repair of a soul.  He’s done it!  Just a few weeks ago, our elders had the chance to pray over somebody in the church who was sick and their job was going downhill.  We prayed over them and anointed them with oil and God healed!! It was awesome!  Praise the Lord!  Even now, they’re starting to do scientific studies.  Since 1980, there’s been over 130 scientific studies that have proven that prayer works.  We would be able to go around and we’d be able to say yes, it does, amen…..and then there’s some lingering questions in our mind, aren’t there, where it’s like why didn’t You move then?  And why did you let this person that I love die?  And why did you let that relationship end?  And, God, I just….there’s some questions that I just…I just don’t get.  They have a tendency to make prayer really, really hard, but we know on a deep soul level that prayer is something that is just wired into us as human beings.  Religious or irreligious, people…studies have shown even atheists pray.  They do. Obviously to a very different God, but nonetheless.

So, Jesus had this distinct way of praying.  We know this because on one occasion, his disciples come up to him and in Luke 11:1, Dr. Luke records this for us.  They come up to him and say:  Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.    There was something different about the way that Jesus prayed.  It wasn’t different THAT he prayed.  The nation of Israel and the people of God were known for being a people of prayer.  In fact, they were taught from a very young age that three times a day you say your daily prayers and part of it was saying the Shema, from Deuteronomy 6, every single day.  They were people of prayer.  But the way Jesus prayed was different.  The way Jesus prayed sparked his disciples’ intrigue and touched a piece of their soul that they couldn’t seem to shake because it was so different.  I don’t know if this is what I would have asked Jesus to teach me how to do.  Listen, they’ve seen him walk on water.  Why not ask, “Jesus, will you teach us how to walk on water?”  He’s turned water into wine.  Some of you would ask:  God, would you teach us how to do that?  He spit in mud, rubbed it on somebody’s face, they wiped it off and they were able to see.  That would be cool!  But his disciples don’t ask him how to do any of that.  They don’t ask him how to preach.  They don’t ask him how to run the church.  They simply ask him, “Teach us how to pray.”  Because at the very core-base level of who Jesus was and of the ministry he did, lay this foundation of prayer.  He snuck off in the morning.  He would tuck away during the day and the way that he prayed elicited this response from his disciples: we need to get in on that.  We need to learn from you, Jesus, what it looks like to talk to God.

Dallas Willard, the great philosopher and theologian, says: “Prayer is simply talking to God about what you’re doing together.”  I love that.  But it’s at the very core of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  In fact, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., put it like this: “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”  It is how we live as followers of Christ.  We can’t be followers of Christ without prayer.  So the disciples ask Jesus, “Will you teach us how to pray?”  His response is yes, but first, let me teach you how NOT to pray.  Here’s what he says on how not to pray.  Matthew 6:5-6 — 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.   So there are people, when they start to pray, you know they are praying so you can hear them pray.  You’ve probably been in prayer groups with these people.  They use a lot of big words that you never hear them use outside of prayer!  But here’s what Jesus is saying.  In prayer we have this tendency to put on a show.  In prayer we have a tendency to try to hide from God who we honestly are.  And it’s silly, because He knows anyway!!!  If you’re having an absolutely terrible day and your life is a mess, you can tell God that in prayer.  If you’re struggling with anger and fear and regret, you can tell God that in prayer.  No need to wear a mask and pretend you have it all together.  He knows you don’t.  So you can be honest about that.   Jesus says don’t pray so that other people can hear you and go (clapping) that’s brilliant prayer.  That’s ridiculous!  Just be honest.  That’s it.

He follows up with: 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.  If I say enough stuff, God will respond.  Have you ever heard people where prayer is sorta for them?  It’s like the magical equation and they have to get it right for God to be the divine jackpot where he goes cha-ching! you said it right!!  Where the words have to be in the right order and they have to say the exact right thing and Jesus goes that’s stupid!  He’s God and He knows what you need before you ask him.  Hey, hey, hey, prayer is not trying to pry something out of God’s closed hands that He reluctantly hands over because you say it right.  Prayer is stepping in to receive something that is already ours from God’s heart to us.  That’s what prayer is.  It’s not trying to pry something out of God’s hands, it’s stepping into something that is already ours.

