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The Model Prayer – Pt 4/6

The Teaching of Jesus on Prayer – Part 4 of 6
Adapted and Expanded from The HOPE Study Guide

 

If you wanted to learn how to pray, who would you choose for a teacher? In Matthew 6:9-13, you can find a model prayer given to you by Jesus Himself. It was not given simply to recite, but to teach you how to pray. It has been called “the true pattern for all prayer.” Each verse in this prayer identifies an important aspect of prayer. This is part 4 of 6 in our study of the model prayer. Our focus here is verse 11.

 “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” – Matthew 6:12

One writer has observed that, “As bread is the first need of the body, so forgiveness is the need of the soul …it is the entrance into all the Father’s love and all the privileges of children.” Based on the work of Christ on the cross, God offers the gift of forgiveness for every sin you have ever committed or ever will commit. But for a gift to become yours, you must receive it. You enter into the blessing of God’s forgiveness when you trust Christ as your Savior. You continue to walk in the freedom of His forgiveness as you confess your sins and as you forgive those who have sinned against you.

Diving in for a closer study of specific words in this verse, we find unfathomable meaning and power.

Our English word “forgive” does not give an adequate picture of the Greek word used in this verse. This word “aphiemi” means to send away from one’s self. And here, it is used in the aorist imperative tense, calling for this action to be carried out effectively and with a sense of urgency. In other words, this sending away is timely and complete.

When missionaries in northern Alaska were translating the Bible into the language of the Eskimos, they discovered there was no word in that language for forgiveness. After much patient listening, however, they discovered a word that means, “not being able to think about it anymore.” That word was used throughout the translation to represent forgiveness, because God’s promise to repentant sinners is, “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jer. 31:34).

Notice also in today’s verse, Jesus’ use of the word debt in… “forgive us our debts.”  Luke, in his record of the model prayer, wrote “forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us” (Luke 11:4).  Embracing both of these accounts of Jesus’ teaching on prayer we must conclude that an act of “sin” results in a “debt.” And a debt demands to be satisfied with a complete payment. The debt resulting from sin against a Holy, Perfect, Infinite, Creator God is a debt so great we could never pay it, though some try. The debt resulting from sin against our fellow man can only be satisfied when it is released. And when someone sins against us, we must forgive if we are to walk in freedom.

In Matthew 18:23-36, Jesus tells the parable of master who forgave the debt of his servant. But when that servant refused to forgive a fellow servant of a much smaller debt, the master became angry and threw the unforgiving servant in prison. There are many lessons in this parable, but certainly, one is that when we harbor unforgiveness in our hearts, we are the one who suffers. We can be imprisoned unforgiveness.

Forgiveness, in this world, it is an uncommon grace. But it is what we all desperately need, from God and from others . . . and toward others.

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:32


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The Model Prayer – Pt 1/6

The Teaching of Jesus on Prayer – Part 1 of 6
Expanded and Adapted From The HOPE Study Guide

 

If you wanted to learn how to pray, who would you choose for a teacher? In Matthew 6:9-13, you can find a model prayer given to you by Jesus Himself. It was not given simply to recite, but to teach you how to pray. It has been called “the true pattern for all prayer.” Each verse in this prayer identifies an important dimension of prayer. This is Part 1 of 6.

“OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN, HALLOWED (HOLY) BE THY NAME.” – VERSE 9 (word added)

The starting place for prayer is God Himself. Begin prayer by setting your heart and mind on who God is, rather than on yourself and your circumstances. It will affect everything that follows. Jesus begins His model for prayer by bringing together two truths that seem so opposite it is almost inconceivable they could be spoken in the same breath. God is your Father. He loves you with a passionate, perfect, tender, unconditional love. God is also Holy. His glory and majesty are so intense, that even the host of angels surrounding His throne must cover their eyes and feet so as not to be overcome by His presence (Isaiah 6:2). Prayer involves both extreme intimacy and reverence.

