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In this final message in the Vacate series, we examine the last three verses of "the Lord's prayer". Here, Todd reviews the first part of the prayer, discusses the true nature of forgiveness, and explains how the believer can escape temptation by the evil one. Once more, this model prayer urges us to vacate our tactics for having our needs met, relating to others, and living victoriously.
Learning How to Pray, part 4: The Provision, the Protection and the Power
Learning How to Pray, part 3: Recessions and Daily Bread... And Why We Need Them Both
Learning How to Pray, part 2: Why We Want His Kingdom to Come
The ACTS of Prayer: A Way to Enrich our Communication with God
Learning How to Pray, part 1: The Importance of Listening to Our God
Shut Up, Stand Up, and Stop Eating Cheetos: Our Greatest Hindrance to Effective Prayer
Rehearsing Truth so You Don't Move Counter to God
The Foundation for Prayer: The Real Thee Talking with the Real Thou
Well, I would have given him the cow just to shut him up and get him offstage, personally. And that is biblical. Luke 11 talks about that. Jesus says, "Look, man. Just through your persistence, if nothing else, but I'm not a king who grants one wish once a year based on logic, based on drama, based on promising me something you'll do with my answered request in return. Just ask." You don't need to be overly dramatic, as was obviously well done up here. The point is…just ask.
In fact, let me just read you. In James 4:1-3, it says, "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? [Isn't that why you're after each other?] You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask."
In other words, "You're trying to get life in your own way. You're trying to establish your kingdom of comfort and security and peace your way. You don't have it. Even if you get a lot of the things that your murder and your lust think you want, you don't have it, because you don't ask me. I can't give you life apart from me, because life doesn't exist apart from me.
You ask and you don't receive because you ask with the wrong motives, because you want to spend everything I give you on your own pleasures. What I want to give you is the ability to bear fruit for me. What I want to give you is that which you really need for life and not what you think you need for life." Bottom line, we have a tendency to overcomplicate things, don't we?
We're wrapping up our little time here, as we talk about how to develop intimacy and relationship with God, how to pray, by looking at what Christ said, about, "Don't overcomplicate this stuff. Don't wear me out with your endless words. Don't try to think you're going to pull me to go and do things I'm otherwise disinclined to do, but ask."
Part of what prayer does is prayer puts us back in a place that we can rightly glorify God for who he is. In other words, we remind ourselves who he is through prayer, that all the earth is his and that he is sovereign over everything and that we want to be in relationship with him, enjoying him. Prayer, though, is not so much an action as it is an attitude. It's not a position we assume. It's not a deal we cut. It's some place we put ourselves. It's a placement of ourselves rightly before God.
Let me remind you of where we've been so far, as Jesus says, "When you pray, pray in this manner," or "Pray in this way." He doesn't say, "Pray with these words." You're not going to get slapped if you say, "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," and on and on and on.
He doesn't get mad if you say those words, but he's like, "Are you kidding me? I gave you this prayer so you would not pray in endless repetition. Why are you repeating that prayer to me? But it's okay that you remind yourself of the basic principle and outline of prayer that I gave you. Whenever you interact with me, whenever you humble yourself before me, whenever you get yourself rightly placed before me, think this way."
If I had to break this thing out, and I've done it now for the fourth week as we wrap it up in this little series we've been talking about, where we're letting God be God and we're glorifying him by acknowledging who he is and we're accepting his love for us and that he has given us what Pascal called divine causality.
In other words, he allows us to have direct influence in how things break on this earth. We ultimately will not thwart his purposes, but his permissive will allows us to have meaning and purpose in this life by participating with him in establishing his kingdom on earth or one day, by glorifying him, letting his kingdom be established despite us as he establishes his glory, honor, and power forever and ever, amen.
But now he says, "What I'd love for you to do is to figure out truth and to join me, but don't overcomplicate this. Don't think you have to wear me out. Don't think you have to manipulate and impress me." One of the things we find in Matthew 6:1-8 is the purpose of prayer is not to impress God or impress men. So if you're doing either one of those things in your prayer life, you're missing the point. "You can't impress me. Just ask."
