Thousands and millions of books are written every year, and every year I regularly read over one hundred books but very few of those books published and even fewer of those that I read are diagnostic books that punch you in the gut (in a good way to bring conviction of sin) by pointing out the weaknesses in pastoral culture and church life in order to help pastors see clearly their blind spots and point them to growth in the grace of God. Thankfully Dr. Paul Tripp a seasoned Pastor and counselor knows this which is why he wrote Dangerous Calling Confronting The Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry.
One of the more important trends I see happening in Christian publishing is an emphasize on Gospel centered growth in the grace of God. Added to this emphasis is a recent resurgence in books being published that emphasizes how the Pastor should be growing in the grace of God. Often such books on spiritual formation are written for the lay person so it encourages me when I see publishers like Christian Focus (who recently published Pastoring the Pastor) and now Crossway publishing Dangerous Calling addressing this issue in a way that doesn’t burden Pastors but confronts them with the Truth of God’s Word in order to help them see themselves as they are desperate needy sinners in need of Jesus and His grace.
There’s an epidemic happening in pastoral ministry. In seminary future pastors are given a lot of information about theology, doctrine, church history and more to help equip them to preach, teach and minister to God’s people. Sadly this emphasis on information focuses only on the head (knowing right doctrine is vital, so don’t hear me arguing against that, my point is larger than this). My point is quite simply that Pastors are first Christians. The classical pastoral writers from the early church to the Reformation to the present have always focused on the character of the man which involves knowing right doctrine, but also being transformed by the doctrine we believe. In other words put more simply, sound doctrine leads to right living. What we believe has consequences so believing right doctrine should affect the way we live our lives before the throne of God’s unending, everlasting grace.
Dr. Paul Tripp has personally experienced pastoral culture as a Pastor, as a pastoral counselor, seminary professor, and conference speaker. Having read most of Dr. Tripp’s books one of the things I appreciate most about his style of writing is his goal to take Christians beneath the surface of our lives in order to point out indwelling sin and point out to the One in Jesus who longs for us to die to our sin, and turn from our sin to Him who can kill our sin and help us grow in the grace of God.
Paul Tripp’s diagnosis is not only spot on about pastoral culture in Dangerous Calling but is confirmed by The Schaeffer Institute’s [http://www.intothyword.org/apps/articles/default.asp?articleid=36562] who did research on this issue. Their research pants a disturbing picture: 50 percent of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years. Over 1,700 pastors leave the ministry every month. 70 percent of pastors constantly fight depression. 80 percent of pastors believe that pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
Pastors read many books that fill their minds but not many that challenge them to take an honest assessment of where they are spiritually. Dangerous Calling was written to help diagnose your spiritual life and point you to the Lord Jesus. Dr. Tripp notes that with writing this book he has “launched myself on a ministry career direction to get help for pastors who have lost their way” (12), I applaud Dr. Tripp for this and pray the Lord blesses him and increases his tribe as he ministers to hurting Pastors.
At the heart of this book is the contention that “you are constantly talking to yourself about your identity, your spirituality, your functionality, your emotionality, your mentaility, your personality, your relationships, etc. You are constantly preaching to yourself some kind of gospel. You preach to yourself an anti-gospel of your own righteousness, power, and wisdom, or you preach to yourself the true gospel of deep spiritual need and sufficient grace. You preach to yourself an anti-gospel of aloneness and inability, or you preach to yourself the true gospel of the presence, provisions, and power of an ever-present Christ” (21). The main point that Tripp makes is that “no one celebrates the presence and grace of the Lord Jesus more than the person who has embraced his desperate and daily need of it” (23).
