Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wednesday, March 6th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Numbers 11-12, Psalm 47, Luke 3
Today's scripture focus is 1 John 5:14-17

14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

Yesterday we saw that we can have confidence in our eternal life - if we believe in the entirety of the gospel message.

Today we see the confidence that we can have in prayer.  The key, of course, to that verse is "according to his will".  And really, that is the essence of prayer - aligning our will with His.  Prayer is not so much to move the hand of God (though it does that as well) but to change the heart of man.

I loved both Driscoll's and MacArthur's sermons on this passage.

Now what many of us like to do is sin, and then, “God, fix it!” And that’s our prayer life. Right? That, well, we were not in his will. Right? “God, I know I’m not supposed to be sleeping with him and living with him, but he said he loves me and he plays guitar and I just couldn’t help myself, and – Save him! Make him Billy Graham’s assistant, please!” You know? No. That’s not his will. You’re not in his will. You’re out of his will. You can’t pray for God to come in and bless the sin. God’s will has to be lived in, not just something that we manipulate God to jump in and save the day when we keep self-destructing our own lives. So we got to pray according to his will..... You know the line. “Duh! I didn’t want to hear that! I thought prayer is where I get my will done!” No. That’s where God’s will gets done. And so sometimes prayer is about us speaking to God and him responding, but oftentimes it’s about him speaking and us just listening. And sometimes prayer’s whole purpose is not to move the hand of God, but to change the heart of people. How many of you have prayed and found that God didn’t do anything but change you?...
See, ‘cause what we want is we want our will to be done. “I’m king, sovereign and lord. Here’s my little throne. Ta da da da dah! God, now execute my plan!” God says, “No, no, no, no, no. I’m God. Off the throne. Now let’s talk about my will, read your Bible. Spend some time with me. Cultivate the relationship, you’ll know what my will is, and then when you pray you can pray in accordance with my will, not so that you’ll move my hand, but so that you won’t resist me and you’ll work my plan with me.” See, we have a perfunctory relationship with God where we want to use him to get our will. He wants a loving relationship with us where we are in harmony with him.

Prayer isn’t just about using God. Prayer is sometimes just about loving God and sharing his heart
We have to be in His will.  I can't have premarital sex and then pray that God will prevent me from getting pregnant.  I'm not in His will and therefore, He is under absolutely no obligation to answer that prayer.  He might choose to answer it anyway, but He is under no obligation to.

And we have to ask for something that is in His will.  Even if I'm living for God, I can't ask Him to let me marry a hot guy and expect that prayer to be answered.  He may answer it (I did get a hot husband! ;), but He is under no obligation to answer it.

But, when we ask according to His will, we have a blank cheque.  He will hear and He will answer, according to His will.

There is an exception clause in here though.  V16-17 are rather confusing and there are a few interpretations of it.


I'll tell you how that got in here, he is simply saying He'll answer all your prayers, all your prayers consistent with His name and consistent with His will, except one. And that's if you're praying for somebody who has committed sin leading to death. In other words, the final decision has already been made by God as to the future of that person and there's not going to be a change. But apart from that, now get the context, that's only the exception, that's not the point. The point is you can ask for anything, know He hears...if you know He hears, you know He answers and the exception to the way, is if the final decision has already been made about the future of that person and it's death and therefore all your prayers in regard to that person have no possibility of being heard and answered. As I said, it's such a strange way to approach it.
But at the same time, if you look at it on the positive side, he's saying that this is such a grand certainty and such an expansive privilege that only in the most extreme case where there is already a final determination about the destiny of that person and it is that they're going to die, so what's the point of praying for any circumstances about their life. If that's already been determined, then that prayer isn't going to be answered. At the end of verse 16, "I do not say that you should make request for this." Now what is the sin unto death? "If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask God and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death."

