Why do we pray daily? Why do we spend time reading God’s Word? In this session of Secret Church 14, Pastor David Platt encourages us to live every day to love God with all our hearts and soul. He helps us to see that we spend time reading Scripture and praying in order to grow in our knowledge and love for the Lord.
- Loving God with All Your Heart and Soul
- Loving God with All Your Mind and Strength
- Loving Your Neighbor as Yourself
A Gospel Framework for Approaching Everyday Life
So, all right. Open up the Study Guide. The foundation I hope is now laid for a gospel framework for approaching everyday life. Now I hope we’re now ready to hear the commands of Christ for what they are. The commands of Christ are an expression of His love to us, and a promise from Him that He’ll give us everything we need to obey them. So He lives in us, and so the rest of our study, we’re going to talk about what His life looks like in action on a daily basis.
So as we talk about different commands, let us start with these two greatest commandments in Mark 12. As you hear every one of these commands the rest of this study, hear them as invitations for you to enjoy God’s grace in relationship with Him as you exalt God’s glory to the ends of the earth, a relationship that is only possible by the cross of Christ.
So Mark 12:28-31 says,
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
When I was thinking through, praying through—okay, in everyday life, what needs to be guiding us? What is the framework?—these two commands come to the forefront. So what does this look like practically? What does it look like to live every day, to love God, enjoy God, exalt God with all your heart and soul?
This is where Scripture calls us to daily prayer. Psalm 5:3 says, “O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” Psalm 63:1-8 says,
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
And Jesus teaches His followers to pray. You get down to Matthew 6:5-15:
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:
‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ 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.”
Now, this passage and others like it—Luke 11—lead to questions about daily prayer. So why do we pray every day? I want to give you three reasons. One, we pray daily to express the depth of our daily need for God. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” So our conviction every day in prayer is we can do nothing without Christ. Jesus told us this in John 15:5. “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
So don’t miss this. Prayer is the intersection between our complete inadequacy to live out the Christian life on our own and God’s complete adequacy to give us all we need as His children so we might live in and through Him like we talked about. And in this sense there is no activity in the life of a Christian that doesn’t require a prayerful attitude, a prayerful dependence on God to do that which we can’t do ourselves.
This is just like we talked about in the daily struggle between the flesh and the spirit, because sin still remains in us. We’re prone not to love God with all our heart and soul, mind and strength. We’re prone not to love our neighbor as ourselves. We need God’s grace, God’s power and God’s provision for everything we do, every single day. So this in a sense is not just a call to daily prayer, but it’s a call to continual moment-by-moment prayerful dependence on God.
This means we even need His grace to pray. So our confession every day in prayer is, “Lord, teach me to pray.” Which is exactly what the disciples do in Luke 11:1. “Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’” So, we pray to express the depth of our daily need for God.
Second, we pray to explore the mystery of daily intimacy with God. Did you hear what Jesus said in Matthew 6? “When you pray, don’t heap up empty words, for your Father in heaven knows what you need before you ask Him. He knows what you need.” So God is not up in heaven with a note pad writing down your requests, saying, “Man, I never even thought about that. It’s a good one.” No, He already knows what you need.
Now that causes some people to wonder, “Well, what’s the point then?” And as soon as you ask that question, you are now on the verge of an incredible breakthrough in prayer, because the heart of prayer is what happens when you’re in a room alone with the Father in heaven, and you realize there’s intimacy to be found with Him.
That’s why I put Exodus 33:7-11 in your notes, because listen to this:
Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.
Can you imagine that? Like, you’re sitting in your tent, hanging out, playing cards or whatever you do in tents in that day, and all of a sudden, Moses starts walking. And word gets around, “He’s going to the tent of meeting.” So you come out in front of your tent and you stand there. And everybody in Israel is standing at the front of their tent, and they’re watching in silent awe as they see a man go into a tent, a cloud come down and cover it, and everybody is in silent worshipful awe because there is a man who’s meeting with God.
Now you’ve realized—based on what we’ve talked about, the foundation we’ve laid—that we don’t have to sit around and wait for some person to walk to a tent. You and I have this privilege on a moment-by-moment, day-by-day basis. We don’t have to go to a tent. You are the tent. You’re the temple of the Holy Spirit. You have this opportunity every single moment. What a joy to have intimate communion with God any time, all the time. I implore you to draw near to God and experience intimacy with God. Hebrews 10:19-22 says,
This is what I want to remind you: The most important thing in your life is not your job, it’s not your finances, it’s not your family, it’s not your husband, it’s not your wife, it’s not your potential husband or wife, it’s not your kids, and it’s not your football team for sure. The most important thing in the world is your personal relationship with God. So set aside a time, go to a place, find a room, close the door, and pray.
This one practice will totally revolutionize your life. Not just revolutionize your prayer life; it will revolutionize your life. Set aside a time, you go to a place, and you receive your reward. Jesus is saying, “The Father has so much for you. If you want to experience all He has for you, then this is how you should pray.” We pray to explore the mystery of intimacy with God.
And we pray to experience the power of daily being used by God. So the Bible is just replete with promises from God in prayer, because God has ordained prayer as a means by which we participate with Him in His purposes in the world. As we pray, God acts. Now, it’s not that we’re changing God’s mind or changing God’s plans. I don’t want to change God’s mind or God’s plans. How ridiculous would it be for me or you, with our finite knowledge and finite wisdom, to say to an infinite God with unfathomable wisdom, “Here’s what I think is best. Why don’t you conform your will to mine?”
No, we trust God. And as we do, we pour out our hearts to Him. Psalm 50:15, “…and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” John 14:13, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” So here’s the design of prayer. We ask for help in our lives to live according to the purpose for which He’s created us. And when we ask, we get the help and God gets the glory.
Now, I put in the notes here that the power of prayer is useless. And here’s what I mean by that, so don’t throw me out as a heretic just yet. Because in and of itself, prayer as an exercise is useless. There’s all kinds of people in the world who pray. Muslims pray. Hindus pray. Buddhists pray. Animists of all kinds pray. They pray. Even Congress prays. Big deal. First Kings 18 is an example of people praying to Baal and the lesson’s clear: When you pray to a god who’s not there, don’t expect an answer. First Kings 18:25-29 says,
Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.
So our goal is not just to be a people of prayer. What matters most is the object of our prayer, right? So the power of prayer in that sense is in and of itself useless. But the power of people who connect with Almighty God is unstoppable. This is evident in 1 Kings 18 and reiterated in James, who said that the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it’s working. 1 Kings 18 continues in verses 30-39, and says,
Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down. Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed. And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water. And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”
James 5:16-18 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. 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.”
So my aim in calling us to prayer is not just to call us to set aside a few minutes or an hour or more to pray. My aim is to see that as children of God we have the privilege of connecting with the Creator of the universe, that we can do nothing without Him, that we’ve been invited to experience intimacy with Him and to join with what He’s doing in the world.
Which leads us to the next question: Who do we pray to every day? So, Who is the object of our prayers? “Pray then like this,” Matthew 6:9, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” Now, Luke 11:5-13—which gives the account of the Lord’s Prayer there—tells a story to give a picture of Who the Father is we’re praying to. Listen to this story:
[Jesus] said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
Okay, that’s a great story. Just get the picture here. In first-century Palestine, food was not quite as readily available as it is today. So, there’s a battle for bread every day. You bake enough to meet that day’s needs. So, a guy shows up at his buddy’s house at midnight, and he’s hungry.
