Reverence & Decorum in Prayer

No doubt, most, if not all Christians willingly admit that they struggle in the work of prayer. D. Edmond Hiebert wrote that prayer “is the most dynamic work which God has entrusted to His saints, but it is also the most neglected ministry open to the believer” (Working With God in Prayer, 9).prayer

Guilty as charged!

Prayer is a work that we must not neglect, but rather continue pursuing with vigor. It is difficult work for sure. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote in his book, Why Does God Allow Suffering,

Of all the activities in which the Christian engages, and which are part of the Christian life, there is surely none which causes so much perplexity, and raises so many problems, as the activity which we call prayer.

Part of the work involved in prayer is approaching God appropriately.

We must not approach God as if he is a divine Santa Claus, to whom we offer our long list of wants without much, if any, thought.

We must not approach God as if he is our magic Genie who simply tells us that our wish is his command.

We must not approach God as if he is our spiritual Pez dispenser, who will give us our spiritual candy whenever we want it.

God is not like anything or anyone on this earth; therefore He requires of us a completely different mindset when we approach Him in prayer. The mindset we must have centers on the idea that

God does not exist for our benefit;

we exist for His glory.

Therefore, with the foundational mindset that we are subservient to the all-glorious God, we must approach God with a sense of reverence and decorum. C.H. Spurgeon said (Sermon #1024, The Throne of Grace),

If prayer should always be regarded by us as an entrance into the courts of the royalty of heaven and if we are to behave ourselves as courtiers should act in the presence of an illustrious majesty, then we are not at a loss to know the right spirit in which to pray. If in prayer we come to a throne, it is clear that our spirit should, in the first place, be one of lowly reverence.

Matthew Henry also wrote (A Method for Prayer, 14),

And it is requisite to the decent performance of the duty, that some proper method be observed, not only that what is said be good, but that it be said in its proper place and time; and that we offer not anything to the glorious Majesty of heaven and earth, which is confused, impertinent, and [u]ndigested. Care must be taken, than more than ever, that we be not rash with our mouth, nor hasty to utter anything before God; that we say not what comes uppermost, nor use such repetitions as evidence not the fervency, but the barrenness and slightness of our spirits; but that the matters we are dealing with God about being of such vast importance, we observe a decorum in our words, that they be well chosen, well weighed, and well placed.

While we have the blessing of calling God “our Father,” we should never lose the awe of Him being “in heaven.” Let us approach the throne of grace with a sense of reverence and decorum in our prayers.

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Committed but not Converted

I remember a college professor making a statement in class one day that perhaps half of those who attend Christian churches are not truly converted Christians. That statement startled me then. However, the longer I am in pPretty-Churchastoral ministry, the more I see his point. While the percentage may be debatable, the point is that there are no doubt many within evangelical churches (i.e. churches who claim to preach the gospel) who may be committed to the church and its causes, but who are not truly converted to Christ.

Let me give you at least two Bible illustrations of this point. The first one is from Matthew 7. There, Jesus points out that many will say to him in the day of judgment, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” These people sound committed to the very cause of Christ, but something is deficient in them. Jesus, knowing their hearts with perfect clarity, will say to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Mt 7:22-23). There were various causes in which Jesus and his own disciples were involved on a regular basis, including exorcism, and doing good. Others were involved in some of those same practices, and yet were not truly the Lord’s disciples. They were not converted, though they had performed many good deeds in the name of Jesus. Yet because of their unconverted heart, they were condemned to hell.

A second illustration of this is one of those men chosen by Jesus himself to be part of the twelve. Judas Iscariot was fully committed in his ministry as an apostle. He was one of the twelve who was involved with feeding the 5000, with performing miraculous things, and everything else the other eleven did. When Jesus made the statement that one of his own would betray Him into the hands of men, the disciples were bewildered as to who among them would do such a thing. In other words, there was no speculation whatsoever that it would indeed be Judas. Judas was committed to the cause of Jesus as he proclaimed Jesus to others, as he performed miracles, and as he did good deeds. Yet there was something wrong in the heart of Judas. Judas did not refute Peter’s proclamation that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. However, when the time came, and the provocation was given, Judas showed the true quality of his heart and betrayed the Lord into the hands of those who would murder him. Jesus called Judas “the son of perdition.” While Judas may have been committed on an earthly level to the cause of Jesus, he was not truly converted to Christ in his heart. Judas hanged himself, died, and is unfortunately in hell today.

