One in Prayer
OnePastor Jerry Gillis, Pastor Wes Aarum, Kim Holet, Pastor Deone Drake, Edwin Perez, Multiple Speakers - January 5, 2020
Community Group Study Notes
- Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s message.
- Read Psalm 51:10. What does it mean for God to create a pure heart in us? What would be different about our lives if we regularly incorporated this request into our daily praying?
- What is our responsibility as Christ’s people in the world? Why is it important that we lean in dependence on God through prayer as we endeavor to represent Jesus to the world around us?
- What one thing did God speak to you about – either through the message or through your discussion? What does God want you to do about it and how will you do it?
- In your group, take time to pray for each other. Pray for the person next to you, using the Scripture passages from Sunday as your guide, until each person in the group has been prayed for personally.
We're reading from Psalm 51:1-10, it's a Psalm of David. Says this, "Have mercy on me, Oh God, according to your unfailing love. According to your great compassion, blot out my transgressions, wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
"Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts. You teach me wisdom in the in most place. Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean. Wash me and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness. Let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my inequity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."
This is a Psalm of David and it's actually a prayer of David, a prayer which he gets really honest with God about his sin. He sees it, he owns it, he mourns it and then he turns away from it. In biblical language, that is confession and repentance. Now, the word confess literally means to say the same thing as, so when God says about our sin, "Hey, this is wrong, this stinks, this has got to get out of your life." We agree with that assessment, we agree with God. We say, "Yes, God, I agree, this is wrong. This is stinky, man I don't want it in my life."
Real confession is always a part of true repentance and repentance is a pretty big deal to God, because we're told in Acts 17, that God commands everyone everywhere to repent. Everyone everywhere to repent. God wants repentance to be a part of our lives because He knows the power and the blessing of repentance.
What is repentance? In a nutshell it's a change of mind and a change of heart that results in a change of direction, a change of action, a change of behavior. It's like you're going one way and then you stop. You turn around, you repent, and you go the other direction. Spiritually speaking, you turn from sin and you go towards God. You see sin for what it is, you see it and you don't want it.
Man, you see it's poisons nature, it's tendency towards destruction and ruin in our lives and you're like, "Man, I don't want that." And you turn to God to pursue Him so that you can experience the love and the grace and the forgiveness that He has. And that's what God wants for us. But in order for us to experience that, now we've got to do what David did here.
We got to get honest and real about what's going on in our heart. Like verse 6, says this, "Surely you desire truth in the inner parts." God says, "I want you to get honest and real with what's going on inside. I don't want you to play games with sin." God says, "I don't want you to act like it's no big deal, like you can negotiate with me or you can handle the consequences and manage the outcomes."
God says, "You got to see what it really is and you got to get honest with yourself about what's going on here, and then you've got to repent." Because when we do, some incredible things happen. One of those promises, Acts 3:19. And it says this, "Repent and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out and times of refreshing can come from the Lord."
That is what God wants for us, and that is what repentance sets up for us. Listen, God's heart is always, always, always for us to turn to Him always. God's activity in our lives is never meant to push us away from Him. It's always meant to draw us to Him. That is what God wants for us. He wants us to see our sin and to say, "Man, I don't want that. I see the consequences, I see how it's ripping me off and I want to turn to God. I want to repent."
Here's the question. What sin in your life do you need to get honest with God about? What sin in your heart do you need to get real with God about? Maybe it's a sin in your attitude, or a sin in your thought life, or a sin in your actions and your behaviors.
God is real clear. In the last book of the Bible, Revelations 3:19, He says this, "Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline, so be earnest and repent." God says, "Because I love you, I'm going to get engaged in your life. I'm going to get involved, man. I'm going to point out the stuff in your life that is ripping you off, the sin that is playing you." When you and I, when we sin, now we're getting played by the enemy of our souls and God says, "I don't want that for you." I want you to be honest and I want you to repent because repentance gets all the junk out of the way so that we can experience the heart of God for us. That is what God wants for you, and that is what He wants for you right now.
What we're going to do right now is in a moment you're going to see some prayer prompts that come up on the screen, it will just be one screen. And I want you to take the time right where you're seated to be able to just look into your heart and ask the Holy Spirit to evaluate in your heart what you may need to confess and deal with. Right now we just want you to concentrate on responding to what the word of God says, that prayer that he just read in Psalms, and listening to what the Lord may want to do in your heart. Take a look at the prayer prompts as you take an opportunity to pray.