Now, in first-century Palestine, hospitality was huge. So the buddy has a dilemma. The first option is this: He can be a poor host and not get this guy any food. His second option is to go try to find bread from somebody else. So it’s either be a poor host or poor neighbor. He takes what’s behind door number two. His neighbor is already fast asleep, enjoying his dreams. And not only is he asleep, but everybody else in the house asleep. And houses in that day were one-room affairs, which meant that everybody in the family slept in one room.
The family is sleeping, using the same bed with the same mat. You get kid one down, kid two down, kid three down for bed, and you and the wife lay down, bolt the door closed, and you’re going to sleep. There isn’t anybody getting up and going to the bathroom without causing a major commotion in that house. Everything is quiet. So while this nice guy is asleep on the mat with his wife and kids, and all of a sudden a knock comes at the door.
And the guy on the outside says, “Friend…” That’s a good way to start when you’re waking up somebody at midnight for a piece of bread, because friendship is walking a tight line at this point. Because when that dad wakes up he starts looking around. Any dad can picture it. Little eyes on the mat next to him starting to pop open. It’s one thing to wake up dad. It’s a whole other ballgame when you wake up the kids in the middle of the night. This friend thing is seriously in question at this point.
So the guy inside is not too happy right now, and he says in the most polite way possible, “Don’t bother me. I’m not giving it up. I’m not giving you a thing.” And then Jesus says, “Even though the guy won’t get up because he’s a friend,” because that’s in question, “he will get up because the guy is impudent.” That means bold. Literally, it means shameless. He keeps asking the guy until he finally gets up out of bed and gives him some bread.
Now, here’s the thing about parables. We hear them and we think, “Okay. Somebody in the parable is me and somebody in the parable is God,” right? So the disciples are thinking, “Okay, I think we’re like the guy knocking on the door. Okay. So who’s God? The grumpy old guy inside, yelling, ‘Don’t bother me’? Like this is kind of weird, hard to understand.”
Well, think about it. What is Luke 11 teaching us about prayer? Okay, well if you want something from God you just keep banging on the door and eventually He’ll get up and do something for you—not because He loves you, but because you just bothered Him to death. So, let’s pray. No, that’s not the takeaway. That is not the point of the story.
The point of the story all comes back to this boldness, this shamelessness. Some translations say “annoyingly relentless.” And we’ll only understand the parable rightly when we look at it through the lens of the man in need. So follow this. Jesus tells the story from this guy’s perspective. So you’ve got to keep this perspective about the whole thing. Resist the temptation to try to compare God with the friend inside. Just put yourself in this guy’s shoes.
Jesus phrases the whole thing as a question. He says, “Imagine that if you were bold enough, shameless enough, to go to your friend at midnight just to ask him for a piece of bread.” In other words, imagine somebody with enough nerve to knock on his friend’s door at midnight just to get a piece of bread.
I think the picture Jesus is painting here is the guy who is, in one sense, just rude. This guy just doesn’t know which social lines to cross and which ones not to. You know that kind of person? Or are you that kind of person? The guy who doesn’t seem to get the hint, i.e., you don’t wake up your buddy and his entire family at midnight unless you’ve got a really good reason.
But this guy doesn’t know that. He’s shameless. He’s so socially out of it that he actually thinks it’s no big deal to wake his friend up in the middle of the night. “He won’t mind. I need some bread. I know he’s got it. He won’t mind me bothering him in the middle of the night. And I know that he’ll get up and get some for me. No problem.”
That’s how we should approach God. Think about it. In prayer, we approach God our Father who has all authority. So the whole earth belongs to Him. Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein…” He has the supply. I love this in Psalm 50:7-12, which says,
“Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God. Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beat of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds on the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine.”
God has the supply. He has the sovereignty. Job 42:4, “Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.” Psalm 33:10-11 says, “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.” Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Isaiah 14:24, “The Lord of hosts has sworn: ‘As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand…’” In other words, He has the authority to do with everything whatever He wants.
So we pray to God our Father who has all authority, and to God our Father who is always approachable. So this guy knew his friend was able to meet his need, and he was shameless enough to think that his friend wouldn’t mind him coming at such an inopportune time. And it’s in this picture of the shameless guy that we realize that the God—follow this—that the God of the universe, who has all the supply and all the sovereignty, has actually invited you and me to come to Him any time, at any day.
It says in Psalm 27:8, “You have said, ‘Seek my face.’ My heart says to you, ‘Your face, Lord, do I seek.’” This story is a perfect illustration. It’s a perfect illustration of us going to God and saying, “I know it may feel a little inappropriate to interrupt you, because you’re running a universe and you’ve got all these things going on, but I just need you to sit down and listen to me and look at me and don’t be distracted because I’ve got some things I need to share.”
Does that seem a bit over the top? But it isn’t. The picture here is shameless nerve, a boldness, and it seems almost ludicrous for us to be going into the presence of the God of the universe. But Jesus is saying, “Be as invasive as you want. Be shameless.” Here’s the point. I think Jesus is saying that God delights in revealing Himself to those who are bold enough to bother Him. And I hesitate to use that word “bother” because of the negative connotations, but it’s not always negative.
Think about it this way. When I’m really busy—either with things around here or maybe I’m travelling, and my wife has something heavy on her heart — and she calls me on the phone, if I’m out of town, or she comes to me and she says, “I don’t want to bother you with this”, what am I going to say? I’m going to say to my wife, “This is the kind of stuff I want you to bother me with. I delight in being the one that you want to bother with the problems and struggles and heartaches in your life. It would bother me if you didn’t come to me.” Right?
God has given you, as His child, full access to His presence, and He says, “I want to be bothered by the things that are heavy on your heart and the struggles you’re walking through. I delight in being the one that you want to bother with these things.” Ladies and gentlemen, the God of the universe is approachable, and He has invited you to unburden your heart shamelessly before Him.
Jesus is not saying, “Don’t bother the Father with the trifling things in your life.” He’s saying the exact opposite. He’s saying, “You have freedom to ask and seek and knock.” God invites us to bother Him any time. It is never too early. Psalm 88:13 says, “But I, O Lord, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.” It is never too late. Psalm 55:17, “Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.” God invites us to bother Him in everything. We sometimes think we’re praying for what may not be important enough to warrant mentioning in time with God.
But look at the story. It’s not an emergency. Now, this guy’s not saying, “My wife’s having a baby,” or “My wife is dying. My kid broke his leg. We’ve got a robber in the house.” He’s in the middle of the night, “I just want some biscuits.” I mean, that’s presumptuous to say the least. The guy is not going to die if he just waits until breakfast. Tell him to go to bed. He’ll forget he’s hungry when he falls asleep.
Ladies and gentlemen, there is nothing too small to bring before God. Our simplest prayers are not insignificant to God. There are no minor matters. It’s why Nehemiah prays, “Lord, just strengthen my hands. My hands are hurting.” There is nothing too small. There’s nothing too great. We can pray about mustard seeds and mountains. We can pray about colds as well as cancers. It’s not about the size of our prayers, but the maintenance of a relationship. The Bible never cautions us about the magnitude of our prayers.
Let me ask you, what are the great things you’re praying for? I mean, the things that, if somebody else knew you were praying for this, they’d think you’d lost your mind. I have a couple of those kind of things I’m praying for. I can’t tell you what they are. But there’s nothing too great. Luke 1:27 says, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Nothing will be impossible with God.
