1. Psalm 66:18,
“Come and hear, all who fear God, and I will tell of what
He has done for my soul.”
“Only those who fear the God of salvation in this
world will have nothing to fear from
God in the next world.”
“GOD-FEARING TESTIFIERS ARE ALWAYS FOCUSED ON THE
ETERNAL AND NOT THE TEMPORAL, ON THE SPIRITUAL
AND NOT ON THE MATERIAL, ON THE INTERNAL
AND NOT ON THE EXTERNAL.”
King David, who is the best of praisers, did not brag to others about what God had done for his dominions, or his wealth, or the establishing of His crown, but he bragged about what God had done for his soul. David was not motivated at all to tell the God-fearing how God had enriched him imperially or materially, but rather highly motivated to tell them how God had enriched him spiritually. Can you imagine the President of the United States inviting people to the White House to tell them what Jesus Christ has done for his soul? After all, that is not a very regal thing to do, and it smacks of weakness and not power for a potentate to admit his dependence upon and submission to some other power who is tampering with his insides. It just sounds like he is not in control!
But King David was much more concerned about getting God’s character on the inside than getting human notoriety and popularity on the outside. He was much more thrilled with internal purification than with external polls and power. The God-denying thrill to man’s kingdoms around them, but the God-fearing thrill to God’s Kingdom within them. Other rulers throughout history have reveled in parading military might and military hardware before themselves and others, but King David delights only in parading the God of the inside story – the internal conquests of God in his soul. God’s Kingdom after all according to our Lord is in us, and this King had been wonderfully conquered by God from the inside out, while earthly kingdoms are built upon conquering others from the outside in.
What about us? Are we more concerned about having the face of Jesus taking shape in our souls or having our own faces in the “Who’s Who” section of the newspaper? King David wanted to have people hear God play upon the strings of his heart rather than hear David blow a trumpet about his conquests which is how people measure success and power then and today. This is why David was a man after God’s own heart and not a man after his own head like so many are. May God massage that into our heads and our hearts.
You know the type, the guy or the gal, who invites you over for a cup of coffee and proceeds to parade his or her accomplishments in front of you so that their cup of coffee turns cold like your interest is growing cold too. They are so intrigued with themselves and they simply assume that you are intrigued too. So he or she proceeds to brew a fresh pot of coffee because they have so much more to tell you about themselves and their children and their accomplishments.
These are the type of people who send to you huge Christmas letters filled with family pictures and achievements, though of course they are careful to give God all the glory. Come let me tell you what we and our children in the past year have done with God’s help, though God is really presented only in a peripheral and supporting actor role. And what it has to do with the Christ of Christmas nobody can figure out. It would be so much more Christmasy if they shared with you what Jesus had done for their souls in the past year. I wonder what King David’s Christmas cards would look like if he were still alive today.
David the God-fearing God-praiser, like all God-fearers and God praisers, would have a hard time with those who have an ongoing romance with themselves. David was a hearty testifier of God and not a heady testifier of himself. If you looked into David’s eyes, you would be looking into God’s heart, and not into David’s head. David was intensely dosed on God and not at all overdosed on self. David fed the God-fearing with God-soul-food rather than human-self-food. The God-fearing want to hear about God’s doings inside and not man’s doing outside.
What has God done for your soul? Have you told a God-fearing one lately what God is doing in you? It will joyfully resonate in the God-fearer’s soul too and bless him, for they are awed by God and not awed by you.
2. Jeremiah 3:12-13,
“‘…For I am gracious,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will not be angry forever.
Only ac-KNOW-ledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed
against the Lord your God….’”
“GOD COMMANDS US TO CONFESS OUR SINS TO HIM NOT THAT
HE MAY KNOW THEM, BUT THAT WE OURSELVES
MAY KNOW THEM.”
“EVEN AS WE CANNOT SEE THE REAL CORRUPTION IN OUR
STOMACHS UNTIL WE PUKE IT OUT OF OUR MOUTHS,
SO WE CANNOT SEE THE REAL SIN AND ROT IN
OUR HEARTS UNTIL WE CONFESS IT OUT
OF OUR MOUTHS TO GOD.”
The Bible tells us that our Heavenly Father knows what we have need of before we ask Him. So too we may be assured that He knows what sins we have committed, even those secret ones, before we confess them. God doesn’t need to hear our confession, we do. Or as C.S Lewis said in the film Shadowlands, “Prayer doesn’t change God, it changes me.” Man has never learned to express himself fully, honestly, and redemptively until he has expressed himself penitently and confessionally before God.