So, in response to how do we pray, Jesus says let me show you how not to pray.  Don’t be dishonest.  Don’t pray like a hypocrite and don’t feel like you need to say everything under the sun.  God knows what you need.  He’s dialed in!  In contrast, pray like this.  And he gives us what we call the “Lord’s prayer.”  The most famous prayer of all time.  Tim Keller in his great book on prayer says: “Not only is this the prayer most uttered over the course of history, but that these words put together in this way are the phrase that have been uttered the MOST since human beings have walked the earth.”  Wow!  Here’s what Jesus says:  Pray then like this:  “Our Father in heaven, hallowed (or make holy) be your name.”    Start with that:  Our Father.  Here’s the thing.  For any Jewish person hearing Jesus pray, they would have been like whoa, whoa, whoa, Messiah-boy!  You cannot say that to God.  In the Old Testament, there are about a dozen times where God says that he is the father of Israel, but he is never addressed as such.  It’s never Father, hear our pray.  In fact, before Jesus utters these words, it was never even a blip on somebody’s radar screen that they could have gone and approached God as father.  Ever.  The fact that Jesus says let your greeting, let your initial interaction with God be simply two words, “our Father,” would have gone against everything culturally that it meant to address somebody of prominence and power.  The more important somebody was, the longer the greeting was when they were greeted.  When Caesar Augustus came into their town, he would have been greeted, “Oh, Caesar the Great, son of god.  You have built this!  You’ve done this!  You’ve won this war!”  You’ve heard some people get introduced this way, right?  Their resumé is read.  God says, “Not all that into that.  I know who I am.  You don’t need to remind me.  Just address me as our Father.”  Before Jesus ever gets into the mechanics of prayer and before Jesus ever starts explaining this is how you pray, He wants to teach you who you pray to.  I think that’s where a lot of us go wrong.

Back in the day, I took golf lessons.  You would never know it if you went golfing with me today.  I did.  I assure you.  The first lesson my coach says to me let me see how you hold the club.  I’m like let’s work on…I’ve got issues here….major issues….I’ve got a slice that will not stop.  He says, “Let’s see how you hold the club.”  I held the club and he goes that’s way off.  Here’s what he told me.  If you don’t change how you hold the club, regardless of how good your swing gets, you will never be a good golfer.  This is Jesus saying to his disciples alright, let’s just talk first and foremost about how we hold this thing we call prayer.  At a base level, how do we approach God.  He says you approach God as Father.  And knowing the heart of the Father is the first and foremost, the epitome, of what it means to be a person of prayer.  It what it means to be shaped by prayer. It’s how we become people whose prayer is powerful and significant, where it changes our lives and the people’s lives around us.  By approaching, first and foremost…..if we only get this right….we HAVE to get it right….it’s the foundation of it all…..the heart of the Father shapes people of prayer.  If we don’t get that about God…if we don’t understand that, we will miss the entire point.

Our “Father” is an Aramaic word.  It’s the word “abba.”  It’s so significant that they didn’t translate it into the Greek, they just left it.  It was this term of endearment.  It was a term of intimacy.  It was a term of respect. It was a term of relationship.  The best English translation that we have of this Aramaic word “abba” is “daddy.” Jesus says this is what your God is like.  You can approach Him as daddy and it’s different than other way of prayer the world had ever seen.  I love the way that Tim Keller puts it:  “The power of our prayers then, lies not primarily in our effort and striving, or in any technique, but rather in our knowledge of God.”   It’s not how we do the mechanics of it that’s really important, it’s simply who is God.  In turn, this is what I’ll call the Abba Approach.  The Abba Approach to prayer, the Daddy Approach to prayer, produces people of abundant hope. You show me a follower of Christ who is hopeful to their very core and I will show you a person who has learned to view God as Father.  You show me a person who’s free of anger and I will show you a person who’s confident that this is their Father’s world.  You show me a person not tied up with consumeristic things of this world and I will show you a person who’s convinced that their Father knows exactly what they need.  You show me a person free of anxiety and I will show a person who prays “Father.”  I don’t know that there’s any more important thing that we can learn.