I'm going to be helping us to understand Paul's intercessory prayer to the Ephesians. And even though Paul is talking to the Ephesians and praying for them, there are so many things in this verse that we actually can take and apply to ourselves. Let me go ahead and read the scripture to you. It's going to be Chapter 1:17-19. "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe."
This is such an amazing prayer that Paul prays for the Ephesians, and there's a few pieces that I just want us to pull out and kind of look at and understand even deeper what Paul wanted the Ephesians to understand, so that we know how to pray this for ourselves and for those around us. The first piece is that Paul actually describes the Father as glorious. And when we look at the word glory, it's actually God making Himself known. It's the part of God that we can see, that we can understand Him better.
And I think what Paul is trying to help the Ephesians recognize right away is the fact that our God is a God who can be known and He reveals Himself so that we can know Him personally and deeply. That's a really powerful thing for us to understand and to believe. The second thing that I want to point out here and look at from our scripture is that Paul goes into praying that the Holy Spirit would be given to people, that He would help people, God's people to understand the revelation of who God is.
And he prays that the Holy Spirit would do this, would reveal to people continually knowledge about God. And then he even goes into describe what that looks like. He says that the eyes of your heart would be enlightened. What he's talking about is that our hearts, our minds, our souls would come to understand who God is. Literally that a light would go on inside of us and we would gain the knowledge and understanding of who God is and it would change how we live. It would change who we are because we know God more.
Paul starts to describe what the activity of the Holy Spirit will look like and then he transitions into three realities about who God is that the Ephesians can hold onto, to know Him better, to help them to grow into a relationship with Him. And he hits on three pieces. He talks about the hope of their calling, which is the fact that God has called us as His people. He has called us into relationship with Him and there's a purpose for our lives. That's exciting, that's so much hope to hold on to.
The second thing that he points out as the reality of God, is he talks about the riches of His inheritance. The inheritance isn't talking about what His people receive as an inheritance, it's actually talking about God's inheritance. And it says that God's inheritance is us. God's inheritance is His people. I think what Paul's getting at here is the blessing and the assurance and security that as God's people, some day at some point God is going to come back and He's going to finish everything by taking His people to Himself and we will know Him face to face. What an amazing thing that's going to be, to be able to know our God face to face. We know Him now some, we will know Him fully in the future and that's a blessing to us.
And the third thing, the third reality that Paul talks about is the incomparably great power for us who believe. God right now for us as His people has a power, an incomparably great power that is here for us to be able to learn, to understand, to comprehend so that we can live powerfully. We can live well, we can live fully the gospel right now today in light of everything that He has given us.
The really amazing thing, even though all of this is astonishing, the amazing thing is that the more that we know God, the more that we understand these pieces of what He's called us to, the more it motivates us to want to draw closer to Him. Paul's prayer for the Ephesians is all about asking us to be able to know God, asking the Holy Spirit to help us to know God and to grow in the very specific understanding of who He is and let that motivate us to live powerfully for Him, today.
I'm sure you've heard the expression going against the current or going against the flow. You've probably had an experience where you've understood that particular phrase. Maybe you've been at a sports arena or a mall when everybody's returning Christmas presents as they were a couple of days ago, or maybe even at the atrium of one of our four campuses. And that experience is that it seems like everybody, and I mean, everybody is going in one direction and you seem to be going in the very opposite direction.
And it's tough to get through, and people are getting irritated because you're going against the current and going against the flow and they get irritated, and you get bumped around a lot. And sometimes you figure, "What? My goodness, I might as well just turn around and go the same way everybody else is going because it sure would be a whole lot easier," because you're going against the current and it's not fun to do that.
If there were a analogy, an illustration that would describe much of what it means to follow Jesus, it would probably be with that phrase, going against the current. Maybe you feel like you're the only one at work who's a follower of Christ, or one of few, or maybe you're the only one in your nutty family who is following Jesus. And sometimes because of the pressure and the frustration that people give towards you because you're going in an opposite direction, you're going the way of Jesus, it sure seems like it would be easier, much easier to just turn around and go with the flow.
But we know we can't, we know we can't do that. We know that we can't turn around and go in the way of the world, and we know that because God has called us actually to walk against the current. God has called us to live a life that is distinct. That's what it means by the way to make us holy, where God is working in us to make us holy so that we actually live a life that is distinct.