He says, "Pray, then, in this way…" I'm going to give it to you this way. If I had to break out this model prayer, I would do it this way. He said, "Make sure you know who you're talking to. Get the person right. Understand it's about a relationship. I'm your Father. I love you. I'm not like your father on earth who disappointed you, maybe who abused you, maybe who acted capriciously or out of self-interest, maybe who manipulated and ruled over you with anger or withholding emotion.
I'm not like that father. I am your Father who is in heaven. I'm eternal. I'm all-knowing. I'm all-powerful. I'm always there. I'll never leave you or forsake you. My name is good, and nobody who really knows me will speak poorly of me." So know who you're talking to. Get the person right. Enter his gates with praise and thanksgiving. We talked about that.
Then align yourself with his purposes. Make sure that whatever you do in the midst of your life… If you want to find real meaning, make it about his kingdom, not yours, because you'll never get what you're looking for through murder or through lust or through your own strategies. They always disappoint. Make it about his will and not yours.
Get the person right, and once you know that the person is good and has your best interests in mind and wants you to participate with him in establishing truth and goodness and glory, he then says live for his purposes, and then ask for his provision to do his work. One of the greatest assurances you have that your prayers will be answered is that you ask for God's provision to do what he has called you to do.
So you remind yourself that every good thing comes from him. Even the intellect he has given you, the geography he has given you, the seasons he has given you are what are given to you so that you might not store up for yourself a greater standard of living but that you could maybe increase a greater standard of giving to establish his kingdom and to serve others. You'll establish his kingdom by allowing things to be in place that will glorify him or by doing things that will glorify him by your kindness in sharing.
"If I don't give you a lot of physical provision, ask for the kind of provision you need that would allow folks to see that your salvation, your joy, is not tied to circumstances as the earth's joy is tied to circumstances." That's why he says, "Peace I give you, not as the world gives. The world gives peace in fleeting ways. The world gives peace during seasons of prosperity, but I give you peace whether you're in want or whether you're in plenty, whether you're warm or whether you're cold. I am sufficient. In death or in life I am there for you, so look to me for your provision."
There are some people in this room today who sang, "Salvation is here" in the midst of children who are dying with disease, in the midst of children who have died because of tragedy, in the midst of relationships that are broken. There's still a sense of hope and meaning and opportunity in the midst of a world that has gone terribly astray.
Then, gang, after we get straight who the person is and we talk about the purpose of our living and the provision he'll give us, we have to realize the provision is not just through the material means and through the spiritual awareness; it's also the provision of forgiveness that allows us to be in relationship with this person whose purposes we want to be about. That's where we're going to pick it up today. The provision has a provision to it, and that's where I want to start.
Jesus says, "Every time you talk to me, every time you're aware of how precarious this world is apart from me, remind yourself of the Rock that I am and that I am good and that you want to be about what I'm about, because there's life there, and that I will give you what you need to be about that in plenty or want."
Then he says, "Remember grace, because part of the way you'll glorify me and align yourself with my purposes is being like me, and you'll never want to be like me if you don't remember who I am. So remind yourself that I have forgiven your trespasses or I've forgiven your debts, even as you forgive those who have trespassed against you," some translations say, or "even as you forgive your debtors."
This is the next little line. After, "Give us this day our daily bread," we just have to say, "Father, I don't need to continually offer the body of Christ as an ongoing sacrifice, because the sacrifice was made at Calvary, and it is finished. So I thank you that my sins have been once and for all forgiven in the person of Jesus Christ. Forgive me, Lord, for the things I have done, because I love you, that have drawn a wedge between us and things that have threatened the relationship."
Jesus says, "Every time you commune with me, commune with me in a way that you're keeping short accounts with me. The relationship can be strained. It will never be broken. But if you've turned away from me, honor me by acknowledging that you turned away from me. If there has been sedition in your heart, if you've gone after idols, acknowledge that before me and remind yourself of my person again by thanking me for what I've done to deal with your sin. By the way, I want you to forgive others."