But we have a huge problem.  Many of the fathers that we had, who shaped this word for us, let us down. Maybe the epidemic is no more significant in our culture.  Back in 1994, they started this “Fatherhood Initiative,” because we felt like, as a country, that fatherhood is on the decline and it’s tied to so many key indicators of what it looks like to have this successful, vibrant life.  We need to do something about it.  Here’s the deal:  You and I both know this that our father…..and my dad’s here and he was a wonderful dad.  He was a great dad, but he was an imperfect dad.  This is a dose of humility for every father in this room….this just in…will you look up at me for a second….you’re an imperfect father! There’s gonna be things that we say, there’s gonna be things that we do, where we let our kids down and it’s gonna shape the way that they view the world around them and it’s gonna shape the way that they view God.  Some of us had wonderful fathers and because of it we stepped into the world confidently.  Feeling like the wind was blowing at the back of our sails. Then there are some of you that had fathers that weren’t there, that were absent.  And there’s no one person that shaped your life more.  Either with the love that he displayed, your father shaped the way that you viewed the world.  Or in the hurt that he laid on you, he shaped the way you viewed the world.  Men and women respond to this differently.  For women…it’s usually if we have issues in the core of our soul with our father (father wounds we’ll often call it)….it exhibits itself in this need to be loved.  There’s going to be different guys that you probably interact with.  There’s going to be…tell me I’m loved, tell me I’m okay, show it to me and display it to me.  For guys, it’s a little bit different.  For guys, it’s I’m going to prove that I’ve got this handled. I’m going to prove that I’m okay.  I’m going to make enough money, I’m going to take care of the people in my life, I’m going to do all the things that weren’t done for me and I’m going to prove that I’m okay.  At the very base level of who we are in our soul, we wrestle with the way we view the world in light of what our dads taught us.  Donald Miller, the great author, wrote a book a while back called Father Fiction.  In it he talks about growing up without a dad.  He says: “But in so many ways I’m still that kid, not sure exactly how to be emotionally intimate with a girl without feeling weak, not sure my work is good enough, not sure if the people who are clapping would really like me if they got to know me.”   Regardless of how good our fathers were, there’s still a piece of us that goes yeah, that’s a struggle for me.

So when Jesus proposes pray our father, what does he have in mind?  What is the Father like that we are invited to pour our hearts out to in prayer?  As we’ve said, even if we had the best father in the world, they were imperfect.  Turn over to Luke 15:17-20 and I want to spend the next few moments looking at what God the Father’s heart is like towards his people.  In Luke 15, let’s let Jesus define the term “father,” what is God the Father like, because we could go back and find a ton of examples in the Old Testament.  But in this parable, Jesus gives us this zoomed-in picture of the Father’s heart towards you.  And when we pray, THIS is who we pray to.  The backstory is Jesus telling this parable to a group of Pharisees about a father who has two sons. The younger son says to his dad, “I’d like my share of the inheritance.”  It’s akin to saying to your dad, you’re better off to me dead, thank you very much, just give me your stuff.  The father gives him his stuff.  He goes off and blows it all on licentious living, on prostitutes, on getting drunk.  He comes to his senses and he wants to go back to his father and to work on his ranch.  Here’s the way the story goes, verse 17:  But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.  Treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘  And he arose and came to his father.  But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  For a patriarch, in Jesus’ day, to pick up their robe and run would have been an act of humiliation, especially if you’re running after or towards your son who had humiliated you in front of the whole town.  But the father runs because there was this tradition back in Jesus’ day, where if something like this happened, somebody from the town would get a clay pot and when they saw this person coming back down the road, they would take the clay pot and run up to them, throw it down on the ground and break it, as if to say you’ve broken relationship here, you are no longer welcome.  The father looking, sees his son and runs, because he says not in my house!  It’s not going down like that in my house!  My affection for my son is NOT dissipated because he left.  Here’s what you see in the heart of the Father.  In our coming home, regardless of where we’ve been, friend, hear this today….regardless of where you’ve been, regardless of what you’ve done….when you come home, the Father’s response is his very presence!

