• Introduction: I recently had a conversation with someone about prayer.  They had read a devotional about prayer and asked how they get the faith to pray confidently.  Thankfully, when any of us thinks we don’t have sufficient faith, we can pray to the Lord seeking a greater measure of faith. We can also trust Him to hear and answer our prayer.  And, He will bless with a greater measure of His Spirit to go along with the answer to the prayer – in the fullness of His time.
    • I confessed to this person I couldn’t think of a prayer that the Lord has not answered. There are some prayers I have prayed since my teen years.  There were prayers about getting a new job.  As a kid, I prayed my severely overweight maternal grandfather would lose weight.  My grandfather eventually lost something like 80 lbs!  In even those situations where I did not get what I originally sought, I later discovered how much of a disaster it would have been had I gotten exactly what I asked for, and when I wanted it.  To me, that is still a prayer answered.
      • How about your prayer life?  Are you even praying consistently to test the Lord on all of His promises regarding prayer: that He will hear your prayers and grant them to His glory?  Do you call upon Him consistently even maybe persistently, as Jesus coached us to do at the beginning of Luke Ch#18?
    • In our text for today, we can ask of the Lord for things consistent with keeping the Two Great Commandments (Mat 22:37-39), and He will bless with whatever you ask. Yes – whatever you ask of Him! The first of the Two Greats was something Jesus said in response to someone who wanted to trip Him up in an answer which was against scripture - 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.[1]
      • After saying that, Jesus confirmed these Two Great Commandments are a summary of the whole Law and the Prophets (v40 paraphrased).  Let us take a moment to come before our Lord in prayer concerning the message for today.
  • Let Us Pray:  Lord God, Heavenly Father, we can have confidence to come to You with prayer through Your Son, Jesus.  Our sins have been cleansed from us.  In eternal appreciation for sins forgiven, You ask us to put You first in our life, and to love one another.  We pray You send Your Spirit to empower us and motivate us to keep the Two Great Commandments.  According to our text for today we can confidently ask of You what we need to keep both commands, and You will bless according to Your divine providence and mercy.  We bring these petitions before You through Your Son Jesus, who reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, now and forevermore. Amen.
  • Background: John wrote the Gospel attributed to his name, the book of Revelation, and the three Epistles all in the 90’s AD. It isn’t clear whether some of the material was written before his exile to an island called Patmos or the exile period of his life started the writing spree.
    • We do know he spent some time in Ephesus which is now western Turkey.  It is believed he wrote the three Epistles to congregations in ancient Ephesus to encourage them in the faith.
    • His writings were constantly addressing a false teaching called Gnosticism. There are several bad aspects of Gnosticism, but two come to mind in view of our text for today:
      • All flesh is bad, but the spirit is good.  They have their reasons for believing this including applying some scriptures out of context.  But, let me quickly shoot down this concept about flesh being bad, by referring back to Gen Ch#1.  Recall something God said at the end of each day of creation?  After each of the first five days of creation, Moses wrote, “God saw that it was good.”  However, after the sixth day of creation, that was the day man was created, Moses wrote, 31And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good[2].  How could flesh be bad if God said it was good?  We screwed up the good God made by corrupting it with sin, but that corruption doesn’t make the flesh bad.  Otherwise, Jesus’ own flesh would have been bad.  We know that couldn’t be right, because Jesus was perfect as both man and God.
      • A second aspect of Gnosticism was a person must have a secret knowledge in order to be saved. I ask you, what is so secretive about the Gospel in a Nutshell - 16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life[3].
  • Analysis: With these two wrong-headed philosophies in mind, John did not write 1Jn 3:22 so we could indulge the flesh. He didn’t write about praying for whatever your heart desires, so you can sit around and do nothing while the Lord fetches you your next beer or glass of wine.
    • James, half-brother of Jesus, wrote - You ask and do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, so that you may spend what you request on your pleasures[4].