We cannot ever truly know God and know ourselves until we ac-KNOW-ledge our sins before Him. It is in the confession of sins that we come to understand ourselves and Who the Holy God really is. As a matter of fact, many churches today no longer KNOW GOD AS THEIR GRACIOUS AND MERCIFUL REDEEMER, but rather as their WALL STREET INVESTMENT BROKER. The knowledge of Who God truly is has undergone a lowering and a distortion as in no other time in history. The HOLY OTHER is now the CASUAL ACQUAINTANCE I am afraid. When we no longer pray for God to forgive our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us, we no longer know God as the High and Holy One – our Father Who art in Heaven. But, the nearer we get to the true God, the more we know that we need forgiveness.
If you are looking for some clue as to a topic of mutual interest between you and your High and Holy Exalted Father Who art in Heaven, you will get His earnest attention with heartfelt prayers of confession and contrition. In fact, we cannot be conversant with God on a regular basis until we learn to be forthcoming about our shortcomings. Small talk from big sinners just doesn’t cut it with the holy God!
Prayer is entering God’s Holiest Heaven, not man’s fantasy dreamland. It is so typical for man to want to think for instance of Roy Rogers as still today the King of the Cowboys rather than the owner of a chain of fast-food, greasy burger joints. That takes the imaginary halo off from their Western hero with his horse Trigger. Many religious folks want to wear their halos today also and they think that they can sidestep the greasy-sin issue, and yet enter Heaven up the front steps without leaving greasy sin tracks all over the place.. If you will, they think that they can simply sneak sin out the back door, and enter Heaven through the front door.
The real trouble is, even as God is more willing to give than we are to receive, He is also more willing to forgive than we are to confess. We would rather be known as the white-hat good guys than the black-hat bad guys any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Many churches today are nothing more than cake cutters and ice cream scoopers rather than sin-convictors and prayer-confession booths. Confession of sin and asking God for forgiveness is so old-fashioned and has such anti-social connotations. That is why you might have to to go way back in history in your memory to find those heartfelt and contrite confessionals. Why? Because even sin today has been laughed off as a primitive taboo which the preachers now rarely preach against.
What has happened is that repentance today means little more than self-improvement. It has become an optional, ecclesiastical footnote which amounts to something like apologizing for a rash on our skin. How mannerly! When is the last time you personally or congregationally have truly confessed your sins to God? Without recognition of sin, what would we need salvation for from day by day? To dismiss sin is to dismiss the Savior Jesus Christ. ‘Where the sin confessors are extinct, the GREAT PARDONER is obsolete. This all is like music to the devil’s ears.
3. I John 3:20,
“…for God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.”
“…and His angels He charges with folly.”
“WHILE GOD IS INFINITELY GREATER THAN OUR HEARTS AND KNOWS
ALL THINGS, MAN IS FINITELY SMALLER THAN GOD’S HEART
AND KNOWS BUT A FEW THINGS.”
“GIVEN THAT GOD CHARGES HIS ANGELS IN THEIR PERFECT STATE
WITH FOLLY, MAN IN HIS IMPERFECT STATE COMPARED TO
GOD MUST BE THE ESSENCE OF FOOLISHNESS.”
God must have such a transcendently perfect and infinite knowledge and wisdom to have to charge His very smart good angels with foolishness. What a slap in those angelic faces! What a come down for Heavenly winged messengers! We can and must conclude that the knowledge and wisdom of God is inconceivably beyond the microscopic knowledge and wisdom of angels and of men. I guess it is true after all that only “Father Knows Best,” even though most of the time we think we do. The sooner we learn that and hang on to GOD’S TRANSCENDENT OMNISCIENCE our whole life long, the more we will trust the Lord without our understanding of all things, and have the peace of God that passes understanding in everything.
Furthermore, only God can take a survey of all things that are past and behind us, all things that are now upon us, and all things that are yet to come, and make perfect sense and purpose out of what looks to us like hodge-podge. I mean, if we look at the world around us, we can easily become very cynical and faithless about what lies ahead of us. Let’s just leave the driving to Daddy God, totally trusting ourselves to His care and direction, and let us little smarties who really aren’t so smart after all just behave ourselves in the back seat. God alone knows where we must go, and He alone knows the best way to bring us there. God is our GPS AND NOT WE OURSELVES.