I love this son….I would have this speech ready.  Anybody with me?  I’m going to try to win him over with my rhetoric here and Dad, here’s the deal, Dad.   I am unworthy to be called your son.  Which by the way, look up at me a second, is TRUE.  He is undeserving.  But here’s what God says back to him, here’s what the Father’s heart says back to him:  Just because you’re unworthy does not mean I view you as having no worth.  Those are two very different things.  He embraces him and he kisses him and he loves on him and he speaks into every single issue that we have….whether it’s with our earthly father, the home that we grew up in, or just things that have gone on in our life that have gotten deep down into our soul that when the people that we relied on most weren’t there when we needed them the most.  Where people that were suppose to protect us stood by when we were abused.  Where the people that were suppose to step in and were suppose to defend us were preoccupied and they were off on the sidelines.  What the Father’s heart is towards you is when you approach Him He’s there.  Some of you grew up with parents that were present, but not there.  Some of you ARE parents who are present, but not there.  You’re HERE but you’re not THERE!  Here’s what we see about the Father’s heart:  When we approach Him, He’s there!  When we approach God, when we draw near to Him in prayer, we operate under this deep-seated, soul-level conviction that before we ever wanted to meet with Him, our Father was running towards us!

It says: …And he arose and came to his father.  But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’    What we see is that OUR weakness and OUR brokenness is met with our Father’s welcome.   That God’s affection for you is not tied to your perfection in your behavior.  I’ll say that again:  God’s affection is not tied to your perfection.  Here’s why that’s beautiful.  This is for free this morning: You are imperfect….but Christ is perfect!  By faith, we receive His righteousness.  He took all of our sin that we might become the righteousness of God.  He gives us His righteousness, so we stand pure and holy and spotless and blameless before Him.  So many of us are still trying to define ourselves by our resumé.  We go this is what I’ve done and this is what I’ve done, this is what I’ve done, God, aren’t I awesome?  What we’re doing is undermining the very foundation that we stand on, that it’s by His grace and His mercy and His goodness ALONE.  Maybe I’m just preaching to me.  I don’t know what it is, but I have this desire to be perfect.  I’m harder on me than you could ever be.  I just sense the Father saying, as I go to Him with that, Ryan, I’m running for you before you’re ever coming home.  Ryan, I don’t want the speech, I just want you.  Ryan, confession (look at it in this passage) is not as much for God as it is for you.  As parents, we know this.  Right?  It’s not when our kids say they’re sorry to us that we say we forgive them.  That’s a terrible parent.  We forgive our kids the moment they mess us because we love them and we’re for them.  Their confession is way more for them than it is for us.  It’s the same way with God’s heart towards you.  It’s the same way.  He’s not like well, now I guess I’ll forgive you.  Here’s the thing…when we feel like…..and this plays on…this running home plays on the deepest emotional feelings in the very core of who we are….will I be rejected if I’m really known?  Will I be rejected if I’m really honest?  Religion is based around let me do so I’m not rejected.  Christianity is based around Christ is perfect and I receive His perfection and I receive the Father’s welcome.  In every season, every time.  There’s no footnote there, like you could mess up bad enough that His perfection wouldn’t cover you.  NO!  His affection is not based on your perfection!  Praise the Lord!

