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.
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.”
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.
At the Desiring God Conference “The Powerful Life of the Praying Pastor: In His Room, With His Family, Among the People of God” there was a panel discussion involving Jerry Rankin, Francis Chan, Joel Beeke, John Piper, and Paul Miller. Concerning this question:
A lack of specific answers to specific prayers seems to be lacking for many pastors. So what do you say to the pastor who is convicted about prayerlessness and unbelief in regards to prayer?
Joel Beeke answered:
Go home after this conference and think back over your life. Make a list of all the prayers you can think of where they have been answered. You may be surprised to see how many really have been answered.
I thank God for unanswered prayer. I learn more about God and myself through unanswered prayer, through the hard times. In the first three and a half years of my ministry I saw no conversions. And I look back, that was the best thing for me; if there would have been a lot of conversions, I would have become so boastful.
If God is real, continue to preach the gospel until you’ve witnessed every sinner in the world confessing Christ as Lord. Don’t put a time table or number on conversions as some sort of “calling evaluation.” Instead, preach the gospel regardless the response. Base your ministry on faithfulness to God’s Word, not on some western revivalistic quota. Lay your ego to the side and preach until all nations bring Him glory through faith alone in Christ alone! Onward Christian soldiers!
This is our weekly roundup of posts for 10/21-10/27/2012. If you have any feedback on how we can serve you our readers better, I would appreciate it. Thank you for reading and allowing us to minister to you throughout this past week through these posts.
Sunday 10/21- Book Review The Creedal Imperative Reviewed by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/10/21/book-review-the-creedal-imperative/
Monday 10/22- Book Review When your husband is addicted to pornography healing your wounded heart by Vicki Teade http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/10/22/book-review-when-your-husband-is-addicted-to-pornography-healing-your-wounded-heart/
Tuesday 10/23- Dealing with unforgiveness by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/10/23/dealing-with-unforgiveness/
Thursday 10/25- Guilt, Condemnation, Shame and the Gospel by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/10/25/guilt-condemnation-shame-and-the-gospel/
Friday 10/26- Review of Popologetics by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/10/26/book-review-popologetics/
Saturday 10/27- 10 Things You can Do To Make Your Pastor’s Sermons Better by Jared Moore http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/10/27/10-things-you-can-do-to-make-your-pastors-sermons-better/
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.
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.”
1. If your pastor is currently doing something ministerial that is not biblically pastoral in nature (primarily praying and teaching), then either you do it, or find someone else who will. Imagine if your pastor had five or ten more hours to prepare each of his sermons per week. Of course they will be better! You will be amazed.
2. Listen attentively as if your listening is an act of worship, because it is. When you listen to God’s Word in submission, you are worshipping God. Whenever you don’t, you’re not worshipping God; and yes, it is sinful for you to ignore the Word of God when it is being preached or taught regardless if he is keeping your attention or not.
3. Remember that the sermon is not another media outlet for you to feed your thirst for entertainment. Don’t “turn the channel” because you’re not being entertained. Furthermore, don’t expect your pastor to do in 10 or less hours of preparation a week what television stations spend millions of dollars on, and hire teams to accomplish: keeping your attention.
4. If possible, get a good night sleep on Saturday night. Do you know how hard it is to engage a zombie?
5. Pray for your pastor periodically; and let him know on a regular basis that you pray for him. It will encourage him.
6. Don’t keep looking at the cute baby while your pastor is preaching. Don’t you know that a baby is less-interesting than the Word of God? Can you not play with the baby after worship? Your pastor can see you! Furthermore, don’t be talking during the sermon; and if someone walks in late, don’t look at them! Focus on the Word of God.
7. If you have an issue with your pastor, or another issue that he will not enjoy, then wait until after he is finished preaching before you bring it to his attention. He needs to focus on his most-important task: feeding Christ’s sheep.
8. Evaluate the sermon based on the Bible’s criteria for a sermon, not what your criteria or someone else’s criteria might be. Share with your pastor if you believed that he faithfully preached the Word; it will encourage him. If your pastor is like me, he will feel like a failure over 90% of the time that he steps out of the pulpit; and the other 10% of the time that he feels good is because of arrogance.
9. Attend church consistently. Whenever you miss church, even periodically, the thought crosses your pastor’s mind that you are not there because of him or his preaching. If you know that you will miss a Sunday beforehand, let him know. It will help him focus more on preaching instead of considering thoughts crossing his mind concerning why you’re not at church.