A five–star general, the highest ranking officer in the military, may be known by many people. Most of them stand to attention and salute when he walks by. But his beloved (his wife, his children, etc.) know him intimately and can barge in on him at any time. There are many people who know about God, but as His children, we have direct access to our Father. Through prayer we can enter His throne room at any time …and we can know that He longs for us to be there!

Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba (literally Daddy)! Father!” (Romans 8:15, explanation added).

We have all been created with a profound need to be fathered. For many, that need has never been met. A father is one who protects and provides for his children. With wisdom and love, he guides them and prepares them to flourish in life. God desires to father you. Before reading on, think for a moment what it means to have God, the Holy, All Powerful, Creator and Ruler of everything, as your Father. Respect Him and receive His love. Continue reading


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Growing in God

The Basics of Growing in Your Relationship with God.
From The HOPE Study Guide

THE BASICS OF GROWING IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
Coming into a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ is a wonderful beginning – but it is just that: a beginning. While it may be the end of the journey called “coming to faith,” it is only the start of another journey that might be called “growing in God.” The apostle Paul claimed that “knowing” Jesus Christ was the great goal of his life. He said, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).

Paul saw growing in God as an undertaking that would consume him until death ushered him into God’s very presence! So how do we come to know our great, saving God, and to grow in Him? There are many ways, but time has shown that a few are key. Our knowledge of Him cannot help but grow as we study His Word, communicate with Him in prayer, share life with other believers, tell others about what God has done for us, and follow Him daily in faith and obedience. We’ll examine each of these briefly in turn.

1. STUDY GOD’S WORD

You would never expect a child to grow into a healthy adult without proper nourishment. Children eat to grow. Likewise, the Word of God is the spiritual food that nourishes every growing Christian. The apostle Peter encouraged Jesus’ followers to, like newborn babies, “long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord” (1 Peter 2: 2-3). Just as there are many styles of eating – there are also many ways to “take in” God’s life–giving Word. Consider these to begin:

  • Reading your Bible daily. Many plans exist for reading a portion of the Bible each day. If you are a new follower of Christ, you might begin by reading a few verses of the gospel of John daily until you have finished the book. Then move to another gospel (Matthew, Mark or Luke), or one of Paul’s “missionary” letters like Ephesians or Philippians. You might also find a “devotional” Bible which selects portions of scripture for you to read daily, and includes thoughts to consider on that particular passage.
  • Reading through the whole Bible. Some Bibles are published with guides for reading the Bible through in a systematic way. If your Bible does not contain such a guide, you can easily find one. Several are available at http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2012/12/27/reading-the-bible-in-2013/.
  • Discovering God’s Word is filled with promises for you. Memorize and meditate on His promises. Again, some Bibles will have at least a partial listing of God’s promises in their reference section. Others are available at no charge:   http://bible.org/article/selected-promises-god-each-book-bible.
  • Studying the Bible in a group. Studying God’s Word together with other Christians is a wonderful way to grow in insight and in community. Seek out a leader in a Bible–believing church in your area and ask about group studies that might be available to you.

In every instance, the emphasis on Bible study should not be simply academic, or study for study’s sake. You are studying not to gain “head knowledge” but to know more deeply and fully the God whose saving plan has included you. You are a part of His story now!

2. COMMUNICATE WITH GOD

Prayer is simply communication with God – and it is so important. It may seem at times like one–way communication, but it is not. Prayer involves speaking to God and listening for His voice in return – as He speaks through His Word, through His servants, and through the still, small voice of His Holy Spirit. Through prayer we thank God for His goodness to us, confess our sins, praise Him for who He is, and make requests of Him. It is in regular prayer that we grow in our relationship with God and mature in our faith. The Bible says we should pray about everything, and that we should pray “without ceasing.” Truly, nothing is too small to take to God in prayer. He is the Lord of all life.