      • Our prayers become detestable to God when we look at praying to Him as our lucky charm. The cute story about finding a genie in a lamp who, upon being liberated from the bottle, grants three wishes is *not* how prayer works with the Lord.  When you pray, you are speaking to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  He deserves greater respect than listening to laundry list of “I wants” that have no value to Him and His kingdom or those around us.  There’s nothing wrong with brining before Him a list of “I wants”, but the purpose of the “I wants” is the issue.  People who conduct prayer only about themselves for selfish motivations are like those who King Solomon wrote about in Pro 28:9 - If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination[5].  The Merriam-Webster on-line defines “abomination” as something regarded with disgust or hatred[6]  Let’s stay away from doing anything the Lord would regard with disgust or hatred.
    • We can be confident in speaking before our Lord in prayer.  From our text on today we read - 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God[7]”.  What did the Apostle John mean “…if our heart does not condemn us…”?  John answered that question actually two chapters ago in his Epistle in the last half of verse seven – 7b …and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin[8].  God will have no sin near Him.  It is written He will say on the Last Day, “Depart from Me, you accursed[9]…!”  However, because we are cleansed by Jesus, there is nothing which should be in our heart to condemn us.  At the start of the service on today, we took the opportunity to stand before our Lord and confess we are a sinner.  With that, we confessed we cannot do anything to free ourselves from sin.  When it was said by Jesus’ called representative, “I forgive you of your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”, that was the end of any sin which would linger in your heart.  Your heart has no reason to condemn you of any sins that Jesus took away from you.  As the writer to the Hebrews noted - 16 Therefore let’s approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need[10].
      • God considers us to be sinless, because through our Baptism, Jesus provided the forgiveness of sins.  We were born anew at our baptism.  What confession of sins does at the start of each church service here at Christus Rex is cause us to remember we are a sinner, but then also remind us of God’s mercy to forgive us of our sins and sinfulness.  Jesus saved us, not because of anything good that we did, such that we owe Him a favor.  No, He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit we received through baptism (Titus 3:4-7).  I’ve said it several times now in previous messages, but it’s worth repeating again and again, that when you were baptized, you became one of God’s adopted sons.  Remember, a son was the person who would inherit an estate, so that’s why the NT writers used the word “son”.  Whether you are male or female, for the purposes of adoption by God, and to use a modern term, we all “identify” as sons.  You may use the personal pronouns of he, him, his.  😊 (So much for last week’s sermon!)  You have probably heard the term, “born again Christian”, and through baptism we are born again from above, from God, as John wrote earlier in our chapter -  No one who has been born of God practices sin, because His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin continually, because he has been born of God[11].
      • We know Jesus was sinless, because He kept all Ten Commandments 100% of the time.  To be sinless is to have kept those Ten Commandments summarized into the Two Great Commandments: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; love your neighbor as yourself. Because Jesus was perfect, we became part of His perfection at our baptism.  We therefore are sinless in God’s sight because of the work Jesus performed on our behalf.  This is what John meant in v23 of our text - 23 This is [God’s] commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us[12].   Through Christ, we have always kept the Two Great Commandments!
      • The only sin not pardoned from the cross was the sin against the Holy Spirit Jesus mentioned in Mat 12:31-32 - 31 “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come[13].  The Holy Spirit speaks continuously about Jesus being our Lord and Savior.  People who want to go their own way, even people who want to hang on to certain sins and only give some over to Christ, are the people who deny the Holy Spirit.  If we didn’t have the Holy Spirit speaking about Jesus in us, we wouldn’t be able to believe, so it’s a good thing He persists with us throughout our entire life in this Age to keep us on track.
    • With our sins being cleansed from us, Jesus on Judgement Day will only remember our good works which were done to His glory.   He said as much in Mat 25:34 - 34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world[14]. Jesus will then go through a list of all the good things you did, and only the good things, because your sins won’t exist for Him to call you to account.  Not so for those who denied Jesus and His saving work throughout their whole life. Those people sinned against the Holy Spirit.
      • All those good things Jesus will remember about you are what He told you to do through His word.  We do the work of the Lord by first hearing His word, then putting it into practice.  Listing to His word and then doing what it says places you on a solid foundation, so that when various troubles come up against you, you will be able to withstand everything Satan, the world, and even your own corrupted self dishes out (Mat 7:24-27). Jesus’ word accomplishes great things while we live in this sinful Age, as well as when we come to Judgement Day.