Now that you have some flavor of the direction the book the book takes let me share with you how this book ministered to me. I’ve written quite a bit in the past year about my own struggles with burnout in the past and how the Lord lead me through this season to grow in the grace of God. Since I’ve graduated from seminary this past May (May 2012) the Lord has by His grace increased my love not only for His Word (which I’ve been reading more regularly) but also for His people. Along with this desire for more of His Word and loving His people has come a desire to be more like Him. See what I just said there? The more we long for Jesus, the more we are in His Word the more we are going to long to be like Him. At the heart of the problem of pastoral burnout is the lack of wanting to be like Jesus. The reason why many seminary students struggle to grow in the grace of God is because they have become so focused on what they “know” that they miss the point and object of their faith—Jesus Christ and growing in His grace. As a seminary graduate I not only know this temptation myself, but have fell victim to it time and time again. Dr. Tripp also knows this temptation which is why he wrote Dangerous Calling.
Whether you are a seminary student, seasoned Pastor, Professor or whatever your station in life is, you need to read this book. Yes, this book was written to diagnose pastoral culture, but by extension, I believe this book addresses a rising epidemic that is occurring in the church. We have become a people focused on what we know about God but not about how He is transforming us. Again, I will note that I am not saying that what we know isn’t important, as I’ve already stated that right doctrine is important but not ultimate. Knowing right doctrine ought to lead to right living. The reason this book was written was not to correct doctrine but to correct the false dichotomy between just living as if doctrine matters without being affected by it. It’s the being affected by the doctrine we believe that Dr. Tripp is concerned about, and I agree with him. This is also why I believe that Dangerous Calling is a must read book for every Christian not just Pastors, because we all need to see ourselves as we are, in light of Jesus Christ and His perfect righteousness.
In conclusion (if its not already clear by the length of this review), this is a book I believe every Christian and Pastor must read. It’s not often that I read a book that punches you in the gut (to lead you to repentance) and point you to the Lord Jesus Christ with balancing pastoral insight, biblical doctrine and practical application all in one book. Dangerous Calling is such a book which is why this book is hands down winning not only my favorite book of the year but is also the most convicting, encouraging and edifying book I’ve read all year. I highly recommend you get Dangerous Calling and as you read (as I did) I believe you will find the same as I did that Jesus will be at work in you (and through you) pointing out your sin and showing forth the beauty and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ through the writing of Dr. Tripp.
Title: Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry
Author: Paul Tripp
Publisher: Crossway Books (2012)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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Matthew 6:5-15, “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. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “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. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 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. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Matthew 6:5-15 finds itself in the context of Matthew 6:1-7:12 where Jesus sets forth principles for spirituality in religious life (Matthew 6:1-18), everyday life (6:19-34) and community relationships (7:1-12). Matthew 6:5-15 is Jesus teaching on prayer. The Lord’s Prayer as it is known is also known as the Disciples Prayer. Prayer was a pillar of Jewish piety. Public prayer was said aloud in the morning, afternoon, and evening.
The religious leaders liked to stand and prayer in the synagogues during the set times of prayer. Pious Jews during these times of prayer would stop what they were doing and pray, some privately others with a pretentious display of piety. Jesus did not condemn all public prayer as indicated in his own prayers in public (Matthew 14:19; 15:35). One’s internal motivation is the central concern here. Jesus points here on shutting the door is not to diminish public prayer but to highlight the importance of being completely away from public view which allows one to focus more exclusively on God.
Pagans repeated the names of their gods or the same words over and over without thinking (1 Kings 18:26;Acts 19:34). Jesus is prohibiting mindless, mechanical repetition, not the earnest repetition that flows from the imploring heart (Mark 14:39; 2 Cor. 12:8; Psalm 136; Isa. 6:3). Jesus in Matthew 6:9-13 gives his disciples an example to follow when praying. The prayer has a beginning invocation and six petitions that give proper priorities. The first three petitions focus on the preeminence of God while the final three focus on personal needs in a community context.
The idea of praying to God as Our Father conveys the authority, warmth and intimacy of a loving father’s care, while in heaven reminds believers of God’s sovereign rule over all things. The theme of heavenly Father is found throughout the Old Testament (Deut 14:1; 32:6; Ps. 103:13; Jer. 3:4; 31:9; Hos. 11:1). Jesus’ disciples are invited into the intimacy of God the Son with his Father. The concern of this first petition is that God’s name would be hallowed- that God would be treated with the highest honor and set apart as holy.