10. Don’t go to sleep. Get up and leave before you go to sleep if you cannot stay awake. Your pastor can see you; and the people around you can see and hear you.
What do you think?
Popologetics: Popular Culture in Christian Perspective, by Ted Turnau is a masterful, engaging, and very helpful examination into how Christians can take too seriously Jesus’ teaching to be “in the world but not of the world” (John 15:19; 17:14-16). The book contains three parts with twelve chapters. The author in part one grounds his teaching in the Word by explaining in chapter four what creation, the fall, and redemption have to teach Christians about popular culture. In taking this approach (creation, fall, and redemption) the author grounds his teaching in the Word of God in order to help Christians to rightly engage the culture with the Word of God.
In part two the author goes through five not so helpful responses to popular culture: the first is “the what, me worry?” approach, the second, the “Ew-yuck” response, the third, “We’re above all that” approach, fourth, “imagophobia”, and finally “cheerleaders of postmodernism”. In the final section the author seeks to help us “think critically about popular culture and its worldviews, we are given the opportunity to reflect on God’s grace, expose idolatry (which shows the excellence and power of the true God by contrast), and shows the relevance and beauty of the gospel” (214). In order to do this the author explores five questions: first, “What’s the story?”; second, “where am I (the world of the text)?” third, “what’s good and true and beautiful about it?”; fourth “what’s false and ugly and perverse about it?”, and finally “how does the gospel apply here?” (215).
The approach of Popologetics will help Christians to “engage the broader culture conversations that involve you, your family, your friends, the folks you work with, and the folks you relax with. It will allow you to enter into dialogue with them and speak truth into their lives with sensitivity, insight, and grace. And maybe, just, maybe, it will help you love these people and be salt and light in the lives of those around you” (xix).
Understanding what apologetics is and what approach to take in apologetics is vital. In this helpful book the author points out weaknesses with other views of apologetics, and sets forth the following for engaging in apologetics:
“We need to understand the worldviews that filter the facts, the worldviews that render our evidence acceptable or unacceptable, credible or incredible, relevant or irrelevant to those we speak with. That is a far more subtle and delicate operation than simply announcing facts that you believe can be proved. We must take into account cultural authorities (for example, the scientific and scholarly community), the temper of the times, and the popular-cultural discourses that currently course through society like the blood through our veins” (33).
Engaging others with the Gospel means not speaking over the culture, but rather “listening to the worldview context, especially as it is expressed in and through popular culture” (34). All of this is important because “popular culture plays a major role in shaping the imagination, hopes, fears dreams and desires of our communities, which means it shapes worldviews” (36).
In the Book of Acts, the Church in the power of the Holy Spirit marches forward with the message of redemption. In the Book of Acts people gather together to hear the Gospel preached and then are converted. After being converted people scatter to proclaim the message of the Gospel to transform culture. The Gospel is the power of God to transform people’s lives individually and people groups collectively, but only as individuals turn from sin and to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith and repentance. Engaging worldviews is ultimately a concern of the Great Commission. The Gospel is the timeless message the Church is to proclaim. The Gospel is never to be compromised, but it is to be proclaimed, contended, and defended.
In this reviewers’ assessment, Popologetics: Popular Culture in Christian Perspective will make an extremely useful apologetics textbook- ideal for Pastors, scholars, seminary students and serious laity. First, Turnau examines the background and history of apologetic approaches while introducing the reader to leading thinkers in the field of cultural apologetics. In addition to this, the book is heavily footnoted which will help the reader to know where to turn to after reading this book in case he/she is interested in further study. Second, the book is very well-written, and at the end of each section the author summarizes each point in order to help the reader understand the flow and content of the argument of the book.
Finally, reading Popologetics will help Christians to learn how to engage culture without compromising the Gospel. Engaging others with the Gospel does not mean accepting what they are teaching, but rather using what they are teaching as a vehicle to impact lives for eternity. Engaging differing worldviews will help Christians to be able to discern truth from error which is what every believer should be doing.
Popologetics is a must own book, and one of the best in this reviewers opinion on the topic of engaging popular culture while remaining grounded in the Word of God.
This review first appeared September 15th, 2012 at Apologetics 315 at http://www.apologetics315.com/2012/09/book-review-popologetics-popular.html
Therefore in Romans 8:1 indicates that Paul is stating an important summary and conclusion related to his preceding argument. The “therefore” is based first on the exclamation of victory that comes “through Jesus Christ our Lord” (7:23-25), which in turn is linked back to 7:6 where the idea of the “new life of the Spirit” is first mentioned. But more broadly Paul seems to be recalled his whole argument about salvation in Christ form 3:21-5:21. The now in 8:1 matches the now in 7:6, showing that the new era of redemptive history has now been inaugurated by Christ Jesus for those who are “now” in right standing before God because they are united with Christ. But the summary relates further to the whole argument presented in chs.3-5.