  • Get in the habit of spending time each day with God. Learn to listen as well as to speak. Some people call this time with God a “quiet time” – but it may not be quiet at all. You may pray aloud, sing praises, or read aloud prayers from scripture during this time. The important thing is to set aside a time for God that will not be compromised, even if it is just a few minutes of undistracted focus every morning or evening.
  • Keep a prayer journal. Recording your prayers can help you see how God has led you, and to praise Him for His faithfulness in giving not just what you ask him for – but what you truly need. Be sure and share answered prayer with others, too. God’s faithfulness to you can be used to build someone else’s faith as well!
  • Study what Jesus taught about prayer in The Model Prayer at the end of this study. When Jesus’ disciples said “Lord, teach us to pray,” this is what Jesus offered in response. Many people say this prayer in a rote, or routine way – hardly thinking of what the words mean. As you study this prayer, consider each part of it, and what it says about God’s constant care and concern for you.
  • Train yourself to maintain a running dialogue with God throughout the day. Some call this “practicing the presence” of God. Simply remind yourself that God is with you all day, every day – and that you are free to speak with Him about anything, at any time.

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The Mystery of the Church

The Body of Christ.
Lesson 62 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

– Acts 2:41–47

And from that day, His followers went out into the world sharing God’s truth, and love, and forgiveness with others. By His Spirit, they did the works that Jesus did when He walked among them: healing the sick, casting out evil spirits, and reconciling people to God. And their number increased daily.

– The HOPE, Chapter 12

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

On the day the Holy Spirit filled the followers of Jesus, something extraordinary was born. What is known to most people as the Church, the Bible calls a mystery. In Ephesians 3:9–10, Paul writes of “the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things; in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.”

The Bible uses several metaphors to describe the relationship between Jesus and His Church. Some of these include:

Each of these metaphors is rich with descriptive imagery, but perhaps none more so than the one we find in 1 Corinthians 12. This scripture describes the Church as the body of Christ Jesus, with Him being the head (as we read in Ephesians 5:23). At this present time, we know that Jesus is with the Father in heaven. He is preparing a place for those who believe in Him (John 14:2) and He is praying for them (Romans 8:34). His presence on earth is now manifested by the Holy Spirit through His body, the Church. In this sense, the members of the Church are His arms, hands, feet, eyes, and lips in the world. As the Head of His body, Jesus is directing the activity of the Church on earth through the Holy Spirit.

As we compare the metaphor of a physical body to the relationship between Jesus and His Church, consider these two truths:

  1. All the parts of a body are necessary to form a complete functioning unit. If any member of the body is weak or missing, the entire body suffers.
  2. It is only in the context of a functioning body that each member discovers his or her identity. Just as a finger cannot fulfill its function apart from the hand, so a follower of Jesus will never know (walk in) his or her identity in Jesus apart from a right relationship with the Body of Jesus.

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Final Words

Before departing, Jesus explains the divine plan.
Lesson 60 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

– Luke 24:44–49

He opened their minds to understand the events that had taken place in light of all that had been spoken through the prophets from ages past. He explained that for the forgiveness of sins, it was necessary that He suffer death and rise again.And He spoke of the Kingdom of God, saying that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to Him. Now the time had come for Jesus to go to the Father, and prepare a place in heaven for all those who love Him. Jesus promised His followers that soon the Spirit of God would come and empower them to share His truth and love and forgiveness with the whole world. After saying this, Jesus left them and ascended into the clouds.

– The HOPE, Chapter 11

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

When we sense that time may be short we often choose our words more carefully. For this reason, final words are likely to be more important, even life changing words. In the brief time after His resurrection and before His ascending to heaven, Jesus spent precious time with His followers. During that time, He explained:

  • What had happened to Him – Jesus explained that His death and resurrection were all part of the plan that had been foretold in God’s Word. It was necessary that He die for the forgiveness of sin.
  • What would happen next to them – On the eve of His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples that He would go to the Father to prepare a place for them in heaven (John 14:2-3). But He also promised to send another, One from the Father whom He called the Helper (John 14:16-20). As the time for Jesus’ departure drew near, Jesus reiterated the promise He made to His disciples: to send this One who is in fact the Spirit of God and who is known in the Bible as the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17, Acts 3:3;Acts 4:31; Acts 5:32).
  • What His followers should keep on doing until they are reunited with Him – Jesus told His followers that until He returned they were to share the truth of what they had witnessed with the whole world, with people from every nation.