There are those in religion today who actually think that they have life and God all figured out, and that they have a helium balloon tied around their waist thinking that they can fly above and escape all of the bumps and pains of life. The Hakuna Matata Philosophy! And yet they continue getting beat up by gangs of ugly facts that contradict everything they think they know so perfectly about God and life. Then they go crying to the pastor about how God has let them down, and their faith goes down the tubes too.
How often when I was a child did I come running home to mother crying, “Johnny knocked me down again.” How often did I run to the nearest parent to weep, whine, and complain. Why? Because that is life in this non-Hakuna Matata world and the sooner we accept it the better. Or do we think that scrapes, bumps, and bruises only happen in childhood?
It doesn’t take long to discover that life in this world is closer to the “‘Wild Wild West” than it is to Disneyworld. Not only are there those who knock you down, they even step on you. And though Jesus commands us not to hit back, it is not easy being a pacifist and a peacemaker in this the “Wild West City” where we all live. Sometimes, in fact, lots of times, I just don’t understand God’s way of thinking. But that is because His ways are far above my ways, and His thoughts are far above my thoughts. When we forget that, we often take matters into our own hands and make an even worse mess of things because we forget that He actually does know it all and knows it best.
I mean, it was bad enough that I would trip over nothing but myself and still do, and come screaming to mommy to have her kiss the owie on my knee. That’s life in an imperfect world. How often as a youngster did I get knocked off my pudgy pinions onto the ground, as with others we began this suspenseful adventure of our own Chronicles of Narnia through the beckoning and yet frightening seas and forests of this world?
Even an awfully lot of religious people today remind me of the prizefighter who thought he had the opponent all figured out and had his fight plan finely tuned. But now he staggers back to his corner with puffy eyes and wobbly knees, barely able to stand up. Life has a way of bringing us to our knees and forcing us to say with Socrates, “I know nothing.” Compared to God, Socrates was closer to the truth than we often are. Yes it is so true, and the sooner we learn it the better, “The Heavenly Father indeed knows best, and when our balloon is popped and we come down with a thud, He alone can turn all things, even bad things, into good things for those who love Him.”
So then because He knows and understand all things, let us trust in the Lord with all our hearts, and not lean on our own brains. Stop that! Let us acknowledge in all things that He is God and we are not. Then He will make our paths straight, for He alone can in what seems to us to a hopelessly crooked world.
4. Jeremiah 29:13,
“And you will seek me and find me, when you seek Me with
your whole heart.”
“WHEN THE HEART IS SEPARATED FROM THE BODY, THE BODY
IS DEAD. WHEN THE HEART IS SEPARATED FROM THE
PRAYER, THE PRAYER IS DEAD TOO.”
“FAR BETTER IS A BROKEN, STUMBLING PRAYER WITH HEART-
FELT SINCERITY, THAN AN ARTICULATE, ELABORATE
PRAYER WITH HEARTLESS INSINCERITY.”
Praying is not a speech contest! Prayer is not something shaped in an oratorical beauty parlor. Our mouths may be eloquently open in prayer, and our eyes traditionally shut in prayer, and yet not have our hearts at all affected by the awesome, holy God to Whom we pray, or by the glory or gravity of what we are praying. Such moribund prayer is a mockery to God, and then it is alone His mercy that God doesn’t strike us as dead as our prayers.
Prayer must never be semi-conscious pillow talk. We cannot seek Him with our whole heart when we are half awake. In this incredibly hectic and busy world, when that often fleeting window of prayer–opportunity is opened to us, we must open it wide, and not leave it ajar or half shut. When we come knocking on Heaven’s door, only wholehearted prayer will open that door.
Even as God is not the God of the dead but of the living, so too God is the hearer of lively prayers and not the hearer of dead ones! If our eyes are never watered with tears of joy or sorrow in prayer, it is because our prayer-heart is dry and dead too. I am not talking about screaming prayer but instead sincere, heartfelt prayer. I am not talking about sound-volume but about spiritual vitality.
Prayer is a duty, but it must be far more desirable and delightful than simply dutiful. Wholehearted prayer is God’s command, but it is much more than that. It is intimate fellowship with our loving Lord. Even as a husband and wife passionately share and express their love in the ecstasy of physical intercourse, so Christ and His bride share and passionately express their love in the ecstasy of spiritual intercourse – prayer.