I didn’t put it here, but Philippians 4, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” In the Greek original language of the New Testament, that word “everything” means everything. We pray to God our Father. He’s always approachable.
And we pray to God our Father who is ever active. So this guy thought, “My friend is able. I know he’ll have some bread. He’s approachable. He won’t mind me knocking on the door. And he’s active. He’ll get up and give me some.” John 5:17 says, “But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I am working.’” Now, here’s the picture we need to see. Contrary to the friend inside the house, God is not asleep. When we pray, we’re not trying to arouse a sleeping giant. We don’t have to wake God up.
And we know this, but we don’t always really know this. Have you ever thought that God might be asleep in your life? “Why is this happening? ” And so when we pray, it’s almost like we’re praying for God to get up and do something. Let Luke 11 be a reminder to you: God is active. He’s not gone to sleep on you. Even when it makes no sense, He’s active in your life. Isaiah 40:28-31 says,
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Now, that leads us to the privilege we need to embrace. This story is primarily about asking someone for a need to help another person. It’s not just the picture of a personal petition, but asking something on behalf of somebody else. In prayer, that’s what the Bible calls intercession. Intercession is the means by which we participate in the daily activity of God in other people’s lives.
So God is not asleep—He’s active. He’s working in the lives of people all around us. And He has chosen to involve in His work through our prayers on their behalf. To go back to the earlier question, “If God is sovereign and He’s all-knowing and He’s purposed everything from beginning to the end, then what’s the point of praying?” And this is when we realize that our praying is also a part of that purpose; that plan. And we have the joy of participating in the plan and purposes of God in our life, in our communities, around the world, by falling on our knees and interceding on behalf of those who are hurting.
It’s exactly what we read about in Exodus 32, Psalm 106. Exodus 32:7-14 says,
And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the and of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.
Psalm 106:23 says,
“Therefore he said he would destroy them–had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.”
We know Christ has died to purchase people from among the Turks, the Kurds, every other people group on the plant. He’s going to save them. He’s working around the world right now. We’re not trying to arouse a sleeping Giant. He’s working, and He’s given you and I the privilege of being a part of that work every time we pray from our knees, crying out to Him. And He uses the prayers of His people to accomplish His purposes in the world.
So, the promise we need to remember is that prayer to God is never, ever in vain. Prayer to God is never, ever in vain. Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” In Matthew 7:7-11, Jesus says,
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him.”
Now, you read that and you think, “Well, I’ve asked for things and I’ve not gotten them. So what does that mean?” Well, that leads to the next question: What do we pray for every day? And here’s the daily secret to prayer. It’s twofold. One, make your wants God’s wants. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Desire what God desires. This is the mystery of intimacy that we were talking about. So in prayer, you go in your room, you close the door, get alone with God. You begin to want what He wants. You begin to long for what He longs for. And this is key in prayer. Because if we skip this step, we’ll miss the whole point of prayer altogether. We can’t go on to step two here.
So make your wants what God wants, and then, step two, ask for whatever you want, and it will be done for you, Jesus says. John 15:7 says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” So what do we ask for? What does God want? Based on how Jesus taught us to pray, one, we ask God for His glory. In Matthew 6:9-10, Jesus says, “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’” That’s not a description of praise to God as much as it’s a petition for God to be praised. “God, cause your name to be hallowed, to be known as holy, in all the earth. Cause your name to be known as holy in my life, in my family, in my church, in the world.”
That’s the great God who is the sovereign Father in heaven, the Holy One above all. 2 Samuel 7:22, “Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God beside you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.” Ezekiel 36:23 also says, “And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.” When you pray, you show there’s only one God. His name is Jesus. You pray in that, and you know you’re praying according to what God wants. It’s going to make it happen. He’s the coming King.
So our consistent cry is, “Cause people to hallow your name. Bring people to submit to your kingdom. Enable people to obey your will. O God, may your will be done in my life. May your will be done in my family. May your will be done in my church as it is in heaven.” This is a prayer that God promises to answer. And then ask God for His gifts. “Give us this day our daily bread” Matthew 6:11. God satisfies our hunger on a daily basis.
The whole picture here goes back to Exodus 16, when God’s people were wandering in the wilderness. God provided them with food—bread from heaven, manna—on a daily basis. They wake up in the morning. God would literally give them their daily bread. It would last for a day. They would depend on Him for the supply for the next day. And He did this, Deuteronomy 8:3 tells us, to sustain their faith on a daily basis. It says, “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
So, God satisfies our hunger on a daily basis, and He sustains our faith on a daily basis. John 6:35 says, “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’” We need to pray like this. We live—most of us gathered tonight—live in a culture where praying like this makes almost no sense to us. Because we’re so well off that it doesn’t make sense for us to pray to ask God for daily bread.
But this is exactly where the problem lies. We’re people who have so much that we’ve grown so accustomed to depending on our own things to satisfy us instead of our God. We don’t need to ask for daily bread. Most of us didn’t ask for it today, “God, provide food today,” in the way that many brothers and sisters around the world are, because we think, “Well, we can take care of that on our own.” God help us to realize we can’t.
I’m convinced, the more I look at my own life as well as the state of Christianity in the Western culture around me, that one of the greatest reasons we’re so casual and flippant with prayer is because we actually believe we can sustain ourselves. And we can’t. God alone can satisfy our hungers, and God alone can sustain our faith. And prayer is the guard in our life that keeps us from thinking that this world can give us what we want when only God can do that. So we ask God for His gifts.
And we ask God for His grace. Jesus says in Matthew 6:12, “…and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” These simple words open the door to the vast storehouse of heaven’s mercy. And here’s the beauty. The more we grow in prayer, the more we grow in intimacy with God, and the more we will realize our constant need for His grace. And when we pray, we experience His forgiveness.
You say, “Well, why do I have to ask for forgiveness when,” like we talked about earlier in our foundation, “I’ve already been forgiven in Christ?” This is where we need to picture, not a courtroom where judgment is being pronounced here. God has already in Christ declared you not guilty before Him. Instead, picture a family, where a child is confessing something he’s done wrong. This is not so he can remain part of the family. That’s not up for question. But so that nothing will hinder that child’s intimacy with his mom or dad.
And in this way, when we pray like Psalm 51 teaches us to pray, we experience our Father’s forgiveness continually, on a daily basis, specifically. Psalm 51:3-5 says, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgement.” This is not just confessing sin generally, but specifically examining our hearts. Psalm 66:18, “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” As we experience His forgiveness, we then extend it to others. We must extend it to others; our intimacy with God, Jesus says, is dependent on it. Matthew 6:14-15, “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 18:21-35 says,
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Finally, we ask God for His guidance. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” Matthew 6:13. Now, this obviously doesn’t mean that God might entice or tempt us to sin. Instead, it’s an acknowledgement of our tendency to wander away from Him. We’re weak, and we’re compelled to pray that He’ll give us protection against temptation we face. First Corinthians 10:13 promises, “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.”
And He gives perseverance amidst trials we encounter. James 1:3-8 says,
… for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 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.
Now with all this you may be thinking, “Now, where do I start practically?” It’s where I want to give you.a way to think about daily prayer. So, go in a room, close the door, and pray. So use that acrostic—P.R.A.Y. These are just four steps to maybe help you remember, “All right. What do I do when I close the room alone with the Father in heaven?”
