Galatians 1:1-12 – One Gospel

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Galatians 1:1-12

1 Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia:

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

images (1)Jesus gave Himself for your sins to deliver you from the present evil age, according to the will of your God and Father. Did you hear that? Jesus gave Himself, all of Himself, to the point of death on the cross, suffering the eternal wrath of God. Jesus gave Himself up to death for this reason – your sins. Why did Jesus do this? He did it to deliver you from the present evil age. All of this was in harmony with the will of God your Father. In other words, God is pleased with this arrangement. Because of that, “to [Him] be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

That right there could be the whole sermon. And on a beautiful Memorial Day weekend, you might prefer that nothing more be said. Start up the closing hymn, pray the Lord’s Prayer, and head out of here. Well, sorry, there is more.

Jesus gave Himself for your sins to deliver you from the present evil age, according to the will of your God and Father. The question is, do you believe this? This is the Gospel. More could be said about it, but nothing more needs to be added to it. The Gospel says apart from your good works, apart from your worthiness, apart from your piety, apart from your deserving, God has saved you. Jesus has delivered you.

This is the message that Paul had preached to the churches addressed in this letter, but the people there were abandoning this message. Instead of living in the complete freedom that comes from the Gospel, the people in the churches were listening to false preachers who were saying, “Sure this Jesus stuff is great, but now more needs to happen. Paul didn’t give you the whole story. Now that you are saved, now that you have heard about Jesus, you have go farther. Now, you need to keep the Law.”

Assailed by DemonsThis, dear saints, is the voice and message of Satan, but you and I listen to it. Satan likes nothing more than to get you to doubt that what Jesus has done is enough. And this is a constant battle. The devil simply points you to any number of things – the fact that you are still living in this present evil age, the fact that you still sin, or whatever he finds works on you – and he chips away at your faith to create any cracks of doubt. Then, he worms his way in to widen those cracks. His ultimate goal is to completely shatter your faith and get you to utterly reject God’s Word.

But the devil is content with being patient so long as he can simply get you to doubt, at least a little, what God promises. This was the devil’s work in the beginning, in the Garden of Eden. The first words we hear from Satan are, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And you know the rest of that story. Adam and Eve believed Satan’s lie that there was more, that God had held some good thing back from them.

This lie is what Paul deals with in the whole letter to Galatians. And it is serious, eternally serious. It is so serious that Paul dives right in to combat this satanic teaching.

In all of Paul’s other letters, he will open basically the same way he does here in v. 1-5. He identifies himself (v. 1-2a). He identifies who the letter is addressed to (v. 2b). He gives a blessing (v. 3-5). But in every one of Paul’s other letters, he will give thanks for the believers there. In Philippians, he writes, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you…” (Php. 1:3), and he goes on to say why he is thankful for them. In Romans, Paul says, “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world” (Rom 1:8).

Even when Paul writes to the church in Corinth, which was a messed up congregation – where men were sleeping with their mothers-in-law – to Corinth Paul writes, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given to you in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:4).

But Paul doesn’t do that in this letter to the Galatians. Look at v. 6. Paul says, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different Gospel.”

In other words, Paul says, “You idiots! Have you lost your minds? These false teachers are sending you on a wild goose chase to find another way of salvation, and there isn’t another one. You won’t find it.” And Paul goes on to say that if an angel from heaven or even if he, Paul, preaches something different than what he first preached, let him be accursed.

In other words, don’t be duped. Don’t believe that there is anything you contribute or add to your salvation. Your salvation has been totally, completely, eternally accomplished by Jesus who has given Himself for your sins. This is the one Gospel. There is no other.

Crying to GodBet all your chips on Jesus and what He has done for you. This one Gospel message is not man’s gospel. It is given by Jesus.

Beginning today, our Epistle readings take us through the book of Galatians. This little book of the Bible gets to the heart of the Gospel and what it means for us. So, these next six weeks, the sermons are going to focus on the richness of the Gospel – the fact that you are saved solely and exclusively through the work and merit of Christ and that you do not and cannot add anything to it.

Jesus – and Jesus alone – is the atonement for your sins. Believe in Him. Trust Him alone. Jesus’ work saves you and nothing else. This is the one and only Gospel. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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John 8:48-59 – Blessed Trinity

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John 8:48-59

48 The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

In the name of the blessed Trinity who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Dear Bruer,

Baptism 2Today you are baptized. Today, God sent a flood that condemned all that was sinful and unbelieving in you while He placed you safely in the ark of His holy Christian Church (Gen. 6-9; 1 Pet. 3:21).

