Jul 292016
 

temptationAnd lead us not into temptation (Matthew 6:13)

We are approaching the end of ‘The Lord’s prayer’ within my ‘sermon on the mount’ series. Last week we looked at the huge issue of forgiveness and forgiving others just as we have been forgiven.

Verse 13 is split up into two phrases which go ‘hand in hand’. This week I am going to look at the negative aspect “And lead us not into temptation” and next week the positive statement of “but deliver us from evil.”

Today’s phrase on the surface could give us cause for concern. Surely God is not tempting us? After all it says in James 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”, for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.

We understand the word ‘temptation’ today in purely negative ways, however at the time of Jesus it did not just mean to cause to sin. The meaning had the idea of being tried and tested or put under trial. It is clear from the bible that God did allow certain trials to come people’s way to see if they would prove true. A classic example is Abraham who was prepared to sacrifice His son Isaac. When Abraham passed the test, God said “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” (Genesis 22:12)

Joseph too, in Genesis 39, was severely tempted when Potiphar’s wife kept pressing him to sleep with her. He passed the test even though it meant being in prison for at least another 2 years. Through this trial, God had seen his character and rewarded Him in due time.

And what about Jesus? He was tempted in the wilderness after fasting for 40 days, as recorded in Matthew 4. This was of course not the only time Jesus was tempted. Even in the garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion He was in torment and asked the father if there was another way possible. But He stood firm. The bible makes it clear that Jesus went through every temptation that we go through, He did not receive special privileges;

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

I believe this prayer about God not leading us into temptation, means we are asking not to be tempted prematurely or unnecessarily. We are asking God to restrain us from heading into trials and temptations of our own making. We want His help rather than coping on our own. Praying this prayer earnestly, reveals your utter dependence on God and a realisation of your own weakness and a determination to do what’s right. You will do all in your power, as far as it depends on you, to avoid temptation. You are following the example of Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Notice that the first thing to do is ‘watch’, you need to be mindful of what temptations you are vulnerable to. The phrase “Don’t play with fire” springs to mind. Find out what the fire is and then don’t play with it!

After we have done all we can to avoid temptation, sometimes God still allows them to get through, but take heart that He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Next week we will look at what it means to be delivered from evil.

 July 29, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm Prayer, Temptation, The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Jul 222016
 

Forgivenessand forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors……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 6:12, 14-15)

Today we arrive at a key point of the ‘Lord’s prayer’. I don’t think I am overstating it, but this subject is crucial if you want to be a true follower of Jesus. It’s such an important subject that straight after Jesus taught His disciples about prayer, He reiterates the point again in verses 14 and 15 to accentuate the importance of this subject.

I know I’m generally going through the ‘sermon on the mount’ verse by verse, but rather than cover the same subject in two weeks’ time, I thought I would do it all today.

Forgiveness is a key aspect of Christianity, because anyone who is a follower of Christ has asked for and received forgiveness. If anyone just follows Christ because they think they are already a good person, they have missed the point. Before we come to Christ, we are all sinners and a long way from God. In fact the bible refers to us as ‘dead’ in our sins (Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 2:13 etc). We cannot reach God through our own efforts. We come to an acknowledgment of our sinful state before a Holy God and receive the forgiveness Jesus offers that is available through His death and resurrection.

The important point of our verses today is that when we have received forgiveness we should in turn forgive others. God has given us the example to follow. It just isn’t right to receive God’s forgiveness and not extend forgiveness to others. Jesus makes this point in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35. In fact the consequences of not forgiving somebody are quite shocking.

God knows that forgiveness is one of the hardest things for us to do. It is not just a ‘one-off’ process either. We have to forgive some people over and over again. We do it continuously, because every now and again the same old hurt and resentments come back to us. That’s why we should repeat this prayer, if not daily, then very regularly.

This subject is so important because we are all part of God’s family. As a parent I hate it when my kids fall out and fight, God is just the same. He loves it when His children get on with each other and forgive one another. In fact the bible says that when it happens He has reserved a big blessing for us:

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!….. For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life for evermore. (Psalm 133:1,3)

There is generally a lot of misunderstanding regarding forgiveness. Forgiveness is not necessarily restoring a relationship to its previous state before things went wrong. Sometimes when trust has been broken it can take a long time to win back. It’s not becoming a ‘door mat’ either so that someone sins against you multiple times and you are stuck just having to forgive them without them facing up to the consequences of their sins. Sin needs to be confronted and not tolerated.

