During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus graciously teaches teaches us how to pray. He also teaches us how not to pray. Our prayers are not to be ostentatious or mindless repetition, but rather sincere petitions to our Heavenly Father. This week we examine the first half of the Lord's prayer and learn how to pray such that our prayers are radically God-centered.
In Isaiah 58, God rebukes his people for going through the motions spiritually, rather than having genuine hearts that desire God and honor him with their words and actions. Rather than mindless spiritual ritual, God desires sincere acts of righteousness. God specifically calls his people to work to 'loose the bonds of wickedness' and 'let the oppressed go free'. God wants his people to work to preserve and uphold the dignity of every human being. Anything that robs a person of innate human dignity must be opposed by the church. No where is this more needed and urgent than in the area of one's right to life. The most oppressed people in our nation are the unborn. We are commanded to be a voice, an active agent for their good, in their defense. This week we recognize Sanctity of Life Sunday and issue a call for the church to be informed, engaged and prayerful in the defense of human dignity and life.
Prayer is vital and central to the Christian life. Prayer is a unique privilege in which we draw near through the work of Jesus, to God our Father to intentionally convey a message to God. In prayer we engage and encounter God.
Prayer is not only a weapon to be wielded in the midst of spiritual battles, prayer is the means of advancing the Kingdom of God. God has chosen to accomplish his work, further his Kingdom and save sinners through prayer. Indeed, prayer moves the arm that moves the world.
All of the Christian life is a spiritual battle against spiritual darkness and a very real and powerful enemy. Sadly, often we are not equipped, prepared or alert to fight this spiritual battle. And as a result, we suffer; our joy and faith suffer. In chapter 6 of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul instructs us how to be equipped to fight this battle. We are to fight in the strength of the Lord and with his might. Our weapons are the Word of God and prayer. Prayer is the means by which we enable ourselves to stand against our enemy. Prayer is absolutely vital to our perseverance in the faith.
The means of Jesus' magnificent incarnation are dazzling and purposeful. And they point forward to a life filled with eternal cosmic significance. The Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem would later lay his life down as a substitute for sinners, atoning for sin that was not his own.
This evening we celebrate the incarnation of Jesus. And we contemplate the good gifts He brings with him. Jesus is far better than we first realize him to be. He is everything we need and want. And He brings with him the gifts of Joy, His presence as Savior, Peace, Consolation, Light, Revelation and Redemption.
Isaiah 55 is a call from God to stop pursuing lesser, ultimately unsatisfying things of this world and turn to Him to be satisfied. God is not some cosmic killjoy. God wants us to be filled with joy. And He knows that He is what our souls long for. Therefore, in Isaiah 55, God reveals his people's folly in chasing after the world and offers us forgiveness of sin, compassion and lasting joy forevermore. You are invited to come to God and drink deeply of his presence and goodness and allow your souls to be overwhelmed by joy.
In Isaiah 11, God shares a magnificent vision of peace that is coming to the sin ravaged world through the Messiah. The peace that the Messiah will bring is far beyond our wildest notions of peace. His peace is not merely the absence of conflict but rather a restored perfect communion with Him, our Maker and the reversal of the curse of sin. Furthermore, this peace is total and comprehensive. It is not restricted to one place or to one people. But it will cover the entire earth and be for all peoples.