And as we grow and mature in walking with Jesus, we come to the realization that the reason why we've been called to live a life that is distinct is because the way of Jesus is contrary, opposite as different as night and day from the way of the world. God has called us to be distinct, and Jesus calls our attention to this in what is called, the high priestly prayer. It's recorded in John 17. It's the last prayer that Jesus offers before He goes to the cross. He prays for Himself, He prays for the disciples that were following Him, and He also prays for us. And He calls us in this prayer to live a distinct life.
Let me walk through some of these verses with you because what it means to live a life that is distinct is, hey, first of all we will not always be liked. We simply will not always be liked. In fact, Jesus will say in this verse that we may actually be hated. He says in verse 14, "I have given them your word and the world has hated them." We can actually expect the reaction of some to actually hate us or hate the path that we're taking and so we first of all have to deal with that in our own self.
We like to fit in, we like to be accepted, we like to be liked. We have to deal with that, because we may not always be liked. In fact, sometimes we will be hated. And the reason we will be hated is because we remind the world of Jesus as we live like Jesus. Think of how opposite this is. The way of the world is, do your own truth, do your own thing. Do it your way, live your life your way. But that's not the way of Jesus. The way of Jesus is to take up your cross, deny yourself, and follow Him.
And so that puts us on a path that is incredibly different than the world's. We have to understand that in living this distinct life, the world is not going to like us. The second thing that Jesus says is we are called to be distinct anyway. In other words, we should not feel the pressure because the world hates our message, hates our life that we should turn around. We recognize that we've been called to be distinct, anyway.
Let me finish that. Verse 14, "For they are not of the world any more than I am of the world." It's clear that we are to live a distinct life because we are not of this world. You know what? It's easier to live the way of Jesus, isn't it? When we're in our Christian subculture, when we're gathered on a Sunday and worshiping God, it's easy to live and accentuate the way of Jesus. It's easy to live the way of Jesus when we're in our community group. But oh my, when we're in the world, it's difficult.
It's easier to live the way of Jesus when we're with other Jesus people, but that's not where the power of the gospel is. It simply isn't. We are to be distinct in habit, in desires, in the way we walk through life, in the way we do life, in what we chase after. We are to be distinct in how we handle life. Because we are not part of the world we are to live as distinct. But then He says a third thing, we live in the world to show our distinctiveness. He doesn't pull us out of the world, He doesn't pull us into our Christian subculture. He actually places us in the world to show off our distinctiveness.
He says it this way in verses 15 and 16, "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world even as I am not of the world." He doesn't take us out of this world because it's when we live among the world that we are actually able to show the distinctiveness that is in Christ.
It's almost like if you go to a store to buy that engagement ring, the salesperson will put that diamond against a black cloth so that the brilliance of the diamond can be seen most clearly. And it's the same way that as we live in the world, not out of the world, but in the world, that God has an opportunity to show the beauty, the brilliance of Jesus in our lives against the backdrop of a world that's going the opposite way. This gives people, when we live that kind of life an opportunity to make a decision for or against Christ as they see Jesus in us.
There's a last thing. We allow God to make us distinct. Here's the key part of it. Verse 17, "Sanctify them," Jesus says. Jesus prays to His father, "Sanctify them through your word, your word is truth. Sanctify, set us apart, make us distinct." That's the work that Jesus prays that God is able to do. And He does it, He says, through His word.
When you and I immerse ourselves in the word of God, when we delight in it, when we meditate on it, we learn the way of Jesus, and as we immerse and meditate and delight, it gets assimilated into our lives. We learn the way of Jesus so that we behave the way of Jesus, and that allows us to live a distinct life. And that is exactly what we pray for, that God would set you apart to live a distinct life that would make Jesus Christ attractive in the world He has placed you.
Paul prayed these words in Ephesians 6:19,20. He wrote, "Pray also for me that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly as I should." You see, Paul's overarching prayer request here right within this passage is simply this, that he would make it known the message or the mystery of the gospel. This mystery, where now one new humanity has been formed from the Jews and the Gentiles, creating one new people of God called the church in Christ.
And Paul even talked about how he is an ambassador in chains for this gospel. You see, this is because Paul, at the time of this writing he was in house arrest, likely in Rome. And during this time, Roman guards would come and they would chain themselves to Paul, and not only that but Paul would also have visitors come as well. And even in the midst of this setting, Paul still had it, his main focus to be able to advance and to proclaim the message of the gospel. This very message that has changed and transformed Paul's very own life.