No condemnation echoes the conclusion stated in 5:1 (“Therefore we have peace with God”) and underscores the stunning implications of the gospel first introduced in and underscores the stunning implications of the gospel first introduced in 1:16-17. As Paul immediately goes on to explain, there is “no condemnation” for the Christian because God has condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son (8:3) to pay the penalty for sin through his death on the cross. The following verses then show that indwelling sin is overcome through the power of the indwelling Spirit, with ten references to the Spirit in Romans 8:4-11.
Guilt, Shame, Condemnation and the gospel
Many believers struggle with guilt, shame and condemnation. Romans 8 marks a major change in the focus of the flow of the epistle. At this point the apostle begins to delineate the marvelous results of justification in the life of the believer. He begins by explaining as best as possible to infinite minds, some of the cardinal truths of salvation (no condemnation, as well as justification, substitution and sanctification).
God’s provision of salvation came not through Christ’s perfect teaching or through His perfect life but through His perfect sacrifice on the cross. It is through Christ’s death, not His life, that God provides the way of salvation. For those who place their trust in Christ and in what He has done on their behalf there is therefore now no condemnation.
The Greek word “katakrima” condemnation appears only in the book of Romans, here in 8:1 and in 5:16, 18. Although it relates to the sentencing for a crime, its primary focus is not so much on the verdict as on the penalty that the verdict demands. As Paul has already declared the penalty, or condemnation for sin is death in Romans 6:23.
Paul here announces the marvelous good news that for Christians there will be no condemnation, neither sentencing nor punishment for the sins that believers have committed or will ever commit.
“No” in the Greek is an emphatic negative adverb of time and carries the idea of complete cessation. In His parable about the king who forgave one of his salves an overwhelming debt (Matthew 18:23-27), Jesus pictured God’s gracious and total forgiveness of the sins of those who come to Him in humble contrition and faith. That is the heart and soul of the gospel- that Jesus completely and permanently paid the debt of sin and the penalty of the law (which is condemnation to death) for every person who humbly asks for mercy and trusts in Him. Through the apostle John God assures His children that “if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).
Jesus not only pays the believer’s debt of sin but cleanses him “from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Still more amazingly, He graciously imputes and imparts to each believer His own perfect righteousness: “For by one offer He Christ has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrew 10:14; Rom. 5:17; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9). More even than that, Jesus shares His vast heavenly inheritance with those who come to Him in faith (Eph. 1:3, 11, 14). It is because of such immeasurable divine grace that Paul admonishes Christians to be continually “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12). Having been qualified by God the Father, we will never, under any circumstance, be subject to divine condemnation. How blessed to be place beyond the reach of condemnation!
The truth that there can never be the eternal death penalty for believers is the foundation of the eighth chapter of Romans. As Paul asks rhetorically near the end of the chapter, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (v.31), and again, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies” (v.33). If the highest tribunal in the universe justifies us, who can declare us guilty.
It is extremely important to realize that deliverance from condemnation is not based in the least measure on any form of perfection achieved by the believer. He does not attain the total eradication of sin during his earthly life. It is that truth that Paul establishes so intensely and poignantly in Romans 7. John declares that truth as unambiguously as possible in his first epistle: “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). The Christian’s conflict with sin does not end until he goes to be with the Lord. Nevertheless, there is still no condemnation-because the penalty for all the failures of this life has been paid in Christ and applied by Christ.
It is also important to realize that deliverance from divine condemnation does not mean deliverance from divine discipline. “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines and He scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:6). Nor does deliverance from God’s condemnation mean escape from our accountability to Him: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7).
The therefore that introduces Romans 8:1 refers back to the major theme of the first seven chapters of the epistle- the believer’s complete justification before God, graciously provided in response to trust in the sacrificial death and resurrection of His Son.
The divine condemnation from which believers are exonerated (8:1) is without exception or qualification. It is bestowed on those who are in Christ Jesus, in other words, on every true Christian. Justification completely and forever releases every believer from sin’s bondage and its penalty of death (6:23) and therefore fits him to stand sinless before a holy God forever. It is that particular aspect of justification on which Paul focuses on the beginning of chapter 8.