There are many well-meaning people in our churches today who are committed to various causes of Christianity. Those causes could include feeding the hungry, building homes for the impoverished, helping the fatherless, a church building program, para-church organizations, or a host of other causes that are good and noble in and of themselves. However, that person’s heart, though committed to the causes, may not be converted to Christ. There is a difference. Christianity is not a religion centered around the notion of being committed to various social causes or church programs. Christianity is a call to die to self, to humbly and willingly admit that we are sinful rebels against a holy and righteous God, and therefore we need to be reconciled to Him only through Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross of Calvary. Jesus died for our sins, and rose again for our justification.

Those who are committed but not converted are difficult to identify because of how well they blend in to those within the true church of Jesus Christ, which is why it is good for God’s people to pray for truth to be made known in a clear way. Those who are genuinely converted by the Spirit of God will produce true fruits of repentance, while those who are not will fail to produce fruit that is pleasing to God. As Jesus also said in Matthew 7, “thus you will recognize them by their fruits” (v20). Heaven is full of converted people; hell contains many who were committed, but not truly converted to the cause of Christ.  May those who are merely committed be truly converted to Christ for the good of His church and for the glory of God.

Religious But Not Righteous

Evangelicalism is full of people who are very religious in the eyes of men, but who are not righteous in the eyes of God. The significance of this is between going to heaven or hell. Hell will be full of religiously unrighteous people, while heaven will be filled with those who are truly righteous in God’s sight. What is the difference?Religion confusion

The difference is Jesus Christ. While Christianity is a religion, it is unlike any other religion. In fact, it is more than a religion. Christianity boasts of a Savior who is God enfleshed, who died on a cross for our sins, and who rose from the dead the third day. Jesus of Nazareth is that Savior. He is the eternal Son of God, who became a man for the purpose of dying on behalf of men. Because of our sinfulness, mankind deserves to die, both physically and eternally in hell. However, because of His great love for us, Jesus Christ died in our place, taking the penalty of death for us. His resurrection is what secures eternal life for all who repent and believe on Him alone for their salvation. Those who have received Jesus are declared righteous in God’s eyes and are promised eternal life in heaven.

Other religions cannot claim these truths as the Bible describes them. Other religions may use some of the same terminology, but with different meanings, thus making another gospel of a different kind, which then makes it a false gospel. Today, there are “religious” people all over our world who claim to follow some kind of man-made religion, but who are in fact unrighteous before God because they have not believed in the Biblical gospel.

Within broader evangelicalism itself, though, there are those who have adopted an unbiblical view of Christianity and have, in essence, revealed that they are also religious, but not righteous. For instance, some do not believe they are in need of a Savior per se, but they are willing to attend local churches, and even be involved in various causes of the church. Others may appear to be righteous, but are in fact religious hypocrites, whose hearts have never submitted to the truth of the gospel, and who are therefore not righteous before God. This is one reason why it is important for pastors to proclaim the truth of the gospel even to those who regularly attend their corporate worship services.

While being religious receives more positive responses from men, being truly righteous before God is what secures a person’s eternal home in heaven. Are you just a religious person, or are you truly righteous in God’s eyes?

Christmas Family Devotional

It is amazing to think that Christmas is just over 2 months away. This year has gone by so quickly. Let me encourage you to consider purchasing a devotional tool that is meant either for individual use or as a family. It is entitled, Rejoicing in Christ, the Newborn King. This devotional is meant to begin on December 1st and be used through Christmatj books day. It contains scriptural reflections as well as good Christian hymns to sing around the theme of Christ’s first advent.