In fact, Jesus says, "When you pray, pray this way: 'Lord, I agree that what I did…'" That's what the word confession means: to agree. "I agree that what I just did is wrong. I agree, Father, that if it weren't for you, I would have no hope before you. If you didn't give me the bread of forgiveness through the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ…"
I have to insert this here. I'm going to drill this home in this body. I really believe the church has absolutely bastardized Communion by bringing it in-house and making it some part of a little sanctified service that happens only during special hours of the week, administered by special hands. No! Jesus gave Communion to his people to be done on a continual basis every time we gather together with other believers. I will celebrate Communion two or three times today with other believers as we break bread, as we have refreshing drink.
Jesus says, "As often as you gather and are given physical provision… When you're reminded that you need something outside of you to come into you to give you life, when you break that bread that is life to you, literally, and drink that drink that is life to you, literally, you be reminded that what is really life to you is your restored relationship with me, the broken body and the shed blood of my Son which renews the relationship, and enjoy that. Remind yourself continually of that forgiveness every time you eat."
Then he says, "Just as I have extended grace to you, be grace-extenders." Jesus drives this point home in a big way, because he doesn't want folks to do religious things but who are not spiritual people. He doesn't want us to go through the motion of what appears to be a spiritual act but to not be people who possess a relationship with him, the Father, Son, Spirit. Spirit-filled people, people who the Spirit of God lives in, which is to say they're in relationship with God, are people who are forgiving, people who forgive.
He says, "I want my relationship with you, Lord, to be conditioned upon the fact that I am willing to live as you would have me live, knowing that you forgive me for all of the ways I don't, but evidence that I do acknowledge my rebellion and turn myself to you is that I then begin to live with your Spirit ruling in my life, not my spirit, because, Lord, my spirit is a spirit of vengeance. My spirit is a spirit of bitterness. My spirit is a spirit of anger. That's not your Spirit. I want to live according to your kingdom."
At the very end of this little thing, in Matthew 6:14-15, he says this, and we don't often quote this when we say the Lord's Prayer, but this is exactly what he says after this little idea of praying in this manner. He says, "For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions."
He told an entire story about this in Matthew 18, and we've talked about it extensively in here. I can't talk about this today without, in compassion, explaining what forgiveness is, because this can be very, very abusive. A lot of folks can be greatly discouraged, because they go, "Hey, he doesn't know what my dad did to me. That guy doesn't know what my wife has done to me. They don't know the shame that has been brought on me by this betrayal of relationship.
This guy has no idea, clearly, what it's like to be bilked out of riches. That guy up there? He has never, obviously, been violated the way I've been violated, and he wants me to forgive?" Well, I do, only consistent with the manner with which you've been forgiven, but I also want you to understand the manner in which you've been forgiven.
In Ephesians 4:30-32 it says, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God…" Those of you guys who are in relationship with God, don't grieve the one you're in relationship with. "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted…" This is key here: "…forgiving each other, just as God in Christ [Jesus] also has forgiven you."
Now, how has God in Christ Jesus forgiven you? Answer: he has made complete provision for the relationship to be restored, but what God has not done… The transaction of forgiveness has not been executed with everybody. The Scriptures teach that Christ died for all men. The Scriptures teach that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, but it does also teach that not everybody has been forgiven. Why? Because even though forgiveness has been offered, not everyone has asked for forgiveness. They disavow their need for this good God to be their provision.
To the Jews it's an offense, which is to say, to religious people who think they can do whatever they need to do and establish a standard of righteousness, that they need a Savior is offensive to them. And to the non-religious people, they think it's foolish that anybody could do something for you, specifically somebody who lived 2,000 years ago. "What do you mean I need a Savior?" the religious, righteous people say. "What do you mean that there is somebody who can make provision for the sins of the world?" those who scoff at the work of God would say.