Paul’s use of the first person singular pronouns (I and me) in 7:7-25 emphasizes the sad reality that, in this present life, no Christian, not even an apostle, is exempt from struggles with sin. In the opening verses of chapter 8, on the other hand, Paul emphasizes the marvelous reality that every believer, even the weakest and most unproductive shares in the complete and eternal freedom from sin’s condemnation. The holiest of believers are warned that, although they are no longer under sin’s slavish dominion, they will experience conflicts with it in this present life. And the weakest of believers are promised that, although they still stumble and fall into sin’s power in their flesh, they will experience ultimate victory over sin in the life to come.
The key to every aspect of salvation is the simple but infinitely profound phrase in Christ Jesus. A Christian is a person who is in Christ Jesus. Paul has already declared this truth in Romans 6:3-5. Being a Christian is not simply being outwardly identified with Christ but being part of Christ, not simply of being united with Him but united in Him. Our being in Christ is one of the profoundest of mysteries, which we will not fully understand until we meet Him face to face in heaven. But Scripture does shed light on that marvelous truth. We know that we are in Christ spiritually in a divine and permanent union. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.” Paul explains in 1 Cor. 15:22). Believers are also in Christ in a living, participatory sense. “Now you are Christ’s body, Paul declares in that same epistle, “and individually members of it” (12:27). We are actually a part of Him, and in ways that are unfathomable to us now, we work when He works, grieve when He grieves, and rejoice when He rejoices. “For by one spirit we were all baptized into one body,” Paul assures us, “whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13). Christ’s own divine life pulses through us.
The key to dealing with guilt, shame, and condemnation is to grow in understanding of the work of Christ. As we’ve seen throughout our examination of Romans 8:1- the believer has a new identity and a new nature. The believer is now in Christ because of the work of Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. Because of the believer’s new identity and new nature in Christ- the believer can deal with guilt, shame and condemnation because the Gospel addresses these issues. The Gospel addresses our guilt by showing us that Christ bore our sins and now offers us forgiveness of sin through the Cross. The Gospel addresses our shame because Christ took upon Himself our shame and was thoroughly humiliated and yet died in our place for our sins. The Gospel addresses our condemnation because we justly deserve to be condemned to hell but God in His grace and mercy offers us a full pardon through the work of Christ.
If you are struggling with guilt, shame, condemnation or a litany of other issues- I implore you to grow in your knowledge and understanding of the Gospel. By growing in the knowledge and understanding of the Gospel you will be able to deal with these issues but most importantly you will grow in what it means to be in Christ a marvelous truth that one can drill down deep upon until the day one dies and goes to be with Jesus.
Today we are going to look at 1 John 1:5-10, 3:4-5, and 3:7-10.
1 John 1:5-10
As an apostolic witness to Jesus’ ministry, including his death and resurrection, and as one of the three most intimate associates of the Lord (John, Peter, James), John affirms the physical reality of Jesus Christ’s having come “in the flesh” (4:2-3). In this way, John accentuated the gravity of the false teaching by immediately focusing on a strongly positive affirmation of the historic reality of Jesus’ humanity and the centrality of the gospel. Although the false teachers claimed to believe in Christ, their denial of the true nature of Christ (his humanity) demonstrated their lack of genuine salvation (2:22-23). The affirmation of a proper view of Christ constitutes the first test of genuine fellowship (1:3; 1:5-2:2).
The phrase which was refers to the proclamation of the gospel that centers in Christ’s person, words, and works as contained in the apostolic testimony. Although John’s Gospel uses a similar phrase “from the beginning” meaning eternity past, the phrase here, in the context of 1 John 1:1-14, refers to the beginnings of gospel preaching when the readers first heard about Jesus (2:7, 24). The phrase also emphasizes the stability of the gospel message; its contents do not change but remain stable from the very beginning; it is not subject to change due to the current worldly fads or philosophical thinking.
“We have heard.we have seen…we looked upon…touched with our hands.. points to the vivid recollection of the person of Jesus that John still had even in his old age. For John, even 60 years later, those memories were permanently etched on his mind as if the events just happened. He uses terms that strongly affirm the physical reality of Jesus, for a spirit cannot be heard, gazed at for long periods (“looked upon”), or touched as Jesus was by John during his earthly ministry and even after his resurrection. The word of life refers not only to Jesus Christ but the proclamation of his gospel.
Made manifest.seen testify and proclaim in 1 John 1:2-3 is John dramatic reemphasizing through repetition of these terms in vv.2-3 (v.1) the authority of his own personal experience as an eyewitness of Jesus’ life. Such repetition pointedly reminds his readers that John’s personal testimony refutes the false teachers who boasted arrogantly and wrongly about the Christ they have never seen nor known.