Today, God has led you through the sea out of slavery to sin as all your enemies perished behind you (Ex. 14-15; 1 Cor. 10:1-2).

Today, God has led you into His promised land (Josh. 3; Col. 2:11-15, 3:1-4).

Today, the Holy Spirit descended upon you, and the Father has proclaimed, “You are My beloved son, with you I am well pleased” (Mt. 3:13-17; Eph 1:11-14).

Today, dear Bruer, you have been united with the death and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 6:3-11). God did not abandon you to rot in your slavery to sin. He has come and rescued you. God has saved you not because of anything you have done but because of His rich mercy. He has given you the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4-7). And Bruer, Jesus promises in our text that as you keep, as you believe, His Word, you will never see death (v. 51).

Bruer, it is fitting that today you have been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit because today is Trinity Sunday. Jesus told His apostles to make disciples by baptizing in the name of this blessed Triune God and teaching those disciples of all nations to keep everything Jesus has said (Mt. 28:18-20).

David, Bailey as parents and Brandon, Brianne, Danny, and John as sponsors and the rest of you here as witnesses of this great thing that God has done, you are called to continue teaching little Bruer all that Jesus has said. And this is no small task for two reasons: First of all because the devil and the world now have him in their sights. He will be attacked in so many different ways. And second, because Jesus said so many things. How do you go about this task teaching all that Jesus has said in the face of the opposition of the devil and the world?

Well, the best place to start is to consider who God is. In the Scriptures, we are taught that God is One God and Three Persons. And the clearest expression of this is the Apostles’ Creed. So, every part of life is an opportunity to teach about the Father who created, the Son who redeemed, and the Holy Spirit who sanctifies, makes holy.

So teach. Teach Bruer about the Father who created. When Bruer looks around at this beautiful creation and sees all the wonderful gifts that God has given, teach him. Teach him that the Father created all that exists. When Breuer is fed by the food on your table and has enough to eat, remind him that is the Father who has given that nourishment and sustains him. When Bruer gets sick and recovers, teach him that the Father has preserved his body.

Trinity Athanasian CreedTeach Bruer about Jesus, the Son. Teach him that this Jesus, who is true God, became man. When he sins against you he feels guilt, forgive him. Teach him that because Jesus has bought and freed you from all those sins, you forgive him too. Teach Bruer that Jesus did not buy him with silver and gold, but with His holy and precious blood, with His innocent sufferings and death. Teach Bruer that Jesus did this so that you might be His own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. And, teach Bruer that Jesus is coming again.

Teach Bruer about the Holy Spirit. Teach him that the Holy Spirit has called him through the Word of God, specifically the Gospel. Teach Bruer that whenever he hears God’s Word, that the Holy Spirit continues to make him holy. Teach him that the Holy Spirit is the one who opens his ears to Jesus’ word of forgiveness. And, when Bruer sees the pain and sin and suffering in this world, teach him that because of what Jesus has done that when the Last Day comes, Bruer will be raised from the dead and given everlasting life because he believes in Jesus. Teach Breuer that all of this is most certainly true.

Bruer, today God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – this blessed Trinity – has begun a good work in you. And I am confident that He will be faithful today and forever to bring that good work to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6). May we be faithful as well. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

John 14:23-31 – Keep My Word

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John 14:23-31

23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.”

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Dear Johnny, Justin, Evan, Liam, and Michaela,

Baptism 2Today, you confirmed your faith. In the presence of God and this congregation, you acknowledged the gifts of forgiveness, faith, and salvation that God gave you in your baptism. You publically renounced the devil and all his works and all his ways. You confessed your faith in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You promised to remain faithful to the Word of God – to hear it frequently and faithfully. You promised to live according to God’s Word and to continue and remain steadfast in this confession. You have said that you intend to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from the faith. All of this you have vowed to do by the grace of God.

How do you go about all of this by the grace of God? Good question! Jesus says to you and to all of us, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.”

The natural question for you to ask yourself, then, is, “Do I keep Jesus’ word?” Well, what does it mean to keep someone’s word? We know what is meant by keeping a garden – tilling, watering, fertilizing, seeding, weeding, pruning, etc. But what does it mean to keep someone’s word? It depends, somewhat, on what kind of word(s) that person has spoken.

