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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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Thursday, May 13, 2010
Forgetting God's Glory
There is a difference between being grateful and expressing gratitude. One is a feeling, the other something you do. In the same way, there is a difference between regarding God to be glorious, and actually glorifying God. The one is a settled opinion, the other something you do.

I think every genuine Christian (and probably a good measure of the nominal i.e. "in name only" Christians) would agree that God ought to be regarded as holy; but how many of us make supplications to God in every prayer that His name be established as Holy on the earth? How many of us beg God to do His will on earth? How many cry out for God's kingdom to be more firmly established on earth?

Clearly I am referring back to what the church has come to call "the Lord's prayer", though it was in truth, the Lord's instruction on how we ought to pray. A template, if you will, supplied by God Himself in the person of Christ, upon being asked that He teach us how to pray.

We may reason within ourselves that God's kingdom is going to be established anyway, so why should we ask for something that is absolutely and inevitably going to happen? Why should we ask that God's will be done on earth, since it is impossible for God's will to be thwarted? Why should we ask that God's name be regarded as holy here on the earth?

Before I answer that (as best I can), let's get one thing straight in our thinking. Christ did not teach us to pray this way for His sake, or for God's sake. God gains nothing by our worship, and lacks nothing in our negligence. Jesus did not give this instruction in order to pad God's confidence, or say meritorious things. God, while the object of our worship is not the beneficiary of it: we are. Jesus taught us to adore God, to exalt Him, and to express that adoration and exaltation, in our daily lives, and again, and perhaps especially, in prayer.

I think a great many people, while understanding perfectly the concept of "worthiness", simultaneously fail to apply it.

The first thing we should note here is that God is worthy of our adoration. Jesus isn't calling us to go "above and beyond", He is calling us to perform the bare minimum of righteousness. I want to imprint this firmly in your thinking, so let me drill down a bit: God is so worthy of our adoration, that we are obligated by His worth to adore Him. Try and get your head around that. It is right and proper for a created being to adore God the Creator, just as it is right and proper to express that adoration, and again, just as it is a real moral deficiency to ignore that duty.

People don't think of adoring God as a righteous duty, because they simply do not, or perhaps cannot imagine, someone or something being so worthy of it that it imposes an obligation on us. Nevertheless, this obligation is a reality, and attending to this obligation, does not build God up, it builds us up. If we fail to answer this obligation eitehr in our heart or in our expression, we are standing aloof from genuine righteousness.

Can I spell this out more clearly? Perhaps I can in this way. No one who fails to adore God in their heart and/or in their actions can rightly say or imagine that they are drawing near to God. You cannot draw near to God and stand aloof at the same time. Either you answer the obligation to adore God in your heart and in your actions, or you do not. If you are not adoring God, you are not drawing near to God, and you are not, no matter how convinced you may be of the contrary, fellowshipping with God.

When Jesus teaches us to adore God with our hearts, our mouths, and our hands, He is teaching us a necessary component of humility, a necessary ingredient of drawing near to God, and He is teaching it, not for God's benefit, but for our own. He is giving us a necessary ingredient of drawing near to, or seeking the face of God, in order that -we- might be blessed. God calls us to adore Him, because we cannot draw near to Him without adoring Him.

I could go on and show that the same is true of asking God to see that His will is done on earth, or asking God to cause His kingdom to flourish, grow, and come to full fruition on earth - but we end up in the same place. We end up showing that these things are taught us because that is what real righteousness looks like - it recognizes God's worth, and accepts the obligation that worth places upon us, to see that God's will be done, and God's kingdom established, and this, not for God's benefit, for He gains nothing by it, but for the benefit of those who live on the earth.

One of the most uncomfortable silences I know of happens in the standard prayer meeting. The person running the meeting calls for the congregation to enter into a time of praise and adoration, which is often interpreted to be a time of thanking God a variety of things that happened this past week or month. Those present often sit in silence as each person tries to think of something interesting or noteworthy that happened recently. In a group of thirty you might find five who are willing to "share" something, and usually they are just thankful for the way something turned out, whether an answered prayer, or a situation, or what have you. It is right to be thankful in all things, don't get me wrong, and there is a place for that, and ought to be a place for that; but seldom do we hear people actually glorifying God.

I chalk that up, not to spiritual inertia, though that is certainly likely, but I chalk it up mostly to the artificiality of most prayer meetings. Let's be honest, dropping our collective guards for just long enough to affirm that public prayers are almost always more guarded, and therefore more superficial, than private prayers. It isn't a question of fervancy, for we can pray just as fervantly in the throng as we can alone. It is rather that prayers are intimate things. We are not talking to the congregation, we are talking to God, and though the best of us may be able to have our private converstaion in the open, most are intimidated by the thought. Most people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of dying. So it should come as no surprise therefore that few will be willing to break the silence in a large group, and fewer still, having done so, will be able to pray intimately with the entire congregation eavesdropping.