And he recognized that and he understood that because he understood that he was an ambassador, simply meaning that he was representing a kingdom that would never end, that would never fade, that would never be destroyed. And Paul was sent with a message from the King, that the King Himself, Jesus died, was buried and rose again. Paul makes this overarching prayer request to the church at Ephesus that they would pray that he would make known the message, the mystery of the gospel.
But then Paul even supports this overarching prayer requests with two additional requests that Paul asks for the Ephesians believers to pray for him for. And the first request is simply this, that he would be given the right words. Listen again to Ephesians 6:19. Paul wrote, "Pray also for me that whenever I speak, words may be given me." You see, Paul prayed this, he asked for prayer along this line because he knew that if he was going to make known the message of Christ, that he was going to have to rely on the Spirit of God to give him the words to say when he needed them.
And this is because even as we start to understand this, and even as we start to apply this to our own lives, this is clear that proclaiming the message of Jesus and advancing the Gospel of Christ within our own world, this is a Spirit endeavored thing that we are endeavoring to do. And so as we start to even think about people that we can even share the message of Jesus with, what would it look like for us to be in tune with the Spirit of God who will give us the words to say at exactly when we need them?
This is why it's important for us to be saturating ourselves with the word of God so that the Spirit would give us the words to say when we need them. And even I resonate with this prayer request that Paul had asked of the Ephesians simply because I know that even times in my own life when I've had opportunities to maybe share the gospel of Jesus with people maybe that don't know Him, I've simply even prayed and asked God that He would give me the words to say, maybe even in those moments. And I'm sure that many of you could probably also relate to that idea.
Paul asked for the church at Ephesus that they would pray that Paul would be given the right words, is he has this overarching prayer request to continue to proclaim and advance the message of Jesus. But then there's a second request that Paul also makes note of and we can see this in verses 19 and 20. Paul wrote, "Pray also for me that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly, or with boldness make known the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly." Or this word can be also translated, "Boldly, as I should."
Paul asked this church that they would pray for boldness for Paul. That he would continue to even in his own place and within his own space, that he would make known the message of the gospel with a Spirit-empowered boldness, a fearlessness. And this is something that even as we see, I know that even maybe at times in our own lives, there can be fear. There can be fear that might hold us back from proclaiming the message of Christ with those that don't know Him. Maybe it's the fear of rejection, maybe the fear of insecurity or the fear of maybe not knowing enough. All of these different things maybe can hinder us at times from sharing the message of Christ.
And what I'm reminded of here as Paul prayed for this, and I'm also reminded how Paul even wrote to his protege, Timothy, that we have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and a sound mind. What would it look like for us to take the message of Christ with a Spirit-empowered boldness to people that don't know Him. You see, this is because if we're going to get after our mission of seeing every man, every woman and every child have repeated opportunities to hear and see the gospel of Jesus, it's going to take every single person that knows Jesus to be able to talk their faith. And this is so important and so crucial to our mission.
And I'm reminded even of somebody named Kathie Lee Gifford, who is a four time Emmy Award winning TV host. And maybe some of you know her or not, but she was on the Megyn Kelly Today show, doing an interview. And during this interview, Megyn Kelly, on her show had asked Kathie Lee Gifford, just about how she had known Billy Graham, because this was right around the time Billy Graham had passed away.
And Kathie Lee, she's doing this interview and she simply talks about... she turns the conversation and just starts talking about Jesus, live television. And as she does so she simply says, "If you had the cure for cancer, would you keep it a secret? Would you keep it to yourself?" And then she paused, she waited a few moments and then she said, "Well, if you had the cure for the malignancy of the soul, would you keep it quiet?" And she says, "I do have the cure for the malignancy of the soul, and His name is Jesus."
You see, when we understand that we have been entrusted with this glorious message, the cure that people need for this virus of sin that has plugged all of our hearts. And when we know and fully grasp this truth that we have for those of us that have received this message of Jesus, that we have had our lives changed and transformed, and that we carry this message as ambassadors of Christ to be able to share this with a world that does not know Him, so that they too can be cured from the virus of sin and have their lives changed and transformed.
Let's pray together as one church that we would rely on God to give us the words to say when we need them as we continue to fill ourselves with His word. And let's also pray that we would be given a Spirit-empowered boldness to take the message of the gospel within the places and spaces that we go to.