Now, the whole Bible is God’s Word, and Jesus Himself is the Word who became flesh. So, sometimes, to keep Jesus’ word, you will have to take a stand against what the world is telling you to do. When the Scriptures say, “You formed my inward parts; You knit me together in in my mother’s womb” (Ps. 139:13) or when the Bible says, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created Him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27), to keep those words means that you stand behind them. You hold them to be true – absolutely true. And, my dear confirmands, this will continue to be more and more difficult. This world hates God’s Word, and Jesus calls you to keep it.

What does it mean to keep Jesus’ word? Again, it depends on what the word is. On the one hand, the question, “Do I keep Jesus’ word?” should, be a terrifying question – a deadly question, a killing question. Remember some of the things Jesus has said. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… And, you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:37-39). Because Jesus is giving commands there, to keep Jesus’ word would mean that you should actually do that – that you obey what Jesus says there. Part of keeping Jesus’ word means that you obey what He says.

How about this one: when Jesus says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:20). Jesus isn’t giving a command there. But He is making a truthful statement. Part of keeping Jesus’ word there would mean that you are always trying to be really, really good.

Or when Jesus says, “You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). To keep that word of Jesus… Well, hopefully when you get to that word of Jesus, you realize that you are in a heap of trouble.

What does it mean to keep Jesus’ word? Well, it depends on what the word is. Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t just speak words of crushing, condemning Law. Jesus has more words to say. After Jesus rose from the dead, He kept saying to His disciples, “Peace be with you.” Well, how do you keep that word of Jesus? It isn’t a command, so you don’t have anything to obey. It isn’t something you have to try to do.

When Jesus says, “Peace be with you,” believe that He gives that very peace through His words. Jesus gives that peace because Jesus has taken all your sins. He took those sins to the cross, and He has died for you. He suffered God’s wrath for you. He rose again for you. Believe it. That is probably the best way to understand Jesus when He says, “Keep My word.” Believe it. In fact, all you can do with those Gospel words is simply believe them. Receive them.

Blessings from the CrossSo, when Jesus says, “Keep My word,” – it doesn’t matter what that word from Jesus is – believe it. When God has something to say about how this world is ordered, believe that it is true. When God gives you a command to obey, believe that you must do it. Believe that it is in your best interest to follow it. When Jesus gives you a Gospel promise, believe it. Trust it. Bank your life now and even your eternity upon it.

Keep Jesus’ word. Believe what He says to you. And thank God that He has sent the Holy Spirit to bring to remembrance all that Jesus has said to you. So hear what Jesus says to you.

Jesus’ word to you is, “Your sins are forgiven.” Keep, believe that word of Jesus.

Jesus’ word to you is, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Keep, believe that word of Jesus.

And today, Jesus’ word to you is, “Take, eat. This is My Body given for you. Take, drink. This is My Blood shed for the forgiveness of your sins.” Keep, believe that word of Jesus.

Jesus’ word to you is, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” Keep, believe that word of Jesus.

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.” Johnny, Justin, Evan, Liam, and Michaela, keep all the words of Jesus – both Law which kills you and your sinful self, and Gospel which raises you to everlasting life. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

John 17:20-26 – To See His Glory

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John 17:20-26

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Christ is ascended!
He is ascended indeed! Alleluia!

Glory of the CrossJesus prays for you. That’s right, just before He was arrested, tried, condemned, crucified, and killed Jesus prayed for you. John 17 is often called Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer.” In this prayer, Jesus prays for Himself (v. 1-5), He prays for the disciples because they will remain in the world (v. 6-19), and here, in this text, Jesus prays for the whole Church who will believe in Him through the word of the Apostles. That means, dear saints, Jesus prays for you. The part of His prayer that we will focus on today is this, “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me [Jesus means you], may be with Me where I am to see My glory.”

Well, where is Jesus? Right now, where is He? We’ve confessed that He ascended into heaven where He is “seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” This past Thursday marked forty days after Easter when Jesus ascended. He was taken up before the disciples. A cloud took Him out of their sight. Jesus’ physical body, His human nature, was lifted into heaven. The dust from which Jesus’ was taken is now sitting on the throne of heaven. In the Ascension, your flesh is given the ultimate upgrade because Jesus, your Savior and brother, now rules and reigns over all creation. And He is everywhere. Ephesians 4:10 says, “He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.”