You can pray for a person who has fallen into sin, a brother who has fallen into sin and if it's not a sin by God's determination that leads to death, then God will hear that prayer and God will answer that prayer and God will give life to that individual if it's not a sin leading to death. There is a sin, literally in the Greek, there is a sin to death. I do not say he should make request for this which is another way of saying, "Don't expect anything to change if the person has committed the sin to death."
Now what is it? What is the sin that leads to death? Well, there are two possibilities, just two. This refers to the sin of a non-Christian that leads to eternal death. What is the sin of a non-Christian that leads to eternal death? Final rejection of Christ, right? So if it's talking about a non-Christian, one who pretends to be a brother, pretends to be a believer, and you see sin in that person's life, and you pray for that person to be rescued and recovered out of that sin and brought back and restored, perhaps you don't even realize this person is not a true believer, but in the eyes of God this person has finally fully apostatized, turned from the truth, willfully and ultimately if this is that final rejection, like Hebrews 6 that can never be restored again, if this is that trampling under foot the blood of the covenant, if this is that 1 John 2:19, "They went out from us because they were not of us," if this is that final rejection of Christ, that final step of apostasy, then I do not say he should make request for this."
He's not commanding us, "Don't pray for those people," because we don't know who they are. All John is saying is there's really not going to be a point in praying. I'm just trying to tell you because some of you people are going to go out, you're going to see somebody who is a so-called brother, you're going to say, "Okay, I know it's God's will that that person not be in sin," right? So I'm going to pray according to God's will that they be delivered from sin, that they be brought back into the fold, that they be restored to the fellowship. And I know that God wants them clean, I know the Lord wants them back in the fellowship of His church and I'm going to pray that that will happen and then that person dies never really repenting and I'm going to go back to this promise in John's gospel and this promise in 1 John and I'm going to say, "Wait a minute, I prayed according to Your will and You didn't answer. In fact, the person didn't come back, the person died." And you're going to need this verse which says basically, there are going to be those cases where you prayed and there was no restoration because they had sinned a sin of rejecting, even though they were so-called brothers.
Now there's another possibility. That is that he's actually talking about a Christian, that he's talking about a Christian, a real Christian, not just a professing brother but a real brother who is sinning a sin unto death. You say, "Well what in the world is that? It wouldn't be apostasy, it wouldn't be a final rejection of Jesus Christ. It wouldn't be denouncing the gospel, it wouldn't be trouncing underfoot the blood of the covenant and counting it an unholy thing. It wouldn't be falling away in Hebrews 6 and being unable to be renewed again to repentance because they're true believers. They didn't apostatize, they didn't reject the faith, they didn't reject Christ, they didn't reject the gospel, this isn't their final rejection and thus they're headed for eternal death. This isn't eternal death here we're talking about." No, the second possibility is that he's talking about a Christian, a true brother who commits a sin for which God takes his life. Could that happen? Yes it could happen. Did it ever happen? Yes it did happen. It happened in the Corinthian church. There are some pretty severe sins for which God doesn't take a life. You remember 1 Corinthians chapter 5 there was a man who committed adultery with his father's wife, probably his step-mother, incest. And that man wasn't killed, he was just told...they were told to put him out of the church, right? Cause a little leaven leavens the lump. Put him out of the church, turn him over to Satan that he'll learn not to blaspheme. There are some pretty serious sins that don't produce death. Yet on the other hand, 1 Corinthians 11 says there were some people who came to the Lord's table and they came with such shallowness with such hypocrisy and superficiality and not an honest and heartfelt dealing with their sin that they abused the Lord's table and Paul says, "Because of this some of you have died." God slew some people.
There was Ananias and Sapphira, remember that in Acts 5? God took their lives because they publicly lied to the Holy Spirit in front of the whole church. It could be desecration of the Lord's table. It could be a lie in front of the whole church for which the Lord takes a life.
You say, "Well, what sin is it? What sin is it?" It's any sin that the Lord determines is enough for Him to take a believer out. It's not any one sin. It's not stated as a single sin. It's that sin at that time in that place that compromises the church and the testimony of Christ to the degree that He actually removes that believer.
You say, "Well, that's not punishment for the believer." No, it's protection for the church. It's protection for the integrity and purity of the gospel and the witness of the church. You say, "Well, which is it? Is it a so-called brother committing apostasy for which our prayers are pointless because God has already determined they're going into eternal death because their unbelief is fixed? Or is it a believer who is a true brother who has committed a sin which so has scandalized the church, or which the Lord in His determination understands harms the testimony of the church, compromises the integrity, the purity, the holiness of the church and the Lord determines He's had enough and the church would be better off if they were removed? Which is it?" And my answer is probably both. I don't have any way to determine which. Both are true. Which one John has in mind, he doesn't make clear. But I know this, there is a time when people fully and finally reject the gospel. Hebrews 6, "They can never be again renewed to repentance." So-called brothers in the church professing Christ and yet living lives of sin and they pass a point and people are still praying and praying that they'll come back and come back and they never come back. And then they go into eternal death. They don't necessarily die physically, but they never come back and somebody says, "You know, I know it's Your will that they come back, I know it's not Your will that they're in sin, and why don't You hear and answer this prayer according to Your will?" And John is saying, "Here's what you need to know, there are going to be those people who've reached the permanent point of eternal death and there is no point in your prayers for them, just understand that."
On the other hand, there are believers who have engaged themselves in whatever sin to such a degree that the Lord determines in His sovereignty they are better off in heaven and the church is better off without them, compromising its testimony. And so he says when those happen, I'm simply telling you, and I love the way this is stated at the end of verse 16, "I do not say that he should make request for this." He doesn't command us not to pray for these people, we don't know who they are. He just says, "I can't tell you that you should make requests on behalf of people like that," which is another way of saying, "Don't expect the outcome you might otherwise expect."