John with the phrase, The eternal life…with the Father..made manifest to us accentuates the eternality of Christ in his preincarnate glory (5:12; John 1:4; 5:26, 40; 11:25; 14:6). Fellowship does not mean social relations in 1:3 but that his readers were to be partakers or partners with John in possessing eternal life (Phil. 1:5; 1 Peter 5:1; 2 Peter 1:4). John writes not only to affirm the physical reality of Jesus (1 John 1:1-2) but also to produce salvation in the readers. The genuine Christians are never “out of fellowship” is clear, since this verse equates fellowship with salvation.
The main goal for this epistle is to create joy in the readers (thus the phrase “our joy may be complete”). The proclamation of the reality of the gospel (vv.1-2) produces a fellowship in eternal life (v.3), and in turn fellowship in eternal life produces joy (v.4). To counter the false teachers who denied the existence or importance of sin, John affirms the reality of sin in 1 John 1:5-2:2. This affirmation of sins’ reality constitutes the second test of true fellowship (vv.1-4 for test one and 2:3-6 for test three). Those who deny the reality of sin demonstrate their lack of genuine salvation. The ‘we” in 1:6, 8, 10 is not a reference to genuine Christians but a general reference to anyone claiming fellowship, but denying sin. The ‘we’ and “ours” in vv.7,9 and 2:1-2 is a specific reference to genuine Christians.
We have heard from him highlights the message that John and the other apostles preached came from God, not from men (Gal. 1:12). In Scripture, light and darkness are very familiar symbols. Intellectually “light” refers to biblical truth while “darkness” refers to error or falsehood (Ps. 119:105; Prov. 6:23; John 1:4; 8:12). Morally, “light” refers to holiness or purity while “darkness” refers to sin or wrongdoing (rom. 13:11-14; 1 Thess. 5:4-7). The heretics claimed to be the truly enlightened, walking in the real light, but John denied that because they do not recognize their sin. About that basic reality, they were unenlightened. With the phrase no darkness at all John forcefully affirms that God is absolutely perfect and nothing exists in god’s character the impinges upon his truth and holiness (James 1:17).
In spite of their claims to enlightenment and although the false teachers may have claimed fellowship with Christ, their walking in darkness refuted such claims, and consequently, demonstrated their lack of genuine salvation. The reference to “lie” in v.6b refers to the claim of fellowship in v.6a. Do not practice points to their habitual failure regarding the practice of truth.
Genuine Christians walk habitually in the light (truth and holiness), not in darkness (falsehood and sin). Their walk also results in cleansing from sin as the Lord continually forgives his own. Since those walking in the light share in the character of God, they will be habitually characterized by his holiness (3 John 11)., indicating their true fellowship with him (James 1:27). A genuine Christian does not walk in darkness, but only in the light (2 Cor. 6:14; Eph. 5:8; Col. 1:12-13), and cleansing from sin continually occurs (1 John 1:9).
Not only did the false teachers walk in darkness (sin; v.6) but went so far as to deny totally the existence of a sin nature in their lives. If someone never admits to being a sinner, salvation cannot result (Matthew 19:16-22). Not only did the false teachers make claims to fellowship and disregard sin (1 John 1:6), they are also characterized by deceit regarding sinlessness (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Rom. 3:23).
Continual confession of sin is an indication of genuine salvation. While the false teachers would not admit their sin, the genuine Christian admitted and forsake it (Ps. 32:3-5; Prov 28:13). The term “confess” means to say the same thing about sin that God does; to acknowledge his perspective about sin. While 1 John 1:7 is from God’s perspective, v.9 is from the Christian’s perspective. Confession of sin characterizes genuine Christians and God continually cleanses those who are confessing (v.7). Rather than focusing on confession for every single sin as necessary, John has especially in mind here a settled recognition and acknowledgement that one is a sinner in need of cleansing and forgiveness (Eph. 4:23; Col. 2:13). Since God has said that all people are sinners (Psalm 14:3; 51:5; Isa. 53:6; Jer. 17:5-6; Rom. 3:10-19, 23, 6:23), to deny that fact is to blaspheme God with slander that defames his name.