But just because Jesus has ascended does not mean that Jesus is not interested in you anymore. Just the opposite. Before Jesus ascended, He told the disciples, “I am with you always,” (Mt. 28:20) and He promised, “Where two or three of you are gathered in My name, there I am” (Mt. 18:20). You don’t see Him, but does that matter? If Jesus has said that He is with you, then He is with you – even though you don’t see Him.

Actually, the fact that you don’t see Jesus physically is a good thing. Speaking of His ascension, Jesus said, “It is to your advantage that I go away” (Jn. 16:7). If Jesus still appeared like He did for those forty days after Easter, you would have reason to doubt that He is always present with you. You would have to check the news or the “Where is Jesus Now?” app. Russia? Trinidad? Indonesia? Well, if He’s there, then He can’t be here.

FranticDear saints, Jesus is with you. He is ascended to God’s right hand where He lives and reigns to all eternity. But the devil likes to tempt you to disbelieve what Jesus says. The devil wants you to believe that he is running the show here on earth. Satan takes your focus off of the risen and ascended Jesus to focus only on yourself and the things going on around you.

Just think about this: Remember the last verses of the Gospel of Matthew, what is often today called “The Great Commission”? I bet if you talked to one hundred average Christians coming out of church on a Sunday and asked them to summarize the Great Commission, they would say something like, “Yes, Jesus told us to go and make disciples of all nations.” I would also guess that most of them would leave out that the Sacrament of Baptism is how Jesus tells us to make disciples, but that is for another time.

Now, Jesus instructing us to disciple all nations is very important. But, for now, simply hear what Jesus says in those last verses of the Gospel of Matthew, without the part about making disciples. Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Hear it again, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Satan would love nothing more than to rob you of these beautiful promises of Jesus. So as you watch the world fall apart around you, as you watch babies being killed and sold for parts. As you watch ISIS slaughter Christians in the Middle East. As you watch our country care more about which bathroom .3% of the population uses than about caring for our veterans. As you watch all of this, remember Jesus still has all authority in heaven and on earth. Remember that He is with you until the end of the age to keep you and bless you.

God over All Christ for AllYes, it is hard. You see so much evil and sin surrounding you. You are living in the tribulation (Jn. 16:33). But remember Jesus’ prayer for you is, “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, may be with Me where I am to see My glory that You have given Me.” Jesus is with you here and now, in His Word. Jesus is with you in His Sacraments. Do you see Jesus’ glory? Maybe not with your eyes. But that’s ok. As one pastor has said, “The eye of faith is the ear.”

So look with your ear. Find Jesus as He speaks to you through His Word. Jesus is with you as that Word is read and vibrates your eardrums, or as that Word shines into your eyes from the pages of your Bible. Find Jesus in the waters of your Baptism. Find Jesus in the Bread and Wine of His Supper. Find your Savior where He has promised to be and see His glory. See that He rules and governs all things by His mercy and for your benefit. Amen.

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

John 16:23-33 – Praying in the Tribulation

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John 16:23-33

23 “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” 29 His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

“I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Christ of St John on the Cross Salvador DaliJesus has won. He has overcome this broken, fallen world. Jesus said this even before He went to His death on the cross. Now that we live in the resurrection, now that we live in the time after Jesus has defeated death, how much more can we say, “Amen, Jesus. You have overcome the devil, our sin, and this world full of tribulation and heartache”? Jesus is ascended and is now at the right hand of the Father. He will bring you to be with Himself for all eternity. And yet, the tribulation continues. You suffer in this tribulation while God delays the final judgment. Take heart, believer, God only delays in order to get all His chosen children to safety.

Until the day He returns, Jesus has given you the gift of prayer. Jesus says, “In that day, you will ask nothing of Me.” He is speaking of the time of the resurrection. Jesus is speaking of today. “In that day, you will ask nothing of Me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

What happens when you ask in Jesus’ name and do not receive? The devil and the world love to throw this in our face and rob us of our joy. When we do not see God answering our prayers in the way we want, they twist this promise of Jesus in two common ways. The first is this: Some say that if you pray for something and have enough faith, you will get everything you want. You see this in books or preachers teaching this on TV. So if you have a job that you don’t like or isn’t paying as much as you want, just pray to God, “Heavenly Father, give me a job that pays $250,000 per year, in Jesus’ name. Amen.” Then, they say, if you really believe, God will answer that prayer. And if you don’t get what you are asking for, then you don’t have enough faith and are holding God back.

