Getting To Know Him
In our last lesson, “Our identity Crisis” we learned some things about making a commitment to the new being that we became through our new birth.
Eph 4:22-24 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
We learned that the best way to renew our minds and experience spiritual transformation is by knowing, thinking, and speaking who we are in Christ!
In our new identity as a child of God, we should seek daily every opportunity to manifest the fruit of the Spirit.
But, just as important as it is to understand who we are in Christ, we also need to understand the purpose of our calling; we are called to be followers of Christ, and to perform His will:
Col 1:10-13 That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; 12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
Before we go any farther in this lesson, we need to understand something clearly – many people professing to be Christians seem to have a distorted picture of what it means to be a Christian in this great land of ours. It almost seems like they think they’re the ones in charge of their lives and God is just there to give them a hand if they need Him.To many, God is like a genie in a bottle whose sole purpose is to faithfully grant their wishes on command! How radically has modern man departed from God’s actual purposes for their lives!
For example, let’s take a look at:
1Cor 6:19-20 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
When we were redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, we relinquished all ownership rights to do as we see fit with these bodies. Before our conversion, we were the slaves of Satan, but through the redemption process, Jesus paid the price of His precious blood to release us from Satan’s ownership and we became the purchased property of Jesus.
In other words, we can’t relegate the Lord Jesus Christ to some far corner of our life – He is our life! And He is Lord of our life!
In order to be an effective servant or disciple of Christ, we must discipline ourselves
Luk 9:23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Throughout the Roman Empire the cross meant one thing – an instrument of death!
Jesus is clearly telling all who have been called to follow Him something that Paul understood very well:
- Gal 5:24-25 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
- 2Co 5:15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
- 2Ti 2:3-4 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.
In a future lesson we’ll be talking about spiritual warfare which is why Paul uses the idea of Christians as soldiers. God’s army, like any other, requires a good system of transmitting and receiving orders and requests for Godly and angelic assistance, etc. Our primary focus should be to receive and to execute God’s will as He reveals it to us, which brings us to one of the most vital of all the Christian disciplines:
Prayer- the Vital Link
First of all, prayer is not some kind of legalistic drudgery that we must go through and endure in order to ease our conscience; it is designed by God to be a joyful experience that lifts us up above the rat race of our daily lives, and seats us in heavenly places with our Lord and Savior.
I’m persuaded that if we are to be the kind of disciples God needs to further His kingdom, we must gain a deeper understanding of what prayer is and what can happen when people take up the challenge to give ourselves to prayer and fasting the way the early church did. Somehow we have to re-arrange our priorities, just as we give God our tithes before we pay anything else, we need to budget our time alone with God in our closet of prayer before doing anything else!
How faith and prayer work hand in hand
Some Christians seem to think that faith, as it is related to prayer, is like a tool we use to obtain the results we desire from God. They seem to think that if they can somehow operate this tool in just the right way it will produce answers. What happens with this approach is that it tends to put more emphasis on the ability of the one doing the praying than it does on the goodness and generosity of God who gives us our requests in loving response to our joyful trust and grateful assurance that He will indeed give us what we ask of Him.
Seeking Inspiration and Motivation to Improve our Prayer Life
I highly recommend reading the inspirational writings of great men of prayer like Edward McKendree Bounds (1835-1913). This amazing prayer warrior had a daily routine of arising at 4:00 a.m. and praying for at least 3 hours before he would even begin to involve himself in any other activities.
It’s easy for us to think of men of God like E. M. Bounds as some sort of spiritual supermen that we could never be like, and then lapse right back into our comfort zone without even making the effort.
I want to share a passage from Bounds’ Book, The Weapon of Prayer, Chapter 9 – I found this very convicting and motivating!