Driscoll adds this thought as well...

I believe what he’s saying is with such people, you pray, you love, you intercede, you speak, you try, and then at some point you just let go. You let go.

I believe this is important for a few reasons. One, if you don’t, you will take it personally. It is really not between you and them; it is between them and God. But as long as you insert yourself between them and God, you will start to take it personally, like they are rejecting you. They’re ignoring you. They’re disobeying you. The truth is, they are rejecting, disobeying, and ignoring God. Part of this, as well, is some of you just need to protect yourself emotionally. Some of you can’t handle it. Some of you lose sleep. Some of you are seeing the condition of your overall health or physical health, the overall condition of your life start to slip and to disintegrate because you are so worried about someone who doesn’t care about themselves. At some point we need to get ourself out of the middle and stop telling God what to do. Stop saying, “God, do this. God, do that. God, do this. God, do that. God, I prayed. God, I sang. God, I tithed. God, I pleaded. God, I fasted. God, I’m trying to move your hand. God, please do this.” We need to just back up and pray Jesus’ prayer. “Your will be done.” And say no more. Just leave it there.

Here’s the cold, hard, reality. Not everyone you know is going to heaven. Not everyone you love will love God. Not everyone that you care about will change. Not everyone that you want to fix will be straightened out.

I don’t think I learned this until about a year ago. And emotionally, I would just bleed out all the time, thinking that I had to save and fix everyone. And then it dawned on me that I’m not God; that I can’t change a heart; that I can’t save a person; that I can’t forgive a sin; that I can’t transform a life; that I can love people and point to Jesus; and I can walk with him and show the benefits in hopes that others would seek to walk with him, too, but I can’t save or change anyone. And I believe that’s what he’s talking about. Pray. Intercede. Speak your piece. Do all you can. But when you hit the point where someone is just going to do what they’re going to do, then let them go, just as Jesus told Judas, what you’re going to do, go do it. It doesn’t mean that it’s right. It doesn’t mean that you condone it. It doesn’t mean that you bless it. It doesn’t mean that you support it. It just means that you’re not God and you can’t stop it. So you let ‘em go.

Now in this, this isn’t a fatalism, and this isn’t a hatred, and this isn’t giving up. Okay? This is a declaration to God, “God, it’s out of my hands.” And some of you are so worried to let certain people and certain things out of your hands because you fear what might happen to them, and my good encouragement to you is this: Just because it’s out of your hands or my hands does not mean it’s out of the hand of God. That as we pull our hands back, we leave room for God to work. We let God’s will be done. And we see what God will do. He will save some, not all. He will change some, not all. Some people don’t want God. They don’t want heaven. They don’t want Jesus. They don’t want worship. They don’t want holiness. They don’t want prayer. They don’t want Bible. If that’s not what they want, then we need to accept that and still love them. And our heart’s desire can be that they would change, but ultimately that’s between them and God.

Sorry, that got really long, I just couldn't leave anything out!

Tomorrow's scripture focus: 1 John 5:18-21
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Numbers 13-14, Psalm 48, Luke 4


Miriam said...

I'm glad you put in that last section from Driscoll's sermon. I read that sermon in getting my post for tomorrow ready and those paragraphs jumped out at me too.

Curly-T said...