Let me tell you what forgiveness is not. We've done an entire message on this, so you can go and drill down much more deeply with me, but suffice it to say…this is very important…God says to you, "Be about my provision, trusting me for your daily bread and even for the forgiveness that is necessary. Make sure you use the bread I give you to be kind to others with it. I don't give you more to up your standard of living; I give you more to up your standard of giving. I don't forgive you so you can continue to sin against me; I forgive you to model for you how loving, Spirit-informed people live. So as I forgive you, forgive others."
There's a great comedian named Emo Philips. Emo said, "I used to always pray to God every night for him to give me a new bicycle, and then I realized that God didn't work that way, so I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness." God is going to say, "Look, Emo. That's not the way to work this thing out. What I want you to understand, though, is as you've been forgiven, as you understand what I've done for you (this is central now), I want you, just as I've forgiven you, to forgive others."
That's also Ephesians 4:32. " [Forgive] each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." So here we go. Let me just lay this out. Forgiveness is not forgetting. It's not an emotional decision either. Let me say those two things. If you wait until you feel like forgiving to forgive, you'll never forgive certain people. It doesn't say, "If you forgive somebody, you'll feel like you should always be kind toward them."
If you wait until that point, then you're going to be waiting for a long time. Do you think Jesus felt like dying for sinners? No. In fact, the Scripture says God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, while we still spit in his face, while we still lived our own way, while we still mocked him, while we still disbelieved that he was who he said he was, he died for us. He didn't feel like it. In fact, he begged that there would be another way to pull this thing off.
So whatever forgiveness is, it's not an emotional decision. It's an act of the will. It's also not forgetting. It may take you a long time to forget. Corrie ten Boom tells a great story about what forgiveness is like. She calls forgiveness letting go of the rope. She says it's like someone in a bell tower has been ringing this bell. "I've been wronged! I've been wronged!" Finally, you just have to say, "Okay. It's not my job to declare this to the world. It's God's job to execute justice and vengeance, and I'm going to let go of the rope."
She says when you let go of that rope, that bell is still going to ring for a while in your heart, and it may take a while. The sounds may slowly start to mute themselves a little bit, but ultimately, the sound is still going to be there, so if you don't think you've forgiven until the sound stops, you're making a mistake. Just keep saying, "I'm not going to be the one ringing that bell. I'm not going to punish myself that I can remember that sound, that feeling, that note of what they've done, but I'm not going to keep pulling it."
Watch this. This is so important. Battered wife syndrome is a personal belief system that is not biblical that leads to abuse on you, and it is not loving toward those who do you wrong. Battered wife syndrome is that guy comes back after bloodying your lip, emotionally or otherwise, and you keep saying, "All right. I forgive you. I'll let you back in because of the flowers, because of the crying, because of the weeping, because of the promises you'll never do it again."
So you let that same guy right back into the house, right back into your heart, only to find out that he hasn't dealt with his issues and he's going to hurt you again. You find women who do this again and again and again and again and again and again and again. You're like, "Whoa! Sister, what are you doing?" "Well, I'm supposed to forgive and forget." Really. Where is that in Scripture? This is why God says, "Do you want salvation? You have to live according to my Scripture."
Listen. Forgiveness is not reconciliation. I'm not saying that the goal is not reconciliation. It is! But make sure you're not just going back because of your need, because of your codependent behavior, because that person is a god to you, because of a twisting of Scripture. We tell folks all the time there ought to be a chorus of people around you saying that this person has established… First of all, they've asked your forgiveness, and now they've ordered their life in such a way that it would make sense for you to slowly let them back in, but if in your heart you say they're never coming back in, that's a problem.
Let me say it to you this way. Forgiveness is not reconciliation. Reconciliation takes two; forgiveness takes one. You are called to forgive. They are reconciled when they receive your forgiveness because they've asked for it, rightly acknowledging what they have done as wrong and then forsaking the practices that caused you that wrong. Some people, especially in the midst of broken relationships, go, "I can't even imagine offering that person forgiveness, because I know eventually you're going to want them back in the house with me."