In the next and final chapter of our study, we will look more closely at Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit, and His instructions to share His truth with the whole world. But in this lesson, it is fitting that we should conclude our study of His death and resurrection by examining it in the context of God’s grand plan. Continue reading


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The Significance of the Resurrection – Part 2

Man made new – the death of the old man.
Lesson 58 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.

– 1 Corinthians 15:17

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

– Romans 6:4-7

…having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

– Colossians 2:12

Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

– 2 Corinthians 5:17

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the previous lesson we considered what the Apostle Paul wrote about the resurrection of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:14-19. In this lesson we will continue our study of the resurrection, starting with one verse from that passage. From verse 17 above, we read that if Christ was not raised from the dead, then we are still in our sins. Let’s dig deeper at this precise place.

Recall from Lesson 18 that sin has infected every person since Adam. Now some people have the idea they can rid themselves of sin by living a good life, by becoming an increasingly better person. This is not what the Bible teaches. According to the Bible, the only way to deal with sin is to judge it and put it to death (Romans 8:13), and that is what Jesus accomplished by His death on the cross.

Now notice from Romans 6:5-6 above, that in some sense, when Jesus was crucified, you (your old self) were crucified with Him. As you think about this concept, it may be helpful to keep in mind that because God is not limited by time and space, what God accomplishes in time and space is not limited by the ordinary constraints of time and space. Hence, in some way, though you might not fully grasp it now, Jesus took you with Him to the cross, even though you had not yet been born.

Also, it is important to note that when the Bible uses the term old self (or old man), it is referring to who you were before trusting Jesus to pay for your sin and reconcile you to God. In other words, “old self” refers to who you were as a person under the penalty and the power of sin. So as we carefully read verses 6 and 7, we see that your old self was crucified together with Christ so that “your body of sin might be done away with,” so that you “should no longer be a slave to sin,” but rather be “freed from sin.” God deals with sin by taking you (your old self) to the grave. And continuing with verse 7, “He who has died is freed from sin.” It is a good thing to be freed from the power of sin, but it is not good if we remain dead in a grave. That is why the resurrection is so important! Continue reading


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The Significance of the Resurrection – Part 1

What if Jesus did not rise from the dead?
Lesson 57 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

– 1 Corinthians 15:14–19

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the Bible passage above, the Apostle Paul makes a very strong statement about the significance of the resurrection. Carefully dissecting this passage, Paul says that if Jesus has not been raised from the dead, then at least six things are true:

  1. our proclamation of Jesus and the message of Jesus is in vain (v.14)
  2. our faith in Jesus and the message of Jesus is unfounded, and thus worthless (v.14,16)
  3. those who proclaim Jesus are liars and witnesses against God – basically blasphemers (v.15)
  4. we are still hopelessly in bondage to the power of sin (v.16)
  5. we are all doomed to die, and death will forever separate us from our loved ones (v.18)
  6. we are pitiful people if we hang our hopes on, and live our lives according to, a lie (v.19)

 

Bible scholars since the time of Paul have emphasized that what Jesus accomplished on the cross has meaning only if it was followed by His resurrection! In this lesson, and the next, we’ll consider the significance of the resurrection by looking at Paul’s argument in greater detail.

All of Paul’s preaching was based on who Jesus claimed to be, as it was revealed to him and the other apostles (Jesus’ inner circle of disciples).

Numerous times Jesus claimed that three days after His crucifixion, He would rise from the dead.1 If Jesus spoke falsely about this, then everything He said was suspect, and worse, He could not be God because God cannot lie. Continue reading