1 John 3:4-5
The verb, “make a practice,” in the Greek conveys the idea of making sin a habitual practice. Although genuine Christians have a sin disposition 91:8), and do commit and need to confess sin (1:9; 2:1) that is not the unbroken pattern of their lives. A genuinely born-again believer has a built-in check or guard against habitual sinning due to a new nature (“born of God”- 3:9; Rom. 6:12). The first reason why Christians cannot practice sin is because sin is incompatible with the law of god, which they love (Ps. 119:34, 77, 97; Rom. 7:12, 22). The term “lawlessness” conveys more than transgressing God’s love. It conveys the ultimate sense of rebellion meaning living as if there was no law or ignoring what law exists (James 4:17).
A second reason why Christians cannot practice sin is because it is incompatible with the work of Christ. Christ died to sanctify (make holy) the believer (2 Cor. 5:21; Eph. 5:25-27). To sin is contrary to Christ’s work of breaking the dominion of sin in the believer’s life (Rom. 6:1-15).
1 John 3:7-8
The word deceive in 1st John 3:7 means to lead astray. Since false teachers were attempting to pervert the fundamentals of the faith, the possibility existed that some Christians might be fooled into accepting what they were advocating. To prevent this deception from occurring, John repeatedly emphasized the basics of Christianity, the need for obedience, the need for love and the need for a proper view of Christ. The genuine believer’s habitual lifestyle of righteousness stands in sharp contrast to those false teachers who practiced sin (vv.4, 6). Since Christ died on the cross to transform sinners, those truly born again have replaced the habit of sin with the habit of righteous living (Rom. 6:12-14). Those who are truly born again reflect the divine nature of the Son. They behave like him, manifesting the power of his life in them (Gal. 2:20).
A third reason why Christians cannot practice sin is because Christ came to destroy the works of the arch-sinner Satan. The devil is still operating but he has been defeated and in Christ we escape his tyranny. The day will come when all of Satan’s activity will be sent to hell forever (Rev. 20:10). The works of the devil summarize a variety of the devil’s activities: sin, rebellion, temptation, ruling the world, persecution, and accusation of saints, instigation of false teachers, power od death (Luke 8:12; John 8:44; Acts 5:3; 1 Cor. 7:5; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 6:11-12; 1 Thess. 2:18; Heb. 2:14; Rev. 12:10).
1 John 3:9-10
The fourth reason why Christians cannot practice sin is because it is incompatible with the ministry of the Holy Spirit, who has imparted a new nature to the believer (John 3:5-8). John wrote here of the new birth (John 3:7). When people become Christians, God makes them new creatures with new natures (2 Cor. 5:17). Believers have God’s characteristics because they have been born into God’s family. This new nature exhibits the habitual character of righteousness produced by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-24). John repeats this phrase twice for emphasis. The new birth involves the acquisition of a seed, which refers to the principle of life of God imparted to the believer at salivation’s new birth. John uses this image of a planted seed to picture the divine element involved in being born again. The word abide conveys the idea of the permanence of new birth which cannot be reversed, for those who are truly born again are permanently transformed into a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 5:15; Eph. 2:10). The phrase “he cannot keep on sinning” once again conveys the idea of habitual sinning (1 John 3:4, 6).
Verse 10 is a summary verse and is the key to vv.4-10. Only two kinds of children exist in the world: children of God and children of Satan. No one can belong to both families simultaneously. Either one belongs to God’s family and exhibits his righteous character or one belongs to Satan’s family and exhibits his sinful nature.
The work of fighting against sin and growing in God’s grace is thoroughly grounded in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Only because of what Jesus has done can the believer now grow in knowledge and understanding of the Word of God. As a result of the ministry of the Holy Spirit convicting, reproving and rebuking- the believer can grow in holiness unto the Lord.
The one who says they have not sinned has deceived themselves and is in the darkness. The one who confesses their dependence upon Christ’s finished work and who allows the Lord to purify and cleanse them of sin is growing in the grace of God. The Lord is interested in your growth in sanctification. The Lord’s purpose in this work of purification and cleansing is so you can be a more effective servant for His glory. Turn away from your sin and to God; do not be deceived by your sin but rather be forgiven of your sin and live in the light of God’s presence and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.
Recently on facebook and twitter, I asked people if they had any questions they would like to see answered on the blog. The response was awesome, as people not only asked questions publically but they also sent in emails asking questions. Needless to say, all of you have given me a lot to think about, pray about and write about!
The first question comes from Joe in Illinois who wanted to know, “How do I deal with unforgiveness in my heart? Unforgiveness and bitterness is an issue that I have personally dealt with in my walk with God. Growing up my father did not treat my mom, my brothers or me very well. Growing up, I was mentally and emotionally abused. There was a time in my life for many years where I held onto anger, bitterness, and resentment against my entire family.