I go, "Don't worry about them being back in the house with you. That's weeks, months, sometimes years ahead, but if in your heart you say, 'I'll never allow that healing to take place,' that's a different problem." Don't wait until you're ready to reconcile to offer forgiveness. Forgiveness is the first step that leads to reconciliation. What God tells you to do is to be somebody who offers forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not condoning or dismissing. This is very important. I like this quote. When we forgive evil, we don't excuse it. We don't tolerate it. We don't condone it. We look evil full in the face. We call it what it is. We let its horror shock and stun and enrage us, and then we forgive it. Forgiving is not condoning. It's not dismissing. It's because something is real and substantive that you have to forgive it.
Forgiveness is a good thing. Dismissing sin is not a good thing. We don't whitewash something and call it good. That's not good. Forgiveness is good. Dismissing something and acting like it's not a problem and calling it forgiveness is a huge mistake. Let me say this to you. One last thing. Forgiveness is not pardoning. Pardoning is the result of a legal transaction that removes from somebody the consequences of an action under the law. That's pardoning.
Forgiveness is a personal transaction where you're saying, "I'm no longer going to have you live in concern of personal retribution from me. You still might have to face the consequences of breaking the law, but you don't have to worry about the fact that I'm going to hit you with a lead pipe when you come around that corner, because I'm not going to execute vengeance on you.
You don't have to worry about me slandering your name all over the place. Your name might suffer. I'm not going to deny what you did to me, but I'm also not going to have an advertising campaign about it. I'm not pardoning you. You still have to deal with the consequences of your actions, but I no longer will live with my purpose being to bring pain into your life."
Let me tell you what forgiveness is. It's the decision to continually and purposefully commit to being driven by love in every attitude and action toward the one who offended and hurt you. That's what it means. That dad who abused you, that husband who abandoned you, that wife who betrayed you, that partner who bilked you… What you're going to say is, "You're not going to ruin my life. I'm not going to let you hurt me twice because you've hurt me once." What do I mean by that?
Guys, look at the genius and goodness of God. Jesus says, "Every time you talk to me… Let me tell you a central problem in human life is broken relationships. It creates anger, it creates bitterness, it creates wrath, it creates isolation, and I love you too much, so every time we talk, guess what I am. I'm a God who restores. I'm going to make you a minister of reconciliation. 'Blessed are the merciful, for they shall find mercy.' I'm going to try to get you back into my kingdom and not your kingdom, which murders to find freedom." He loves you.
There's a guy who wrote a book. He's an MD, and he says the unhealthiest people he knows physically are the people who often are unhealthy emotionally. He says, specifically, "The two greatest unhealthy emotions that I see ruin people's lives that lead to stress, which leads to heart disease, which can precipitate cancer, which certainly break all kinds of relationships, are…" Watch this. He says, "I see guilt and bitterness ruin lives." Well, guess what Jesus says he wants to deal with every time you reconnect with him: guilt and bitterness.
"Father, forgive us our debts. Don't let guilt and shame rule my life. I am a sinner. I did do that. That is real. I don't know how I could ever be a loved person, yet all I see in Scriptures is that you restore prostitutes, you restore murderers, you restore terrorists, you restore unfaithful men, you restore people who are a slave to anger, you restore people who are a slave to hating themselves and every kind of rebellion known to man. God, thank you that you died for me. Thank you that you, on the cross, dealt with my guilt and shame."
Then bitterness. "Father, I want to learn to forgive the way you forgave. That doesn't mean pretend things didn't happen. That just simply means I need to be an individual, Lord, who loves the way you love." By the way, let me show you the genius of all this. Watch how consistent Scripture is. Someone came up to Jesus and said, "Hey, Jesus, what's the first and greatest commandment?"
