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Monday, August 21, 2006

Do Those Things That Are Pleasing

1 John 3:22 - And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

We have been emphasizing prayer this month, thus our preaching has been directed to this area. Yesterday morning I presented a message on The Man Of Prayer. We spent some time searching the word of God for the kind of man whose prayers avail.

A Man Of Holiness.
Proverbs 15: 8 - The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.
Proverbs 15:29 - The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.
James 5:16 - Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
1 Peter 3:12 - For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

A Man Of Obedience.
Proverbs 28:9 - He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.
Psalms 66:18 - If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:
1 John 3:22 - And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

A Man Of Faith.
Matthew 21:22 - And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.
Mark 11:24 - Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

A Man Of Perseverance.
Romans 12:12 - Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
Colossians 4:2 - Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;

A Man Of Boldness.
Hebrews 4:16 - Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

A Man Of Humility.
1 John 4:14,15 - And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

I actually began the message in Psalms 109:4 – but I give myself unto prayer.

We would probably all agree that this is a noble and righteous appointment. There is very little to which we could give ourselves that would be more profitable than prayer. Our potential and influence is expanded in prayer unlike any other spiritual pursuit. In prayer we are afforded the opportunity and thus the responsibility to impact our world. It is therefore a worthy object to which we should give ourselves.

It is important that we recognize that we are not addressing the giving of ourselves to a form, a ceremony, a schedule, a habit, but rather a vital principle, a way of life. Too often we isolate prayer as a singular function that takes place in the life of the believer. This, I am convinced, is a mistaken understanding of what true prayer is all about. It is this view that makes our prayers weak and lacking fervency and thus they do not avail.

Prayer is the fruit of a life that is engaged on a spiritual level. We do not pray because we are not spiritual. We pray ineffectively because we are cold and likely carnal. Because prayer is mostly a private matter we can pander to the flesh while at the same time promote our spirituality. Genuine praying is the natural expression of a soul that is intimate with God. Our praying cannot be divorced from our practice. What we are will determine how we pray. Ineffective believers cannot produce availing prayers. Carnality cannot produce a consecrated prayer.

The reality is that if we want to pray better we must live better. If we are unwilling to live better we will never pray better.

A man of prayer is not a carnal, worldly man. Worldliness saps a person of their power and influence with God. Those who love the world and the things of the world will never have prayers that avail much.

As I was preaching yesterday morning I was really stirred by the verse at the beginning of this post. It is not that I have not considered it in depth on numerous occasions, or used it often in preaching and teaching the Word of God. But as is often the case my preaching struck a chord in my own heart.

1 John 3:22 - And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

This first thing of note here is the profound promise that has been provided. “Whatsoever we ask, we receive of him”. What a great promise. What an incentive to pray. What a challenge to self-effacing communion with the Creator of heaven and earth. It is indeed an amazing principle that we can be in such a state spiritually that whatever we ask we receive. This is a promise that is second to none for the believer.

Of course no sooner do we rejoice in the promise than we are sobered up by the condition. Because???? We receive whatever we ask because??? It is the law of cause and effect. The effect is that we receive whatsoever we ask. The cause is introduced by the word "because”. Not anyone and everyone receive what they ask. Only a certain kind of man can lay claim to this grand promise. What kind of man is it? The verse spells it out. “because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight”.

You will immediately notice there are two things involved here, keeping and pleasing. I suppose that when I read this I conclude two things. 1. You can keep and not necessarily please. 2. You cannot please without keeping.

What is it that we are to be keeping? His commandments! Much to the consternation of some God does command. He does not do so for the sake of making our lives miserable. In keeping the commands of God there is great peace, contentment, and security. To hear some talk today you would think that God ceased to require anything with the advent of the New Testament. This is patently untrue, and cannot be substantiated by rightly dividing the Scripture anything can be proved by twisting the Scripture. Let me be clear here. We do not keep the commandments to merit the favor of God. We cannot earn his favor. It is not the keeping of his commandments that justifies us. Justification is only in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have God’s righteousness imputed (credited to our account) by faith in the finished work of Christ. Thus we are made accepted in the beloved. That is why in a judicial sense there is no believer more accepted than another. We are equally justified. We are all equally not condemned. We are all equally accepted. But having been justified we are born into, and adopted into the family of God. Now. God not only sustains a relationship to us as judge. In that relationship we are justified. He also sustains a relationship to us as Father. In that relationship we are either obedient or disobedient. We are not all equally obedient children. In this relationship how we live matters. While we will never be condemned as a defendant, we can certainly be chastened as a child. I am convinced that most people never make this distinction and consequently a plethora of misunderstanding of the believer’s relationship to the commandments of God. The bottom line is if we want whatsoever we ask we must keep his commandments. The Scripture says so. Now you do not have to keep his commandment, but do not expect to receive whatsoever you ask.

But really it goes much further than this. It is not only a matter of keeping his commandments. This is like baby steps. Granted many people never move beyond the baby steps, but nevertheless that is exactly what they are. What we need to develop in our lives is the desire to do those things that please him. This is impossible in the context of wanting to please ourselves. We must come to the place where whatever pleases him is what pleases us. We must develop the spirit that I cannot be pleased with anything that displeases him.

Having had six children (and observing others) I have had the opportunity to see the difference. There are some children that intend to go strictly by the book. Follow the command to the letter, BUT don’t expect me to go one bit further. It is like telling your son to take the trash out. He takes it out and sets it right by the front door. An hour later you come back and say why didn’t you take the trash out. The answer comes ringing back, “I did.” And of course he did. He followed the commandment but he did not do that which was pleasing in your sight. The trash was taken out but it was not deposited in the proper place and a trash bag was not returned to the trashcan. Did they follow the command? Yes they did. Did they do that which was pleasing? No they did not.

This is exactly how many want to obey God. They live their lives under the banners “He didn’t say I couldn’t,” and “He didn’t say I had to”. What a way to live?! This is not a heart that is interested in pleasing. This is the life that is lived in the context of, if there is not a direct command in the New Testament then I am not obligated to do it. Does one have the liberty to live that way? Of course they do. One also has the liberty to live in disobedience to the commandments, that does not make it right.

I have to tell you. I have never been endeared to a child, my own or others, who simply had a heart to follow the letter of the law. The child that seeks to please is a child that is endearing himself to his parents. A child who goes beyond the commandments and does those things that is pleasing in our sight.

Unfortunately we have developed a generation of Christians who are not concerned with pleasing God but themselves. So they will only do what is specifically spelled out in Scripture. They will not apply themselves to being intimate with God, to knowing God, to learning the things that please Him and desire to do those things. Consequently many people do not even feel much like praying. What a difference it would make in our lives, in our approach to the Word of God, in our fellowship with God, if we got out of bed everyday determined to examine everything in the light of whether it pleases God or not, instead of living on the edge saying, “He didn’t say I couldn’t”.

Oh, and by the way, if we will do those things that are pleasing in his sight we can ask whatsoever we will and we will receive it.
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