One day as a junior in high school, I was sitting on my bed praying with my Bible open reading Colossians 3:12-13 which says, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
When I read the part in Colossians 3:13 that says, “Forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive”, I was convicted deeply, and began to cry. Rather than just turning away from God, I genuinely repented of my own feelings of anger, and bitterness towards my father and family. The next day my father and I took a walk and I asked him if he would forgive me for my anger and bitterness towards him. His answer was, “Yes!”
I’ve often thought back to that day when my dad and I walked down that road. Often times through the years I’ve thought back to that road where my dad and I walked many years ago. That road for me was a crossroads. The day the Lord revealed and convicted me in my room of my sin of anger, bitterness and resentment was a day I’ll never forget.
As I’ve reflect back on that day, I can truly say that day was a turning point in my life. It was a turning point because as I prayed the Lord spoke clearly through His Word in Matthew 6:14-15 and Colossians 3:13 that I had not forgiven my father or my family, and if I continued to hold onto my sin instead of trusting in Him, I would not be forgiven.
Colossians 3:13, “As the Lord has forgiven.” Christ is the model of forgiveness because He has forgiven all of our sins totally; believers now must be willing to forgive others (Colossians 1:14; 2:13-14). When wronged and betrayed Christians are called to forgive others, even as they have been forgiven for their betrayal of Christ (Matthew 6:12; 14-15; 18:21-22).
In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus taught His Disciples in Matthew 6:12 to pray, “and forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:14-15 says, “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.”
Forgive us our debts is the fifth petition in the Lord’s Prayer and does not mean that believers need to ask daily for justification since believers are justified forever from the moment of initial saving faith (Rom. 5:1, 9; 8:81; 10:10). Rather this is a prayer of restoration of personal fellowship with God when fellowship has been hindered by sin. Those who have received such forgiveness are so moved with gratitude toward Gog that they also eagerly forgive those who are debtors to them.
When Jesus in Matthew 6:14-15 says “Forgive others” He is reemphasizing the importance of forgiving others, indicating 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 vs. 12, forgive your trespasses here refers to restoration of personal relationship with god, not to initial justification.
Man’s greatest problem is sin, and his greatest need is forgiveness, and this is what God provides. Though we have been forgiven the ultimate penalty of sin, as Christians we need God’s constant forgiveness for the sins we continue to commit. Asking for forgiveness implies confession. John in 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. To confess means to agree with and when we confess our sins we agree with God about them that they are wicked, evil and defiling and have no part those who belong to Him.
It is difficult to confess sins and both Satan and our prideful nature fight against it. But it is the only way to the free and joyful life. Proverbs 28:13, “he who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” John Stott says, “One of the surest antidotes to the process of moral hardening is the disciplined practice of uncovering our sins of though and outlook, as well as of word and of deed, and the repentant forsaking of them” (Confess Your Sins Waco, Texaas: Words ,1974), p.19).
The true Christian does not see God’s promise of forgiveness as a license to sin a way to abuse His love and presume on His grace. Rather he or she sees God’s gracious forgives as the means of spiritual growth and sanctification and continually gives thanks to God for His great love and willingness to forgive and forgive and forgive. It is also important to realize that confessing sin gives God the glory when He chastens the disobedient Christian because it removes any complaint that God is unfair when He disciplines.
A Puritan saint of many generations ago prayed, “Grant me never to lose sight of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, the exceeding righteousness of salvation, the exceeding glory of Christ, the exceeding beauty of holiness, and the exceeding wonder of grace.” At another time he prayed, “I am guilty but pardoned. I am lost but saved. I am wandering but found. I am sinning but cleansed. Give me perpetual broken-heartedness. Keep me always clinging to Thy cross” (Arthur Bennett, ed., The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions (Edinburg: Banner of Truth, 1975), pp. 76,83).
Jesus gave the prerequisite for receiving forgiveness in the words, as we have forgiven our debtors. The principle is simple but sobering: if we have forgiven, we will be forgiven; if we have not forgiven, we will not be forgiven.
We are to forgive because it is the character of righteousness, and therefore of the faithful Christian life to forgive. Citizens of God’s kingdom are blessed and receive mercy because they themselves are merciful (Matthew 5:7). They love even their enemies because they have the nature of the loving heavenly Father within them (Matthew 5:44-45, 48). Forgiveness is the mark of a truly regenerate heart. Still we fail to be consistent with that mark and need constant exhortation because of the strength of sinful flesh (Rom. 7:14-25).