Edwin challenged us to as one church, pray for boldness. And we want to do that, but we want to do that in a unique way today. Because you know that we at the chapel are one church in four places, four locations. And so what we're all going to be doing today, it's a beautiful thing actually to remind us of the oneness of the church, is that our Cheektowaga Campus is going to be praying this prayer for our Lockport Campus.
Our Lockport Campus is going to be praying for our CrossPoint Campus. We at the CrossPoint campus are going to be praying for our Niagara Falls Campus, and our Niagara Falls Campus is going to be praying for our Cheektowaga Campus. Everybody will be praying and everybody will be prayed for, that we might have the boldness that God has called us to. But we want to do that in terms of our posture in a slightly different way.
When the Jewish people, when we read about them in the Old Testament, when they were outside of Israel, even in exile when they would go to pray, they would turn their faces toward Israel to pray. When they were in Israel, but outside of Jerusalem, they would turn their faces towards Jerusalem to pray. When they were in Jerusalem, they would turn their faces toward the temple to pray, and when they were in the temple, they would turn their faces to the Holy of Holies. They would posture themselves in the direction of their praying.
We're going to do that today. I'm going to ask you all if you would, to stand. And because we at the CrossPoint Campus are going to be praying for our brothers and sisters in Niagara Falls, I'm going to ask you to turn this direction, which is West of us, it's actually a little bit Northwest, so it's kind of at this angle. I want you to turn this direction and we'll be able to see the prayer prompts that are on the screen. But what I'm going to do is I'm going to lead us corporately, as we all pray together here for our brothers and sisters in Niagara Falls.
Everything that we've heard and that we've learned in this time through prayers that are in the scripture itself. Prayers from David, from Jesus, and from Paul. Spirit-given prayers for us to be learners that we might remember that we need to posture ourself in repentance, that we change our mind about things that rage against the life of the Spirit, and that we agree with you, God, that you may lead us in the direction you want us to go. And so that we might have the eyes of our heart enlightened so that we might understand and know you for who you are.
That we can be a distinct people, that people could now see the difference that Jesus has made in our lives and as a result, we can now have the credibility to offer words to them. With lives that while less than perfect, are still reminders of a life surrendered to Jesus. Father, we pray for our brothers and sisters in Niagara Falls. We pray that you would give them the boldness of your Spirit, that they would have a Spirit-empowered boldness to demonstrate the life of Jesus in every place they find themselves. Whether it's a place of leisure, or a place of work, or school, or where they live among their own family, that the life and the light of Jesus would be so evident in our brothers and sisters in Niagara Falls.
That the people that they engage with would see that, and that they would wonder what is so different about them. And God, may you open their mouths so that they could give a reason for the hope that they have as you have told us in the book of Peter. Help us to understand what it means to testify to you, to be saturated in your word so that we can testify to who you are, God.
Would you do that for our brothers and sisters in Niagara Falls, and you would give them a Spirit-empowered holy boldness to engage people around them that do not know Jesus, that they would do it with humility and grace, but with power and with boldness. And God would you give them lives that match their words so that you may make a difference in the lives of people in the Niagara Falls Region for the glory of who you are and for the beauty of your gospel. We pray in Jesus' name, and all God's people said... Amen.
Before we're dismissed, I want to take an opportunity to pray for you, so let's pray together. Jesus, these are your people. They've never been mine and they never will be, they're yours. We are your people. You, Lord Jesus are the head of your church, and we want to launch into 2020 as one church who are together in prayer, acknowledging that you are Lord of all, acknowledging that you are the head of the church. And we pray, Lord Jesus, that you would empower us by your own Spirit, so that we would live lives that are consistent with your life and we would be able to impact our region.
In 2020 we need to be a light to the region of Western New York. We do not have time to give attention to sin, and to playing in the mud piles of life. You've called us to be a holy people, the people who magnify the praises of your name. Would you help us to be that kind of people who are people of prayer, who are people of the word, that the life of Jesus would be so rich in us that people around us in Western New York would ask, "What is the difference in your life?" And that you would give us words to articulate the glory of who you are, Lord Jesus.
The time for playing around with religion is over. Call your people to maturity, and growth, and life and obedience. Because this life that we live is fleeting, where did we don't know if we're promised 2021, but you have us here today and we're so grateful for that. Would you help us to be demonstrations of your love, your light, your life in the places where we work and we play and we live so that you may be glorified in all things and that people around us may know, and hear, and see the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And for that we will give you praise and honor. Praying this all in Jesus name, and all God's people said... Amen.
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