Monthly Archives: August 2013

Peninsula Community Church

August 25, 2013

James – Do Your Prayers Count Part 2

James 5:16-18 The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

We began looking at this passage last week but did not finish the study. In our discussion, we looked at what makes one righteous and where righteousness comes from. Today, we will look at the claim James makes that Elijah was a man just like us. From this, we understand that Elijah, the great spiritual giant of the Old Testament, was no more special than any of us when it comes to our prayers. 

Before we move to Elijah, let us rehearse a couple of thoughts from last week. Last week, we saw that true righteousness is a work of grace that comes by way of salvation through Christ’s work on the cross. We also discovered that righteousness is a response to the work of God in our lives and it is a response to God’s will and His ways. Righteousness is like a two-sided coin. The one side of the coin is the work of the cross and the righteousness that comes by way of accepting Christ as our Savior. On the other side of the coin is the action that is required on our part as we seek to live out righteousness in our lives by honoring God and aligning ourselves with the truth of God’s word. In other words, our outward actions are evidences of the inward work of righteousness already enacted on our behalf. We saw this evidenced in Romans 3:21. We will not reread this today, but this can be your homework.

When we understand that we are already righteous in Christ as a work of the cross, and that our righteousness is a walk of faith, then we will choose rightly when it comes to our actions and our lifestyle choices. It is interesting to note that we live in a time where situational ethics rule the day. We live in a time that society says you only have to be righteous if the situation allows it, but as passionate followers of Christ, we know that righteousness is consistent and is not measured by the moment. 

Society today says it is all right to lie; if it means getting a raise on the job, if it means getting ahead in life, or if it is not going to hurt someone’s feelings. Society says that it is all right to gossip; if it is true, if it doesn’t hurt anyone, or if I tell it in confidence. It is all right to betray a trust or stab a friend in the back; if it means I get ahead, if it advances me in some way, or if I get what I want. This is just the day and age we live in some would say. But as righteous followers of Christ we cannot and must fall into such unrighteousness acts.

We wonder why we don’t see more answered prayer. Could it be that our righteousness is based in a faulty system of belief? Yes, prayer is a matter of faith but our prayers can be hindered if we are walking in unrighteousness. If we are righteous through salvation and we act out that righteousness in the way we live, then our prayers will be effective and our prayers will bring about God’s will. 

The Bible is clear, however, that there are acts of unrighteousness that can prevent our prayers from being answered.

(1) When we ask for things that are outside God’s will, He is not obligated to answer (1 John 5:14). And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 

(2) When we ask from the motivation of pride and arrogance, God is not obligated to answer (James 4:3).You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 

(3) When we are living in unconfessed sin and in direct disobedience, God is not obligated to answer our prayers. Psalm 66:18-19 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer

(4) When we abuse or misuse our spouses, God may not answer your prayer (1Peter 3:7). Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

(5) A double minded man will not have his prayer answered (James 1:5-8). If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

(6) We show no diligence to assist God in the answer (1 Thessalonians 3:10). For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.

 

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August 25, 2013 · 4:21 pm

James – Do Your Prayers Count?

Peninsula Community Church

August 18, 2013

James – Do Your Prayers Count?

James 5:16-18 The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

In this passage, we find there are a couple of spiritual truths that need to be explored. First, James states that the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Second, we find that James makes a claim that Elijah, the great spiritual giant of the Old Testament, was no more special than any of us. 

If these statements are true, and we know that they are, then we are required to ask a couple of questions. The answers to these questions will clarify our understanding of prayer and in fact about life itself. First, how do we determine one’s righteousness? Or put another way, what makes one righteous? Second, if Elijah was no better than us, where does the power of prayer reside? Does this mean that anyone can pray to God? If so, what is the secret to effective praying?

First of all, let us look at the statement “the prayer of the righteous man is effective.”  If this is true and we know it is, then how do we determine if one is righteous? In answering this question we will review two aspects of righteousness. First, true righteousness is a work of grace that comes by way of the work of salvation and from the work of Christ on the cross. Second, righteousness is also a response to the work of God and to God’s will and His ways. Our outward actions are evidence of the inward work of righteousness already enacted on our behalf.