Start with Praise: Just worship God for Who He is. I put Psalm 63 earlier in your notes:
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
It’s just pouring out your heart to God to express Who He is. And maybe that’s writing down just the attributes of God, or prayers to praise. Maybe it is just crying out. Maybe you’re doing this sitting down or standing up. Maybe you’re on your knees. Maybe you’re on your face before God. Maybe you turn on some music somewhere in there. You praise. You worship God for Who He is. And sometimes you just keep going and going, because you’re enjoying exalting God. This is not just duty, where we come in here and check off a list and get out. No, this is relationship. We’re worshipping God for Who He is.
And then R — Repent: Confess your sin to God. Acknowledge your need for Jesus. Confess your sin. I mean, examine your heart. Where am I sinning? What am I doing or not doing? And oftentimes I write this out. And you might be tempted to think, “Well, that’s just depressing, I mean, dwelling on your sin and writing out the specific ways you’ve sinned against God.”
But this is not depressing, for God your Father delights in forgiving you, and in restoring you. Repentance always leads to restoration of relationship. Even better, we’re reminded—as we’re repenting, as we’re confessing sin—that our sins have been paid for by Christ. And then repentance just leads to deeper and deeper rest in Christ.
Praise, Repent, and then Ask. So intercede for particular needs in your life and others’ lives. Ask God for His glory. Ask God for His grace. Ask God for His gifts. Ask God for His guidance. “God, your name be hallowed in my life, in this person’s life, in this country, in this current event. Your kingdom come. Your will be done in my life, in this person’s life, in your church. Give us this day our daily bread. I need you for this today. This person needs this. This Christian needs that.”
There are so many ways you can approach this kind of asking, intercession. I would encourage you in two particular ways: Spontaneous and planned. This isn’t in your notes. Spontaneous: So, just what comes in your mind? When you’re in the room alone with the Father, what comes in your mind? What are things to pray for in your life, in others’ lives? This is just spontaneous.
But I would encourage you also to be planned. I have a prayer list. I pray for specific and different things in my life on a daily basis. In my life, I pray for my wife and for our kids. I pray one day specifically for this, and their lives, and something different on other days. I just want to be intentional in my praying for them. I pray for different friends on different days, for the church in different ways on different days. For the elders and staff of our church by name on different days in the course of the week. I’m praying for other churches around us, and churches in our world, and church-planting teams that we’ve sent out.
Monday through Friday, I want to be intentional about prayers. I would encourage you not to be so planned that it just becomes rote and you’re just kind of reading off a list. That’s not the point. But I think it’s healthy to be intentional about asking God for things that you want to see Him do in the world according to His Word, in people’s lives right around you. First Samuel 12:23, “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you.” We’ve got to be intentional about that. But also leave room for spontaneity.
All that leads us to Yield in prayer and surrender your life to following Jesus wherever and however He leads you. So you should Praise and Repent and Ask for these things in your life and others’ lives, and so it just makes sense: Your life is going to be different. You prayed, “Your will be done in my life as it is in heaven,” so now it just makes sense to pray, “Lead me. Guide me. Deliver me from evil. Lead me not into temptation. I want to walk with you.”
And when I spend that time in prayer in the morning with the Lord, I just kind of walk through every single thing that I know is coming that day—meetings or this or that—and just pray through every single detail that I know. I pray for sensitivity to things I don’t know and people that I don’t know I’m going to meet or interact with, opportunities that are going to be there. Psalm 84:1-12 says,.
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion. O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed! For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!
Obviously, you can do this any time of day, but I think it’s good to start the morning that way. And then it just fuels continual prayer all day long.
I believe prayer is the key to living every day and loving God with all your heart and soul. Then, living every day with all your mind and strength. So fill your mind daily with truth from God’s Word. So it’s prayer and the Word—these are the backbones of daily life in Christ. Now, people come up with all kinds of reasons why we don’t read, study or memorize the Bible. “I don’t see how the Bible really applies to my life. I’ve tried, but I just don’t know how to study the Bible. I’m not professional. Isn’t that the pastor’s job? Isn’t that your job? I just don’t have time. I’m not sure if the Bible’s even true. To be honest, it just seems boring to me.”
And part of my prayer for us is that you will see, just even in the next couple moments, the treasure that’s waiting to be found in God’s Word, so you will desire it and believe it, make time for it, and devour it. People ask me, “How do I grow in my hunger, my desire for God’s Word?” And the answer is by reading God’s Word.
So the illustration I’ve always shared here at the church is about when I first met my wife. And the first time I went over to her house to have dinner when we were just getting to know each other, her family had cooked this seafood spread. And they were like, “Do you like seafood?” Well, I grew up in a family that never ate seafood. My dad hated seafood so I hated seafood.
And so I’m there, I’m at the meal, and all there is is seafood. And they ask, “Do you like seafood?” And I said, “Yeah. I like it. This looks great.” Like, I don’t even know what many of these things are. So I start eating it. And the problem is they believed this act I was putting, because the next time I come over, they were like, “Hey, David’s coming over and he loves seafood. Let’s have some more seafood.”
I went on vacation with her family down at the beach, and they’re like, “Hey, David, what’s your favorite seafood restaurant down here?” I’m like, “They’re all so awesome, I don’t even know.” And inside I’m thinking, “I know which ones have chicken fingers.” That’s where I go. So anyway, the point of the story is, after a while, I started to love seafood! Because I had to eat seafood to get a wife.
So this is how it works. Now, I’m not saying, “Hey, this Word, you might not like it but just eat it and it’ll taste good one day.” But I am saying, “The more you taste it, the more you’ll see it’s good.” The more you eat a good steak, then a cheap burger just doesn’t cut it anymore. You realize what a real deal is.
So, why we must then daily read, study and memorize the Bible? Because it’s essential for growth and maturity, and we need it. We need to have this Book to sustain our lives spiritually. Hebrews 5:11-14 says,
About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
1 Peter 2:2 says we’re like a baby grabbing for milk. I’ve got a one-year-old. A bottle of milk comes out at night, and it’s like the kid hasn’t eaten anything in his entire life. It’s like, “Give it to me.” He doesn’t say that, but he does with his screaming. And so he wants it. So crave this.
As we read it, we read it because it’s essential for spiritual growth and maturity, and because it’s vital for life and ministry. Joshua 1:8 says, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Matthew 4:1-11 is the story of Jesus being tempted by Satan in the wilderness. It says,
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
2 Timothy 3:16 says,
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
And we read the Bible because it’s key to joy and satisfaction. It’s key to joy and satisfaction. Psalm 19:7-11,
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
Then you look at all these verses in Psalm 119 that echo that reality. Psalm 119:14, “In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.” Psalm 119:16, “I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.” Psalm 119:24, “Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.” Psalm 119:40, “Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!” Psalm 119:47, “…for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love.” Psalm 119:54, “Your statutes have been my songs in the ho use of my sojourning.”
Let me ask you a question. What would make you happier this year? A hundred thousand dollar raise at your job, or reading through the Bible over the course of the year? Don’t be super-spiritual. Just what’s the first thing that came to your mind? “Well, I know I’m supposed to say reading the Bible, but I’d love a raise.” Look down at Psalm 119:72, “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.” Oh, for that kind of view of the Bible in our lives. It’s better. Psalm 119:97 says, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” Psalm 119:111, “Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.” Psalm 119:162, “I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.”
Now, just because we start reading doesn’t mean we’ll understand. So we’ve got to be on guard against dangerous approaches to daily Bible reading, like the emotional approach—what feels right to me?—where we twist the Bible to fit our tastes. Or the spiritual approach—what deep hidden meaning is there for me?—as if we’re going to find something new that Christians for two thousand years have totally missed and now thankfully you came on the scene.