But you see what that does? It makes God’s answer to prayer contingent upon you. It takes Jesus’ promise and turns it into a crushing statement of Law. And people start to wonder, “Well, if I don’t have enough faith to get God to answer this prayer, how do I know I have enough faith to be saved?” It is a terrible thing.

The second way Jesus’ promise, gets twisted – “Whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give it to you” – goes like this: Every now and then, people will say things like, “When we pray, we shouldn’t always be asking God for things. We should be praising Him, thanking Him, etc.” I think is error more common here, at least I get roped into this one from time to time. There is some truth in that. We should praise and thank God in our prayers. But asking God for things isn’t sinful; it isn’t wrong. God isn’t sitting up in heaven listening to your prayers and keeping a tally of how many thanks you have offered before He will listen to another request.

Again, that makes God’s answer to our prayers contingent upon us and how we pray. Then we try to figure out the right prayer recipe. We start to think, “I’ll throw two cups of adoration, three tablespoons of thanks, a dash of a request. Throw it all up in the heavenly prayer oven and see how it turns out.”

Repent. God doesn’t answer your prayers based either on how much faith you have or what formula you use when you pray. Both of these wrong teachings on prayer obscure the beautiful promise that Jesus has for you.

So why is it that God doesn’t always answer our prayers exactly how we pray them? Notice that right after Jesus tells us, “Whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you,” He says, “I have said these things to you in figures of speech.” That means when Jesus says, “Whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you,” He is using figurative speech. He means whatever we ask that is in accord with Jesus’ Name and mercy. We know this because that night Jesus sincerely prayed in Gethsemane that His heavenly Father would deliver Him from having to go to the cross. But Jesus ended that prayer with, “Not My will, but Yours be done” (Mt. 26:39).

Child PrayingLook at what Jesus says is true. He says when you pray, you are asking not only His Father, but your Heavenly Father. And Jesus says that God the Father loves you because you have faith in Jesus. So when you pray, you pray with the boldness and confidence of a child approaching a loving, caring father.

This is so beautiful. Isn’t this wonderful? Most of the time, what do children ask their father for? Food? Clothes? Shelter? Safety? Sure, sometimes, but not mostly. Most of the time children ask for trivial things. That is just how it is with children.

And praying for frivolous things isn’t wrong – it is natural for children. Besides, God already knows what you want before you ask (Mt. 6:8). So ask! Ask for petty things like a good parking spot or a sunny day on your birthday or for the Twins to win. Ask for whatever you wish because it doesn’t annoy your Heavenly Father. God delights in your trivial prayers because you are His child.

When you pray for things that you desire, it is exercising your faith. When you ask for petty, simple things, you are actively believing that God has the ability and the desire to give you everything good. And God already knows what you need, and He provides it even when you don’t ask for it. And if God doesn’t answer your prayer just as you ask, He is still giving you all good things because He loves you.

Finally, pray to your Heavenly Father because it makes a difference. Jesus wouldn’t tell you to pray if it didn’t. A man walking down the street might pass by several panhandlers and not give any of them a nickel. Either he is cynical and knows that many abuse handouts and use them only to buy alcohol or drugs, or he is simply selfish. But that same man walking down the street with his child is different. The child sees that something is wrong asks the father to give to the beggar, the father is moved by his child’s compassion and gives. Don’t take that analogy too far. God is not cynical or selfish. But your prayers have an effect. They make a difference in the world, and we shouldn’t make light of that fact.

Skeleton Praying DeadYour God has called you to pray. So don’t worry about making your prayers perfect. Don’t worry about asking for the right things. Just pray. Pray for what you want. Pray to make that green light. Pray to slow your graying hair. And, maybe, in the next breath, you pray for a cure to your aunt’s cancer, for peace in the Middle East. Wonderful. Your Father is pleased by your prayers. Pray for all of these things in Jesus’ name boldly, confidently, and fearlessly.

As you live in this world full of tribulation, this world that Jesus has overcome, pray. Pray because according to Jesus, it makes a difference. Your loving Heavenly Father acts because of them. Amen.

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.