I am really sorry, but MacArthur pretty much just sealed it for me. I have been reading his sermon series for my posts, but I really just can't do that anymore. If you want me to stop posting, I will, but I have serious issues with what he says here.
I believe, and have believed, that God gives us free will. That our final judgement is AFTER our death, not before.
Because if God judges us before our death, where is hope in our salvation that we've all been writing about? Where is God's grace at work in our lives? What is the point of turning to God if he has already determined what is going to happen?
Why on earth would God have a human be born, and before they've had a chance to do anything, judge that they'll spend eternity in hell?
If he does that, then Christ's death was for nothing, his sacrifice was empty. And there is no point in us trying to follow God.
MacArthur's sermon here is just so hopeless, with no chance of grace. And that is an interpretation that I just do not agree with.
It is another thing I love about God - He knows we're human, and he knows we're going to interpret his word differently, that each denomination, even each person, will have their own spin on it - but He gives freely of His love and grace and mercy, He gives us the chance to turn to Him - up until our death. There is no final judgement before that.
Sin leads to death. And sometimes people die while committing a sin. And God judges them accordingly. But He doesn't judge our eternity before we get there.

This isn't the best written out comment - my mind is just reeling from what I read, but I had to say something.

Miriam said...

Tiffany, God knows ahead of time who will accept Him, who will reject Him, who will be indifferent to Him, and that does not take away a person's choice. Grace is all over everything, because whether people choose to accept, reject, or be indifferent, salvation is still freely offered to everyone, even though not a single person can ever hope to deserve it.

Our judgment is predetermined because God already knows every decision and every action we will all make in our entire lives in advance. God doesn't pick and choose and say this one's for Heaven and that one's for hell when they are babies who haven't done anything yet, and I don't think that is AT ALL what MacArthur is saying. God already knows everything we will ever do before we are even born, and has known each of us from the beginning of the universe, so of course he knows ahead of time who will accept His gift and be saved and who will reject Him and die.
This does not diminish His grace or mercy one iota.

Curly-T said...

The way you say it, Miriam, makes complete sense.
I just didn't read any grace in MacArthur's sermon. I didn't read any love. It bothers me.
Maybe it is because I am from a Wesleyan background - I've been raised to look at things differently than MacArthur does (and it seems differently than most of the people who write on here), but I don't think that is bad.
Maybe the problem is, that while God is all knowing, I'd like to think that while He knows our ending, He doesn't hold it against us, until the ending has come.

Curly-T said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TammyIsBlessed said...

Tiffany, absolutely we still want you to post in here! This is not a MacArthur's way or the highway study by any means! This is a Bible study, and yes, several of us enjoy MacArthur's sermons and we are using them as a guideline, but that doesn't mean we agree with everything he says, and it certainly doesn't mean that we expect you or anyone else to agree with everything he says - or that we say for that matter! On things that are of secondary importance there can absolutely be differing opinions amongst Christians.

I do think that you are misinterpreting what MacArthur was saying here though. I, too, got the exact same impression as Miriam, and in no way felt like MacArthur was minimizing God's grace or love. There does come a time when a person reaches the point that they have hardened their heart so hard against God that there is literally nothing that will change that - and God knows when that happens, and that is what MacArthur was referring to here. Having listened to many of his sermons, I can confidently say that they are filled with God's love and God's grace, absolutely. Some sermons to happen to emphasize one over the other depending on the passage of scripture, but that is to be expected.

The scripture repeatedly says that God's elects believers.

The scripture repeatedly says that man has the responsibility to choose.

How God reconciles those two truths is something that I cannot understand, and really that no one can understand. They are two truths that seem contradictory to us. But we have such limited understanding. When things do not make sense to me, or even if it seems unfair to me, I have to accept that God's Word is simply true, and it is right because He said it - no matter if I understand it or not.

I grew up believing the same as you (or at least what I have so far perceived from your comments - not necessarily in every area). But growing up man's choice was emphasized far more than God's election. In fact, I don't even recall reading those verses about election! Also, growing up, God's grace and love was also emphasized - almost (but not totally) to the exclusion of His holiness and righteous wrath. But since starting this Bible blog, I've finally come to understand His holiness more. But the truth is, that the more I recognize His holiness for what it is, and recognize my sinfulness for what it is, the more I am amazed by His infinite grace, mercy and love. Emphasizing His grace OVER His holiness, almost cheapens His death. Emphasizing His holiness over His grace leads easily into legalism. It's striking the right balance between the two that is so important, and something that I've only recently begun to grasp.