Or the pragmatic approach—what works best for me?—making Scripture accommodate our lives. Or the all too common superficial approach—what does this mean to me? This approach happens all the time in small group Bible studies. A lot of people are sitting around in a room, and they’ll read a verse or a chapter. Take Genesis 22, where Abraham offering his son Isaac. God is providing a ram for a sacrifice. And somebody will say, “Okay, what does this mean to you?” And all of a sudden people start saying all kinds of different things that the passage means to them.
Bob over here says, “Well, I think this chapter means I need to go hiking with my son more, just like Abraham went hiking in the mountains with Isaac.” Okay, Bob, that’s good. Anybody else? And Joe over here chimes in and says, “Well, I think it’s clear from this passage that it’s okay to sacrifice animals, which means no one should be a vegetarian.” To which Joe’s wife Mary, a vegetarian, would reply, “Well, that’s not what this passage means to me. Maybe this passage means I need to sacrifice you, Joe.”
So when we start a Bible study with the question, “What does this passage mean to me?” the conversation will quickly congeal into a pool of ignorance where a group of people find themselves sitting around sharing what they don’t know about the Bible. That’s not what we’re after. The same thing can happen in our personal Bible study. So I just want to remind us that the first question we ask is not, “What does this passage mean to me?” The first question we ask is, “What does the Holy Spirit mean in this passage?”
Quite frankly, I don’t care what this passage means to you or what it means to me. I care what this passage means, period. Someone might say, “Well, David, don’t you know that different verses mean different things to different people?” No, that’s application. We’ll get to that in a moment. There’s no question different verses apply to our lives in different ways, but our goal in Bible study is not to determine a personal meaning for every verse in the Bible. Our goal is to discover what the Holy Spirit meant when He gave us this verse, this chapter, this book.
So here’s what I hope is a dependable approach to Bible reading, based around an acrostic R.E.A.P.—Read, Examine, Apply, Pray. So start by reading. Read the Word. Read the Bible prayerfully, knowing that we never study the Bible alone. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says,
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
So Christian, you have a built-in Guide for studying the Bible: The very Spirit of God. And in the process of reading the Bible, the Holy Spirit is with you and in you helping you to understand it and to apply it. Bible study is a supernatural activity. It’s a divine encounter with the Word of God through the Spirit of God. It’s an awesome thought.
So read the Bible prayerfully. 1 Corinthians 2:12-14,
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
Read the Bible humbly. We want to know God. We don’t come to the Bible looking for options to consider for our life. We come to the Bible looking for commands to obey. Jeremiah 9:23-24 says,
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
Read the Bible carefully. We want to understand it rightly. 2 Timothy 2:15, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” Read the Bible joyfully. We want to experience it fully. Psalm 119:32, “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!” Read the Bible confidently, like I just mentioned, knowing that the Holy Spirit’s in you. John 14:15-17 says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” John 16:13-15,
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Read the Bible diligently, knowing that knowing God deeply doesn’t happen overnight. The Bible does not yield its most choice fruit to the lazy. Read it diligently.
Read the Bible consistently, meaning not just every day, but every part of it. Don’t skip over certain parts of the Bible as if they’re not important. All Scripture is God-breathed. Read the Bible expectantly, with a way to record your thoughts. I would encourage you to read the Bible with a pen in your hand or a journal. I have a journal just on my computer. So I’ve got my Bible and I’ve got a running journal that I’m writing things down. So if you’re expecting God to speak, I would recommend writing down how He speaks into your life based on His Word. 1 Samuel 3:10 gives us a great response for when we approach the Word to hear from the Lord: “And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant hears.’”
And read the Bible personally. So many Christians never learn to study the Bible on their own, and as a result, their entire spiritual life is lived by proxy, through somebody else. These are Christians who come every single Sunday to hear the Word preached by somebody else—which is obviously not a bad thing in and of itself—but here’s the deal: You never fall in love with somebody by proxy. You don’t fall in love with your spouse through someone else. You don’t love your spouse through someone else, by proxy. You fall in love with someone directly, personally, and you have intimacy with that person.
I’m zealous for you not just to know God through sermons on a Sunday. I pray that you might read this Book every day. I’m convinced that when you do, you will fall in love with the Author of this Book, and you’ll find true life under the authority of this Book. Psalm 119:15-16 says, “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.” Psalm 119:7, “I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules.” Psalm 119:40, “Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!”
And as you read, memorize. So take time. When a verse or a couple of verses stick out to you, commit them to memory. Psalm 119:11, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Do this with key verses, key passages and key chapters. Spend concentrated time learning. Be intentional. Memorization just doesn’t happen. It’s intentional. We will our minds with things all the time. So the question is, what are we spending our time memorizing? What are we filling our minds with? People say, “I just can’t memorize.” Well, what if I told you that I would give you between now and the end of the weekend a thousand dollars for every verse you can memorize? I think you’d learn to memorize. I mean, “Jesus wept,” John 11:35. And that would be a thousand dollars. And just move on.
So the question is do we value it enough to do that? So spend concentrated time learning, and then spend concentrated time, continual time, reviewing. So write it on a note card, make a note in your smart phone—do whatever works for you. But spend time on that verse, hide it in your heart, and then just go back over it, over and over again. When you’re driving down the road, or when you’re just doing menial kind of things, go over it. Constantly, when you’re laying down in bed at night, just go back through the Word.
So R, Read. Then E, Examine. So as you read, ask questions in the text. What is happening in this passage? What words, phrases or ideas seem particularly important? So you’re looking for details. You’re thinking about every word, phrase and idea. And again, this takes time. You’re not just going through this like you’re going through a fast food restaurant. You have to be patient with the Word. You have to ponder over it.
I remember when my wife and Iwere just getting to know each other, she would write me letters. And I’d just like devour that letter. I’d open it up and just read it and I’d just over-analyze every word. What does she mean by this? She said she liked me a lot. Does that mean she liked me as friend, or liked me as more than just a friend? She said she’s praying for me. Well, is that like she prays for me like she prays for anybody, or like she’s praying for her future husband kind of praying for me? She put a smiley face at the end. Does she always do that, or am I like special because I get a smiley face?
This is what we’re doing in Bible study; we are looking at every little detail. We are saying, “Okay, what does this mean? What does this mean? What does this mean?” We’re asking questions. And then we ask, “What does this text teach you about the gospel?” This is where we start to step back a bit and consider how the truth in a passage is not just talking about something that happened 2,000 years ago. It’s communicating to people of all times.
So we ask, “What does this text teach us about God? Ephesians 1:15-23 says,
For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Colossians 1:9-14 also says,
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
What does this text teach us about man? Genesis 8:21 says, “And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.’” Hebrews 4:12-13 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
What does it say about Who Christ is and why we need Him?” So you go through these questions. Luke 24:27-32 makes clear that all Scripture ultimately points us to Christ. It says,
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
First Peter 1:10-12,
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
What does this Scripture teach us about trusting and following Christ? Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” What does this passage teach us about the hope of heaven, the horror of hell? Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” So we ask those questions. We write down answers.