Christians are called to pray and work for the continued advance of God’s kingdom on earth. The presence of God’s kingdom in this age refers to the reign of Christ in the hearts and lives of believers, and to the reigning presence of Christ in his body, the church- so that they increasingly reflect his love, obey his laws, honor him, do good for all people and proclaim the good news of his kingdom. The third petition speaks of God’s will. This means God’s revealed will (Eph. 5:17), which involves conduct that is pleasing to him as revealed in Scripture. Just as God’s will is perfectly experienced in heaven, Jesus prays that it will be experienced one earth. The will of God will be expressed in its fullness only when God’s kingdom comes in its final form, when Christ returns in power and great glory, but it will increasingly be seen in this age.
The fourth petition focuses on the disciples’ daily bread, a necessity of life which by implication includes all of believer’s daily physical needs. The fifth petition is forgive us our debts does not mean that believers need to daily ask for justification since believers are justified forever from the moment of initial saving faith (Rom. 5:1, 9;8:1; 10:10). Rather, this is a prayer for the restoration of personal fellowship with God when fellowship has been hindered by sin (Eph 4:30). Those who have received such forgiveness are so moved with gratitude toward God that they also eagerly forgive those who are debtors to them.
The final petition addresses the disciples’ battle with sin and evil with the words, lead us not into temptation. The word translated “temptation” (Greek, peirasmos) can indicate either temptation or testing (James 1:13). The meaning here likely carries the sense of “allow us to be spared from the difficult circumstances that would tempt us to sin (Matthew 26:41). Although God never directly tempts believers (James 1:13), he does sometimes lead them into situations that test them (Matthew 4:1; Job 1; 1 Peter 1:6; 4:12). Trials and hardships will inevitable come to believers’ lives and believers should count it all joy (James 1:2) when trials come, for they are strengthened by them (James 1:3-4). Believers should never pray to be brought into such situations but should pray to be delivered from them, for hardship and temptation make obedience more difficult and will sometimes result in sin. Believers should pray to be delivered from temptation (Matthew 24:41; Luke 22:4046; 2 Peter 2:9; Rev. 3:10) and led in path of righteousness (Ps. 23:3). The phrase translated evil (Greek. Tou ponerou) can mean either “evil” or “the evil one” namely Satan. The best protection from sin and temptation is to turn to God and depend on his direction.
Jesus in Matthew 6:14-15 emphasizes the importance of forgiving others, indicating that there is a direct relationship between having been forgiven by God and the forgiveness that his disciples of necessity must extend to others. As in v.12, forgive your treaspasses here refers to restoration of personal relationship with God, not to initial justification.
Luke 11:2-4, “And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us, each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”
Anyone who knows the Lord’s Prayer will notice that there seems to be something wrong with this prayer. The prayer is similar to what we have heard before but its cadence is different. This is because there are two versions of the Lord’s Prayer one in Matthew and one in Luke. Since the one from Matthew is much more familiar the differences in Luke are all the more noticeable.
What are some of those differences? First, Matthew begins with Our Father in heaven where in Luke Jesus simply says Father. Both prayers continued with hallowed be your name and your kingdom come but then Matthew includes a petition Luke commits in Matthew 6:10, “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. What the prayer says about the daily bread is the same in both Gospels but the wording of the confession is different. In Matthew Jesus says in Matthew 6:12, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. But in Luke he says in Luke 11:4, “forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us” The sense is similar but the wording is different. Then after the petition about temptation. Matthew adds a line we do not find in Luke in Matthew 6:13, “but deliver us from the evil one”
There is one final point of agreement between the two prayers but this too may come as a surprise. Neither prayer ends with the famous doxology of the early church which was largely taken from one of David’s ancient prayers: in 1 Chronicles 29:11, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen” Although some of these variations are significant, we do not need to be troubled by them for the prayer is substantially the same in the Gospels. Even Matthew’s two extra petitions are virtually entailed by other petitions that Luke does include. To pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven is another way for praying for his kingdom to come. And it is in temptation most of all that we have need of God delivering us from evil. The Bible may give us two different versions but they are different versions of the same prayer.
