ST. SATAN PRAY FOR ME?

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…as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1st Corinthians 1:7b-9

I love this passage. It gives me hope. And it helps me to sleep well at night (more on that in a moment). But this passage is encouraging because of what Paul says and to whom he says it.

Paul is writing to the Corinthian church and, to put it mildly, they were seriously messed up because of sin. This church was sick and warped. There were divisions and cliques because people favored certain pastors (1 Cor 3:4-9). A man was engaging in an inappropriate relationship with his step-mother (1 Cor 5:1-5). They were taking each other to court and suing each other (1 Cor 6:1-8). They were involved in gross immorality and idolatry (1Cor 6:12-20; 10:1-22). Some were even hogging all the bread at the Lord’s Supper and were getting drunk from the wine (1 Cor 11:17-22)! They were abusing spiritual gifts and were lacking love (1 Cor 12-14). And people say, “We want to be a New Testament church.” Not me! At least not this particular church.

But the thing that gives me hope is that it is to these messed up Christians at Corinth that Paul writes and says, “… Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful…”

Incredible. A sin-soaked congregation will be guiltless on the day when Jesus returns. Why? Because God is faithful. Because the Gospel is true. What a glorious hope sin-soaked churches have (both then and now)!

This is why I sleep well at night. Well, actually I don’t sleep well at night because I’m a “light sleeper” and my wife recently gave birth to our 6th child and we have a few sick kiddos at the house. So I haven’t been sleeping well lately, but I do sleep without worrying over the state of the church where I serve as pastor. No matter how messed up we are because of sin, if Jesus were to come back today, we’d all be blameless and without guilt at His return. That’s good news!

But what do you do when Satan repeatedly reminds you of your sins? Even though you are guiltless, what do you do when Satan reminds you of your besetting sins? Let me give the floor to my friend Martin Luther:

“When I go to bed, the devil is always waiting for me. When he begins to plague me, I give him this answer: ‘Devil, I must sleep. That’s God’s command — work by day, sleep by night. So go away.’ If that doesn’t work and he brings out a catalog of sins, I say, ‘Yes, old fellow, I know all about it. And I know some more you have overlooked. Here are a few extra. Put them down.’ If he still won’t quit and presses me hard and accuses me as a sinner, I scorn him and say, ‘St. Satan, pray for me. Of course, you have never done anything wrong in your life. You alone are holy. Go to God and get grace for yourself. If you want to get me all straightened out, I say, Physician, heal thyself.’”

I love Luther’s honesty and sense of humor. But he didn’t take sin lightly and neither should we. Let’s fight sin. Let’s strive for holiness by God’s grace. But let’s sleep well at night knowing that God sees us covered with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Give thanks today that you are forgiven and now stand blameless in God’s eyes because of Jesus… regardless of what Satan says!

Guiltless (what a great description!),
Benji

* Photo by Mike Adams

HERO WORSHIP

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What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:12

It’s in our blood. We simply have an innate desire to elevate and worship the heroes of our faith. It might be a well-known Christian from history, your favorite radio preacher, a best-selling author, or even one of the pastors of your church. We just can’t help but be drawn to worship God’s servants. Of course, I don’t mean that we can’t honor and respect these servants. There are plenty of people that I admire and appreciate. But sometimes we can step beyond that to “hero worship.” Perhaps this is never truer than when it comes to David. We love David. And who doesn’t love David? He killed Goliath. He spared Saul’s life. He wrote many of the psalms… and he was a murderer and an adulterer. We may have an unhealthy fascination with David.

I’m not here to throw David under the bus. But I want to point out that he wasn’t as “squeaky-clean” as we make him out to be. In fact, we easily throw Solomon under the bus for having 700 wives and 300 concubines (see 1 Kings 11:3), but did you know that David had many wives and concubines too?

And sons were born to David at Hebron: his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam of Jezreel; and his second, Chileab, of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; and the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream, of Eglah, David’s wife. These were born to David in Hebron. 2 Samuel 3:2-5

And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron, and more sons and daughters were born to David. And these are the names of those who were born to him in Jerusalem: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet. 2 Samuel 5:13-16

It’s true that kings in the ancient Near East were deemed powerful according to the number and beauty of their wives and concubines, but it violates Deuteronomy 17:14-20. David was clearly violating Yahweh’s law, even if culture called for him to amass wives. So David may not have had 700 wives like his son Solomon, but how many wives is too many? I think 2 wives is too many. Where do you think Solomon learned how to amass a harem? It seems that we may have an unhealthy fascination with David and may only find fault with him concerning the Bathsheba incident. Too often we forget that God’s servants are sinners. Too often we elevate them and put them on a pedestal. Too often we fall into “hero worship.”

Understand this: God’s servants will let you down. Your pastors will let you down. Your leaders will let you down. But there is One who won’t. There is One who sustains the church, the kingdom, even when sinful leaders are at the helm. He is the only One we should worship. He is the true Hero. His name is Jesus.

WHAT YOUR CHURCH NEEDS MORE THAN ANYTHING

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…and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 2 Corinthians 5:15

My personal mission in life and the mission at Grace (the church where I serve) is simple: we exist to ignite a passion in every person to glorify and enjoy God everywhere and in everything. We believe that this is why we were created. We agree with the Westminster Shorter Catechism Question #1: What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.