“Prayer is the language of a man burdened with a sense of need. It is the voice of the beggar, conscious of his poverty, asking of another the things he needs. It is not only the language of lack, but of felt lack, of lack consciously realized. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” means not only that the fact of poverty of spirit brings the blessing, but also that poverty of spirit is realized, known and acknowledged. Prayer is the language of those who need something – something which they, themselves, cannot supply but which God has promised them, and for which they ask. In the end, “poor praying and prayerlessness amount to the same thing, for poor praying proceeds from a lack of the sense of need, while prayerlessness has its origin in the same soil. Not to pray is not only to declare there is nothing needed, but to admit to a non-realization of that need. This is what aggravates the sin of prayerlessness. It represents an attempt at instituting an independence of God, a self-sufficient ruling of God out of the life. It is a declaration made to God that we do not need Him, and hence do not pray to Him.” This is the state in which the Holy Spirit, in His messages to the Seven Churches in Asia, found the Laodicean Church and “the Laodicean state” has come to stand for one in which God is ruled out, expelled from the life, put out of the pulpit. The entire condemnation of this Church is summed up in one expression: “Because thou sayest, I have need of nothing,” the most alarming state into which a person, or church or preacher can come. Trusting in its riches, in its social position, in things outward and material, the Church at Laodicea omitted God, leaving Him out of their church plans and church work, and declared, by their acts and by their omission of prayer, “I have need of nothing.” No wonder the self-satisfied declaration brought forth its sentence of punishment – “Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” The idea conveyed is that such a backslidden state of heart is as repulsive to God as an emetic is to the human stomach, and as the stomach expels that which is objectionable, so Almighty God threatens to “spue out of His mouth” these people who were in such a religious condition so repulsive to Him. All of it was traceable to a prayerless state of heart, for no one can read this word of the Spirit to this Laodicean Church and not see that the very core of their sin was prayerlessness. —E.M. Bounds, “The Weapon of Prayer.”
I have also included for you to read the following at your leisure:
Paraphrases of E.M. Bounds Sayings
Accomplishing God’s work in this world has two basic principles—God’s unlimited ability to give, and man’s ability to ask. Since the thing that triggers God’s giving is our ability to ask, it follows that man’s failure to pray will set a limit to God’s plan. But God’s ability to do and to give has never failed and cannot fail; but man’s ability to ask can fail, and often does.
Therefore the slow progress that is being made toward the realization of a world won for Christ lies entirely with man’s limited asking!
You can put this saying up on a banner over our sanctuary and never take it down: That God does hear and answer prayer. God has always heard and answered prayer. God will forever hear and answer prayer. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He changes not. As he has always answered prayer, so will he ever continue to do so.
God’s Word does not say, “Call unto me, and you will thereby be trained into the happy art of knowing how to be denied. Ask, and you will learn sweet patience by getting nothing.” Far from it; but it is definite, clear and positive: “Ask, and it shall be given unto you.”
The Bible is filled with examples of miracles being performed in answer to the desperate cries of desperate people:
Hannah, was barren, and desiring a man child, went to the house of prayer, and prayed until she could barely move her lips and Eli thought she was drunken. But later she testified, “For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me the petition which I asked of him.”
We are overwhelmed by so many materialistic daily activities, and at best we try to squeeze God in somewhere between orange juice and brushing our teeth.
“To pray is the greatest thing we can do: and to do it well there must be calmness, time, and deliberation; we must learn anew the worth of prayer, enter anew the school of prayer. There is nothing which it takes more time to learn. And if we would learn the wondrous art, we must not give a fragment here and there but we must demand and hold with iron grasp the best hours of the day for God and prayer, or there will be no praying worth the name.
The church and the world greatly need saints who can bridge this wide gap between the praying done and the small number of answers received. Saints are needed whose faith is bold enough and sufficiently far-reaching to put God to the test. The cry comes even now out of heaven to the people of the present-day church, as it sounded forth in the days of Malachi: “Prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts.” God is waiting to be put to the test by his people in prayer. He delights in being put to the test on his promises. It is his highest pleasure to answer prayer to prove the reliability of his promises. Nothing worthy of God nor of great value to men will be accomplished till this is done.”