I will finish with just a few more points about forgiveness:

  • Forgiveness is a process. People can be very hurtful and especially those closest to us. Some emotional problems can take a long time to heal. Start with the intention to forgive and then let God help you achieve it.
  • We forgive if they repent or not. Some people can hurt us and they seem to be quite happy to do so. Remember this; Forgiveness is about our attitude, not their action.
  • We don’t always have to tell them. Some people can be blissfully unaware that they have hurt us. Telling them we have forgiven them can be a bit of manipulation to make them feel guilty. It can also be a form of pride. Some people need to be confronted though, so make sure you are confronting with the right attitude.
  • Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It’s normal for memories to be triggered in the future. When we get these memories, it’s what we do with them that counts. Many times we have to forgive over and over again. It should get better the more you do though!
 July 22, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm forgiveness, Prayer, The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Jul 152016
 

DAILYBREADGive us this day our daily bread (Matthew 6:11)

This next part of ‘The Lord’s prayer’ may come as a bit of a surprise. We have been praying about the glorious themes of God’s kingdom and His will and rather than continuing on to other ‘spiritual’ things we instead focus on a rather mundane subject of daily bread. But the placement of this ‘mundane’ subject at this point reveals a lot about the care and compassion of God.

I’m going to take this simple sentence bit by bit and reveal to you what it shows about our wonderful God.

Firstly, notice it says “give us” not “give me.” I have said it many times before, that our culture is all about ‘me, me, me.” We are encouraged to only think about ourselves; “What can I get out of it?” “Is it right for me?” God’s kingdom is much more about ‘us’ about God’s church together. God doesn’t mind us praying for our own provisions but He loves it when we look out for our brothers and sisters and consider their needs too.

The next thing to notice is we are requesting our bread for “this day.” We are not asking for bread for the week or for the month. We only need enough for this day. Looking any further could lead to worry and perhaps a lack of trust. This has echoes in the Old Testament where God gave an amazing provision of daily sustenance called “Manna.” The passage is found in Exodus 16:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. (Exodus 16:4)…….And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. (Exodus 16:19-20)

We need to trust God on a daily basis for that day’s provision. Our faith will grow ever stronger as we become reliant on Him and trust Him for each day’s supply.

I am quite convinced that Jesus wasn’t talking about just bread. I believe ‘bread’ here is a metaphor for every kind of provision in our lives. God provides for us in many different ways and in many different areas. Apart from physical food, He also provides emotionally and spiritually, shelter and clothing too, jobs, loved ones and family, even sleep (Psalm 127:2). He provides everything that is essential for the wellbeing of our lives.

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

In many ways, those of us in the affluent west have many things we need already. Many in the rest of the world wonder where their next meal is coming from. We must never forget or take for granted how blessed we are living where we do. Perhaps the ‘us’ part is God asking us to help others less fortunate than ourselves. Something to think about!

When we ask God to provide for us, we are humbly acknowledging Him as the sole giver of all that we need. We are living day by day, not worrying about tomorrow. We need to come to Him every day in full expectation that He will do all that He has promised and provide for our every need.

 July 15, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm Prayer, The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Jul 082016
 

Gods kingdom and willYour kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)

We are currently going through a mini-series on ‘The lord’s prayer’ within a very long running exploration of the most famous sermon of all time, ‘The sermon on the mount.’

Last week we explored the privilege of being able to call God ‘father’ and how, when we pray, that we should desire that His name would be; honoured, revered and adored. We discovered that it is not just a prayer to be repeated over and over, but each part is like a heading we can use to expand our prayers.

Today we are going to look at two more headings: God’s kingdom and His will.

Have you got clear in your mind what God’s kingdom is? It can be a little confusing can’t it? There have been many opinions over the years about what His kingdom is. Some would say it is all in the future, when He comes again and makes everything new. Some think it is His church, or social reform, or even that it is a personal conversion experience.

The Kingdom of God is mentioned many times in scripture and so we can get a good understanding by studying these passages together.

The phrase ‘Kingdom of God’ refers to God’s rule and reign. It is clear that there are two kingdoms which are in conflict; ‘Satan’s,’ or the ‘kingdom of this world’ and the kingdom of God.

Jesus came to bring God’s kingdom down to earth, to meet the opposing kingdom head on. He announced on many occasions that the kingdom of God had arrived;

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2)

And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ (Matthew 10:7)

There is an aspect too that God’s kingdom is yet to come fully. There are many prophecies in the Old Testament and multiple passages in the New (not least the book of Revelation) which speak about God’s kingdom being established and Jesus sitting on the throne.

So we can say that the Kingdom of God has an aspect of ‘now’ and ‘not yet’. Until the time that Jesus fully establishes His kingdom when He comes again, He has passed the rule of His kingdom here on earth to His ambassadors; those of us who have accepted Him as Lord. We can bring His kingdom in now, through prayer and action. When we pray for healing, when we witness, when we forgive and love and help the poor and many other ways, we are bringing God’s kingdom to earth. This is the essence of this part of the prayer, we are asking for God to establish more and more of his kingdom right here in the enemies kingdom. For the light to push back the darkness.