Some people are troubled by these differences. They want to know which “prayer” is the real Lord’s Prayer. In fact some people go so far as to see the differences as errors or contradictions. Either Luke included the wrong prayer in his Gospel they say or Matthew tried to improve on Luke by expanding his prayer. The answer to this problem is that Jesus taught his disciples to pray on two occasions. The prayers that we gave were the same but not identical. This is hardly surprising as Good teachers often repeat what they say but they rarely say it the exact same way twice. Sometimes they give the same message to a new audience like a preacher who delivers the same sermon in two different worship services. But sometimes teachers give the same message to the same audience especially if what they have to say is important of if they are not sure their students understood them the first time.
The disciples of all people needed this kind of repetition. They understood almost nothing the first time they heard it and Jesus needed to tell them many things again and again. It is hardly surprising that he should speak to them more than once on such an important subject as prayer, or that his disciples would ask him to teach them again something he had taught them before. Clearly Matthew and Luke wrote about two different episodes. In Matthew Jesus teaches the Lord’s Prayer in Galilee as part of his Sermon on the Mount. As Jesus taught his disciples a new way to live he showed them the difference between making a big show of praying in public as some religious did or babbling on and on like pagans and the simplicity of true Christian prayer. The prayer that Luke records comes later in Jesus’ ministry and in a different context. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and after he stopped to pray one of his disciples asked for further instruction in the fine art of intercession.
By way of reminder Jesus taught him a briefer form of the same prayer that he had once taught on the mountain. Far from causing any difficulty the differences between these two prayers teach us something about the Lord’s Prayer. Christians often recite the Lord’s Prayer verbatim. It is good for Christians to use the very words of Jesus when they pray especially in public or family worship. Cyprian was right when he asked, “What prayer can have greater power with the Father than that which came from the lips of the Son?” John Calvin agreed with this and included the Lord ’s Prayer in his Genevan liturgy as many other churches have done throughout the world. This is not the only way to pray the Lord’s Prayer.
The variations between Matthew and Luke show that Jesus was giving us a normative pattern for prayer but not a rigid form. The Lord’s Prayer is a model not a mantra. The important thing is not using the exact words that Jesus uttered, but following the same structure and incorporating the same themes into our own life of prayer.
Luke 11:2-3, “And he said to them, “When you pray, say:“Father,hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread,”
The prayer in Matthew is one that people generally use for worship because it is a little longer but the prayer in Luke is also worthy of our study. The prayer in Luke teaches us to pray in as fewest possible words. The Lord’s prayer as two movements. The first goes in the direction of God Luke 11:2, “And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.”
We address God as our Father praying for the honor of his name and the coming of his kingdom. This is where we should always begin in prayer: with power and the glory of God. The Lord’s Prayer teaches us to offer God-Centered prayers. First things we need to begin by praising God for who he is and what he is doing. Only then do we tell God about the things that we need: daily bread, the forgiveness of sins, and deliverance from evil. Thus in the second movement of the Lord’s Prayer we turn from the majesty of God to the needs of his people- from the vertical to the horizontal. Each part of the Lord’s Prayer is important starting with the form of address: Father. We are so used to talking to God this way that we forget it is a radical new way to pray. The people of the Old Testament had many names and titles for God but rarely addressed him as Father when they prayed.
Even though he was the Father of his people Israel, the Israelites did not address God in personal terms, or speak to him the way that children speak to their Father. This was a revolutionary new development in the history of prayer. Jesus taught his disciples to pray like this because it was the way that he prayed. Every time Jesus spoke to God in heaven he called him Father.