One of the key passages that help us understand righteousness is Romans 3:21. Paul states But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Again in Romans 1:16-17 Paul proclaims For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

What we see in these two passages is that true righteousness is a gift of God, it is not something we can work for or obtain on our own. It is included in the work of the cross. Prior to salvation we were sinners and we were enemies of God but now God counts us as righteous because of salvation. The truth is, we do not make ourselves righteous but we are righteous because we are a child of God and the sufficiency of the work of Christ which has been fulfilled in our hearts.

However, while the righteousness of God is in us we must also seek to effectively live out his righteousness in all we do. It works this way. Because we know that we are righteous in Christ, when we have to make choices in life between good and evil, we can decide to either be steered by way of righteousness or unrighteousness. Our choices in life are now motivated by righteousness rather than by unrighteous thoughts and an evil heart.

Notice also that the law is not the thing that brings righteousness. It is faith in God and obedience to his ways. By understanding this the need in us to be legalistic about how we respond to life and to others is dispelled. We see this in the story of Abraham. Notice that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness and not the law. When Abraham acted in faith, the law had yet to be enacted by God. The fact is that true righteousness comes by way of faith and not obedience to the law. The problem is that we get this backwards. We are righteous because of our faith and not the law.  

When we understand righteousness is a walk of faith then we will choose rightly. We live in a time of situational ethics. We live in a time that society says you only have to be righteous if the situation allows it. Righteousness is consistent and is not measured by the moment. Society today says it is all right to lie; if it means getting a raise on the job; if it means getting ahead in life; or if it is not going to hurt someone’s feelings.

Society says that it is all right to gossip; if it is true; if it doesn’t hurt anyone; or if I tell it in confidence. It is all right to betray a trust or stab a friend in the back; if it means I get ahead; if it advances me in some way; or if I get what I want. This is the day and age we live in some would say. 

And yet, we wonder why we don’t see more answered prayer. Our righteousness is based in a faulty system of belief. Yes, prayer is a matter of faith but our prayers can be hindered if we are walking in unrighteousness. So how is your righteousness?

The second key discussion here is that James compares us Elijah. This is a blessing as we see that God does not just answer the prayers of those who have somehow reached a level of superiority or perfection. As we read the Bible, we find that so many who have been used of God are ordinary men or women who are infused with an extraordinary faith that comes from God. They are imbued and filled with the Holy Spirit to accomplish great things. Throughout the bible, we see ordinary men accomplishing great things for God because they commit themselves to follow Christ and His ways. I also see that God does not always use the qualified in the sense of education or experience but often he qualifies the called. Like Elijah, God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things in extraordinary ways because they are filled with God’s word and with the Holy Spirit.

We so see that Elijah responds much like we do under pressure. For one Elijah was afraid of Jezebel and her threats. In fact in 1Kings 19 we see Elijah running for his life and we see him hiding. In verse 4 we see that he has lost hope. Later in the chapter, we find Elijah with feelings of isolation and abandonment. With all of that we see that God continues to provide for Elijah. God provided food and drink for him. God gave Elijah a vision of what was. He saw revealed that he was not alone but in fact there were 7000 who had not bowed their knee to Baal and were committed to God and to his ways.

Look at the people God used in the Bible. David was not the biggest, nor the most handsome. Gideon was hiding away in the wine press, because he was afraid of the imposing army and what might happen. Daniel and the three Hebrew children were just children. Saul who became Paul was an enemy of God and of Christianity. Timothy was weak and timid.

Renee Bach, our VBS mission project, was 18 years old when she felt called to a short term mission trip to Uganda for one year. During that trip, God took hold of her heart, filled her with vision, and now she is full time in Jinga, Uganda. Every year, her ministry, Serving His Children saves countless lives through her nutritional and mentoring programs. She was an ordinary girl but has been filled with an extraordinary calling from an extraordinary God.

Remember it was Paul who said that God calls the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. Elijah was an ordinary man called by an extraordinary God to accomplish extraordinary things. This begs the question, “Why were his prayers effective?” First, Elijah prayed in faith because he had a word from the Lord. God told him that it would rain. When we pray we cannot separate the word of God and prayer. It is in His word that He gives us the promises we can claim when we pray. God’s promises of answered prayer are for all His children, not just the ones we may call the spiritual elite. Second, Elijah was not only believing in his praying, but he was also persistent. 