The second part of the passage today talks about God’s will.

It’s so easy, when we pray, to focus on our own needs and wants. That is the way the world is, always focusing in on itself. When we pray to God it must be different. We need to lay aside our own agendas and pray in line with what God wants.

Jesus was the perfect example of this type of attitude

For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. (John 6:38)

Even when He was in complete anguish, His determination was still true. In the garden of Gethsemane when He was sweating blood, He still had the grit to say;

Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Knowing God’s will is actually very easy, it is the obeying of it which is hard. God’s will is clear throughout the bible, in the way we are to be and the way we should act. It’s actually as simple as copying Jesus. He has provided The Holy Spirit to equip us and help us accomplish God’s desires.

What you need to remember is that God has a perfect will for your life and He wants to help you to achieve it. We can often think we know best but we don’t. Only God knows the full picture and He wants to keep us on the path of contentment, of love, joy and peace. The closer we follow His will, the more we will achieve those things.

Let’s pray this week that His kingdom and will are first in our lives.

 July 8, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm Prayer, The sermon on the mount No Responses »
Jul 012016
 

Our fatherPray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. (Matthew 6:9)

Last week we looked at a number of reasons to pray, mainly because God has invited us to and through Jesus given us an example of how to do it. Jesus prayed a lot and I’m sure His disciples wondered what the secret was. In fact I know they wondered because they asked him outright in the parallel passage to the Lord’s prayer in Luke 1. They asked “Teach us to pray.” I don’t know about you, but prayer doesn’t come naturally to me and I find it to be the hardest discipline to do in the Christian life. That is why, when Jesus responds to our request to teach us, we had better sit up and take notice.

At the outset I want to make clear that Jesus is not just giving an example prayer to repeat. Just say these words and that will do. When it says “pray then like this” it means ‘pray in this manner’ or ‘this is the sort of thing you should pray’. It is not saying ‘repeat these exact words’. I believe Jesus is giving us a template, a group of headings if you like, to help us pray effectively.

The first heading “Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name” is packed with amazing truth and the best way we should start all our prayers. Let me just unpack a few thoughts to help us.

There is no other religion past and present that would presume to call their god “Father”. It is an absolutely extraordinary statement and we have sadly lost the wonder of it through over-familiarity. It is true that the scribes and Pharisee’s would have been aware that God had revealed himself as a father in a couple of places in the Old Testament. Amongst others:-

for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. (Jeremiah 31:9)

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. (Hosea 11:1)

But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand. (Isaiah 64:8)

But there is a big difference between having the concept of God being a father figure over a nation and coming to God individually and calling Him ‘Father’.

This concept can be quite difficult for some people. The word ‘father’ can have very negative connotations. Some earthly fathers can be distant, cruel and even violent and can cloud our understanding of what a true father should be. We need to read and meditate on the bible and see how God reveals himself as a loving, kind and forgiving father. A good example of the sort of father that God has revealed himself to be is found in the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. The more we meditate on that sort of father, the more we can appreciate what God is truly like. What a comforting thought to start our prayers with, we come to a God who is for us and passionate about us, who loves us and wants the absolute best for us.

It mentions that our father is in heaven, this is not referring to its physical position but focuses on the fact that He is ‘other’ and different from His creation. Heaven is the place of His majesty and glory. He is above us, lofty and transcendent. It’s the place of His rule and control. It distinguishes the one true God from pale imitations. He is in heaven, they are not.

So what does “hallowed be your name mean?”

The word ‘hallow’ means to sanctify or make holy or treat as holy. It is an intense desire that God’s name would be recognised and made known, that it would be set apart and adored, I believe this is a request or a petition and not a declaration. It comes from a heart of worship. The best thing to do when praying is to start with worship. Honouring and revering God starts us off on the right foot. We are not principally coming with a list of wants or concerns and demands. It is not a list of things that are troubling us at the moment that we rattle off. The reason we are worshipping is to give reverence and respect to the one we are approaching.

God’s name is multi-faceted. It means many things in the bible and has many aspects and characteristics. Some examples are:

· The Lord our righteousness (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

· The Lord who heals (Exodus 15:25-26)

· The Lord who provides (Genesis 22:1-14)

· The Lord our shepherd (Psalm 23:1)

· And many, many more.

As you encounter these names in your bible reading, use them in your prayers back to God. If, for instance, you know someone who needs healing, pray that His name would be honoured through their healing.

What a wonderful platform to start a prayer. A declaration that the loving father, who is close and approachable, is also seated above all things in heaven and is in control. That same God has revealed many aspects of His character and can meet all of our needs as we pray to Him.

Next week we will look at what it means when it says “Your kingdom come.”

 July 1, 2016  Posted by at 12:00 pm Prayer, The sermon on the mount No Responses »