The only exception proves the rule. As Jesus endured the agonies of the cross there was a time when he suffered the full weight of God’s wrath against our sin. At the time when he knew that he was separated from the Father by the curse of our sin he cried out My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” At every other moment of his life on earth Jesus knew the joy of God’s presence and called him Father. This was even true of his final moments on the cross when by faith Jesus in Luke 23:46 says, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit!” No one had ever spoken to God like this before. When Jesus used this form of address he was lifting the veil on the mystery of the Trinity. There is only one God and this one God exists in three persons: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The relationships among the three persons of the Godhead are eternal relationships. Even when the Second person of the Trinity became a man he continued to know the First person of the Trinity the way he had always known him, as the Father of the Son. Therefore it was perfectly natural for Jesus to call his Father- Father.
What is surprising here is that Jesus invites us to pray the same way. When we pray we repeat the form of address that our Savior used and call God Father. We speak to him in such a familiar way as a child would with his father. The Bible says that when we believe in Jesus Christ God gives us the right to become children of God according to John 1:12. Then to help us know the reality that we are his children, God sends the Holy Spirit and part of the Spirit’s work is to help us to pray as children to a Father.
Romans 8:15-16, “ For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry,“Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,”
With the help of the Spirit, and through faith in the Son believers pray to God as our Father, coming to him as loving sons and daughters. Have you learned to call God your Father through faith in Jesus Christ? This is hard for some people to do especially people whose fathers have done them harm. One young woman with an abusive father had a tremendous difficulty understanding what it meant to know God as her loving Father. One of her girlfriends pointed to the example of a father they both knew. Have you ever seen the way his daughter runs into his arms she asked. Yes the woman said, “I have seen it but I can’t even bear to look.” How can someone with such a background ever learn to call God Father? Or what about orphans who never had a father at all? Fortunately we do not know God as Father by looking at earthly fathers in all their sin although in the best of fathers we may catch an occasional glimpse of the fatherhood of God. Nor do we know God as Father by viewing him through the lens of our own family experience although that always has an influence on our spiritual life. No we come to know God as Father by seeing him in the Scriptures.
In the Scriptures we come to learn that he is the ideal Father who cares for his children, who listens to us, who understand what we need, who loves us with an everlasting love and who always knows what is truly the best for us. It is on the basis of God’s love for us as our Father that we come to him in prayer. The opening word of the Lord’s Prayer governs everything that follows. When we pray for God’s name to be hallowed, we are seeking our Father’s honor. When we pray for his kingdom to come, we are praying for the establishment of our Father’s authority. When we pray for our daily bread, we are asking the Father to meet our needs. When we pray for forgiveness, we are asking our Father to show us mercy. When we pray against temptation, we are asking our Father to keep us safe. As we bring each of petitions before the throne of grace, we are praying to God as our loving Father who loves to do what we ask in His name.
The first petition of the Lord’s prayer is for God’s name to be hallowed. God’s name is much more than a title. In biblical usage the name of God refers to all that God is. When King David says in Psalm 20:7, “we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” He is not putting his confidence in a particular combination of Hebrew letters. On the contrary he is trusting God Himself, in all his glory and grace. God’s name represents who God is. When we pray for God’s name to be hallowed or to be made holy we are acknowledging the purity of his eternal being. We are declaring that God’s character is set apart from sin, that his attributes are absolute in their perfection. We are also praying for God to display His holiness. We are not praying for him to become holy as if he could ever be any holier than he already is but that he would be known to be holy.
Hallowed be your name is a petition that pertains to God’s reputation. It is a prayer that God would be known to be God in all his holiness. We offer prayer first of all for ourselves, asking that our lives would demonstrate God’s holiness. This means being careful not to dishonor God’s name by using it in a profane or casual way. More than that, it means treating everything that pertains to God with complete seriousness. It means listening to what he says in His Word. It means showing reverence for him in worship. It means living with the kind of personal purity that is in keeping with his character. When we ask God to hallow his name we are praying that he would enable us to obey the words of Peter when he said in 1st Peter 3:15, “in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy” We make the same petition for others asking that our family and friends our church and our community, our nation and indeed the world would known the holiness of our God. This petition here is that God should so work inwardly upon the one who prays and upon all others that they shall recognize Him in His self-revelation and serve Him as the Holy One- that they should render to Him, the divine Father, all honor, and adoration and should love and obey Him with their whole heart.