We must not have physical intercourse with our spouse at the dead end of the day when we are already in the comatose condition of exhaustion and weariness. I mean, when you get home from work at 2:00 a.m., both of you are about as frisky as stuffed horses. And likewise we are not to have spiritual intercourse with our God when we are giving him the tired and lifeless end of ourselves. Make love to your spouse and to God when you are pronounced alive and not pronounced dead. How do you think your wife would like it if you fell asleep during sex, and how do you think God would like it if you fell asleep during prayer? After all, we even excuse ourselves to other humans when we so much as yawn during conversation. We are not dealing with humans here, we are dealing with God.
While we are deep into this analogy, didn’t you ever have it when your children were young, and you and your wife were in bed engaged in that wonderful and all absorbing transaction of love, when from the corner of the eye one of you discerned a small person standing in the doorway watching. You didn’t hear her coming because the noise of the ceiling fan covered over the sounds of her approach. And you now hear your wife say, “We’ve got company!” And the little one says, “Can I come into bed too.”
Come on now, admit it, that moment of passionate love simply cannot be fulfilled in the midst of this horribly and inexpressibly frustrating interruption and atmosphere. Well then, how do you think God feels in the passion of prayer when you are always allowing Himself and yourself to be interrupted by the telephone, or the dog, or yes, by your child? For crying out loud, take the phone off the hook, shut the stupid television off, put the dog in the basement, and lock the prayer door even as we should have locked the bedroom door.
Anything less than passionate prayer is only empty words, and accordingly they vanish into nothingness. Prayer must never become a pastime, you know, kind of like listening to the radio while we are really doing something else. Speaking of the radio, dead prayer is like the dead air on a radio station that has been knocked off the air. There is nothing emptier and lonelier and hollower and more forsaken than dead air on the radio. It seems eternal. Truly, we must repent of that kind of praying first before we start the next one. We are not only to love God with all our hearts, but we are to pray to God with all our hearts too.
5. Psalm 84:5 and 7,
“How blessed is the man whose strength is in Thee…
They go from strength to strength….”
“For of His fullness we have all received, and grace
“IF FOR ONE SECOND WE DID NOT RECEIVE GOD’S SUSTAINING
STRENGTH, WE WOULD BE DEAD.”
“IF FOR ONE SECOND WE DID NOT RECEIVE GOD’S SAVING AND
FORGIVING GRACE, WE WOULD BE DAMNED.”
The Bible tells us that the weakness of God is stronger than men. Of course, it is a ridiculous play on words, for there is no weakness with God. God, Who has all the perfections of being, can have no imperfections or limitations. But even if He did, which He doesn’t, that Divine weakness would still be infinitely stronger than the greatest strength of men. Which all boils down to this, namely, that God is power at its best, and man is weakness at its worst. If you will, God is all powerful and man apart from God is all weakness.
Man shines his independence and self-sufficiency to a high luster. For natural man to be totally reliant upon Divine strength degrades his manliness. The badge of that manliness is a carefree attitude which just isn’t compatible with casting your cares upon the Lord. No, no, the very thought of utter dependence on anyone, including God, makes him back away from humble prayer with loathing and dismay. He will choose a “Guy’s Only Weekend” before a Saturday prayer meeting every day and twice on Sunday. But without God’s strength, not only would flimsy man not be able to shower and get dressed for work, he would die on the spot and never show up for work ever again.
We not only go from Divine strength to Divine strength, but we go from Divine grace to Divine grace. If it were not for a fresh deluge each day of God’s preventing grace in our lives and families, our homes would be war zones and unlivable, like many pagan homes are. If it were not for a moment by moment fresh outpouring of God’s forgiving grace, we would all be like condemned murderers languishing on death row. If it were not for God’s day by day enabling grace, each one of us would put forward very little by way of performance. If it were not for God’s maintaining grace, our minds and bodies would self-destruct in a moment.
There is more and more grace, much more. If it were not for God’s enlivening grace, our bones would instantly become the objects of a future archaeological dig. If it were not for God’s covering grace, the heat of Hell’s attacks would melt us like an ice-cream cone in the summer noon-day sun. If it were not for God’s redeeming grace, we would all be held forever hostage by the devil who would refuse to negotiate at any price. It it were not for God’s sanctifying grace, we would all have the morals of the mafia underworld. If it were not for God’s maturing grace, we all would be spherical moonheads admiring and playing with our tiny fingers and toes.
