June 16, 2013

Sermon, Third Sunday after Trinity

Christians Pray
Psalm 145, Jeremiah 31:1-14. Matthew 9:9-13
Third Sunday after Trinity
June 16, 2013

What do Christians do?  That has been the subject of the sermons for the past two weeks, and we could summarise them by saying, “Christians Love,” and “Christians Believe.”  Today we continue to look at what Christians do, and today’s sermon is, “Christians Pray.”

But saying, “Christians Pray,” leads us to another important question, why do Christians pray? We pray because the Bible tells us to.  “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” says Psalm 122:6. “Pray for them which despitefully use you,” said our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:44). “Watch and pray” said Christ to the disciples in Gethsemane (Mk. 14:38).  “Pray for us” wrote the Apostle Paul in1 Thessalonians. 3:1. Again in that same Epistle he wrote, “pray without ceasing” (5:17).  And then we remember the well-beloved words of 1 Timothy 2:1-3, and 2:8;

 “I exhort therefore that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.”

“I will therefore that all men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”

But we don’t just pray because God tells us to.  In fact, we would pray if God did not tell us to.  For prayer is as natural to us as breathing. When we consider our blessings, we naturally say, “Thanks be to God.”  When we consider our sins, we naturally cry out, “Lord, have mercy upon us.”  When we face the troubles and trials of life, we naturally plead, “Lord, help us.”  This is so much a part of us that we almost do it automatically, and what a blessing it is to be so oriented toward God that we turn to Him automatically in these situations.  So we pray because we want to pray.  We are like David, who wrote, “early in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee,” and, “Evening, and morning, and at noon will I pray, and cry aloud.”  (Ps. 5:3, Ps. 55:18).  For, “Like as the hart desireth the water-brooks, so longeth my soul after thee, O God.  My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God” (Ps. 42:1-2). “How amiable are thy dwellings, thou Lord of hosts!  My soul hath a desire and longing to enter into the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God” (Ps. 84:1-2).  We pray, because we long for God.

But prayer would be meaningless if God did not care about us.  So, prayer is based upon the character and nature of God, who is revealed in the Bible as the One who loves us and gave Himself for us “to be the propitiation for our sins.” In a sense, these words from 1 John 4:10 summarise all that we have been looking at since Advent.  They summarise all that we believe about God.  They express the heart of the Christian faith.  God loves us and gave His Son on the cross to be the bearer of and payment for our sins.  Everything we do as Christians is based on this one supreme act of God’s self-giving, self-sacrificing love.  Everything we do is, or should be, our response of loving faith, trust, and obedience to this One who loved us so much “He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

If we look back into this morning’s reading from Jeremiah 31, we see this was as true in the Old Testament as it is in the New; that the entire life of faith has always been based on the loving acts of God, who forgives sin and seeks fellowship with His people.  “I have loved thee with an everlasting love,” God says in Jeremiah 31:3.  “I will build thee, and thou shalt be built” He says in verse 4.  These words were given to the Jews in the context of their wars with the Babylonians, which resulted in the destruction of Israel, the sack of Jerusalem, and the Jews being forcefully moved to Babylon where they lived in captivity for fifty years.  The Bible makes it very clear that God allowed this to happen because Israel had forsaken Him.  But that was not the end of Israel, nor of the love of God for the Jews. He promised to restore them to their home, to rebuild their land and city.  He says He will “bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth…, and “a great company shall return.”  “There is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border.”

Why will God bring them back to Jerusalem?  Why will He bless them with joy and peace?  Not because they deserve it.  Not because they have been holy and righteous.  If they had been righteous they would never have suffered defeat by the Babylonians.  But the Bible says time after time that they were sinners against God, and failed to keep the covenant He had made with them.  And they were no more righteous after their captivity than before.  There was no great revival of Biblical faith among the Jews in Babylon.  There was no great turning to holiness and Godliness of life.  The Jews continued on as they always had.  God saved them out of Babylon for the same reason He saved them out of Egypt, because He chose to love them in spite of their unlovableness.  In other words, they were saved by the grace of God, not by their own works of righteousness.

It was because God saved them by His grace that they were to turn to Him.  It was because He loved them that they were to love Him.  Their life of faith, their keeping of His commandments, their turning to and keeping His covenant with them was all to be based on His grace.  It was to be their response of love to His act of love.


So here is the point I am trying to make today.  Christians pray because we are responding to God’s love.  Christians pray because we believe God cares enough about us to act on our behalf.  And we believe He cares about us because we see that He sent Christ to the cross to bear and pay for our sins.  Once a person really believes his sins have separated him from God and made him worthy of the eternal wrath of God in hell, he cannot help praying to God for mercy.  Once a person truly believes Christ suffered the wrath of God for his sins, and gives him Heaven as a free gift of grace, he cannot help praying to God in loving faith.  That is why Christians pray.X

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