When you pray, begin by honoring God’s holy name. After praying for God’s reputation we then pray for his rule. Jesus had been preaching about the kingdom of God since the beginning of his public ministry. Here is the second petition he teaches his disciples to pray for its coming. The kingdom of God is not a nation-state, a system of government or a geographic region on a political map. God’s kingdom is God’s rule. The kingdom of God is the sovereign administration of his authority over creation, over his enemies, and over people who honor Him as their King. Thus the second petition is a prayer for the glory of God. To pray for the kingdom is to pray for God’s glorious rule to bring all things under its control. We pray this first of all for ourselves asking God to reign in our hearts by faith. We ask God to help us do things in his way not our way. We want to obey his royal commands and serve his royal will. We pray the same thing for our families, asking that our homes would be outposts of the kingdom-places where God’s divine dominion is acknowledged in our household prayers, our mutual service, and the ordinary routines of daily life. We pray this for our churches, asking God to conform our lives and relationships to the gospel. We pray this for our city asking that it would become a community where strangers become neighbors, the poor receive protection, the weak are defended, business prospers, and the arts flourish to the glory of God. We pray this for our nation, asking that truth and sacrifice would prevail over selfishness and greed. Then we pray this for our world, asking that one day very soon Jesus would return to set everything right.
Once we have prayed for holiness and the kingdom of our Father God we are ready to pray for our own needs. The order is important: God comes first giving the vertical priority over the horizontal. Yet there is still a place for our own concerns- a second place but a place nonetheless. The last three petitions are we ask God for daily provision, daily pardon and daily protection. Ordinarily we would think of these as personal needs. In this context they are presented as communal needs. The last three petitions are prayed in the first personal plural. We are not praying for ourselves as individual but for ourselves as a church. The Lord’s Prayer is a family prayer for the people of God, a corporate prayer for the covenant community. Although we may use it for our own personal prayer times Jesus gave this prayer to offer with and for one another. First we are to pray for our daily bread. By teaching us to pray our daily bread Jesus is calling us to daily ongoing dependence on our Father in heaven. We are inclined to trust our own ability to provide for our daily needs and thus to take what God gives us for granted. But even the food we buy with money we earn is a gift from God. The only reason we have our daily bread is that God is good and faithful in providing it. To make sure we know where this bread comes from, Jesus teaches us to ask God for it
Ordinarily God answers this prayer through earthly means, including our own diligent labors. But even when we buy the bread, God is the one who puts it on the table. Our Father cares for our earthly needs. In this petition Jesus is teaching us that our true needs are few. All we really need is bread. This implies we should be content with what God provides even if he provides only the bare necessities of life and not crave what God has not promised to give. This does not mean that we can never pray for anything that goes beyond our daily bread. Our of the abundance of his grace, God often gives us even greater gifts and we may pray for many good things in life. But the Lord’s prayer teaches us to know the difference between our needs and our greed’s.
In the daily life of prayer, our main petition is for things we truly need. As much as our Father cares for our physical needs he cares even more for our spiritual needs. Jesus put these two kings of needs in their proper proportions giving us only one petition for the body but two for the soul. After we ask God for our daily bread, we beg his forgiveness for our sins. This is how we must always come to God: not confident of our own righteousness but pleading for his mercy and grace. The Lord’s Prayer is a sinners prayer, in which we acknowledge that we are unworthy sinners before a holy God. This is something we need to acknowledge every day. Just as we ask for daily provision so also we need to acknowledge this everyday. Just as we ask for daily provision so also we need to ask for daily pardon. The confession of sin is an ongoing part of our relationship with God. Our sins are forgiven through Christ’s death on the Cross. Now whenever we sin as we continued to do, we can claim God’s forgiveness in the Jesus name. As Martin Luther frequently and famously said, the whole Christian life is one of repentance. Like the prayer in Matthew the Lord’s prayer makes a connection between the forgiveness we receive and the forgiveness we offer.