We are also to be motivated to forgive because of Christ’s example: “Be kind to one another, “Paul says, “tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph 4:32). John tells us, “the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6).
Because it reflects God’s own gracious forgiveness, the forgiving of another person’s sin expresses the highest virtue of man. “a man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression” (Prov. 19:11).
Forgiving others also frees the conscience of guilt. Unforgiveness not only stands as a barrier to God’s forgiveness but also interferes with peace of mind, happiness, satisfaction, and even the proper functioning of the body.
Forgiving others is of great benefit to the whole congregation of believers. Few things have so short-circuited the power of the church as unresolved conflict among its members. “if I regard wickedness in my heart,” the psalmist warns himself and every believer,” The Lord will not hear” (Ps. 66:18). The Holy Spirit cannot work freely among those who carry grudges and harbor resentment (Matthew 5:23-24; 1 Cor. 1:10-13; 3:1-9).
Forgiving others also delivers us from God’s discipline. Where there is an unforgiving spirit, there is sin; and where there is sin, there will be chastening (Hebrews 12:3-13). Unrepented sins in the church at Corinth caused many believers to be weak, sick, and even to die (1 Cor 11:30).
The most important reason for being forgiving is that it brings God’s forgiveness to the believer. That truth is so important that Jesus reinforces it after the close of the prayer which we will turn to shortly in Matthew 6:14-15. Nothing in the Christian life is more important than forgiveness- our forgiveness of others and God’s forgiveness of us.
In the matter of forgiveness, God deals with us as we deal with others. We are to forgive others as freely and graciously as God forgives us. The Puritan writer Thomas Manton said, “There is none so tender to others as they which have received mercy themselves, for they know how gently God hath dealt with them.”
The prayer lesson of Jesus concludes with a reminder that follows the teaching of forgiveness in Matthew 6:12. This is the Savior’s own commentary on our petition to God for forgiveness, and the only one of the petitions to which he gives added insight. Thus its importance is amplified for us.
“For if you forgive others their trespasses” puts the principle in a positive mode. Believers should forgive as those who have received judicial forgiveness (Eph 1:7; 1 John 2:1-2) from god. When the heart is filled with such a forgiving spirit, “your heavenly father will also forgive you”. Believers cannot know the parental forgiveness, which keeps fellowship with the Lord rich and blessings from the Lord profuse, apart from forgiving others in heart and word. Forgive (aphimei) means literally “to hurl away.”
Paul had this in mind when he wrote, “I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost of sins, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience (1 Tim. 1:16; Matthew 7:11). Un unforgiving spirit not only is inconsistent for one who has been totally forgiven by God, but also brings the chastening of God rather than His mercy. Our Lord Jesus illustrates the unmerciful response in the parable of Matthew 18:21-35. There a man is forgiven the unpayable debt representing sin and is given the mercy of salvation. He then refuses to forgive another and is immediately and severely chastened by God.
“But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” That states the truth of verse 14 in a negative way for emphasis. The sin of an unforgiving heart and a bitter spirit (Heb. 12:15) forfeits blessing and invites judgment.
Every believer must seek to manifest the forgiving spirit of Joseph (Gen. 50:19-21) and of Stephen (Acts 7:60) as often as needed (Luke 17:3-4). To receive pardon from the perfectly holy God and then to refuse to pardon others when we are sinful men is the epitome of abuse and of mercy. And “judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).
Jesus has given petitions for the believer to ask from God in the Lord’s Prayer, but there are also conditions for the answers to be received. Even more, our prayers are to be primarily concerned with the exaltation of the name, kingdom, and will of the Lord Jesus Christ. Prayer is primarily worship which inspires thanks and personal purity.
That day sitting in my bedroom with the Bible open and praying I forgive my father and my family. I realized as I read the Scriptures and as I prayed that if I did not forgive, I would not be forgiven by the Lord Jesus.
Today, we have looked at how one can be forgiven- through the blood of the crucified and risen Christ. I was only able to forgive. because I acknowledged that I was a sinner in need of His mercy. You will only be able to forgive those who have wronged you, abused you, spoken ill of you or any other sin because of the finished work of Christ. You will only be able to forgive as you- yourself know, acknowledge and confess your allegiance to the glorious work of Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. It is only through Christ- that one can be forgiven, because it is only Christ who suffered, shed His own bled and died in our place for our sin so that we could come boldly before His throne of grace and mercy and cry out “Abba Father.”