He said, "Well, you should love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength." In other words, "Get the person of God right. Know that it's about his kingdom. Know that it's about his will and not yours. Know that he is the one who cares for you in every which way." "The second one," he says, "is like unto it: love your neighbor as yourself." Do you want to be forgiven? Then forgive others. "On these two hang all of the commandments and all of the Prophets." Jesus.
"Hey, if you learn why you're forgiven and you celebrate the God who forgives you and you learn to love others in the way you've been loved, that's what a prayerful person does. That's the way my people live. That's the way my kingdom is established." What Christ is trying to do here is he's calling us back to an attitude that isn't just what religious people do; it's what a loving father would want his son to do.
"I want to deal with your guilt, son. I want to deal with your shame. You don't have to pretend that that didn't happen. It happened, but I love you, and I've dealt with that completely. So every time now that you do other things that create more, just restore the relationship. Acknowledge it. Let's keep short accounts with each other. By the way, you be the one offering to keep short accounts with other people."
Don't pretend when there's an offense that happened that it didn't happen. Go to them and say, "Hey, you hurt me." You tell people, "That hurt me, and I want you to know I forgive you in the sense that I'm not acting toward you in anger. I love you. I may not let you back in until you acknowledge what you did and you purpose to forsake that type of practice, but I want you to know my life is not about getting a pound of flesh back from you. My heart toward you is one of forgiveness."
You know you've begun to forgive somebody, by the way, when you hear a person's name and you can wish well for them. That doesn't mean you wish there would be no consequences. Sometimes consequences are the appropriate thing God uses to bring us to a place of repentance. That's why battered wives are no completers to their husbands, because they never let a husband face the consequences to his actions in a way that would win him to repentance so that you can be reconciled. Do you see that?
Watch where he goes after this. "God, provide me. Remind me of the forgiveness that's available as I, provided, live out your kingdom purposes for others. Lord, I need protection, because the Enemy tells me the way to life is through anger. I need protection, because the Enemy, Lord, plays on my flesh and what's all around me and seems right to me. So, Father, lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil." Or some would say, "The Evil One."
The next thing you ask for is this sense of protection. God says, "Every time you talk to me, enter my gates with praise and thanksgiving. Know that I am the good God. Align yourself with me and my purposes. Trust me for the provision to accomplish my purposes even when the kingdom is lean. Thank me for the provision of forgiveness and restoration and the means to glorify me today. Offer that to others, and then remind yourself that apart from me you're in a really dangerous place."
This is an interesting little phrase Jesus uses here, where he says, "Pray this way: 'Lead us not into temptation.'" In James, chapter 1, the Bible says God doesn't tempt anybody. So why does Jesus use this expression, "When you pray, pray this way, pray in this manner," asking for God to lead us not into temptation? I believe that what's going on right there, and I'll tell you what we know it doesn't mean…
It's a cry out of a son who has been reconciled to a father who says, "Lord, I don't want to do anything that's going to hurt this relationship with you again. I just love you so much. I don't want to put myself in a situation where I'd be tempted to go other directions. The Evil One is always pulling me away from you.
He hates the love we have for one another, so he tries to convince me that there is life somewhere other than in relationship with you, and asserting myself as king and establishing myself as the wise one and leaning on my own understanding. I don't want to go there. I don't want to live in the midst of that thinking. Deliver me from that Deceiver."
That is why when we sang in that song, "Salvation is here and it lives in me…" His Word is alive, and it lives in me, because I'm not living according to my own understanding or the deceptive practices of the world. Here's James, chapter 1. In verse 12, it says, "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life…"
That's why, by the way, we don't pray, "God, deliver us from trials," because God uses trials to purify us and allow us sometimes to serve him in a way that folks go, "You're not like everybody else in this world." So we don't pray, "God, deliver me from difficult things." We say, "God, give me what I need so even in difficult things I can honor you, and apart from you, I won't be able to honor you in this difficult thing.
Deliver me from the temptation to think in the midst of my trials you can't be trusted, from the Evil One who's going to tell me you've forgotten me, that I should curse you and die. No. Father, when I abide with you, when I stick with you in trial, I receive the crown of life. There is only life in you. You've promised that to those who love you."