But when I don’t believe that, I start to wear a mask…with everybody around me and with God.  I start to wear a mask that says I need to perform in order to be accepted.  A few years ago, there was this great movie that came out called Whiplash.  It was about a drummer who has this maniacal conductor.  He (the conductor) says to him, in this very poignant scene of the movie, “‘Good job’ are the two most dangerous words in the English language.”  I think a lot of us….the movie is this beautiful juxtaposition of what we think God is like and then what He’s actually like, but I think a lot of us just assume God says “you could never live up.”  So we approach God with a mask.  We approach God with fear, but luckily for you, you have not been given a spirit of fear or timidity.  You’ve been given a spirit of boldness and power.  The spirit of God that lives in you says that you are a son of the Most High…a daughter of the Most High God.  You’re no longer a slave to fear, you are welcomed by the Father.  His welcome overrides your weakness and your brokenness and your failure every single time. This just in: You don’t need to approach God only when you nail it.  Even when you nail it, you probably haven’t nailed it as good as you thought you did.  You can just approach Him because He loves you and He’s for you.  I love it when we’re convinced of God’s welcome and know we’re freed to approach Him in our weakness.  That He approaches us with celebration, not condemnation, and treats us as sons, not as servants.  But you can hear me say that all day long.  You can take notes and write it down.  You can memorize it.  But until you go and lay yourself bear before God in prayer and until you hear Him say it, it won’t transform you.  My soul’s longing for you is that you would hear the whisper of God over you.  That you’d hear what Larry Crabb, in his book Papa Prayer, says:  “I’m starting to hear, really hear the voice of God.  And I’m realizing He likes me.”  {A lot of you are convinced God loves you because He has to, but that He doesn’t really like you.  And it’s a lie from the pit of hell, friend.  The enemy loves that you believe it.}   “….He likes me.  He loves me and speaks to me.”

The parable goes on and in verse 22 it says: But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, {It was the sign that he’s back in the family.} and shoes on his feet.  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.  For this my son was dead, and is alive again {Don’t you love the heart of the father in this?  You’ve got to hear it.  You’ve got to feel it.  In all of his screwed up-ness, the son comes home and he’s met with this affection from his father.  The same affection that YOU’RE met with.  Every time you go to God in prayer.  You pray to the Father who says: Your pursuit is met with my presence.  Your weakness is met with my welcome.  And my embrace is accompanied by my grace. I am better to you than you could ever possibly imagine, He says.  So we don’t need to hold back.  We don’t need to be dishonest.  We don’t need to play games.  Your Father knows exactly what you need.  That’s what Jesus says.  He says the Gentiles, they sorta play around with prayer, but us, followers of Jesus, your Father knows what you need so you can run to him at any time and receive his welcome, receive his presence and live under his grace.

I’ve asked my friend and our church accountant, Jesse Bean to come and share a little part of his story and his testimony with you.  The story about the father he had growing up and God’s redemption and grace over his life.  Will you come up, Jesse?   Morning.  So the story of my earthly father started out in a pretty normal way. I grew up in a Christian home and had a father who was the coach of my soccer team, my Boy Scout leader and raised me decently….as well as he could.  But as I grew up and moved on to high school, my parents separated, divorced and my father’s life began to go down hill.  Went downhill relatively quickly and significantly.  He got into a dysfunctional relationship.  Some patterns of addiction.  Just poor financial management.  Unstable job situation.  He got to a point where he felt there was no way out.  He ended up committing a heinous crime.  About 12 years ago, my father committed murder.  He was eventually convicted and he is spending the rest of his life in prison.

The story of my early fatherhood was broken, pretty dramatically.  I responded for a long time…..although subconsciously for a while….I developed a fear of becoming my father.  I lived with a deep fear that his identity was who I was.  I was in the Marines at the time, so I responded in the way I knew how, which was to toughen up, which was to bear it.  Which was to do everything I could to prove that this was not true.  I said I cannot and I will not become my father.  So I started working hard.  I graduated from college and got a good job.  I proved myself financially stable.  I cultivated great friendships where I had accountability.  I lived the Christian life.  If you knew me back then, you would have thought that I was probably doing okay.  But under the surface, deep down, I was absolutely terrified.  I was terrified of who I would become.  I love the story “Lord of the Rings.”  Aragorn, my favorite character, is of the line of the kings.  If you know that story, he’s of the line of Isildur, the king who was weak and could not destroy the ring.  The most powerful line in that to me was him saying, “I feel that in my blood. That same blood flows in me. That same weakness.”  