I know, I know, a great many congregations have co-opted the instructions concerning church discipline found in Matthew 18:19 ("Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven." [NASB]), by painting that as one person praying about something, and one or more following that prayer praying alongside them by "agreeing" with them (you know, "yes God, yeah, what he said. yeah, Amen, let that be done," etc.)

That isn't what the text is talking about, and I don't think that kind of agreeing in prayer is what is meant. In fact, if anything, that almost always ends up with well meaning people simply daydreaming while others are praying. They put their heads down, and groan and mumble, but much of it is just habit. They hear the flow of the prayer and have learned (without trying to do so) to groan and mumble at all the right times, given the standard flow of a prayer. Then they raise their head afterwards and feel guilty for having daydreamed through the whole thing. The problem isn't that they need to be more attentive, it is that this is about as artificial a way to "pray" as saying a rosary. The only difference being that when you say the rosary, you are repeating a known prayer, and when you "agree in prayer" you are just humming and hawing your amens instead of repeating someone else's prayer.

The text of Matthew 18 instructs the local church to exercise the power of the keys, on behalf of Jesus: to purge from the church those whose conduct denies their profession of faith. Verse 19 is part of a six verse teaching by Christ, and must be understood in the context of that whole teaching, which begins in verse 15 and runs to verse 20. When sin is found in a believer, he is called to repent by the one who so finds the sin. If the believer refuses to repent, the one who first identified the sin calls for repentance again with one or two more believers, and if the sinning believer refuses to repent, the matter is put before the church. The church must prayerfully agrees together that this person really is an unrepentant sinner before they can hold that person's profession of faith as no longer credible, and loose on earth, what (from all the evidence) is already loosed in heaven. That is, because they can no longer affirm that this person is truly a part of the body of Christ, and in the absence of that affirmation, they regard that person thereafter as unsaved, having never been a true member of the body of Christ.

Nowhere in that passage do we see find support for the notion of one person praying and a bunch of people following along with silent (or mumbled) amens; and more importantly, the passage is not about how to pray, but how the church must prayerfully agree (that is, agree together after spending time in prayer on the matter) before they have the authority, on Christ's behalf, to declare someone's profession of faith invalid.

That's a bit of a detour I suppose, as our discussion is not about how to conduct a coherent and productive prayer meeting, or how to weed out those bizarre religious habits we so thoughtlessly ape just because other people have done it before us; but rather to focus on the fact that adoring God, and magnifying His name are not empty obligations, but the very stuff of life itself.

Think of genuine adoration as you would a spiritual thermometer. If you are adoring God in your heart and expressing that adoration openly and often, you are at one degree above the freezing point, anything less is spiritual bankruptcy. Oh, you might think it a small thing, given that you pray every day, and read the bible, and go to church, and have a ministry, and give generously, and have made so many sacrifices... but what have you done if you have done this without adoring God?

Think on these things.

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posted by Daniel @ 7:32 AM  
  • At 10:36 AM, May 13, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    Oh yeah.... that felt gooooood to write.

  • At 11:21 AM, May 13, 2010, Blogger donsands said…

    "Let's be honest, dropping our collective guards for just long enough to affirm that public prayers are almost always more guarded, and therefore more superficial, than private prayers."

    Even my private prayers are mostly self-focused and very unadoring to our Father, and His Son.

    I do have moments of worshipful prayer; in private, and in public, even still. But that's only when my heart is full of faith and the Holy Spirit; and His truth is vivid in my mind; and the Spirit's love is flooding my soul (Romans 5:5).

    Thanks for the great posting.

    I have been attending a Reformed Espiscopal church, and we use the book of common prayer. Wonderful prayers. Personally I don't pray along with the pastors, and most of the congregation.
    I listen, and add an amen here and there in my heart. There is also spontaneous prayer from the pastors. So it's a mixture of both, which can be good or bad.

    Doesn't it all boil down to the heart? Like you say, "-- but what have you done if you have done this without adoring God?"

    Have a blessed evening Daniel. Keep on and build yourself up in His love for you.

  • At 9:38 PM, May 13, 2010, Blogger JIBBS said…

    To go along with this post as well as the previous one, I am reminded a message that Paul Washer preached. In it he admonished believers that if we are truly seeking to obey the great commission, OUR CALLING, then our hearts must be focused upon and crying out, "There is a place where He is not worshiped." "There is a place where He is not worshiped." "I cannot sleep." "There is a place where He is not worshiped."

  • At 9:56 PM, May 13, 2010, Blogger Daniel said…

    I like Paul Washer, though many believe him to be too severe.

  • At 10:56 PM, May 13, 2010, Blogger JIBBS said…

    God has called him to severity for the sake of sinners like me.

    It takes preaching like that to light a fire in my belly, I guess.

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