That's not a crown we'll get on the other side of the grave. I think it's a crown we receive right now. In other words, there is a peace that passes understanding, an abiding joy, that the world looks at you and goes, "Where do you get that peace in the midst of the conflict you are in?" The answer is "By abiding with God and reminding myself that he is good and sovereign despite my circumstance."
"Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone." So you don't have to say, "God, don't tempt me." God doesn't tempt anyone. "But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust." By our own desire to find peace and life apart from God.
What we're saying is, "Lord, having learned your person, having learned that there's life in your kingdom, having believed that all provision of life comes from you, having asked forgiveness for trying to find life apart from you, Father, don't let me buy the lie that there is life apart from you. The Evil One wants me to go there."
James 4:7-8 says, "Submit therefore to God." Every time you understand how precarious a situation you're in, that you will be drawn to go another direction, you have to remind yourself of the goodness of God's Word, and you want to submit, therefore, to God. You want to resist the Devil who says, "You have to go your way," and it says, "…he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded."
That's why we say, "Lord, lead me not into temptation." I love this little situation in Matthew, chapter 26. Jesus himself is at a place where his flesh is wanting to be double-minded from his spirit. In other words, he doesn't want to go to the cross. He doesn't want to be forgiving. He doesn't want to be "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done."
He wants to go, "I don't like this, where we're headed." But he said, "I don't want to be double-minded. God, I'm going to draw near to you. I'm going to resist the Devil who says you don't love me, and I'm going to live by faith." Jesus models this for his disciples.
Matthew 26:36: "Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, 'Sit here while I go over there and pray. [While I get my mind right with God, while I get my attitude and my surrender to God correct. I'm in a precarious situation. I need to pray.] 'And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed."** In other words, that means Jesus was physically and emotionally depleted.
He said, "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death…" Literally, in the Greek he said, "I am depressed to the point of depression that leads to death." But watch what he does. He says, "…remain here and keep watch with Me." What does that mean? "Keep watch that I don't run after my feelings, that I don't surrender to my own understanding."
"And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet [when you pray, pray this way] not as I will, but as You will.' And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping…" What's going on there is if you don't stay alert, then your Enemy, the Devil, is going to whip your hide.
These guys are physically asleep, but the point is you can't fall asleep in this battle. You have to be awake with the Word of God. He says, "So, you guys couldn't even endure with me in this great trial for an hour? Keep watching, and pray that your spirit would not enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." That is why what God is calling us to do when he says, "When you pray, pray this way…"
Don't walk according to the counsel of the wicked. Don't stand in the path of sinners. Don't sit in the seat of scoffers, but delight yourself in the law of the Lord, and on that law meditate day and night. Don't be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Stay alert. The Enemy is going to whisper lies, and they're going to feel so real and true, and you're going to go, "No! This is truth."
Don't let the Evil One, who is a liar from the beginning, tell you that God has forgotten you. Trust in him. That's the call. Gang, we need to pray for each other. Look at this. I love this little phrase in Luke 22:31-32. Jesus is having this conversation. He says, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat…" In other words, the Enemy…
Those of us who are journeying right now through the book of Job… Everything goes through our Sovereign God's hand, his permissive will. Sometimes trials come. Why? So that you might glorify God and establish his kingdom on earth, that you would be put through things because he trusts you, that if you'll depend upon him, you can still sing to him, even though all around you fades, and the world is going to go, "Who are you that you still sing, 'Salvation is here' in the midst of that loss?"
You go, "Who I am is a person who is securely rooted in relationship with the eternal God. That's who I am. Even though body fades, even though death comes, even though loss is experienced, God will restore that."
"You mean to tell me you believe in a God who can resurrect from the grave? You mean to tell me there's a God who can restore things this world has absolutely devoured?"
And people will go, "I want to know that God, and I'm going to watch you."