    • I just want to touch on that secret knowledge bit of Gnosticism again.  There is no secret knowledge which gets you into heaven. We are part of God and God is part of us.  John made that clear in our text at v24 - 24 The one who keeps His commandments remains in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He remains in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us[15].  There is nothing secret in life when the Holy Spirit is whispering into our soul the answers about life.
      • He empowers us to believe and trust in God above all things. Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of Jesus.  The Holy Spirit reveals the Word and its meaning.  He teaches us all things and reminds us of all He said to us through the Word (John 14:26).  Nothing is concealed from us, because God has 100% integrity.  To use a modern phrase, “The Holy Spirit is a straight shooter!”
  • Conclusion: When we pray, we need to always be mindful of the Two Greatest Commandments.  Everything needs to somehow be in context of loving the Lord God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and loving our neighbors as ourselves.
    • If you take this approach to prayer, the petitions you pray will be consistent with God’s will.  At that point, what is God to say to you in response to such prayers, when you are praying His will in Jesus’ name?  The Apostle John wrote later in his first Epistle - 14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask *anything* according to His will, He hears us[16].  I read that to mean God will never say to us, “talk to the hand”, if we stick to focusing our prayers on the petitions that fit into either of the Two Great Commandments.
    • And, if you think you need to get into a bargaining session with God when you pray, I can tell you right now, you are going down the wrong path.
      • We have nothing to offer the Lord, because everything (including us) are already His.  He made this clear to the Israelites who were at the base of Mt Sinai waiting to meet with the Lord - Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine[17]
      • It is downright satanic to believe that the earth and all that is in it is anything but the Lord’s creation and possession.  The reason I say it is satanic is because Satan himself tried to tempt Jesus with these words - Again, the devil *took [Jesus] along to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.[18]” Satan doesn’t own anything in the first place, muchless offer the kingdoms of the world to anyone – especially Jesus.  I’m surprised we didn’t read in the Gospel how Jesus roared with laughter at Satan for making such a ridiculously empty “offer”.
    • Follow the Lord and He will provide as you have asked! He made some pretty open-ended promises to us as recorded by the Apostle John in the Gospel - 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it[19].  Also - 23 And on that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you[20].  Unlike Satan, Jesus can deliver on these promises.  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus by God the Father.  If Jesus made a promise, He will keep it.  Try prayer out for yourself in this manner and see whether He keeps His promises in accordance with His will.


 


[1] Mat 22:37-39 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+22&version=NASB

[2] Gen 1:31a from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=gen+1&version=NASB

[3] John 3:16 form NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+3&version=NASB

[4] Jam 4:03 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=james+4&version=NASB

[5] Pro 28:9 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=pro+28&version=ESV

[6] First definition of Abomination from Merriam-Webster at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abomination

[7] 1Jn 3:21 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+john+3&version=NASB

[8] 1Jn 1:7b from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20John%201&version=NASB

[9] Mat 25:41a from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+25&version=NASB

[10] Heb 4:16 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=heb+4&version=NASB

[11] 1Jn 3:9 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+jn+3&version=NASB

[12] 1Jn 3:23, IBID

[13] Mat 12:31-32 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+12&version=NASB

[14] Mat 25:34 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+25&version=NASB

[15] 1Jn 3:24 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1jn+3&version=NASB

[16] 1Jn 5:14 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1jn+5&version=NASB (emphasis mine)

[17] Ex 19:5 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ex+19&version=NASB

[18] Mat 4:8-9 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+4&version=NASB

[19] John 14:14 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+14&version=NASB

[20] John 16:23 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%2016&version=NASB