This eventually reached a breaking point in my life and that came when I got married.  I felt responsible for somebody else’s life.  I knew that I could not do it.  I knew that all of my striving, all of my work, all of my effort, could not delay what, in my heart, I knew was most true, which was that I was going to fail.  There was no victory.  I was 30 years old and completely exhausted and desperate.  Through that process, I did eventually reach out for help.  I went through a process of some pretty intense counseling for about a year.  Through that experience and some others……the Lord changed me, He changed who I am.  I grew up a Christian and I used to KNOW that what we sang about in worship and what the Lord has spoken through Ryan….I used to know that it was true.  But I got to experience that it was true.  My heavenly Father reached down to me and what He said to me was: what is most true about you, my son, is that you are NOT a child of a murderer.  You are not the son of an addict.  You are not defined by your weakness, your brokenness and your shame.  He said to me, “My son, you are beautiful.  You are worthy and in you I am well pleased.”  Church, it completely changed who I am.  It changed my identity.  It allowed me to move from a place of living in fear to the possibility of living in hope.  Hope not for what I have done, but what has been done for me.  I know that that makes me who I am.  I’m so thankful that in this story of where the Lord is taking me in my life, He has blessed my wife and I with a son.  We’ve got a little four month old (boy) and though…….there is an enemy and there is a liar and it is still a struggle for me to get passed my brokenness.  To remember that my sin doesn’t define me.  I’m thankful to know that I can live in hope.  Hope for my own story and hope for my son.  That if he were here, thirty years from now, sharing the story of his father, it would be very different.  Thank you.

Jesse, thanks for your honesty, for inviting us into your story and for the truth that you shared: this no longer defines me.  Jesus does.

The other day I was on a run on my treadmill and this ad came on for a TV show.  The TV show was entitled “Finding My Father.”  The tagline for show is “in finding my father I’m finding myself.”  They couldn’t be more right.  But they’re just looking for the wrong father.  The truth of the matter, friends, is that when we know the heart of our Father, as Jesse so poignantly reminded us of, it grounds us in what’s most true about who we are. That He is a good, good Father and that we are loved by Him.  That’s who He is and that’s who we are.  Let’s pray.

Before you go running out of here, I want to give you a moment to soak in God’s presence.  To know that regardless of what your past looks like, when you run towards Him, He’s already running towards you.  Do you believe that this morning?  To know that regardless of how weak you are and how broken you are and how much pain is in your life, that when you approach this God, He greets you, not with condemnation, He greets you with welcome.  That your perfection is not the thing that determines His affection for you.  You’re loved by Him, friends.  He not only meets us with embrace, but He gives us good things because He’s a good Father.

So we come to you, King Jesus.  We come to you, Father.  We come to you, Spirit, asking would you drill deep into our soul these truths that they might move from our head down to our heart.  That the fear that we often live in of being rejected might be overshadowed by your love.  That the desire to please and the desire to live in perfection might be snuffed out by our conviction that we have Christ’s perfection over us and He’s given it to us.  Jesus, would you remind us today, afresh and anew, that along with your embrace you shower down your goodness, your grace, your mercy on our lives.  You know what we need and you’re a good Father.  Lord, I just pray healing over some of the hearts in this room today that came in wrestling with past relationships, unmet expectations, a feeling of being unloved and like they’re never going to be good enough.  Convinced the enemy loves that they believe that, Jesus, would you free them this morning by reminding them of who their Father is. It’s in the name of Jesus we pray.  All God’s people said…..Amen.

THE LORD’S PRAYER: The Abba Approach    Matthew 6:92020-08-21T08:23:12-06:00
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