This is what Paul said to somebody who was really frustrated with him. He said, "Hey, you want to kill me? That's my gain. You want to let me live? Then Christ is going to live in me. To live is Christ, to die is gain." Only a prayerful person can say that. He said, "Simon, Satan has asked permission to use you and to wear you out and to bring things into your life that would cause you to hate God and follow him."
Jesus says, "…but I have prayed for you [I have asked for you, I am encouraging you] , that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." This is why we need community. We are to pray for each other, and part of the way we pray for each other is to speak words of truth to each other and not just to God. We encourage each other day after day, as long as it's still called "Today," lest any of us be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, because this world is hard.
Here's what Jesus is saying: "Enter my gates with praise and thanksgiving. I am a good God. I am nothing like you can imagine. Align yourself with my purposes. Trust me for provision. Offer the provision I give to you as provision for others, and be careful to not believe the lie that sharing is stupid, forgiving is wrong.
Just remember when the world forsakes you, when you're mocked at, and when the opinion of the day is such that you are an idiot for living with this understanding, that mine is the glory, mine is the power, forever and ever, amen. There is one opinion that matters, and it's mine. Remember that," he says.
"Remember who I am. Remember who I am. Live for my purposes. Live for my purposes. Trust for my provision." It is a chiastic teaching that drives us in the middle to the main thing. "Trust me. I'll provide for you. I am good." That's what he says. Live continually with that perspective. That's how we're going to end today, just to declare through song our prayer.
"Lord, thank you for teaching us how every time we start to think, which should be nonstop, moment by moment, we have to vacate. Not 'What do I want?' What do you want? Not 'What can I create?' What can you provide? Not 'How can I get comfort because my kingdom is established?' How can I live in peace in the midst of yours? The answer is step-by-step. I will love you all of my days, because I know my world is precarious. I will live prayerfully, and I will surround myself with others who will encourage me, who will pray for me and pry me on with words that are true."
It is great, gang, to be a part of a body that does that. To say that you don't need to talk to God, study his Word, or depend upon others is to live outside of the means of grace God wants to give you so that you might live effectively for him. So talk to God, abide with him, read his Word, and abide with other followers who say, "Step-by-step, here we go together."
Father, thank you for the privilege of being a part of a family that wants to love each other this way. We thank you for the example of Jesus who is always encouraging his friends and who is saying, "O Peter, let me remind you of what is true. I'm going to forgive you when you mess up, but I'm going to teach you words that would allow you to not fail the next time, so that when you are restored, you can encourage your brothers."
Father, that is our story. We are Peter. We have been sifted like wheat, many of us, but by your grace you've restored us. You've forgiven us, and now we can offer that forgiveness to others wisely. We can call them to repentance as you called us to repentance, and despite the circumstances around us, we can say, "I'm not going to go where I want to go. I'm not going to establish my kingdom. I'm not going to find life through murder or lust. I'm not going to listen to the Evil One. I'm going to trust my Father who's in heaven, who all glory, honor, and power is his forever, amen."
Step-by-step, Lord, day by day, moment by moment, I want to walk in your ways prayerfully, because this is a precarious world. So, Lord, I step back and I say, "Lead me." I vacate. It's no longer me but Christ in me who lives, and salvation is here, to have a peace that passes understanding, a hope that is not of this world, a kingdom that is to come. May it manifest itself now in my heart and by your grace in our community of love for one another, step-by-step.
Prayer. What is it, after all? Reciting words from a prayer book? Presenting God with our requests? Or desperately crying out to Him in our time of need?<br /><br />In this series, Todd Wagner shares the one word that most accurately sums up the Bible's teaching on prayer: VACATE. Could it be that prayer is really about abandoning our own agenda and efforts and allowing God to lead. Or taking a break from our plans and trying out His?<br /><br />In this series you'll hear friends and theologians alike all testifying to the same truth: that life is found in being still before God in prayer. And that when we VACATE, we?ll find a right perspective on who God is and why we all are in need of a Savior.