Luke 11:4, “and forgive us our sins,for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”
The connection almost seems to be a condition, but it is really presented as an assertion: as the children of God, we forgive people who owe us something because of their sin. This petition plainly acknowledges the sinfulness of sin not just our own sin but also the sins of others. When people do us wrong they put themselves in our debt. The same is true for our own sin against God: it deserves to be punished. We owe God the penalty for our rebellion which is eternal death. But God has mercy for sinners. He is willing to cancel our debt if only we will come to him in faith and repentance. One of the strongest proofs that we have received such forgiveness from our Father is our commitment to forgiving others, no matter what they have done. It is simply a fact: the children of God forgive their debtors. By forgiving our debtors, therefore, we show our family resemblance to our Father in heaven.
Who is your debtor? What person has done you wrong? If we refuse to forgive, our hearts are not right with God. The forgiven forgive, and thus our refusal to forgive shows that we do not understand the grace of God. Anyone who is sincere in praying the Lord’s Prayer must be willing to offer forgiveness to others. This does not mean that God’s forgiveness is based on our own forgiveness. Dr. Morris said the Lord’s Prayer does not make a human action, the forgiveness of others, the ground of forgiveness. The New Testament teaches that forgiveness springs from the grace of God and not from any human merit. Rather the thought moves from the lesser to the greater: since even sinful men like us forgive we can confidently approach a merciful God. We confess our sins because we keep on sinning but it would be better if we did not sin.
Therefore the Lord’s Prayer ends that God would not lead us into temptation. This petition does not imply that God is ever the one who tempts us. The Bible warns us never to say that God is temptation us because according to James 1:13, “God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one.” Whenever we are tempted therefore it is by the wicked allure of our own sinful desire. But God is able to protect us in the time of temptation, and even to keep us away from a particular temptation entirely which is what we are asking when we pray the Lord’s prayer. Frankly we enjoy being tempted almost as much as we enjoy giving into sin. One advertisement for Jaguar automobiles preyed upon this weakness in our fallen nature. After listing the traditional seven deadly sins of lust, greed, pride sloth, envy, wrath and gluttony the brochure read, “Prepare to shift effortlessly from temptation to exhilaration. The all new xj8l where will it lead you? Can you resist?” When it comes to temptation all too often the power is no I feel powerless to resist. Therefore we need to pray this last petition every day. The Bible teaches that when we are tempted God always provides a way of escape according to 1 Cor 10:13. It also teaches us that God can use the trials of our temptation for spiritual good in James 1:2-3. When we pray the Lord ’s Prayer we make an acknowledgement of our spiritual weakness. Even if we always have a way of escape it is safer for sinners like us not to be tempted at all. So in the Lord’s Prayer we ask God to lead us away from temptation.
We begin the Lord ’s Prayer with our Father God asking him to enhance his reputation and extend his rule. Then we turn to our own needs, asking God for our daily provision, daily pardon and daily protection. When we pray this way we are standing against the prevailing values of our fallen world. In a culture that is increasingly secular and profane, we pray for holiness. In a culture where people want to promote their own agendas, we pray for the kingdom of God. In a culture that fosters its independence and lives for its luxuries we trust God for daily bread. In a culture that is convinced of its own righteousness, we beg for forgiveness. In a culture that revels in its temptations, we ask God to lead us away. Most Christians call this countercultural form of intercession the Lord’s Prayer because it was giving by Jesus Christ our Lord. There is another reason to call it his prayer which is that Jesus himself is the answer to every one of its petitions. We pray to God as our Father but we can only do this through the saving work of the Son.