In short, if it were not for God’s grace upon grace, life for us would be a nightmare from hell. But because of that amazing grace, each day we can have a foretaste of Heaven. Believe the Apostle John big time when he says that we go from grace to grace. It is all about God’s amazing grace from beginning to end, and God’s children will be singing about and praising God for His amaing grace forever. Choir practice begins down here.
Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see. ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved; how precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed. Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ‘Tis grace hath bro’t me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home. When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’ve first begun.
6. James 4:7,
“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
“ONLY HE WHO IS COMPLETELY SUBMITTED TO GOD CAN
POWERFULLY RESIST SATAN.”
“HE WHO DOES NOT OPPOSE THE DEVIL INVITES HIM,
AND HE WHO DOES NOT MAKE THE DEVIL
WALK AWAY WILL WALK WITH HIM.”
When I was young, saying dirty words was not only considered immoral, but in the same class as adultery, murder, and bank robbery. In fact, quoting a curse word was just as bad as the use of it. We were brought up under and reverently submitted to the Biblical injunctions,
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the
Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes
His name in vain,”
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth.”
Now God-degrading and vulgar expletives are rampant everywhere we go, and each time it happens it is an open invitation for Satan to come and be a part of and control our lives. Our society now speaks Satan’s vocabulary and not God’s, because it is no longer submitted to God but instead is submitted to Satan. America once willingly submitted to God and denounced the devil. Now America is more and more submitting to Satan and she damns God and His Son Jesus Christ.
Therefore our society no longer prays to God, but instead bans prayer and curses Him. Our children now suffer brain damage in the foul atmosphere of “God-damning” homes and schools as there they learn to speak the devil’s language and no longer pray prayer language. More and more our society is anti-God and pro-Satan in its thinking and speaking. And in such a society, those who are truly submitted to God are the only ones who can and will resist Satan. Without being totally submitted to God, we and our children are nothing more than buzzard bait.
Not to resist Satan and sin by praying and speaking the Word against them is because we love them both. That is the bottom line. Or if you will, if we truly do hate Satan and sin, that hatred will not be satisfied without the strong resistance and repulsion of both. There it is! If we do not oppose the tempter and his temptations, it is because we have longings for them and for the events of sin that they offer.
Satan left Jesus for another time, and the awesome point is, Satan left Him. There are people who Satan never seems to leave, because they never totally submit their lives to Jesus Christ. God is love and Satan is hate. Have you ever met the people who seem to hate everybody? And not only that, they want everyone to hate them. Their homes are filled with rancor and rawness and rancidness. Their mouths are filled with anti-God and anti-social slurs day in and day out always delivered at full volume. Only when they are saved by and submit to Jesus their Lord and Savior will they love God and love one another, and only then the sewage that flows out of their mouths will dry up and a river of love and praise will flow out of their innermost being. Then Satan will leave them too! Only then!!!
Let’s tell it like it is. If we don’t follow Jesus wherever He goes, Satan will follow us wherever we go. We may try to ignore him from time to time hoping that he will go away. The trouble is, he doesn’t have anything better to do than dog us and our children to destroy us all. And if we don’t make him leave in the name of Jesus by the spoken Word of God and the holy life, we all will one day as fathers and mothers see Satan standing over our children like Dr. Frankentstein and Igor standing over an experiment gone awry and whose demonicness not even they could control. Grim prospects for parents and grandparents.
I have no greater joy than that my children and grandchildren walk in the truth. We must explain to them very early that unless they walk in truth who is Jesus, Satan will walk with them and will never walk away from them. But when they walk with the Mighty God, Satan will walk away from them for he knows that to get at them he has to go through Jesus Christ. Satan is not stupid, and he knows when he is outmatched.
7. Job 1:16b,
“Man, who drinks iniquity like water.”
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be filled.”
“NO APPETITE IS SO STRONG AS THAT OF THIRST. THE WICKED
QUENCH THEIR THIRST BY DOING EVIL, BUT THE RIGHTEOUS
QUENCH THEIR THIRST BY DOING GOOD.”
“IT IS THE NATURE OF EVERY CARNAL MAN TO VIEW SIN JUST
AS DESIRABLE AS THE DRUNKARD VIEWS HIS DRINK.”