Here is a review given on Amazon.com about this book:

Pastor Joos does a great job of incorporating Biblical truths about Christ’s birth with traditional Christmas hymns that we know and love. So many Christians know far too little about the Biblical identity of Christ. This devotional reintroduces Jesus in a unique, biblical manner that is a great tool for the whole family. It is such a blessing to have a family sing hymns together. We look forward to using it each year in December.

And another:

I appreciate Pastor Joos for putting together such a helpful reminder of everything Christ’s birth means to us as believers. We have some deep hymns for teaching our children, as well as ourselves the doctrine of Christ’s incarnation and Taigen combines the best of these in this devotional book. It helped us be intentional about talking through each one with our family. We bought these for each of our family members at Thanksgiving so they would have them in time for Dec 1st.

You can purchase this book a couple of different ways. If you want individual copies, you can go to amazon.com here. If you would like to order this in bulk for your church or a multitude of people, i would encourage you to go through the publisher here. Through this latter link, you can also see samples of the devotional and also see the list of hymns used.

If you have used this book, I would be interested in your feedback as well. May God help us to prepare well for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

5 Things Your Pastor Needs on the Lord’s Day

Pastoral ministry is not easy; it is not always enjoyable; it is not always fun; however, it is a vocation that can be the most glorious and blessed in all the world. At their very best, Pastors are just men. Pastors have human frailtiepastoral-ministrys, difficulties, burdens, and frustrations, just like every other member of the church. While ministry takes place throughout the week, there is the reality that the Lord’s Day is the one day around which every Pastor’s life revolves. Our primary responsibility is to feed the flock of God the Word of God on the Lord’s Day. Therefore, our week either looks forward to the Lord’s Day, or is “recovering” from the Lord’s Day. We always know that Sunday is coming.

What does your Pastor need on the Lord’s Day from you and from the Lord? I offer a few things by way of suggestions of how you can specifically pray for your Pastor.

  1.  Pray for the power of God’s Spirit as your Pastor preaches and teaches God’s Word. The power in our preaching does not come from our eloquence, our personalities, our techniques, our humor, or our ability to tell a good story. The power in preaching comes from the Spirit of God using the Word of God, faithfully spoken by the man of God. Your Pastor needs the power of God as he preaches and teaches God’s Word.
  2. Pray for God’s people to attend the worship services of your church. The average church member does not fully understand how discouraging it is when church members do not faithfully and regularly attend the worship services. When the corporate worship times of God’s people takes second place to things of lesser importance, it is discouraging to your Pastor. He longs to see the flock of God put the Lord first on the Lord’s Day. A simple way that this takes place is through the regular and faithful attendance of the services.
  3. Pray for God’s people to be receptive to God’s Word. Every Pastor desires to see change and growth in the hearts and lives of God’s people. However, we also know full well that the work of sanctification is not something we can manufacture from the pulpit. Pastors wish for their people to faithfully be in God’s Word all throughout the week in order to come ready to receive the preaching and teaching of God’s Word on the Lord’s Day. Receptive, humble hearts before God’s Word resulting in a willing change of life enabled by the Spirit of God will be very encouraging to your Pastor.
  4. Pray for stamina and physical strength for your Pastor. There are many weeks when your Pastor goes through an emotionally and/or spiritually grueling  week. When The Lord’s Day comes, no matter how well he prepares himself for the day, he is still very tired and burdened. He needs the strength of the Lord and even the physical stamina to go through a busy and full day of ministry opportunities. Your Pastor needs your prayers in this regard.
  5. Pray for patience and longevity for your Pastor. I will guess that every pastor struggles at some point in time with being “results-oriented” in ministry. The success of ministries is often gauged merely by numerical or tangible results. But in ministry, those do not always, or often, take place. While it can be frustrating, your Pastor needs patience to endure for the long haul, to be faithful in his ministry tasks, and to trust that the Lord will produce whatever fruit He deems best.

Would you pray these things for your Pastor for this week? Would you pray these kinds of things for your Pastor every week? Your pastor prays for the flock of God (at least he should) to be faithful, to be in attendance, to be willing to grow and change. But your Pastor has needs as well. Pray for him, particularly on the Lord’s Day, that he would find his source of joy, peace, strength, and rest in God, for whose glory he ministers.