John 14:6, “ Jesus said to him, ”I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
This principle applies to prayer as much as it applies to any part of the Christian life. When we pray to our Father, first we pray to his name to be made holy. This prayer is answered in Jesus Christ who according to Mark 1:24 is the Holy One of God. It is also answered in us by the powerful sanctifying work of God’s Spirit, who makes us holy like Christ. As Christians we now bear the name of Christ. God is thus known to be holy through us of all people as we are conformed to the holiness of Christ.
When we pray for God’s kingdom to come we are praying for the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus told his disciples in Luke 17:21, “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” He said this because He is the King, and where the King is, the kingdom is. Christ’s Kingdom has been established through his death and resurrection and soon it will come into its full dominion at his second coming. Jesus is the answer to all our prayers for the kingdom of God.
Next we pray for our daily bread and this prayer is answered in Jesus as well because John 6:51 says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” Our daily physical bread points to the eternal spiritual bread that we have in Christ. Then rather than obviously Jesus is the answer to our prayer for forgiveness, because it is only through his atoning work on the Cross that we can ever be forgiven. What about temptation? Jesus himself resisted all the temptations of the devil and now he is able to help us in our time of trial. We are delivered from temptation by trusting in Christ. The Lord’s Prayer is a gospel prayer that finds is answer in Jesus Christ. Jesus taught us to pray this way so we would know how to talk with our Father, and so that we would know how to walk with him as the Son. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we are not simply learning a prayer that Jesus taught his disciples a long time ago but a prayer that God is ready to answer for us through the saving work of His Son.
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Within our lifetimes developments in technology have brought staggering changes to the way people can be conceived, born, healed or die. And prospects for the future are as mind-boggling as what has already happened. Ethics intends to set forth what ought to be, not what is. But it should help us evaluate the rightness or wrongness of what is and tells us how to act in light of it. Unfortunately changes in what is in modern life have far outdistanced reflection upon how we ought to live in such a time. This seems to be especially true among Christian ethicists, though even secular ethicists disagree about how we should live in this changing world. Into this culture, Drs. Feinberg have written the 2nd edition of the classic Ethics For A Brave New World that addresses topics such as moral decision making and the Christian, abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, birth control, homosexuality, genetic engineering, stem cell technology, divorce and remarriage, the Christian and war and the Christian and the secular state.
The authors take their queue not from secular philosophy but from the Word of God. Christians are commanded to love their neighbors. In fulfilling that obligation one will undoubtedly consider whether a specific act in a particular situation is just and benevolent to the neighbor– to do so seems necessary in view of what it means to love someone. But what makes the loving act morally good is not that it is benevolent or just but that God commanded it. What makes an act an act of love is at least in part that it exemplifies benevolence and justice. What makes such a loving act moral is that it obeys God’s command to love. The authors contend that the “example of Christ ought to compel us. It is unthinkable that while on earth Christ never confronted a situation where two duties conflicted so as to make it impossible to do both. In fact Scripture says he was tempted in all points as we are (Heb. 4.15), and since we face such situations, he must have, too” (39). Since Christ was without sin as the God-man by the grace of God and through the empowering work of the Holy Spirit Christians living as sojourners in a sinful world as saints and sinners will confront moral decisions and through them develop a biblical worldview and increasingly reflect God and His glory by obeying God and His Word in an increasingly hostile and pagan culture.
Ethics For A Brave New World 2nd Edition is essential reading for anyone who wishes to engage the moral collapse of contemporary culture with truth of God’s Word. Readers of this book will come away informed about the issues, conversant with the debates that swirl around these challenges, and equipped and inspired to engage them in a way that glorifies God. This will be a resource I turn to often whenever I’m writing or thinking through ethical issues. I highly recommend this book for Bible College, seminary students for use in their training for future ministry and for Pastors, Sunday school teachers and Professors as they prepare to engage an increasingly hostile culture and proclaim the truth of God’s Word to it.
Title: Ethics for a Brave New World, Second Edition (Updated and Expanded)
Authors: John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg
Publisher: Crossway Books (2012)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway Books book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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