You see, sinaholics and alcoholics are addicted to sinning and drinking. Just as the alcoholic thirsts for his drink, so the sinaholic thirsts for his sin. As the one will sacrifice his health and life for one more drink, so the other will gladly sacrifice his eternal soul for one more sin. Even as the drunkard drinks booze like water, so the sinner drinks sin like water. So in this world there are habitual drinkers even as there are habitual sinners.
The sinaholic drools for unrighteousness, while the righteousness drools for righteousness. As intensely as the unregenerate thirst for unrighteousness, so as intensely the regenerate thirst for righteousness. As a matter of fact, it is obvious that the regenerate man’s longing for righteousness is equal to and even much greater than the unregenerate man’s longing for sin. How so? Because the regenerate man not only thirsts for righteousness, he hungers for it too. He eats and drinks righteousness, because it is the only item on his spiritual menu.
The children of God find righteousness alone totally satisfying, completely nourishing, and sumptuously delicious. Sure, sin has a momentary sweet taste to it, but like sugar, it is a hammer blow to the pancreas, and it replaces real food in the world’s destructive diet. Amazing that lab experiments done on rats proved that when they are given the choice between sugared water and healthful chow, they prefer the sweet water to the point of malnutrition and death. While the world sits with their snouts shoved into the hot-fudge sundaes and the whipped cream of sin while it licks the bowl, the children of God eagerly feast upon Heaven’s gourmet food and drink of righteousness that alone nourishes and satisfies.
And anything that is tainted with sin is to the righteous like finding a grub in his gravy. Righteousness not only makes his mouth water, but unrighteousness makes him puke. While the unrighteous love to eat dirt and drink from mud puddles, the righteous love to eat from the Bread of Life, and drink from the fountains of living water.
Booze drinkers love to hang out in barrooms. Homosexuals love to hang out in public restrooms. Pornographers love to hang out in XXX smut rooms. Adulterers love to hang out in motel rooms. Pedophiles love to hang out around and in school rooms. Gamblers love to hang out in casino rooms. TV addicts love to hang out in family rooms. Thieves love to hang out in other people’s rooms. Criminals don’t like to hang out in courtrooms. Gossips love to hang out in side rooms. Mafia bosses love to hang out in dark rooms. Flirts love to hang out in office rooms. The righteous love to hang out in prayer rooms.
8. Psalm 24:3-4,
“…and who may stand in His holy place? He that hath clean
hands and a pure heart.”
“WE MAY BE FREE FROM THE EXTERNAL COMMISSION OF SIN,
AND YET BE DEFILED BY THE INTERNAL DESIRE FOR SIN.”
“WE MAY SPEAK AND PREACH AGAINST SIN WITH OUR MOUTHS,
AND YET DESIRE SIN IN OUR MINDS AND IMAGINATIONS.”
You see, we can lift our prayer hands as clean to God, but still have our prayer breath smell of sin in our hearts. It was Homer who put into the mouth of the pagan Hector in the sixth Iliad poignant words. After he comes from the fight, he is entreated by his mother to sacrifice to the gods. Hector says no, and then adds, “I dread to sacrifice to the gods with unwashed hands.” So much more must the Christian cry out to the only true and living God, “I dread to sacrifice to Thee oh God with an unwashed heart.”
The only way for us to come into and abide in God’s presence is clean-handed and pure-hearted. Even as David would not be allowed to build the temple with warring and blood-stained hands, so too, the Lord will not allow us to worship Him in His temple with bloodthirsty and vengeful hearts. God would have us to worship Him in spirit and in truth, but as long as we have unholiness on our hands, and sin in our hearts, we worship God with a lie. When we are constantly challenging those around us to put up their dukes, we may just as well not lift up our hands to God.
What good are worship and praise and prayer if when they are over, our hearts still look like the flopsam deposited by receding flood waters? I mean, how dare we invite God to come into our prayer sanctuary which is layered with dust and dirt and cobwebs thirty feet wide that have been hanging there for decades? Search me, O God, and know my heart today; try me, O Savior, know my thoughts I pray; see if there be some wicked way in me; cleanse me from every sin, and set me free.
Let’s face it Mom, you are not too hip on having your children run into the living room with mud-covered feet. We chide doggie Max for sneaking into the kitchen with his dirty little paws. We are real fussy and guarded about skunks in the punchbowl. It just doesn’t seem holy when the church sanctuary is filled with wedding guests for the adulteress/divorcee’s fourth wedding. Somehow that wedding reception doesn’t foreshadow the marriage supper of the Lamb. What’s wrong with this picture? There are things, even on the lower level of earth, that are plainly out of place, at least they use to be. Even much more so in Heaven.