But how do we do that as a church? How do we ignite a passion in every person to glorify and enjoy God everywhere and in everything? Paul Tripp captures the central way in which a church can pull this off:

Awe of God must dominate my ministry, because one of the central missional gifts of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to give people back their awe of God. A human being not living with functional awe of God is profoundly disadvantaged. He is off the rails, trying to propel the train of his life in a meadow, and he may not even know it. When awe of God is absent, it is quickly replaced by awe of ourselves. If you are not living for God the only other alternative is to live for yourself. So a church must turn people back to the one thing for which they were created: to live in a sturdy, joyful, faithful awe of God.

This means every sermon should be prepared by a person whose study is marked by awe of God. The sermon must be delivered in awe and have as its purpose to motivate awe in those who hear. Children’s ministry must have as its goal to ignite in young children a life-shaping awe of God. The youth ministry of the church must move beyond Bible entertainment and do all it can to help teens see God’s glory and name it as the thing for which they will live. Women’s ministry must do more than give women a place to fellowship with one another and do crafts. Women need to be rescued from themselves and myriad self-interests that nip at their hearts; awe of God provides that rescue. Men’s ministries need to recognize the coldness in the heart of so many men to the things of God and confront and stimulate men with their identity as those created to live and lead out of a humble zeal for God’s glory, rather than their own. Missions and evangelism, too, must be awe-driven.

Remember, Paul argues that this is the reason for the cross. He says that Jesus came so that “those who live may no longer live for themselves, but for him who loved them and gave himself for them” (2 Corinthians 5:15). Only powerful grace can keep this awe alive. Only then can we be used to ignite that awe in others. (Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, p.119)

Praying for more awe,
Benji

WHEN THE DEVIL THROWS YOUR SINS IN YOUR FACE

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So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: “I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!” Martin Luther

Legend has it that Luther also threw an inkwell at Satan. I suppose you can do that too.

Unanswered Prayers

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Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

Sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers. At the very least, He doesn’t answer them the way we want. I think that’s what country singer Garth Brooks was trying to say in his song Unanswered Prayers-

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the Man upstairs
That just because He doesn’t answer doesn’t mean He don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

I’m not saying we should learn everything (or much of anything!) about prayer from a redneck Okie like Garth Brooks (i’m a redneck Okie, if you’re offended), but there is truth to what he sings. So why does God not answer some of our prayers? Paul Miller explains it well-

If God is sovereign, then he is in control of all the details of my life. If he is loving, then he is going to be shaping the details of my life for my good. If he is all-wise, then he’s not going to do everything I want because I don’t know what I need. If he is patient, then he is going to take time to do all this. When we put these all together–God’s sovereignty, love, wisdom, and patience–we have a divine story… You can’t have a good story without tension and conflict, without things going wrong. Unanswered prayers create some of the tensions in the story God is weaving in our lives. When we realize this, we want to know what God is doing. What pattern is God weaving? If God is composing a story with our lives, then our lives are no longer static. We aren’t paralyzed by life; we can hope.

The next time you feel that God is not answering your prayers, remember that this may be an example of His creativity. This may be a time when He is creating tension in the story of your life. Come to grips with that. And then rest in the fact that He is weaving a pattern. He is not malicious. He is allowing tension and all the things to go wrong because He’s writing the story for your good and His glory. Get excited because the tension and conflict are a part of your story. And then start asking yourself, “What is God doing? What is He up to? He’s writing the story of my life and He’s up to something. I just have to wait with patience and hope to see how this works for my good and His glory. I can’t wait to see how the story turns out!”

You gotta love a God like that!

It’s Not Rocket Science

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Do you struggle to pray? Of course you do. We all do. And that’s why I want to share with you something from Paul Miller’s book A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World-

Here are seven simple suggestions for how you can spend time with your Father in the morning:

* Get to bed. What you do in the evening will shape your morning. The Hebrew notion of a day as the evening and morning (see Genesis 1) helps you plan for prayer. If you want to pray in the morning, then plan your evening so you don’t stay up too late. The evening and the morning are connected.

* Get up. Praying in bed is wonderful. In fact, the more you pray out of bed, the more you’ll pray in bed. But you’ll never develop a morning prayer in bed. Some of my richest prayer times are at night. I’ll wake up praying. But those prayer times only began to emerge because I got out of bed to pray.

* Get awake. Maybe you need to make a pot of coffee first or take a shower.

* Get a quiet place. Maybe a room, a chair, or a place with a view. Or maybe you do better going for a walk. Make sure that no one can interrupt you.

* Get comfortable. Don’t feel like you have to pray on your knees. For years I was hindered from praying because I found it so uncomfortable to pray on my knees.

* Get going. Start with just five minutes. Start with a small goal that you can attain rather than something heroic. You’ll quickly find that the time will fly.

* Keep going. Consistency is more important than length. If you pray five minutes every day, then the length of time will slowly grow. You’ll look up and discover that twenty minutes have gone by. You’ll enjoy being with God. Jesus is so concerned about hanging in there with prayer that he tells “his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1, NIV).

I know Paul Miller’s suggestions for prayer aren’t rocket science, but they just might be the help you need to rekindle your prayer life.