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Testing our Motives

May 7th, 2018

[Jesus] said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14 ESV)

Our faith is qualified by our motives, and not only by our expectations. If I believe God will do what He promises, then, well enough, I have faith. But still behind that thought may be simply a desire for a personal reward, that God will bless me as He has promised. It may not be driven by an unselfish desire for God and for others.

For example, the Bible says:”Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). If I give with the expectation that I shall get, and that is the only motivation in my heart, then my faith is still lacking an essential element. It is still all about me and what I shall receive.

God is gracious and often we receive some element of blessing because of our faith, even when that faith is imperfect. But Christ still put the emphasis on our motive. Our faith is not merely belief in God and in His promises. It must reveal a change of heart, a new attitude, genuine love for God and compassion for others. If we give only so that we will receive, then we have not ventured out into the realm of real faith.

Christ emphasized motive even over the amount that is given. He said, “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (Matt. 10:42). The motive of rewarding another person’s faith in Christ brought the promise of a reward even if the gift was merely a cup of cold water. This is not to discount the fact that, generally speaking, the more loving and unselfish we are the further we will go for Christ, the more we shall endure for Him and others, and the more we will give for His cause.

So Christ always goes to the heart of the matter, and that is the condition of our hearts.  Moses interceded so deeply and personally for the people of Israel, asking God to forgive their sins, to the point that he prayed for his name to be blotted out of the book of God :”If you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written” (Exod. 32:32).*

Paul echoed the same sentiment as he prayed for his people Israel: “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers” (Rom. 9:3). God did not allow such sacrifices by Moses and Paul for their people. The Bible says, “No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them, for the redemption of his soul is costly…” (Psalm 49:7-8). Only Christ could die for the sins of others, and He died for the sins of the whole world, for the sins of all those who will trust in Him.

But still the sentiment is admirable and most Christ-like. People often expect great fan-fare and attention paid to them for giving that which cost them very little in personal discomfort or inconvenience. But the greater love is the one that is expressed toward those who cannot or will not say thank you, who cannot repay. Truly it is said that until we have such love for another person we have not truly lived.

And the greatest love is the love that Christ plants in our hearts for God by His Spirit, that wishes to do all we can, whatever we can, for Christ and for His cause in this world. Truly this is genuine life. Never feel sorry for someone who has a cause worth living and sacrificing for, and worth dying for. These are the only ones among us who truly live.

 

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*”The book that you have written” – some skeptics point out that this word is out of historical context for in the days of Moses books as we know them today had not yet been invented. But this original word sepher means a scroll or certificate, or a title deed. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica the ancient Sumerians, Egyptians, and Mesopotamians compiled books of writings on clay tablets in the third millennium B.C., long before the appearance of Abraham on the scene of history. The precise date of the invention of writing is unknown simply because the more common writing materials are of perishable material.

Authenticity in the Faith, Prayer

Desperateness in Prayer

March 11th, 2018

O God, you have rejected us, broken our defenses; you have been angry; oh, restore us. (Psalm 60:1 ESV)

Why does God allow trouble to come upon His children? All the reasons are impossible for us to sort out; they are known only to the mind of God. But one reason we see over and over again in scripture is the matter of sincerity in prayer. We can even call it desperateness in prayer.

Desperateness in prayer comes on us when we realize the seriousness of our problem and look to God only as the source of our hope. It requires humility of soul, when we cast away every thing in us that might claim credit or take the praise from God. It requires us to desperately cling to the hope of God, that He is, that He hears, that He cares, and that He can act.

Elijah prayed three times for the widow’s son to be raised to life (1 Kings 17:22). He prayed only once for the fire to fall from heaven to light the altar (1 Kings 18:39). He prayed seven times for the rain to fall again on the earth (1 Kings 18:44). Why the differences?

The scripture does not tell us exactly why, but I believe the best answer is found in James 5:

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. (James 5:16-18)

The righteous person is the one who has confessed his sins and holds to the grace of God as His source of righteousness – none in himself. The fervent prayer is one that depends on the power of God, that trusts in His heart and the strength of His hand.

The best answer I believe to the reasons for the different number of prayers is that Elijah needed to get to a place in his own heart where he was depending on God alone. After Mt Carmel, he was tempted by pride – which of us would not be? – and he had to get to the point where all pride was gone out of him and he depended only upon God.

Are you desperate in your prayer? Have you come to reject your will and depend wholly on God’s wisdom? Have you seen God as your only hope? Do you truly and desperately want Him to receive the glory? and you to receive none? This is where the heart truly prays and where God delights to listen and answer with power.

Prayer