Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5 (NKJV)
Prayer is not a magic wand.
Prayer is not a genie in a bottle.
Prayer is not a lottery ticket.
Prayer is not a fairy godmother.
Prayer is not a roulette wheel.
Prayer is a spiritual grounding. Prayer is a weapon of protest. It’s the protest you put up against your flesh. When your flesh says, “I want to do this,” prayer raises the protest and says, “I’m going to trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding.”
Prayer is a strong act of human defiance against self, and a strong act of human reliance on God. When you pray, you’re not attempting to control God. You are grounding your thoughts in the will of God and you’re making the powerful protest statement: “No matter how my life unfolds, I’m going to interpret it through lenses that are spiritual. I have other choices, but because I belong to Jesus, I’m going to seek God’s direction. I could seek retribution. I could get revenge. I could go the way of the flesh. I could let my mind wander. I could listen to the advice of others. I could go crazy like the toxicity of this vitriolic culture. But I’m not going to do all of that. I’m going to talk to Jesus about it so that every decision I make is grounded in the Lord’s will and clothed in the Spirit.”
Acknowledging Our Guilt
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 (NKJV)
The Dutch artist Rembrandt sometimes took liberties with the paintings he was working on. On one occasion, he was so impacted by the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 6:5-7, he kept reading them over and over again:
“If we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.”
These verses impacted Rembrandt deeply. They touched him spiritually, and he was inspired to create a painting of Jesus on the cross. What was more inspiring is that as he was painting Jesus on the cross, he also painted himself at the base of the cross in the center of the crowd that was crucifying Jesus.
Most of us wouldn’t have done that. Most of us would have made ourselves the hero or the heroine of the painting, put ourselves on the side with tears streaming down, painted ourselves on our knees, begging that Jesus’s life be spared.
But Rembrandt, based on Paul’s words, became so convicted of his sin and his distance from Jesus that in the painting he tried to portray himself as one who was guilty of putting Jesus to death. When he was asked why he did it, he said it was because it gave him a chance to check himself daily and to ask himself what he was perhaps thinking or doing that puts him at the center of the crowd, crucifying the Lord afresh.
It’s only God’s presence in our hearts and minds that can cause such reflection and inspire such repentance.
The whole world may be under the impression that you’ve got it all together, but Jesus knows the depth of your sin and is able to help you face the reality of your shame. When you confess your true self to Jesus, He can then be allowed to transform you by the renewing of your mind.
Today, acknowledge before the Lord just how sinful you are inside, and then ask Him to make you into a clean vessel to be used for His glory.
The Simplicity of the Gospel
Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2:38 (NIV)
On the day of Pentecost, Peter got up in front of a large crowd and said:
“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
What do you think Peter answered when he heard that question? I can tell you what he didn’t say. He did not say what many people in modern Christianity would say. He did not say, “If you want to acknowledge Jesus, just go to church, make a whole lot of noise, clap your hands, sing in a choir, serve in a ministry, plant a seed and witness to the salvation of Jesus.” He didn’t say any of that.
Don’t get me wrong, all of those are good things. If you love Jesus, you ought to praise, sing, go to church, witness, and serve. But what Peter said is simply this: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
You don’t get the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Ghost just because you come to church. You get them because you repent of your sins.
It’s as simple as that.
Prayer Keeps You Going
Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.
Psalm 55:22 (NIV)
Prayer has many purposes and many benefits. But one reason we should pray that is often overlooked is the fact that prayer gives us the strength to keep going.
When you want to quit and you don’t know how much strength you have left, the fatigue can be frustrating, but prayer puts things in their proper perspective and helps you to say, “I can’t give up because I know God has a higher, divine, providential intent for my life.”
I want you to trust prayer’s efficacy. I want you to steward prayer faithfully. I want you to recommend prayer frequently. I want you to make prayer a priority. I want you to exercise prayer anywhere and everywhere because prayer is going to help you to keep going.
You are going to get frustrated. You are going to get fatigued. Tension is going to envelop your life. The people you have to deal with will stress you out. The pressures you live under are real. There will be days when the anger of managing this world’s craziness will sometimes make you want to sit on the sideline.
But since you can’t quit, you’d better pray so that through your prayers, God can remind you there’s a purpose that’s bigger than you. And because God is working a purpose that is bigger than you, you can stand fast in the assurance that He who has begun a good work in you shall perform it until the day of Christ’s return.
Prayer is not just for saying thank you. Prayer is not just for declaring loyalty. Prayer is not just for proclaiming the might and the majesty of our Lord.
Prayer helps you to keep going.
Repentance Is a Gift
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.
Acts 3:19 (NIV)
I want you to love God more deeply not just because of His ability to extend provision.
I want you to love Him not just because He protects you.
I want you to love Him not just because He showers blessings upon your life.
I want you to love Him not just because He answers your prayers.
I want you to love Him not because He makes your enemies retreat.
I want you to love Him not because He responds to your expressions of gratitude and thanksgiving.
I want you to love Him because He has given you a mechanism to take the guilt off your shoulders and to turn you from a twisted mindset.
I want you to love Him because He gives you the grace to change your direction in life and to have the shame of your sin removed.
I want you to love Him because He has made it possible to feel the refreshing of His grace.
These things are a description of what it means to experience repentance.
Many Christians see repentance as a burden. They see it as a duty. They see it as a necessity. But I want you to see repentance as a gift.