So too, the Holy God doesn’t want and won’t allow unholiness in the His Holy of Holies. Unclean hands and impure hearts just don’t fit the enviornment and the decor of Heaven. At the least mothers should understand that and teach their children not only to wash their physical hands but wash their spiritual hands also as well as their spiritual hearts for Heaven’s sake. That is, not only keep themselves clean on the outside, but keep themselves clean on the inside for God’s sake.
God is the God of the inside story even more than He is the God of the outside story. Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart. That is where His white glove inspection will take place. When we enter Heaven one day, God is not going to check on the condition of our faces, but on the cleanliness of our hearts. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God, for they are the only ones who can and live to tell about it.
However, we must practice what we preach. Haven’t we ever hated someone in our hearts? We still do unless our hearts are cleared of it. Husbands and wives say nasty things to each other. One thing leads to another until the matter is temporarily dropped because the children come home. That is big trouble! They let the hatchet drop instead of burying it. The atmosphere of their home and their hearts is never washed. Resentment accumulates unresolved. This goes on and on, and time itself will not heal the old festering sores. The wife becomes negative and the husband scarce. The unreconciled rancor pushes them further and further apart. The divorce was inevitable.
Then they go on to get married again, and then commit their lives to Christ, but until that backlog of rotten material in their hearts is exposed and disinfected, they will not be allowed into Heaven one awful day. If we confess our sins, only then will God cleanse us of our sins. Only if we forgive will we be forgiven. It was St. Francis who stated, “It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.”
9. Hebrews 7:25,
“Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God,
since He ever lives to make intercession for them.”
“And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness, for we do not
know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes
for us with groanings too deep for words.”
“ONLY BY THE INTERCESSION OF CHRIST CAN OUR SOULS AND
OUR PRAYERS BE ACCEPTED IN HEAVEN, AND ONLY BY THE
INTERCESSION OF THE SPIRIT CAN OUR SOULS AND OUR
PRAYERS BE IMPASSIONED ON EARTH.”
“IN EITHER CASE, NO PRAYER CAN FIND ITS WAY FROM EARTH
TO HEAVEN BUT THAT PRAYER WHICH FIRST COMES
FROM HEAVEN TO EARTH.”
All prayers that are acceptable to God are prayers prayed in the name of Jesus and prayers breathed by the Holy Spirit within us. Every sincere prayer is a beam of the Son of righteousness shining into our souls and then reflected back to Heaven again. Every passionate prayer that is breathed out of our spirits is first breathed into us by the Holy Spirit.
Whoever prays apart from the name of Jesus prays to no avail, and whoever prays apart from the Holy Spirit’s groanings prays lifeless words. In either case, it is prayer without acceptance in Heaven and without power on earth. Apart from the intercession of Jesus Christ every prayer is worthless, and apart from the intercession of the Holy Spirit every prayer is powerless.
Every prayer prayed sincerely in the name of Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit prevails with God. You know how children are, they have the gift for stating the obvious, like, “Look mommy, an elephant.” The most childlike and simplistic prayer prayed in the name of Jesus and stirred by the Holy Spirit within, before God is a prayer that receives both the “Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes for Powerful Praying.”
If Jesus Christ does not present our prayers to the Father, we may just as well unfold our hands, and if the Holy Spirit does not pray our prayers to the Father, we may just as well shut our mouths. Every prayer apart from the intercession of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit is a dead-end street. Jesus prays for us with both hands lifted to the Father, and with one nail-pierced hand He presents us as worthy to the Father, and with the other nailed-pierced hand He presents our requests as rightfully before the Father.
You see, it is like this, no man finds his way to Christ on his own. No one comes to Christ unless the Heavenly Father draws him. So too, not one prayer can find its way on its own into the Heavenly Father’s presence unless Jesus presents it. Not only does Jesus present us as perfect before the Father, He presents our prayers perfected as well.
Nothing in our Christian lives is simply a do-it-yourself project. Even as from beginning to end we are dependent upon the Lord, so is our praying and so are our prayers. No prayer rises from earth to Heaven that is not propelled by the Holy Spirit, and no prayer enters Heaven that is not presented by Jesus to the Father. Everything is from Him, through Him, and unto Him. Only prayers prayed in the name of Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit reach God’s heart. In the Christian life we do nothing on our own, and that includes praying too.