So Read, Examine, then Apply. How does what I’ve just read apply to my life? And we ask simple questions. What sins do I need to repent of or avoid based on this? Psalm 19:12-13, “Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.” What truths do I need to believe? John 8:32, “…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” What commands do I need to obey? James 1:22-25 says,
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
What do I need to give up, stop doing, start doing or continue doing? What principles need to change the way I think, speak or act, and how do I implement that change? Romans 12:1-2 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” What relationships do I need to establish, strengthen, or change? John 15:12-17 says,
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
In all of this, what we’re asking is, by the power of God’s Spirit, Christ in me, what can I do today to apply God’s Word to my life?
And then that naturally leads us to Pray. And in this way we see that Bible reading and praying go hand in hand. This is communion with God. We are praying to Him, hearing from Him, in a back-and-forth interplay of intimacy with the God of the universe. And this Word, the Bible, is crucial, critical, necessary and non-negotiable in loving God with all your mind. Colossians 3:16-17 says, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Now, at the same time I wanted to put in here that there are other ways we love God with our minds. So first and foremost and over and above everything else we fill our mind daily with truth from God’s Word. But then, underneath that, sharpen your mind daily with truth in God’s world. So expanding on how we’re thinking about loving God with our minds. Psalm 119:15, “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” Second Corinthians 10:3-5, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…”
Second, we love God with our minds when we read and study widely and wisely. So yes, the Bible is the only book we must and should read, but it’s also good to read other books. So many of you in this gathering may be in school. You’re reading and studying all kinds of books. And this is good. If you’re going to be a doctor, I hope you’ll know what Leviticus says, but I hope you also know how to do surgery on me because you’ve read a couple books about it at some point. So I’m praying you’re reading on the things that are going to be helpful there.
And you’re loving God with your mind when you’re using your mental faculties He’s given you to grow in wisdom and in usefulness to God in the world. That’s what I mean by studying widely and wisely. We’ve all been given minds. Almost all of us who are listening to this are able to read, which is a gift in this world. So we must take advantage of it. Read different things.
There’s so much in the world that passes as wisdom but is total foolishness. We don’t love God with our minds by blindly believing everything we read or hear in the world. Proverbs 1:5-7 says, “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 4:5-6, “Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you.” Proverbs 28:26 says, “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.”
First Corinthians 3:18-23,
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
So heed Colossians 2:8, which says, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy or empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” 1 John 4:1-3 also says,
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
So we want to filter all that we read in the world through the lens of God’s Word, ultimately revealed in Christ.
Similarly, listen and learn humbly and continually. So even if you’re not in school, don’t stop learning. Don’t stop reading and learning as God gives you opportunities. Proverbs 10:17, “Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.” Proverbs 18:15, “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” And do all of this as you read, study, listen and learn. Avoid the pattern of this world. Romans 12:1-2, “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Romans 1:21-25 says,
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
So there’s a pattern in this world that’s described here in Romans 1 that begins with disordered worship: people turn their hearts away from God. That leads to disordered thinking: People believe lies that are not from God, that inform the way they view the world. That leads to disordered desire: the desire for things that are not of God. Which leads to disordered behavior that does not bring glory to God, summed up in Romans 1:28. “Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.”
So this is why we must fill our minds with the truth of God’s Word, and then read, study, listen, learn and discern what is true in God’s world. This means, to use language in 1 Peter 2, we think as pilgrims in this world. 1 Peter 2:11 says, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” We’re sojourners and exiles, pilgrims in this world. So how do we do this? How do we read and study widely, listen, learn, and continue in this world and still avoid the power of the world that displeases God? These are a few exhortations from 2 Corinthians 3 and 4. It says,
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
First, continually savor the person of Christ in all things. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” And listen to this phrase, “and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” So more than anything, keep your attention, keep your affection on Him, fill your mind with His Word, lift your heart to His praise, and as you do, you’re continually savoring Christ.
And then, humbly depend on the Spirit of Christ in all things. So trust in the Spirit Who dwells in you, Who knows all truth. Remember, when you’re studying calculus or you’re diving into electromagnetic theory, you’re not exploring subjects that the Spirit of God knows nothing about. He’s omnipotent. He knows more about electromagnetics than you do, and more than your professor does, and more than everybody who’s written on it together combined knows about electromagnetic whatever. So you’re reading, studying, learning in any area of life; and you’re humbly depending on the Spirit of Christ in you to discern what’s right and wrong, wise and foolish. John 16:7-15 says,
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Also, John 16:33 says,
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
And in all of this, constantly focus on the mission of Christ in all things. So the author of Hebrews is urging early Jewish Christians not to be carried away by a prevailing Jewish culture that denied the glory of Christ. Hebrews 11:13-16 says,
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
He also says in Hebrews 13:8-14,
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.
And he calls them to follow Christ into dangerous, difficult places for the glory of Christ.
Here’s the deal. I know I mentioned school a couple times. God has put many of you in difficult settings on university campuses, in public schools for that matter, maybe in some private schools who claim to be Christian but are far from the truth of Christ—or in jobs or workplaces where this is much knowledge that is set up against the knowledge of God in Christ. You’re in a mission field.
So love God with all your mind, continually savoring the person of Christ, humbly depending on the Spirit of Christ, constantly focusing on the mission of Christ and the proclamation of His truth in that place for His glory. We love God with all our minds as we daily sharpen our minds with the truth that He’s given us in His Word and then in the world.
Love God with all your mind, and then love God with all your strength. Take care of your body daily as a temple of God’s Spirit. So now we’re talking about strength: Your body. One of my favorite books to read to my one-year-old is a book about the different body parts. What’s his nose, ears, eyes, all that stuff? Do you ever wonder why we have all these ears, eyes, nose and our other body parts? Why do we have these things?
The prevailing philosophy of our day is that all these things are just products of our DNA. These are the bodies we have. Each of us has a body that belongs to us. We’re free to do with it whatever we want to do with it. So many of the hot-button issues in our culture today revolve around this kind of philosophy. Like what is marriage, homosexuality, abortion, prostitution, drugs, alcohol, free speech, pornography—the prevailing philosophy is that everybody has the right to figure out what’s best for their body, and to use it however they want, however they deem most desirable.
So the question I want to ask is, “What if that’s just not true? What if our bodies are not simply products of our DNA, and deeper, what if our bodies are not ours to do with whatever we want? What if they don’t even belong to us?” This is exactly what the Bible teaches in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
Now this is one of those areas where we’re tempted to fragment our faith. We think, “Well, Christianity is about my spiritual life, but it doesn’t have anything to do with my physical life.” And in that sense we are just dead wrong. Your life in Christ has everything to do with your body—what you eat, what you wear, how you exercise—everything you do with your body matters to God. It’s informed by Christ’s presence in your life. He died on a cross to make your body a temple of the Holy Spirit of God.
So follow this line of thought in 1 Corinthians 6. One, your body has been created by God. It’s created by God, which we’ve already talked about. But get into 1 Corinthians 6:13-14, and you realize that your body is invaluable to God. “‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food’–and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord,” but listen to this, “and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.” So your body is for God, and God is for your body.
God is very interested in your physical life. Your body is precious to Him. God puts a premium on how you use your body. It’s invaluable to Him, so much so that He’s made an eternal investment in it. Verse 14 says that He’ll raise it up with Christ one day, a reality that’s also reiterated in 1 Corinthians 15. 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 says,
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Just as God raised Jesus from the dead, He’s going to raise your body from the dead. So heaven is not going to be a place where spirits are just floating around on the clouds. We’re bodies, walking around in a new heaven and a new earth. Your body has been created by God.