The Bible teaches that not all praying is effective. Those who pray while they cherish sin in their hearts will find that God doesn’t listen to that prayer. (Psalm 66:18) Those who pray to be seen by men will not receive the reward of answered prayer because their reward is to be seen by men. (Matthew 6:5) Those who waver in faith should not expect to receive an answer to their prayer. (James 1:7) Those who pray for things simply because of carnal desires will not receive what they ask for. (James 4:3) There is however an effective prayer. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Why? It is focused on God. It is founded in faith. It is patient and enduring. It does not give up.

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James – Confession is Good for the Soul

Peninsula Community Church

August 4, 2013

James – Confession is Good for the Soul!

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.

We are coming to the end of our study in the book of James. After this week, we will look at two more thoughts found here in James and that will finish our study. This week we will look at the power of confession, prayer for others, and the results of such actions. Next week, we will have the closing for VBS and then following that we will have a message on the value of our prayers and what constitutes righteousness. The final message will be on the value of winning souls and seeing those who are unchurched returned to the fold.

As we read this passage, we see that there are three ideas expressed. We have the confession of sin. We have the concept of praying for one another and we see the value of confession and prayer in that it brings healing personally. It is noteworthy that through this passage we see the personal responsibility of the individual but we also see the value of functioning in and through the community in which one is involved. 

Let’s unpack this verse. Let’s begin by looking at Ezra 10:11 which says Now then make confession to the LORD, the God of your fathers and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.” Confession in the Old Testament was associated with a change of heart, a change of action, and a change of attitude. It is to realize that one’s current way of living and one’s way of acting is disconnected from God’s way. True confession brings liberty and freedom. It is refreshing to confess our sin and sense the release that comes from that confession.

As we look at the idea of confession we see that true confession brings God’s mercy. Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy (Proverbs 28:13). When we try to conceal our sin and hide it, we will not prosper because it effects us is so many different ways. We are affected emotionally, as we walk in fear and anxiety. We are effected relationally, as we avoid certain people because we are afraid that we will be found out. We will be effected spiritually, as we cannot walk in known sin and expect to have fellowship with him in the same way. Sin separates and sin divides. We see this in Genesis and Moses’ explanation of the fall. Conversely, when we confess our sin, we receive mercy and we are restored to right relationship with Christ and with others.

However, to be effective, our confession must be accompanied by real repentance. What is real repentance? Real repentance is an action which leads to a change of heart and a change of mind which leads to a change of action. It is here we partner with the Holy Spirit who acts as we do our part to repent. In the Old Testament, we see repentance as a military term. It is a command of “about face.” It is to turn away from one’s wickedness. Those who lived in the Old Testament were at a disadvantage, in the sense they could lean on the fulfilled work of the cross and the resurrection of Christ which empowers us to walk in confession and repentance. 

While we are on this subject let me make a qualifying comment or two. When we confess, choose wisely. We need to guard who we share with. We need to share with those who are mature and can help us move toward repentance. This was Paul’s command in Galatians 6:1. Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

Now let’s return to the second part of this passage. Here James suggests that we are to pray for one another. As in the passage, we read in Galatians 6:1 we are to bear one another’s burdens. One of the purposes and results of doing this is that our attention is turned away for our problems and we are turned toward the needs of others. In life we find that people are either givers or they are takers. Takers tend to never be happy with life. In life there is always a problem. There is always something to complain about. There is always something criticize others over. But when you are a giver, you see life differently. Even in the midst of your own difficulty you are more concerned about the needs of others. You pray for others as it brings faith to your own issues. 

Praying for others builds our faith as we see God working in them. I live one of things that Michelle has done. Because our grand kids are in California and we do not get to see them as much as we would like to, she has poured herself into other kids here locally. In this way she is not as sad or disappointed about not being with our kids. As we see God work in another’s life we are encouraged and the body has the opportunity celebrate God’s work in others.

We also pray for others because it is a command of God. We are to pray for others because we are called upon by God to do so. 

Lastly, here when we are genuinely praying for another person it is hard to be judgmental, critical, jealous or prideful in our approach toward them. I challenge you to try it. Pray for that person that ticks you off the most and watch what begins to happen to your heart. When you pray ask God to enable you to see them from your perspective. Ask God to help you understand where they are  coming from. This will a decision of our heart as this will not come naturally to us.

In the final analysis, the result of confession and prayer for others is personal healing. It is an interesting phenomena. While we are confessing our faults and sin. While we are praying for others we are healed in the process. In part I believe this is true because we can concentrate so much on our problems that we fail to move beyond our concerns and problems.The desire of God is to build community. The desire of God is have us fellowship as one body in Christ.

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