Second, your body’s been purchased by Christ. We’ve already talked about this. 1 Corinthians 6:15-17 says, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” Christ has united you with Himself. Jesus took on a new body like us, the body of a baby boy, and in so doing He showed us that the body’s a good thing designed by God for God. Then on the cross He gave His body for us, to purchase us, to unite us with Himself. And in so doing, He set us free to enjoy God’s great purpose for our body and exalt God’s great glory in our bodies. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
And God enabled us to glorify Him with our bodies by filling our bodies with His Spirit. Your body has been filled by the Spirit. Your body and my body are temples of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 says, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” You think about it. The temple in the Old Testament was the place where God’s presence dwelt among His people, the place where God’s holiness drew the nations to Himself. So then we possess the presence of God in our bodies. Just like the temple in Jerusalem housed the presence of the living God, your body houses the presence of the living God.
The Spirit of God dwells in your body, and so we display His holiness through our bodies. See this, Christian. God has created your body with His hands, purchased your body through His Son, filled your body with His Spirit—all for the display of His glory in the world. So then, practically, think about it. Honor God then with what you wear on your body.
First Timothy 2:8-10, “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.” Adorn yourself with modest dress. That’s a biblical command. Romans 14:13 says, “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” It’s an invitation to enjoy God’s grace and exalt God’s glory. Do not draw attention to physical beauty. Don’t dress in a way that draws attention to you.
The word there for “modesty” in 1 Timothy 2 has sexual overtones. That’s why I put Romans 14, where Scripture warns us against putting stumbling blocks in the way of others, particularly a brother here. Sisters in Christ, let me urge you—particularly as we approach spring and summer — that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. So don’t wear in the world what you should only wear in your bedroom. Skin-tight clothes, low necklines, short dresses, short skirts and short shorts don’t glorify God. They glorify the flesh, your flesh, and they appeal to brothers who are pulled away from God by your immodesty.
Don’t dress to draw attention to yourself. When you decide what you’re going to wear, what is the question you’re asking? You’re asking, “What’s going to make me look the best?” or “What’s going to make me look most attractive?” But you ask, “What can I wear that can best demonstrate a humble heart that is devoted to the glory of my God?” And that changes what you wear. God says, “Don’t draw attention to yourself.” Proverbs 7:10 says, “And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart.”
Along those lines, “Do not draw attention to worldly wealth.” Part of the point of the exhortation against gold and pearls and jewelry there in 1 Timothy 2 is because some of these ornate things were highlighting the distinction between the poor and the rich in the early church, and women were using their dress to assert their status. So that’s what the world says. Don’t adorn yourself with dress that draws attention to you.
Remember the one you’re competing for attention—God. You want your life in every way to draw attention to God. Luke 20:46, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts…” That’s the whole point: Adore God through a Christ-like demeanor. Paul is not saying, “Don’t adorn yourself with anything.” Paul is saying, “Adorn yourself with godliness. When you look in the mirror, look for good works. That’s what matters—the fruit of faith in Christ. Adorn yourself with that. Adore God with that.” “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30)
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) “Do not let your adorning be external,” this is the Word of God, 1 Peter 3:3-4, “—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” Sisters in Christ and brothers in Christ, wear on your body that which brings glory to your God.
And honor God with what you eat. So God created our bodies to eat, right? He didn’t have to. But He did. Genesis 1:29-30 says,
And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
Deuteronomy 8:3 says, “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” John 6:35, “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’”
And God cares about what we eat. The very first sin in the world revolves around disobedience regarding food. This is important. Genesis 2:16-17 says, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” Genesis 3:6-7 goes on to say,
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
It’s reflected all throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament. Leviticus 11:2, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, These are the living things that you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth.” Deuteronomy 14:8 says, “And the pig, because it parts the hoof but does not chew the cud, is unclean for you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch.” Daniel 1:8-20 says,
But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.
Romans 14:1-4 says,
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
First Corinthians 8:13,
“Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”
And in all of it, God over and over again condemns excessive eating. This is sin that we do not talk about much in the church today, but we must. “Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.” (Proverbs 23:20-21) “If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.” (Proverbs 25:16) “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom,” who brought down the wrath of God. “She and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.” (Ezekiel 16:49-50)
“Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall, who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp and like David invent for themselves instruments of music, who drink wine in bowls and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! Therefore they shall now be the first of those who go into exile, and the revelry of those who stretch themselves out shall pass away.”
Philippians 3:18-19, “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” Those are strong words. Our lack of discipline in eating, in the church and in our culture, is a sign of a much greater lack of discipline in our lives as Christians. And we must filter our breakfast, lunch and dinner and snack decisions through the lens of the gospel in what brings most glory to God.
So control why you eat. So we eat not primarily to satisfy ourselves, but to glorify God. 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.” Control how and what you eat. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” With a body that’s a temple of the Holy Spirit, that changes the way you view what you put inside of you.
Now, honestly, people have different ideas of what is good and right and healthy to eat, and what’s not, and it’s not where I’m going to go off on why everybody should eat this or everybody should eat that. That’s not the point. The point is we’ve got to go before God and say, “Am I honoring you with the way I’m eating, with what I’m eating and how I’m eating? Is this bringing glory to your name?” How do we eat on a continual daily basis that brings the most glory to God? We cannot disconnect this from our spiritual lives. It has everything to do with our spiritual lives. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible even warns us to control who we eat around. Proverbs 23:1-3, “When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food.” Don’t be lured away by the indulgences of another’s table. Romans 13:14, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” We even have this warning in 1 Corinthians 5 where an unrepentant sinner is removed from the church, not to eat with him. 1 Corinthians 5:11, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?”
So don’t remove God from your daily meal decisions. Be careful what you eat, how you eat, why you eat, who you eat around, and in all of this, crave the day when we will see the King. So there’s a reason why we have a meal that we celebrate called the Lord’s Supper, to remind us in the church of the fellowship we’ll have around His table one day. Matthew 26:26-29,
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Crave that day, and crave the feast we will enjoy in His Kingdom, which the Bible clearly describes in terms of food. Isaiah 25:6, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.” Isaiah 65:25, “The wolf and the lamb shall grace together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, says the Lord.” This is just a good gift from God, for the glory of God.
Honor God with what you eat on a daily basis, and honor God in how you exercise on a daily basis. John prayed in 3 John 1:2, “I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” All who are in Christ must be careful not to ignore the care of your body. Let me confess to you that I have been the chief of sinners on this. It was not until a couple years ago, when I became very convicted about this, because my eating, sleeping and exercise patterns were either unhealthy or non-existent when it came to exercise. I had no sleep, no exercise and I was eating horribly. And that was sin in my life. I was ignoring the care of my body, and I needed to repent. Proverbs 31:17, “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.” First Corinthians 9:24-27 says,
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
However, there’s another side of the spectrum here, where you must also be careful not to idolize the care of our body. Most scholars believe that the Ephesians spent a lot of time on training athletes for festivals; it was a craze, so to speak. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’” So Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:6-10,
If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
Did you follow that? Physical training is definitely not bad. At the same time, it’s not the best. This is so key. Physical training is valuable. We need to care for our bodies. We need to eat well, exercise well. But let that pale in comparison with training for godliness and prayer and fasting and the Word and the Spirit. Train there. Train much more there. The healthiest body in this room is not guaranteed to make it through the end of this night. What’s going to matter ten billion years from now? So, don’t ignore the care of your body, but let’s not idolize the care of our body either.
So these issues with our bodies are issues of obedience, of sin, of are we enjoying God’s grace and exalting God’s glory. If we’re not honoring God with what and how and why we eat and how and when we exercise, then we’re dishonoring the temple the Holy Spirit has given us, and we need to repent.
And along those lines, we’re still thinking about loving God daily with all our strength, so keep control of your body daily in accordance with God’s will. We must control our bodies instead of our bodies controlling us. Romans 1:1-2 says,
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
First Corinthians 9:27 says,
“But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
And there are two areas in particular. One, a biblical expression of physical denial—fast regularly. So, in Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus expects His followers to fast. It says,
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
He doesn’t say if you fast, but when you fast.
But I would dare to say that for many followers of Christ regular fasting in your life is nowhere close to your life, or maybe has never even been a part of your life. We don’t talk about fasting a lot. In Matthew 6, fasting is as elementary and basic praying is and giving is. And so we need to have emphasis here: putting aside food and water for a certain period of time. Maybe that’s a meal; maybe it’s a day; maybe it’s more than a day. This is not necessarily food or water—whatever you decide to fast from—but to say, “Okay, I’m going to control my body by saying more than I want this physical sustenance, there’s something I want more.”
This is what fasting is. I remember the first time I ever fasted. A group of us got together in high school and said, “We need to fast.” And we went out to a local park and we kind of spread out and we got our Bibles. And we got there about nine in the morning and had our water bottles, because we were just fasting from food. And we prayed, and we got back together about noon. And we went, “We need to pray some more.”
Then it got to be about 2:00, and we were all getting kind of tired, so we got in the car. Our plan was to fast for the whole day, but we just said, “Well, you know, I mean, this has been good, and there’s a burger place on the way home, so, if we want to stop, I wouldn’t be upset.” I waited until 2:00 that day, and then I’m diving into this burger, and thinking, “I think I missed the point”
So you start at some level, and then you kind of work into it. But why do we do this? Because we’re hungry for God’s Word in our lives. Because we don’t live by bread alone, Jesus says, “but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” John 4:31-34 says, “Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, ‘Rabbi, eat.’ But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples said to one another, ‘Has anyone brought him something to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.’”
Second, we fast because we’re hungry for God’s power in the church. We need strength for our bodies, so we eat. We need strength for our souls, so we put aside food periodically, and we seek after God. We just say, “Okay, instead of eating lunch, I’m going to spend time in prayer and the Word. I want God’s power in my life, in my family and in the church.” Psalm 73:25-26 says, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Acts 13:1-4 says,
Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.
Acts 14:23 says,
“And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”
Because we’re hungry for God’s glory in all nations. We fast because we want His glory to be made known in all the earth. Isaiah 62:1-7 says,
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth.
So we fast and we pray for the spread of the gospel in the world. When we fast regularly, we express our delight in God’s glory. Psalm 63:1-8 says,
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
More than we enjoy food, we enjoy God. We want God. We put aside a meal and we say, “More than I’ve got a hunger for that food, I’ve got a hunger for you.” Zechariah 8:19, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth and the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Judah seasons of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts. Therefore love truth and peace.”
We confess our need for God’s grace. Oftentimes in the Old Testament, places like Joel 1 and Joel 2, you see fasting associated with times of confession and repentance of sin. Joel 1:14, “Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.” Joel 2:15-16, “Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber.”
More than we need a meal, we need the mercy of God. Judges 20:26, “Then all the people of Israel, the whole army, went up and came to Bethel and wept. They sat there before the Lord and fasted that day until evening, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord.” Ezra 10:6, “Then Ezra withdrew from before the house of God and went to the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib, where he spent the night, neither eating bread nor drinking water, for he was mourning over the faithlessness of the exiles.”
When we fast regularly, we seek and submit to God’s will. Ezra 8:21-23,
Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.
Nehemiah 1:4, “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” Daniel 9:3, “Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.”
More than we want our hunger to cease, we want His Kingdom to come and His will to be done in our lives. Matthew 6:10, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” And then when we fast regularly, we anticipate the return of God’s Son. One of the great passages on fasting is Matthew 9:14-15. The disciples come to Jesus and say, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
Jesus said, “You don’t fast when the bride and the bridegroom are together. You fast when the bridegroom leaves and you long for his return.” You fast because there’s an ache, a longing, a hunger inside of you because Christ is not here as fully and finally as He will be one day, and you want Him to be. So fasting is a physical expression that, more than our stomachs long to be full, our souls long to see Christ. And in this way a lack of fasting demonstrates a lack of desire for Christ to come back. Revelation 22:10 says, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
So let me encourage you—if you have not fasted and don’t have a picture of some kind of regular fasting in your life, to consider as one takeaway from our time together tonight to think through what that might look like in your life. And start small, and have a burger after a few hours if you need to, but just start to put this into practice. See what God does.
Then, in loving God with all your strength and controlling your body, consider a biblical expression of physical discipline—and I think this is necessary to put in here—flee sexual immorality. My friend Kevin DeYoung writes,
If we could transport Christians from almost any other century to any of today’s ‘Christian’ countries in the West, I believe what would surprise them most (besides our phenomenal affluence) is how at home Christians are with sexual impurity. It doesn’t shock us. It doesn’t upset us. It doesn’t offend our consciences. In fact, unless it’s really bad, sexual impurity seems normal, just a way of life, and downright entertaining.
This is huge for us. We’ve already seen command in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20,
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
First Thessalonians 4:3-8 says,
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
You say, “What does that mean? What is sexual immorality?” The biblical word that used there, “porneia,” is a reference literally to all sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman. So this is any sexual looking, thinking, touching, acting, speaking, desiring or wanting outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. Again, Kevin DeYoung helps us think practically about everyday application of this command. He says:
The simplest way to understand porneia is to think about the things that would make you furious and heartbroken if you found out someone was doing them with your husband or your wife. If someone shook your wife’s hand you would not be upset. If someone gave a casual side hug to your husband it probably wouldn’t bother you. A kiss on the cheek or even a peck on the lips in some cultures might be appropriate. But if you found out another person had sex with your wife or saw her naked or touched certain parts of her body you would be furious. If you found another person made out with your husband or talked about sexual activities or made certain gestures you would be heartbroken. Why? Because these are all activities that are appropriate for a married couple but are inappropriate when practiced outside of the lawful relationship of a man and a woman in marriage. Any sexual activity between those who are not married, or between two men, or between two women, or among more than two persons, or between family members, or between those married to other people–any sexual activity in these contexts is sin and can be included in the prohibitions against porneia.
Now, needless to say, the Bible is going completely against the grain at this point in our culture and our country and even in the church in so many ways in our day. But we must hear it and we must heed this. This is everyday application with an eternal exhortation. Hear the words of Christ in Matthew 5:27-30:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”
Here are the words of Scripture. First Corinthians 6:9-10, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” Unrepentant sexual sin leads to hell. It’s not saying if you’ve ever committed any sexual immorality of any sort then you’re going to hell. That’s why I say “unrepentant” sexual sin. It’s what the Bible is saying here. Those whose lives are characterized by sexual immorality, who refuse to repent of sexual immorality, will experience eternal condemnation from God.
This is extremely serious. I am confident that this is the Word from God that many people in need to hear most. All across this room, God in His mercy has brought some of you to this gathering right now for this moment, for you to hear these words from the Word. Don’t rationalize your sexual immorality. Don’t reason with sexual immorality. Run from sexual immorality. Flee sexual immorality. This is the Word of God. Love God with your body—with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength.